Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mormons- The World's First UFO Cult.

            With the recent controversy in the Church of Latter Day Saints, with several thousand people leaving it due to the current demand that parents of homosexual children denounce them and vice versa, I decided to look into the cosmological roots of the Mormon church and … well what I saw sure looks like a UFO cult. Now most religious origin stories, at its core, comes across like a badly scripted D&D adventure. The Mormon religion however comes across like a badly written science fiction story. There are claims that the Book of Mormon is the world’s first science fiction story (Unfortunately that is untrue, the first universally accepted sci-fi novel being Somnium by Johannes Kepler written in 1608). Still I will postulate that Mormonism is the world’s first UFO cult. Allow me to offer some examples to back up my statement.

            Let’s get to the meat of the matter. The God of Mormonism did not create everything ex nilio as did the Hebrew Deity, but instead constructed the world from existing celestial debris. In fact the Mormon God was born a regular guy like you, me, Ghandi, and Hitler. He eventually rose past his mortality through a processes called “eternal progression” and became a divine being. And later on his Jewish son Jesus, or Heyzeus, or Yeshua ben Yoseph (take your pick) followed suit here on Earth.

            This concept of “eternal progression” or “exaltation” is a key element of the Mormon proclamation. That if a person strives for purity and righteousness (as defined by the boys in Salt Lake City) and to be “one with Heyzeus as Heyzeus is one with God”, then a mortal man might become joint-heirs with Heyzeus and become a God of a world. Now this part does sound a lot more like old school D&D, but it gets more sci-fi real quick. All of this happens after you die, naturally.

            The requirements for “exaltation” have changed over time. Originally you had to be white- as the Mormons’s proscribed that dark skin was the Mark of Caine and a sign of damnation. Thus it was forbidden to marry a dark skinned person, and they could never rise up to be even a low level cleric in the Church’s hierarchy. This requirement was changed in 1978 after Jimmy Carter threatened to remove the Church’s tax exempt status.

            Nowadays a Mormon adherent has to undergo a series of sacraments into order to become “perfect”. One is that a man has to have a “celestial marriage” to an opposite sex partner (the opposite part is explicitly stated) via an ordinance of sealing ritual, which goes not only unto death, but well beyond. So be careful, you will be stuck with whomever you marry until the heat death of the universe! The celestial marriage can occur in person, via a proxy strand-in, or even after the person has died. Under Brigham Young multiple celestial marriages for men were required to continue on the road to “eternal progression”. This naturally coincided with the Mormon’s former bigamous practices, the great legal sticking point of their religion. This, along with the murder of Joseph Smith in 1846, caused the Mormons to exile themselves to Utah in 1848, which at the time was outside the borders of the United States. The necessity for a pluralistic marriage was later rescinded in 1890, but the practice continued for some time after and still is in some isolated communities.

            That is how a regular Joe becomes a God. A bit nebulous I know, but the reality is that it is a simple step-by-step process of sacraments, similar to the Catholic Church’s first communion and confirmation. A route by the numbers procedure.

            But what about the Big Man himself? Mormon doctrine teaches that the Earth is not a unique place, but simply one of many planets where human beings live (like Star Wars), all of whom meet in God’s joint after they die. Each of these Earths were crafted by Jehovah and his boy Heyzeus, who shows up and dies on every one. Jehovah himself was born a dude on an unnamed planet where people like us live and eventually rose to become the God that we all know and blame our problems on.
             Where this unnamed planet is has never been stated, but the suggestion is that it is in a parallel universe, as none of the worlds were created until Jehovah showed up. He establishes himself in a place called Kolob, which is either a star or a planet (the word “star” is used interchangeably in The Book of Mormon). One day on Kolob is the equivalent to 1000 Earth years. Where this star or planet is has been up for speculation ever since the idea was written down. Theory’s range from it being the planet Mercury, to being at the center of the Milky Way, to its being a star outside of our galaxy entirely... Or of course it could just be made up.

