Tuesday, 1 August 2023

princess irulan (10. 918)

Serialised previously in Analog magazine, Frank Herbert’s science fiction epic (see tag below for more on the Duniverse franchise) was first published in its complete form on this day in 1965 by Chilton press. Set in a far distant feudal future bereft of technological extensions (thinking machines abolished after they nearly destroy humanity) with the population spread amongst the stars, aristocratic houses vie for control of planetary fiefdoms including the inhospitable desert world of Arrakis—the only source of the psychedelic spice melange which extends life and vitality and opens up the mind to precognition—necessary for piloting heighliners through interstellar space—and is terminally addictive. The story is narrated through chapter epigraphs by historian and the eldest daughter of the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV.


one year ago: a taxonomical exploration plus an MST3K classic

two years ago: the debut of MTV (1981), hyperinflation, names for the Biblically nameless, more Universal Everything plus a “perfect” pollinator-friendly plant

three years ago: Lammas Day, a new song from deadmau5 plus facial coverings inspired by public transport upholstery

four years ago: a little museum on the Moon, the Swiss federation (1291), an interesting optical illusion plus book-lover tattoos

five years ago: another chatbot meltdown, first directly elected female president (1980), the paradox of good governance, land-use in the USA plus more backyard pollinators

Monday, 30 January 2023

distrans (10. 511)

Though aware of the differences in international editions it had never occurred to me that illustrated covers were set in a specific type over its first printings, like these UK volumes with titles in Giorgio, fittingly a sort of space-age spaghetti Western font, we were unfamiliar with the mystery surrounding—via Boing Boing—the visual identity of Frank Herbert’s original trilogy from 1975 on, eventually encompassing all of the author’s work. and work about the author and franchise. An uncredited typographer lettered a modified version of Davison Art Nouveau, a font never digitised and can only be licensed from a single catalogue of a particular Manhattan foundry. Many more examples at Fonts in Use at the link above.

Saturday, 7 January 2023

8x8 (10. 395)

notional counting: amateur archaeologist proffers the theory that markings on ancient cave paintings may communicate information about quarry animals’ life cycles—pushing back the origins of writing ten-thousand years  

social recession: declining trust, friendship and adult activities by the numbers—via tmn  

brick and mortem: the surprising, seemingly non-sequir resurgence of a chain of bookshops  

arrakhis: the European Space Agency launches a tiny satellite to search for dark matter  

metroid as directed by paul verhoeven: imaging 90s video games as feature films—see previously  

little d: a Defender-style camper conversion kit unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Salon  

upward falling payloads: proposals for an orbiting warehouse and fulfilment centre  

mirabile scriptu: phony but possibly plausibly kanji generated by AI for abstract concepts—particularly appealing is one for the Chief Twit, ็Ž‹ (pronounced wang, meaning king)

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

remember: walk without rhythm and we won’t attract the worm (10. 385)

As our faith chronicler informs, on this day in 1984, David Lynch’s epic and cinematic interpretation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 classic of science fiction premiered in the US for general distribution. Introducing Kyle MacLachlan and starring Francesca Annis, Sting, Josรฉ Ferrer, Siรขn Phillips, Linda Hunt, Sean Young, Dean Stockwell, Max von Sydow snd Patrick Stewart, the film was critically panned and a box-office failure, disowned to an extent by the director, but since gained a sustaining cult following and has engendered an interest spanning decades. Following the model of other franchises, several tie-ins were introduced and the soundtrack by Brian Eno and Toto was nominated for an Academy Award. Set in a distant future wherein selective breeding and conditioning has replaced artificial intelligence, the film gives the account of noble houses vying for control of the desert planet of Arrakis—the only source of the Spice Melange, instrumental in unlocking prescience and facilitating interstellar travel and trade absent thinking machines.

Monday, 12 December 2022

brion sanctuary (10. 379)

Via Messy Nessy Chic, final resting place for the commissioning widow, her late husband, founder of an Italian consumer electronics company called Brionvega noted for their futuristic design and the designer himself, Carlo Scarpa—never officially credentialed as an architect as he refused to sit before the state board of examiners—the monumental extension to an adjacent municipal cemetery is considered to be a masterpiece of Modernism. Completed in 1978 after a decade of construction, the chapel and sacrophagi outside of Treviso is a mediation in concrete that evokes the cross-cultural influence of nearby Venice, incorporating Byzantine tiles and mosaics and the signature motif of vesica piscis or mandorla—the lens formed by the intersection of two circles, suggesting in Latin, the bladder of a fish or in the Italian, an almond. Restored last year, it was a filming location of the second part of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune shot over the summer.  More at the links above, including many pre-conservation photos and more projects by Scarpa.

Thursday, 1 December 2022

jodorowsky’s tron (10. 351)

Returning to regular blogging after a restorative sabbatical, Kottke directs our attention towards surrealist, psychedelic version of Tron filtered through the lens of the style of filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky in an imaginative collaboration between an AI platform and creative prompter Johnny Darrell. These stills are pretty fantastic and makes one wonder how far away we are from realising Jodorowsky’s famously unmade adaptation of Dune. Much more at the links above.

