November 6th, 2015
It might seem counterintuitive to name a post about transport, technology, and the different ways we imagine ourselves hurtling into the future after a Mogwai song, but remember: I’m a life-long pedestrian, so like Mogwai I plod along at the side of your automated adventures, only occasionally encountering the violence of twisted metal or getting caught up in the wakes of your passing.
Ahem. Anyway, where was I going with all of this…?
1. Mad Max Fury Road
Oh yes. Here. Always here. If you were lucky, perhaps you woke up one morning this summer after your second or third showing of Fury Road to find Brother Bobsy perched on the edge of your bed whispering his Mad Max monologues straight into your dreams:
The Fury Storm sequence is key to the film’s intent, mapping a space unexplored by the previous Mad Max trilogy. Although climate change, nuclear summer, associated water/petrol resource crunches, and militarised neo-feudalism were all too predictable (or depressingly inescapable) from the perspective of the late 1970s, the history of cyberculture and networked existence went unforeseen. The Fury Storm rushes in to fill this chasm in Mad Max‘s rebooted version of tomorrow.
Imperator Furiosa nevertheless deliberately turns into the storm: eager not just for the camouflage, but the active tactical benefits it affords over her ill-protected pursuers: naked War Boys mistaking annihilation for apotheosis. It doesn’t matter how much they enjoy their lovely day, how they shout and confuse the heat of digital immolation for the light of false afterlife – the War Boys are getting torn into bits in there, while Furiosa and the Five Brides (plus Max himself) are only truly empowered to taste water and freedom after traveling through the storm’s event-horizon and its violent, chaotic multiplicities.
There are several contradictions built into the sort of immersive enjoyment of Fury Road that I’ve experienced – loving a movie that frames women as exquisite things while explicitly rejecting this worldview is complicated – but perhaps none are more fundamental than the sense of hope captured in the above paragraphs, this rapture of collaboration between bodies in a scenario where flesh and blood are just yet more commodities to be scavenged.
If you want to understand how director George Miller, Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron communicate such intense relationships through image and sound, Chris Ready’s your man.
If you need a more critical look at the film’s terminus point and treatment of the female passengers, the Kraken boys might make more suitable tour guides.
2. New roots for public transport
If you’re interested in identifying Fury Storms in our present moment in the hope of mitigating or better preparing for the bigger storms yet to come, you could do worse than read this Novara media piece outlining six meaningful ways we can work together to fight climate change now.
For the sake of this travel themed 5 For Friday, it’s the fourth option that’s most attention worthy here, seeking as it does to re-imagine the urban environment as a zone connected by free transportation (“There’s little need to burn fossil fuels to get around cities – if the right transport and energy infrastructure is in place”) and suggesting new sites of mutual struggle, such as those between environmental activists and public transport employees:
Opening up mass struggles for public transport also offers opportunities for alliances with transport workers – such as fare strikes/free rides, as pulled off by a collaboration between Occupy Wall Street and rank-and-file transit workers in NYC in 2012.
Developing and sustaining these relationships will no doubt make the spectacular coordination of Fury Road look like child’s play, but while you’d be foolish not to take the difficulty of a journey into account before embarking on it, that doesn’t mean that you should treat all difficult journeys as though they are impossible.
But maybe all of this talk of choosing your journey is just terribly outdated, what with automatically driven cars assembling in a secluded car parknear you right now. While the possibility of robots taking the jobs of professional drivers provided a new front for the debate about the relationship between automation and the world of work, it was this article on the ethics of programming cars to kill is the one that’s taken me captive.
The key line, for me:
People are in favor of cars that sacrifice the occupant to save other lives—as long they don’t have to drive one themselves.
In contrast to the toxic, dust-filled landscapes and radiation scoured pageantry of Fury Road, this suggests a very clean, carefully managed sort of dystopia. Think Cosmopolis as invigorated by J.G. Ballard – a future in which an elite class is driven around from one anodyne, too-easily diagrammed space to another, protected from the lower classes who populate the space in between by the clever programming and sturdy construction.
