Archive for June 11, 2008

Why is it that crazy cultist websites always look like they were made in MS Paint by a self-flagellating epileptic? Is there a bigger visual banner you can wave to announce your lunacy than one involving bright red moving text over a tiled picture background? Does being a conspiracy theorist preclude good taste? Or are they even crazier than we thought?

The first time I encountered the lizardman theory, it was written in bright purple on a blue background, haphazardly left-justified, intererspersed with underlapping photos of crystal caves and put together by a chick called Raven. Coupled with the utter absurdity of the argument, her frenzied layout stayed fixed in memory long after the site had ceased to exist – which perhaps was the point. The above link is equal parts garish and insane, and should not disappoint. (I’d pick a favourite quote, but it’s difficult to choose between Angela Lansbury being a lizard-person, a self-confessed starseed from the Pleiades system, and a warning not to let lizardmen live in your aura.) 

Jack Chick rates a mention, if only because his content is so palpably borrowed from the Land of Screaming Lobotomies. Unless you have a high pain threshold for ignorant religious polemics, I’d keep well clear, as this brand of nuts has a tendency to choke the consumer on their own bile. Note the cluster of videos and busy graphics near the top of the page, followed by columns of miniscule text – plain fare, compared to other examples, but still far from commonsensical.

Giant headshots of the Glorious Leader are another mad staple, as in the Raelian movement. This group believes, to paraphrase bluntly, that God is an alien who parted the Red Sea via space-based laser cannon. (Extra points for combining aspects of orthodox Judaism, intelligent design and Indian mysticism in the one go.) Hutaree, by contrast, features old-school, rapid-scrolling Bible quotes, apparently as a means of inciting people to join the U.S. military in preparation for the End Times. Spooky!

Conspiracy theories surrounding the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre are rife. This stunning example boasts a bold visual contrast between black and yellow backgrounds, red borders and almost two full pages of blank white space – classy! Toss in a reference to fake planes and an opening statement of defiance against the propagandising of media cartels, and you’ve got a recipe for obsolescence.

Finally, no list of internet weirdness would be complete without a reference to Atlantean reiki healers. The idea that there was a technologically advanced, spiritually enlightened, crystal-power-source-using society in the ancient Medieterranean is an oldie but a goodie, and one that shows no signs of dying out. Note the DaVinci picture insert at top right, suggesting a subtle Dan Brown influence.

Of course, if you want to read about past-life Atlantis from someone who clearly doesn’t realise that Traci Harding writes fantasy/fiction, there are other avenues of inquiry.


Note: This post began life as a comment on Sean Wilson’s blog.

There’s been a lot of brou-ha-ha this week about Belinda Neal, the NSW Member for Robinson, and her husband John Della Bosca, the NSW Education Minister, abusing staff at the Iguanas Waterfront bar in Gosford.

Speaking as a former Gosfordian, I believe the most relevant question – more important, even, than whether Ms Neal needs anger management therapy – should be phrased thusly: why the hell were two state ministers eating at Iguanas in the first place?

True, Gosford isn’t exactly known for fine dining, and to the casual observer, Iguanas probably looks like a nice place to chow down, but come evenfall, we’re talking about one of the sleaziest and most disreputable clubs on the Central Coast, which is saying a lot. This is the place where drunken youths wash up at 3AM when everything else is closed, collecting in droves on the steps and variously attempting to beg, bribe or otherwise coerce security into letting them in, usually via the handy aid of friends already inside who can come out and vouch for their upstanding moral character.

Point being, if this is where the NSW ministerial set goes to eat, we’ve got bigger problems than mere abuse of governmental power. Forget verbal tirades – don’t the bastards have any sense of style?

Ever since a friend introduced me to Penny Arcade back in Year 10, I’ve been a devout gaming/geek webcomics fan. At one point, I was checking seventeen different strips on a daily basis; realising this was insane, I scaled back to fourteen, where I settled until my first year of college. Probably, this would’ve continued, except that the internet connection in my new room was mysteriously broken, and took three weeks, umpteen phonecalls and five consultations with university IT support to fix. By that time, the amount of banked strips had reached critical mass; I didn’t have enough time to catch them all up, and so I pared back to a bare ten, farewelling 8 Bit Theatre, GPF, Nodwick and others with a heavy heart.

Since then, different strips have come and gone – Machall and Demonology 101 have run their course, while Dresden Codak is a new favourite – but my affection for the genre has remained. As has my admiration for the creators of my favourite strips. After eight years of being exposed to their humour, social commentary and general musings, watching the changes in art style and hearing snippets of personal data, they somehow feel more like acquaintances than anything else, people I could bump into and share a laugh with. This is, perhaps, the big difference between webcomics and traditional print media: connection to the creators. I grew up on Snoopy and Garfield, but couldn’t have picked Charles M. Schultz or Jim Davis out of a crowd; I knew nothing about them, their lives or interests beyond an intangible sense that it must somehow influence what they drew and why they drew it.

Not so Fred Gallagher, Scott Kurtz, Jerry Holkins and Michael Krahulik, Greg Dean, Randy Milholland and Tatsuya Ishida. Perhaps more consistently than any other creators, these guys have been with me through the most formative years of my life. I’ve changed since I started reading them, and they’ve changed, too: since my readership began, two have been married and three have had their first children. I’ve left school, gone to university, moved states and tied the knot – but even on my honeymoon, I was still checking comics along with email.

It’s strange to think of geeks grown up – at least, so mainstream society would have us believe. There’s still a strong bias against the idea that you can play video games, enjoy fantasy or sci-fi and read comics as an adult without being just as immature as you were at fourteen, because of the perception that these are childish persuits. As a kid, I was a geekling born to normals; and worse, I was a girl, which made it harder for my parents to notice. Had I been male, perhaps my compulsive interest in dinosaurs, Mario and Transformers would have fit a pattern, rather than seeming incongruous compared a similar fixation on My Little Pony. The penny finally dropped when, after years of playing every console and computer game my friends possessed and saving hundreds of dollars pocket money for a colour Gameboy, I woke up one Christmas to my very own PlayStation. Since then, I’ve never looked back – but had I not stumbled on a group of like-minded webcomic geeks, things might have turned out differently.

One of the greatest trials in growing up is figuring out who you are, not just in relation to other people, but on your own terms. Without friends who shared my interests, I never would have discovered webcomics; but without webcomics, I might have lost confidence in the idea that I could succeed that way, too. Because that’s the other thing I learned: that quirky, geeky, interesting, creative people can, with sufficient effort and support, earn a living through what they love. Although I read books, watch films and listen to music, I’m not privy to the everyday struggle and success of the creators. The end product just appears, disconnected from any personal genesis: like a magic trick, it entertains and inspires, but the mechanics are deliberately concealed. Authors like Neil Gaiman lift the veil through individual blogs, but back then, it was webcomics that got the message through.

Unlike Peter Pan (or today’s lost boys), geeks can grow up. And if webcomics are anything to go by, they can be happy and creatively successful into the bargain.

Thanks, guys.  

A new day dawns, and The Brisbane Times is with us again. Behold:

1. ‘We’re not gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that)’

2. Oral sex blamed for rise in throat cancer (still holding strong!)

3. Prince Charles pays off royal debt

4. Man intentionally jumped from plane without chute

5. 25% of New Yorkers have herpes: survey

And all is right with the universe.