Monday, January 31, 2011

Peak Oil

Normally, peaks are good things.  Not so when it comes to oil.
"Peak Oil" refers to that magic moment when the maximum amount of petroleum extraction has occurred.  After that, it's a steep drop.  There is a goodly amount of disagreement and controversy over the notion of "peak oil."  Certain parties believe we have already passed the point of no return.  Other precincts maintain that there is no such thing as "peak oil" and it's the concoction of the liberal agenda (sound familiar?)  I have a family member who works in the oil industry and I candidly asked him last summer how close we are to peak oil.  "Not for a long, long time," he responded.

One publication does not paint so rosy a picture.  Business Insider argues that we hit peak oil in 2005.  In fact, they cite World Energy Outlook 2010 as having a more realistic model than the majority of the oil industry: "According to its latest study, the IEA (International Energy Agency) now expects global total liquids production to increase to just 96 million barrels per day by 2035! Bearing in mind the fact that the world currently produces 88 million barrels of total liquids per day, the IEA is now essentially implying that output will only increase by 9% over the next 25 years!"

Output slowing.  While the world's demands for oil grow by leaps and bounds every day.  So what happens if we're currently on the downside of the curve?  Do we all just start walking to work?
We should be so lucky.  An end to affordable oil means basically an end to civilization as we know it. Matt Savinar runs a site called Life After the Oil Crash.  While I'm not so quick to support his views on the veracity of peak oil, he does do a very good job of making people aware of just how dependent we are on oil and not just for transportation.
-Take a look at all the plastic objects in your immediate vicinity right now.  They all take oil to produce.
-The pesticides and fertilizers we use to grow food are made with oil.  The tractors and other farm implements needed to produce and harvest food all run on oil.  Yeah, we kinda need food, don't we?
-Computers and the internet itself require oil to operate.  A computer needs ten times its weight in oil to be manufactured.  The vast server installations that keep the Net up and running are powered with electricity, electricity that is often generated guessed it...power plants fueled by oil.  Even if the power plant is runs on coal, it still takes oil to mine and transport the coal.

So it's kind of a big deal, yes.  And as of right now, the world has no contingency plan of what to do after the crash, a crash that I am beginning to be convinced is on its way.
Enough of my postulating.  What do you think?  Are we near peak oil?  Does such a thing even exist?  If so, what are you planning to do after the crash? 

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Secrets of World War II

Nazis.  Say what you want about them, but we are lucky Hitler was crazy.  He got in the way of his generals, who were true geniuses of war.  If left to run the war, many grave tactical errors such as the ill-conceived invasion of Russia, would never have happened.  
Not only that, but the scientists and engineers in the employ of German forces were many years ahead of their time.  Consider the following (click here for a great site that goes into detail about these weapons. Several of the pics on here are from that blog):
The German Luftwaffe (to the best of my knowledge) never developed a four-engine bomber.  This seriously hampered the range with which the German air force had to operate within.  The design at left called for six engines.  It was called the Amerikabomber.  

Not too difficult to figure out what it was meant for.

This one was called the Horton Flying Wing.  Notice the similarity to our modern day stealth aircraft.  Doubtless this aircraft, had it ever flown, would have had a similar small radar signature.

The Arado radio-controlled glide bomb.  Essentially, this would have been the world's first cruise missile.  Notice the diagram showing a jet engine bomber carrying the weapon.

Space bomber.  German engineers actually theorized about an aircraft that would launch, orbit to an American city, then strike.  The air/spacecraft would then return and land the same as a conventional aircraft would.  Not too far an idea from our space shuttle program.  Did I mention that an enormous amount of NASA scientists and engineers were gleaned from Germany during Operation Paperclip?

They even had space suits developed for the pilots.


Then there is the curious case of Die Glocke, or "The Bell" in German.  It is a supposed wunderwaffe, or "wonder weapon" devised by Nazi scientists in the waning days of the war.  This oddly-shaped object was said to levitate and fly via the use of anti-gravity technology.  Crazy?  Well, the UFO object that is said to have crashed in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania in 1965 bears an uncanny similarity to the description of this alleged device.  Did the Germans develop anti-gravity drives?

Here you go.  A monster tank...that no road could support.

And this one...well, you can be the judge of its authenticity. ;)

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Laundry: what gives?

Here at Strange Horizons, I've written on various topics within the realms of fringe science and the unknown.  Bigfoot, synthesia, mysterious disappearances, and of course UFOs have all been covered.   Occasionally, I'll hear from someone that I should "talk about where socks go when they disappear in the laundry."  Normally, I chuckle off such requests and politely smile rather than openly roll my eyes at their schmuck-osity.  

But they have a point.  Exactly where does the other half of a pair of socks often disappear to?  There are times when I find them stuck inside the arm of a shirt.  Other cases involve a pants leg or a bunched up blanket or duvet.  Those aside, there are those times, those times when you can scour the dryer all you wish but you will come away with naught but the clean, fresh scent of fabric softener...and no mate for your matchless sock.  
Seriously, it's as if it just up and disappeared.  I have dumped entire basket-loads of clothes and carried out meticulous searches.  Still I have unmatched socks, woefully wondering just when it was they lost their companion.  I argue that this sock disappearance signals far more than a Bermuda Triangle of linens.  Oh if only it were that simple.  This is against the laws of physics.  This is the utter transmutation of matter, gone from our sight into Burroughs knows where.   Could there be a parallel dimension that is but a void in which halved sock pairs tumble in weightlessness?  It's weird, sure.  But I'm running out of ways to explain this.

I suppose it's much like any other peculiar transpiration.  About 90% of sock disappearances can be explained.  It's that 10% that should make us all wonder.  Now if you'll excuse, I have to do my weekend load of laundry.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

No one is an island

And you had best be thankful about that.
Islands are beginning to disappear.  Global Islands Net is an organization that has listed those islands that are most at risk of being overwhelmed by rising sea levels.  Many are Pacific land masses and atolls, such as Fiji, outlying islands of Paupa New Guinea, The Solomon Islands, and various lesser known locales of Micronesia.  Did I say "lesser known?"  Perhaps.  But there are people living on them nonetheless.  That means a goodly number of people are facing displacement from their homes.  That's right.  We are beginning to see the very first refugees resulting from climate change.  Heck, it's already happening.  The village of Shishmaref, located on a barrier island in Alaska, is already in need of relocation due to rising sea levels.  Click the link provided.  That's right.  Climate change refugees.  Bet you haven't heard that much about it in our news media?  No, we'd rather know about Charlie Sheen and Sarah Palin.  Speaking of the latter, I wonder if Alaska's former governor is even aware of this community's plight?  Even if she were, I doubt she'd even consider changing her position on Global Warming.

