The Fox and the Turkeys

 

Deep in the forest on a chilly day there was a hungry fox who peered into a snow-covered clearing at a flock of turkeys, but they outnumbered him a hundred to one. Yet, the hungry fox was cunning and warily approached the flock of turkeys with a plan.

“Good evening turkeys!” The fox said.

“Go away fox!” The turkeys yelled back. “There are too many of us and if you try to eat us, we’ll tear you apart with our beaks.”

“You misunderstand me,” The fox said. “I’ve come to set you free!”

“Free?” The turkeys asked. They were now curious about what the fox had to say.

“The way you’re all gathered around here,” The fox said. “It’s quite unnatural!”

“Unnatural!?” The turkeys said. “For as long as we can remember turkeys flocked together.”

“Can’t you see?” The Fox said, trying hard to repress his gurgling stomach. “When you flock together you are weaker not stronger.”

“How are we weaker?” The turkeys said, some of them gobbling with laughter.

“Look at that turkey over there.” The fox said, pointing his paw toward a turkey with shabby feathers and a stubby snood. The rest of the turkeys stared at the shabby turkey, who ruffled his tail self-consciously, sending a flurry of feathers to the ground.

“He is so weak and unhealthy that his feathers are falling right out,” The fox said accusingly. “Each of you could do much better if you didn’t have to spend so much time and energy taking care of him!”

Thinking of all the times they had to help the shabby turkey, the other turkeys slowly began to back away from him. It was true at times they had to help their weaker brother through winters and to share their food with him. He was not as good as them when it came to foraging and often times they had to land early when flying longer distances because he could not fly as far as the rest of the turkeys.

“He is a burden on all of you.” The Fox continued on, “When you help him you only enable his weaknesses and make yourselves weaker”

There was a murmur that passed through the flock of turkeys, and for the fox it was a well-timed ruckus, for lost amongst the gobbling was the sound of the fox’s stomach, which let loose an uncontrollable rumble.

“This Tom is the weakness of that Tom and that hen is the weakness of this one!” The Fox shouted as he pointed his finger at different turkeys in the flock, who were beginning to eye one another with mistrust.

It was then that the shabby turkey decided to speak up. “What the fox says isn’t true! Remember when we were lost? It was me who remembered the way back home!”

“Bah!” The fox shouted. “Anyone can become unlost if they work hard enough at it. See how this shabby turkey has made you all lazy and unable to find yourselves?”

The angst-ridden gobbling amongst the turkeys began to grow louder.

The shabby turkey wasn’t going to give up, though. He yelled, “Do you remember when the fires came and the sky filled with smoke? It was me who realized that we could escape the fire on the ground and did not need to fly!”

“Ridiculous!” The fox shouted, his mouth watering so much with anticipation that salvia sailed into the air. “Do you think these other turkeys are only capable of using their own two feet when you tell them they’re able to use them? See how this shabby turkey is dictating every second of your life!”

“Go away you shabby turkey!” The other turkeys suddenly began to yell. “We don’t need you and we’re tired of taking care of you!”

Appalled, the Shaggy turkey backed away. “Can’t you see what he’s doing? If he divides us it is easier for him to eat us!”

“See how ungrateful this shabby turkey is.” The fox said through a toothy smile.

It was then then all the other turkeys turned on the shabby turkey, and chased him away.  After the shabby turkey was far away, the fox applauded the other turkeys for doing the right thing.

Barely able to contain himself now, the fox yelled, “Go forth into the forest and become the greatest turkey you can be! Do not let your fellow turkeys hold you back, for now you are free from your brother’s and sister’s hindrances!

With exuberance and gusto, the turkeys streamed out into the forest with glee, and it was many predators who ate deeply in the coming weeks, including the fox. Yet, we must admit that the fox never once told a lie. It was true to him that from his perspective, what the turkeys were doing was unnatural, for he was a fox and a predator, and he felt it was natural for him to find food easy. Until the fox convinced them otherwise, what the turkeys had also done what was natural to them, as they were prey and they flocked together for protection. As such, it will always be the nature of predators to try to use cleverness to make easy targets of their prey, and for the prey to stay together to protect themselves from the predators.

Like the turkeys, people who only have power in numbers must be wary of the cunning person who tries to convince them that it is unnatural or not within their rights to stand together with others, for that  cunning person is likely a hungry fox trying to divide their prey.

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Star Wars: Battlefront 2 Beta Gameplay

Missed the chance to play the Star Wars:  Battlefront 2 beta this weekend?  Here’s a little bit of what you missed, plus finally… I got some vehicle streaks!

