Monday, December 31, 2012

Obligatory New Year's post

If you have followed Esoteric Synaptic Events for a while, then you know I am no fan of either New Year's Eve or Day.

Sure, I know it's a sacrosanct day of observance for drunks everywhere, but I just never could get into the stupid thing.  Same goes for New Year's Resolutions.  I make them just like anybody seems to and like many others, they last for about one week.  Just as I'm sure everyone else is blogging about on this day, I have set the goal to eat more fruit and vegetables and to get more exercise.  Yeah, we'll see how that works out.

I have also resolved to glue myself to a strict writing schedule as I have so many things I wish to write and very few of them actually seem to come to realization.  Part of that is due to social and private life pressures, but I'll admit...this blog and my commitment to daily posts also gets in the way a bit.  I'm thinking that maybe the two need to come together on occasion to save time.  Will I share more rough-draft fiction writing on these pages?

Don't know yet.  I just know that I have a sweeping epic of an "alien on Earth" story that I've barely dipped my toes into and I have strong ideas for an "environmental disaster/US civil war" thriller in my head.  Also, I've been in talks with a strange cat about his own writing.  I think his name is "Jake Timber" or something like that but I'm not sure.  More on that as it develops.  I also know that I need to read more.  Any good writer needs to commit to that task.  If for no other reason than to no longer be caught in the embarrassment of admitting, "uh no, I've never read that Rudy Rucker novel."

What else can offer you this New Year's Eve?  Hmmm...

Well, Boston Dynamics has built a cool ass robot.

The Talking Heads are cool.

As is this timely and fitting cut from U2

Thank you for reading, please keep doing so in the New Year, and I wish you all my best for 2013.

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

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Are you prepared for...ferret flu?

Ferrets.  They're cute.  They're cuddly.  They're potential spreaders of a killer disease.

In their year in review, Discover cheerfully points out two virologists have already mutated a strand of the avian flu ("bird flu") so that it might spread among ferrets.  Specifically, the alteration of the H1N1 virus was so that it might attach itself to the upper airways of mammals, albeit in this case only ferrets.

Condemnations were quick.  As stated in the article, The New York Times called it a "doomsday weapon" that could kill millions if it were released.  A few scientists even alleged that the techniques of this research might even become a "how-to" textbook for terrorists on how to bioengineer pandemics through the use of weaponized viruses.

So why in the world would anyone conduct these non-salubrious and potentially deadly experiments in the first place?  For the researchers involved, it was to study how epidemics form and to answer questions, specifically:

"What makes a virus pathogenic or drug resistant? What makes a virus go airborne?"

While bio-terrorism is a justifiable concern, I don't think we could ever hold a candle to good ol' Mother Nature.  Outbreaks such as SARS, H1N1, and even HIV have taken their toll and who knows what form of "supervirus" might be released in the future?

Along those lines, the concept of the "Gaia Hypothesis" has long intrigued me as I have said in previous posts.  Oversimplified, the idea of Gaia is that the entire Earth is essentially one living organism with each and every ecosystem acting as a subset of the greater whole.  All living organisms would then be analogous to separate cells in a larger body, that body being a single living Earth.  By our way of life, humans tend to behave more like cancer cells within Gaia.  So what does the biology of a living thing do once it becomes infected or sick?

It fights back.  It removes the invader.  When word of a new virus or pandemic hits the news, I cannot help but wonder if it is really another retaliatory salvo from Gaia as it fights to remove that which lives out of balance within it.

Like I said, just an idea.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

RIP Gerry Anderson

A bright light in science fiction has sadly gone out.

Gone out, perhaps, but not without leaving an indelible legacy.

Gerry Anderson died on December 26th, 2012.  Anderson was a legendary British writer, producer, and director for both television and film.  While unique enough for having a nearly lifelong career in movies and TV, he is perhaps best known for his series Thunderbirds and its use of marionettes.  Another futuristic show called Stingray used much of the same methods.  I never really got to watch those programs but the few times I did, I was enthralled by them, especially Stingray (heresy in certain circles of fandom I suspect.)  Having not seen many episodes of those shows, I prefer to stick to TV series by Anderson that I know something about, namely UFO and Space: 1999.  Said science fiction series are deserving of posts in their own right, but today I would prefer to just pay tribute to Gerry Anderson.

Space: 1999 was on while I was but a wee bit of a boy.  I can't remember many of the episodes and consequently I have been reacquainting  myself with them online.  The most expensive program of its time, Space: 1999 starred Martin Landau and detailed the experiences of the crew of Moonbase Alpha, an Earth outpost on the Moon.  One of the duties of this base was to oversee the dump site where humans decided to store all of their nuclear waste.  In the year 1999 (yeah, I know), a "strange radiation" influences the nuclear matter to critical mass, unleashing a devastating explosion.  The blast sends what's left of the Moon and Moonbase Alpha into the reaches of space.  During its uncontrollable fling from Earth, Moonbase Alpha encounters several alien races, dystopian civilizations, and science fiction weirdness.

It is said that while the plots were Star Trek and style, the show's aesthetic was far more 2001.  The spaceships of Moonbase Alpha, known as Eagles (see above), are quite "functional" in design.  I could truly see a ship looking like these Eagles taking a human crew to other planets.  It is said that a Battlestar Galactica-like reboot of Space: 1999 called Space: 2099 was announced last February, but as with many of these types of things we just need to wait and see.

