Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bruce Sterling interviewed at Next Nature

He is a pioneer of cyberpunk.

This is true, but Bruce Sterling is also a blogger (Beyond the Beyond at Wired) and one of the world's leading futurist thinkers. He recently did an interview at the website Next Nature, discussing a subject near and dear to myself and readers of this blog: the merging of humanity with machines. For this blog post, I have pulled out a few of the interview's more salient points.

In discussing artificial intelligence, a major point that Sterling comes back to is his differentiation between cognition and computation. A while back, I got into an online spat with my friend David about AI and...unless I am subject to paramnesia (but I usually do that only when it benefits me)...I sadly did conflate the concepts of cognition and computation. Lo all these months later, I now must concede David's point thanks to Sterling. As Sterling says:

"There will not be a Singularity.  I think that artificial intelligence is a bad metaphor. It is not the right way to talk about what is happening. So, I like to use the terms “cognition” and “computation”. Cognition is something that happens in brains, physical, biological brains. Computation is a thing that happens with software strings on electronic tracks that are inscribed out of silicon and put on fibre board."

Wow. Doesn't sound too good for Singularity proponents. But wait. Sterling does get at a rather Kurzweil-y notion. It is not so much that machines will become more humanlike. It is that they will surpass humans. To wit:

"An entity like Siri, for instance, is not aspiring to become more human; Siri would want to be many times more efficient than that. Siri does not have one conversation like the conversation we are having here. Siri has hundreds of thousands of conversations at once. It wants to look through more databases faster; it does not want to read its way through a book, quietly pondering, like Alan Turing might have done."

What's more, we are more like house cats than we will ever be like Siri. That is how Sterling puts it, anyway. Cats have cognitive capabilities but not computational (so far as we know). We are converging with Siri but we also converge with cats and all of the postulated technological developments of transhumanism could be applied to our pets. Sterling:

"But we never talk about [a] roboticized cat, an augmented cat, a super intelligent cat. Why? Because we are stuck in this metaphysical trench where we think it is all about humanity’s states of mind. It is not! We humans do not always have conscious states of mind: we sleep at night. Computers don’t have these behaviors. We are elderly, we forget what is going on. We are young, we do not know how to speak yet. That is cognition. You never see a computer that is so young it cannot speak."

Puts things in a different perspective, eh? Sterling offers formidable counterpoints to many things I've discussed here on ESE, putting the brakes on them without squashing them completely. I'm going to have to mull this over a while longer.

That and read more of his cyberpunk novels.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Doomsday Vault

This just in: climate change could damage oceans for millennia. 

That's right. Thousands of years before the seas can repair themselves from harm done to them by climate change. That's a long time for an ecosystem to recover. Why, we could all be extinct by then. If not the human race, then many of the other species we depend upon for survival might have been subject to massive dieback. So since a reversal on climate change is unlikely anytime soon, how do we prepare for the worst case scenario?

Enter "the doomsday vault."

Its technical title is Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Located on a remote archipelago above the Arctic Circle, the structure is a concrete vault built into the side of a mountain (see pic above). It is designed to withstand most any natural or human-made disaster (such as climate change in the case of the latter). The purpose of the three-room vault? Store seeds. More to the point, seeds for crops and other plants that humanity needs for survival. Why would anyone do such a thing? At the vault's opening in 2008, Jen Stoltenberg, then Prime Minister of Norway, put it this way:

"With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilisation," said Mr Stoltenberg.

We're talking about seeds for food crops such as soybeans, wheat, barley, rice, and lentils. Crop diversity is also a critical reason for the vault. Just recently, Svalbard received 14 different species of wild tomato from the Galapagos Islands. Other new arrivals include seeds for trees such as Scots pine and Norway spruce. Although these latter additions are not meant for the "extinction scenario" as much as they are meant for comparison models to monitor genetic changes in the world's forests due to climate change.

Even though its actual moniker is Svalbard Global Seed Vault, I don't think it's such a bad idea to think of it as "the doomsday vault." If we continue our funambulist act, continually eroding our environment to the point of it being unlivable, it's nice to know there's a small insurance policy. At least the seeds for future food crops might survive and smart people will be able to start over again, surviving in the wake of humanity's stupid.

Hope you like it hot.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Superman meets Spider-Man, 1981

When you go through your old comic books, you can come across forgotten gems.

For me, they often come loaded with memories. Where in life I was when I got them, what was happening at the time, and the like. More often than not, those memories are good ones as comics have always been a constant companion and source of solace for me. Such is the case with the second crossover of Superman and Spider-Man.

Superman and Spider-Man, published in 1981 (I think), was actually the second such inter-publisher crossover for these characters. I have that one in a collected trade paperback edition of "Marvel meets DC" specials which also includes this version, but I had an original copy in its gigantic treasury size when I was a kid and that was a treat. It got so dog-eared and battered from me lugging it around everywhere that it's no wonder it didn't survive to this day. Its story follows the "Marvel/DC crossover" trope almost to the letter:

1) Get your two major crossover characters 2) Set them up against two of their biggest villains 3) Have a pair of supporting characters from each universe in a guest bit 4) Shake and serve, you have a winner. Or something fun at the least, hopefully. This storyline does away with any form of shenanigans to interweave the universes, though. It's just assumed that the characters all exist in the same world. New York City inhabits an Earth that also has a Metropolis and so forth.