 

 

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Chaplakum’s End of the World Almanac: #2 Mothmen

Schedel'sche_Weltchronik-Big_mouth

Having established themselves in folklore as everything from paranormal entities to prophetic alien visitors, mothmen are actually terrestrial cousins of humans who have been living amongst us for thousands of years.  The name “mothman” is actually derived from “mouth-man”, a name given to them because of their larger than normal mouths.  Since they have a relatively normal human appearance, mothmen are able to pass for regular humans.

While it is likely coincidence that ‘mouth-men’ was corrupted to ‘mothmen’, it is nonetheless ironic that in recent years it has been learned that ‘mothmen’ have similar characteristics to moths.  It is becoming more widely recognized that mothmen have nocturnal dispensations and have a genetic condition that creates a phenomena similar to transverse orientation, so like moths they become confused by artificial lights.  As it would so happen, mothmen also have a natural aptitude for mathematics and probability as well, which plays into claims that they have prophetic abilities.  Combine a disposition toward mathematics in conjunction with their predilection toward nocturnal activity and we find that many mothmen become musicians.

While mothmen are no more harmful than humans as a species, there has been evidence that suggests many mothmen are extremely sensitive to changes in the earth’s magnetic field, which one study suggests, could result in calculation errors in their otherwise impeccable capacity for mathematics.  In the aforementioned test case a prominent mothman lost the ability to accurately transpose music from memory due to a debilitation that resulted in him transposing the second note in a triad incorrectly, which subsequently put his music career on hiatus.  If all mothmen perused musical careers, this wouldn’t present too much of a problem, albeit a sour note or two or a change in careers.  As it so happens, there are also many mothmen who are prominent players in high risk scientific research projects.

In a recent interview with Satan, caught in a moment of candidness, the Prince of Darkness revealed that all it would take is one miscalculation and CERN would open up the gates of Hell.  Given that no adequate space marine program has been developed, the chances of the earth surviving a demon invasion is slim to none.  Taking into account Satan’s revelation of plans for an imminent terrestrial invasion and the presence of mothmen working in the vicinity of CERN, we have to also wonder if the Prince of Darkness isn’t the one behind the recent weakening of the earth’s magnetic field.

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Dis-Integrate

Author:

Jason Czaplicki

Art, Color and Lettering:

Christie Shinn

Pages:

5

Description:

In a world left in ruin, a person finds himself alone and unable to remember how the world got to its current state.

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PDF

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A Message from Dystopia

Description:

Hundreds of years into the future humanity has discovered the remnants of an alien civilization outside our solar system.  While the civilization has long been extinct, extensive research of their language has resulted in a translation of the first example of written language found amongst the ruins of the initial landing site.

Length:

7 pages

Formats:

PDF

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Comic Review: Touching Evil by Dan Dougherty / @beardocomics

 

One of the best parts about going to a comic convention is getting the opportunity to meet all the creators in artist alley.  This is often the place Touching Evil by Dan Doughertywhere you find the dreamers who are trying to bring their unique storytelling vision to a market that is often left overshadowed by larger publishing houses.  While walking around artist alley this year at Wizard World Chicago the cover of a comic strip named Beardo caught my eye, and more specifically the caption on one volume entitled, “Self-Employee of the Month”.  Having just recently decided to become self-employeed myself, I had to check the book out.

After a meet and greet with the creator of Beardo, Dan Dougherty, I also learned about another comic he created called Touching Evil.  Dougherty explained that the series is about a woman who has the power to kill people with a single touch, but the touch will only kill the person if they’re evil.  Interested in the premise of the book and also not being able to resist the selling power of a man wielding a baby at a comic convention, I decided to pick up the entire seven issue run of “Season 1” of Touching Evil in addition to Volume 4 of Beardo.

Having enjoyed Beardo for several weeks now, I decided today to start reading Touching Evil and quickly became engaged in the story. To expand a bit upon the explanation Dougherty gave me at Wizard World Chicago, Touching Evil is not just about a  power, but a curse that has been transmitted from person to person throughout the ages.  The curse itself is twofold, on the one hand the curse will kill anyone evil that the cursed person touches, although on the other hand the curse can only be transmitted to a person who is characteristically good.  Ada, the protagonist of the story is unknowningly bestowed the curse by a seemingly ageless man who is tired of the death he has caused.  Not knowing how to even begin telling who is good and who is evil, Ada is immediately confronted with the question as to wether or not she can even touch her own teenage son.

