Sunday, October 31, 2010

WARNING: Explicit rant ahead

Almost over.  Yep.  Almost there.
By Wednesday morning, all of this election day garbage and rhetoric will be over with.  And fucking good riddance I say.  I am exhausted with the personal attacks, the half truths, and the "that other guy is Beelzebub" charges.  This one will *gasp* raise your taxes!  This one is a puppy killer!  My God, whatever you want to hear us say we'll say it!  Just for the love of Pete vote us into office!
We're the Republicans.  With us you'll never pay taxes again but you'll spiral down into debt while we make certain you can never buy porn again.
We're the Democrats.  We'll tax you back to the stone age and spend it on earmarks and really, really stupid things.  You can also forget about ever owning a gun.
And don't even get me started on those fucking tea baggers.

Is there any difference between political parties and a gang?  Can we just start calling them for what they are?  Meaning, the Kings and the Deuces?  I'm so sick of it all.  I by no means advocate for violent revolution, but I often wonder if the only way to get past corruption, lobbies, and pork project spending is to burn the whole thing down and just start over again.  Who am I fooling?  Human nature would inevitably take over in any new system and we'll be right back here with the same damned problems.

Is any of this real?  I have to keep asking myself that when I see the campaign ads.  Are these the actions of any kind of rational society?  Of course they aren't.  They are the acts of a deeply divided people, of the political equivalents of Capulets and Montagues, of Sharks and Jets, of Klingons and Federation lining up on opposite sides of the alley and preparing to throw down.  Guess it's always been that way.

Doesn't matter.  I'm tired of it.  I'm tired of people throwing in my face the notion that it's "my duty to vote" even when I have to hold my nose while standing at the polls, knowing full well that that the throwing of that useless switch will make no viable difference whatsoever.  I'm tired of endless bickering back and forth while nothing ever gets accomplished, one side always blaming the other but whenever the opposite side has the steering wheel we still somehow end up in the ditch.  
Yes, Democrats are a flathead.  Republicans are a Philips.  Either way you just get screwed.

But don't worry.  It's almost over. The only thing we'll have to deal with after that is the gloating done by the winning side, most likely Republicans.  Yes by all means's something done by the opposing party every two years after a new president is elected.  Happened in 1982.  Happened in 1990.  Happened in 1994.  Happened in 2006 (yes I know. That was after Bush's re-election.  Same principle, 9/11 just threw it off a little.)  It'll happen again on Tuesday.

Happy fucking voting everyone.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's Wells and Welles Day

Here we are.  Another holiday that I can't stand.  One might think with my fascination for all things weird and mysterious that Halloween would be among my favorite days of the year.  It was.  That is until I found what it's like to be on the other end of a holiday that basically serves to facilitate criminals.  Sorry.  That's the police volunteer in me, coming out all prepared to do a Rodney King on the first piece of shit I find who uses this weekend as an excuse to break the law or the child begging for candy in order to encourage the next generation of welfare.  It baffles me how a nation that is supposedly "founded on Christian values" revels in a pagan holiday.  Not that I care about that part mind you, I just find the dichotomy most amusing.  But I digress...

One thing I still do like is the day before Halloween.  That is when I listen to my CD of the broadcast that terrified America.  Or at least the Northeast part of it.  I'm talking about the Orson Welles radio play of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds.
There is so much about that broadcast that fascinates me.  For one it's nostalgia.  That era is one of my favorites in history, that time when America was on the eve of its biggest war.  There is also the sheer genius of the adaptation and performance of an already classic book.  There such innovation there, like the idea of telling the story through news broadcasts, the superb use of sound effects, and of course the powerful, booming voice of actor Orson Welles.  It all just comes together at a true height of excellence.  The word "artist" does not even begin to do Welles justice.  See Citizen Kane and you'll get what I mean.    

More than all of that, I like the case study it represents for those who do Fortean research.  When someone says "how could they [the government] possibly keep UFOs and aliens a secret?" I need only point to the Orson Welles broadcast of October 30th, 1938 to say "they would have to."  The news of alien invasion panicked citizenry all over the Eastern seaboard.  People shot rifles at water towers, believing them to be one of the attacking Martian machines.  Others sealed their windows with cement so that Martian poison gas could not get through.  Cars packed the roads of New Jersey looking to escape to anywhere.  Mother nearly murdered her children as a mercy killing rather than see the Martians brutalize them.  A breeder of greyhounds opened all his kennels and said "fend for yourselves, lads," and there are myriad other accounts of panic, chaos, and injury. 
Now ask yourself: if an alien spacecraft crashed in the U.S. just nine years after this broadcast and only two after the end of the biggest and bloodiest war in modern times, would you be quick to announce it to the population at large?  Of course not.  You would have to keep it a secret.   Such a course of action would be imperative and in the best interest of the nation.
But those were different times, right?  We are more savvy as a people now and less prone to media shepherding.  Perhaps not.  In 1968, radio station WKBW in Buffalo did their own modern update of the Welles broadcast, stating that a Martian cylinder had landed on the shore of Lake Erie.  Despite copious amounts of advertising for the dramatization, police switchboards lit up with panicked callers.  A man stumbled into a precinct, warning of the Martian invaders.  When the duty officer laughed it off, the frantic man urged that he turn on the radio.  When the police chief heard the broadcast, he ordered weapons be distributed to all staff.  The Canadian military went on alert. Come on, why the hell would Martians begin their invasion in Buffalo?  To wipe out The Bills?  They do a fine enough job of that themselves.
In 1996 when that lackluster but guilty pleasure Independence Day was about to be released in Spain, an ad agency ran TV spots for the film that included mock White House press conferences and scenes of New Yorkers running in terror while one of the enormous motherships hovered over the skyline of Manhattan.  Hundreds of people panicked and flooded the Spanish media outlets with calls...even though each commercial had the word "Advertisement" clearly superimposed at the bottom of the screen.

So what have we learned, Charlie Brown?  Not much it would seem, especially when you factor in the kinds of panic and rumor that occurred around 9/11.  We humans have only proven ourselves to be a panicky herd of sheep, prone to groupthink and unwise decisions.  No wonder things are kept secret from us.  
I guess I'll just keep listening to that 1938 broadcast of Martians landing in Grovers Mill, New Jersey, enjoying the craftsmanship of this theater of the mind.  I'll be thankful for the science fiction memes it brought us, such as the 1954 George Pal film version of War of the Worlds and an unjustly maligned TV series by the same name (subject of a future post.)  And as cautioned at the end of The Thing, I will "keep watching the skies."

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, October 29, 2010

"W" was wired

You never know what you're going to find on Salon.comThis little tidbit comes to us in the spirit of the election season, only it's about six years after the fact.  Honestly, I'm surprised I didn't hear about it until now.

