MonthMarch 2012

Moebius Career Chronology

Quenched Consciousness curator Ian MacEwan is doing a career chronology for Moebius/Jean Giraud: “Instead of a memorial entry(because I feel weird about it), I started a series of career timeline posts,” he wrote.

From the first entry, featuring art from 1958:

Over the next week, I’m going to focus on posting pieces of Giraud’s work in chronological order. Ideally, there will be at least one post of something that he drew for every year of his professional career. My hope is to give a clear and thorough presentation that will help give people(myself included) a better understanding of Jean Giraud’s life work. To that end, if any of you find that I am missing something, I would love to hear from you. So far, I am missing a few key things from his early years. Primarily, any of his work on a western strip called Frank et Jeremie for Far West Magazine, and any work he did for the French Army magazine 5/5 Forces Françaises, while serving in Algeria.

Moebius Career Chronology

Previously: RIP Moebius/Jean Giraud (1938 – 2012)

New Dossier: Susan Blackmore

susan blackmore

Blackmore was an important influence for me a few years ago when I was giving up on practicing magick because she had been through the same thing studying ESP: she researched it for years and determined that there wasn’t evidence to support her hypothesis. But she remained interested in “extraordinary human experience,” and showed me that it was possible to research and examine these issues from an open minded and respectful yet skeptical way. Blackmore considers these experiences an important part of the human condition worthy of our study and consideration, regardless of whether the causes are paranormal, psychological or neurological.

Dr. Susan Blackmore is a researcher of consciousness and what she calls “extraordinary human experience,” which includes experiences often referred to as “paranormal,” including out of body experiences and alien abduction. She has a PhD in parapsychology from the University of Surrey, where she studied ESP and memory and eventually gave up belief in the paranormal and adopted a more skeptical worldview.

Dossier: Susan Blackmore

RIP Moebius/Jean Giraud (1938 – 2012)

One of France’s best-known cartoonist and comic book creators, Jean Giraud, has died aged-73 in Paris after a long-illness. Giraud, also known under the names Moebius and Gir, was the creator of the hugely popular character Lieutenant Blueberry for a Western series of the same name.

RFI: French comic book illustrator Moebius dies in Paris

(news story via Abe, Moebius self-portrait via ENKI)

See also:

In Search of Moebius, a BBC documentary on Giraud.

Quenched Consciousness – A Moebius art blog/tumblr by Popjellyfish, including a Moebius Career Chronology in honor of his passing.

Jodorowsky’s Dune, which included designs by Moebius.

Old Maps Online: Collection of Maps From Through Out History

Old Maps Online, just launched this week, is the reportedly the largest collection of historical maps online.

You can do a text search, or browse around on an interactive map for locations for which you’d like to find older maps. You can filter the results by year. Above is the oldest map of the entire continent of Africa that I could find – from 1717.

(via Ars Technica)

See also:

Strange Maps blog

Borges on Google Maps

Some Bees Are “Thrill Seekers” – Does That Mean Insects Have Personalities?

From Wired UK:

The researchers found that thrill-seeking is not limited to humans and other vertebrates. The brains of honeybees that were more likely than others to seek adventure exhibited distinct patterns of gene activity in molecular pathways known to be associated with thrill-seeking in humans.

The findings present a new perspective on honeybee communities, which were thought to be highly-regimented and comprised of a colony of interchangeable workers taking on a few specific roles to serve their queen. […]

Robinson and his team studies two behaviors that looked like novelty seeking: scouting for new nest sites and scouting for food. When a colony outgrows its living quarters, the swarm must hunt for a new home. Around five percent of the swarm goes hunting for new lodgings. These “nest scouts” are around 3.4 times more likely than their peers to also become food scouts, researchers discovered.

“There is a gold standard for personality research and that is if you show the same tendency in different contexts, then that can be called a personality trait,” Robinson said.

Wired Science: Honeybees May Have Personality

(via James Governor)

Photo by Gilles San Martin

Escher Girls: Redrawing Embarrassing Comic Book Women

Escher Girls redraw

As a follow-up to my post about male superheros drawn like female superheros here’s a blog documenting all the paradoxical anatomy that shows up in comics. But most interesting are the redraws showing a clear alternative to how many of these comics are drawn.

Escher Girls

(via Lupa)

See also this:

A “re-shoot” of a “sexy photo.”

Leah Moore on Women in Comics

Game Mechanic of the Day: The Super Mushroom in Super Mario Brothers

Mario Super Mushroom

Why is the Super Mushroom an awesome game mechanic? My friend Jesse Combs tells you why on his new blog Game Mechanic of the Day:

1. When the game originally came out, video games were hard, very hard. If a bad guy hit your platform-jumping character, that was it. Start the level over until you ran out of lives. If you’re just learning the game, that really doesn’t encourage you if you’re still trying to get better at it. Being able to get hit without starting over is big, since you can still realize you screwed up without being wholly penalized. It’s kind of like having a save game point, except there are still consequences to getting hit. (Two hits and you really are dead.)

2. It’s a simple way for a character to have health without getting meta and having a “health bar” or “meter”. It keeps the game within it’s own strange fiction and makes the mechanical rewards part of the universe that Mario lives in. Yep, immersion.