It truly is beyond me how any logical, reasonable mind could be opposed to the reality of climate change.  Just yesterday, Scientific American published a study that says that the current of the Arctic Ocean is warmer than it has been for 2,000 years.  2,000 years!  It won't be long before the sea becomes wider and free-flowing during the summers.  But wait!  There's more!  It has been found that a shrinking polar ice cap reflects less sunlight off the Earth.  That means...wait for it...rising temperatures!  Drought!  War for resources!  All kinds of fun stuff!
"Wait a second," you say.  "The Northeast U.S. has experienced record low temperatures this year, coupled with an ungodly amount of snow.  How the heck can you say the Earth is warming?"  On the surface, it would seem contradictory.  But there is an article in The New York Times that does a better job of explaining than I can.  Unfortunately, I've been reading the Times so much today that they're no longer allowing me to access the articles for free.  So I can't link you to it.  Just go to The New York Times and search for "Topsy-turvy Weather: U.S. is frigid, Arctic is warmer than usual."  There is an explanation for how it can be incredibly cold while the globe bakes from too much heat.  Then of course, this is all a "fictional plot concocted on behalf of the Liberal agenda, trying to devastate our economy and block our God-given right to making a profit."  Or so they would say.

The writer in me is extrapolating this data on Global Warming and extending it into the future.  What kind of future am I seeing for the characters of my books to inhabit?  Well, it's hot, it's wet, it's overpopulated, and I don't like it.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reflections on Burroughs

This is essential Burroughs.  He delineates a "shit" from a mere "son of a bitch."

What is it that draws me to the writing of William Burroughs?  After all, there are a good many passages in Naked Lunch that force the color from my face and make me quite uneasy.  As the video clip attests to, that's fairly typical for Burroughs.  So why do I keep coming back for more?  I devoted a bit of mental bandwidth to that question today and came up with a few reasons.

For one thing, his "cut-up" method fascinates me.  While Dadaists first manufactured the method for art, it was Burroughs who brought it to literature.  I don't like linking people to Wikipedia, but there are instances where the site provides a definition for something in a far more concise and accurate way than I could.  So without further ado:
"The cut-up and the closely associated fold-in are the two main techniques:
  • Cut-up is performed by taking a finished and fully linear text and cutting it in pieces with a few or single words on each piece. The resulting pieces are then rearranged into a new text.
  • Fold-in is the technique of taking two sheets of linear text (with the same linespacing), folding each sheet in half vertically and combining with the other, then reading across the resulting page."
 I think that all writers do this to one degree or another.  We cut up what we see and consume, then paste together all the tiny shards that shine most for us in our eyes, thereby creating something new out of the old.  We hope.  As Bono says, "Every artist is a cannibal.  Every poet is a thief."  No surprise that Burroughs was an influence on U2 and even made a cameo appearance for their video "Last Night On Earth."  He also was an influence on Bowie and Duran Duran's "Wild Boys" comes from a Burroughs book of the same name.  But I digress...
I plan to study cut-ups more in my academic research.

There is also his mastery of the pure craft of hooking words together.  People raised on a steady diet of TV sitcoms and Hollywood pap no doubt would deride Burroughs' prose as being "plotless" and "nonsensical."  To say that is to miss the point.  Sometimes one needs to simply let art wash over them.  The cadence, the rhythm and flow of his phrases and sentences, it's a poetry all its own.  That a book such as Naked Lunch is not linear is irrelevant to its quality.  Breaking down this pre-requisite frees and emboldens the artist within.

Lastly, I'm sure many would call Burroughs crazy.  But I'm beginning to wonder if he wasn't saner than most of us put together.  The world is a surreal, screwed up place that seldom makes sense.  Those very adjectives would probably be applied to the work of Burroughs by his detractors.  
Yet by writing what he did the way that he did, I wonder if he saw the world clearer than most others, even through his drug-induced haze.   

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Solar sailing it away

We have known for quite a while now just how capable an asteroid would be at wiping out most of human life on this Earth.  After all, it's appearing more and more likely that either a comet or an asteroid impact played at least as a factor in the demise of the dinosaurs.  They were bigger, tougher, and more numerous than we are now, so why couldn't it happen to us?
On April 13th, 2036, the asteroid Apophis will come close enough to duck beneath the orbit of our communications satellites (within about 18,000 miles of us).  That's a bit too close for comfort, so many propositions have been bounced about as to how to deal with it.
There's been talk of nuking it with a missile, of nudging it out of the way by attaching rocket engines to its surface, or sending Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to go blow it up in a Michael Bay-orchestrated monstrosity.  Last month, however, a French researcher offered a new suggestion (apologies for the news source.  I'm not crazy about it either, but its not a bad article.)

In this new tactic, a fleet of unmanned, solar-powered spacecraft would deploy around Apophis with solar sails extended.  This would have the affect of the Sun warming one side of the asteroid to a greater degree than the other, creating a sort of thrust and sending the space rock off on a slightly different course.  Slightly, but just enough to miss by a wider margin.  This plan wouldn't work on heavier asteroids, but space bodies in the class of Apophis make for good candidates.

Still, there are detractors.  There are scientists who argue that the technology to do this doesn't quite exist yet and would be rather expensive to develop.  I don't know.  The solar sail theory sounds like a better path to take than nuking the rock and sending multiple meteors down on us, not to mention the benefit of advancements in solar sail technology that would come of this.  Seems to me that any effort to develop a workable asteroid shield is a good thing.  Sparing us the fate of asteroid impact would give us more time to screw the world up completely on our own.

By the by, I caught a bit of a program on The History Channel last night about the Antichrist.  Did you know that there are fundies who are under belief that an asteroid impact will be the catalyst for the galvanization of a One World Government?  Yet more reason to deflect the space rocks, I say.  If for no other end than to shut those people up.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Age of the UAV

This morning, I noticed the following headline: "Gorgon Stare" Proposed drone spy system fails testing.