Writer Jim Shooter weaves a plot together around Doctor Doom. Schemer that he is, Doom has developed a scheme to release a variety of radiation (of course) that will destroy all fossil and nuclear fuels. This will force the world to become dependent on a new fusion reactor invented by Doom. The one rub in his reactor design, however, is that it needs the Parasite in order to work. What's more, the Parasite must be tricked into giving his life in the process. No problem for a guy like Doc Doom. In fact, Parasite is not the only pawn in the game. Doom is also manipulating Superman, the Hulk, and Wonder Woman on the board. Spider-Man just happens to stumble on to the whole affair, becoming a fly...er, spider...in the ointment.

A few highlights:

-Peter Parker moves to Metropolis and works for Perry White at The Daily Planet. He's amazed at how nice Perry is and that he will actually pay more for pictures of Spider-Man. As Spider-Man, however, Peter is self-conscious of living in Superman's shadow.

-Clark Kent goes to New York City as he realizes he (as Superman) has been targeted by Doctor Doom. He works for a time at The Daily Bugle and is amazed at what a jackass J Jonah Jameson is.

-Wonder Woman briefly fights Spider-Man, suspecting him of being a criminal.

-Superman gets coated with Kryptonite dust and becomes powerless. Spider-Man manufactures a net out of his webbing and drags it across Superman in order to remove the dust before it's too late. Even as a kid I thought it was inventive and tension-filled.

-We finally see it: Superman vs. Hulk. Who is stronger? In a diplomatic nod to both publishers, Shooter seems to concoct a weak, pre-Crisis answer of "both." Can't blame him. He probably didn't have a choice.

All aside, this is a fun read. Reminds me of what comics used to be.


Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is Mars One a scam?

A one-way trip to Mars sounded like fun.

To watch, I mean. Sure, I'd love to travel into space, but a man in my situation really can't go for that. No can do. Even though I might be suited for it personality-wise.

Now, disturbing allegations are coming to light that the proposed Mars One project is nothing but a scam. But how accurate are these allegations? Let's take a look.

The idea behind Mars One is pretty straightforward. It is a privately-funded operation that aims to recruit a team of people to travel to Mars in a habitat craft and set up a colony. These intrepid pioneers go to Mars with the understanding that they will never return. They are there to lay the groundwork for more colonists to (eventually) follow them. Meaning, they would build a compound with breathable air and greenhouses, get firsthand knowledge of surrounding terrain, and so forth. The knowledge gained and the work done on this project will benefit all future human endeavors on Mars, but none of these people will ever see their home again. They will die on Mars, giving their lives so that humanity may finally stretch out into the universe. Now come allegations from the website ToplessRobot (not exactly a credible name) that the whole thing is a scam. As quoted:

"A former NASA researcher named Joseph Roche filled out an application to be one of those astronauts. Roche found a web of bad management, oddball financial commitments, and, he finally surmised, a giant scam behind the Mars One project.

In a recent report to IFL Science, Roche described a suspicious audition process. There was a medical examination, an online quiz, and a few forms to fill out. There was no in-person interview. Roche found himself in a group of the final 100 (of 200,000 applicants, according to Mars One, although Roche found that the number may be closer to 2,000), but had yet to meet anyone from Mars One. He did learn, however, that one could accrue more “points” and work their way up the list by making donations and buying merch. Yeah, doesn’t really sound on the up-and-up to me either."

If true, this raises a few red flags to say the least. Plus, consider that Mars One selected its colonists well before any of the technology necessary to get to Mars was revealed to the public. But wait! There's more!

Dr. Robert Zubrin, an aerospace engineer at The Mars Society, said on a recent airing of Coast to Coast AM that the final round of applicant selections will be done as a reality TV show.

Yeah. Seems legit.

Granted, we should all reserve judgment until hearing more from Mars One on these accusations. It could all be sour grapes from a rejected applicant. Then again, when taken in total, it does appear that the project has a few serious holes that need addressing.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Virtual reality cinema

Virtual reality is one of those things that just never seemed to live up to the hype.

I remember paying to play a virtual reality game at Chicago's North Pier back in 1993. I put on the goggle-like headset and entered a world of boxy shapes and creatures composed of similar geometry. It was impressive for its immersive quality, but it wasn't very much fun. Near as I can tell, things haven't progressed all that much in the couple decades since. Undaunted, the film industry wants to bring virtual reality to the big screen.

The Chicago Tribune ran a story about this about a week ago. Saw it in my Sunday paper. I read it with interest, wondering how much furtherance there has been with virtual reality by now and...more practically...how the movie industry and physical theaters could hope to possibly incorporate it. Sure enough, that was one of the first questions out of the gate. How indeed. Turns out that VR companies like Occulus, makers of Rift, believe that VR-generated content would be too specialized to work in traditional theaters.

It seems the idea would be to place a "VR-enabled device" on your head that would receive images, thus immersing you in the world of the narrative. While there are those who have found such an experience disorienting, it has an interesting advantage. Sure, there are all of the vivid colors and deep imagery, but craning your head around in a 360 degree sweep will not show you those sitting in the theater next to you or behind you. In fact, the experience could be constructed so that you wouldn't even hear them. The movie experience would then be yours alone. No more jackasses in the audience. Nice. However, this brings new challenges.

If the entire world of the narrative is open to you, what keeps you in the "through-line" of the story? If you're in an apartment, what is to keep you from wandering off and exploring all of the rooms? Meanwhile, you really were supposed to see the sister of the protagonist hide the money she's been given for school away in a shoebox beneath her bed. This isn't necessarily a detraction. In fact, there are filmmakers who see this as an opportunity. Why not have multiple storylines branch off from the main narrative thread? The viewer could, conceivably, be free to wander off and explore movies within movies (how meta!) before circling around to the main point of the film. As one filmmaker was quoted in the article as saying, "With VR, it's almost more important than traditional filmmaking to always bring them home." Granted, how this will really work remains to be seen.