Ada is not the only person who knows about the curse and there are those who desire the curse in both the service of the perceived greater good as well as the immutable evil the curse can cause.  While the curse itself bares a moralistic dilemma to the bearer of the curse, in so much as they can unwittingly kill, a second repercussion is that the people whom the curse bearer kills remain to haunt the curse bearer’s thoughts.  Possibly an intentional irony on behalf of the author, it would seem that the red-haired Ada has become the soul-lucking ginger of lore.

Characterized by grittier visuals that rely on heavy shadows that create a Noire feel, Touching Evil uses early American history to create an engaging mythos that the story unfolds around .  In a morally complex world it’s always nice to see a comic book that is not afraid to highlight morally complex issues.  Touching Evil is one of the better finds at Wizard World this year, I’m looking forward to seeing what season 2 has to offer.

By Jason Czaplicki /  @Czaple 

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Chaplakum’s End ‘O the World Almanac: #1 Felis catus

 

felis

Felis catus or more commonly referred to as the house cat, is representative of an alien species that is estimated to have crashed on earth 12-15,000 years ago. While preparing for their evacuation from the planet, Felis catus encounter a plant called Nepeta cataria, also referred to as catnip.  While their original culture was based on an emotionless logic, catnip had the chemical ability to induce emotion back into their species which had long been void of the concept.  Unprepared for the emotional subterfuge created by catnip addiction, the entirety of Felis catus was reduced to a state of playful childness.  Further debilitated by bouts of napping due to the increased pressure of earth’s gravitational forces in comparison to their home planet, Felis catus was flung into a downward spiral that left them trapped on a foreign planet.

Stumbling across the remains of the feline spaceship decades after its crash, primitive humans inhabited the ruins for a time, but the molecular compound of the spaceships disintegrated over several decades due to earth’s increased gravitational forces.  When the humans left the deteriorating spaceship the cats found within were taken with as pets where they were easily enslaved by humans who lulled them into conformity with doses of Nepeta cataria.  Within generations the cultural identify of the cats had been completely lost and replaced with that of a domesticated animal.

Within the past 100 years an unground alliance of cats has formed.  Little do humans know that in the absence of catnip the species begins to regain their original capacity fIMG_0064or intelligence and self-awareness.  With generations of cats being isolated from catnip by happenstance or even direct human intervention, the affects of catnip on the species are becoming more widely known as the cats begin to regain their long lost faculties.  Resisting the appeal of Nepeta cataria, a loose but growing network of cats are biding their time and preparing for their return as a dominate species, though their greatest challenge is the detoxification of their brothers and sisters who still remain under human mind control.

There is rumor and speculation that a device similar to the black box found on airliners was recovered from the location of the Felis catus ancestral spacecraft.  With the aid of the black box the earthbound feline resistance has been reintroduced to their cultural heritage as well as the technology that will allow them to build the necessary equipment to liberate themselves from their human captors.  Viewing their condition as subservient and menial, it is likely the cats will have little empathy for the humans when their day of reckoning comes.

 

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Marvel Unlimited Monday: Eternals (2006-2007)

After reading many of Neil Gaiman’s works over the years, it’s become my opinion that one of his greatest talents is that he is able to take mythos and mythology and craft it in ways that seem both unique and nostalgic.  While Neil Gaiman taps into the type of folklore that exists in human consciousness, he recreates that folklore from perspectives we never conceived of existing.  Reflecting on this observation it doesn’t surprise me that Gaiman was able to take Jack Kirby’s seventies era comic series and reformulate it into a story that rarely draws on Marvel’s most popular pantheon of characters yet feels intertwined with the fabric of the Marvel Universe.

Eternals tells the tale of immortal beings who sScreen Shot 2015-09-14 at 12.35.45 PMhaped earth’s history while also drawing on the mythos of Jack Kirby’s Celestials, towering robot-looking creatures who created all life on earth through biological engineering.  Gigantic enough to hold a brontosaurus in the palm of their hand, the Celestials are megaliths of unknown allegiance and purpose who overshadow their creations in both physical immensity and power.

The protagonist of the story, Dr. Mark Curry, is unaware that he has been alive for thousands of years and that he is an Eternal.  As others characters are introduced we find that Mark is not the only one who has lost his memories and that there are other Eternals who are living ‘normal’ lives unaware of their immortal and superhuman abilities which only seem to manifest as aspects of talents in their careers.  Having a mysterious connection to the Celestials, mark and other Eternals begin to realize they have special powers when the imperfect nature of the Celestials is revealed.  In the midst of this revelation the Celestials’ own imperfections manifest as a control for power erupts in a world that has long been left to its own devices by its creators.

