Sunday 23rd of January 2022

the end of civilisations — not all that bad...


Of all the civilisation collapses in history, the Mayan is probably the most famous.

But there's also the Roman empire, the Wari in South America, the Qin of China and the pre-Columbian Inca.

In fact, these civilisations are "essentially innumerable", says Luke Kemp, existential risk researcher at the University of Cambridge.

And modern civilisation, despite its technological sophistication, isn't immune to becoming one of them.

Dr Kemp says there are significant common traits between modern civilisation and collapsed societies of the ancient past.

"There's a whole bunch of different reasons that contribute to the collapse of civilisations and most of them still apply to us," he tells RN's Late Night Live.

"And, most importantly, some of them — like climate change — are actually getting worse because of our actions."

Nonetheless, Dr Kemp is cautiously optimistic about our ability to avoid "social catastrophe" by learning from history.

"We haven't actually outlasted the average of most species yet," he says.

"I think if we can take the right lessons of the past they can be a very safe guide to the future."


So, let's be clear on what it actually means.

"To me, a collapse is a situation where there's a tipping point — where, basically, stresses overcome societal coping mechanisms," he says.

"What you have is the loss of the state and the failure of multiple systems that underpin society."

Furthermore, the term collapse "would also suggest that this happens abruptly", he says, although that's not always the case.

Apocalyptic collapse — it's not all bad

It's perhaps counterintuitive, but civilisation collapse can be emancipating rather than devastating, Dr Kemp says.

Take Babylon, the capital of Mesopotamia, from the early 2nd to 1st millennium BCE. If you were a citizen of Babylon, there's a one-in-three chance you were a slave, he says.


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Image at top by Gus Leonisky. This picture is better to depict the fall of the roman empire as well as the concept of climate change — than the picture used by the original publisher...


the fourth of july 2019 trumpets...





Cover of the NYP as seen by Gus....


Original below... I have no idea why the flag has absorbed the Europeans...


front nyp


No One Called the United States “America” Until It Became an Empire

“The Republic”? “The Union”? “Fredonia” or “Columbia”? It took an imperial war to settle on a nickname

Adapted from How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States.

America, as a shorthand for the United States, has a way of raising hackles around the globe. The Americas stretch from Canada to South America’s southern cone. Why should one country, accounting for a third of their population and less than a quarter of their land, have a nomenclatural claim on the whole hemisphere?

To many in the United States, such complaints—as voiced by Canadians and Chileans and any number of the 600 million otherAmericans—seem misplaced. America is right there in the full name of the country. What else would you call it?

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the end of civilisation...

Mad: The Hilariously Sly Magazine Hated By the Stiff Set

For 67 years it was a sanctuary for kids (and adults) who loved politically incorrect gags and non-conformist humor.

By CHRIS R. MORGAN • July 9, 2019

The first reaction to the news that Mad magazine was ceasing publication of new content was, I confidently suspect, one of collective epiphany that Mad magazine was still publishing at all. 

Though the magazine had existed for just shy of seven decades, its presence in a typical reader’s life is haltingly brief: from the end of elementary school to no later than the end of middle school. It pads the bridge between childhood and adolescence, and then it’s gone. 

The magazine was always dependent on that cyclical arrangement; readers mature and the younger siblings inherit the subscriptions. But with digital media shaping more and more how humor is expressed and consumed, Mad came to be seen as something of a relic. Passing by grocery store magazine racks over the past decade, I don’t ever remember actually seeing issues displayed. 

Mad’s transition from comic book to magazine, however, was a combination of Kurtzman’s growing ambition and a desire to circumvent the recently established Comics Code Authority. Conflicts between Kurtzman and Gaines, in addition to Kurtzman’s disorganized management style that briefly made Mad a quarterly, caused Kurtzman to jump ship to Hugh Hefner who offered him more creative freedom and a bigger budget to produce Trump. it lasted two issues, and he and other early Mad artists went on to make Humbug and Help!, the latter of which employed Terry Gilliam and Gloria Steinem. Al Feldstein succeeded Kurtzman in 1956 and remained there for 30 years.