At the link, you can see a nifty short film called "Way to Go." It's a piece of virtual reality described as "Terrence Malick by way of Q*Bert." It's a bit video gamey and lacks the look and feel of real life cinema, but it gives you an idea of where things might be heading.

Come to think of it, how do we know our reality isn't virtual?

Yeah, I'm just going to sit back and wait for Pesenko to weigh in on this post.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, March 23, 2015

14 Best Architecture Photos of the Past Year

I have developed an interest in architecture.

Specifically, I like weird architecture...buildings that look out of the ordinary or like they shouldn't even be able to stand at all. That's why I appreciated this list of 14 of the Best Architecture Photos of the Past Year as published last month in Wired. Of immediate interest was the photo I've included above of what's called the Interlace in Singapore.

Many aspects of Asian cultures feel otherworldly, whether they are eldritch and disjointed in time or appearing to be from about twenty years in the future, something about the way things are built just looks off to these Western eyes. I by no means mean that in a detrimental way. Like William Gibson says, "The future is here, it just isn't evenly distributed yet." Indeed a fair amount of it seems to have landed in Japan, China, and other regions of Asia, including buildings that look like they're from the set of Blade Runner. The Interlace is a great example of this weird architecture.

Just look at it. It's like a Rubik's Cube of sorts. I feel like I want to take the building in my hands and start moving the weird blocks around until they fit together in a conventional sense. But that's not what they're supposed to do and that's the beauty of it. The Interlace (here's a better look at it) is a residential center. Instead of plopping a series of single, vertical towers amid the jungle, the way we might do it in an American ubranscape, the Interlace provides interconnected living and social spaces. Might not be for me in terms of a living arrangement, but the design concept is intriguing...and damn pretty to look at.

Normally, I would call a visit to a swimming pool something of a nonevent. That would not be the case in Leca di Palmiera, Portugal. The pool featured on the list is one set adjacent to an oceanic expanse while the roughly M-shaped pool contains an aquamarine fluid, dotted with bodies. Sometimes I'm not sure if it's the design I like or if it was the photographer's composition. I guess in the end it's both. But I digress...

Also worth noting on the list; an "electricity transformation station" in Antwerp, Belgium. In the bleak winter milieu, it rises up like the monolith from 2001. Er, well, the monolith with a notch cut out of it.

Who knows where this new fascination of mine will take me? Heck, I'm even starting to like Frank Gehry.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, March 20, 2015

The years ahead: brought to you by climate change

Time now again for Science Friday.

I know it's a repetitive bleat with me, but the news on climate change just keeps getting worse.

This past February was the second warmest on record, according to figures just released by NASA. Yes, yes, the Northeast U.S. was buried under snow and there were several stretches of deep freeze across the Midwest. Citing that as any kind of evidence against climate change is like saying "there is no hunger and starvation in the world because I just had a sammich. 'Murica." Additionally, crazy winter weather is indicative of a disrupted climate. The article explains how this occurs due to what has been termed the "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge." That is a system of high pressure that gets locked in place over the eastern Pacific Ocean, resulting in warmer than average temperatures in the western half the U.S.

The counter-balance to that is a sharp dip in the jet stream that plunges the eastern half into Arctic cold.

Rising temperatures have been especially tough for California. Residents of that state are looking at a rapid drop in their water supply that may soon reach crisis levels. Rivers are drying as water evaporates quicker in the increased heat. So what is left to do about it? Well, we can still get good writing out of the deal.

A project called Scorched Earth, 2200 AD takes a prospective look at the world after climate change has hit amain. In this speculation, the world's population is down to about 500 million, all living in contained cities called "lifeboats." These are located in the far northern reaches of the northern hemisphere, places like Canada and Scandinavia. Sea levels have risen dramatically while the average temperature around the globe is 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Basically the world continued to heat, causing "feedback loops" of unbridled climate change that ruined civilization as we know it. Sure, there are still people living outside of these "lifeboats" in what were once major cities. They arise from their watery hovels only at night when the temperature won't kill them and scavenge for survival. One ironic point would be that there would be more water than ever before but hardly any of it would be drinkable as it would be laden with toxins.

Sound far-fetched? Not to me. We're already on a trajectory towards it and have been for quite a while now due to our actions. Maybe it won't be the exact scenario illustrated in Scorched Earth, but you can bet it won't be fun.

Maybe I don't want an extended lifespan after all.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

UFOs, the 23 Enigma, and the "Matrix"

I have been stirring a whole kettle of paranormal stew in my head. It involves, among other things, UFOs and a simulated universe. First, I need to look at the "23 Enigma."

This is a belief in numerology that most incidents and events can be connected one way or another to the number 23. Loathe as I am to do this, I will link to the Wikipedia entry on said belief as I can't seem to find a good quality source on the subject. At least not in my opinion. Anyway, a few examples I have found just from pop culture:

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper all died in a plane crash on February 3rd. Or 2/3.
Johnny Carson and William Shakespeare both were born and died on the 23rd day of a month.
Kurt Cobain died in 1994 (1+9+9+4=23).

All in all those are indeed rather weak examples. This is probably a classic example of "if you look for it, you will find it" or just shoehorning 23 into any phenomena. I realize that, but I can't help but be intrigued. My further interest mainly stems from Robert Anton Wilson citing none other than William Burroughs in Fortean Times as "patient zero" for this particular theory of the paranormal:

"I first heard of the 23 enigma from William S Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, Nova Express, etc. According to Burroughs, he had known a certain Captain Clark, around 1960 in Tangier, who once bragged that he had been sailing 23 years without an accident. That very day, Clark’s ship had an accident that killed him and everybody else aboard. Furthermore, while Burroughs was thinking about this crude example of the irony of the gods that evening, a bulletin on the radio announced the crash of an airliner in Florida, USA. The pilot was another captain Clark and the flight was Flight 23."