Action sequences in which driverless cars are programmed or hijacked have been part of our fiction for a while now, but for all my apocalyptic pulp rhetoric it’s the solidification of common human reactions that’s most unsettling here. We can perhaps understand people who make split-second decisions to put themselves first, but to specifically program a car to plow into a crowd of strangers in order to protect one passenger, to reproduce these survival instinct as code, to make them marketable… all of this is far harder to feel at ease with, for this pedestrian at least!
4. Rumble Strip
That diagram of different crash scenarios burned itself onto my eyes the first time I saw it, overlaying its emotionless reductions of life and death scenarios onto my everyday experience. It took until my vision had cleared for me to realise that I’d been here before:
As Bobsy (yeah him again!) said back at the time of Rumble Strip’s release:
…the visual language of roads, the set of consensual signifiers that give punctuation and meaning to the otherwise meaningless grey expanses, the easy-to-read fluency of the roadsigns and road-markings, the minimalist and directly unambiguous design principles they adhere to – are an almost too-perfect subject for interrogation via the comicbook medium.
The three previous entries in this post have dealt with where we might be going, charting alternate destinations for our journeys. Woodrow Phoenix’s Rumble Strip is something else entirely – a lucid expression of the journey as we experience it now.
5. No DeLorean
As Marnie Stern fan #1, I’m duty bound to say that she gets a pass on Back to the Future nostalgia for life, but everyone else could do worse than read this post on fake geek guys, hoverboards and how the obsession with technological commodities in the Back to the Future drowns out any consideration for how its fetishised future would have been built and by whom.
This might seem to be beside the point – the people who made those movies knew their way around a product, after all – but since we’re not exactly lacking in signs pointing us towards that sort of future, we should stay mindful of other possibilities.
After all, they may just end up taking us beyond our current limitations, to somewhere we’ve yet to imagine.
October 23rd, 2015
You are an inconsequential energy fluctuation born to the fractionally larger but no less inconsequential energy fluctuation we call humanity. You aren’t doomed to oblivion because you never were in the first place.
So you might as well click on some links!
1. These 31 spooky radio plays are one way, possibly the best way, of killing time until the apocalypse/Halloween. Mostly American, they cover a large chunk of the 20th Century, 1934-1979, and include adaptations of iconic horror works by the likes of Lovecraft, Poe and M.R. James.
2. An essential and concise overview of the English Eerie. Travel writer Robert Macfarlane dissects and opens up the books, music, film and poetry that have influenced our conception of England as in some sense haunted, be it literally or figuratively.
3. That weird confluence of hippies and horror that was the late 60s and early 70s’ age of Black Aquarius is given the documentary treatment by Dr Who fanboy and film historian Matthew Sweet in this episode of Radio 4′s Archive on 4. It’s a good’un.
4. Want your life – what’s left of it, anyway – to sound like a spaceship hurtling into the unfathomable blackness mortals call the universe? Here’s 12 hours of Star Trek/Alien/2001/Bladerunner atmospherics.
5. Hang on, you’ve never visited Scarfolk? I mean really? That needs to change right now. Because you are being watched, especially when you sleep, and if you don’t we’ll come for you and your children*.
For more information please re-read this message.
October 9th, 2015
- What the fuck is money? Who makes it? It’s the government, yeah? Or maybe the banks. This episode of the Kraken podcast makes for a cheerful introduction to this topic, and if you’re left wishing that they got a bit more into the question of what they’d do for money, well, there’s a whole big world of people wanking for coins out there for you to concern yourself with.
- If you’d plashing up to the deep end, the New Economics Foundation have put together a report on the prospects for an independent Scotland creating its own digital currency, the “ScoutPound”. The NEF argue that if £250 worth of it were issued to every Scottish citizen, it would boost the spending power of the poorest and boost business. Critics in the comments argue that the administration of this would be more difficult than presented and/or that it’s all just an New World Order plot, but then again these criticisms are generally applied to almost anything that’s “proposed” on the internet these days, so…
- If you need to wash the taste of BitCoin out of your mouth after reading that, here’s a post on Basic Income (also known as giving people enough money to ensure that they won’t die of poverty) that takes issue with some of its technolibertarian supporters, and another that casts a sceptical eye on some of cryptocurrency driven Basic income proposals. I’m a big advocate of Basic Income as an idea, so it’s good to read critiques like this – shout outs to Charlie Stross for the links!