The "Gorgon Stare" (great name!) is a UAV system that is meant to orbit an area of military operation and offer surveillance from multiple angles.  Our current drones are able to monitor one street, one building, or just a single target in general.  Through its 12 onboard cameras, the Gorgon Stare is meant to take in an entire operating area, an "all-seeing eye" as it were.  The caveat appears that the UAV has this pesky problem with being able to track people during the day and vehicles at night.  Then later, in Wired's "Danger Room," the Air Force insisted that the "all-seeing eye" works just fine.
Regardless of the effective status of Gorgon Stare, it really got me thinking about the Age of the UAV.  Predator and Reaper drones have been operable over much of the world for quite a while now, particularly over Afghanistan and areas of Pakistan, where sadly a number of civilian deaths have resulted from missile strikes launched by said UAVs.  There is also "The Beast of Kanahar," a stealth drone that has been photographed in operation over that corner of Afghanistan.  "The Beast" does not appear armed with missiles, but one military tech consultant to Wired noticed an apparatus of sorts on the drone's underside.  He speculated that it could be a high-power microwave energy weapon.  That is of course conjecture, but it's not that far of a leap.  Additionally, it's no longer just robot aircraft that are on the table.  The Army has had the R-Gator , an "Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicle," deployed since at least 2006.  Likewise, both the Navy and the Coast Guard have their own seaborne drones either on the drawing board or in experimental phases.

What will robotic weapons systems such as these mean for the future of warfare?  An obvious benefit would be that fewer lives would need to be risked, especially on operations where the danger level is high.  Plus, it is probably more cost-effective to fight a war this way.  Humans take more resources, more supplies, and more logistics to keep operational.  Many of our UAVs can probably take off from a place like Nevada and head for the target without necessarily being forward staged.  Fewer people in the field.  Fewer casualties.  Fewer dollars.
Will this lead to an increase in military actions?  After all, when fewer caskets come home to crying families, it could be tempting to forget the price of war.  I'm skeptical of that, however.  There is always going to be a cost to war.  The number of human casualties can never be brought to absolute zero in armed conflict.  It's one of the reasons we should do it only if no other course of action is available.  And if it must be done, why not execute it in a manner that brings superior firepower with a lessened chance of loss?  
Sounds like a job for a drone.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

The "ethno-bomb"

It was on a past episode of Fringe.  I decided to check it out and see how much science fact was contained in the science fiction. Turns out quite a bit.

Could a killer virus or other such bioweapon be engineered that would only attack someone of a certain race?  It's not as fantastic as I once thought.  In 1997, then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen called the notion of a genetic weapon "a plausible possibility."  He even expressed his belief that the former Soviet Union had done research into targeting specific human genes.  Advancements such as the Human Genome Project would only expedite the arrival of such a weapon.  The following year, numerous news sources, including Wired magazine, reported that Israel was in the process of or already had developed a biological agent that would solely target those of Arab decent.  The story was later exposed as a hoax, but the fact that anyone found it believable in the first place shows how credible the idea had become.  In 2009, The Journal of Medical Ethics published an article on the ethics involved in genetically-targeted warfare.  Not being a physician myself, I don't have access to it, but I can attempt to guess at the questions raised within the essay.  Many of them are probably variations on the familiar query of "If other nations are developing them, dare we get caught with our pants down?  Shouldn't we be developing the same?"

I'll take things one step further.  Such bioweapons need not be weapons of mass destruction.  If we're advancing upon (or already at) a time when specific ethnic divisions could be targeted, could a "smart bomb" of a biological agent be designed to lock on to an individual's DNA?  It would make a perfect tool for assassination.  It would also make the most sense for an enemy of America, say Muslim extremists.  I'm uncertain, but I can't think of anything that could be called distinctly "American" DNA since we are such a melting pot of races.  Therefore, it would seem that targeting individuals would be the way to go and not release en mass, if we're talking targeted biological agents, that is.  Wouldn't surprise me to know that Josef Mengele or someone else in the cabinet of Nazi monstrosities had already drawn up the plans for such weapons but could not advance upon them as the necessary understanding of DNA had yet to arrive.

Now that time may be here.
Here's an article on the subject.  It has this fun little tidbit to keep you up at night:

"One particularly troubling aspect of biowarfare is that the cost of funding a capable research program is much less than would be required to develop nuclear weapons.  It has been estimated that the cost of developing a "gene weapon" might be in the neighborhood of $50 million, which would be well within the capabilities of most national governments, and possibly extra-governmental groups such as Al-Qaeda as well.  Another troubling aspect of such technology is its potential for being used covertly, disguised as a particularly severe flu virus, for example."

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kip Haggis on McRib

Hey everybody!  So Nichols thoguht that the Packers would lose to the Bears?  You know what I have to say to that? 
Just goes to show him, God provides.  And after a WEEK of calling and e-mailing him, I finally forced him to commit to a HUGE move...and that's going to get McRib (Homer Simpson drooling sounds.)  Figured it would be a good peace offering.  Hey, I'm tryin'.  As a Christian, I'm tryin'.
I dunno why Nichols has been avoiding me like this.  Not returning phone calls or emailing me back, but I figured it was on account of the Packers and him not having enough sense to be a Packer-backer and not a Bears fan.  Oh well.  Whatever.  So I tried to let bygones be bygones and take him out to McDonald's for a McRib.  He's not had one in years and...get this...doesn't "understand what all the furor is about."  Oh he of little American values.  You'd swear he lived in Madison.
"There are two things I don't comprehend," he tells me as I roll my eyes and continue towards those hallowed golden arches of Mickey D's.  "If the McRib is that great, why don't they keep it on the menu all the time?  And if it's not passable enough to be on the menu for good, why have it at all?"
Obviously the man doesn't know what good business decisions are made of.  
"It's like this," I tells him.  "You never know from one day to the next when it's going to be there.  It's just like good luck, you never know when it's your day for it to strike you."
"So it's ephemeral?" he says to me.  I don't know what the heck that college-boy, 50 cent word is supposed to mean, but I know it's got nothing to do with McRib.  I press him on it.
"It comes and goes in fleeting movements.  One never knows if they will be able to catch it in its quicksilver-like movements?"
"It's a gift from God," I tell him.  "And God provides.  When we walk into that Mickey D's, you'll know."
"Describe this McRib to me," Nichols asks.
What a dumbass.  Might as well ask someone to describe the Mona Lisa to someone who has never seen it.  It's like in that movie Mask, y'know?  The one with Cher?  Where that deformed kid gets asked by the blind chick to describe sunlight?  I mean, whatareyagonnado?  Anyway, I tell him about the hearty, meaty texture.  I tell him about the rich sauce, the satisfying bun, and the pickles and the onions.  Then I realize I'm drooling on myself like Pee Wee Herman at a Jenna Jameson flick.
"I remember it being like a cross between Spam and a hot dog, awash in barbecue sauce," Nichols says.
Sigh.  People with no taste.  Whatareyagonnado?  Right?  Hey Chi-town!  Represent!  What up, 312?  Sorry, still love the Packers!
Anyway, Nichols goes on showing off his college degree, telling me that the McRib is the "perfect postmodern food."
"It is of the utter manufacture of man," he sez to me.  "Pig parts, maybe if we're lucky, fused into an undulated cutlet.  There is no 'rib' to it, yet that is what society wishes us to think.  It is the capitalistic marketing machine, shoving red-sauce slathered mystery meat down our gullets and telling us to like it."
I dunno.  Maybe his parents are cousins?  Or maybe he's still just sore about the way the Packers beat those Bears!  SUPER BOWL, BABY!
We get inside the McDonald's.  Grimace never looked so good.  I step up to the counter and order my McRib, counting the seconds until its juiciness squirts into my mouth.  I wink at the girlie girl behind the register and make my order.
"I'm sorry, we no longer carry that," the zit-faced hag tells me.
I turn to Nichols.
"This is all YOUR fault, man!" I sez to him.  "If you'd called me back sooner, we'd have our McRibs!  Nectar of the God, man!"
"I think you mean 'nectar of the gods,'" the jackass sez.
"Spare me your anti-Christ, pagan garbage!" I shout back.  "That isn't gonna cut it!  You cost us our McRibs and there's no telling how long it will take to get them back!  What is the point in living anymore?  Why.  Why?  WHY?"

