Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween and NaNo tomorrow

Happy Halloween.
Had I gotten my act together, one of these would have been my costume...

Can't decide which monster it would have been, but either way I believe I would have looked quite well.  Clearly, the facial expressions of the one on the right are the more engaging, but the kaiju on the left has that beaker-thing sticking out of its face that would have been fun to use.  In costume terms, I mean.
Now if I had been really industrious, I would have studied and implemented this diagram...

In all honesty, I think that Giger's alien has yet to be topped in the "terrifying creature" category.  Plus, I would get to jut a second set of jaws out at party-goers or whip my spiky tail at wayward trick or treaters.
Then again, why look to fiction for examples of scary monsters and super creeps when nature provides for us...

I don't know what that thing is, but comes from a link on John Shirley's Facebook wall.  It is decidedly Lovecraftian and suitably tentacle-ly.  Check out that mouth in the center.  Definitely not a costume for the pusillanimous. 
But why stop with a costume for yourself?  Why not dress up your car as well?

This fellow clearly has the right idea.  While I think that this shot was taken of someone on their way to Burning Man, it could still work for Halloween.  Call it "the monstermobile" or whatever suits your style.  As indicated in the fine print of the pic, the photo is not mine.

I know that it is too late for this year, but perhaps I can help you get a jump on the next Halloween season.  This link from Wired provides eight printable DIY decorations and the like.  Skulls, bats, pumpkins, you name it.  All done with your home PC.

The inclusion of computers got me thinking.  What would a cyberpunk Halloween be like?  In a Blade Runner-esque environment, it seems like the supernatural would have no place.  Ghosts and goblins would pale in comparison to the real life horrors of the every day.  Perhaps Halloween would become less about kid activities and spooky goings on and more an accent on and escalation of the criminal tendencies that arise this time of year.  Rather than simply soaped windows and vandalism, we get full-tilt rioting and destruction by those who feel marginalized.  Think of the film version of The Crow.  There's a story in this somewhere.  Maybe.

Speaking of writing, that's what this night is really all about for me.  Halloween really doesn't interest me.  It's the fact that NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow.  Well technically, just under two hours from now CST.  If you're a writer, you no doubt recognize that acronym as National Novel Writing Month.  The challenge is to have 50,000 words written towards a novel by the end of November.  This year, I'm thrilled to be doing NaNo in conjunction with members of the campus literary magazine.  We will be having write-ins, read-ins, coffee-ins, and other "ins" during these fabulous thirty days ahead.

What am I writing?  A sequel to last year's book.  I usually spend my writing time struggling to infuse my work with psychologically compelling characters and plots with literary merit.
Not this time!  Just like last November, this book will have ninjas, secret societies, cowboys, Batman-like technology, military aircraft, action, guns, fire, hard cases out for revenge, car crashes, and sex with women who are hot on a pornstar level. 

Oh boy is this great!

 My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012


If you have ever wanted to see James Bond mashed up with the ninja craze, this is your chance.

Ninjak was a title in the Valiant Comics line from the early 1990s.  I was lukewarm on Valiant's comics, but there were still a few that I found enjoyable.  Magnus, of course, Turok on occasion, and who could forget our dear friend Solar?  Then there was Ninjak.

The title character's true identity was Colin King.  King is a master spy in the employ of Britain's MI6.  Yes, the Bond comparisons continue.  He also happened to have been raised in Asia but is an outcast in those parts.  After Colin King's father was killed by an enemy agent, King dedicated himself to training in the way of the ninja.  Not only does King become an expert in martial arts, the katana blade, and ninja skills, he in time earns the title of world's foremost intelligence agent.  This grants him all sorts of gadgets to add to his already formidable skills, gadgets that probably come straight from Q branch.  Just funnin' with you.

What I liked best about Ninjak was that he is what I like to call a "street-level" character.  By that, I mean that he has no superpowers.  In the end, he's just a guy...a guy trained mentally and physically to be the best at what he does.  What gets him through to the next issue are his brain and his fists.  Ninjak does of course have tremendous resources at his disposal as well, what with having a completely fiducial relationship with the British government.  He also has a wry, charmer's wit and demeanor that the other aforementioned British superspy displays.  All this to hide the many of the same scars that Bond had.  In a way, Ninjak wears two masks.

He was not unbeatable, either.  Right now, I'm looking at part one of a story arc called "Cry Wolf." In it, Ninjak infiltrates a wine auction at a French chateau with the intention of stealing information.  He finds the place inhabited by the White Wolf, an especially nasty loup-garou who brings Ninjak to the edge of death. 

I am given to understand that Ninjak has returned in the relaunch of Valiant Comics.  He does not have his own book yet, at least not that I know of.  But you can catch him making guest appearances in Eternal Warrior and X-O Manowar.  While I cannot vouch for the current reboot, I wholeheartedly recommend the Ninjak of yesteryear.  Fun, escapist comics that do not insult your intelligence.  What more can you ask?

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents

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Monday, October 29, 2012

When geek goes hipster...

Oh the insidious perils of commercialism.

I suppose it was accurately titled as a “rant” rather than an “essay.”
Natania Barron, a contributing writer at Geeks Are Sexy, wrote a piece for last Friday that bemoaned the “mainstreaming” of geek culture.  The tripwire for this angst was apparently the “second breakfast” promotion at Denny’s that ties in with the release of The Hobbit.  To paraphrase Barron, we (meaning “Geek Nation”) are now a marketing demographic.  Yep, it’s all too commercial and mainstream now, just fodder for the mass market.

Emotionally, I do understand what she’s saying.  To a degree.  Fandom is no longer quite as “special” as it used to be.  We were once an underground with a language of our own, so to speak.  “We who are not as others.”  That has a certain charm and appeal.

It is limited, however.  Given the geek timeframe that Miss Barron provides for herself, she is evidently too young to remember the way things used to be.  A link provided by my good friend Joe speaks to those times.  There wasn’t always a comic book store around the corner.  In fact, liking comic books meant you were either immature or a freak.  Science fiction, D&D, computer games, action figures, liking any of those things used to get you ostracized at best and beaten up at worst.  Oh and the internet?  There was no home internet that would help you connect with like-minded people.  I remember having to hide my loves so I wouldn't be picked on any worse than I already was.  Today, I see my students here at the college wear superhero t-shirts all the time and at least a few of those students are “jocks.”  No one has to hide their geeky tastes.