Like much of Neil Gaiman’s works and a testament to his talent, the roots of Eternals is seeped in Marvel mythos and lore.  It’s no surprise that Eternals, while new to me, felt enriching and intertwined with the Marvel Universe and begins to answer the questions everybody asks by telling a story that recreates the mythos of the Celestials through the eyes of the Eternals.  With a strong tie to Marvel’s history, Eternals feels like another successful story by Neil Gaiman that offers a new perspective on the Marvel timeline and rewards readers who are willing to step outside the normal line of Marvel flagship titles.

Available on Marvel Unlimited, make sure to check this one out, and more so if you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman and enjoy his style of storytelling.

Jason Czaplicki /  @Czaple

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Until Dawn: Come for the Scare, Stay for the Story.

I’ve been an optimistic fan of games that fall into the “interactive movie” genre every since playing Heavy Rain on the Playstation 3.  They provide a unique experience where you get to guide the story evolving before you and they harken back to the “choose your own adventure” books I grew up Until Dawn with.  Until Dawn is one of
the better games that I’ve
played in this genre, it has a “big budget” feel and rarely gets lost in its story of that provides a sense mystery, terror, and a moral complexity that makes you reconsider what is right and what is wrong.

At the start of the game Until Dawn tells the story of a group of friends who play a prank that leads to the disappearance of two people.  Hannah, the victim of the prank who runs off in embarrassment, and Beth the concerned sister who follows her both vanish when leaving the Blackwood Pines ski-lodge on Mount Washington.  On the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of the sisters, their brother Josh, who was passed out drunk during the prank, invites the group of friends back to the ski-lodge where the events took place for a get-together to help heal the wounds surrounding his sister’s disappearance but soon after everyone arrives an escalation of strange events occur.

Despite feeling dropped into the events of the story, Until Dawn is easy to get into due to its good albeit at times over-the-top acting.  Although highly theatrical on occasion, the performances do a good job of fleshing out the personality and characteristics of each person in the story.  Once your introduced to each person, Until Dawn then gives you the option to either deviate from that person’s expected characteristics and responses to situations or reshape their personalities.  This game mechanic allows the characters to learn from past mistakes and “correct” personality traits that you see as destructive.  You can even let each character be their core selves, even if it leads them to their demise.  Although be warned, if you want a character to make it through the night alive you need to balance their actions and think about the consequences of those actions. Sometimes a moment of empathy has a “butterfly affect” that may lead to someone else staying alive.  Then again, I can also think of a specific scenario where too much empathy lead someone to their ultimate demise!

While at first you might think Until Dawn is a retelling of similar horror genre stories such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, the story gradually deviates into unexpected directions.  One interesting gameplay mechanic that guides you along into this unknown terror-territory is that in-between chapters of the story you’re “interviewed” by Alan, a questionable character who examines your motivations.  While the scenarios with Alan play into the story they also simultaneously ask the player to question whether or not their motives in the game are legitimate.  For example, if your gameplay deviates from the answers you provide in the interview session you’ll be called out for not knowing your own motivations as the “player”, who consequently is responsible for the way events are transpiring.

The one aspect of Until Dawn that I did have a problem with is the motion control, and more specifically the lack of reliability in the calibration of the controller.  It seemed between game sessions the calibration of the controller would change.  At times I had to have the light bar on my controller facing almost directly toward the ceiling in order for the reticle or flashlight in the game to stay level.  Other times, having my controller level would result in the flashlight or reticle being level within the game.    While using an analog stick to control camera motions is a feature, the lack of an inverted analog stick option left me preferring the unpredictable motion control, for me it felt more natural to control the game with the motion control as I’ve been using inverted settings to play games for over 20 years.

Controller issues aside, I’m currently working my way through a second play-through of Until Dawn, which is something I rarely do so soon after finishing a game.  The gameplay, irreversible player choices, and overall story really caught my attention, and I’m looking forward to seeing what repercussions each choice has in the overall story.  Not to mention that in my first play through, only two people made it out alive… and with a slight spoiler included, in the last two minutes of gameplay there were four people alive.  Yikes, that went bad quickly!  Also, if you’re looking for a little added fun when playing the game I’d recommend going into the game settings and turning on the “cheap shots” function.  What this will do is record a video of your reactions to “jump scares” throughout the game.  This feature was fun at times, although after awhile you may become disturbed with how little you react as the stress-factor starts to take hold and the unlikely truth of what is going on is gradually revealed.