Game Mechanic of the Day: Mario grows bigger and stronger when he gets a Super Mushroom. If he’s hit by an enemy, he’ll shrink back to standard Mario

Huge Solar Flare’s Magnetic Storm May Disrupt Satellites, Power Grids

solar flare march

A coronal mass ejection is headed for earth:

A massive solar flare that erupted from the sun late Tuesday (March 6) is unleashing one of the most powerful solar storms in more than five years, a solar tempest that may potentially interfere with satellites in orbit and power grids when it reaches Earth. […]

“When the shock arrives, the expectation is for heightened geomagnetic storm activity and the potential for heightened solar radiation,” Kunches said.

This heightened geomagnetic activity and increase in solar radiation could impact satellites in space and power grids on the ground. Some high-precision GPS users could also be affected, he said.

“There is the potential for induced currents in power grids,” Kunches said. “Power grid operators have all been alerted. It could start to cause some unwanted induced currents.”

Airplanes that fly over the polar caps could also experience communications issues during this time, and some commercial airliners have already taken precautionary actions, Kunches said. Powerful solar storms can also be hazardous to astronauts in space, and NOAA is working close with NASA’s Johnson Space Center to determine if the six residents of the International Space Station need to take shelter in more protected areas of the orbiting laboratory, he added.

Space.com: Huge Solar Flare’s Magnetic Storm May Disrupt Satellites, Power Grids

(via Jon Mitchell)

Ignorance and the Trouble with Democracy

A few studies indicate that people do a poor job at evaluating both their own skills and the skills of others. A more recent study tries to apply the lessons of those studies to democracy:

Mato Nagel, a sociologist in Germany, recently implemented Dunning and Kruger’s theories by computer-simulating a democratic election. In his mathematical model of the election, he assumed that voters’ own leadership skills were distributed on a bell curve — some were really good leaders, some, really bad, but most were mediocre — and that each voter was incapable of recognizing the leadership skills of a political candidate as being better than his or her own. When such an election was simulated, candidates whose leadership skills were only slightly better than average always won.

Nagel concluded that democracies rarely or never elect the best leaders. Their advantage over dictatorships or other forms of government is merely that they “effectively prevent lower-than-average candidates from becoming leaders.”

Live Science: People Aren’t Smart Enough for Democracy to Flourish, Scientists Say

Nagel’s results are framed as bad news for democracy, but I don’t think these results are so bad. The writer seems assume that the function of democracy should be to determine the best leaders. But even if this were possible is that truly what democracy should do? Karl Popper said in a lecture in 1958:

The question is not ‘Who should rule? or ‘Who is to have power? but ‘How much power should be granted to the government?’ or perhaps more precisely, ‘How can we develop our political institutions in such a manner that even incompetent and dishonest rulers cannot do too much harm?’ In other words, the fundamental problem of political theory is the problem of checks and balances, of institutions by which political power, its arbitrariness and its abuse can be controlled and tamed. […]

For us there are only two types of government: those in which the governed can get rid of their rulers without bloodshed, and those in which the governed can, if at all, get rid of their rulers only by bloodshed. The first of these types of government we call democracy, the second tyranny or dictatorship.

(You can find a longer excerpt at OVO and the full lecture in the collection In Search of a Better World).

Based on this conception of democracy, we should be happy that Nagel’s study indicates that at least the least worthy of leaders will be elected out of office. In other words, people are smart enough for democracy. (Of course, it says nothing to the more central problem of democracies: corruption so deep that there is little point in voting because you’re not even choosing between the lesser of evils, but among puppets of the same evil. Modern democracy seems to have failed, badly, at minimizing the harm done by those in power, and, at least in my view, has slipped into the second type of government described by Popper.)

Nomad Economics and E-Commerce

My old friend Abe Burmeister was interviewed about the philosophy behind his company Outlier by Dan Gould for PSFK:

A few hundred years ago most products were sold directly from the maker to the user. If you wanted forks and knives you went to a silversmith. To get shoes you went to a shoemaker. The industrial revolution exploded all that, and gradually layer upon layer of wholesalers, distributors, buyers and salespeople have been added into the purchasing process. In the end you often find dozens of people separating the designers from the end users.

The internet has the potential to explode this game, but perhaps more importantly it also provides an economic incentive to. Most of those layers separating the designer from the user are layers that raise the price of the product and reduce the profit margins of the manufacturer. Gut out the layers of wholesalers and distributors and you wind up reducing the price of products and making more money at the same time. But to do this requires boldly throwing out the old business model. Of the established companies, Apple is close to the only large one confident enough to do it.

One of the craziest things about selling design on the internet is that there are no sales people. Not only can you eliminate layers of middlemen between the designer and the user, but you also eliminate the persuader at the end of the line. All of a sudden the product basically needs to sell itself, and anyone who knows how to google can turn themselves into an expert in hours. It’s a new environment and one in which the designer takes a much more important role in selling the product than they have in the past.

PSFK: The Internet Has Changed the Way We Make Products

This is an application of theory that Abe wrote about in his master’s thesis Nomad Economics. Abe’s very seldom updated blog Abstract Dynamics was one of the best blogs of the early to mid 00s and he’s still one of the most interesting people I follow on Twitter.

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