UFO was a science fiction series that actually predated Space: 1999, but I had not discovered it until adulthood.  I had been (and still am) a big fan of the computer game XCOM: UFO Defense (natch) and was told that the game had been heavily influenced by Anderson's UFO series.  I was not misinformed.

The series takes place in the year 1980 (again, I know) where Earth is being covertly attacked by an alien race from a dying planet.  These aliens, arriving in their UFOs, are harvesting humans for their organs.  Building upon reported UFO sightings and encounters of the time, the show put forth a question that dawned upon me in my teen years: if these aliens are abducting us and experimenting upon us, isn't there anyone doing anything to protect us?  Why, an organization called SHADO (Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) does just that in Gerry Anderson's UFO.  They're James Bond with the kind of high-tech weapons and vehicles that Q-Branch could only wish it could develop.  These include Sky One interceptor aircraft to shoot down UFOs, the SkyDiver, an undersea vehicle, and the caterpillar-tracked SHADO mobile.  Coolness.

And I believe the descriptions of the various vehicles from these shows and of course Stingray and Thunderbirds, gets at an ability that Gerry Anderson was unswerving at: creating fun, geeky ships and vehicles.  They are instantly memorable.  They are thrilling, unique, and yet to be surpassed. This is an aspect of Anderson's work that is so laudable.  All of his shows came from his own...and admittedly others'...imaginations.  There was no toyline to plug, no video game to market, no "backwards" story creation.  Sure, there were toys.  In fact, I had a Space: 1999 Eagle that is one of the greatest toys I have ever had.  But they were completely after the fact of the show.  Anderson's shows were not product.  They were insouciant yet thought-provoking science fiction of a truly original kind.

Blessed be you, Mr. Anderson.  You will be missed.  You are already missed by many, I'm certain.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Aaaand we're back

Anybody get cybernetic implants for Christmas?
Me either.

I must say, however, it was a fine fine holiday.  The family was together and we enjoyed a meal and more sugar than the human body should be allowed to imbibe.  For those of you who know us, these are the answers to your annual burning questions: the ethnic food was Chinese and the mystery soup was cream soybean.  I received one nifty gift in particular, that being Penguin's Guide to Literary Terms and Literary Theory.

Yes, only a geek like myself could get excited about something like that. But everything you've ever encountered in terms of writing, rhetoric, and literature is in this book.  I went "genre hopping" through it as soon as I opened the book up.  As with any genre definition, there are those who could probably yell and squeal over the terms used, but I found them to be about as accurate as any you're really going to find.  Their definition for "cut-up" is a bit thin, however.  Perhaps Penguin would allow me to submit a longer study?  Anyway, I'm currently going through the entry on Beat literature and actually finding out a few things I didn't know about Burroughs and Kerouac.

Speaking of books, I'm hoping to get out to my favorite used book store while I'm up here in the Chicago 'burbs.  I've got an insane amount of time before second semester starts so I'm trying to take the opportunity to do as many things and get as much done as I can.  There is supposed to be a fine used book store in Bolingbrook that specializes in science fiction and pulps.  It's a wonder I've never visited there, but I only recently discovered them via their stall at Printer's Row Book Fair.  If I get over to see the store, I'll let you know what gems I find.

Got to speak with my Grandmother and hear all about Ohio's impending blizzard.  Hopefully it won't take them too long to dig out from under it.  Christmas will forever be synonymous for me with my Grandmother's house.  We spent nearly every single Christmas of my years up until age 31 at that house.  Christmas Eve has special memories for because of that, especially the Christmases when I got my Shogun Warrior and a Star Wars Death Star back to back.  Heaven!  I'm making it a point to be at her house next year, God willing.

As usual, holidays are a bit tough on my stomach.  Rich food and me eating poorly always aggravates it.  Thankfully I have medication to hold the acid at bay for the most part, however that dam may disappear if I don't get health insurance soon.  If that doesn't happen, I might have to use...Gasp! and exercise!  I think we all know I'm hopeless at that.

I've been extending my monastic living over the break, I am happy to announce.  Lots of reading, writing, and nary a minute over an hour in my car.  Just how I like it.

On the MP3 right now...

Puccini's Tosca
The Cure, Disintegration
Pulp, "Common People"
Peter Gabriel, "Red Rain"
David Bowie, "Heroes (Live at Live Aid, '85)"
Portishead, "Glory Box"

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

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas apocalypse!

I like Christmas.

Among holidays, it's one that I do honestly enjoy, unlike say, New Year's.  Go ahead and call me "cheesy" or "conformist."  I can survive hipster scorn.

This Christmas will be a sad one in certain parts of the United States and the world for that matter.  But then again it always is.  If you are poor, Christmas can tend to make you feel even more so.  If you are lonely or depressed, Christmas will only exacerbate the problem.  Have you listened to a few of those time-honored Christmas carols?  They're not exactly uppers.  "Silent Night" has quite a mournful ache to it.  If you're interested, here's a list of the "five most miserable Christmas songs,"  although I disagree that "Do They Know It's Christmas" earns a place on that list.

