MonthMarch 2009

Burma’s outlaw backpack doctors

Eh Dah Zu, a petite, 24-year-old woman, peeled back layers of white plastic and cloth wrapped around a sugarcane stalk – a prop simulating bone, muscle and skin – before cutting it with a thin cable saw to simulate an amputation.

The exercise, part of a trauma skills workshop in eastern Burma, was a stark reminder that there are no doctors or hospitals in this war-ravaged sliver of mountainous jungle near Thailand, where ethnic minorities have resisted the Burmese army for 60 years. The country’s military junta provides little health care, or access to international humanitarian groups for an estimated 500,000 displaced villagers, many of whom suffer from rampant malaria, malnutrition and one of the world’s highest rates of land-mine injuries.

In response, Burmese refugees in Thailand developed a unique program, effectively sneaking health care into their own country: A network of tiny mobile clinics now dot eastern Burma, where medics like Eh Dah Zu carry medical supplies in backpacks, walk for weeks through remote jungles and risk capture and injury to reach patients.

San Francisco Chronicle

Where do laid off journalists go?

From an un-scientific survey of laid off reporters:

Many of the respondents have found new jobs. It’s too early to tell about those who lost their jobs within the past year, but for those who did so between 1999 and 2007:

• Just under 36 percent said they found a new job in less than three months. Add those who say they freelance full time, and the total jumps to 53 percent.

• Less than 10 percent say it took them longer than a year.

• Only a handful – 6 percent – found other newspaper jobs. The rest are doing everything from public relations to teaching to driving a bus and clerking in a liquor store.

While they’ve found work, many of the people with new jobs are making less money. The midpoint salary range for their old jobs was $50,000 to $59,000. Those who listed salaries for their new jobs were a full salary band lower – $40,000 to $49,000.

Of the people who volunteered their old newspaper salary, only 2 percent made less than $20,000 a year. Of the people who gave me their new salaries, that number shot up to 17 percent. The age of those at the bottom of the salary scale has changed surprisingly as well. The median age of those who made less than $20,000 at their old newspaper job was 24. The median age of those now making less than $20,000 is 48.

Full Story: American Journalism Review

Regarding bonuses, what did the press know and when did they know it?

But as we prepare to string up Messrs. Geithner, Dodd, and others, maybe those of us in the press need to be asking this: What did we know and when did we know it?

The AIG bonuses were not some covert operation in a faraway land. And the stimulus bill language exempting existing contracts from new limits on bonuses was not particularly hard to understand.

In short, the two key facts of the case were both out there — that the AIG bonuses were due to be paid and that they would go forward, unaffected by the limits in the stimulus.

As the mob circles, there’s an element of what the psychologists call transference in the media’s relentless focus on how Dodd and Geithner must be held to account for the “outrageous” bonuses. Easier to point fingers at them than at ourselves.

If the potential of these bonuses to trigger all-consuming public anger was plain as day, why was the press not collectively screaming from the rooftops about them?

Full Story: The Politico.

What about “citizen journalism” – was the story covered in the blogosphere?

(via Jay Rosen)

Grant Morrison interview on Wired

Most of it’s about Superman and I didn’t find that stuff interesting. This I did find interesting:

Final Crisis was much heavier, much harder to write than The Filth, which at least came with massive doses of surreal black humor to sweeten the bitter pill of the subject matter. On Final Crisis, I spent months immersing myself in the thought processes of an evil, dying God who longed for nothing less than the degradation, destruction and enslavement of all of DC’s superheroes, along with every other living thing in the universe and beyond!

To get into his head, I had to consider people like him in the real world and there were no shortage of candidates. The emissaries of Darkseid seemed to be everywhere, intent on crushing hope, or shattering human self-esteem. I began to hear his voice in every magazine headline accusing some poor young girl of being too fat or too thin. Darkseid was there in the newscasters screaming financial disaster and planet-doom. It was that sick old bastard’s voice terrifying children with his hopeless message of a canceled future, demanding old ladies turn off their electric blankets to help “save the planet,” while turning a blind eye to corporate ecocide.