It seems that during the televised debates of the 2004 Presidential campaign, George W. Bush was wearing a device of one kind or another beneath his suit.  Here's the pic:

This analysis comes from a NASA engineer "using the same analysis method we use for photographs of the surfaces of other planets."  For record, I don't automatically take things as gospel just because they are uttered by someone from NASA.  Richard Hoagland is enough to keep me from that course of action.  But I digress...
At the time, Bush laughed off the notion of any kind of device affixed to him, preferring to blame the odd shaped mass on "a poorly tailored shirt."
My experience with analyzing photos is limited, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that it isn't the shirt.  So what the heck is it?  The aforementioned NASA engineer says that the outline is "consistent with a radio transmitter/receiver."  Was someone on his staff feeding him intel on the fly during the debates?  Was it an epidermal patch, injecting endorphins into his bloodstream at a slow and steady release?  Could it even have been a temporary implant of some kind?  I mean, seriously.  Come on.  What is it?
This all reminds me of the Bruce Sterling novel, Distraction, where a political candidate gets realtime status updates uploaded into his head, letting him know how an audience is reacting to what he is saying and how it is affecting the polls.  Did "W" have something like this?  I doubt that it goes that far, but I believe we are owed an explanation.  This is one confounding mystery that I must have an answer to...but probably never will.  After all, it's been this long so why would anyone cop to anything now?  

Then again this could explain the success of Sarah Palin...she's a replicant.
Think about it.  It would explain a great many things.  Plus, it sorta even sounds like "Republican."

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cultural Creatives

A few days back, I came across the offbeat organization, Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.
Following that trend, I've stumbled upon Cultural Creatives.
The term "cultural creatives" is the product of research done by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson.  Going just by their web site, the term refers to people who are the counterbalance to the religious right in America.  The creatives are people likely to care greatly about the environment, justice, self-expression, and spirituality.  While spiritual, they are not necessarily Christian nor do they see a place for religion in government.  This culture of thinkers is just as much a force as the fundies are, defining values and affecting change in the broader spectrum of the American rainbow, so to speak.

Just sifting through their site, I immediately picked up on the spiritual undercurrent, the vibe that seems to pervade everything they do.  While I'm not opposed to that, I am apprehensive towards such subject matter as it starts to make me think of crystals, mediation, and peyote, even though the group vehemently denies that they are any kind of New Age movement.  Still, the suggested paradigm shift...meaning the refocusing of our attentions to spiritual well-being, acting to save the environment, the encouragement of creativity, and especially the redefining of "success" in American culture...really appeals to me.  So am I cultural creative?  Do I fit their criterion?  If they googled me, would they like what they saw?

Fortunately, they had this handy dandy quiz app on their site to help determine that.  According to what it says, if you answer 10 or more of the 18 questions in the affirmative, you're probably a cultural creative.  I answered "yes" to 11. 
So go on.  Take the test.  See if they'll let you in the club, too.  Maybe we get free tote bags, toasters, or perhaps even Turtle Wax.

I kid.  Seems like this organization certainly isn't hurting anyone.  If anything they just want to help.  Can I go around calling myself a "cultural creative" or will I get slapped with a c&d letter because I haven't earned it yet?  I hope I can claim the new moniker.  Sounds a bit more positive than "outsider dumbass."

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Using gray matter to find dark matter

Fads come and go and scientific theories are no different.  For the past few years, astronomers and physicists have been extolling the notion of "dark matter." 
A while back, numerous discrepancies came to light in regard to the estimated mass of galaxies.  In other words, the math did not match the observations.  That was when scientists began to postulate the existence of dark matter, a substance that can neither be seen by the eye nor detected through scattered electromagnetic radiation.  Nothing appears to be there but something is having a gravitational affect on stellar bodies and there has yet to be an accounting for it.

What is dark matter?  Nobody seems to have a good answer for that, but best estimates say that it accounts for 80% of the mass in the entire universe.  As you might imagine, this speculation has drawn its share of criticism.  I for one was not ready to jump onto the idea of 80% of the universe being composed of a hitherto unknown state of matter.  Seemed to me that it smelled of the old Greek notion of "the ether," something that likewise did not pan out.  I also started reading articles where other astronomers thought that the disconnect in calculations could indicate that we need a better understanding of how gravity works and not just chalk it up to unseen mystery mass.

Then this story gets published today.  The presence of dark matter may finally have been detected, but it will take a while for the mathematical dust to settle.  Powerful explosions were observed in the heart of our galaxy and there may be evidence of dark matter particle annihilation.   We'll know more once the findings go through peer review.

So whether or not I change my mind about dark matter will depend upon the results of the examination, but I'm no longer as opposed to the notion.  Just about twenty minutes ago, I took my dogs outside for a release of their bodily wastes.  As I stood there while they "did their thing," I looked up into the night sky.  Clouds swept over the stars but you could still see them.  I just kept staring up and up into the cold, black infinite.  It occurred to me that I was not merely being skeptical of dark matter, I was closed minded.  How often have I lambasted die-hard skeptics for clinging rigidly to old theories and refusing to even consider other notions, while here I am guilty of the same thing?  How many times have we been fervently sure of our scientific understanding, only to have it completely upended by what was once unthinkable?  And honestly, is the idea of dark matter any more ludicrous at face value than other subjects I've explored here?  Stranger reboot thyself. 

Is there unseen matter that accounts for 80% of the known universe?  My current answer to that is "why the hell not?"

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Author profile--John Shirley

This is a continuation on a series of posts that highlight authors that not only do I think you should be reading, but ones I should be reading more of.
John Shirley is a punk.  I do not mean that as an insult, rather as a mere statement of fact.  He is an accomplished punk no wonder his prose makes you feel like you've been kicked in the teeth.
My introduction to Shirley's writing came in 1994.  I was living with my friend George and we were both anticipating the film adaption of The Crow that year.  Though eager to see it, I had thus far been disappointed in comic book movies and I expressed concern over how such a unique and stylized work as O'Barr's could ever transfer to the screen.  George told me not to worry.  One of the writers doing the adaptation was by the name of John Shirley, a horror author who was a favorite of his and that the matter should be well in hand.
I was not disappointed.  Oh sure, The Crow had your usual concessions to Hollywood crowd pleasing, but that's the in the source code of the business.  Still, it managed to keep the spirit of the graphic novel, even giving it a bit more of a linear narrative and more weight to the ending.  Later, much later I'm ashamed to admit, I sought out more work by Shirley.  Since I'm not big on horror, I turned to his cyberpunk works.  "Freezone" came first.  It might be literary PR cliche to call it "a chilling look at an all-too possible future," but that's the best way to put it.  So this is where unrestricted free trade gets you?  Then I turned to City Come A-Walkin'.  What's not to like about a novel where the consciousness of entire city is represented in the form of one man?  Mindbending.  Once you start, you'll keep going if for no other reason than to see how the hell he ties everything together.

I've got more to go in this cyberpunk godfather's bibliography.  In the meantime, I'll just enjoy his postings on Facebook and you should too.  He's got the kind of approach that I like: post an article that you've found interesting, say your piece on it, then let the wolves have at it, sometimes biting and tearing at one another to acquire the scraps and make them their own.  
John Shirley's writing is not for everybody.  That's because he doesn't compromise and I get the distinct feeling that he is almost always writing for himself before anyone else.  That to me is the sign of an artist (not sure how many of those we have left in fiction.)  So if it is "your kind of thing," then Shirley will give you a textual mountain to climb, one fraught with harrowing turns, steep and jagged cliffs, and really, really fucked up shit that you never saw coming.  All of it worth the ride, even if you have to read it twice to get it.