- Bringing it back down to Earth for a minute, here’s a news article on the Govanhill pound, a local currency that has been created by a community artist at the Govanhill Baths, just round the corner from my old house. The exchange rate for the Govanhill Pound is variable, with the suggestion being that it amounts to “a hundredth of a person’s weekly income”. If you were going to make a joke about artists needing to print their own money don’t bother unless you’re going to wince when you say it.
- Finally, in case you were wondering where all the comics chat went, here’s a link to my post on Eddie Campbell’s book about money, the title of which I stole earlier in the post. Every other comics critic I’ve discussed The Lovely Horrible Stuff with has told me that they think it’s good, but slight – I reckon they’ve just not realised that it’s a dapper bit of bunting that’s been hung around a gaping, cyclopean abyss…
April 5th, 2014
Still fired up from February’s discussion of what’s worth watching on American TV, Mindless twinset Mark (Amypoodle) and Adam (Adam) have written an Experts Guide to HBO’s ‘True Detective’ and weird comic book fiction for Comic Alliance.
There’s a lot of great stuff about Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti in that post – if you’ve read any of Mark or Adam‘s stuff before, you’ll know what to expect, and if not you’re going to enjoy finding out!
December 18th, 2013
Special “Two years late and several thousand Bitcoins short” Edition!
People still do linkblogging, right? I mean not here, not recently, but elsewhere. Feels like a holdover from the “internet as big magazine” approach to broadcasting into the void, and given that I’m too scare to commit myself to any other model that suits me just fine!
EMBARRASSING ENTHUSIASM DEPT: You read it somewhere else first, but we’re in a celebratory mood in Mindless HQ anyway, so fuck it – STRAY BULLETS IS COMING BACK!
It’s too early in the day for me to get totally shameless on this, so you’ll have to go read that interview to find out about the massive collected edition of the first forty issues, the continuation of the old series, and the launch of a new one. Suffice it to say that Stray Bullets is the best, most unsettling crime comic out there, and that we’re glad all those kittens weren’t sacrificed in vain.
If you’ve not red the series before, issues #1-4 are apparently free to download right now, and Zom (or “Ad Mindless as he now likes to be called) wrote a piece about issue#1 that should set the scene just nicely:
A car speeding into the night, a lonely county road, as an establishing shot it’s hardly setting a precedent. But the first panel in SB #1 transcends its over familiarity by actually saying something meaningful about the book and all that follows it. This is a story that will make good on the panel’s familiar metaphorical properties. What we need to keep in mind here is that this road is black, to see anything we’re going to need a torch, and that things probably lurk in those woods. For that matter, things probably lurk in that car – what’s it doing out there in the dark, anyway? The world of Stray Bullets is a dangerous place, and the road travels on until you die.
We should also consider the notion that Lapham doesn’t want to simply transcend cliché, that he’s keen to set-up certain expectations in the reader. So later, when the tires on the car blow out and that familiar scene with the cop and the dead body in the trunk rears it’s head, we shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of novelty on offer. What’s interesting about all these little genre ticks is that, by issue 2, you could be forgiven for forgetting you were reading a crime comic in the first place, and that’s a recurring pattern throughout the series. The effect being that just when you think you know where you are Lapham pulls something entirely unexpected out of the hat, and suddenly definitions like ‘crime fiction’ start to feel inadequate or in serious needs of revision. If I was hunting around for words to describe Stray Bullets #1 I’d eschew genre definitions and settle on adjectives like macabre and gothic.
MISSING PERSONS DEPT: Free Batman/set Batman free.
For serious though: this is the best(/most horrible) Batman comic I’ve read all year, the tactically deployed evil of Batman Incorporated notwithstanding. Twitter account here, if you’re interested.
April 19th, 2013
‘Nothing of note was to be inherited by her loved ones, and nor was anything ever expected to be. She was put to rest with exactly the same title as the one with which she was born. She never ruined anyone’s life and never once considered a career in the deliberate, violent immiseration of her fellow citizens.’