Burroughs then went on to compile numerous instances of 23 occurrences.

If there is anything at all to this...and I realize that there probably isn't...I'm pondering what it could mean. Poking around has led me to the notion of a simulated universe. Yes, that we "live inside the Matrix" for a very pop culture-y way of explaining it. Our reality is, in truth, a computer simulation. Last month, Coast to Coast AM had a guest on the show that spoke about this speculation. A man named Jim Elvidge, a "researcher and engineer," argued for the idea of us living in a digital simulation: "If we are in a digital world, it opens up all kinds of possibilities on how information gets sent back and forth," he posited, "and it explains an awful lot of things."

So matter is just data, force is the software coding by which the data interacts, and people interact with the data via which we term "consciousness." While bereft of solid evidence, it's a rather elegant theory. It accounts for so much stupid stuff. I'm talking about the things that by all logic should not be but there they are. The things we shrug our shoulders at and say, "that's just how it is." As Elvidge furthers, those people who catch glimpses of the simulation's source code are what we call "psychics." This could actually go a long way towards that Grand Unified Theory of the Paranormal I've previously discussed.

I can't remember which of the awful sequels it was in, but one of the Matrix movies actually mentioned this concept. A character, I can't remember which one, said that UFOs and other cases of the paranormal are glitches in the source code. The simulation system tries to correct itself and patch over what is wrong and something outlandish is what we end up with. Of all the tendered explanations for truly unexplained phenomena, this one actually isn't too bad. It would explain really oddball UFO cases like the Kinnula Humanoid and the like, the ones I get a special charge out of because they appear to have been lifted straight out of a pulp.

Nick Redfern had a great post about "The Absurdities of Cryptozoology."  In it, he examines just how many areas said to be lurking with cryptids (e.g. Loch Ness, the Pacific Northwest) are crowded with tangential but every bit as weird sightings. All of this weirdness is so absurd that it would seem to indicate it is not of the physical and therefore difficult to study through science. The true nature of it all might be better found through a study of the supernatural.

Then again, it could be due to the simulated universe theory. A simulated "matrix" explanation would also go a long way towards explaining why UFOs and their apparent occupants seem so bent on wanting to be observed. It's because they serve a purpose...or they are a "mistake."

The 23 Enigma might be something similar. It's an artifact or a signature in the coding of our simulation. While I'm not exactly beamish about all this, it does provide a possibility that is simultaneously ingenious, exciting, and greatly unsettling.

Yes, I know there is a film called The Number 23 and I need to see it. Will post a review once I have.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Checking into the robot hotel

What is the first obvious sign of a robotics revolution? When they start running our hotels, of course.

There is a hotel in Japan that will be staffed by robots. Called Henn-Na Hotel, which NBC News reports is translated into English as simply "Strange Hotel," the lodgings will open in July and feature three different "actroids." These are robots that the management says will act as receptionists and will be capable of holding full-on conversations with guests. Other robots will serve the roles of porters and bellhops, carrying guests' luggage to their rooms while others still will be assigned housekeeping and maintenance duties. I looked at the hotel website but I couldn't really get a clear view of the robots.

A bit more surprising is the bold claim by Huis Ten Bosch, the corporation that owns the hotel. They state that they want 90% of the hotel's services to eventually be provided by robots. I know that we're quite concerned these days about how many jobs are going to be replaced by robots, but this might work out just fine. Think about it, all you fellow introverts. You're checking into a hotel and you have to make small talk with either reception or the porter. I know they're just trying to be friendly and they are trained to do so as part of good customer service (most of the time) but for many of us it's just exhausting. In the setting proposed by "Strange Hotel," I'm not sure that will be an issue anymore.

Oh! One other cool thing about the hotel...facial recognition software. Ever lost your hotel room key or had it demagnetized? I had that happen to me about five times back when I was in New York last summer. At Strange Hotel, you can be automatically issued a new key after passing a facial recognition test. Cool, huh?

Yes, the success of this venture is still very much in doubt but I'd say it's worth a bash anyway. I'm not sure how such a hotel would go over in America. Here we're rather taken aback by "the uncanny valley." Masahiro Mori coined that concept in 1970. It refers to the odd revulsion humans have to things that look human but just aren't quite right. In other words, either make your robots utterly humanlike or so cutesy that they obviously couldn't be human. There appears to be little allowance for the middle.

That might not be an issue. I somehow see the Japanese erring on the cutesy side. Have your luggage taken to your room by Hello Kitty or the like. I pretty much would be down for any form of robot hotel service, especially at the relatively low rate of $60 American for one night. Be nice to these new robot laborers. Looks like they're taking over.

Next thing you know, they're telling jokes or starting bands.

Oh yeah, it's St. Patrick's Day. I guess I'm suppose to...do something. So just imagine that this post has been read to you in a brogue.

Or...I dunno. Here's Morrissey.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, March 16, 2015

I for one welcome our new ape overlords

Another dent has gone into the "they're just animals" argument.

A study found that chimpanzees are able to change their grunts among new peer groups in order to better communicate with them. The study had two separate groups of chimps and housed them together. Evidence from this study seems to strongly suggest that when chimps grunt about an object, the grunts serve a function similar to words between humans and more than just emotion. Specifically, a new group of chimps in the study eventually learned to use lower, subdued grunts to ask for apples as opposed to the higher-pitched calls that they had emitted in their previous surroundings. While this indeed sheds much more light on animal behavior, it also speaks to a question I find fascinating: the origins of language.

