Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Long Overdue

It was by pure chance that I ended up checking out my old blog tonight. It was for no other reason than curiosity that I decided to log in.

Can you imagine my surprise that I received 533 hits last month?

Trust me...I'm a bit gob-smacked myself.

I owe everyone who ever read this little corner of The Internet a massive thank you for having read it, and a massive apology...I shouldn't have stopped doing this.

I'm not making any predictions for the future at this point, but I'd like to think you might see a few more broadcasts from Obscuritan HQ at some point in the future.

Thank you so much!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Forgotten Atrocity

It is impossible to deny the that World War II changed the world. From Iwo Jima to Stalingrad, the men who fought on both sides shed blood for something they believed, for better or worse. Yet it is difficult to assign any amount of heroism to the acts that went unseen in the eyes of the post WWII world. There are elements of the war that seem to slip through the cracks of history books, moments that those who experienced them would rather forget. But in the interest of history, it is important that these stories be retold, paying to that elder notion of "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."

Many of the crimes against humanity that were perpetrated through those dark days are still fresh in the conscience of the world, but one story that seems to never be told is that of a isolated location in Manchuria, disguised as a benign water purification facility, that led to the death of 500,000+ human beings: Unit 731.

According to Sheldon H. Harris' Factories of Death, Dr. Shiro Ishii (a physician with the Japanese Imperial Army) took control of a 150-building, six kilometer area outside the city of Harbin, Manchuria in order to conduct experiments on biological warfare. Japan had refused to sign the Geneva Convention's ban against germ warfare in the 1920s, giving Dr. Ishii free reign to try and perfect weapons and delivery systems for virulent plagues. In it's wake, Dr. Ishii allowed for nearly every conceivable manner of war crime to occur; vivisection of the camp's inmates were quite common, as well as experiments on the effects of hypothermia and amputation. In our more allegedly rational times, these sorts of experiments are grotesque and unnecessary.

But justice has, if nothing else, a perverse sense of humor. While most of the camps staff were put on trial and punished harshly, Dr. Ishii was granted immunity from the Tokyo Tribunal of 1948 in exchange for the information he gathered from his experiments. This is not surprising; despite the horrors of the "Final Solution" in Nazi-occupied Europe, scientific findings that came at the expense of the countless victims of the Holocaust has been gathered. It should also be noted for the record that Dr. Ishii would also go on to die in 1959 of throat cancer, after having served as a researcher of bioweapons in Maryland.

While it is human nature to attempt to find some sort of good in any dark time, this leaves us with a question: What is progress worth when measured against human life? Does the wrongful death of thousands of innocents become acceptable in the face of Scientific Knowledge, much of it invaluable for the lives it might save in the future? It is indeed difficult to look to the history of the world without finding a large amount of seemingly pointless destruction, and sadly science is not immune to this.

Author's Note: As a rule, I avoid any sort of serious ethical dilemmas here at The Obscuritan Journal. I don't feel that I have the sort of authority to dictate right or wrong in any sense; but it is impossible to write about such manners without these questions immediately coming to the fore-front of my work.
Further, in light of the gruesome subject matter, I have allowed for this work to be bereft of images out of respect to the victims of Unit 731 and out of respect for my more sensitive readers.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Spider Webs

(I wanted to do something a little different this morning. Instead of posting a short but info-chocked essay, I thought it might be interesting to give you a little insight into the way my mind processes info and comes to conclusions. So everyone, strap in and I hope you have you flak-vests...kidding!)

When I was growing up, the Internet didn't exist. It really didn't start surfacing until I was a teenager, and even then it was still fairly primitive. I recall when a friend of mine had purchased a 24k modem and we thought it was blindingly fast...I don't want to know what it cost in 1995.

But here I am, getting ready to exit out of my 20s and I have to laugh, as I am posting in a blog that ten years ago wouldn't have existed. What slays me about the Internet is that the majority of our culture is now linked together in a vast web, almost forcing the world to take a stance of interconnectivity. And what do we use this new technology for? Jokes and pornography.

To really appreciate the power of the web, I start to think about the concept of an Internet Meme; information that spreads on a viral level. The concept of a meme is not new - there have been millions of pieces better written by far better educated people than me - but the basic idea of a unit of information spreading on a cultural level is powerful and fascinating. It's changed everything, from the way humor develops to story telling. Stories we used to tell around campfires when I was a Boy Scout (yeah, I was a Boy Scout...go figure) have found the way into 1's and 0's and taken on a mythos of it's own. Monsters exist...and they are only a Broadband connection away.