Although for the author of the rant, this is evidently a bad thing.  It makes us a “marketing demographic.”  Guess what?  Them’s the breaks when living in a capitalistic society.  We’re all a marketing demographic.  If you have money, someone wants to sell you something and likely something that you don’t need.  That’s just how it is.  Upset with merchandising?  Granted we do tend to get inundated by it, but without the merchandising tie-ins, we never would have had Star Wars action figures or likely any of the ensuing toy lines thereafter.  Also, please not that within a few sentences, Barron condemns Denny’s “Second Breakfast” while saying the light-up goblets from Burger King were something she could “deal with” as they were “kitschy and thematic.”  So…selling goblets is ok, but Denny’s is no good.  Huh??

This rant rubbed me the wrong way in yet another regard.  There was a tone of exclusivity to it.  In fact, it smacked of “hipster” opinions.  She writes, “We can’t settle. It’s [geek fandom] more than knowing the right quotes and wearing the right clothes or eating the food they want us to eat. If that’s all it becomes, it’s nothing better than any trend or club.”

Pure excrement.  She might as well have said, “I like things that are obscure, you probably wouldn’t know them” or “I don’t eat Denny’s ‘Second Breakfast,’ it denigrates me artistically” or even “well, I’ve been a fan since 1997 and you just got here, so you don’t belong in my elite circle.”  This mentality made me think of music in the early 80s.  I lived in a rural area and I did not have MTV until late in 1985.  Given those facts, it was tough to find out about cool, lesser-known bands until their songs hit the radio.  By that point, however, anyone who liked them for their new hit was uncool and the band was a “sellout.”  That mentality never made any sense to me.  Plus, it ruined great bands like The Clash and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Ultimately, I say let people like what they want to like.  Who cares if they got to it through an ad or a mainstream source?  Why bemoan that your social subgroup is now "trendy" and filled with "sellouts, "poseurs," "fakers," and any other pejorative term that comes to mind in order to have a pissing contest?  Who cares if they are relatively new to the genre?  Far better it be that way than to be persecuted for your tastes.  And as I said, Natania Barron is too young of a girl to know what that is like.  That was not a sexist remark.  I have read the essays of many women who left me in awe of their intellect and their ability to express new perspectives on subjects, quite often doing it in a way that I could never hope to execute. 

Given the amount of thought and maturity (or lack thereof) in her piece, Natania is still a girl.

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents

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Friday, October 26, 2012

We must stop the Franken-storm!

I am always amazed to see real world events paralleling what I have once written.

Ok, maybe not written, but I had the idea for it.
I'm assuming you have already heard of if not inundated by the reports of a "superstorm" headed for the east coast of the U.S.  Hurricane Sandy has already caused a fair amount of damage in the Caribbean and is now poised to strike the Carolinas and on up into New England.  Already 500 miles wide, the storm is suspected to collide with a polar air mass over the U.S.  and then all hell shall break loose.  A few meteorologists have already made comparisons to 1991's "perfect storm," the superstorm that hit the Northeast and inspired the fantastic book and okay film of the same name.  In fact, a few of the headlines I have seen have been calling Hurricane Sandy, "Franken-storm."

Cute.  Reminded me of a plot I had once but never sat down to write.  It was a script for a film, actually.  A pity that many of the stars I wanted to cast in the roles have sadly passed away.  Let this be a lesson authors and scribes: when inspiration strikes, don't wait.

Anyway, climate change and human-caused deterioration of the environment one day causes a super-massive hurricane.  The largest in known record.  Funny thing about this hurricane, it becomes self aware.  That's right, the hurricane gained sentience as a living, thinking being.  And it's very unhappy with us over climate change. The final straw was the National Weather Service naming it Hurricane "Britney."  This hurricane gets the United States in its cross-hairs and barrels toward it, unleashing untold destruction.  Who could save us?

Fear not!  A squadron of Air Force pilots is up to the job.  The pilots are played by the creme de la creme of young Hollywood: Ryan Gossling, Kim Kardashian, Jessica Biel, Taylor Lautner, Justin Timberlake, and Tara Reid.  Up and away they go in their F-22s with full missile racks, missiles with warheads that contain hurricane dispersing agents.  Piece of cake, right?

It does not go well.  None of the pilots survive the storm.  Who is left to defend (what's left) of the good ol' US of A?  Old Hollywood, that's who.
A ragtag band of heroes consisting of Tim Conway, Harvey Corman, Don Knotts, Ernest Borgnine, Betty White, Carol Channing, Adam West, and anybody left alive from Green Acres, must now save the day.  They're spry, they're experienced, and they have the tools to get the job done.

You see, I was partly inspired by a whack-o news story I read many years back.  It was in the days post-Katrina in fact.  It was from what is essentially a conspiracy site, but it talks about manipulating the weather.  That's not exactly news as plans have been on the board for military weather control for quite a long time. 

What was interesting about the article's contention was that we supposedly already have the technology to not only move hurricanes out of the way but to steer them wherever we want them to go.  This occurs by using interferometers (yeah I had to look it up, too.  It has to do with the manipulation of electromagnetic waves) to create high and low pressure systems.  In theory, if you have direct control over where these pressure systems are formed, you can steer a hurricane.  Extending the conspiracy notion a bit further, one might wonder then about the timing of the "Franken-storm" being so close to the election. A plot angle I had not considered.

The heroes pack a vintage B-29 bomber with interferometers and fly into the storm.  All except for Ernest Borgnine.  Not wishing to place all of their faith in science, Ernest goes to the Navajo reservation in New Mexico.  There, he works with a shaman to perform a weather ritual in an effort to disperse the superstorm.  This ritual includes a dance around a blazing fire while wearing nothing but a butt thong.  While it gets dicey for a time, the protagonists win the day and the super hurricane fails, but...there is a pledge at the end by humanity to amend our destructive ways.

Then I came to understand that there was a similar "sentient storm" story in Ray Bradbury's short story collection, October Country.  Never read the book, but I suppose that I should.  If I have been thinking even remotely along the same lines as Bradbury, I can be happy.

If you're in the path of Hurricane Sandy, be safe.  It may be a while before anyway admits that the interferometers are operational.

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

News from space

There are two new findings from the realm of astronomy.  Well, "new" is a relative term in this case.  The first news bit probably happened tens of thousands of years ago.

A rare x-ray nova has revealed a black hole.  The Swift satellite operated by NASA detected the x-ray burst last month.  An "x-ray nova," a concept which I had previously been ignorant of, is the result of gas streaming in one enormous rush from a star towards a neutron star or a black hole.  Unlike supernovae, the blast is far smaller and the star is not destroyed.  This particular x-ray stream was detected towards the center of our Milky Way galaxy.  Astronomers are especially excited by this find as x-ray novas are observed fairly infrequently.  Once the amount of x-ray emissions declines, space scientists should be able to measure the size of the black hole.  Don't worry.  This galactic devourer is plenty far away from us.