The moral of the story is this: never trust a liberal-loving, college educated, Bears fan.  They'll fuck you out of your McRib every time!  But God is on my side!  SUPER BOWL, BABY!

Peace, love, and smoked BBQ,

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What happened at the Pentagon?

Please keep in mind, I don't necessarily accept all of this.

In the wake of 9/11, we heard much about what happened at the World Trade Center and with good reason.  We heard much about the passenger revolt on the plane that crashed (or was shot down) in Pennsylvania and with good reason.  How much did we hear about the Pentagon?

It was overshadowed.  Plain and simple.  Thus making it all the easier for a possible fast-one to be pulled on the American people.  There are all manner of 9/11 conspiracy theories and many of them justly belong on the pages of yellow journalism in the grocery check-out aisle.  But consider the following about the attack on the Pentagon:

-If a plane crashed into it, why didn't we see a vertical tail?  An engine?  A debris field?  Seats?  Luggage?

-Why wasn't there more talk about the victims aboard said plane?  Why did their remains need to be returned all the way over at Dover AFB?

-The Feds released video from the Pentagon but only after 5 years of lawsuits.  The surveillance video shows an impact detonation on the side of the building.  I've been to the Pentagon.  There are any number of tall street lights and billboards in the area around it.  So this airliner supposedly came in with nap of the earth flying, avoided all of those obstructions, and smacked into the side of a four story building?  Huh?

-An organization called Pilots for 9/11 Truth have raised a number of issues with the official story given by the U.S. government concerning, among other things, the attack on the Pentagon.  The airliner was said to be moving well over its top speed, something that is against the laws of least if you want to keep the wings attached.  As piggyback to the above bullet point, many pilots confessed that they would be unable to perform the maneuvers alleged to the 757 at such a speed and altitude.  So how could some guy from Saudi Arabia who just took a couple flying lessons manage it?

-On September 10th, 2001, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld held a press conference to say that the Pentagon had lost track of several billion dollars.  The wing of the Pentagon in which this financial audit would have taken place is the same one hit by the "airliner."  We also, with good reason, heard nothing more about this financial issue in the days after the attacks.  Convenient?  Yes.  Causal?  Not necessarily, but...

Like I said, I'm hesitant to throw in with this conspiracy until more facts come to light.  But there certainly is a fair amount here that doesn't add up.  If I had to offer my shirt tail opinion from right at this moment, it would be that no airliner struck the Pentagon on 9/11.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Tatooine in 2012!

See the UPDATE at the end.

Yesterday, The Huffington Post made this startling announcement.  
By 2012, a second sun may burn in our sky.  An Australian astronomer (now there's a tongue twister) contends that the star Betelgeuse is losing mass.  This means that its nuclear fuel is depleting and that the star could go supernova "at any moment."  The article I linked says that the soonest we could see anything would be 2012, so I don't call that "any moment."  I am guessing that the differential is due to the amount of time it takes light to travel 1300 light years to Earth.

How long would this "second sun" be visible?  The astronomer conjectures that it would probably last for only a few weeks.  But during that time span, there may be no night on Earth.  That, I believe, is astonishing.  I've always wanted to live in a binary star system.  Seriously.  Ever since I was that wee little 5 year-old watching Luke Skywalker stare at the dual sunsets on Tatooine, I've envisioned our sky with a second sun many times.  So given that the duration of this supposed event will be limited, I think it might make a good opportunity for me to "try it out," so to speak.

I am, however, curbing my enthusiasm.  I like The Huffington Post, but they tend to be...erm, well, let's just say I like to see their news stories corroborated elsewhere.  Secondly, this is only one astronomer's conjecture.  I'm not saying that his hypothesis is an incorrect one, I'm just waiting to see it go through peer review.
But it would be nifty as all heck to see this happen.  So go ahead, Betelgeuse.  Collapse and then expand.  Bathe us in the light and neutrinos of your death rattle.  We here on Earth will forever remember you for it. 

UPDATE: Ugh!!!  I knew I was right to be cautious!

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

When airborne disasters come to mind

If you have been reading this blog for a while, then you already know that my train of thought is somewhat peculiar.  I have no explanation as to the hows or whys that a particular packet of information might suddenly bubble to the top of my conscious thought, but it happens nonetheless.  
Today it was this (perhaps because I recently watched Donnie Darko):  I wonder if they ever found out what happened to Air France Flight 447?  It was an Airbus 330 enroute from Rio de Janiero to Paris on June 1, 2009.  Somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, the aircraft crashed into the sea.  It's a difficult case to investigate and find out what happened for a number of reasons.  For one, there are no living witnesses and precious little has been recovered from the ocean.  The vertical stabilizer was found, likewise a bit of luggage, and sadly a few bodies, but paltry amounts to aid in the determining of what caused the tragedy.  Another complication is the fact that the black boxes were never recovered.  This is understandable as finding the devices would indeed be a herculean task.  One French official described it as "trying to find a shoe box in an area the size of Paris, at a depth of 3,000 m (9,800 ft) and in a terrain as rugged as the Alps."  French officials have announced that a new search will be undertaken at the beginning of next month, utilizing sonar from one of their nuclear submarines.
As of yet, there is no answer as to what caused the crash.  The leading theory at this time is malfunctioning pitot probe, causing a misread in the plane's airspeed.  If the plane was in reality not going fast enough, it might have stalled out and ditched into the sea.  If on the other hand the speed was excessive, the airframe might have broken apart and sent them all into the water.  No one knows.  Yet.