Dr. Katie Slocomb, paper's lead author, had the following to say on that subject:

"One really powerful way to try and understand how language evolved is to look at the communication systems of animals that are closely related to us," she said. "What kind of basic communication skills were in that common ancestor? And what really is unique in humans, and has evolved since?
"This is the first bit of evidence which might suggest that it's a much older capability, that maybe our last common ancestor might also have had."

Back in December, I remember hearing an NPR report that suggested apes, such as chimpanzees and the like, have been observed using similar grunts as a form of language to show others in their group how to use tools. Now by "tools" I mean sticks, branches, rocks and whatnot. I don't want anyone to get a mental image of apes using rivet guns and welding torches and the like to build any kind of sophisticated devices. Yet that really shouldn't be enough to allay the collywobbles.

Humans are continuously attempting to set themselves apart from other animals. We're different. Special. We can communicate with one another. Oh wait. Guess we're not the only ones that can do that. Only we are capable of abstract thought...or is that only we are capable of communicating such thought in a way that we can understand? Don't knock the animal kingdom. One minute they're altering their grunts in order to communicate, the next they're getting organized. One minute they're working with basic, primitive tools, the next they're building weapons. How long before we're being chased by gorillas on horseback and scooped up into nets? You'll find me once again at the base of the Statue of Liberty, on my knees and howling, "You did it! You finally did it, didn't you?"

Be nice to them folks. It's a slippery slope.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, March 13, 2015

FFF: Games

I don't quite know what to say today.

Other than people sure do enjoy playing games.

A meal is really a battlefield. Make certain the avenue is on your terms and for God's sake you better pick up the check. That way you have them right where you want them.

Move those chess pieces around and around...

"Social events are merely warfare in disguise."
--Khan on Star Trek, claiming to quote Napoleon (so search for it yourself to seek veracity, I have no desire.)

Oh don't worry little friend. Your position is secure. Despite your advanced age and your limited accomplishments, no one is pushing you out to pasture. No cakes wheeled in or watches given as a "thank you for your service" gift. Though I think there are a few AARP envelopes somewhere on your desk.

"Oh cursed spite, that I was ever born to set right."
--Shakespeare, Hamlet

No little man. Your own little fiefdom in Hell sits squarely under your control.

"There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth."
--C.S. Lewis

How Richard III you are, your petty jealousies, your hidden inadequacies, your manipulations and your attempts at building alliances...that is if you could only find someone to stand with you.

They call you lazy. Oh yes they do. But that's not really it, is it, little friend? You're tired. You're "the lion in winter" and heavy is the head that wears the old king's crown. Hemingway must have written something about this very affliction...just before he blew his brains all over the wall.

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I shouldn't be so sensitive. I should not allow the lion in winter to intenerate me further than I already am. But it's my INFP nature, that damnable Meiers-Briggs or however the hell you spell it. I just don't have the energy to go looking right now.
I shouldn't get offended. I shouldn't spend so much time mulling over what someone thinks of me, especially someone I have so little respect for. No man is an island? Why not? How can the words and machinations of another have any effect on a self-contained organism of any intelligence?

And they wonder why I'm an introvert. I have no energy or stomach for the chicanery of others.
Nobody told me there'd be days like these.

"There's UFOs over New York and I ain't too surprised."

There is a lesson you have taught me, little man. Oh yes there is and I suppose I must be grateful. It can happen at any time, so don't get caught off guard. Give no information. Trust few. Choose your friends wisely.

Once again old man, fear not. You still wear the crown of shit upon your head. I would never try to knock it off.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In Search Of...

This will be the final installment in my trilogy of posts honoring Leonard Nimoy. Today, I take a look at how he helped introduce me to the paranormal.

The TV show was called In Search Of. It began as a series of documentaries centered around the idea of Ancient Astronauts...long before Giorgio and the History Channel ever came along. The docs were hosted by Rod Serling. He died shortly after their production, but the show's producers had one more in the can and I would see it much later in life on late night TV. It was entitled Manbeast! Myth or Monster? focusing on reports of Bigfoot-like creatures and was hosted by Peter Graves. But to become a permanent thing, In Search Of would need a regular host.

They found one in Leonard Nimoy.

In 1977 I had already started reading about UFOs. My strong interest in science fiction had led me to the subject. The strong, vocal opposition from a teacher about this interest only helped solidify it. Then I happened across a syndicated airing of In Search Of. The journey into mystery accompanied by creepy music and the booming voice of Leonard Nimoy (whom I already knew as Spock) really got me. Naturally, the first episode I caught was on UFOs. In Nimoy's opening narration, he mentioned how these craft were often seen in "quiet, rural areas."

Damn! That's where I was living! Shivers. Even watching the episode on YouTube again does it to me a bit. Floods of memories coming back.

The episode ended with artist renditions of the UFOs, including one where the witnesses claimed to have encountered the occupants of the craft. Little seven year-old Jon Nichols slept with the lights on that night.

Didn't stop me from gorging on In Search Of at every opportunity. Here are a few of the other episodes I have found on YouTube:

In Search of Bigfoot. This one started out with a POV shot in a wooded area with sasquatch grunts and noises as the soundtrack. The description of sightings...a few of them not too friendly...and the physical evidence of footprints caused another sleepless night. Yeah, my parents were thrilled.

In Search of the Loch Ness Monster. Something's rotten in Scotland. It also sparked a lifelong desire to visit that dark lake in the Highlands.