The planet Jupiter is going through changes.  Aren't we all?
Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is well known for its appearance.  It is a gas giant with horizontally (mostly) striped bands and an enormous "red spot" storm.  A few of these belts of clouds have thinned or disappeared altogether only to reappear later.   Areas of radioactivity have flared up and then diminished.  All the while, Jupiter keeps getting pelted with asteroids and comets. 
So what's up with these uncanny goings-on at the Big J?  As the article states:

"Orton [Glenn Orton of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory] noted that the appearance of upheaval on Jupiter might be attributed to a recent flood of observations by amateur astronomers.
"It does appear that Jupiter is taking an unusual beating over the last few years, but we expect that this apparent increase has more to do with an increasing cadre of skilled amateur astronomers training their telescopes on Jupiter and helping scientists keep a closer eye on our biggest planet," Orton said."

So I suppose in terms of causes, the answer is "wait and see."

What I like about stories such as these is that it they seem to appear about once a month.   That means we're finding new things all the time, thus answering a bit more of the question, "What is our place in the universe?" More and more, I'd have to say that the answer to that would be "very small."

I know, I know.  I sound like Lovecraft.

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

He was Providence

I am in a spooky mood.

I spent this evening at a sharing of ghost stories for our campus literary magazine.  In addition to the hauling out of that old academic chestnut of "why don't any of you like realism?" students and faculty shared their macabre best.  I did read a piece of literary nonfiction, but nothing I could write would ever compare to the terror of H.P. Lovecraft.  In the spirit of the night and since a horror post seems almost obligatory in late October, I thought that I would pay tribute to the master.

I don't often read horror.  But when I do, I prefer H.P. Lovecraft.  He was the granddaddy of the eerie and the supernatural, long before the current crop of whippersnappers came along, like King, Barker, and who ever the hell wrote Twilight.  His terror came from mood, description, and the secret, arcane knowledge that mankind is doomed.  The Old Ones, hideous and god-like entities from beyond that once ruled this world and were worshiped by its peoples, are returning one day to reclaim what is theirs.  Nothing can stop them.  They are above anything we could dish out.  They are above even death.  You might not lose your life when they take over, but you will doubtless lose your sanity.

As you might imagine, Howard Phillips Lovecraft of Providence, Rhode Island, was a strange young man.  That comes with the territory for most any writer but particularly so for one whose fever-oppressed brain harbors such notions.  He was troubled, experiencing "night terrors" as a child, believing that he was being assaulted by faceless "night gaunts." Later in life, Lovecraft suffered a nervous breakdown allegedly while trying to master mathematics so that he might become an astronomer.  I can relate.  Tormented and depressed, he began to find social interactions tedious and awkward.  I'm seeing a pattern here.

Lovecraft saw himself as an outsider to humanity.  Yep, pattern still on track.  In fact, one of his short stories is directly inspired by this notion, a story titled, aptly enough, The Outsider.  I refuse to give any of its secrets away.  Instead I will simply urge you to read it.  The author was known to have had no interest in the trifles of common humanity as opposed the darkness of the supernatural and the unknown.  It was this paradigm that allowed him to bring forth his tales of ancient gods, ones that were around far before Christianity, perhaps his own dig at organized religion.  Primary among these gods was Cthulhu, who awaits dreaming in the depths.

It was his own detachment from society that I believed allowed Lovecraft to write such wonderful and inspiring work.  He saw humanity for what it is: a pittance, no more significant to the cosmos than the ants that get stepped on as we walk.  Whereas many of his contemporary writers were attempting to hoist up and revel in humanity's stature, Lovecraft wanted to delate us and see us taken down multiple pegs.  I can relate.  Yet another check mark.

So I don't often read horror.  But when I do, I prefer H.P. Lovecraft.

Stay sane, my friends.

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The future...again

Every now and then, we get it wrong.

Futurists, I mean.  In fact, it really wouldn’t surprise me if futurists, for all the parturient posturing, were wrong about the future more often than correct.  Sure, there are legends of the field but I would posit they are exceptions and not the rule.  Popular Science magazine recently posted an article that revisited a few of its predictions from 1925.  The title of the piece is 8 Absurd Predictions About the Future That Sorta Came True.”  The original article was written by a man named A.M. Low (not sure if that’s a pseudonym) and here are a few of the vintage predictions:

-Men will be bald and will wear a hat “almost continuously.”  While it doesn’t appear that Low offered much in the way of a rationale for this aspect of the future, shaving one’s head partially or totally in today’s world is not an uncommon occurrence.  I can see the appeal.  It’s low maintenance and not without a certain chic appeal.

-We will eat our meals out of tubes.  "His breakfast may come from the communal kitchen by tubes,” said Low of this future man.  Please pardon the sexism, but the writing is indicative of that 1920s mentality.  Anyway, as gross as the prediction may sound, Popular Science is correct in pointing out that it partially came to pass.  Consider Yoplait’s Go-Gurt and Skippy’s Squeeze.  While they weren’t exactly big sellers, the attempt was made.  Low may have foreseen this accurately.  It just did not catch on as he anticipated.

-Low envisioned a business world where workers would meet by television.  Indeed, it’s called video conferencing and we have only begun to work with its applications through platforms such as Skype.  Why more people in the workforce don’t utilize this tool is beyond me.

-In the future, we will all have flying cars.  "There will be a wonderful Pegasus vehicle, an aerocar, that can fly as well as ply the roads."  Ok, now I’m peeved.  Where’s my flying car?  Yes, yes, I know that prototypes exist, but we’re a long way from proving anything.

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Listen to the sounds of space

It sounds like a cliche.

Multiple high-pitched whines, up and down scales that sound like they're being played on a clown's slide whistle, eerie tones worthy of a theremin.  It might as well be the score and sound effects from a 1950s, grade-b, scifi, pop trash movie.

But they are the actual recordings from space.  The sounds were acquired by one of NASA's Radiation Storm Belt Probes.  These space probes orbit within the Earth's radiation belts, a dangerous field of highly-charged particles.  The chirpy sounds, called "chorus" by astronomers, are fascinating to hear...and actually a bit ominous as well. 

One recording of immediate interest is that of "the whistler." As described in the linked NPR piece, a whistler is the sound of a lightning strike on Earth.  The strike emits a vast range of radio signals, spewing out into space, giving the listener that unique, as I call it "slide whistle" sound.  Of course, the amount of "solar wind" being kicked out by the Sun at any given moment has its effects as well.