This in turn got me onto another tangent of thought.  I remember reading somewhere about a cargo plane that made a flight over the Pacific in the 1950s.  The aircrew encountered a most terrific surge of turbulence and a compromise in the plane's hull.  Upon arriving at their destination, three vertical slashes were found in the topside of the fuselage...almost like claw marks.  No one ever determined what they were from.  I have been so far unsuccessful in finding sources for this story online.  I might have perhaps gotten it confused with a sci fi short story.

Then I thought about TWA Flight 800.  That was the 747 that exploded shortly after takeoff in July of 1996 and plummeted into the waters off of Long Island, New York.  Damn near every piece of that plane was recovered, but I couldn't remember hearing what the final verdict was on the crash.  I remember that a detonation of fuel vapors in the fuel tank was tossed around at the time, but I was under the impression that the fuel tank's manufacturer shot that hypothesis down rather handily.  Not so, it turns out.  In the year 2000, the investigation concluded the fuel tank detonation to be the likely explanation.
Several...shall we say, "alternative" theories have abounded regarding the tragedy of Flight 800.  Many witnesses say they saw a missile streaking towards the aircraft and then a detonation.  Terrorism was then thrust into the lead as a probable cause.  This was said to be demonstrated as false and I think that likely.  No terrorist cell ever took responsibility for the air disaster and it seems to me that if they succeeded with this one, there would have been many more incidents of airliners downed by portable, shoulder-fired missiles.  Another speculation is that our armed forces shot it down in a tragic accident.  There were military exercises going on in the area at the time and let's face it, if this is really what happened there is no way they would tell us about it.  The strongest bit of evidence I've seen to support this theory is the story of former airline pilot, Ray Lahr.  Lahr filed a FOIA request for documents from both the NTSB and the CIA on the Flight 800 matter.  He was denied.  Lahr then took it to court and won.  Once forced to cough up the documents, the government agencies involved claimed to have "lost" them.  Yep.  Something's rotten in Denmark and it ain't the smørrebrød.

So travel safe, everyone.  I'm sure the airlines and our government only have our best interests at heart.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Several of our satellites are missing

Or at least that is the problem that has plagued astronomers.  The idea is that a spiral galaxy such as our own Milky Way, should have a number of smaller, satellite galaxies around it.  Ours does have a few, but not nearly as many as there should be in order to support the theory.  Currently, it is thought that many of our own orbital galaxies are composed of dark matter, rendering them virtually unable to be seen.  So how would we even know they are there?

A new method has been proposed to investigate this:  Look for the trails of hydrogen gas that the galaxies leave behind, rather like a wake left by a boat.  Should this result in detecting "dark" or "dwarf" galaxies, then the same method could be employed to uncover yet more distant galaxies that have gone cloaked for all this time.  It could also go a fair ways in aiding our understanding of dark matter.

And that's where I run into a hang up.  For whatever reason, I'm not completely sold on the idea of dark matter.  It's supposed to make up about 85% of our universe, but what is it?  We have no idea.   Arguments supporting dark matter begin to sound more and more like the old Greek concept of "the ether" to me.  I'm not saying that dark matter doesn't exist, I'm merely a bit hinky to jump on the dark matter bandwagon just yet.  The math is probably right (for all I know, a mathematician I am not), but still...

If it is a physical reality and it truly does compose 85% of existence, then what the hell is it?  That very question could become one of the greatest riddles of our time and answering it would not only help us to understand the universe better, but our own place in it as well.  

"The universe isn't stranger than we imagine.  It is stranger than we can imagine."--Albert Einstein

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Not going away

I paused for a moment today while reading the news and thought about media violence.  How long has it been controversial?  My first considerations of it were in undergrad during classes on mass communication as well as media law.  We absorbed the numerous theories of media affectation.  As a punky young kid, I was quick to grab on to the "no direct link" loophole or how lack of empirical evidence topples any argument that media violence causes real world violence.  Growing older, I began to see that the affect of media messages on a youth seemed in direct proportion to how many or how few filters they had in front of them, filters with the names Mom, Dad, Grandma, Teacher, so on and so forth.  
That's my personal history with the issue.  But how far back does it really go?  Probably to the time of Aristotle, maybe even Plato but I haven't found texts to support that yet.  Aristotle contended that violence in drama could serve as catharsis for the audience, whether in the form of brutal justice to the villain or merely as safe exploration for the dark, fetid corners of our souls that we really don't like to let out into the light of day.  It could also be seen as "spectacle," something rouse and rivet a reader or watcher.  Now, as the nation purports to re-examine its political rhetoric, many of these same questions and arguments are surfacing once more...and I have finally learned one, immutable truth about the issue:
The affect of violence, whether consumed through art or instilled in political vitriol, is always exaggerated or downplayed depending upon one's political objective.

A conservative will decry the amount of sex and violence in the books and films of popular culture, demanding that we return society to diversions based upon "traditional family values."  They will then load automatic weapons and place them in the hands of children.
A liberal will holler "free speech" in defense of any expression, no matter how putrid or vile.  They will then be the first to run and hide when a gangbanger rolls them for their wallet and sniffle in bewilderment at how violent our society has become.

There is no stopping violence.  It has always been there, just as there have always been individuals capable of unspeakable acts of cruelty or pornography.  
But there is something different this time.  There is something in the air.  There is something that actually makes doomsday cults look less crazy.  There is something new in the political jibes that right and left take at one another, something that hardens and reinforces the robots on both sides to steel their resolve and "screw their courage to the sticking place" as Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth (itself a violent study in evil and political assassination.)  There is a residence of malice in each pair of headlights I see pressed against my bumper in the rear view mirror.  Their is something, an apocalyptic electric undercurrent, pulsing its way just beneath the national epidermis...and I'm starting to smell the skin burn.