Next up in my John Shirley cue: Silicon Embrace.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Aim High!

 Welcome to the U.S. Air Force, where time and space have no meaning! 
Or so it says in the new Air Force manual for cyberwarfare.  Just a sign of the times, prepping USAF personnel to respond to computer attacks that happen so quickly that time isn't even a factor.
And why not?  The Air Force is already well underway with efforts to deploy particle beam weapons as well as develop antimatter weapons.  In terms of the latter, the research is mainly focused on pure antimatter bombs that would have the destructive force of a nuclear detonation but without all that pesky radioactive fallout.  Another avenue would be an electromagnetic pulse weapon that powered by antimatter that would be able to generate an EMP wave to fry out the electrical grids of entire nations, again without that pesky radioactive fallout.  And who knows, antimatter cannons might even be in the works, too.  This is all to say nothing of efforts currently underway to transform the service from an Air Force to an Air and Space Force.  After all, there's already a UAV military space shuttle and any number of space bombers that have been proposed and for all we know they are fully operational but highly classified. 

Should we be concerned that dreadful antimatter weapons could soon be orbiting high overhead?  Probably.  Does this mean we could soon have the capacity for even broader scale destruction than before? Possibly.  But am I worried?  Not exactly.  It's going to be a heck of a show for this geek to watch.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Worldwide suicide

I know that I am by no means what one would call a social butterfly.  But before you get any ideas of me as someone who is at his computer in a basement, Doritos nearby and Star Wars figures on the shelf above, let me assure you that I am not that way.  It's pretty close, but I'm not to that point...yet.
The best way to sum up my viewpoint on social interaction is the following quote by Linus Van Pelt: "I love mankind.  It's people I can't stand."  I love the idea of humanity.  I marvel at our creations and the acts of compassion that individuals are capable of.  More often than not, however, I am disgusted by our herd mentality, our greed, our short-sightedness, and in America especially, our nigh allergic reaction to all things and all people intellectual.  Combine that with the cumbersome sensation I have during face-to-face conversations and I end up wanting to remain by myself most of the time.

Still, I've got nothing on these guys.   That's right, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.  Before you slap on your gas mask and secure plastic sheeting to your windows with duct tape, realize that they are not planning to drop ricin into the water supply or nerve gas into the subways.  As stated on their site, the VHEMT seeks to end the human race by simply ceasing to breed.  That's it.
Funny thing is, I can't say that I totally disagree with them.  Our world is simply not built to sustain the nearly six billion souls that inhabit it.  If the projected growth of the population is accurate, then things are only going to get worse.  Resources will evaporate.  Wildlife will be decimated as humanity continues to expand and kill everything else so that we might survive.  Babies will starve as more and more children are born into a world that cannot feed them.  Think that's just my own doom and gloom?  Think again.  A study by the World Wildlife Fund has found that by the year 2050, our planet will have simply run out of the resources, the room, and the wherewithal to sustain an ever increasing population.  
Why is the population booming?  There are a couple of reasons.  One is the developing world, where there are neither the resources nor the educational systems to employ birth control.  The other is Western, especially American, couples who see babies as cute little things that the simply must have, oblivious to the drain on resources that just one new child causes on the world.  So what? they say.  It's my right to have a kid and my life is just a dead, hollow shell if I don't sprout out a piece of crotchfruit.
I see what's coming and it might just happen before I shrug off this mortal coil (my making it to the year 2050 is about a year or so beyond the average life expectancy for a man in this nation.)  There will be a worldwide ecological disaster at one point or another, brought on in whole or in part by overpopulation.

But I'm not ready to reach for the razor blades just yet.  I'm appalled at what we've done to the intricate routines and subroutines that are the Earth's ecosystem, but I believe that there must be more viable and workable alternatives than what the VHEMT are proposing.  One means to the end would be population control through both awareness and "family planning."  Another is the colonization of other planets.  Whatever the method, VHEMT is right about at least one thing: we need to do something.  And do something fast.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When it WikiLeaks, it pours

"Julian Assange...he even looks like he could be a character from Bruce Sterling's Islands in the Net."
That is what author William Gibson said when I went to one of his book signings last month.  He was of course referring to the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, the web site that has been steadily releasing hitherto classified government documents.  Recently released documents regarding the war in Iraq have turned up startling facts:

-the number of civilian casualties in the conflict is 15,000 greater than we had previously been told.  This brings the total to approximately 122,000.

-there were numerous instances of torture perpetrated by Iraqi troops while US personnel stood idly by or at times even participated in.

-there are "many previously unreported instances in which American soldiers killed civilians -- at checkpoints, from helicopters, in operations.  There were at least four cases of lethal shootings from helicopters."

What is my take on all of this?  I have several thoughts.
First of all, in the digital age, WikiLeaks really was an inevitability.  I think that information has become, if it wasn't already, a living organism of sorts, possessing the desire to be free.  Like water it will seek any crevice to escape through, no matter how tiny, or it will gradually erode away at the barriers that confine it.  This information was going to get out one way or another.  Computer networks just facilitate the process.
Secondly, I think what's happening is important.  Assange himself said, "The attack on the truth by war begins long before war starts and continues long after a war ends."  The majority of Americans now see that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a fool's mission; a military action based on false premises and through imperialistic motivations.  By knowing the truth, regardless of how late in the coming it might be, there then exists that chance that the masses will be more skeptical next time someone begins beating the war drums and crying out in the name of patriotism, warning of supposedly impending threats by boogeymen in the dark.

Yet I don't think that the leaked information gives the entire story.  Case in point, Iraqi civilians shot and killed by American forces.  IFOF (Identification, Friend Or Foe) is a complicated action during combat.  That's probably being generous.  I know from volunteering with my local police department that both military and law enforcement personnel sometimes have only split seconds with which to decide whether or not to pull the trigger.  If the lives of your fellow soldiers are on the line, ask yourself if you wouldn't fire even if in doubt?  Obviously there have been abuses of Iraqi civilians at our hands.  Those soldiers responsible should be punished.  But often times, collateral damage occurs from honest, even if tragic, mistakes.  It's a fact, innocent people get killed in conflict.  That's why it's called war.  It's ugly and it's something we shouldn't want to do all that often.
I also am most concerned about leaked information compromising military operations and thereby the safety of US and allied troops.  Whether the action in Iraq is correct or not is immaterial to preserving the safety of those in combat.  US troops don't have the luxury of debating their orders.  Why should we hold their lives hostage to political views?  If you don't support an action, fight the politicians and policymakers...not the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.