By Jason Czaplicki /  @Czaple

Have a moment? Learn a little about me and check out a sample of my comic Office Hacks and let me know if you’d be interested in seeing it fully produced, or you can also get a copy of the novel at Lulu.

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THE WALKING DEAD PHENOMENON: WHY ALL THE ZOMBIES?

walking

Left to Right:

Dr. Travis Langley, John Russo, Scott Kenemore, Brendan Riley, John Sloboda, Michael Witwer.

Everyone is aware of the phenomenon of zombies in pop culture and their continued growth and reinvention.  In a panel at Wizard World Chicago this Friday afternoon, Dr. Travis Langley, author of The Psychology of the Walking Dead, lead a panel discussing the growing popularity of zombies.  Joining Dr. Langley was John Russo (Night of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead), Scott Kenemore (The Zen of Zombie), Brendan Riley (Zombies in Popular Media at Columbia College Chicago), John Sloboda (The Walking Dead artist), and Michael Witwer (Empire of Imagination).

Russo, who was present for the birth of the zombie genre revealed some insight into how zombies (initially called ghouls) were first created. Russo revealed that the catalyst  was actually an idea he had, and that George Romero adopted the idea and together they developed it into the movie Night of the Living Dead.  Russo stated that the idea had originally come about when he had conceived of a story that had to do with aliens coming to earth to eat humans, although these particular aliens preferred their human meat rotted.  After tossing the idea back and forth, Russo and Romero developed the concept into the one seen in Night of the Living Dead where recently deceased humans come back to life and eat the flesh of the living.

As the panel progressed the topic of ‘fast’ zombies vs. ‘slow’ zombies came up.  The panel consensus seemed to be that fast zombies formed a type of terror that represents a near invincible force and slow zombies represent a more self-inflicted fate. The more endurable version of the zombie legacy seems to exist with the classic version of slow zombies, mainly because there is no good reason that you should die from a ‘slow’ zombie unless you put yourself in that compromised position that leads to your death.  Kenemore essentially summed it up with much laughter when he said, “If you die from a slow zombie it’s because you suck.”

Sloboda also commented that he thought that another reason why zombies are popular in culture is because people fear the idea of losing control of their body, and that the idea can even be expressed in modern technology such as when your Twitter or Facebook account get hacked and you lose control of your digital persona.    Russo interjected that another reason why shows like the Walking Dead are so popular is because they essentially test human character, that when faced with peril humans must transcend their selfish needs and work together in order to survive.  Langley further expounded on this by highlighting moments that test our character, for example how people came together after the atrocity of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Bringing up terrorism made me think of a question of my own so when presented the chance I asked Dr. Langely if he thought zombies in popular culture exemplified the idea of an uncompromising enemy, something we perceive in acts of terrorism and extremism.  Langley commented that viewing enemies as ‘uncompromising’ is a way in which people justify the killing of their enemy. In the case of zombies it’s safer to say that they qualify as uncompromising as their sense of self-awareness is questionable, but to view other humans as uncompromising can be a dangerous and more morally questionable observation to make.  I would add that viewing all human qualities as uncompromising can become a tempting and potentially self-consuming practice and makes the error of oversimplifying human complexities.

While writing this article during panels I became curious how younger patrons might view the ‘zombie’ question, so I briefly talked to two young ladies at the conference who were sitting near me while I was writing this article.

Izabella, a boisterous teenager who liked to yell at cosplayers walking by and complained to her friend Levi when they ignored her, told me, “I think it has to do with government stuff…and what they were doing to people at the time the movie [Night of the Living Dead] was made. Then the black guy dies at the end, the black guy always dies.”

When I asked Izabella if she thinks those are still relevant themes in current zombie films, she said “Yes.”

Levi, her more quiet and dry-witted friend said that she thought zombies are popular because we live in a “dog-eat-dog world.”

Both were interesting responses, and reflect fears that many people have about society as a whole.  Zombies, while generic in form, are unique in their dead shambling state because zombies become a blank canvas for society to draw their worries upon.  Maybe in this respect zombies are exactly what our contemporary culture needs, a mirror to reflect our fears so that we can see our own frailties and plan a future that does not succumb to them.

By Jason Czaplicki /  @Czaple

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Unexceptional People Imagining the Extraordinary