Not only does this make me consider the stand-by quote of "the universe is stranger than we can imagine," it justifies all those aforementioned sound effects.  Yes, the "cheesy" ones.  They have an actual basis in fact.  The recorded sounds also cause my imagination to percolate.  For years, both Americans and Russians joked that there was a "great galactic ghoul" that struck down our probes as they headed for Mars.  Given our dicey record of reaching the Red Planet, it's easy to see how that joke came to be.  The recordings from our radiation belts sound like such an entity, howling and mocking us for our puny, acephalous space efforts of the past few years.

While listening to those sounds, a "ghoul" almost doesn't sound so far fetched after all. 

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents

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Friday, October 19, 2012

The need for "Feed"

Our freshmen class has just finished reading an eyebrow-raising book.

It's called Feed, by M.T. Anderson.  A work of science fiction (Gasp! Science fiction taught in the academy??), Feed tells the stories of two teenagers.  These teens live in a future where implanted devices allow constant connection to the Internet straight into their heads.  Then a hacker brings the whole Net down...and the kids are not alright.  They're in a hospital, disconnected from the Internet, lost without their feed.

As was obviously the intent of the author, this had me thinking about "Internet addiction."   Just how much do I "need feed?" Those times that I have been disconnected from the Net, whether it be because I forgot my smartphone at home or simply did not have access at my disposal, I believe that I felt the symptoms of withdrawal.  I felt like part of my brain was turned off.  Am I addicted?  Does "Internet addiction" truly exist?

I believe we may be oversimplifying the occurrence.  After all, we're addicted to oxygen, aren't we?  Perhaps our technology is not only being integrated within our selves, but it is also an extension of us.  We reach out and inhabit cyberspace, squatting on our blogs or Facebook walls, interacting through avatars in SecondLife or in online games.  All of this is still relatively new phenomena and not only are we yet to learn the full implications of it, we're still trying to adequately define it.  Just how much is an avatar representative of our identity?  More than one might think, I imagine, especially if the avatar's creator has invested a great deal of her/his self into it.  There we are again, inserting ourselves into cyberspace.

I should probably note just what I mean by "cyberspace." For that, I'll refer you to a piece by science fiction author, Rudy Rucker.  In it, Rucker details "four different kinds of cyberspace." For our purposes here, I'm going to be daring and call it a smooshed-up, mash-up, amalgamation of all four.  But Jon, how can you claim this to be part of the science fiction aspects that Rudy Rucker describes for cyberspace?  Because I'm looking ahead.

In an ironic reversal of the neo-Luddite's plaintive bleat that online life is "not real," I believe that we will soon be migrating to cyberspace in order to "get real." We will be able to better modify our existence and surroundings within that realm as we transfer into robot bodies in "meatspace." I know it sounds far out, but so did many things at one point. 

That's not the truly weird part, though.  As technological advancements proceed at a veloce pace, the more we migrate to inhabit cyberspace, the more information that piles upon itself, what are the chances that an entirely new form of life might arise from within the sea of information?  Yes, I know what I'm talking about is perilously close to the concept behind Ghost in the Shell, but the idea has always captivated me.  Just what will sprout forth from our digital primordial soup?

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Arion: Lord of Atlantis

It came from the 50 cent bin.

Since I'm not a fan of most contemporary comics, I spend a lot of time in the used back issues section of my comic book store.  Sure, you have to root through several piles of "Rise of the Midnight Sons" crossovers and Dakota North, but every once in a while you find what you're looking for.  Or, you find something that you've never tried but always meant to.

Such is the case with Arion: Lord of Atlantis.  I'd heard of the character before and even read his crossover with Superman back in the middle of the last decade, but I never read Arion solely.  Other than that, my only working knowledge of the character came from 2002 when I finally sat down and read Crisis On Infinite Earths start to finish.  In that opus, Arion became a significant figure in Power Girl's post-Crisis background.  Perhaps I should back up.

Arion started out in 1982 as a backup in the DC Comics series, Warlord.  I was reading that series around then too, but my backup was Omac.  Not that bad, but I didn't get introduced to Arion.  But I digress...

Arion is a wizard, a powerful mage from the kingdom of Atlantis.  The character's birth was set in the year 45,000 B.C., so that should give you an idea of the setting where the series takes place.  On his many adventures, Arion is aided by the trope of two companions, thus creating a triad.  One of these characters is Wyynde, an Atlantean Guardsman and Lady Chian, Arion's hot squeeze and master of the sword.  What's interesting to me is how both of Arion's adventure companions are representative of the cool mixing of cultures that the Arion series provides.  Somewhat hinting at the theory that states that during the time of Atlantis, all of the world's cultures intermingled.  Wyynde is based on Native Americans while Lady Chian is Japanese in nature.  There are other influences, including Egyptian, Mayan, and medieval European.

These aforementioned adventures included staving off an ice age and sword and sorcery battles with the evil wizard, Garn Daanuth.  Almost too many battles, that is if one of the reader letters in the issue I have is accurate.  That said issue is number 22, wherein Arion and his companions sail the high seas and have pirate-like shenanigans in a coastal port of call, all of it involving ombudsmen and the magical properties of a golden icon.  Great fun.

That's what I have on him.  The DCU wiki has precious little else.  
I therefore need to find more Arion comics.  That means more time tunneling through the 50 cent bins.

 I am just fine with that.

My e-novella, Hound of Winter is available for only 99 cents

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mexico's "Roswell"

As if we don't have enough trouble getting a straight story about our own Roswell...

I had read a few things about "Mexico's Roswell," seen the UFO Hunters episode featuring it.  However, I had never given the case much consideration and I thought it was about time that I changed my condition of ignorance.  Again, this is a situation where the seasoned Ufologist will find nothing new in what I'm presenting in the post, so if you are a Coyame expert or a UFO researcher...then I guess I'll see you tomorrow.

Where did I get the information for this post?  Mostly from the link above and therefore I would not call this post a "definitive account" (please see my comments on Research.)  I'm just trying to get a feel for what happened, the mucro of things if you will, and...most critically...see what evidence is available in the case.  Thus far, I am given to understand that the case first came to light via a narrative mailed anonymously to UFO researchers.  Again, anonymous.  Let's put all that aside for the time being and just take a look at what (supposedly) happened...

Alternatively called the Coyame Incident or the Chihuahua Incident, the event took place in late August of 1974.  A Cessna took off from El Paso, Texas headed for Mexico City.  A UFO was also spotted by military radar over the Gulf of Mexico.  The UFO headed into Mexican airspace and approached the small plane near the US border in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.  Both radar contacts then disappeared.