Reservations aside, I still think WikiLeaks has the chance of turning into something valuable.  But one thing is certain, nothing will stop it.  Shut down WikiLeaks and another site will form just like it.
Who knows?  We may soon see footage of Julian Assange running down a city street, firing a handgun behind him at the MIBs in pursuit.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, October 22, 2010

Being asexual

A few days back, Internet denizens and the world in general made "purple" statements in support of homosexual and other youth living a bullied existence in our wonderful public school system.  The wake of numerous suicides due to bullying has focused a spotlight of great magnitude upon the subject.  For now anyway.  The same thing happened after the Columbine shootings (even though they really weren't related to bullying) and the light dimmed fairly quickly after that.  Of course homosexuals aren't the only ones at risk for taunting and bullying, there can be any number of factors that could set someone up for it.  Among them is being transgendered, or feeling as if you've been trapped inside the wrong sex. 
This got me thinking.  How many true asexuals might there be out there?  Not just youth, but people in general who legitimately have no interest in sex?  It would make sense that we've grown at least a fractional population of such humans.  These people would serve as automatic population controls, so it would make sense from an evolutionary perspective. They probably should have thought about this in Logan's Run instead of the cockamamie scheme they came up with.  After a bit of digging around, I found this site, The Asexual Visibility and Education Network. 
This is an organization formed to both support asexuals and to educate the public at-large about just what it means to be asexual.  As taken from their web site:

"An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are. Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or any better, we just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently. Asexuality is just beginning to be the subject of scientific research."

In other words, asexuals are not aberrations in nature.  They are pretty much just like anyone with the exception that they don't feel the need for sexual expression.  You might be surprised to read this, but I don't think that's such a bad way to be.  I especially gave this thought during those years of teen angst when I felt ugly and unlovable, yet was urged on by hormonal drives to perpetuate the species and therefore destined to get rejected over and over again.
Heterosexual men tend to think about sex a lot (perhaps homosexuals do too, I don't know.)  It's just something that nature has us wired up to do.  Those of us that have depression, Tourette's,  or other such mental afflictions, also have the added benefit of an unregulated brain chemistry.  This brings about not just sadness but at times a libido that is in hyperdrive.  Now and then I wonder what would happen if that aspect of us could be switched off.  With greater mental bandwidth available, imagine the focus we could have and the things that could be accomplished?
So I wonder what happens to truly asexual youth in our schools.  With so much pressure for sexual status, with a media that blitzes sex into their eyeballs all hours of the day, with pharmaceutical companies promising "there's a pill for that," they probably feel like there's something wrong with them...when in fact there isn't.  I can only imagine the inner turmoil and the set-up for conflict.  In time, we may see more and more social issues surrounding asexuals and I wonder if we're prepared to adequately deal with them.

Speaking of pills, when can I get one for super creativity?

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Election time for The Legion of Super-Heroes

In case you have not noticed, it's an election year.  Difficult to escape it if you consume any kind of daily news at all, let alone if you're a news junkie like me.  It's especially all-consuming here in Illinois, the Land of Dirty Politics.  The attack ads are incessant and the number of lawn signs just make me wish for a really big lawn mower with adamantium blades.  The endless war between the Democrats and Republicans (or should they just be called The Kings and The Deuces?) rages on with little or no benefit to we the lowly populace.
But fret no more! Not only is it election time for our local, state, and federal offices, it is by order of their constitution, election time for The Legion of Super-Heroes!
For those of you who are not comic book geeks, worry not.  I'll clue you in.
The Legion of Super-Heroes is a comic book series from DC Comics.  It's nothing new.  In fact, it's been around for a very long time.  So long in fact, that its age is evident in the Atomic Age monikers given to its teenage protagonists: Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lass, and so on and so forth all the live long day.  
Stories of the Legion take place in DC's 31st Century, often times in the depths of space.  Through the wonders of time travel, the Legion was founded by the original Superboy.  There have been more Legion members over the years with more individual super powers than I can count and most of them from planets other than Earth.  If interested, check Wikipedia's entry on the Legion roster.

Anyway, back to election news.  DC Comics is affording the opportunity for fans and casual Internet users alike to take part in a meta-experiment wherein we can all vote for which character will become the new leader for the Legion of Super Heroes.  Even if you've never read a Legion comic book in your life (but I suggest that you do, they are quite enjoyable) I encourage you to vote.  Go ahead.  Base your vote on the character who has the coolest sounding name, the best costume, or the superpower that you envy.  All I ask is that you report back and let me know which one you voted for and why.  Don't worry.  No judgments here.  It's not like we're voting for real political leaders.  Or are we??? Perhaps in another form of existence, we really are?  But I digress.

My one and only objection to this gimmick from DC is that they have failed to include one of my favorite characters, Matter Eater Lad.  A teenage boy who can, you guessed it, eat anything.
One point of order: remember Legion Constitutional Amendment to Section 8.0: Anyone attempting to use their superpowers to influence the election may be exiled to Shanghalla and their votes discarded!

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I discover a band that's been around for a long time

I am going to preface this by owning that I know I will sound old and at the least out of touch, but here it is anyway.
While driving home from the day job yesterday, I listened to one of the three radio stations that I can usually stand.  On it came a song, one with a heavy guitar riff but with a groove to it.  It was a lush wall of sound.  The use of distortion sounded like something Hendrix might have done in the late 60s, but the voice was all wrong so I knew it wasn't him.  I started thinking art rock from the 70s, maybe ELO or the like.  Hell, if The Beatles had recorded this, the song would probably be known as a rock classic today.  Vaguely, I began to remember the single being used as a music bed for a commercial, a car ad or something of that sort (they all look the same to me.)  Whatever it was, whoever it was, I was digging it.  Lucky for me, this was an occasion where a DJ announced the song and the artist (no, I can't afford Sirius or XM Radio.)

It was The Flaming Lips with "The W.A.N.D."  Of course I'd heard of The Flaming Lips before.  I remember back in 1995 when they were just coming into airplay with "She Don't Use Jelly" and were on the bill with Duran Duran at a Chicago summer music fest.  During a radio interview with John Taylor, bass guitarist for Duran Duran, he professed his love for The Flaming Lips.  Apparently, Duran had played a gig earlier that summer with Adam Ant (who was touring in support of Wonderful at the time.  Great record.  Go get it.)  A music reporter asked Taylor how it felt to be part of an "80s revival."  "Well we're playing a show in Chicago with The Flaming Lips," Taylor responded.  "If someone thinks that's an '80s revival' then that's their own problem."

Unfortunately, I didn't seek out much more about the band after that.  I mean, I heard "Do You Realize?" all over the place, but that was about it.  Until now.  After visiting the band's web page, I see that they describe themselves as a "psychedelic alternative rock band."  Seems a perfect fit for Strange Horizons.  
So I watched more videos and was pleasingly impressed.  Not only do I like "The W.A.N.D." but also "Breathe."  Plus, anybody who writes songs with titles such as "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1" and I was "I Was Zapped By the Lucky Super Rainbow" is alright in my book.
From what I can gather about this band, they're not being "weird for weird's sake."  They really are creating high art, but at the same time they have a sense of humor about it.  Watch a few of their concert videos and you'll see that they enjoy ludicrous stage props, almost looking like they're trying to bring Yellow Submarine to life.  Point is they don't take themselves seriously and thereby avoid pretension.  Just check the web page.  Wayne Coyne from the band is shown printing a poster with his own blood.  Normally that's the sort of thing that blood-drinking heavy metal slugs would be impressed by, rendering it all quite cartoonish.  But here it just...I don't know, fits.