Oh hell, here's The Smiths.

It's all about the presents though, right?  Just another excuse to prop up and perpetuate rampant commercialism.  Where would we be without those holiday sales?  Don't forget your electrically decorated house, so bright with lights that your local airport needs to warn incoming flights about your location.  Yes, should we call it "competitive decorating?"  Like when those stupid "icicle lights" were all the rage?

Speaking of stupid decorations, check out The 45 Worst Christmas Ornaments Ever at the Huff Post. 

I dunno, that one above has a certain charm.  You'd certainly be unique as you entertain for the holidays.

All of this presupposes that the world will not end tomorrow.  That is according to supposed "Mayan prophecy" anyway.  One interpretation of it, that is to say.  Another seems to be that the entire world will reboot like a massive computer and a "new age"  will be ushered in for mankind.  I like the idea but you'll have to pardon me as I reserve the right to be highly skeptical, just as I was of that whole Y2K craze from just 12 years ago.  Just seems like a great way to make good bank.  To see what I mean, check out that ridiculous but oddly watchable film, 2012.  It's every bit as bad as the Mayans predicted it would be.

The fact is...there will be no extraordinary solar flares to end our civilization.  There will be no magnetic reversal and certainly not that idiotic "pole shift" that was proposed in the aforementioned film.  I doubt the chances of an asteroid strike or a global pandemic in the next 24 hours are all that great, either.  Want to know why?  Check this out at NASA.

Besides, the world can't end.  I have yet to get my Christmas gifts!  That really is what Christmas is about isn't it, I ask with tongue firmly planted in cheek?  I therefore tender my Christmas list.  You have four days.  Get cracking.

-Any or all of these laser beam devices.

-This secret submarine base in Norway (it's for sale, I checked.)

-A trip on Virgin Galactic.

-One of these "flying Segways."

-An F-15. (Hey if we're allowed to own assault rifles, why not?)

-An iPad.

-A personal Duran Duran concert.

-One of these awesome WWII bomber jackets (always loved them).

-An espresso maker.

-This device that drives away teenagers.

-For R.E.M. to reunite.

-Google Glass

Looking for a gift for others?  Besides me, I mean?

What about Biojewellery?  It's even better than "going to Jared."

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

So anyway, I'm going to take a break from blogging until December 26th.  If the world ends, been nice writing for you.  If not, then I hope you have a Merry/Happy Whateveryoubelievein.

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

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UFO abductions from beneath the sea

This might be surprising, but there are certain assertions in UFO research that are a bit...outside the norm.

No, it's true.  I came across one such line of thought on UFO Digest, alleging that abductees are being brought to undersea bases and are undergoing "bizarre experimentations."

The theory begins with the phenomena of the USO, Unidentified Submarine Object.  Basically the same thing as a UFO only underwater.  Sightings of USOs are not exactly new so the concept of them is not all that "far out."  Navy sonar operators have purported to have witnessed objects underwater moving at tremendous amounts of speed, such as 150 mph.  Obviously, such a speed is impossible underwater so it's either a false report, an unknown technology, or a really fast fish.  One well-researched USO case is that of the 1967 Shag Harbour incident in Nova Scotia.

In many ways, USOs make sense.  If aliens, or whatever they are, wanted to hide among us undetected, setting up shop beneath the oceans is not a bad idea.  The vast majority of our world is covered by seas and we know next to nothing about the greater depths.  But how could anything survive such crushing pressures let alone travel at such extreme speeds?  One proposed method would be a "magnetic bubble" that would surround the unidentified craft. 

Let us department the larger subject of USOs for a moment so as to delve into the "bizarre experiments" alleged by the UFO Digest article.  Said article describes the account of Betty Andreasson Luca, a woman who believes she has encountered Greys that she calls "angelic servants of Jesus Christ."  One of her Close Encounters entailed her being brought aboard a UFO that then dove straight into an ocean.  The craft then took Betty to an "ice cavern" which featured numerous humans and animals frozen in cubicles.  Each cubicle displayed someone from a different era of human history, complete with period clothing.

As if that were not weird enough, the article goes on to detail the account of one Filiberto Cardenas of Florida.  While off to buy a pig (I'm not making this up, read the link), Filiberto and his friends found themselves at the side of the road as their car suddenly lost power.  While trying to restart the car, the passengers found themselves paralyzed. 

A UFO appeared over the car and shot a beam of light down.  Filiberto was caught in this beam and then lifted up and into the UFO.  Inside the craft, he encountered strange, alien beings that placed a helmet on his head and spoke to him in a language he said resembled German.  The helmet displayed images of humanity's future, such as presidential elections, the 1989 protests of Tienanmen Square, and the 1991 Gulf War.

Filiberto was then transferred to a smaller UFO that then departed the mothership.

Oh boy is this great.

This smaller craft took him beneath the sea and into a "phosphorescent cave,"  shades of the Betty Luca account.  As the article says:

"The ship entered the tunnel and then emerged in a place that was completely dry. The area was huge. He noticed two symbols, one of them being a serpent as large as “an electric light pole,” Cardenas later said. The other image was similar but smaller. His captors took him from the ship and told him to sit down on a large rock."