According to the submitted narrative described at the link, the CIA intercepted radio transmissions from Mexican authorities that gave away the location of two downed aircraft with one of them being circular in shape.  A US military response team set out for the site in four UH-1 Huey helicopters and one Sea Stallion helicopter.  These aircraft were said to be painted a neutral, sand color and were devoid of any markings as this operation was undertaken without consent of the Mexican government.

Before the team could arrive on site, the Mexican military had recovered both aircraft and placed them on flatbed trucks in order to convoy the wreckage out of the area.  Once the cargo was loaded, the convoy headed south.  This where things get truly weird.  Spy satellites and recon flights eventually indicated that the convoy had completely stopped. Doors were open on a few of the vehicles and there were two human bodies visible on the ground.  All contact between the convoy and their military base had ceased. 

When the helicopters arrived on the scene, the recovery team (wearing bio-hazard suits of course) found all of the Mexican military personnel dead, many of them still seated within their trucks or jeeps.  There was no sign that these men had attempted to use their weapons prior to dying.  The recovery team then flew off with the UFO from the flatbed and the bodies of the dead troops.  Everything else on the scene, including the wreckage from the Cessna, was destroyed with high explosives.

Beyond being a case of a UFO crash and the conspiracy angle of military recovery teams, this purported incident has the compelling twist of the mysterious deaths of the Mexican soldiers.  The accounts given (again from this anonymous source) say that preliminary examination of the corpses suggested death by some sort of asphyxiation.  Did a chemical or biological agent leak out of the UFO's ruptured hull?  There is also no indication as to whether or not alien bodies were discovered at the crash as allegedly happened in the Roswell incident.  It may be that the rapid response team was not equipped to transport alien remains.  Then again, if they could throw everything else together so quickly, you'd think they would have thought of transporting such an eventuality.

As you might imagine, nobody is talking.  The Mexican military denies any such incident happened and that no soldiers were ever lost.  An article from Wikipedia (loathe as I am to cite them) gives the names, ranks, and serial numbers of each Mexican soldier said to have died. True or not, the Mexican military still denies that the men ever existed in the first place.

In terms of evidence, I still don't know.  Fortunately, several books have been written on this subject, so it looks like I have even more to add to my reading list.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Leaving Earth

I came across this staggering video the other day.

It's nothing new.  Been around for several years but I just now got around to seeing it.  It's a video taken from the MESSENGER space probe.  Launched in 2004, the mission for MESSENGER was to explore the planet Mercury.  Despite Mercury's close proximity to Earth, at least in astronomical terms, we really know little about it.  Towards the purpose of exploration, MESSENGER became the first spacecraft to orbit the planet, sending back photos and readings on Mercury's geological and chemical composition as well as studies of its magnetic field.

The video is from the perspective of MESSENGER as it leaves Earth.  In time-elapse, we watch one full rotation from the Earth, truly looking like a big blue/white/versicolor marble in space.

We humans tend to think that the universe was created just for us.  That's a specious assumption.  Watch the video.  Watch as everything you know and have grows smaller and smaller the more distant you get from it.  Everything your entire life is wrapped up on one, minor-sized planet within an enormous, almost infinite, black void.  Just watch it all disappear into a tiny speck.  Sort of puts things in perspective, I think.

Whatever your views, this video is worth a couple two or three watches.

"This is planet Earth...
-Duran Duran

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Free Form Friday

Forgive me if I've done this before.

What would you do if your "livelihood" did not depend upon it?

Before anyone gets too Republican, I'm not advocating for "socialism" or an end to work.  I also understand that the principle of survival has always entailed efforts beyond one's inclinations.  Today, that survival is dependent upon money.

What would you do if you didn't need money?  Try this as a mental exercise.  I predict that there would be a segment of people who would still continue to buy and to sell and to aim their efforts towards the acquisition of wealth.  Commerce for them is important and inherent to their being.  There would be yet another collective who would engage in...nothing.  I wouldn't call them lazy, it's just that their leanings may be more towards the micro end of the spectrum.

But there would be yet another, perhaps most sizable contingent who would throw themselves into something altogether different from what they are forced to do now.

What would you do?

Would you be a forest ranger?  A painter?  A gardener?  Or worse yet...a writer?

I have a hunch it would be something creative.

It seems to me that these pursuits are indicative of what I would call "an authentic life."  Don't ask me to define that.  It's a lot like the Supreme Court's definition of pornography: I know it when I see it.  There is a sense that comes with such a life calling.  Something inside the stomach, causing it to spark active and transmit a message to the brain: this is who I am and what I am supposed to be.

How many of us, however, truly get to live within that zone full time?  If you do, great.  But understand that many others have not.  Of course a popular argument would be that those individuals who have not are "just not working hard enough."  Uh-huh.

How many of us live what H.D. Thoreau called "quiet lives of desperation"?  The artifice of "the system" denies a great many of us "an authentic life."

None of us asked to be born.  Think about that for a moment.  Might sound silly or facile, but it is the truth.  We are expected to pay for a place in a world (to "earn a living") that no one ever consulted us about joining.  If you knew all there is to know about this life prior to birth, would you still sign up?  I assume that many would say "yes" out of fear of contemplating the alternative.  Me, I would give strong consideration to oblivion.

I didn't ask to exist and yet I do.  For that fact, I am expected to earn and to pay.
Consider that when you next confront someone who does not live according to American philosophy.  Be not vindictive towards them, but magnanimous.
So here's to hoping for "an authentic life" before we all meet by and by. 

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Supercomputer...on the Moon!

Just getting back to the Moon would be an undertaking, but why stop there?

As detailed in a recent article in Wired magazine, why not build a supercomputer on the Moon?  After all, NASA has been worried for years now about a deep-space network traffic jam on the horizon.  The agency's own IT honchos have warned that the data needs for planned spacecraft will be many times more than can currently be handled.  A supercomputing center on the Moon might go a long way in alleviating that bottleneck.

It is the plan of one Ouliang Chang, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California.  In Chang's vision, the massive computer would be buried in a crater facing away from Earth, thus cutting down on electromagnetic interference.  The site would be nuclear powered and cooled both by the Moon's naturally frigid temperatures and large deposits of water known to exist on the Moon.  It would be the beginning of the Earth Deep Space Network being extended to the lunar surface and beyond.  As quoted in the Wired article:

" “Once the physical infrastructure backbone is laid out, I suspect it would look much like the monolith excavation site in Clarke and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey,” says Chang’s course supervisor Madhu Thangavelu, of USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. "

I'm down with that.  Still, the typical response to a plan such as this, and not without good reason, is "how much will all of this cost?"  The current estimates according to the article are between 10 billion and 20 billion dollars.  Neat, huh?  The litote "not at all inexpensive" doesn't even begin to cover it.