‘Easily the current century’s first landmark work of fantasy and ranking amongst the best pieces ever written in that genre, with The Vorrh we are presented with a sprawling immaterial organism which leaves the reader filthy with its seeds and spores’
‘I would say, that if you’re talking about a line of progress, if it can be called progress, that runs from Berthold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, to Donald Cammell’s Performance, to Harry Potter, I don’t think you can really see that as anything but a decline… and also I would say that if you’ve got the Avengers movie as one of the most eagerly attended recent movies, and if most of those attendees were adults, which I believe they were, then if you’ve got a huge number of contemporary adults going to watch a film containing characters and storylines that were meant for the entertainment of eleven year old boys fifty years ago, then…’
‘We shall attack, we continue to wait… This gesture, which can never be fully grounded in reasons, is that of a Master. It is for the experts to present the situation in its complexity, and it is for the Master to simplify it into a point of decision. … The Master is needed especially in situations of deep crisis.’
April 14th, 2013
Amy and I might be posting about Mad Men over at our new Mad Men tumblr, She’s an Astronaut, but that’s not going stop us putting up the occasional post here. We love our Mindless.
Here’s four of the best links from around the web.
The number one spot has to go to Sean of Sean T Collins fame. His superb post on the nature of the Hawaiian “experience”, Something Terrible Has to Happen, is an absolute must read, and his episode thought dump isn’t half bad neither.
The ever insightful and spiky Molly Lambert comes in second with her post on just about everything in The Doorway. Molly’s view is often tougher than mine, especially her take on Don, but in a way that suggests she actually knows these people. She’s judgemental in all the right ways. Go read A Lighter, a Mistress, a Lot of Facial Hair
Third place goes to the Internet’s most reliable and comprehensive Mad Men fansite, Basket of Kisses. In a post that typifies their thoroughness, BoK founder Deborah Lipp looks at how how The Door Resonates Throughout the Seasons. Every self respecting Mad Men fan should have BoK bookmarked.
And last but by no means least is glam image blogger (all the best Mad Men images evar) Bohemea on Don’s absence.
Amy and I will continue to update SaA a few times every week. Here’s my latest post on the state of Megan and Don’s marriage, Break a Leg.
RECEIVING TRANSMISSION – “A LITTLE MORE POWER OVER THAT MEMORY…”
Sorry, what’s that? You were waiting for the second part of my Tygers and Lambs series? Well hey, thanks for checking in mum, glad you still read the site - that post should go up over the weekend! 
The rest of you are probably looking for more SILENCE! or more League of Extraordinary Gentlemen annocommentations or something , and who can blame you, but you’ll have to wait a while for all of that because right now we’re doing Dirty Thoughts From Other People’s Comments Section!
Okay, so over on The Comics Journal’s website, Sean Rogers wrote a review of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Flex Mentallo that posited the aforementioned comic as a prime example of the “strenuous vapidity” of Morrison’s writing. I think it’s safe enough to say that most of Team Mindless  are pretty into Flex Mentallo – the manifesto like “Candyfloss horizons” posts that graced the site during its early days are definitely written in the key of Flex Mentallo, with its “candy-striped skies”  – and I wrote about the book again when the freshly recoloured “deluxe” edition was released in April of this year. As such, bearing in mind that FEELINGS ABOUT COMICS ARE THE ONLY TRUE FEELINGS , I decided to have a go at taking Sean’s review apart.
Sean seems to think that Flex Mentallo is a guide to better living through superheroes, whereas I think it’s more like a Dennis Potter drama in two-dimensions , a strange story in which a grown man cracks and finds himself trying to make sense out of everything with reference to a lifetime’s worth of ruddy superhero comics.
My comment is up on The Comics Journal site if you want to check it out and see what you think.
October 18th, 2011
OR: MINDLESS LINKBLOGGING, SPECIAL “ALL BASTARDS MUST BE AGGRAVATED!” EDITION!
As you hopefully noticed, we spent a large part of last month bringing you the best in bastardry. We’ve got some spooky Notes From the Borderland coming up in time for Halloween, so right now seems like as good a time as any to collect all of our bastardly musings together and to celebrate the cruel simplicity of the banner The Beast Must Die created for the event:
Hopefully you’ll be able to forgive me for indulging in a little bit of back-patting here while I take you through AN INDEX OF BASTARDS!
August 26th, 2011
SPECIAL “BAD TOUCH IN GOOD COMPANY” EDITION!!!
Anyway, enough of that (You’re telling us! – Ed) – I want to put some filth in you . Best take your shots first, unless you actually want to catch something…