            Moving onto the birth of Heyzeus, to the Mormon’s: God literally came to Earth, fucked Mary- despite her claims to not be worthy (is this the beginning of rape culture?)- and inseminated her with himself, which overrode her DNA. Thus he created a clone of himself (I assume Jehovah was Jewish in his past incarnation). He does this in order to die and ascend, showing people the true path to immortality, but unfortunately this wasn’t picked up on until over 1800 years after Heyzeus’s execution by the state.

             All of this is very science-fictiony. There are several other cosmological and doctrinal elements which mirror Christianity (regarding Satan and the fall of the Angels, and so on), but they are best summed up in the cartoon below. Enjoy and caveat emptor.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Turkish Star Wars- The Definition of "So Bad It's Good"

            Where to begin here? The Turkish Star Wars is notorious in some circles for its unauthorized use of Star Wars footage (often it is rear projected while the actors perform in front) and swiping bits from the sound tracks to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Flash Gordon, Ben-Hur, Planet of the Apes, The Black Hole among several others.
            The actual name of the film is Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam translated as “The Man Who Saved the World.” It was made in 1982 on a, presumably, low budget. But due to the very sketchy Turkish laws surrounding copyrights made up for it by stealing all of its space combat scenes from Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.
            The action sequences are the most laughable scenes. Often our heroes fight large pink furry creatures, obviously inspired from Chewbacca, but they come across more like Gossamer from Looney Tunes. They effortless rip off arms and decapitate them all without shedding blood. Also there are a number of mummy creatures, who look as if they are wrapped in toilet paper, and can kill a man with one flick of the wet end. These also cause our heroes no significant problem.  

            My particular favorite part however has to be the training montage. To prepare for his final battle our hero rips off Rocky and begins exercising to build himself up to superhuman proportions.  He does this by pounding the flats of his palms onto mounds of dirt, punching boulders, and hopping around with rocks tied to his legs. This last exercise allows him the power to bounce off trampolines when the camera angle is low.

No copyright infringement here.
The plot, from what I can tell, follows Murat and Ali, whose spaceships crash on a desert planet following a battle, shown by using footage from Star Wars as well as clips from the space shuttle launch. While hiking across the desert, with absolutely no evidence they guess that the planet is inhabited solely by women. Ali demonstrates the whistles he uses on women. However, he blows the wrong note or something and they are attacked by skeletons on horseback, which they defeat in hand-to-hand combat. The main villain soon shows up and captures the heroes, bringing them to his gladiatorial arena. The villain tells them he is actually from Earth and is a 1,000-year-old wizard. He tried to defeat Earth, but was always repelled by a shield of concentrated human brain molecules (shown as the Death Star). The only way he can bypass this is to use a human brain against it.
The heroes escape by beating everyone up and hide in a cave full of refugees. Murat develops a romantic connection with the only woman there, who looks after the children. (The romance is shown through many long eye-contacts and smiles from the girl, but nothing more. In fact, I don’t believe she has any lines). The wizard’s creatures attack and turn several of the children into monsters, their blood used to renew the evil wizard's immortality. The three then flee the cave and find a local bar, an obvious Mos Eisley Cantina rip off. The two men quickly get into a bar brawl, but the villain suddenly appears and captures them again.
The wizard separates the men and tries to convince them to join him. He sends his queen to seduce Ali, while he orders Murat to be brought before him. He offers Murat the chance to rule over the earth and stars if he joins him. He possesses the power of Earth's ancestry in the form of a golden brain, and all he needs to conquer Earth is a real human brain. After Murat refuses to give up his brain, the wizard shows that he has captured the woman and child. Meanwhile, monsters attack Ali when he is about to kiss the queen. They are both disabled by guards and then unproductively tortured by the wizard. Finally, the wizard pits Murat against a laugh inducing giant monster in the arena. Murat kills the monster and flees, taking the woman and the child with him. Ali is left behind.
Murat finds out about a sword made by the 13th clan, who melted a mountain thousands of "space years" ago to forge the weapon. Murat later finds this sword in a cave defended by two golden ninjas. He gains his light sabre equivalent- a golden sword shaped like a lightning bolt, which is obviously just made from wood and painted gold.  The hero runs around awkwardly with it, touching his enemies and killing them instantly. Murat goes to free his friend from a dungeon. However, Ali becomes envious of the sword, knocks out Murat and takes both the sword and the golden brain. The wizard tricks Ali into giving him the items. Now possessing them, the wizard has increased powers of some kind. He kills Ali and traps Murat, the woman, and the child, who then escape again 
Murat decides to melt down the golden sword and the golden human brain and forge them into a pair of gauntlets and boots. Equipped with magical gloves and super-jumping boots, he searches for the sorcerer to avenge his friend's death. After fighting monsters and skeletons, he comes face-to-face with his nemesis and karate chops him in half. He then leaves the planet for Earth in the Millennium Falcon.
            The film, as you have read, is astoundingly insane. I first found it on sale (long before Youtube) at a little video store in Buffalo that specialized in out of the ordinary films, and bought it on a whim. Some friends and I sat down, cracked open a few beers (every bad film is made better with beer) and watched. There were no subtitles in my copy, so we made up a plot as we went along, laughing our asses off the whole time. From what I saw it had bad editing, grainy film stock, odd choices of music, laughably cheap props, and amazingly bad action sequences. We had no idea what was happening, but loved every minute of it. Now that’s the definition of so bad its good.