But if this project is an impetus that will get us back to the Moon, maybe it needs serious consideration.  I'm not blind to the cost or the questions raised over both feasibility and utility, but the fact is that we never should have left the Moon.  The Apollo program never should have ended.  Ideally, we should have had manned missions to Mars by now and perhaps even to the outer planets as well.  Maybe such endeavors would have helped us come up a solution to the gravity problem, meaning the deleterious effects zero g has on human bones after long periods of time.

The fact is that any future and further projects that aim to go beyond what we've already done will indeed require a great deal of computing power.  Maybe this is what we really need.  Plus the geek in me just thinks that a supercomputer/Moon base would just be too cool.

One point, however: if indeed the proposed base is to resemble the site from 2001, then somebody needs to put up a monolith in the center of it all.  For tribute if nothing else.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review--The Day After Roswell

by Col. Philip J. Corso with William J. Birnes

This is the account of the late Philip Corso, colonel in the United States Army and as he tells it, overseer of alien technology.  As the title implies, this story has its true beginning with the UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico of July 1947.  Corso tells of the various forms of alien technology and entities that were recovered from the crash site.  With the experience of being the head of the Army's Foreign Technology Desk in Research and Development, Corso led the effort to reverse engineer this technology and turn it into night vision goggles, stealth aircraft, fiber optics, integrated circuits, and numerous other technologies that we now take for granted.

I'm sure that Col. Philip Corso was a nice guy.  And as with anyone who has worn a uniform and served to protect, he deserves the gratitude and respect of every American.

That said, the account this book puts forth has all the earmarks of a Walter Mitty story.  In the famous short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the titular character daydreams of fantastic lives that he will never lead, all of them far more grandiose than his grim reality.
While Corso's account is not to this magnitude, there does seem to be a larger than necessary amount of chest puffing.  We are regaled with paragraphs explaining how "I was in charge of this" and "I was one of only a few people who knew that" and "I met the Pope" (not making that one up) and so forth.  He was military brass.  We get the picture.  So why do we need the photo of him getting a medal pinned to his chest?  What does that have to do with Roswell?

Then there is the matter of the "reverse engineering."  We get the impression from Corso's account that damn near any advancement in technology in the past 60 years or so has its roots in alien hardware found at the Roswell crash.  That just does not sit right with me.  For one, this notion gives the same short shrift to human ingenuity that the "ancient aliens" crowd does.  Secondly, a few of the technologies Corso mentions were actually around before Roswell happened, at least in conceptual forms.  For example, Tesla and other scientists had thought of lasers and the Germans were experimenting with early forms of stealth and night vision.  The stealth aspect leads to further questioning.  If these UFOs are so stealthy, why did they register on radar during several sightings, most notably the Washington D.C. mass sighting of 1952?

That point is just one of the apparent inconsistencies in the book. Corso claims that we shot a UFO down over Rammstein Air Force Base in the late 1970s.  How could we manage that with our comparatively less sophisticated missile systems?  Corso asserts that he saw an alien body encased in a "goo" inside a crate at an army base in Kansas.  The crates were supposedly on trucks from Roswell.  Why would the military fly the wreckage of the craft out of Roswell but not the bodies?  After all, the bodies are going decompose.  The UFO material logically should not.  It just makes me wonder. 

There are other, similar allegations that made me sit up and ask "how could he possibly know that?"  Much of this may come from co-author Bill Birnes.  Birnes is the chief editor of UFO Magazine and the former host of UFO Hunters.  I like Bill a lot.  However, he has a flare for the dramatic.  I have to question how much of this might have been amplified for dramatic effect.

Most of all, the book offers precious little in the way of evidence to back up the claims.  There are appendices with a few intra-governmental memos and detailed plans for a hypothetical military base on the Moon, but nothing that really supports Corso's accounts.  While I don't expect classified documents to be published along with the story, in the absence of evidence I am still forced to call it just that: one man's story.   

Though grievously flawed, this book does have its merits.  Corso neatly explains just how a cover-up can be implemented by the government.  It's all about compartmentalization and "seeding" the military-industrial complex with the alien technology in isolated sectors.  For example, highly trained engineers may be given fiber optics and asked to work them into military applications.  The engineers might say, "Wow!  Where did you get this?" and the reply can be, "Dunno, it's something the boys in R&D came up with."  Additionally, Corso confirms the existence of Majestic-12 and even goes into the theory that the "aliens" are actually biomechanical constructs or even time travelers.

In short, The Day After Roswell can only be one of two things: 1) One of the most important books ever published or 2) One man's musings based upon a small kernel of fact.

Unfortunately, I must place my money on the latter. 

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jack Parsons: Science and Magic

There sure has been a lot of news from NASA over the past few months.

What with the Curiosity rover actually making it to Mars and surviving its "9 minutes of terror" or whatever the amount of time they billed it as.  Just today, NASA announced that Curiosity had performed its first scooping of soil and discovered a "bright, shiny object" on the ground that as yet remains unidentified.  Let the speculations commence.

While Curiosity is progress, even though I personally think we should be doing more, the news has jogged my mental files and caused me to recall one of NASA's most compelling...and strange...characters: Jack Parsons.

No, not that guy from The Big Bang Theory.

Jack Parsons did not work for NASA itself but rather did research during the agency's incipient, forerunner years.  At Caltech in the 1940s, Parsons researched rocket propulsion.  Yes, he was someone you could actually call a "rocket scientist."  In fact, it was Parson's knowledge of chemistry and his work on solid fuel that made later rockets a possibility for the space program and the military.  Parsons was also a founding member of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an entity that would later belong to NASA. There are those that claim that the organization's name was always a front and that the initials JPL really stood for "Jack Parsons Lab."

Here's the rub, however.  The fact that he was a scientist and made significant contributions to space travel would have been interesting enough.  But the strange story of Jack Parsons goes further than just that dimension.

Parsons was deeply involved in the occult.  So much so that he was a devotee of British mystic and occultist Aleister Crowley.  In time, Crowley even made Parsons the leader of the American branch of Crowley's mystic lodge, Order Templi Orientis. Among one of the more eyebrow raising of Parson's occult activities was his attempt at conceiving a "Moonchild" with his girlfriend through a sex magic ritual.  No child came about from this union.

As I said, all of this is more than sufficient to make Parsons an interesting character, but Parsons was also a science fiction fan and hung around with a few of the genre's more luminary figures.  Robert Heinlein was a friend, as was L. Ron Hubbard.  Although Hubbard was not much of a "friend" for long as he absconded by sea with a great deal of Parsons' money...and his girlfriend.  According to the book Sex and Rockets by John Carter, Parsons was said to have returned to his Florida hotel room after the Hubbard betrayal in order to conjure a typhoon via an invocation of Bartzebel, an entity that also supposedly rules over Mars.  This storm was to be sent smite Hubbard in is escape boat.