Full Story: Wired

He also talks a bit about upcoming Vertigo projects at the end.

Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques – IDF fashion 2009

idf tshirt pregnant woman

The office at the Adiv fabric-printing shop in south Tel Aviv handles a constant stream of customers, many of them soldiers in uniform, who come to order custom clothing featuring their unit’s insignia, usually accompanied by a slogan and drawing of their choosing. Elsewhere on the premises, the sketches are turned into plates used for imprinting the ordered items, mainly T-shirts and baseball caps, but also hoodies, fleece jackets and pants. A young Arab man from Jaffa supervises the workers who imprint the words and pictures, and afterward hands over the finished product.

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques – these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, “Bet you got raped!” A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies – such as “confirming the kill” (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.

In many cases, the content is submitted for approval to one of the unit’s commanders. The latter, however, do not always have control over what gets printed, because the artwork is a private initiative of soldiers that they never hear about. Drawings or slogans previously banned in certain units have been approved for distribution elsewhere. For example, shirts declaring, “We won’t chill ’til we confirm the kill” were banned in the past (the IDF claims that the practice doesn’t exist), yet the Haruv battalion printed some last year.

Full Story: Haaretz

(Thanks Deacon)

Paid Links are for Little Fish

Disclosure: Renegade Futurist sells paid link advertisements.

This article explains how paid links are not actually the way well financed interests manipulate Google. They have more insidious ways to manipulate search results.

Paid Links and Sponsored Conversations are minor problems compared to SERP-engineering of this magnitude – however, what can really be done about such tactics? This isn’t just a matter of paid links – it’s the wholesale creation of a large ‘paid network,’ tied in with real world, offline events optimized to manipulate search engine results.

And keep in mind that the example above is just one piece of one small and relatively primitive operation (from ‘way back’ in 2006, and privately funded). This is the merely the point of the tip of a huge, honking iceberg. Reputation Management SERP manipulation will only get more subtle, powerful, and pervasive, as more and more money is put behind the effort and as tactics are honed.

In the face of the power of money, does Google really have a hope of keeping the ‘World’s Information’ free from massive “inaccuracies and inequities”?

And how hard will they really try?

I Want to Believe – in the Internet’s Great Promise, and in Google’s commitment to “Not Be Evil” while “providing unbiased, accurate, and free access to information.” I really do. So if there are any White Knights of Truth in the Googleplex, keep up the good fight. Rage, rage against the dying of the light …

But sadly, it’s difficult to reasonably hope that the internet can fare any better against corruption than any other information medium so far has. Print, radio, television … all almost totally co-opted by power and money. The internet, giving citizens the ability to search for information rather than merely have it fed to them, has such potential to break this trend – but only if that very ability to seek and find the truth is not, itself, corrupted.

Full Story: Pass the Mayo

(Thanks Justin)

Energy Firms Buying River Rights Add to Competition for Scarce Resource

Oil companies have gained control over billions of gallons of water from Western rivers in preparation for future efforts to extract oil from shale deposits under the Rocky Mountains, according to a new report by an environmental group that opposes such projects.

The group, Western Resource Advocates, used public records to conclude that energy companies are collectively entitled to divert more than 6.5 billion gallons of water a day during peak river flows. The companies also hold rights to store, in dozens of reservoirs, 1.7 million acre feet of water, enough to supply metro Denver for six years.

ndustry representatives said they have substantial holdings of water rights for future use in producing oil from shale, though they could not confirm the precise numbers in the report.

Full Story: Wall Street Journal

Cramer takes back what he said on the Daily Show

Jay Rose wrote: “CNBC brings out its Maoist side as Cramer is forced to take back everything contrite he said on Stewart.”

Every time Jim Cramer opens his mouth, he makes himself and NBC’s assorted news outlets look worse.