I'm afraid of Americans.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

"Hobbits" revisisted

This concept of the "hobbit" humanoid (see my post from a few days back) has intrigued me and I have been digging around a bit more on the subject.  Among the anecdotal evidence (flimsy, I know) for the ebu gogo on Flores Island is an account from Dutch sailors who visited the area back in the day.  Henry Gee of the journal Nature spoke of said accounts back in 2004 in the wake of the fossil finds on the island and called for a re-examination of their veracity in light of the discoveries.  

The Dutch sailors reported that the people of Flores spoke often of the ebu gogo; hairy, humanoid beings with long arms who stood barely one meter tall.  The natives even said that the ebu gogo would abduct children during the night.  Shades of modern day "alien abduction," perhaps?  Enough ended up being enough and the indigenous population of the island tricked the ebu gogo into accepting clothes made of dry palm fiber.  The ebu gogo then took these dried plant garments back to their cave in the woods...where the natives commenced to toss a torch inside, burning the ebu gogo alive.  Island folklore states that a sole surviving pair of ebu gogo escaped into the jungle foliage and that their descendants live on to this day, harassing children from time to time.

As mentioned in my previous post, Flores is not unique in that region of the world for having "small, wild men" folklore, as illustrated by the Nittaewo of Sri Lanka.  What I neglected to mention was Orang Pendek.
Orang Pendek is allegedly a bipedal primate sighted on the island of Sumatra.  Though smaller and less hearty in stature, it is thought to be not all that dissimilar from either the Yeti or Sasquatch.  Again we have Dutch settlers to thank for the first Westernized accounts of this creature with two explorers even claiming first-hand sightings back in the 1920s.  Reports continue to this day.  Anomalous hair strands, thought to be shed from orang pendek, have been sent for DNA testing.  Only human DNA was found in the sample, but that is likely due from contamination by the hair's original handlers.

Orang Pendek.  Nittaewo.  Ebu gogo.  In the past, I would have said "maybe they're cryptids, likely they are folklore."  But the discovery of the "hobbit" fossils bring everything into question.  Much is dependent upon the results of the molar DNA testing I mentioned in the first post, but even if the hobbits prove to be dwarf humans and not another species, the fossil find could still go a long way as to explaining the origins of said folklore.  
Big question would be, do they still survive today?

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

A tough choice

This is old news, old as in about a week's time.  I was in Borders, facing a difficult choice as to how to best spend my Christmas gift card.  It came down to two books really.  Here's what a I went with:

Blindsight by Peter Watts.
I've heard many a good thing about this science fiction book.  In it, 65,000 alien objects surround the Earth, then scream to the heavens as the atmosphere burns them to ash.  Two months later, a derelict space probe detects a signal from the deep.  Not talking to us, but to someone else.
A noteworthy premise to my tastes as it demonstrates what humanity's likely place is in the scheme of things.  Are we involved?  Sure, but I doubt that we come anywhere near being major players.  In part, it conjures up similarities to Philip K. Dick's VALIS.  What's more, the plot appears to involve an enigmatic AI and a genetically engineered vampire, a biologist who's more machine than human, a linguist with surgically induced multiple personality disorder, a professional soldier who's a pacifist, and Siri Keeton, a man with only half a brain.  How can you go wrong?  I'll post a full review once I've read the book...whenever that is.  I'll give the same trite and redundant disclaimer I spew each time I find a new book I want to read: "I've got so many unread books around here I could stack them into castle walls."  Ohh the plight of the intellectual.  Just kidding.  No, really.

The strong runner-up was Kafka, a graphic novel by R. Crumb.  Given Crumb's disturbing and controversial style, it seems that a bio of Kafka is a natural, well-suited choice.  From what I read of this book in the store, Crumb does great service to the life of Kafka, almost as if the two were souls destined to meet, but never quite did.  Rest assured I will be coming back for this one.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Film Review--Donnie Darko

starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osbourne, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Seth Rogen, and Bea Arthur as "The Beav."

Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a troubled young man who is receiving direction and instructions from a giant black bunny that only he can see.  His parents have him in therapy, complete with medication and hypnosis, but things go really up and around the bend when a jet engine falls off of an airliner and smashes through Donnie's bedroom.

I am so glad that I finally got around to seeing this masterpiece of a film.  So many eccentricities are woven together here that I'm surprised it came out of Schlockywood at all.  Normally the best we can hope for are CGI-ed action flicks, empty-headed romantic comedies, and Disney-Pixar bullshit.  I noticed that Drew Barrymore was the executive producer, so I'm thinking many kudos should go to her.  Not just for her performance in the film but for pushing the film industry to take this marvelous chance.
This is truly an existential film and I mean that by strict definition.  Oft times, the term "existential" is applied to anything even remotely weird, but here we are dealing with true philosophical questions of existence.  Does thought precede existence?  How "real" is the bunny?  There are many shades of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey here as a young adolescent seeks answers to questions that it appears no one else is longing for.  He sees through the phoniness of the adults and peers of his world and feels compelled to act (even if by the bunny) in order to serve justice.  There are explorations of time travel and the theories of Einstein and Hawking.  Additionally, it should also go without saying that the film owes more than a bit to Jimmy Stewart's classic Harvey as well.   I could just go on and on about how much there is to enjoy and recommend here, including notions of heroism and the fact that "I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion," but the dimensions of time and space do not grant me such an opportunity.
To boot, the soundtrack is amazing.  It's as if someone handed the task over to me and I put together a list of my favorite songs from the 1980s, including Echo and the Bunnymen, The Church, Joy Division, and of course Duran Duran.  
Donnie Darko is nothing short of a cinematic triumph.  It's a thinking person's film, the kind that will have you talking and pondering for days afterward.

Oh and mind the gap in my postings as I've been sick.  Suppose I should be thankful.  It allowed me to finally watch the movie.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hobbits among us

A few days ago, I found and tweeted this headline: "Will Hobbit tooth yield ancient DNA?"
The "hobbits" of the Indonesian islands are a subject I've been meaning tor ead more about and I thought it was about time that I actually did it.  
Paleoanthropologists are preparing to drill into a 18,000 year old fossil tooth in order to compare its DNA with the rest of the human family tree.  Back in 2004, highly unusual hominid fossils were found on the island of Flores in Indonesia.  The skeletons were of diminutive, human-like bipedals maxing out at 3 feet tall with skulls the size of grapefruits.  This was especially unusually since at the same time of their existence, "normal" sized humans were spreading out to colonize the world.  Could this be an offshoot of humanity that had developed in isolation on this island?
Because of their size, no time was wasted in naming the fossils "hobbits" after the race in Lord of the Rings.  Catchy name or not, debate began to stir within the scientific community as to whether or not these "hobbits" were in fact no different from the rest of early man, except that they were nutritionally deficient or perhaps carried a genetic tendency towards dwarfism.  These are the questions that the DNA samples will hopefully clear up. Don't place all your hopes on it, however.  Getting accurate DNA data from fossils is tricky business under any circumstance, but especially so if the bones come from warmer climes such as Flores.