Oddly enough, a storm did arise at sea, one that shredded the sails of Hubbard's boat and forced him back to a Florida port. The results of Parsons' incantations?  Or does it have more to do with that region being especially prone to squalls at a moment's notice?  You decide.

Sadly, the life of Jack Parsons was cut short in 1952 at the mere age of 37.  While in his home laboratory, Parsons was killed by an explosion of fulminate mercury.  Many have disputed the circumstances of the detonation, intimating that Parsons' death was in actuality a murder, but nothing has surfaced to alter the official story.  Makes sense.  There were probably enough volatile chemicals in the lab to cause an explosion from multiple sources.  It just happened to be the mercury. 

A tragic end but it just seems to...I don't  I wish I could have created a character like Jack Parsons.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Virtual RPG massacre

Depiction of "primitive virtual life." 

If it had happened in meatspace, it would have been one of the most horrific wholesale murders in history.

Hackers broke into the online game World of Warcraft and massacred all the characters in a few of the virtual world's major cities.  As you can see from clicking the link, the BBC ran the story accompanied by a pic of the in-world carnage captioned, "the virtual dead of Orgrimmar."

"  Olivia Grace, contributing editor of website WoW Insider, said: "It was a significant hack.
"They discovered a method to roll a level-one [beginner] character, which ran to the major cities.
"We don't know exactly what they did, but somehow they were able to kill every single player's character in that city and every single computer controlled character - and they were doing this repeatedly."  "

 Though this in-world issue has already been hot-fixed, this is not the first time such an affliction has struck Warcraft.  Back in 2005, in what has come to be known as the "Corrupted Blood Incident" amongst WoW devotees, a virtual plague that spread amongst in-world characters.  Again, Orgrimmar was struck.  Is Orgrimmar the Detroit of WoW?  The city that just can't catch a break?  Regardless, the plague incident was even studied by epidemiologists as a virtual case of how people might respond to pandemics.

The implications of all of this are fascinating to me.  Just imagining such afflictions running through a virtual world in a similar manner as they would in the "real"'s like a Philip K. Dick novel.  It also justifiably brings up many philosophical questions such as those addressed by Plato's allegory of the cave and questions such as "what is real?" and others that might only be answered or defined through apohasis.

Not to go too Matrix on you, but these musings do eventually lead me back around to pondering, "is our universe really a virtual reality simulation?"  Could actual incidents of mass murder such as those that unfolded in Origrimmar be an experiment?  A "test for response" that is then studied in much the same way that the "Corrupted Blood Incident" was evaluated as a model for biological attack?  Or perhaps worse yet, such tragedies are the result of a "glitch" in the source code?  In The Matrix, humans were harnessed for their electrical output.  Could our suffering be generating energy for someone else somehow?  It's a far out hypothesis, so I recognize that I am merely free-associating (or free-basing as a few might no doubt allege.) When we search for the cure for a disease, are we really looking for a code "patch" or "fix" as happened with Warcraft?  Could the administrators of this simulation we call "life" be treating us with the same cold, callous regard of a say...a Grey alien?

That's a direction I'd rather not go towards.  As is the "God" question.  Would it not make sense for the gods of both Eastern and Western religions to be in-world representations of the nebulous overlords that run the simulation and observe us?  Sure does suck when your established paradigms are ripped asunder.

Keep in mind this just me thinking aloud.  The idea of computer-generated, simulated "worlds" fascinates me.  The idea that our same societal ills and strife might follow us into these worlds only makes it more intriguing to me. 

Something to think about as you kill your next orc in World of Warcraft.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mars Attacks! An appreciation

First, get the "Ack!  Ack!  Ack!" out of your brain.

I have nothing against the Tim Burton version of Mars Attacks!  It's a hilarious take on the premise and it's all worth it just to see SPOILER Tom Jones save the day.  "I can fly a plane."   Good stuff.

But for me, the true enjoyment of Mars Attacks comes in the kitschy, pulp sci-fi collectible cards that Topps released back in the early 1960s.  It was an intriguing idea in my opinion, an entire narrative arc told through individual cards.  If you collected all of the card sets, then you got the entire story.

And what a story.  Once more, Earth is subject to an invasion by Martians.  Not a terribly new idea, but I am sucker for an "us vs. the aliens" pulpy bit of sci-fi.  Mars Attacks had that sensibility in spades.  The Martians had enormous brains and skull-like facial features.  They wore clear, bubble-like space helmets, and of course they arrived in flying saucers.

The mode of attack, however, for these Martians, was a bit unique.  True, their saucers destroyed buildings and landmarks with laser beams or "death rays" as I believe the cards called them.  But the Martians had other tactics of terror and destruction.  One of their methods of attack was to enlarge normal Earth insects to monstrous size and then control the newly-formed behemoths to due the bidding of Mars.  This builds upon the popular and oh so delicious atomic horror trope of B-movie sci-fi from the time period.  Then there are the robots.  The enormous, Robby-like robots, that the Martians deploy as additional weapons against us.

We fight back, but it's futile at first.  Our conventional land, sea, and air forces aren't much against laser-firing spaceships and monster bugs.  That's why SPOILER we take the fight to Mars.  In wonderful, old-style rocketships that are straight out of Buck Rogers, the story becomes one of "Earth attacks" as "our boys" invade the Red Planet and then nuke it from orbit.  After all, that's the only way to be sure.

What really made all of this work was the painted work of artist Norman Saunders.  It all looked so vivid and real yet with an almost a Norman Rockwell brightness to it.  It might have worked a bit too well.

The cards were derided by parents who cried out with agita at the art's graphic nature.  Blood and gore were prevalent throughout the series.  For example, one card features a US Army soldier carrying a bazooka.  He gets hit by a Martian's laser beam and bursts into flames while screaming.  The caption for the card?  "Human Torch." Flame on!

There were also sexual overtones to the cards.  Oftentimes, women were depicted in situations of capture or distress, often with their clothing shredded.  All of this caused Topps to halt production of the cards, partly due to pressure from a Connecticut district attorney.

We've come upon the 50th anniversary of the Mars Attacks cards this year.  It's a milestone in science fiction.  Various reissues and celebrations are going on, such as a new comic book line from IDW and Wired is holding a contest giveaway for a hardcover collection of all the art from the cards.  The site retroCRUSH has a nice gallery of all the cards.

Good thing the landing of the Curiosity rover proved there are no Martians on Mars.