From there, I take it we're supposed to read the book that the author is plugging to find out anything about the "bizarre experiments" and the "wealth of evidence" that the cases offer.  I'm not saying that there is no evidence for this, I'm saying that I don't see any in the article other than somebody's stories.

They are, nevertheless, great stories.  If true (and for me right now, that's an enormous if), I must wonder what the motives are of these entities?  Are they alien?  Extradimensional?  Another race of humanoids that evolved alongside us such as Mac Tonnies suggested?  Could they survive for great periods of time beneath the sea?  Stanton Friedman seems to think so.  He points out the number of untapped mineral resources on the ocean floor that could go towards energy and manufacturing.  

That aside, why are they here?  What do they want?
And what's with the goofy "museum?"

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pablo Picasso: Painter of light

With all due respect for the dead, forget Thomas Kincade.

Even Claude Monet might have to step aside.  The artist who was truly the "painter of light" might be Pablo Picasso. This comes from a 1949 article in LIFE magazine where LIFE's Gijon Mili visited Picasso in the south of France.  Mili was innovator in the use of light in art and show Picasso his work, including photographs of ice skaters with tiny lights attached, creating swirling and streaking patterns as the skaters and jumped and flipped and spiraled.

Picasso was so taken by these works of art that he engaged Mili in creations of his own.  As the article says of Picasso:

"By leaving the shutters open, he caught the light streaks swirling through space."
This series of photographs, known ever since as Picasso's "light drawings," were made with a small electric light in a darkened room; in effect, the images vanished as soon as they were created - and yet they still live, six decades later, in Mili's playful, hypnotic images."

What's more, the streaks of light still retained Picasso's notable style and as the article notes, could easily have passed as one of his canvas paintings.  These "light drawings" have a hypnotic quality to them, as you are sitting in the room with Picasso and watching the shapes take form as he zigs and zags the light through the air.
I'm always on the lookout for art composed via a new medium, especially if it is technologically oriented.  And this was.  It is tempting sometimes to overlook how innovative certain techniques of the past were for their time or to whinge that no one is coming up with anything new or original.
Perhaps we're just not looking hard enough.  

I'm certain someone else has already thought of this activity since it seems so obvious, but I would love to see the outcome of an artist or group of artists tossed into a room at random.  This room would have a handful of mundane items (take your pick) sitting about the floor and shelves.  The artist's task would be simple: make art out of what you find.

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

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Where we tweet

At last, heartache on Twitter has been narrowed down.

That's right.  Tracked to its source.  That is to say, a project named Geolocations has taken various tweets and tracked them to their points of origin (or close to it) via public domain GPS metadata.  The originators of the project see social media as a type of "telepathy."  As quoted in the link on Discover: social media  "echoes of thoughts across the American landscape.  In this way our digital life can give another layer of detail about our lived reality--what the writer Clive Thompson called "ambient awareness." "

What do the landscapes look like where a tweet is composed?  What do these localities say about the origin of the tweet itself?  About us?  Well, one look at the photo above might lead you to think that dismal surroundings inspire one to tweet, that social media gives us outlet for our modern malaise, the lagan of the sea of our lives?  These sprawls of urban decay that are the cathedrals of our devotion?

Hard to say.  Still, I find this to be a fascinating project.  The intersection of art, philosophy, composition theory, technology, and so many other things.  If I were a visitor/invader of our society, surveying the cultural landscape, I believe I might learn much from this study.  It's mostly a visual study, so I will quit writing and allow you to drink it in with your eyes.  Here's the link.  

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Guess we need to talk about it

To be clear on the point, I had other things I was going to write about today.

Posting on those subjects in the wake of today's tragedy would seem at best unassuming and at worst insensitive. It also raises political questions that need to be answered.

Yes, everyone says that a time like this is not one for politics, but for grieving and mourning.  There is truth to that and to exploit a tragedy for political gain is abhorrent, regardless of how noble the cause might or might not be.  However, it seems that discussion of the issue at hand never fully comes about and confronted.  Our leaders become politely apopemtic and we just sort of...hope it all blows over one day.  And it does.

Until it happens again.

Let's face it.  I'm talking about gun control.  For the longest time I have been a supporter of the right to own firearms and to use them in defense of one's self and family.  Right now, I need to re-evaluate my stance based on facts.  Ezra Klein at The Washington Post published Eleven facts about guns and mass shootings in America.  Check the link for sources on the figures, but I believe they of merit.  Here is a summary:

1.  Shooting sprees are not rare in the United States.  Additionally, in the overwhelming majority of such incidents, the offender obtained the firearms legally.

2. Eleven of the world's 20 worst shootings of the last 50 years took place in the United States.  Ranked behind us at number two is Finland with two shootings.

3. Lots of guns does not correlate to lots of violence.  The nations of Israel, Switzerland, and Canada are ample evidence of that fact.

4. Of the 11 deadliest shootings in the US, five have happened since 2007.  At the time of this writing, it's uncertain whether today's shooting will be ranked at number two or if it will claim the number one spot.

5. Among developed countries, the US is unusually violent, but we're getting less violent.  Rates of criminal assault are actually dropping.

