The Long View 2007-12-11: Metropolis Reloaded; Jones's Skull; Steyn's Glory; The Conservative Mutant


The original Metropolis is one of those movies I haven’t quite got around to watching. However, I do enjoy Osamu Tezuka’s version [Amazon affiliate link] immensely. I never saw the need to remake the original silent film, as Tezuka did a masterful job creating a comic book using inspriation of the source material, which was then followed up after Tezuka’s death with something of a hybrid between Fritz Lang’s movie and Tezuka’s comics.

There are a ton of great links in this blog of John J. Reilly’s from 2007. Once we get to the end of re-posting all of John’s work, one of the items I plan on doing is a network analysis of how frequently he linked to his own items, and seeing what rises to the top in a twenty-year evolution of his thought. Some of the items here would definitely be in the top:

However, the link to the Titan City article from 1986 and Greg Cochran’s paper with John Hawks et al on the acceleration of human evolution are great too. I rue the day that Greg really got into Twitter. While it is fun to watch him argue with everyone in the world, he never writes long-form arguments anymore, which is a pity.

Metropolis Reloaded; Jones's Skull; Steyn's Glory; The Conservative Mutant

This is the wrong time for Metropolis To Be Remade, I think:

Producer Thomas Schuehly (Alexander) has acquired the remake rights to Fritz Lang's classic SF movie Metropolis and is partnering with Mario Kassar on an updated version of the 1927 movie, Variety reported.

The Munich-based Schuehly and Kassar are currently in negotiations with a number of top directors to helm the movie, with a final decision expected in the next few months.

Schuehly obtained the rights to the film from Vienna-based publishing group Sessler Verlag.

Metropolis is one of the most groundbreaking films in cinematic history; its influence informed classic works throughout the 20th century, including James Whale's Frankenstein, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Gattaca and The Matrix, the trade paper reported.

I am a little surprised that there are rights in the film to be acquired: it's easily available online, so it must be in the public domain. In any case, it seems to me that the specific concerns of the film have lapsed. It's about the stresses of a heavy-industry society living in what has been called the Titan City, the vertical urban complex that was the consensus image of the future before planners got the memo about the effect of the automobile on urban density. I don't see how the spirit of Metropolis could coexist with cellphones; the horror of Metropolis is that it is a world of all broadcast, no network. It would be possible to make a 21st-century film about class war, but it would not be a remake of Metropolis.

* * *

The Next Indiana Jones offering looks more promising:

USA Today revealed details about the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which it said is set in Cold War 1957.

Citing co-producer Frank Marshall, the newspaper said the fourth installment in the hit franchise deals with a quest for South American relics with supernatural powers...Indy will face off against operatives from the Soviet Union, including Oscar winner Cate Blanchett as the seductive Agent Spalko.

The film is set in 1957? 1957!?!.

But what about that skull, you ask:

Perhaps the most famous and enigmatic skull was allegedly discovered in 1926 by Anna Le Guillon Mitchell-Hedges, adopted daughter of famed archeologist F.A. Mitchell-Hedges. However, because there is no documented evidence of this, some authorities prefer to hypothesise that the skull was actually purchased at auction by F.A. Mitchell-Hedges in 1943. In an affidavit from 1968 printed in Richard Garvin's "The Crystal Skull", Anna Hedges claims that she found the skull buried under a collapsed altar inside a temple in British Honduras, now Belize. In a letter to the author in 1970, she also stated that she was "told by the few remaining Maya, and was used by the high priest to will death".... The artifact is sometimes referred to as "The Skull of Doom" because of its seemingly inexplicable properties and the supposed ill-luck of those who have handled it.

For no reason I can discover, the skull is said to be from Atlantis, so we may hope that motif is included in the backstory.

* * *

Thanks be to God, who has matched Mark Steyn with His hour. I suppose that, by now, we have all heard that excerpts from Steyn's America Alone have landed him before the Political Correctness Star Chambers of two Canadian provinces. But let David Warren tell the tale:

The right to free expression of opinion and belief -- though constrained in its extremes during wartime -- is not something that can be negotiated in a free country...And I make this point in light of the case that has been brought against Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine, before Human Rights Commissions for Canada, British Columbia, and Ontario, by the Canadian Islamic Congress, led by Mohamed Elmasry. The first two commissions have already agreed to hear the case, and thus rule on whether Mark Steyn had the right to express the opinions and beliefs in his bestselling book, America Alone, and specifically in the excerpt entitled, “The Future Belongs to Islam,” which ran in Maclean's last year. According to the complaint, by expressing his opinions and beliefs, Mark Steyn “subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and Islamophobia.”

I am sure that Mark Steyn is genuinely upset because of these charges, and Maclean's is in real danger. Nonetheless, if we regard the question from the perspective of how best to spread Steyn's ideas, things really cannot get any better than this. He has been raised from political wit to martyr. (And I can see even now the BANNED IN CANADA/PROSCRITE' EN CANADA blurbs on the dustjackets of future editions of his book.)

* * *

As if we did not have enough to worry about, here is yet more news that evolution is acceerating: [original link dead, replaced with PNAS link BIE]

Time was, teachers used to tell their students that accelerating cultural evolution – the alphabet, the wheel, movable type, the steam engine, the computer, whatever – meant human biological evolution wasn’t important any more. It was too slow.

A blockbuster paper published online today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences turns that old story on its head.

Cultural evolution diversifies the physical environments where humans live, creating a multitude of places where useful mutations can thrive. And greatly increased population density means ever more bodies where mutations may be selected for usefulness.

The result, says Greg Cochran, one of the authors, is that human biological evolution has accelerated, to perhaps 100 times as fast as in prehistory. (And that’s before we had the genetic tools to modify it on purpose.)

We might pause here to consider that higher social status is often correlated with lower fertility. The most prestigious caste in some societies is celibate. I am not saying the acceleration is not occurring, only that paint-by-number natural selection may be an incomplete explanation. But let us proceed to the good stuff:

Cochran said, according to a press release from the University of Utah, “History looks more and more like a science fiction novel in which mutants repeatedly arose and displaced normal humans – sometimes quietly, by surviving starvation and disease better, sometimes as a conquering horde. And we are those mutants.”

Readers will recall an earlier post about this in March, and one on human self-domestication in December 2005. In any case, the science fiction novel that Cochran was probably thinking of was A.E. van Vogt's Slan, published in 1946 [Amazon affiliate link].

Here let me just emphasize that these changes may occur randomly, but they are by no means by chance; they are even, in a sense I have tried to define, conservative. We are destined for the City, as Northrop Frye noted. And no, it isn't Metropolis.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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