"The W.A.N.D."

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Going to the Doctor

Since the new Doctor Who series started airing on BBC America, my interest in the franchise has rejuvenated (heh!  pun!)  I have enjoyed each of the new Doctors in their own way, something that has always been unique facet to the show.  Another reason for my affinity for the reboot is how wonderfully fresh the producers and writers have kept the series over the past few years.

This new season of Doctor Who promises to be no exception.  According to a press release from BBC America, things will kickoff with a two-part episode set in America with locations stretching from Utah to Washington D.C.  As writer Steven Moffat is quick to point out, "every Doctor Who fan will be jumping up and down and saying he's been in America before. But not for real, not on location – and not with a story like this one! Oh, you wait!"

And so we will.  There are other intriguing aspects to this upcoming season, namely that according to Time Lord rules (unless they've retconned things and I don't know about it), the Matt Smith incarnation of The Doctor is the last regeneration that can be made.  Does this end Doctor Who for good?  Fans certainly hope not...and I'm certain the powers that be will indeed manufacture a mechanism of one kind or another that allows The Doctor to continue on long from now.  Rarely does the BBC push out a turd when it comes to programming and they do seem to know which side their bread is buttered on.  After all, it seems that the BBC did take into account fan reaction to multicolored Daleks.

As well they should have. Multicolored Daleks.  Child please...

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Monday, October 18, 2010


I went to the bookstore over the weekend.  I'm talking the corporate chain, firsthand kind of bookstore.  Needless to say, I wasn't going to buy anything, but I do sincerely enjoy going through the shelves and seeing in person books that I might have only read about online.

And on occasion I come across a book that I have never heard of before but rapidly add to my "to read" list.  Moxyland by Lauren Beukes is just such a novel.
More than just a little bit cyberpunk, Beukes' book riffs on quite a few familiar and dystopian memes but appears to fuse it with a postmodern sensibility.  One indication of that lies in the book's description: there are a total of four different narrative voices.  Now one of the first things English classes demand to know of you in either the reading or especially the writing of literature is "whose story is this?"  Moxyland can't seem to answer that definitively as there are multiple viewpoints.  "Bah!  Too confusing!" the academs would scoff.  Not me.  This intrigues me all the more, this Burroughsesque "cut up," this interweaving of narratives.  I just love writers who take chances and shake up the established paradigms.  I'd rather see an author do that and fail than to read the next cookie cutter James Patterson schlock that is locked in for the best seller list.  But I digress.
The action takes place in Cape Town, South Africa during our modern morass of cell phones and surveillance cameras.  Our four voices are an art-school dropout, an AIDS baby, a tech-activist, and an RPG-obsessed blogger living in a world where your online identity is at least as important as your physical one. Getting disconnected is a punishment worse than imprisonment, but someone's got to stand up to Government Inc. - whatever the cost.   There is yet another facet that calls to my attention, the burgeoning conflict between technology, free information, and governmental control, once more postmodernism in the notion that "no Virginia, technology might not save us all."

It should come as no surprise that William Gibson blurbs this book on the back cover...and yes, he seems to have liked it very much.  That, in and of itself, is good enough for me.  Moxyland, here I come.  

Taking a musical look at things, here's what has currently been making my playlists:

The Joshua Tree by U2
Singles by The Smiths
Green by R.E.M.
In My Tribe by 10,000 Maniacs
Secret World by Peter Gabriel

What can I say?  For me, it's still 1988.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm feeling a bit dieselpunk

Throughout the past 30 years, the suffix "punk" has been added to a great many literary genres.  The original and most pervasive of which has been "cyberpunk."  Following that came splatterpunk, biopunk, steampunk, and now dieselpunk.  Oh so much punk, so many cute literary classifications.
I am writing this post in reply to a question someone had about the selections for my November writing project (there is still time to vote on it here.  Pimping my work!  Pimping my work!)  One of the ideas I had was for a work of dieselpunk.  So what is "dieselpunk?"
According to that oh so venerable source Wikipedia: "Dieselpunk is based on the aesthetics of the interbellum period through World War II (c. 1920-1945). The genre combines pop surrealist art with postmodern technology and sensibilities."
All things being equal, I'd rather make up my own mind.

In order to break down this meme, let's start with the aforementioned suffix, "punk."  "Punk" implies rebellion, whether that rebellion be against one's parents, one's boss, or the like.  Within punk, there is not only an attitude of "up yours" but an inherent stick-to-it-iveness, an ideology that says "I will do this myself and I need no one to do it for me or with me."  The marginalized characters of many a William Gibson novel display this viewpoint via the employment of ubiquitous technology to their own ends, beating the establishment (what little there was of it) at its own game.  I tender that the "literary punk manifesto" might be broken down into something as succinct as, "don't lead me, don't follow me, and if you get in my way I will kill you."  Punk of course was primarily a musical movement.  To learn more, listen to records by The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Ramones.  For more contemporary examples, I'd probably point to Bad Religion, Green Day, and Rancid.  Now couple this attitude with the era that just precedes World War II; the Jazz Age, in other words.  The time of Art Deco.  Infuse that with say...the technology of jet engines and just watch what happens.   Both punk and high technology occur decades before when they were supposed to.  What would be the logical outcomes of this?

I don't know if my germinal idea for a dieselpunk novel would answer much of that question, but I do know that I would provide an entertaining story in the process of it.  Imagine, if you will, a World War II fought with jet fighters, processed by computers, and with the availability of every superweapon that the Nazis or Nikola Tesla ever dreamed up.  In the midst of all of that would be a platoon of regular American soldiers.  After all, the essence of punk is in part the essence of humanity, a soul that cries "fuck no, I will not accept this!!" 

Will this be my November writing project?  I don't know.  I am currently entertaining about five other ideas, all of which light my fire as much as the dieselpunk story does.  What to do, what to do?  Well, you can help decide that.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ley lady ley...

In all of Fortean phenomena and esoterica, I am not overly familiar with the concept of ley lines.  So on a whim, I decided to look into it and the following is what I found out.

A "ley line" is an unseen conduit, if you will, of spiritual energy that runs through the Earth.  There many of these lines across the globe and they tend to intersect in a grid-like pattern.  Points where these lines intersect are thought to be vortexes of psychic or spiritual energy by New Agers.  Said devotees of the ley line theory claim that ancient peoples, whether unconsciously or intuitively, built their monuments along these conduits.  The pyramids of both Egypt and Mexico are said to be atop ley lines, as is Stonehenge and the lines of Nazca.  Even our modern Interstates and roadways are claimed to follow ley lines in a few cases.  Plus, interestingly enough, crop circles seem to form along ley lines, especially in Britain.

