This episode sees the return of popular guest David Gerard – reluctant expert on crypto currency and author of Attack of the 50ft Blockchain and Libra Shrugged – to tell us about Bitcoin and the Nazis.
Description: a gargantuan fortress near the Ered Lithui (Ash Mountains), on the northern Plateau of Gorgoroth in Mordor, approximately 30 miles east of Mount Doom. Our trek has led us across Gorgoroth, an arid but fiery wasteland choked with ash and cinders. Built as a revival of the spirit of Morgoth, the primeval force of caprice and destruction in Middle-earth, Barad-dûr is a morass of towers and pits, perched in the heart of Gorgoroth, itself a throne for the Eye of Sauron, which surveys the world around it. One of Tolkien’s most iconic creations, it serves as an indomitable paean to Sauron’s power and the architectural body of Sauron himself in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.
An often-observed aspect of Sauron is that while he’s The Lord of the Rings’ titular character and antagonist, he is a functionally invisible figure. He lacks a consistent physical body, has no dialogue, is only seen in characters’ visions or through great distances, and can hardly be said to be a character so much as a cipher of Middle-earth’s iniquities and caprice. For all intents and purposes, Sauron is cipher rather than a person, defined by his presence alone, having long abjected personhood to incarnate as a shapeless mass of power and domination, extant only for the decadent excesses of power and kept alive purely through those trappings.
The details of this are characteristically vague. Tolkien, a more esoteric writer than his reputation might suggest, is reticent on whether Sauron has a physical body. The perennially unfinished mythology of Middle-earth offers conflicting accounts of Sauron’s body. In the Akallabêth, The Silmarillion’s account of Númenor’s fall, the great kingdom of Men, Sauron is said to lost his primal holy form and constructed his own visage in Mordor, like a terrifying cherub going through a hardcore punk phase:
But Sauron was not of mortal flesh, and though he was robbed now of that shape in which he had wrought so great an evil, so that he could never again appear fair to the eyes of Men, yet his spirit arose out of the deep and passed as a shadow and a black wind over the sea, and came back to Middle-earth and to Mordor that was his home. There he took up again his great Ring in Barad-dûr, and dwelt there, dark and silent, until he wrought himself a new guise; and the Eye of Sauron the Terrible few could endure.
In “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age”, Tolkien provides a similar, if even more abstract account of Sauron’s physical form:
[In Mordor] now [Sauron] brooded in the dark, until he had wrought for himself a new shape; and it was terrible, for his fair semblance had departed for ever when he was cast into the abyss at the drowning of Númenor. He took up again the great Ring and clothed himself in power; and the malice of the Eye of Sauron few even of the great among Elves and Men could endure.
Previously in The Last War in Albion: After an initial arc widely and at least somewhat accurately described (including by Morrison) as an Alan Moore imitation, Morrison found their own style with the fifth issue of Animal Man, “The Coyote Gospel,” which featured a Wile E. Coyote pastiche trapped in the real world and trying to overthrow the tyrannical demiurge of his.
Hello alien friends! Do you like bullet violence? —Kieron Gillen, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt
The comic returns to Animal Man staring at a scroll of incomprehensible symbols. “I’m sorry… I… I can’t read it,” he explains, as the man returns, takes aim at Crafty once again, and shoots him again with a silver bullet. The man and Crafty both perish, Animal Man comforting the dying beast as the view pulls back, revealing him lying, arms outstretched, at a crossroads, while a hand hovering above the page with a paint brush adds his dying blood to the frame. “The end, folks!”It is a spectacularly bleak piece of comics, full of righteous anger and heartbreaking bitterness. It is perhaps not entirely clear what Morrison is trying to say with it. In many ways it appears to simply be a grim and tragic joke—a morbid commentary on the fractured ethics of storytelling from the perspective of those within it. But to look at it in this sense misses the point. What is most bracingly evident about “The Coyote Gospel” is simply that it is a stunningly creative and effective comic—an invigorating fusion of clever ideas and emotionally powerful moments. This was, simply put, a comic that was self-evidently the work of a major talent.