6. The South is the most violent region in the US.  Take that for what you will.

7. Gun ownership in the US is on the decline.  In fact, it's almost at an all-time low.

8. More guns mean more homicides.  Not sure where they're getting this as it seems to wholly contradict entry number three.

9. States with stricter gun laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.  Again, not sure how they're figuring that.  The state of Illinois has a few of the most strident gun laws in America.  On the other hand, Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the nation.  Oh wait, I see it now: "The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation." True.

10. Gun control, in general, has not been popular.  The majority of Americans citizens do not want to hear that they cannot purchase or own firearms.

11. But particular policies to control guns often are.  Examples of such policies include background checks, bans on semi-automatics, and bans on high capacity clips.

What is the answer then?  Despite the tragedy, I'm reminded of words from the venerable William Burroughs whom I paraphrase as saying: "Whenever there is a crime committed with guns, the first thing the government wants to do is punish people who have done nothing wrong." I am also reminded of how ineffectual bans on things have been.  Look at marijuana and alcohol for evidence of that.  It is also tempting to compare ourselves to other industrialized nations and their control of guns and comparably lower homicide rates.  I think those comparisons are unhelpful.

The US was born in blood.  We fought a war for independence and kept guns as a part of the home to protect us on the homestead and hunt for food.  Granted much of that is entirely unnecessary now, but it's not so easy to take that out of the national psyche.  That and any talk of gun laws tends to bring crazies out of the woodwork, claiming it's just another step towards the NWO. 

But people keep dying.  I call your attention to fact #4 in that five of our deadliest shootings have happened in just the past four years.  Does that mean a trend?  I don't know.  What is the solution with guns?  Again, I don't know.

Comfortable or not, however, we're going to have to have this political discussion.
And soon.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Organics" on Mars maybe not as exciting as we thought

They really hyped it up.

Just under a month ago, NASA said that a press conference would be held to announce that the Curiosity rover had made a major discovery on Mars, "one for the history books" I believe is the direct quote.   Those high expectations were quickly tamped down by folks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

So what was found?  Well, there's been no confirmation yet of organic compounds found in the soil of Mars.  What has been determined is that the soil does contain water and complex compounds such as percholate.
A NASA researcher named Paul Mahaffy said in a statement issued by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that "we have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater."

Percholate, a toxic substance found in rocket fuel, was detected by the Phoenix Mars Lander in 2008.  The Curiosity findings confirm those from 2008, further suggesting that the percholate is indigenous to Mars and not the product of a meteor or other such collision.  The presence of percholate does actually bolster the case for microbial life on Mars as such single cell lifeforms could utilize percholate as an energy source.

Or not.  There's no way to be sure right now and there probably won't be for a long time.  This is an ongoing game that gets played.  It goes all the way back to the Viking landings in the 1970s.  "We found something but we can't tell what it is yet or even if it really is from Mars."  Now don't get me wrong.  I am painfully aware that there is no Star Trek solution.  There is no such thing as a tricorder and detecting life on Mars is not as simple as "scanning" for it.  This is just an example of how the precision of science is a long and painful process.  But what else are we going to do?

Expanding our exploration of Mars for one thing.  Preferably with manned missions.  That way we could eyeball for any artifacts or constructs (if such things do exist) instead of just the presence of microbes in the pliction and strata of the crust.

Oh who am I kidding?  Like they'd tell us if they found anything bigger than bacteria.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Airships returning to prominence

Our military is about to party like it's 1869.

That is not exactly a bad thing, rather it's an interest in being cost effective.  Last August, the Army's Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) took flight for the first time.  This airship built by Northrop-Gruman, is claimed as being the "world's largest, most-persistent lighter-than-air optionally piloted aircraft" (you can find that PR quote at the link.)  For intelligence gathering on a budget, nothing beats an airship.  This one can hover about three miles over an area for up to three weeks while carrying thousands of kilograms in camera and spy gear.

As I alluded to in that opening sentence, airships designated for military use are not a new concepts.  Rather, the concept is being rediscovered for its money-saving value.  These sorts of developments have been going on for quite a while now, such as with the Walrus for example.

Okay, I love The Beatles too, but get that song out of your head for the time being.  The Walrus is a planned airship that would be designed to carry enormous loads of supplies at dramatically lower costs than our current methods.  The fact that it is airborne is of additional value as it can clear other obstacles to resupplying troops in the field, such as what happened in remote areas of Afghanistan. You could also see the Walrus being helpful in a Joplin, Katrina, or Sandy type situation.  But before you get any grandiose ideas of steampunk-style "battle airships," the military does have one issue stacked against its blimps: a worldwide helium shortage.

While intriguing in and of themselves, these airships are of immediate interest to me for other reasons.  Undoubtedly, many sightings of UFOs are actually these airships.  For example, in the 1997 Phoenix Lights incident, many witnesses described seeing a massive, black, physical craft that was completely silent and had an underside that moved in waves like a fabric.  Taking a look at the ventral side of the Walrus, I can see a potential match.  Where this explanation departs from witness accounts is the reported speed of the UFO.  I'm not sure these airships could even be capable of the stop and go speeds described.