Yeah, I don't know what to make of it all, either.  I suppose it might hold water if you look at things from the Gaia perspective.  The Gaia Principle states that the whole world is one, enormous, living organism.  Given the interconnectedness of ecosystems on our Big Blue Marble, this makes sense in essence.  You can also see it perhaps from a spiritual perspective in that Mother Earth could be considered the one great creator and therefore spiritual energy would flow through her, coming up to meet us at various intersecting points;  a "matrix" if you will of psychic energy.  It's a little bit out there, but might not magic and spiritual energy just be forms of energy that we don't yet understand?

Speaking of "holding water," that could be an angle to it.  Scientists are just now discovering that there is a distinct "hum" to the oceans.  The prevailing thought is that this nigh inaudible sound is generated by the crashing of waves and tides. In effect, this is a form of energy.  Many of these ley lines as well as crop circles tend to congregate near underground reservoirs of water.  The lines at Nazca are prime examples of this.  Could there be a sort of "ripple effect" in the electromagnetic spectrum caused by water near these locations and could it affect not just the physicality of the world around us but the psychology of our own minds in ways we don't yet understand?  

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Classic science fiction books that were thought to be failures

Two days ago, posted this list of classic science fiction books that took a while to build a readership.  Among the titles were a few of my favorites, namely...

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.  This would later become the basis for Blade Runner.
Triplanetary by E.E. "Doc" Smith.  The space opera that kicked off the Lensmen saga that would later inspire the creation of both Green Lantern and in part the Star Wars universe.
Brave New World by Aldus Huxley.  Sold ok in Britain, but went on to become one of the most banned books there for a while in the U.S.  You mock capitalism?  How dare you!
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  The fantasy saga that...well you know it well enough by now.
So what are both readers and writers of SF supposed to take away from this?  That people were once unready to accept any science fiction that wasn't from Isaac Asimov?  Perhaps so.  But I believe it demonstrates that age old struggle of art versus commerce.  The writer wants to a powerful book with well-crafted sentences and deep meaning.  The publisher wants a book that will sell.  Those two aren't always the same things, but this list underscores something that William Goldman, ace screenwriter, once said about Hollywood in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade: "Nobody knows anything."
Nobody can know a hit when they see it every time.  Do you know how many people passed on Jaws?  Do you know how many film execs were fired for passing on Star Wars?  A lot.  But that's just it.  Greatness is seldom glimpsed at first blush and the above mentioned books are prime examples of that.

In today's science fiction market, there is both good and bad news.  The good news is that SF is selling and it is one of the largest sections of your local Borders or Barnes and Noble.  The bad news is that most of it is media tie-ins: Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactic, Stargate, basically book versions for any TV, movie, or video game of the genre.  There is little room for original work unless you are already an author with established stature.  Still, the same could be said for the majority of the publishing world I suppose.  
Yes, the colossal amount of these media tie-in books is enough to make one rather queasy.  It's akin to gazing down an endless acreage of PCs.  Sure they're serviceable, but a choice would be nice. There is a small upside.  People who read these books might, just might, then be encouraged to branch out and try other SF.  Maybe they'll discover Dune or another more contemporary book to their tastes.  After all, if I hadn't seen movies such as Star Wars as a kid, it's doubtful I would have gotten into the whole genre and gone on to read Asimov and William Gibson and so on.  Similarly, reading science fiction gave me impetus to research science fact, to learn the scientific principles behind the stories.  I might never have gained my lifelong interest in science without science fiction.
Is there a point to this?  I'm no longer certain, unless it is perhaps "give an odd book a chance."

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

UFOs over the skies of Manhattan: must I eat my words?

Remember my post from a few days ago?  About the former NORAD exec?  Warning us that on 10/13/2010 major cities were going to be buzzed by UFOs?  Remember how much I poo-poo'ed it?
So take a look at what happened today, 10/13/2010.
A formation of silver, disc-shaped (under magnification they appear jellyfish-shaped) objects was observed by multiple witness over the skyline of New York City.  One explanation has been offered for this, namely that they were Mylar balloons released from a Manhattan elementary school.  Would make sense, except that they would have to be pretty sizable balloons to be seen by so many people and it would be quite a feat for them to remain as stationary as has been claimed.  Police received a few 311 calls, calls were also made to City Hall and the local airports.  Neither city officials nor the FAA has any explanation as yet.
"If they are weather balloons," said one city administrator, "Nobody cleared the release with us."
"There was nothing in the air that would account for this kind of reaction," said Jim Peters of the FAA.
One of my Facebook contacts found this video on YouTube that claims to have been shot over Los Angeles today.  Rather akin to the NYC footage.  There have been additional reports of a UFO formation over Moscow on 10/10/2010. 
So I'm afraid I do need to eat my least a few of them.  Something UFO-related did happen today.  And it was over a major city, perhaps cities.  Despite that, I am nowhere near willing to accept this as sightings of alien craft.  It just all seems a little too convenient to me.  Guy predicts this, objects show up.  Perhaps they really were just Mylar balloons, released to help bolster and credence to the prediction.  They could also be products of mass acceptance of a meme.  If you are told to expect something on 10/13/2010, your mind might very well find things to make that prediction fit.  In other words, you are predisposed to belief.  Interestingly enough though, the man who made this initial prediction never said that the aliens would land, he only said that they would make their presence known over large Earth cities.  Still doesn't make me want to believe him any more, but that is an important point to clarify. 

I have no idea what the identity of these sighted objects are.  Therefore, they are by definition UFOs.  I do, however, know this: there sure as shinkies has been a lot of UFO -related news stories in the media this year.  The was the release of British MOD files, stating for a fact that Winston Churchill was concerned about a UFO panic.  The Vatican announced that it is fully within Christian beliefs to believe in aliens.  The UN announced that we have "an ambassador of Earth" should they be needed.  The planet Gliese 581g has been called a slam-dunk case for life by more than a few astronomers.  There was a press conference held at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. by former Air Force officers, attesting to reports that UFOs momentarily disabled a nuclear missile command center in Montana.
So...are we being prepared for something?

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jon is a battlefield

"We are young...heartache to heartache we stand..."

I am under attack.  A virus has made its home in my epidermis.  But I will not yield.  I will fight it on the plantar.  I will fight it on the toes.  I will never surrender!  Cue "Aces High" by Iron Maiden.
What does that all mean?  Two weeks ago, I visited my physician to determine the nature of the crinkly, rough-textured indentation on the heel of my right foot.  Much to my disgust, she told me it's a wart.  Ditto for the tiny, button-like protrusions on my left middle toe.  I felt filthy.  Unclean.  And anyone who knows me will tell you that I am nigh OCD when it comes to cleanliness and germophobia. 
So the doc tells me it has nothing to do with cleanliness and more to do with the acquisition of the human papillomavirus, something that anywhere between 10-15% of the population has at any given time.  Plus, although it is benign, the virus highly contagious.  That didn't help me much, the notion that there was a virus feeding and growing upon my skin was...repulsive.