Cramer’s latest shot in the foot came this morning, during his first appearance on the Today show after his historic on-air spanking from Daily Show host Jon Stewart a week ago.

In a series of statements that read like they were scripted by his CNBC producers, Cramer offered a defense of the channel that he didn’t bother bringing up on the Daily Show, saying Stewart’s broadsides were “naive and misleading” without specifically addressing any of his criticisms Essentially, the CNBC host took back all the admission of mistakes and promises to do better he made on Stewart’s show seven days ago.

In particular, Cramer and host Meredith Vieira never addressed embarrassing clips unearthed by Stewart showing the CNBC host describing how he used to manipulate markets as a hedge fund manager in ways he never talks about on his TV show. Or clips Stewart unearthed before his appearance on the show displaying a history of bad calls and cozying up to corporate titans.

Full Story: TampaBay.com

(via Jay Rosen)

The last hope for Obama

is that everything he’s been doing is just for “plausible deniablity.” That he’s playing the game for now and soon he’ll be able to say “Look, I tried escalating the war in Afghanistan, I tried giving limitless amounts of money to corporations, I tried ‘bipartisanship’ – none of these things worked. Now it’s time to try something different.”

That is, I know, a very dim hope. (I think the thing about bipartisanship is the most likely, but even the idea that he’ll stop “reaching across the aisle” knowing he’s going to get bitten seems too optimistic at this point.)

See also:

Obama’s “enemy combatant” policy: following a familiar pattern.

Evolution of the mutant in popular fiction

Update: I’ve been working on expanding this timeline into a book. I’m currently in the research phase, but you can read my notes here. They are generally more up-to-date and correct than this timeline.

Any corrections, additions, or additional information would be much appreciated – please add comments below. Updates and corrections will be noted in the comments. (I haven’t been keeping up with this, I’ve just been making corrections and not noting them)

1809 – Philosophie Zoologique by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck introduces the concept of transmutation of species.

1844 – Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation by Robert Chambers. Best seller, popularized evolutionary theory after Lamarckian theory discredited.

1853 – First volume of An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races by Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau. “One of the earliest examples of scientific racism”

1859 – Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin. Introduced the concept of evolution. Amazon link.

1871 – The Coming RaceNarrators speculates that the Vril-ya are decedents of the Aryan race that will replace humanity, but a character tells him they are actually evolved from frogs. Some suggest this is parody of Darwinism, it could also be seen as a parody of Gobineau’s writings about the Aryan race (or both). More research is needed regarding the intent. Also, some have speculated that this is non-fiction. Clearly an influence on Blavasky, but to what extent? Still, the Vril-ya can be seen as the first speculation as to a race of humanoid replacing humans and may be the first mutants.

1881 – The Great Romance by The Inhabitant. A man puts himself into a suspended state and wakes up in the year 2143 to find that humans have evolved to have telepathic powers.

1884 – “The Artificial Man. A Semi-Scientific Story” by Don Quichotte, published in The Argonaut on August 16, 1884. The anonymous narrator of the story meets a sickly old man who turns out to be an 18 year old raised in a bell jar and fed chemicals through his stomach. The Artificial Man claims to be the next evolution of being that will replace humans, and that his race will in turn be replaced by more vigorous beings. Summary 1, Summary 2 Update: I no longer see this as particularly relevant, it’s likely a response to both Frankenstein and “Darwin among the Machines)

1883-87 “The Past and Future of the Human Race,” a paper presented by H.G Wells to his college debate society. Exact date unknown, cited variously as 1883, 1885, or 1887. Lost, but thought to have been revised into the later essay “The Man of the Year 1,000,000.” [1 2 3]

1888 Ernest G. Harmer, “Professor Bommsenn’s Germs” – a scientist uses electricity to evolve a germ into an evolved human. The mutant human has no teeth or hair and possesses some sort of mesmeric ability. A “spoof of current biology.”