Black Triangles are another common form of UFO.  These likewise would make for good fits with airships.  That is to say in a handful of cases but certainly not in all.  The US military has undoubtedly been testing these airships, sometimes in populated areas, and a few of them have no doubt been classified prototypes.  This could go a long way in explaining a great many things.

Many.  But not all. 

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gundam found

I have been moving things.

When you moving things, read: excavate and box up all the junk you've pack-ratted away for years (at least in my case), you sometimes find treasures you've forgotten you own.  For me, that was a VHS copy of the science fiction anime, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Movie.

If you're anything like me, and I know I am, there's nothing like giant robots slugging it out for the fate of humanity.  That's the science fiction gist behind Gundam.  Of course that's entirely oversimplifying things, but I shall attempt to expand on it later.  My introduction to the Japanese series Gundam came through Cartoon Network's Toonami circa 2000.  Social situations eventually rendered me unable (or unwilling) to catch every episode, so I lost track of the series.  Just as well for as it turns out, Cartoon Network canceled airing the series in the wake of the September 11th attacks.  The network was steering away from anything war themed for the times.

Anyway, Mobile Suit Gundam takes place in the year 0079 of the Universal Century (whatever that means.)  The Earth Federation and its space colonies are at war with the breakaway Duchy of Zeon.  This enemy quickly turns the tide against Earth by deploying robotic fighting machines called mobile suits.  While there are any number of comparisons to these "battle suits" in the pantheon of science fiction, one of the more apt analogies might be to the "power armor" of Starship Troopers

With Earth and her colonies on the ropes, the final hope rests in an experimental piece of robotic armor called Mobile Suit Gundam.  As is often the case with giant mecha anime, things go awry in that a young lad named Amuro Ray becomes Gundam's controller and only pilot (this seems to happen a lot, just watch Johnny Soko and his Flying Robot.)  Ray is then thrust into a war not only for Earth's survival but his own as well.

Good clean fun.  Sorta, but not really.  Many space-and-giant-robot-themed anime sagas from Japan are deceptively simplistic.  A series such as Gundam does not have such longevity simply because there are enough sci fi and anime geeks out there to keep it going.  Fans grow attached to the characters, their interplay, and the personal triumphs and tragedies that each one faces throughout the course of their fictional lifetimes.  That's what keeps people coming back for more.

Now, if I could just find a VCR...

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Monday, December 10, 2012

What went wrong with the GOP

 Oh politics.

We just had an election and it shows no signs of wanting to go away.
Even now, political pundits are taking everything apart, picking at the carcass of the loser's dead campaign and performing a rhetorical autopsy in an effort to determine what went wrong.  The media is even being self-critical in an effort to see how coverage could have been better.

Two men posit they know exactly what went wrong for Republicans.  More the shocker, most of the media stood by while it happened.

Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein are two long-time political observers of moderate if not conservative leanings.  Their "cause of death" for the Romney campaign?  "The radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican Party, both in terms of its agenda and its relationship to the truth."  The leadership of the GOP has become "ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

And just why was this ignored during the coverage of the past election, regardless of how outrageous the lies or the distortions?  Believe it or not, it was out of an effort to remain non-biased.

There are obviously news outlets that don't care about bias.  Fox News, MSNBC, they both embrace their opposite slants while nearly everyone else moves to gobble up the middle.  "Their editors and producers, who felt they were looking out for the economic wellbeing of their news organizations, were also concerned about their professional standing and vulnerability to charges of partisan bias," Mann said.

Understandably, it is quite a charge to call someone a liar and you'd better have extraordinary evidence on your side to do so.  Any room for error leaves you open to a lawsuit.  Well if you need facts, what about all the "fact checkers" we had in the past election?  As Mann points out: "Fact checkers almost seemed obliged to show some balance in their fact checking."  And just whose "facts" are getting reported?

Mann and Ornstein say that they are not taking a Democratic stance with this assessment and I believe them.  Instead, they are making a pragmatic appeal to the GOP: your message of fiscal responsibility will never be heard until you can cut loose from the nutjobs of the Tea Party that wants us back in the 1950s and the fundamentalist Bible-thumpers who think that there really was an Adam and Eve and that they rode around on dinosaurs.

More than that, I think this report just demonstrates what a dog and pony show it is for both sides of the aisle.  You can buy the truth.  You can create the truth.  It's all mere consensual illusion so you can toss a falsehood out there and then let it sit with impunity, even back peddle on it and apologize.  But it's out there.  It's in the zeitgeist and the public consciousness where it can metastasize into a "truth;" a truth not moored to fact but accepted only because enough people will believe it.  The game goes on and on and nothing truly concrete emerges.

Just more evidence for the "simulated universe" theory. 

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Nick Pope's 8 page UFO study in The Sun

Nick Pope, one of the most preeminent, not to mention level-headed, UFO researchers out there, got himself an eight page spread in The Sun.

Er, his research did, I mean.  Yes, yes I know many of you are probably making pffft noises and rolling your eyes before saying The Sun.  But, the fact is that it's difficult to get any mainstream media source to take the UFO matter seriously.  More to the point, to basically turn the reins of writing over to a UFO researcher is almost unheard of.