Then I found this article in Wired from a few years back.  Turns out that people are really human-bacteria hybrids.  The majority of the cells growing in our bodies right now are not ours.  They're not even human. They are bacteria.  They reproduce plentifully on your feet, kept warm and dark by your shoes and fed by your sweat and dead skin cells.  Their respiration causes that distinct odor that wafts upward once shoes are removed.  Bacteria abound in your digestive tract as well.  In fact, we couldn't break down our food without them.  Amazing when you think about it.  We're the product in so many ways of tiny organisms that live on us and inside us.  I'll refrain from making midichlorian comparisons, mainly because I think they were a dumb idea to begin with.
So I wasn't feeling so bad.  Except that a virus is generally something that you don't want to carry around with you.  Thus, I commenced an all-out salicylic acid assault on the occupied areas of my feet.  The doc also recommended using duct tape on the warts, but I just can't bring myself to attempt a homeopathic remedy that sounds as if it were concocted by two guys in orange hunting jackets as they downed a case of Old Milwaukee.  So acidic ointment it is.
We are two weeks into the battle.  The smaller invaders on the left foot have been driven off, but the plantar on the right is tenacious.  Dug in like the Allies at Bastogne.  I thought about taking photos but decided to spare you.  Again and again I hit it with the salicylic acid in a regimen of twice a day.  The wart has retaliated by forming a cream-colored, hardened defense shield over itself.  One layer of skin peels off and I find the infection goes deeper still.  The acid at times spills over onto pink, healthy skin, causing a burning sensation that is rather unpleasing.  Still I fight on.
A brown, rooty, mosaic pattern has formed beneath the shell, like a computer-generated fractal display.  Perhaps that means the end is in sight?  Here's to hoping.
I don't mind being a human-bacteria hybrid.  Maybe not even a human-viral hybrid.  Just as long as my health doesn't suffer.  
And they pay rent.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Signal called "suspicious"

No sooner has news spread of Gliese 581g, a recently discovered exoplanet that more than a few astronomers believe may support life, than there is now a report of a strange, intermittent signal originating from the area of the planet.
Sounds great, right?  Aliens are contacting us!  Not so fast.
When Frank Drake, legendary astronomer and the godfather of SETI, asked this scientist for details on the signal, none were given.  Needless to say, this has reinforced already growing skepticism in the scientific community as to the veracity of this "signal."  Plus, this is not the first time that the Australian astronomer in question has made such a claim.  The first was in 2008 and now the claim has been adjusted (no insurance pun intended) to argue that the pulses of light were seen in the area of Gliese 581g.  Convenient.
Gliese 581g has been touted as a notable discovery as its orbit occurs within what is colloquially called "the goldlilocks zone;" it's not too hot and it's not too cold.  In other words, it's in an orbit quite similar to that of Earth and therefore likely to support life.  It is four times the size of our planet and it is one of six other worlds in its solar system.  That is to say, six others that we have discovered thus far.
Nobod wants verification of alien life more than me.  I want it so badly my bones hurt.  But logically, I must convey the same suspicions that astronomers have expressed as to this "laser beacon claim."  If the scientist in question indeed has any pertinent data that would bolster his case, then I urge him to turn it over for peer review (because I just know he reads Strange Horizons, right?)  Any other way will only lead to further deligitmization of exobiological studies.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Virgin Galactic spacecraft makes glide test

Just another step towards the future.
While NASA flounders in its own morass, the private sector takes over.  Virgin Galactic has just completed a successful test glide of its SpaceShipTwo, a spacecraft that is planned to take sightseers into low orbit and then return, all to the tune of $200K a pop.  A total of 340 seats have already been sold.
The idea of space tourism might not seem overly significant and perhaps a bit superfluous at present, and that's understandable.  But it is not the purpose of these spaceflights that carries weight, it is the movement and the vision that they represent, a movement that began with Burt Ruttan's first private sector, X-prize winning flight in 2003.  Humanity feels a destiny in the stars and won't wait around for government sanctioned action to get there.  Already, work is near completion on Spaceport America, the New Mexico location that the Virgin Galactic flights will take off and land from.  Commerce, that driving force of the Western world, will soon drive humans further out into space, whether it be for tourism or for mining minerals on the Moon.

So is it superfluous?  Perhaps.  But I certainly wouldn't mind a seat on one of those flights.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The politics of fear

Given the predominant subjects of Strange Horizons, there might be those of you out there who get puzzled as to why I veer off into politics from time to time.  I have two reasons for this.
First of all, this is a blog and blogs are usually writings infused with someone's opinions.  There are things I care greatly about in this world and I just can't keep from mentioning them.  Secondly, there are tangential science fiction writings that are intensely political, works of literature that make strong commentary on where we might be headed as a human society.  
So here we are in another election year and I've really been quite aghast at the use of scare tactics in both campaign ads and rhetoric.  I shouldn't be.  My academic focus has been the study of rhetoric and composition theory so I'm well acquainted with the maneuvers involved.  Couple that with my low expectations for humanity and none of this should be a shocker to me.  Yet when faced with it, I can't suppress a weary sigh.
Here in Illinois, I've come to the conclusion that fear is the best method to employ when your candidate has nothing of substance to offer.  We're in the midst of a senate race.  Republican candidate Mark Kirk has been embroiled in a bit of a scandal, outright lying about his military service by saying he's served in combat zones.  Now that's honorable.  His Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, has his own problems, namely being directly linked to banking scandals.  So it's a WASP trying to make himself sound tougher than he is versus a skeezy Greek kid who lost peoples' savings?  Lucky us.  And what do you do when you really don't have much of plan for action and leadership but want the office anyway?  
Use fear.  The other guy is going to take your life savings.  No, the other guy will cost you your job.  But the other guy burns Bibles and has sex with the goats.  Better yet, have supporters attack the other party's agenda as a whole.  The President is really a Muslim (and every last one of them is evil, y'know.)  He wasn't even born here.  He's going to form death squads.  He's going to Communize your Nazism.  Substance schmubstance.  No need to offer anything.  Just scare the bejeezus out of the voters.
A few years back, Theodore Sorenson, a former aide to President Kennedy, spoke about this very kind of fear mongering, saying it strikes at the "very heart and soul of this country as it moves toward a mean-spirited mediocrity in place of a noble beacon." Couldn't agree more.
So it might not be Orwell's vision of information tightly controlled by Big Brother.  It might be an addition to Huxley's notion of "amusing ourselves to death."  The political fabric of the future could be made up of the ones who can scare us the most.

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

OMG! The NWO will use UFOs!