Full film here

Monday, November 16, 2015

Blood from the Sky: Odd Things that Have Fallen from Above

On August 27th, 1968 blood and flesh fell in 1/3 of a square mile area between the Brazilian towns of Cacpara and Sao Jose dos Compos. The downfall lasted between five to seven minutes. Later analysis determined that the material was of human origin and Type O variety. Odd things have been reported tumbling from the sky for centuries, but this was the first times items of this nature had been spotted.
Typical in these atypical events is that an inordinate amount of some type of animal- frogs, earthworms, fish- descends, leading people to believe that the cause is a tornado or water spout that hurled a school of the hapless creatures into the sky, only to crash some miles distant. But in this instance no such weather condition had occurred within 100 square miles of the area, leaving puzzled meteorologists and officials to shelve the incident in their unsolved mystery files.
Image result for sao jose dos campos mapThere was however, two other odd occurrences reported five days prior to the event. On the night of August 22nd several unidentified flying objects (as nebulous a term as that is) had been spotted over a dense forest area over 10 miles south of Sao Jose dos Compos. Watchers described it as a “war between at least 30 balls of red and blue light.” Others described it as more of a physical romp than a battle, as if the orbs were playing. The spectacle lasted nearly an hour with each color “whirling and chasing each other in a turbulent [and certainly un-aerodynamic] manner” until they all suddenly “blinked out”. Naturally no rational scientific explanation was forthcoming and apparently the indigenous people believed it to have some sort of religious meaning- though the specific nature of this belief has not been recorded.
The second incident occurred the next day on August 23rd. A bus on the regular run from Sao Paulo was found abandoned on the side of the road. There was no sign of the driver or any passengers. Found inside the bus was a large number of bags and other parcels indicating a moderate amount of passengers, estimates ran to about 20 including the driver. There were no blood stains, bullet holes, broken windows, or signs that anyone was forcibly removed from the vehicle. However it is noted that the keys to the bus’s ignition were missing. There has been no sign to indicate what had happened to the bus’s occupants. Whether this incident is connected to the other two is up for speculation.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Ten Great Graphic Novels Being Sold on Amazon for a Penny

As I discussed in my previous entry, Reading As an Addiction, I’ve digested an inordinate amount of books and graphic novels over the years. To better support my habit I have a rule in that I never buy a book when it first comes out. Give it enough time and the price will always go down. Thus I can get four to five older books for the price of that new release. If I’m lucky, the price on that book has dropped a ridiculous amount, often to a penny. So for those of you who must feed the literary monkey on your back, here are ten great graphic novels being sold on Amazon for one cent.

Three Fingers by Rich Koslowski- This is a fun, behind the scenes, pseudo-documentary of the cartoon scene, where toons live alongside humans as second-class citizens. Mimicking a television expose’s hyperbolic format, Koslowski alternates confessional head shots of interviewees with "archival" stills that narrate the history of toons in film. It chronicles the rise of a Walt Disney character and his greatest actor, Ricky Rat, and the terrible secret they have.