In Search of Martians. Was there once a civilization on Mars? Did it die out from dramatic climate change? Could the same thing happen to us? Really, this show was years before its time.

In Search of Ghosts. We're deep in the paranormal now. This gave accounts and even photographs of souls who had not moved on. Chilling.

In Search of Dracula. We are all familiar with the dark magic of Stoker's vampire lord. But I must credit Leonard Nimoy with introducing me to the real life Vlad "The Impaler" Tepes, ruler of Romania.

In Search of Lost Vikings. Not paranormal, really, but I became utterly enraptured by the idea that the Vikings made it to America hundreds of years before Columbus. Is that really the hammer of Thor in the Arctic?

In Search of the Dark Star. Great introduction to the mystery of the Dogon Tribe of Africa who seem to know a hell of a lot about astronomy and tell tales of alien visitation.

In Search of Abominable Snowman. Had lots of great shots of a guy in a yeti suit. Made me not want to play in the snow.

In Search of Carlos the Jackal. Not paranormal, but an interesting look at the infamous terrorist. Caught it when I was 12 and deep into G.I. Joe. I thought Carlos would make a great Cobra operative.

In Search of Vincent van Gogh. As I said earlier in the week, Leonard Nimoy was an artist. He had great admiration for Van Gogh and wrote a one-man play about the artist called Vincent. It's an astounding play and I recommend you see it if given the opportunity. Nimoy's own research concludes that the man was not insane.

In Search of Sherlock Holmes.  Did the most famous detective in literature actually exist? Well in way, maybe, yeah.

So there. A mound of wonderful TV viewing awaiting your indulgence. None of it would have been possible without Leonard Nimoy and I'm not certain I would have been given such a foundation in the paranormal without the show. Now before anyone accuses me of hero worship, I will respond by saying this is the final Nimoy-themed post that I have planned. So relax.

I simply wanted to commemorate a wonderful artist and human being. Now, I have done that.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Transhumanism and "future crimes"

Students in my class on transhumanism have no trouble seeing the glass half-empty.

Regardless of the amount of grounded optimism I offer, all rendered suitably magniloquent, a transhuman world just doesn't seem appealing to them. The downsides and pitfalls of progress are obvious to them. What happens when you modify the human body so much as to render it unrecognizable? If brain-to-brain cybernetic interfaces become practical and widespread, as it seems they very well may one day, who is to say that an individual with Luciferian intent couldn't take over your mind? Well, it seems that we need not even wait that long before our current state of hyper-connectivity opens us to more and more frightening prospects.

Singularity Weblog published an excerpt from the book Future Crimes by Marc Goodmand. Socrates, the Chief Editor of Singularity Weblog, called it, "...the scariest book I have ever read." That's enough to make me sit up and take notice.

The excerpt kicks off with Goodman offering this chilling observation: George Orwell was right. Sort of. Sure, the author of 1984 would have smugly nodded his head at the issue of the NSA invading privacy all in the name of "national security," but it is less likely that Orwell would have foreseen Google, Acxiom, and social media. The sheer magnitude to which we are connected through our devices has created all manner of opportunities for transgressions, from the petty to the absolutely dystopian. Who is to blame for that? Well, we are.

As Goodman writes:

"To that point, in those cases it wasn’t Big Brother government that “did something to us,” but rather we who did something to ourselves. We allowed ourselves to become monetized and productized on the cheap, giving away billions of dollars of our personal data to new classes of elite who saw an opportunity and seized it. We accepted all their one-sided Terms of Service [ToS] without ever reading them, and they maximized their profits, unencumbered by regulation or oversight. To be sure, we got some pretty cool products out of the deal, and Angry Birds is really fun. But now that we’ve given all these data away, we find ourselves at the mercy of powerful data behemoths with near-government-level power who do as they please with our information and our lives."

Ouch. Touche.

I'm paraphrasing here, but Goodman explains the hazards of the 21st Century frontier in a few different ways. It used to be that it took at minimum one person to rob one other person, whether it be in a Batman-ish, "Crime Alley" scenario for a wallet and watch or what have you. Now, one person can rob thousands, perhaps millions via hacking. We saw this with the Target hack in late 2013. The reality of our society is that governmental mechanisms, irrespective of motive, can now monitor your email and search history, your social media activity, and even what video games you play. Doesn't take a warrant or a procedure. They can just do it.

My students were quick to pick up on the world's hyper-connectivity and what that means, coming to roughly the same conclusions as Goodman only not as detailed, obviously. Given Moore's Law and Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns, we are only going to get more connected. What happens when consciousness is uploaded? Who has access? What happens in a "hive mind" scenario? Is the Orwellian concept of "thoughtcrime" that far fetched any longer? Does this mean we just halt all development of technology?

No. It means we greet the challenges with eyes wide open and do what we always do: try to solve them.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Art of Leonard Nimoy

One week ago, I paid tribute to Leonard Nimoy for what he was best known for. However, it is vital that he be remembered for one of the other numerous roles that he played in life: artist.

At Leonard Nimoy Photography, you can see gallery samples of Nimoy's photographic art. From the website previously linked:

"He [Nimoy] studied at UCLA under Robert Heineken in the early 1970s and later received an “artist in residence” appointment at the American Academy in Rome.
Mr Nimoy’s photography is included  in many museum collections, including The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Judah L. Magnes Museum, The LA County Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum of NY, The New Orleans Museum of Fine Art and The Hammer Museum."

As you might know by now, I dabble in photography.  This man was no mere dabbler.

He was an artist.