You have to hand it to them.  They never give up.
That collective of UFO enthusiasts that give all the rest of us a bad name, specifically, those of us who want to examine facts and evidence in order to formulate an answer or at least a hypothesis for what's going that can stand on solid footing.  Time and time again this other faction comes up with radical theories and assertions that while I find entertaining, can certainly give someone the wrong impression of the field of Ufology.
My point being, Wednesday, October 13th.  Apparently that is when fleets of UFOs will appear over major metropolitan areas.  "Says who?" you might ask...and that would be a just question, dear Stranger.  Turns out, the word has come from an ex-NORAD official.    "How does he know?" you might ask...and once again you would be justified in doing so (you're reading my blog, so I just know you're smart enough to ask these questions.)  "NORAD guy" knows of this impending event from years of research...and talking to the aliens through a "channeler."  Well, sure.  That's good enough for me.  
But it gets better.  Conspiracy theorists aren't stopping there.  I've been seeing on Facebook that there are number of people who are positing that the 10/13/2010 display will be a "false flag" event, a euphemism in warfare that means attacking yourself in order to justify an attack on your enemy.  An alien threat will be faked and the world will panic and be organized together under a New World Order (NWO) to confront the threat.  Our individual rights will of course be done away with.  Desperate times calling for desperate measures and all that.  That was the NWO's plan along.
I just find this all amusing.  I mean, deep cackle amusing and it might even make for a good science fiction story.  There does seem to be something in the zeitgeist as of late, a series of news stories relating to alien life that seems to suggest some form of disclosure is imminent, but I'm not betting the mortgage on that just yet.  Still, if there really were a disclosure event and an official announcement, I can actually imagine a section of people being disappointed.  The conspiracy would be dragged out into the light.  There would be no need for speculation.  There would be no more mystery.  After all, it isn't exciting enough to have open contact with extraterrestrials, there needs to be a deeper component to it.  Like false flag allegations and rallying cries against the supposed shadow government.  Some people just need things like this to liven up their dull lives.  Besides, wouldn't it make more sense, in America anyway, to fake a Rapture or other such Biblical apocalypse?
What will happen on Wednesday, October 13th?  I'm gonna take a stab in the dark and predict...pretty much the same damned things that happen most any other day.  Period. 
If I'm wrong, feel free to come back to Strange Horizons and comment your complaint.  Go ahead.  Flaunt it right in my face.  That is if we're not under the heels (or whatever appendage) of our new alien overlords and we are still capable of electromagnetic communication.   If aliens do arrive this Wednesday, I hope they do so in large, saucer-shaped craft.  I want to witness a massive fireball cross the sky as something enormous makes re-entry, like in Independence Day.  That movie's schlocky but entertaining, especially the alien arrival sequence.  In the meantime, you might want to build a stockpile of canned food and bottled water over the next three days, then get in your basement and call in sick on Wednesday. 
Oh hell, just call in sick anyway.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

One day you're the bathtub, another you're the bug

This morning, just as I do every other morning, I prepared to enter the shower.  Rather tedious subjects concerning my day job ruled my mind.  Will the server actually be running this morning or will we all have to reboot our computers again? (Surprise, surprise.  It was a reboot.)  How long until I'm done with the focus group scheduled today?  Weary, I yanked back the shower curtain.
There was a bug on fiberglass surface of the tub.  It was slightly smaller in size than an ant; similar in appearance and reddish hue, but with a body structure that didn't seem to match an ant's.  I am not exactly well-versed in entomology, so I really couldn't make an identification.  Did I do what anyone else would do in that situation?  Namely, grab a piece of toilet paper, squash it, and then make soup?  No. 
I watched it.  I knelt on the tile and watched it crawl and ever so slowly skitter on the bottom of the tub.  I stretched in closer to it, close enough to see its shelled body and to smell the bleach fumes from yesterday's bathroom cleaning.  It was so little.  So seemingly helpless.  I couldn't help but think that my house must seem like the size of a planet to its perspective.  Did it have a perspective?  Did it have a sense of purpose?  I'm certain it had awareness as most living things do, but did it have memories?
I kept watching it.  The floor of the tub is textured in a faint mosaic pattern. Ostensibly, that is meant to keep one from losing their balance in the shower and falling over, causing a contusion or concussion.  The bug was a single red dot against this pattern, this entoptic backdrop that began to take on the shape and form of those eye floaters I get from time to time.  I needed to get to work but, oddly enough, I began to feel such compassion for this bug.
It reminded me so much of myself as it scurried on the white fiberglass, not seeming to obtain any real direction or perhaps footing against the surface of the tub.  The curvature of where the tub walls met the base seemed prohibitive for its little legs to scale.  Everywhere it turned there was an obstacle in a seemingly featureless landscape. I took a square of toilet paper and attempted to coax the bug onto it.  The two-ply format of the bathroom tissue seemed to cause it a bit of puzzlement.  I prodded at the bug, hoping to get it to take this magic carpet ride. 
It started spasming.  Its legs kicked in a frenzy?  Had I wounded it?  Like an oafish giant just trying to help, had I sent it to a hell of pain and slow death?  I looked closer, fearing what I was going to find the same way as when I see the red message light blinking on my phone at work.  But there was no such trauma or tragedy.
The bug was on its back.  Blade Runner seeped into my mind.  You know, the empathy test at the beginning where Leon is asked why he's not helping the tortoise as it bakes on its back in the desert?  "Is this to be an empathy test?"  As gently as I could muster, I poked the little bug back upright and the frantic leg kicking stopped.  After that, it appeared to be a bit more receptive to the idea of climbing onto the sheet.  Once on board with my plan, I hoisted it up and out of the tub, then released it.
You see, I know a little something about kicking your legs like crazy but ending up going nowhere.  I am intimately familiar with the sensation of being trapped.  Whether or not the bug could ever be aware or understanding of this does not matter to me.  Today, I was just one living thing helping another out.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Please give your attention to this

So I stopped into Starbucks today.  Yeah, I'm not big on them either, but they're the only game in town for a decent latte in my end of suburbia.  On the side of my cup, there was a bit of corporate bragging about how Starbucks is working to protect free trade and our environment.  Believe it or not, I really am I skeptic by nature, so I started to wonder how much of the cup's slogans were the truth and how much was corporate, whitewash PR.
Then I thought, "so what am I doing for the environment?"
Besides making sure I recycle whenever possible, eating more vegetarian meals, and checking that my house uses as little electricity as necessary, I've started to get a bit more active in the effort against global warming.
And I urge you to  go to this site for the Union of Concerned Scientists and sign their petition to force Congress to allow the EPA to do its job and cut greenhouse gas emissions.  It will take but a minute of your time and it costs nothing.  Unless of course you disagree and you like it hot.  I mean, really hot and then bitterly cold in the winter.  Or maybe you're in Arkansas, secretly waiting for the day when your state becomes beachfront property.  
Also, if you're an animal lover like me, please check out the Alaska Wilderness League The state of Alaska is one of the few remaining wilderness areas on Earth.  Sarah Palin and Big Oil don't care much for that.  The ecosystem there is a fragile miracle and every plant and animal serves its purpose within it and even affects our environment here in the lower 48.  All is interconnected in the end within this biotechnical integration system we call The Earth.  A destabilized environment leads to ecological disasters, strained resources, and poverty.  For you national security bigwigs, nothing grows terrorism like extreme poverty.
Finally, I don't know if you've noticed but this is an election year.  Those of us in Illinois are painfully aware of it, inundated with mass media messages that all begin with those same, damned deadly words: "the following is a paid political announcement."  I won't tell you who to vote for, but when you research your candidates, please consider what their stance on environmental issues is before you make your decision.
After all, it's not enough that we change our light bulbs.  We have to change our leaders.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets