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Jan Herman Headshot

Of Darwin, Disney, God,
and William Burroughs

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The artist Malcolm Mc Neill animated Televolution 20 years ago. "I redid it for Charles Darwin," he said the other day, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and to pay tribute to On the Origin of Species. The 19th-century naturalist's masterwork was published in November 1859. Mc Neill's animated cartoon consists of 1859 frames.

Televolution originally aired in 1990, in Japan. "The iPhone was science fiction and the Internet had just gotten started," Mc Neill says. "Now wearable data-transmission devices are the norm, biophysical integration is just around the corner, and the conquest of gravity is on the way."

He dismisses the idea that "evolutionary theory has removed God" from the natural universe. "In fact," he says, "Darwin simply redefined Him as a kind of super Walt Disney who changes one thing into another on a whim. Life has been viewed as an animated cartoon ever since."

Postscript: After this item went live, Mc Neill messaged:

I'm not exactly a Darwinist -- or any kind of ''ist." Certainly not a Creationist. Evolution theory is only 150 years old. Flat earth lasted a whole lot longer. And every generation has its own version of a flat earth theory. Look at how smoking turned around in 30 years. Doctors used to say it was GOOD for you. And global warming. In 1976 scientists were so concerned about global COOLING that they were considering dumping soot on the North Pole. If Darwin was right, I only hope we can figure out what it was that made a fish turn into a rhinoceros and get ourselves the heck out of here. Human is a terrible state to be in. We've had thousands of years of carnage so far. If "flying wombats" is next let's get on with it.

Now have a look at "The Subliminal Kid," a short, brilliant sequence from Andre Perkowski's "Nova Express." Excerpts of his montage film, a three-hour work-in-progress based on the writings of William S. Burroughs, were screened at the School for the Visual Arts in New York as part of an ongoing homage to Burroughs, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Naked Lunch.

Here is a longer, equally brilliant sequence, "Crab Nebula," from the film. Burroughs himself reads the text. Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman are featured in readings of other texts.

The music throughout the film is by Kristin Palker and Perkowski.