Indeed, Morrison’s usual line on “The Coyote Gospel” is an assertion that it marked the moment they stopped doing an Alan Moore impersonation and began their career in earnest, claiming it as a personal favorite story of theirs. As Morrison put it, after acknowledging Moore’s influence on the start of Animal Man, “My personal work from the same time is written in a very different style, and is more in the vein of Doom Patrol or The Invisibles.You don’t have to take my word for this: it can be verified by looking at the Near Myths material or stuff like the ‘Famine’ strip in Food For Thought from 1985. It can even be gleaned by looking at the clear difference between the first four Animal Man issues and the fifth – ‘The Coyote Gospel’.” Morrison was even blunter at the time. Interviewed by Mark Millar in 1989 after slagging off their first four issues, they noted that “it gets better from issue 5 onwards, or at least I’M happier with the work I’ve done, which is the main thing.” And yet just as the first four issues of Animal Man show rather less Moore influence than Morrison disparages them for having, “The Coyote Gospel” is far more indebted to Moore than Morrison would like to admit. The central concept of dropping a pastiche of a familiar funny animal story into your DC series, after all, originated in Moore’s “Pog” issue of Swamp Thing in which Swamp Thing met a thinly-veiled Pogo knockoff.…
Names: Mount Doom, Mountain of Fire, Orodruin (Sindarin: “fiery red mountain), Amon Amarth (Sindarin: “hill [of] doom”).
Location in Peter Jackson films: Mount Ngauruhoe, Te-Ika-a-Māui, New Zealand; Mount Ruapehu, Te-Ika-a-Māui in some shots.
Description: a stratovolcano in northwestern Mordor, looming over the plains of Gorgoroth, the birthplace and the grave of the One Ring, and by corollary the setting of the Third Age in its entirety. Cartographer Karen Wynn Fonstad asserts that Mount Doom “seemed to be the only active volcano” in “that land of vulcanism,” further describing it as “a composite or strato-volcano, formed of alternating layers of ash and lava.” At its core is Sammath Naur, the Cracks of Doom, which could be either the forge of Sauron, the hall into the Mountain, or the steaming fissures and their magma emissions. On the north and west lies a path, upon which Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee take the final steps of their quest to destroy the One Ring. Tolkien’s imprecision in his descriptions of his geography come into play as ever.
Why enter Middle-earth in Tolkien’s hell? The answer is simply that Nowhere and Back Again is a psychogeography rather than a straightlaced tour of Middle-earth. Pushing against the grain gets us off to the start we need. Tolkien, a devout Catholic with anarcho-monarchist politics, wrote an 1,100-page novel about the war against Mordor. Dante’s soteriological odyssey Divinia Comedia doesn’t begin with Paradiso. As Mordor is the embodiment of evil in Tolkien’s corpus, it’s useful to weigh Tolkien’s values against it by directly engaging with his geographic theodicy.
Middle-earth, a bricolage of European aesthetics, is essentially a white supremacist fantasy. It’s far from a utopia, as it’s full of corruption, avarice, and threats of Yellow Peril, but it is ultimately a world based on the nobility of that which Tolkien’s colleague and one-time confidante C. S. Lewis deemed “northernness.” Striving to present a truly English mythology (Tolkien considered the Arthurian myths inadequately British), Tolkien spoke of excavating legends of his own, as opposed to inventing them:
“I have long ceased to invent (though even patronizing or sneering critics on the side praise my ‘invention’): I wait till I seem to know what really happened. Or till it writes itself. Thus, though I knew for years that Frodo would run into a tree-adventure somewhere far down the Great River, I have no recollection of inventing Ents. I came at last to the point, and wrote the ‘Treebeard’ chapter without any recollection of any previous thought: just as it now is. “[…] I am old enough (alas!) to take a dispassionate and scientific, properly so-called, interest in these matters, and cite myself simply because I am interested in mythological ‘invention’, and the mystery of literary creation (or sub-creation as I have elsewhere called it) and I am the most readily available corpus vile for experiment or observation.”