Or did it?

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The artist Kardif

Art is not often covered on Geeks Are Sexy.

At least not fine art.  Before I open myself up for "what is fine art?" and other pretentious debates, allow me to get to the subject of today's post.

My daily email from GAS featured an entry about artist Kathy Tardif, or "Kardif" as she signs her canvases.  Tardif is a Canadian painter, so her website in that link is in both English and French.  Like many artists, Tardif says in her personal statement that she creates art because she has to.

"My painting is a blend of figurative and abstract art and I compose without boundaries; embracing the unexpected and the accidental. This improvised approach allows me to explore beyond reality within imaginary universes of my own. I surrender to the feeling; the movement; the intuition and inspiration flows from the colours emerging on the canvas."

Reinventing My Life, the painting that accompanied the GAS entry and the one that I've included above, was immediately arresting.  I don't know if it was the title being suggestive given my current state of affairs or what, but the piece really spoke to me.  "Figurative and abstract art" is indeed the best description for "Kardif's" work.  I would study the piece on my computer and then walk away for a while.  Upon returning to it, I always had a new interpretation of the artist's intent.

Sometimes I see a forest with a waterfall in its center.  Other times I see a New England village nestled amidst dense trees with leaves just turning for the fall.  One street runs through the town.  The author of the GAS entry said the painting at times looked like a ruined city of the past.  I hadn't considered that take on it, but I can see where he's coming from.  I am also most intrigued by the way Tardif incorporates text into a painting.  The text is there in a sort of script form, but it is not entirely legible.  Like garbled signals through a radio static of beautiful noise.

The portfolio gallery on Tardif's website is no less impressive than Reinventing My Life.   Une page de ma vie is another favorite of mine.  The free-floating cubes above a desolate roadway...or at least that's how I see it.  The dark shades creeping in from peripheries, symbolizing how uncertain our path ahead of us is and how even the search for truth is a mysterious and undetermined venture.  Again, that's how I see it.

And that is the beauty of Kardif and much of great art.  You are free to interpret.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Transhumanism 101 with Natasha Vita-More

She is the "first female philosopher of transhumanism."

Dr. Natasha Vita-More is an artist and designer and the host of H+ tv online.  She is also one of the driving creative forces behind the notion of transhumanism.   Recently, she sat down for a Singularity 1-on-1 interview to take us all to class.  Get out your notebooks and your number two pencils, kids.  Dr. Vita-More is about to expose the hamartias of the Luddites and wash away the misconceptions and apprehensions of transhumanism.  This is Transhumanism 101 and here are a few of my favorite bits from the interview:

-Did Mary Shelley do more harm than good by writing Frankenstein?  That was the question posed by Socrates at Singularity.  Vita-More had a balanced response.  Yes, Frankenstein made many terrified of science and technology run amok, but many wonderful books came from this line of thought. 

-"In academics," said Vita-More, "Transhumanism is a threat to post-modernism."
I am very impressed with Dr. Vita-More's scholarship and academic reasoning.  I may have to read her dissertation.

-"Rather than complain about the future, let's get in there and do something about it.  Transhumanism allows to have perspective on that."

- "We back up our computers, why aren't we backing up ourselves?"

-"Transhumanism as the 'world's most dangerous idea' is a silly thing."

-"Transhumanism is an evolution from being exclusively human in our biology...and therefore in our becoming trans-biological, merging with technology and improving the physiological performance of our bodies."

-There is a difference between transhuman and cyborg.  The notion of the cyborg turns out to have been born in space exploration; that humans would need augmented bodies to deal with the environment of space.  Our environment has changed, we therefore must augment our bodies (e.g. sunscreen to protect the skin from increased UV rays.)  Cyborgs and cybernetics do not direct evolution and cognition in the way that transhumanism does.

-"Transhumanism is a worldview and the philosophy of extropy is transhumanism."

-On human dignity being located in our genes, Dr. Vita-More rightly places that sense of dignity back in the human ability to solve problems.  I take "problems" to be issues that come with disease and age.  Interfacing with technology will go a great way towards mitigating these issues.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

UFO the Gold Key way

There I was.

A budding and impressionable Ufologist.

My curiosity for the UFO phenomena had already been stoked by books in the library and Leonard Nimoy's In Search Of.  Then Gold Key Comics came along and kept me awake for weeks.  That was silly, just plain dumb, even, in retrospect.  I shall explain.

From age six, I collected comic books.  By convergence of zeitgeist, that was around the same time as when I became interested in UFO sightings.  It was therefore not a far stretch for my grandmother to imagine that I would enjoy UFO Flying Saucers by Gold Key Comics.  She gave me a small stack of Gold Keys when I went to visit her one summer.  Sure, I was a solid Marvel and occasional DC reader at that time and Gold Key's art was perpetually hokey-looking to me (except for the covers, those were always engaging and captivating), but free comics were always welcome and utile.

Amid the issues of Space Family Robinson and Korak: Son of Tarzan was an issue of UFO Flying Saucers.  What struck me about that latter comic was the assertion that the stories between the covers were based on actual UFO reports.  While I'm certain that's stretching things (to say the least), the encounters detailed in the issues were actually terrifying.  In most cases, the UFO occupants meant out and out harm to humans.  At that age, I was swallowing everything I read about UFO phenomena without hesitation or the filter of critical thought.  If the comic declared "based on actual reports," then I believed that a little boy and his dog really were cornered by an eight-foot tall alien.  Thus, I spent many a night with the covers pulled over my head after reading UFO Flying Saucers.  Come to think of it, these stories might have been my very first exposure to the horrifying notion of alien abduction.

Yeah, UFOs started to scare me.

To be fair, I did later realize that the comics series would include brief profiles of famous UFO hoaxes.  One of the issues even did a cursory retelling of the panic that resulted from Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, though how that qualifies as a "UFO hoax" leaves one wondering.  Had I paid more attention to the hoax pages, perhaps that would have eased my worries.

True or not, I do believe that the Gold Key UFO comics are a repository of a sort of "lost era" in Ufology.  These days we're accustomed to fairly homogenized UFO reports.  If the witness met the occupants of the craft, said beings are typically of the "Grey" or "reptoid" variety.  Back in the 1950s and 60s however, there were UFO reports of all stripes and shapes.  Really, truly bizarre encounters with Gumby-like aliens, vegetable creatures, and dozens of other varieties of craft occupants.  The interactions could be peaceful exchanges, violent clashes, or just plain silliness.  While the vast majority of those reports can be either explained away or attributed to exaggerators and the mentally ill, the reports still constitute an era in Ufology.

Interesting that one of our more captivating records of this time is Gold Key Comics.

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