Thursday, 13 October 2022

8x8 (10. 220)

punto di ebollizione: pasta maker introduces ‘passive cooker’ meters 

capricorn one: a thoroughgoing review of a 1977 film about a faked Mars landing  

a shropshire lass: four decades of mushrooming in England and Wales  

friluftsliv: the term for the Danish tradition of unwinding in the wilds popularised by playwright Henrik Ibsen  

perfect for roquefort cheese: all about blue cheeses—see also  

yes sirah: origins and production of wine grape varietals around the globe—via tmn  

wormsign: building a functional Fremen thumper 

hasta la pasta: the Italian influence in Argentinian cuisine

Monday, 2 May 2022

fan mail from a flounder?

Given the MST3K treatment for the first time on this day in 1999 in their tenth season, the surpassing bad 1971 sci-fi horror film also released under the titles ZaAt (the name of the chemical compound), Hydra and Attack of the Swamp Creatures relates the plot of a mad scientist first to transform himself into a catfish-like monster (sort of like the hybrid God-Emperor primate-sandworm) then drug an entire town’s water supply with the same serum to create a community of merpeople. The mad scientist then turns his focus to revenge on his fellow researchers who ridiculed his work.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

i will kill you!

At the risk of over-explaining the gag, the seventh episode of the second season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, airing for the first time on this day in 1990, is one of the first incidents of the above often repeated threat or pledge throughout the show’s run which is itself a reference to Sting’s portrayal of Baron Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in Dune (1984) delivered to Paul Atrides and they both try to usurp power from the Padishah Emperor, during their treatment of the 1967 William Grefe film Wild Rebels in which a retired stock car racer is engage by the police to infiltrate a biker gang called Satan’s Angels, who are terrorising southern Florida with a crime spree, undertaken not for financial gain but rather “kicks.” Below is a short preview of the lampoon as the full episode wasn’t yet available for watching.

Monday, 8 November 2021


poppy watch: juxtaposed recruitment campaign for lorry drivers looks like a cheesy Whovian villain (previously)—via Super Punch 

if past is precedent: a comic illustrating vaccine requirements in public schools—via Nag on the Lake  

voleur de grand chemin: literary correspondence for Jack Kerouac’s On the Road 

wurzelkindern: a delightfully illustrated 1909 children’s book about when the root children wake up—via Everlasting Blรถrt

greatest movie never made: storyboard, note for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune, to star Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson and Salvador Dalรญ, up for auction  

nitt witt ridge: an eccentric castle on a hill—via Messy Messy Chic (lots more to see here)  

could’ve been an email: a concise plan for shorted, more productive meetings from John Cleese in 1976  

high-fidelity: a patent for a playback stylus that moved the needle rather than the record in the form of a VW Bulli 

mop and smiff: the Saw-See annual, a nostalgic diversion from BBC1 uncovered

Saturday, 30 October 2021


the motion picture that pits steel weapons against steel nerves: Joan Crawford in Herman Cohen’s 1967 Berserk! plus a medley of other horror films 

phenaskistiscopic vinyl: animated record albums—see previously  

cop26: designer installs a sinking Monopoly style house on Putney Weir ahead of this crucial climate conference 

ghostly footsteps (with chains): in 1977, BBC’s foley artists (previously) released a best-selling record of spooky sound-effects  

cloaca maxima: Rome’s revered sewer-system—see also  

auchan daily mascarpone cheese: a decade of Russian music videos  

the high-handed enemy: director Denis Villeneuve storybooks the gom jabbar scene 

 kitchen witchery: a tarot deck to divine one’s dinner

Sunday, 24 October 2021


Premiering in theatres on this day in 1970, this Freddie Francis (cinematographer for such films as The Elephant Man, Sons and Lovers, Son of Dracula, The Deadly Bees, Glory, The Executioner’s Song, Dune, Cape Fear), low-budget science fiction horror vehicle stars Joan Crawford (in her last role) as a renowned anthropologist who learns that a solitary troglodyte—Ice Age caveman—is dwelling in some remote caverns of the English countryside, whom to the distress of the locals tries to lure him out in order to study and perhaps civilise this missing link. For all its camp and status as a transgressive cult movie, it is surprisingly raw and touching.

Monday, 16 August 2021

wormwood star

We very much appreciated the introduction to actress, artist, poet and occultist Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel—known by the professional mononym Cameron by way of the short film by friend Curtis Harrington, the eponymous piece featuring Cameron’s paintings and recitations and the sole documentary source for much of her work as much of her fame came posthumously. The title is also in reference to the name she choose for her first child, the first of many moonchildren devoted to the veneration of Horus, Cameron being adherent of Thelema and becoming a convert from her first husband, rocketry pioneer Jack Parsons having also worked at the Joint Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) during World War II, to be breed according to magick sex rituals called “Babalon Working” that Cameron herself oversaw, like a Bene Gesserit mother superior. Instead, Cameron’s surviving child, born on 24 December 1955, from a subsequent marriage though paternity is uncertain was named Crystal Eve. Cameron was also in the film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

gom jabbar

What’s in the box? Pain. Boing Boing directs us to a years’ long collecting campaign that’s recently netted a complete set of the Duniverse in graphic novel editions from Hayawaka Publishing, following the literary saga of Frank Herbert rather than the cinematic adaptations of the series. 