The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 180
Tolkien’s Roman Catholicism was crucial to his understanding of evil and theodicy.…
Previously in The Last War in Albion:Morrison’s first assignment from DC, the biggest in their career, was to revitalize the all but forgotten character of Animal Man, which they set about doing according to a template originated by Moore on Swamp Thing. But this was not the whole story.
There is a red and angry world… red things happen there. The world eats your wife, eats your friends, eats all the things that make you human. And you become a monster. And the world just keeps on eating.—Alan Moore, Swamp Thing
These Moore riffs existed, after all, in a comic where Animal Man treats superheroing as a job to support his family, musing on ways to increase his profile. Joining the Justice League International is mooted as a plausible option, but he reacts to his wife’s suggestion that the Outsiders might be more his speed with horror, saying that they’re “almost as bad as the Forgotten Heroes. I’m trying to get away from all that nohope stuff.” This is both sly metafictional commentary on the order of precedence within the DC Comics line and a clever vision for what superheroing is. Neither of these have any precedence in Moore, whose “superhero as ordinary person” riff in Miraceman never got bogged down in questions like how Michael Moran paid the rent. And they do have analogues in Morrison, who works with similar ideas in Captain Clyde and Zenith.
Similar examples abound. A scene where Animal Man briefly meets a distracted Superman who compliments the big A on his costume before flying off to rescue a plane, a riff where Animal Man signs an autograph for a kid who’s immediately disappointed he’s not Aquaman, and a repeated tendency to entertain himself by giving Animal Man weird powers from random animals instead of, as Dave Wood typically did, finding some excuse to put him near a tiger or something. Morrison even gets a cliffhanger set piece out of this, with Animal Man getting his arm ripped off in a fight and regrowing it with the power of earthworms. (And being Morrison, they then have Animal Man express a degree of confusion and horror at how weird this is.)
Perhaps more to the point, however, while Morrison uses many of Moore’s techniques and approaches, they use them as tools, not as basic modes of operating. Morrison throws in portentous narration, but they’re not as good at it as Moore, never capturing his poetic lilt, and they clearly recognize it, using it purely for Bwana Beast’s narration instead of as a core structural element of entire issues. Morrison writes Berger the Moore riff they know she’s looking for, but the result is clearly Morrison doing Moore as opposed to a Moore imitation with no further character or elements. It is perhaps most impressive against the backdrop of Veitch’s Swamp Thing and Delano’s Hellblazer, managing both to land closer to a successful Moore imitation than either and to more successfully do its own thing.…
At its birth in 1917’s West Midlands, Middle-earth was defined by inauspicious circumstances. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, 25-year-old graduate of Exeter College, Oxford, and second lieutenant of the 11th battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers, was temporarily dwelling with his wife Edith (née Bratt) in a cottage in Great Haywood, Staffordshire, recovering from the trench fever he’d contracted during the Battle of the Somme. While recovering from his combat afflictions, a series of trials both physiological and psychological, Tolkien began working on his infamous legendarium, sketching a short story called “The Fall of Gondolin” in a little volume tentatively entitled The Book of Lost Tales. A lifetime of myth-making and endless revisions followed, and yet by Tolkien’s death in 1973 his life’s work was still unfinished and mostly unpublished. The popular success of The Hobbit and the late-blooming The Lord of the Rings only hinted at parts of a larger work. The appendices that close out The Lord of the Rings indicate a greater mythology, and throughout Tolkien’s books there is a sense of a greater corpus confined by the format of popular novels. Take the scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where Aragorn tells his hobbit companions the story of Beren and Lúthien:
‘Then tell us some other tale of the old days,’ begged Sam; ‘a tale about the elves before the fading time. I would dearly like to hear more about elves; the dark seems to press round so close.’ ‘I will tell you the tale of Tinúviel,’ said Strider, ‘in brief—for it is a long tale of which the end is not known, and there are none now, except Elrond, that remember it aright as it was told of old. It is a fair tale, though it is sad, as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts.’