1889 – 10,000 Years in a Block of Ice by Louis Boussenard. A man wakes up 10,000 years in the future to find a race of people with small bodies, large heads, and telekinetic powers. Audiobook.

Boussenard was a Spiritualist and is said to have predicted his own death and composed his own obituary. [1]

1891 Meda: A Tale of the Future by Kenneth Folingsby. A novel about a future populated by evolved humans with huge heads who are nourished by atmospheric electricity instead of food, and, thanks to their abnormally large brains, can control electricity and magnetism with their minds. Note: a “private circulation” edition was published in 1891, followed by a public release in 1892. The 1891 edition has a preface claiming the book was written in 1888, and the title page of the 1892 edition says “Written in 1888, Published in 1892.” Excerpts here.

the man of year million

1892 or 1893 – HG Wells publishes the essay “The Man of the Year 1,000,000,” in which he speculates humans will evolve to use their brains more than their bodies and would look something like the above illustration from the December 23 1893 edition of the Ottawa Journal.

1893 – Camille Flammarion, La fin du Monde (published in English as Omega: The Last Days of the World in 1897). Predicts a future in which humans have evolved to have smaller bodies and larger heads.

1895 – The Time Machine by H.G. Wells – features humanoids that have presumably evolved from humans. Full text with audio or Amazon link.

1896 – Henri Becquerel discovers radiation.

1899 – Marie Curie develops theory of radioactivity.

The Hampdenshire Wonder by J. D. Beresford

The Hampdenshire Wonder by J. D. Beresford

1911 – The Hampdenshire Wonder by J. D. Beresford. Features a child prodigy with a deformed head to make room for an over sized brain. Amazon link.

1912 – The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson

1924 – The Last of My Race: A Dream of the Future by John Lionel Tayler. Coins the term “Homo ignorans” – proto-Stapledon.

The Machine Man of Ardathia

1927 – “The Machine Man of Ardathia” by Francis Flagg. “A modern American is unexpectedly visited by a creature encased in a glass cylinder and sustained by an intricate system of tubes. It arrived from a distant future in which artificial systems have taken over all physiological functions. The evolutionary link that connected such fully ‘mechanical’ Ardathians with still ‘natural’ humans were the Bi-Chanics.” Strong echoes of “The Artificial Man” here.

1928 – “The Metal Man” by Jack Williamson.Perhaps the first sci-fi story to deal with radiation creating a mutant race. Synopsis. The Metal Man and Others, The Collected Stories of Jack Williamson, Volume One on Amazon.

gladiator by philip wylie

gladiator by philip wylie

1930 – Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. Stapledon speculates as to human evolution of a span of 2 billion years. Includes genetic engineering, and a telepathic hive mind.

1930 – Gladiator by Philip Gordon Wylie. In this novel, a mutant is deliberately engineered by a scientist who injects a serum into his wife, creating a super human offspring. Full text. Site dedicated to the novel, including covers. Kindle book.

1931 – “The Man Who Evolved” by Edmond Hamilton. First story portraying the use of “cosmic rays” in creating super human mutants? Story appears in Before the Golden Age: A Science Fiction Anthology of the 1930s (Book 1).

odd john by olaf stapledon

odd john by olaf stapledon

1935 – Odd John by Olaf Stapledon. First use of the term “homo superior”? First story about mutants born in disparate locations banding together? Amazon link.

1940 Slan by A. E. van Vogt. Early (first?) series of stories (later collected as a novel) dealing with a mutant race who appear human and hide to avoid persecution.

1945 – First atomic bomb detonated.

1945 – “The Piper’s Son” by Henry Kuttner, first of the “Baldie” series later collected as as Mutant in 1953. Mutant on Wowio. Amazon link.