Should the evidence bear out the theory of "hobbits," this would indeed be a spectacular find.  It would mean the discovery of an entirely new species of human that once existed.  If that is indeed the case, what else might be out there for us to discover?  What other divergent offshoots could there be from humanity?  Folklore from around the world is replete with tales of "little people," from leprechauns to wee folk.  Why not toss in hobbits?  It's all conjecture of course, yet citizens of Sri Lanka speak of the nittaewo, small humanoids that bear a remarkable resemblance to the description of the "hobbits."  A Coast-to-Coast AM listener recently sent in a sketch of a "little man" that is sighted from time to time in their house.  On the island of Flores itself, the current population describes what they call ebu gogo, tiny humanoids identical to the described hobbits.  Might this also bode well for other cryptids such as Bigfoot? 

Henry Gee, the editor of Nature, seemed to think so. In a now-famous editorial entitled “Flores, God and Cryptozoology,” he forever tied the finding of the “Hobbits” to cryptozoology. He wrote: “The discovery that Homo floresiensis survived until so very recently, in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical, human-like creatures such as Yetis are founded on grains of truth….Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold.” (the preceding paragraph is from Loren Coleman's Cryptomundo.)

Let's hope so.  Because more and more I am becoming intrigued by the "cryptoterrestrials" hypothesis of Mac Tonnies (God rest him); offshoots of humanity that not only survived but thrived beneath our notice.  After all, humans have lost a goodly amount of our body hair over the past few thousand years (most of us anyway).  If the "hobbits" survived, might they have not lost the same amount?  And if they lived in an underground setting, might their eyes not get larger?  Yet still retain their small stature and thin, monkey-like arms?  Wouldn't they, maybe, look something like this?

Like I said, all conjecture.  Then again...

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tea time/time travel of the soul

In perhaps an unhealthy move, I occasionally think about what it would be like to return to a past part of my life and live it out once again. 
For example, I have very fond memories of my undergraduate days.  What if there were a device that could send me back in time to that period?  There would be such a lightening of responsibility and financial burden.  I could relax and seize opportunities that I never did before.
But then I think that I would be an adult male amidst a small campus of college kids.  I'd look a bit creepy to say the say nothing of all the conundrums and paradoxes that hardcore time travel theorists routinely ruminate upon.
As this meme mutated and festered within my cranium, I realized that I was wanting nothing short of my entire consciousness going backward in time and inhabiting my 19 year-old body, carting along my current level of wisdom and understanding (such as it is.)  So the question becomes, is it even probable that a soul could do that?  Just how malleable is consciousness?  There are indeed physicists in certain circles who are coming to suspect that time travel could be physically doable one day, but what of time travel of the soul?  Additionally, if my soul could indeed accomplish this feat, what would happen to my 19 year-old state of consciousness?  Get bumped out?  Become erased from existence?  Become another, ethereal entity altogether?  Could something like this help explain sightings of ghosts?
Patricia Cori is an international speaker and researcher that I came across on Coast to Coast AM.  She believes that humans are multidimensional beings.  As an example, she cites dreaming, wherein humans actually enter a different plane of reality. "My perception is the life that we're in now, this physical reality, is like a tube," she said on the program, "and we come in as light beings, like full spirits...we go through this tube of 3D illusion."  If we start off from this hypothesis, it may, in my humble opinion, be likely that a soul could pass back and forth between moments of time as time is after all another dimension.  I have sent Ms. Cori an email asking her opinion on this matter.  I will inform you of what I get back.

To be sure, this is not an actual enterprise that I intend to embark upon.  Mere curiosity.  While I do think fondly upon certain past times, I also realize that I do so with rose-colored glasses.  There were bad times back then as well.  Even carrying an adult level of understanding back with me is no guarantee of avoiding those pitfalls.  In fact, I might even make things worse.  So my consciousness is staying right where it is.

For now.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In the future, you will not drive

At the Consumer Electronics Show, General Motors unveiled a pod-like car that can drive itself.  This emerging technology is certainly good news for those of us who do not like to drive.  There.  I said it.  I am a man and I don't like to drive.  
Unfortunately, GM estimates that these vehicles won't be market-ready until the year 2030.  Geez, by that time, there might not be a GM anymore.  In fact, I'm willing to bet there won't be.

The other downside is that the current top speed of the vehicle is only 30mph, making it little more than a high-tech skateboard.  That could make it difficult or at least tedious to get to work on time.  Still, it's a step in the right direction.  Not only with the elimination of driving but the curtailing of carbon emissions.  These cars plug into a wall outlet and run on battery power.  Anything that helps reduce greenhouse gasses and gives us a leg up on global warming is ok by me.  In fact, it's an imperative.

Feeling sick tonight, folks.  This is all I've got.  Sorry.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Creepy green space cloud

A photograph snapped by the Hubble recently shows an enigmatic cloud of green...something in space.  
It has been nicknamed "Hanny's Voorwerp," meaning "Hanny's object" in Dutch.  Upon reading "voorwerp," I was helpless as my mind recalled Andre Norton's science fiction novel, Voorloper, but this appears to have little to do with anything.  The name comes from Dutch schoolteacher and amateur astronomer, Hanny van Arkel who first discovered the weird form in 2007.  The leading thoughts at this time are that it is a band of gases, perhaps even something of an interstellar nursery, kicking out stars.  Seems that the object was noticed due to the fact that a quasar, a powerful beacon of light emitted from a black hole, pulsed out a beam of light that illuminated the gaseous mass, causing its green tint to become highlighted.  But in truth, this illumination should not be seen as something that just happened the other day.  Given the time it takes light to cover distance, the quasar pulse occurred about 200,000 years ago.
The green cloud is part of a continuing band of gas that is estimated to extend about 300,000 light-years.  Just demonstrates the awesome majesty of the vast, beautiful region we call "space."  