Kill some time on any Paranormal web board and you'll hear of The Slenderman. Youtube, in it's wisdom, has the whole Marble Hornets saga available for anyone looking for a good chill. I linked everyone in my last edition of "World Wide What?" to the very real darkness at the heart of modern Pripayat, Ukraine...if that isn't a sign of what anyone can see if they want, I don't know what is. When I was younger, a kid in the Midwest could never see images such as are available now. Is it any wonder that the generation that came after mine is as peculiar as they are?

We're growing as a people. It only makes sense that our hidden (and sometimes, not-so-hidden) fears might manifest in a place and way that allows us all to share.

Monday, January 10, 2011

World Wide What? 01-10-2011

Chernobyl 25 Years Later offers you a chilling set of photos from one of the worst disasters in Industrial history. Not to be missed or viewed with the lights on.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The End (A Film Review)

One problem that exists for any film-maker with an interest in cinema as art and not entertainment is message.: Will your audience be able to follow you? For this reason, "Art Films" seldom make it into the mainstream. But what becomes of a movie when it is being smothered under the weight of over-extended vision?

Richard Kelly's Southland Tales is a classic example of a film with a vision that, to a wider audience, looks like a hallucination. On paper, Southland Tales has all the makings of a hit: a big-name cast, compelling visual direction, and a strong enough concept to just wild enough to be different and sell. As well, Kelly had scored a big hit with Donnie Darko so a large budget and wide viewership should have naturally followed and been a boon, allowing him to break further into the mainstream. Unfortunately this vision appears to suffer from chronic myopia and falls flat on it's face. Southland Tales almost immediately slips into parody despite every attempt to salvage the effort.

But how does this happen? Wasn't everything in Richard Kelly's favor? How does a director snatch Defeat from the jaws of Victory? The film is primarily an elaborate and unique allegory for The Apocalypse, but it was Kelly's method of dealing with the subject matter and subsequent media presentation that ultimately stifled Southland Tales. The quirky dialog and casting are actually quite charming, albeit bordering on non-sequitor.

Kelly's mistake was believing that the audience could follow him. The movie was preceded by three graphic novels, most of which had never been seen or read (as of this writing, they are out of print) by a wide audience. Furthermore, anyone who lacks more than a passing understanding of The Book Of Revelation will not catch most of the symbolic references. At Cannes, the film was effectively jeered into submission; without bloggers and websites like The Onion's AV Club, the film would have slipped deeper into disrepute and obscurity (and likely would not have seen the latter-day success of Donnie Darko.)

This being said, the movie is worth seeing: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays a neurotic action film star with amnesia, Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a porn actress with artistic pretension, and the film is veritably loaded with cameos at every angle. But the charm of such a unique piece is ultimately fatally flawed by the directors lack of direction itself. It would be a stretch to say that Southland Tales is not to be missed, but would be more accurately described as great for late nights and a lot of alcohol.

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas the morning before Christmas...

...and all through my apartment, I've been moving. Slowly. Which is funny, considering the lull I have taken through the month of December regarding The Obscuritan Journal. To my readers, I apologize - deeply - but this month has been crazy. I won't go in to any details, but suffice it to say that I miss unwinding every Friday with a new tale of something peculiar.

Christmas, for those of you who are culturally disposed to celebrate it, is supposed to be a time of giving, reflection, and bonding with your loved ones. As one might have guessed, I have no attachment to the holiday season, and as an American, the religious significance is all but lost, instead replaced often by crass consumerism, stress-related illness, and financial strife.

Yet when I hear stories such as this, I am given some hope for mankind. Then again, when you take into account these statistics, anything seems optimistic.

So consider this my gift to the World Wide Web: This blog, which I intend to resume after the start of 2011, has been the fruit of my mind for sometime. Sure, it might not bring "good Will towards man" or unite any families, but it's a start.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

World Wide What? Dec. 15

Sorry I haven't been around. The Holidays inevitably cause all sorts of havoc on my schedule. In the meantime, here is a little something amusing...

Medical and Doctor Slang How accurate this is, I can't say. But having spent more time in hospitals than I care to admit, it really makes you wonder...