The magazine was a creatively fertile platform for its artists, who innovated the comic book medium by simultaneously sending up its formulae and testing their limitations, then adapted it to the more sophisticated magazine form. Among Mad’s best early artists was Kurtzman’s high school classmate Will Elder. Elder’s precise style could imitate any comic to an uncanny degree and could pack a single panel with copious sight gags. The latter skill was on full display when he drew an entire story around the text of “The Raven” in issue nine.

As a magazine, Mad’s focus broadened beyond lampooning comic books. It poked fun at do-it-yourself assemblage guides, dating customs, sports, the Cold War, and social pretensions. One feature was “How to Be a Mad Non-Conformist.” “Ordinary conformists,” the piece goes, “waste their time reading banal best-sellers” and “sensational daily newspapers. Ordinary non-conformists go for childish science fiction” and “boring literary journals,” while “Mad non-conformists read The Roller Derby News, the pre-Civil War Congressional Record, old Tom Swift books, and back copies of Classified Telephone Directories.”

More impressive were the magazine’s parody advertisements, with faux-Rockwell paintings and earnest copy that could, if only for a few seconds, fool the inattentive reader into thinking “Sailem Floating Cigarettes” and “Crust Gum Paste” were genuine products.

Though Mad was more visual than verbal, its Jewish humor was an unmistakable element. Kurtzman filled its text with Yiddish-based wordplay—potrzebie, ganef, furshlugginer—that became a secret language for devoted readers. In addition, outside contributors included comedians Ernie Kovacs and Sid Caesar, the comedy duo Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding, and musical satirist Stan Freberg. It experimented with verse, advertising copy, and even CB radio jargon. “Mad was a puzzle of comedy,” Phil Proctor, cofounder of The Firesign Theatre, said. “You couldn’t take it all in in one reading, so you’d delve back in.”

This early history is worth retracing, not only because it shows the trial-and-error process by which the magazine became iconic, but to see also how much of it permeated into the wider culture. Mad’s popularity inspired copious imitators, even before its most famous copycat Cracked, including NutsUnsaneWhack, and Crazy. (Gaines’s solution was to create his own, the 12-issue Feldstein-edited Panic, much to Kurtzman’s chagrin.) But there was as much influence as imitation. Early contributor Paul Krassner founded The Realist in 1958 as a more adult answer to Mad. Though National Lampoon was its more fitting successor, aping the deadpan of its elegant layout and near-professional ad parodies to much darker effect. The absurd, anarchic style of the art echoed both in the underground comix movement of the 1960s with R. Crumb and Gilbert Shelton and the hyper-detailed parody films Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane!. “Mad was a life raft in a place like Levittown, where all around you were the things that Mad was skewering and making fun of,” comix artist Bill Griffith said. “Mad wasn’t just a magazine to me. It was more like a way to escape. Like a sign, ‘This Way Out.’ That had a tremendous effect on me.”

Mad’s early work, moreover, allows a better understanding of its context. The magazine came to be very much defined by its 1950s and ‘60s readership as an artifact of the Baby Boom, something the creators never denied. “I knew that I had helped to form some of the militant, liberal young people’s minds in terms of the draft card burning, the Vietnam war, and the brassiere burning, at least I was part of that,” Al Feldstein boasted. 

Though in truth, the magazine was a product of the Greatest Generation, World War II veterans, and Jewish Americans coming in from New York City’s outer-boroughs. Its genesis is not unlike most comic books in the postwar flourishing, but the creators of Mad—the self-described “usual gang of idiots”—took the medium to untold extremes and enduring results. It is a missing link between the comic entertainments of the early 20th century and the artform as embodied by Daniel Clowes, Art Spiegelman, Alan Moore, Chris Ware, Charles Burns, and others that later emerged.

For all its influence, to say nothing of the attempts to replicate its style, Mad was something that could only happen once, albeit for a very long time. The circumstances that enabled it were form-fitted for a particular time, place, and personnel. The ambition and creative drive that made it last can, will, and maybe already is happening again. What form it will take or is taking is anybody’s guess.


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As noted throughout this site, old Gus is an untypical reader, who never grew up — and never stopped reading MAD magazine since the beginning.