Being a British paper, much of the eight page section is devoted to Pope's time at the Ministry of Defense where UFOs were his sole charge.  "We told Parliament, the media, and the public that there was nothing to worry about.  The reality was very different," so goes one of Pope's quotes, one that cuts to the heart of things, I believe.  He goes on then into detail in regards to the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident of 1980, on which Pope is likely one of the world's foremost authorities.

I love lists.  It's one of my odd quirks.  Nick Pope's article comes with a list of his Top Ten UFO Cases.  There are the usual suspects, a few of which I've covered here, such as the Belgian triangle sightings, Roswell, Valentich's disappearance over Australia, the Phoenix Lights and the Chicago/O'Hare sightings, the Tehran Incident, and of course, good ol' Kenneth Arnold.

There were, however, a few other cases listed.  They were good selections.  While I have nowhere near the time to go into them in as much detail as I would like (in the months ahead, perhaps), I would like to present them here in a brief form:

The Cash/Landrum Incident--three members of the same family are driving in their car near a small town in Texas and spot a brilliant, diamond-shaped UFO.  They report numerous US military helicopters around the craft.  Later, all three family members became seriously ill.  Their physicians suspected radiation sickness.

The Trans-en-Provence Incident--a French farmer named Renato Nicolai witnessed a saucer-shaped UFO land on his property and then later take off.  The landing left behind a burned stretch of ground and impressions in the dirt.  Investigation revealed that the object must have weighed approximately five tons and that the ground had been heated to over 600 degrees Celsius.  No plants have grown there since and plants surrounding the area have demonstrated mutation, including the loss of chlorophyll.

Travis Walton's abduction--I was a bit surprised by the inclusion of this case.  Perhaps that means I need to take a closer look at it and thereby present a blog post.  Anyway, if you've seen Fire in the Sky, then you know that Travis Walton was one of a group of loggers who sighted a UFO in a forest in Arizona in 1975.  Walton approached the craft.  When he did, he was hit with a beam of light and lifted into the UFO.  His coworkers fled.  Walton was missing for five days and the other loggers were suspected of killing him. Luckily for them, Walton showed up and reported that he had been abducted by "aliens."  In the time since, Walton has consistently passed lie detector tests as have his companions from that day.  While their stories have remained consistent, the tale of what happened to Walton aboard the UFO is fairly inconsistent with other abduction claims.  But that's for another time.

As I said before, The Sun may not be a paragon of journalism, but it's better than nothing.  The fact that they devoted so many color pages to the subject and allowed an actual researcher to do the writing, says to me that the public is beginning to consider UFOs in a more serious sense.   

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Diorama of darkness

There is art and then there is art.

Then there is art that may make you uncertain if it really is art, but you find it captivating nevertheless.
I suppose that's how I feel about these dioramas by photographers in an ongoing project in Belgium called Box.  Being a possessed of an unquenchable thirst for all that is geeky, I have always loved dioramas.  Scale models of towns and countries in museums?  Those little New England snow-covered towns you see at Christmas time?  Love 'em all.  And don't even get me started on battle scenes.  Perhaps that's why these larger-scale dioramas reel me in and leave me unable to get back to where I was for quite a while.  As the description at the link reads:

"The photo series shows darkly bizarre dioramas built into cardboard boxes. Each was built in two to three days around the perspective of the camera to ensure the scenes have the right angle and depth. As the team begins construction, they set the camera on a tripod and are constantly looking through the viewfinder to make sure the camera can accurately capture the scene they have in their heads. Once they have the scene built, they then figure out the lighting, photograph the human subjects and then Photoshop the subjects into the setting."

As is often the case with art exhibitions, the artists are often besieged with plebeian questions such as "what does this mean?" The answer, as it most often is in art, is "what do you take away from it?" 

“We try to not explain too much,” [Maxime] Delvaux [a member of the Box art collective] says. “The point is to let people interpret the moment.”

After all, is there any one "correct" way to interpret the street scene above or the man burning his clothes below?

One aspect I found interesting in the article was how photographers liked the dollhouse-sized, cardboard settings.  This allowed for complete control of their subjects and of the scale involved in the composition.  The disjunction of scale can sometimes make for an unsettling feeling for the viewer.  That in itself is a desired effect in art, that awkwardness of finding one's self no longer in an intellectual safe space.

Yes, these pieces dwell primarily on dark themes, but let's face it.  There's quite a bit of humor involved as well.  In fact, this next piece might just be my Christmas card for this year:

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

UFO report: return of the "flying humanoids"

Humanoid UFOs may have returned to India.

The incident referred to here is one from 2004, a sighting that India Today termed, the "clearest UFO sighting made yet." The UFO sighting involved a team of geologists and glaciologists moving through the mountainous Lahaul-Spiti region of India.  The scientists claimed to have spotted a figure (other accounts cite numerous figures) that was four feet in height and "robot-like" in appearance.  This humanoid was observed walking through a valley for a period of 40 to 50 minutes before it took off into the air at great speed and in utter silence.  The scientists caught this on video and turned their footage over to intelligence officers in India's military.  The video was never seen again the incident was "buried" (or so it is said.)

Fast forward to this past month.  Again, UFO activity has arisen in a nearby region, this time coming in form of "glowing yellow spheres hovering in the sky." I know, I thought that they might be seeing what we colloquially term as "stars," but that would sound condescending and pedantic.  I will assume good faith for the time being.  