1948 Children of the Atom by Wilmar H. Shiras. Amazon. (Serialization began in 1948, it was collected as a book in 1951)

strange adventures

strange adventures

1951 – Strange Adventures # 9 by writer John Broome and artist Carmine Infantino. First appearance of Captain Comet, the first (?) mutant super hero in comic books. May also be the first time a mutant appears as a hero rather than antihero.

weird woman mutant

weird woman mutant

1952 “The Weird Woman” – By artist Joe Sinnott (writer unknown). First known Marvel (known as Atlas at the time) comic book appearance of mutants. Tells the story of a mutant woman who has heard rumors of the existence of a male mutant, whom she seeks to find. At the end, a super powered male appears, presumably the mutant she sought. The mutants in this story appear to be amoral.

1953 More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon. Amazon link.

1954 “The Golden Man” by Philip K. Dick. The Father-thing short story collection contains this story.

1955 The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. Amazon link.

the midwich cuckoos

the midwich cuckoos

1957 The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. Amazon link.

men_atomic_brains

men_atomic_brains

1959 “The Man With The Atomic Brain!” by artist Steve Ditko (writer unknown). First appearance in Marvel Universe of a mutant organization, which is located on an island (reminds me of the colony in Odd John)

1959 “The Mutants and Me!” Hints at the existence of an underground network of mutants in the Marvel Universe.

1960 Village of the Damned film debuts – an adaptation of Midwich Cuckoos, important early (first?) cinematic of mutants.

tad_carter_mutant

tad_carter_mutant

1961 – “The Man in the Sky!” by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, in Amazing Adult Fantasy # 14. Similar to “The Man With The Atomic Brain!” The character Tad Carter appeared much later in X-Men: Hidden Years

1961 Fantastic Four # 1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The FF are not generally considered mutants, since they were not born with their powers. They apparently mutated by radiation, however, like “The Man Who Evolved” and, later, the Ninja Turtles. reprints the first 10 issues of FF.

1963 Outer Limits episode “The Sixth Finger.” Clearly based on “The Man Who Evolved.” Early (first?) appearance of a mutant on television.

1963 X-Men # 1. First appearance of the X-Men. Amazon link. Can be seen as a re-envisioning of the The Man With The Atomic Brain!” and “The Man in the Sky!” – with a bald telepath bringing mutants together. This series made a deliberate effort to explore social issues through the metaphore of the mutant.

1964 Outer Limits episode “The Mutant” – At least one mutant had been seen on Outer Limits by this point, but this episode specifically uses the term “mutant.”

1971 “Oh! You Pretty Things” by David Bowie appears on the album Hunky Dory. Includes the line “better make way for the homo superior.” Amazon link.

1975 Giant Sized X-Men # 1 by . Introduces new version of the X-Men, including the existing character Wolverine. This version would prove to be much more popular. Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 1 reprints Giant Sized X-Men # 1 plus Unccany X-Men #94-100.

1981 Scanners. Popular cinematic treatment of the concept of a mutant race simultaneously banding together and trying to avoid detection by normal humans. Scanners on DVD.

1981 Spiderman and His Amazing Friends debuts, which features Iceman (from the X-Men) and original character Firestar, who are both mutants and said to have been X-Men members. The X-Men occasionally appear in the series.

1984 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles # 1 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. First of the Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtles. TPB collecting first 3 issues.

1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series begins.

Questions

What was the first use of the term “mutant” in a science fiction context?

What was the first deliberate use of the concept of the mutant to explore the issue of racism?

Where does the bald headed mutant archetype come from? Kuttner? Update: I’m now guessing this came from Folingsby and Wells, via various “alien” fiction. See: Media History of Grey Aliens.

Notes

Namor is considered to be the Marvel’s first mutant, but he was not identified as such until X-Men # 6 in July 1964.

Works referenced but not linked above

Science Fact and Science Fiction By Brian Stableford

Sci-Fi to Comics blog comments

Superhuman on Wikipedia

Mutant (Marvel Comics) on Wikipedia

A media history of greys

Science Fiction studies

New Atlantis Revisited

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