The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter XI, “A Knife in the Dark”
Tolkien’s characters cling to an awareness that they’re a part of legend, or hope to be part of the heroic tales of history someday. In the most infamously metafictional (and most homoerotic) scene in The Two Towers, Frodo and Sam converse about their chances of being the heroes of their own myth for posterity:
‘Still [said Sam], I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We’re in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: “Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring!” And they’ll say: “Yes, that’s one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn’t he, dad?” “Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that’s saying a lot.”’ ‘It’s saying a lot too much,’ said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear laugh from his heart. […] To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them.
In Part 2 of our investigation of Heather Heying’s (of the extended IDW, and the Dark Horse Podcast with husband Bret Weinstein) descent from sociobiology into outright TERFery, we get to the really nasty shit.
Content Warnings for hardcore transphobia, albeit couched in an ostensibly reasonable tone.
The song starts with the sustained drone of an accordian note. It sounds like a horn ringing out across the docks, telling the roustabouts they have to get to work. A winding, driving banjo figure begins a semi-reel which leads into light, fairy-winged acoustic guitar strumming. Then comes Shane’s voice, matter of fact, mobile, and comparatively young sounding.
When I first came to London I was only sixteen With a fiver in my pocket and my old dancing bag I went down to the Dilly to check out the scene And I soon ended up on the old main drag
“The Dilly” is Picadilly Circus, a main thoroughfare in Central London and the heart of the tube network. At the time of the song’s writing, it was the British equivalent to Times Square in New York, dangerous, dirty, and filled with rats. Today, with gentrification, it’s the equivalent to 21st century Times Square. It’s clean, Disneyfied, and a great place to buy Royal Wedding merchandise.
The song details a nihilistic descent into homelessness, drug addiction, and sex work. From the 1970s onwards, the London that MacGowan begrudgingly called home saw homelessness rise exponentially as neoliberal policies were implemented first, with sad eyes and apologetic shrugs by a dying Labour government at the behest of the International Monetary Fund as security on a multi-billion pound loan, and then with gleeful abandon by Margaret Thatcher’s government, stripping the needy of the services that the public had funded through taxation and funnelled up to the wealthiest. The people at the bottom, on the ground, suffered. Almost nothing, as has been proven again and again, trickles down.
When fame and riches came his way, Shane MacGowan, skinny and underdressed for the bitter winter nights, could be found on the streets of London, desperately pulling bundles of twenty pound notes from his pockets and pushing them into the hands of those on the streets. His attitude was, considering his own alcoholism and drug abuse, “there but for the Grace of God go I.” Through imagination and observation, he sends the listener this missive from the bottom rung. Unlike the joyless sanctimony of Ralph McTell’s Streets of London, which rings with paternalistic pity, Shane knows enough to be able to hint at the escape that the early days of a dead end lifestyle can offer and even some of the pleasure that can be found at the bottom of the heap before forces out of your control overwhelm you. Shane has described himself, in an effort to contextualise his songwriting, as a journalist and this song is one of his best claims on that title.
There the he-males and the she-males paraded in style And the old man with the money would flash you a smile
Reportedly, The Old Main Drag was one of the first songs written for the band (hence its position at the opening of this project) so this is one of Shane’s earliest references to the LGBT experience. True to form, he uses politically incorrect language mixed with a prurient interest in what he perceives to be the interestingly subversive sexual activities of gay men topped off with compassion with their shared humanity.…
In the first part of a two-part episode, we continue to chart the increasingly malignant influence of the IDW and satellites, examining the journey of Heather Heying (of the Dark Horse Podcast which she co-presents with her husband Bret Weinstein) from scientific reductionism all the way to (as she herself puts it) “full TERF”.
Content Warnings for Transphobia, Ableism, anti-Sex Worker stuff, etc.