Suburban Nightmares: The Science Experiment by Larry Hancock, Micheal Cherkas, & John Van Bruggen- A collection of nine stories from the independent comic of the same name. The running theme here is one of the paranoia of post-war 1950s America manifesting in anti-communist hysteria, the atomic bomb, aliens, all wrapped in a suburban setting. The art here is distinct, sticking with Cherkas standard black and white blocky style, which adds another level to the paranoia of the series.

2024 by Ted Rall-  An adaptation of Orwell's 1984 to fit modern times. Rall does an amazing job here in staying true to the feel of dread surrounding Winston, but operating in a strictly capitalist, rather than socialist, society. Where Orwell’s Big Brother wanted a country where every person was completely focused on the goals of the party, in Rall’s interpretation total distraction is the party’s plan, where the citizens are so immersed in consumer crap that they don’t care what the powers-that-be are up to.

Volcanic Revolver by Scott Morse- 1930s New York is a dangerous place to be. Crime lords battle for control of the streets, and the web of corruption extends from the docks through the media and up to the highest levels of government and religion. Though just one player in the city's grand drama, Vincenzo is skilled in many arts. He paints, runs a bakery, and runs a secret counterfeiting operation. When a rival mob family sends a bomb into Vincenzo's shop, it starts a chain of events that shakes up the underworld and leads to an elaborate plot for vengeance.

Strangehaven- Arcadia by Gary Spencer Millidge - Alex Hunter crashes his car to avoid an apparition in the winding road. When he awakens he finds himself in Strangehaven, a gently off-kilter village that he first doesn't want to leave - and then finds himself entirely unable to escape. He soon encounters some of the village's bizarre inhabitants. This is a greatly underappreciated story by a master artist, and his work keeps getting better and better. While this story takes its time, I feel that it is worth the journey.

M by John J Muth & Adam Kempenaar- Based upon the Fritz Lang film of the same name, about the hunt for a pedophile haunting the streets of Berlin in the 1930s, ending with a very intense trial scene. While the action is the same as the movie, what brings this graphic novel out are the photorealistic paintings, making this an unforgettable story. 

Crecy by Warren Ellis & Raulo Caceres- This the story of the battle at Crecy in France where the smaller army of England’s Edward the III faced the seemingly overwhelming forces of Philip the IV of France, yet England prevailed, cutting down “the flower of French Chivalry” in an afternoon and, reportedly, spawned the use of England’s two finger salute. Told from the perspective of foot soldier, this is a fascinating tale filled with all sorts of historical tidbits.

Rocketo- Journey to the Hidden Sea Vol 1 by Frank Espinosa & Marie Taylor- In a far flung destroyed earth, where the magnetic poles no longer exist, the Mappers chart the new seas. After returning from a war a broken man, Rocketo Garrison is swept away on a journey to the Hidden Sea, a fabled land that may hold the key to an ancient mystery. This is truly a different story, filled with tons of imagination and flair, and a unique illustrative style. 

Solstice by Steven T. Seagle - An off putting business mogul goes on a trip for the Fountain of Youth in South America, after discovering that he has brain cancer. His son Hugh goes with him, his other son having committed suicide years earlier due to the father’s incessant bullying. As the book opens, Hugh is making a one-handed attempt to keep his father from falling to his death on the summer solstice in equatorial Chile. Hugh fails to save Russell, but only after relaying the backstory in a tangle of crisscrossing flashbacks.

Clover Honey by Rich Tommaso- This is not the revised, redrawn twentieth anniversary version of the book, but its original presentation- that I felt needed very alteration. Abigail is an aspiring hitwoman out to prove her value to the family. She braves the wilds of Newark, overpriced parking, traffic jams, and bad hair days to track down Trevor, her former mentor, who is on the lam with a big briefcase of mob dough.
Hope you’ve found something that peaks your interest. For more suggestions check out the What I've Been Reading  page