I first learned of his art when Nimoy was a guest on his old friend Bill Shatner's interview program on Biography. On that program, Leonard Nimoy spoke about several of his themed galleries, such as the series of self portraits that he shot (see above). There were, however, two subjects that really caught my interest.

One was called The Full Body Project. There is a gallery of photos from this project at the link and I will let you seek them out for yourself as they are NSFW. The Full Body Project was a series of black and white compositions featuring fuller figured women. The images spark questions as to what conventional society deems as "beautiful" in regard to the female body. The women and the photography are stunning and the images speak for themselves, but I would like to post an excerpt from Nimoy's artist statement on the subject:

"With these new images, I am now hearing different words. Sometimes "beautiful," but with a different sub-text. I hear comments, which lead to questions. The questions lead to discussions—about beauty, social acceptability, plastic surgery, our culture and health. In these pictures these women are proudly wearing their own skin. They respect themselves and I hope that my images convey that to others."

Another even more impressive exhibit was Secret Selves. Nimoy invited a number of individuals from a cross-section of society to the studio. The directions for their appearance were simple: "Come as you are." Not as how society sees you, but who you think you are. Do you have another self that you have never revealed? What is your "other identity?" The results he received were nothing short of amazing. I take extra delight in the woman who showed up dressed as a stegosaurus. I can only imagine how freeing this artistic exercise must have been for those involved. How rare it is that we can really, truly be ourselves. Take a look at Secret Selves at the link.

I write this in tribute and I am glad that Leonard Nimoy left the world so many outstanding achievements with which to remember and celebrate his life. At the same time, going through all of this wide inventory of work has not assuaged my melancholy. It goes away for a while and then I'm all right, then I experience the formication once more and it burrows its way back to the surface. If nothing else, I somewhat feel like the hole is only growing deeper. This will diminish in time, I know. I will eventually only be left with happy memories. 

Until then I just deal with it.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review--What If? #20

Fair warning: there is intense comic book geekery ahead.

So you thought my deconstructive analysis of the epic that is the Kree-Skrull War was over?

Yeah. I did too. Then I came across issue #20 of What If? in the used bin of the comic book store.

Unless you're a Marvel Comics devotee, you likely are unfamiliar with the What If? series. Essentially, it was something of a masturbatory exercise for the writers and artists of Marvel as they got to monkey around with their own canon and continuity. What if a major character had made a different decision at a pivotal time? For example, what if Captain America had not decided against running for president? What if it had somehow been Aunt May that got bitten by the radioactive spider and not Peter Parker? I call this writing exercise "masturbatory" as it typically allowed the writers to hatch really morbid plots where major characters died and things could go south in a hurry while the actual canon and continuity remained untouched. Things rarely ended well for those characters involved in What If?

Such was the case with #20: "What if the Avengers fought the Kree-Skrull War without Rick Jones?"

I just don't have it in me tonight to recapitulate the entire Kree-Skrull War story arc, so click the link above to follow it through for yourself. Suffice it to say that the conflict was in part resolved by Rick Jones attaining great mental powers from the Supreme Intelligence of the Kree. Well, what if things had not turned out that way?

Back in part 8 of the saga, Rick made a rather brash and impudent attack on Ronan the Accuser. Ronan knocked him down rather quickly and decided to keep Rick around to be a "body slave." Shudder. But what if Ronan had decided otherwise and just killed Rick? What then? Well, long story short: things sort of turn out the same...but with a lot more effort and sweatier superheroes.

When Captain Marvel escapes his own bonds and learns of Rick's murder, well...he kind of goes a little funny in the head. Not even the eyesome Princess Annelle of the Skrull empire can assuage his rancor. Since the Super Skrull is the nearest enemy, Mar-Vell pretty much tears into him. Elsewhere in the heavens, the war between Kree and Skrull spills in towards Earth.

Earth's heroes respond! In a full court press that I have not seen since the Invasion! storyline of DC Comics, just about all major characters in the MCU charge to the planet's defense. In addition to the Avengers, we see the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Daredevil, and even Doctor Doom flinging themselves once more into the breach, as the Bard might say. Thor goes to Asgard and enlists the aid of gods of that realm (I must say, it's pretty cool to see Viking longships cruise through space to attack spaceships.) The fighting is fierce but the alien enemies are repelled with no superhero casualties. An oddity for What If?

That is unless you count the burgeoning romance between The Vision and Scarlet Witch. Apparently the Vision of this timeline decided that he could not come between the sibling relationship of his intended and her brother, Quicksilver (no, not in that way. Perv.) So he backs off.

Captain Marvel, in a wacky turn of events, assumes the throne of the Skrull Empire and selects Annelle as his queen. A Kree? Ruling the Skrulls? What is the universe coming to? At least we get to see Captain Marvel set out to a full, happy life...which of course he does not get in the regular MCU.

What of Ronan the Accuser, the sick bastard whose slaying of Rick Jones brought about this alternate timeline? Well, recall that he kept the Kree Supreme Intelligence captive so that he (Ronan) might become undisputed ruler of the Kree. Well, the Supreme Intelligence absorbs the body of Rick Jones and then...evolves. It becomes a green, embryo-like entity resembling the Starchild from 2001. This new lifeform annihilates Ronan and then heads off to reflect and learn more about itself...and the universe it will "one day master." Ok then.

I must say it was an enjoyable issue. Writer Tom DeFalco took what was already a grand story arc and blew up to an even bigger scale with an attack on Earth. It was also perversely fun to see Captain Marvel finally lose it. I think had it coming to him.

So I'm done now with the Kree-Skrull War. No. Really I am this time.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

UFOs of the solar system

In August of 2013, Mars became the location of a UFO sighting.