Click through for a lengthy thread on Matt Caron’s progress through the franchise and explore how pivotal scenes are reinterpreted and characters represented—see also. The mantra, the Litany—Fear is the mind-killer; fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration...—recited before the test and by many others  is inspired from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.”

Friday, 23 April 2021

halfway between the gutter and the stars

Featuring Bootsy Collins, the accompanying music video for the Big Beats artist Fatboy Slim’s 2000 “Weapon of Choice,” reprised on the occasion as a stand-alone single, directed by Spike Jonze, was first aired on this day in 2001. Depicting Christopher Walken dancing around an empty lobby, the choral refrain of “You could blow with this or you could blow with that” references the Native Tongues’ “The Choice is Yours”—the titular album an homage to Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan (“some of us are looking at the stars”) and the lyric advising to “walk without rhythm and it won’t attract the worm” quotes Frank Herbert’s establishing novel.

Friday, 4 December 2020


three blind mice: researchers restore sight by reversing the epigenetic clock in laboratory animals, re-endowing youthful characteristics—via Marginal Revolution  

big drunk girl energy: the dumbest coup is still playing out in the courts  

a touch of cabin fever: this is what stir-crazy looks like—the Year on TikTok—via the morning news

manifest destiny: a scrollytelling art histories (previously) that recounts the mythology of North America—via Maps Mania  

alpenhorn: disappearing, defaced and duelling phallic totems in the mountains of Germany and Austria 

for the longest time: dispel the zoom and gloom with this quarantine rendition from the Phoenix Chamber Choir 

 home box office: Warner Brothers is simultaneously releasing its cinematic productions on subscription television for 2021—via Kottke  

oceanus procellarum: Chang’e probe (previously)has lifted off of the lunar surface and will return with the first samples of moon rocks since 1976—via Slashdot

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

unprocessed cartoons

PRINT magazine contributor Steven Heller has a nice retrospective appearance and remembrance for an underground political cartoonist often overshadowed by his contemporary R. Crumb in R. Cobb. While many might more readily recognise the Cheap Thrills that duly excoriated our modesties of the former, we might not be as familiar with the latter, who recently departed (*1937) after a long bout of dealing with dementia, whose extensively syndicated illustrations laid bare how the governments—most pointedly the US establishment—was eroding civil rights, liberties and the environment.

Cobb turned his talents to raising awareness and championing social justice causes after being dismissed as redundant by Disney studios in 1957 once the animation of Sleeping Beauty was complete—notably the last film to use hand-inked cels. There are an embarrassment of panels from the late-1960s that are very resounding and correspond, appearing in the Freep plus more mainstream outlets, with what we face at present (see a whole gallery at the source up top), but we are choosing to highlight the ecology symbol Cobb created—combining e (environment) and o (organism) into a ฮธ-like glyph that gifted into the public domain and was adopted by the conservation movement. After his career as a cartoonist, Ron Cobb designed conceptual art for science-fiction films such as Star Wars, Alien, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unfinished Dune, The Abyss and Total Recall.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020


From the extensive archives of JWZ, we are reminded what a golden age the 1980s were for up-and-comer sandworms. Shai-Hulud (1985) as they are called by the Fremen of Arrakis (not to scale) grow to gigantic proportions, hundreds of metres in length and forty metres in diameter and ply the desert sands as whales do in Earth oceans, and extending the comparison, as with flensing and whale oil, were the source of the spice melange—the most valuable commodity in the Cosmos. The sarlacc that inhabits the Great Pit of Carkoon (1983) is classified as non-sessile arthropod though shares a similar physiology to its companions.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

a book by its cover

Appreciating the inherent, joyful weirdness that can adorn paperback novels—especially the of the science fiction and fantasy genre—the Seattle Public Library system has challenged readers to stage recreations of their favourites (see also) using items that they can find around the house. Check out the full thread and get inspired to stage your own.

Monday, 24 February 2020

circus maximus

Two podcasters of note, John Hodgman and Elliot Kalan, are hosting an absolutely delightful mini-series revisiting the 1976 prestige television adaptation of the Robert Graves work of historical fiction I, Claudius.
Though harshly panned by critics on its first airing, it enjoyed cult-status and a dedicated viewership both in the UK and in America where it was syndicated by the Public Broadcasting System in 1978 and features an extraordinary cast of actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Siรขn Phillips (the Bene Gesserit reverend mother of Dune and voice actor for all the Disney princesses for their UK releases) as Livia, John Hurt, Sir Patrick Stewart, John Rhys-Davies, Brian Blessed, Patsy Byrne (Nursie in Blackadder) and Patricia Quinn, the Lady Stephens (Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show)—just to name a few. Watch along as they recap each chapter with special guests, beginning with the pilot A Touch of Murder/Family Affairs—an extended episode counted as one.