What is unique about this case is that, to hear India Today say it, both the government and the military are openly stating that they cannot identify the objects in question.  Many usual suspects have already been ruled out, items such as satellites, atmospheric phenomena, astronomical occurrences, or drones.  In fact, the army dispatched one of its own drones to follow a UFO.  The drone gave out as the UFO exceeded the drone's maximum flight ceiling.

"Something is clearly wrong, if our combined scientific resources can't explain the phenomena," a Delhi-based senior army official told India Today.

Scientists in India, however, are quick to yank the emergency brake on any talk of aliens.  One researcher points out...and correctly so...that the solitary fact that a flying object is unidentified is not immediately indicative of an alien presence.  That's quite a leap to make.

Unfortunately, there don't seem to be sightings of any robot humanoids this time around.  That is unless the UFO spheres are the "humanoids" in other form.  Flying humanoid reports are really nothing new.  Sightings of such things have taken place in Mexico, South America, and a few unreliable reports of them have been made right here in the US.  If the video and pics of these things are genuine, and that's a big "if", then this represents a tremendous occurrence in UFO research.  I mean, they look like the humanoid figures are actually wearing capes.  Capes fluttering in the wind.  Add that to the sightings of a flying robot(s) and...well, almost doesn't get any better.

As for the time being, it appears we must take the "wait and see" approach with the sightings in India.  There is nothing as of yet to indicate anything definitive.  Especially suspicious is the claim of "conspiracy" with the Indian Army supposedly burying the 2004 video evidence.  Government conspiracies are not around every corner.  In fact, they're rather difficult to pull off.  What does this mean for the current flap of sightings?  Stay tuned...

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

To the Moon...

On Thursday, a press conference will supposedly make a significant announcement.

The announcement being that a private firm intends to launch its own manned Moon mission by the year 2020.  You can read about it here at Wired and here at io9.
They call themselves the Golden Spike Corporation, presumably a reference to the symbolic golden spike that connected the transcontinental railroad in Utah in 1869.  Oddly enough, I've been to Utah and it's remarkably similar to the surface of the Moon, at least as near as I can tell.  But I digress...

Aside from Facebook and Twitter accounts, little is known about the outfit.  The website reports that the organization is stocked with "high profile individuals" from both NASA and elsewhere in the aerospace industry.  The press conference is slated to reveal more information, namely who is involved, what technology will be used and/or developed, what the exact objective will be, and perhaps most importantly, where the money is coming from. 

The scuttlebutt from NASASpaceflight has a few leaked details, such as that a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket has been secured by the company and that the actual spacecraft that would carry the crew (said to be a crew of two) to the Moon would be assembled in Low Earth Orbit.  Also, Golden Spike has already begun design of its own lunar lander.

Could be good.  If nothing else it is getting people back into space, an issue I have pontificated upon numerous times upon these hallowed blog pages.  I suppose that the ultimate point is what exactly the objectives are for the mission?  Is this for a prolonged presence on the Moon?  The mining of resources?  A gateway to Mars?  All of the above?  Plus, proposing this undertaking and actually doing it are of course two different things.  Any manner of derailments (pun intended) could occur between now and 2020.  I'm not trying to sound pessimistic, I've just learned not to get my hopes up.

However, if there are any representatives of Golden Spike or their associates who happen to read this (I know, right), I would be willing to offer my services if they need a writer to go along on the mission.  I work cheap.
Very cheap.

Just send me.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Blade Runner, stage plays, and greed

I am living in the film Blade Runner.
I am convinced of this and no one will be able to tell me otherwise.

Last week on campus, we watched clips from a documentary called What Would Jesus Buy?  In it, you can see multiple clips of people behaving as wild animals in order to snag that discount buy on Black Friday.  And you still think that people would behave in an orderly manner during a crisis?  Yeah.  Right.  Watch that clip and then rethink that point.  Likewise unsettling is Reverend Billy, a "preacher" attempting to sway shoppers away from the evils of commercialism and materialism, but not necessarily into the arms of Jesus.  Just look at the preacher's hair and demeanor.  Even sort of resembles Roy from Blade Runner while acting as a character from a Bruce Sterling novel.  Or failing that perhaps K.W. Jeter's Noir.  Society is doomed.

There is, however, a positive that can be gleaned from my malaise.  It has further inspired my to write that play I spoke about for the venerable Bernard J. Sell.  Yes, the stage play will have several Blade Runner overtones as well as the plot being heavily tied to humanity's dependence upon the Internet, but I plan for it to be down-to-earth and accessible for the high school cast and audience for whom it is intended.  I will probably consult the book, Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner to make certain I get the sensibility down, at least to a modicum of cyberpunk respectability.  Maybe I'll have characters debate the significance of the unicorn in the film?  References to life "in the offworld colonies," "teardrops in the rain," "I did your eyes," and so forth.  Maybe that would even get the guys from io9 to cover the opening of the play?  Sigh.  I know.

In more effervescent news, we're still destroying the planet.   Discover magazine reports on projections for the future world of 2062.  It's a land of deforestation, overcrowded cities, drought, rising CO2 levels, and coasts flooded by ice cap melt.
Yay us.

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