Either that or it's a swarm of Galaga bugs coming for us.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sci-fi hits the stage

During my tenure in the theater, I often wondered why more plays of this nature were never performed.  This article gives a succinct answer to my wondering: "most theater is made out of wood."
Theater is a fundamentally low-tech medium.  Sure, there are a multitude of productions such as Wicked that could never be performed without the aid of technology, but the vast majority of plays staged across the country are little more than one-room dramas.  There is a wooden backdrop, there is furniture, and there is precious little else.  I have acted in over twenty stage productions.  Each one was but a subtle variation on that template, the exception to that being Dracula.  
In order to provide the kind of science fiction tropes expected by a modern audience... things such as robots, alien slime, mutants, and spaceships...a theater company must be possessed of steel, silicon tech, and a hell of a lot of cash.

But now, as if permitted by some unforeseen authority, science fiction has come crashing to New York theater in a big way.  It has come in the form of shows like "Bellona, Destroyer of Cities," Samuel Delaney's "Dhalgren," Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?" (Blade Runner, for those of you who prefer movies to books or stage), and even Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space." 

I find this to be a fundamentally beneficial turn of events, if for no other reason than it gave me pause to be reminded of what "science fiction" truly means.  It is rather saddening that theater production companies feel a need to ratchet up their visuals when choosing a science fiction text to put on.  While pulpy tropes are fun and crowd-pleasing (if done with high value invested), that need not be what science fiction is about.  The entire genre was created both in response to progress and in wonderment of what is to come.  There is no better time than now to take a look at the developments of science, technology, and media and to wonder where just where humanity's place will be in the midst of it all.  That is the idea.  
And it doesn't take enough special effects to fill a star cruiser's hold in order to do it.  It doesn't take laser guns.  It doesn't take hot women in gold bikini slave girl costumes.  Not that I am opposed to the latter, per se and I'll go out on a limb to argue that Aristotle didn't mind it either.  "Spectacle" is after all a part of Poetics.  But I digress...
A play can very well be a cast of three on a stage set composed entirely of wood and living room furniture and still be science fictional in concept.  It is all a matter of the development of the characters and the larger themes with which they grapple.

That said, I am calling upon all Strangers to follow me on a quest to the Big Apple to see a live production of "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

The fuse of discourse

We all make jokes.  We say malignant things that we don't mean.  Every one of us at one point or another has probably made the comment, "Someone should just shoot him/her" or "they ought to be shot" or something along those lines about an elected official.  It's inherent within our rights to express such disdain for politicians.  But when it gets real...
As you have no doubt heard by now, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D, AZ) was shot in Tuscon earlier today, as were a few other people.  The situation is still fluid and I have read conflicting reports as to just how many are dead and wounded, but the last update was that Giffords went through surgery and is expected to pull through.  Amazing considering she was shot in the head.  Little has been released about the gunman and without the facts, we can only speculate as to his motivation at this point.  Given the fact that it the shootings took place at an event for a congresswoman, the running theories are political in nature.

I wrote a scene like this for my 2010 NaNoRiMo project about a new American Civil War.  I'm not trying to sound conceited or self-important, but it always unnerves me when I see something that I wrote happen in real life.  Makes me think I should be writing porn.  But I digress...
I'm no seer.  Not really.  This sort of thing was inevitable in the cauldron that has been American politics for the past decade.  Both sides of the spectrum have been spewing such bile and hatred at one another that I've tuned it out as commonplace.  Issues like health care and immigration seem to be bringing that out in us.  But what we saw today is not how a democracy is supposed to work.  In a democracy, everyone votes and then you the individual must live with the results.  I have a special disdain for Sarah Palin.  Yet if she were to be elected president (shudder), I am not going to shoot her.  Disagreement over politics is not justification for violence.

Speaking of Ms. Palin, let's take a look at what she had to say about Rep. Giffords after Giffords voted "yes" on the health care bill: click here.  Yep.  That's a gun sight on Giffords' district, along with the districts of several other representatives.  That web page has since been changed, removing Gibbons' name and the crosshairs, but one vigilant Tweeter managed to get it out beforehand.  Additionally, Palin had this to say on Twitter last March: "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!"
Now one thing needs to be made perfectly clear: Ms. Palin never called for the deaths of Giffords or anyone else for that matter.  Never.  But my field of study is Rhetoric and Composition.  When political discourse is collocated in the same space as a word like "reload" or the symbol of a target, it's difficult to infer a benign interpretation.  If someone placed a gun sight over where I live, I'm not going to take it as a compliment.  In fact, the primal survival instinct would probably take over (as it has in all conservatives according to Arianna Huffington.)  Context context context.  It matters.  It helps to create our reality.  When you advocate for  "Second Amendment remedies," I cannot see how any rational, educated person would not imply that you are talking about gun violence.  Again, no call for such action is ever specifically made, but it is the context that is clicking and cocking.  No one may be wishing death or violence, but those can be unintended consequences.

And one quick word on the issue of guns.  It was William Burroughs who said "After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it."  One gun owner committed a horrible crime today.  Thousands of other firearm owners didn't and never will.  Gun ownership was not the root cause of this incident.  It was perhaps, with all this pending on the outcome of the FBI investigation, the product of an "us vs. them" war of politics and culture.  One so surreal that even Burroughs himself might have felt sadly at home.  One that mournfully seems to bear out that high school doesn't ever truly end as Clarence Page recently wrote in The Chicago Tribune.  Sarah Palin is our homecoming queen and she is given a free pass on nearly every jackass thing she says because there is a contingent out there that loves her.  John Boehner is captain of the football team, still fighting a hangover from last night.  Barack Obama is the smartest kid in the class and we'd all hate him if he didn't play such damn good basketball.  And we bully and bludgeon to get our way.

What does this say for our future?  The story I wrote, the one I referred to earlier, took place in the future.  If my fiction continues to come to pass (and I really hope that it doesn't), we're looking at a civil war.  At the very least, we're looking at stoked fires in an already superheated sociopolitical landscape.  Think about this.  If the methods we saw today continue, in tandem with already present shouting matches in forum boards and news sites across the Internet, why would anyone want to be involved in the democratic process?  People could become both less engaged and more poorly informed than they already are. 
At breakfast this morning, I was asked to make predictions for the coming decade.  I came up with precious few positive ones and was chastised for it.  Then this news story broke.  I'd like to be optimistic but the reality of our situation keeps preventing it.