A photo from the Curiosity rover seemed to show a classic, saucer-shaped object in the distance in the skies above the planet. Proponents of an extraterrestrial explanation for this UFO cite that the photo comes straight from NASA and has not been altered. I can't speak to the veracity of these claims but what I believe I can assert is this:

Our skies are not the sole locales of UFO sightings. The entire solar system seems to be an open market for anomalies.

Mars makes sense, really. Was there was once a civilization there, thriving before the waters of the flowing canals retreated to become the sastruga of the poles? What with all of the allegations of giant faces, pyramid-shaped structures, Cydonian Imperatives, and claims even more bizarre than those, the Red Planet would seem a natural fit for UFOs. The suggestion of a past civilization that was lost to a disaster of one sort or another, something I'm still weighing in terms of evidence, is tantalizing. Sightings of UFOs make it all the more so. Add the recent mystery of the "plumes" and...well, there you go.

This even stretches back into antiquity. The Greeks told stories of fires in the sky as Mars warred with Venus. Did a Martian civilization get wiped out in this conflict with the former residents of Venus? Strangely enough, there are those who argue for the presence of artificial structures on "Earth's twin." Indeed Venus was an oft purported point of origin for aliens encountered by "contactees" of the 1950s (see Valiant Thor for example), but the vast majority of scientific data would indicate that conditions on Venus would be inhospitable to...well, just about anything. As such, it would seem this specific claim of "war in the heavens" would be more attributable to mythology attempting to explain meteor showers.

Then there's a "new moon on Neptune." Sorry. Couldn't resist a little shout out to Duran Duran.

Once again in 2013, a discovery was made. There was a heretofore unseen moon orbiting the planet Neptune. Kinda cool if you're into astronomy like I am, but not really UFO-related or even all that bizarre. Upon closer inspection, however, this new moon has a number of oddities.

The moon is only about 11 miles in diameter. It is so small that Voyager failed to even notice it when the probe passed by Neptune in 1989. There are those who would ask, "so when exactly did it show up? Why hasn't it been pulverized by asteroids or been drawn into collision with one of Neptune's other moons?" The subtext of those questions being, "Is it actually a spacecraft?"

Not likely, but if it is, then a greater mystery is "what is it doing around Neptune?" as there doesn't seem to be a whole lot going on there at this time. Or ever. Then again, this may be a case of narrow human perception.

When writing fiction, I have sometimes conjectured that we will never stop seeing UFOs. No matter how much we learn, no matter how much we can explain, no matter how far we advance into the universe and (maybe) encounter other civilizations, we will just keep seeing UFOs. This might speak to the more metaphysical (and to me more interesting) aspects of the phenomena, but it might also be a shadowy indication that there will just always seem to be something else out there.

Part of me never wants it brought into the light.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Thank you, Fox News for keeping me un-"Frozen"

It is said that ignorance is bliss.

Well then I need to thank Fox News for keeping me in ignorance.

I was unaware of the threat. Completely ignorant. It snaked and coiled its way through our culture and even our political discourse, just waiting to snap my manhood from my person. That is, until Fox News rode in to the rescue while I remained precariously unawares.

"You need to watch out for Frozen!" the defenders of journalistic integrity cried to all who would heed last month.

"Tell me about it," I replied like a clueless dolt. "It's really turning cold out. So much for that namby-pamby Global Warming hoax."

"No! Frozen!" they repeated.

That's right. The Disney film about a young girl fighting alongside a reindeer and a snowman to save a realm from eternal winter. As is all too often the case, evil has come a callin' in a cute, fluffy disguise, all the while just waiting for the opportunity to slice off my genitalia and put me in a muumuu. Well that won't get past the keen senses of Steve Douchey Doocey of "Fox and Friends." He took the film Frozen to task, calling it out for “empowering girls by turning our men into fools and villains.”

Geez, neither one of those things sounds too good. You mean this so-called "Frozen effect" might make me start stumbling around the kitchen like an oaf while spending inordinate and uncomfortable amounts of time with snowmen? Say it ain't so, Steve. Alas, Doocey set me straight. And he didn't need any amount of variorum to paint my little red wagon. No, he just needed one solid expert to come on his show and preach it like it is.

Her name was Penny Young Nance, a concerned American woman who is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America. Let me tell you something, Mr. and Mrs. America: she is concerned.

“Hollywood in general has often sent the message that men are superfluous, that they're stupid, that they're in the way, and if they contribute anything to a family, it's a paycheck," she said. “Men are essential in our society. We want to raise real men. We want to encourage masculinity and not villain-ize masculinity.”

Heyyyyy. Wait a minute. So let me get this straight. The more empowered female characters are in popular culture, the less value and status I have as a man? Oh that's not good. That's not good at all. Especially when this comes as but a mere harbinger to an all-but-certain 2016 presidential run by Hillary Clinton. Why it was but a mere, measly month ago that Ross K. Baker, a Political Scientist at Rutgers University wrote that strong women like Clinton and Nancy Pelosi are scaring all the good male candidates out of the Democratic Party.

Damn liberals.

Is everybody (besides Fox and Doocey, that is) going to just take this sitting down while the feminist agenda builds a genuine Frozen igloo around our manhood? Does nobody else remember how the election of Barack Obama lessened the status of every white man in the good ol' U.S. of A.? Now this? Adding insult to injury, even our delightful, toss-away, insipid entertainment comes laced with this evil agenda. It's all a slippery slope and I want to know where it ends. I have a hunch it's nowhere that a "real American man" would to be.

Thankful as I am for Fox News keeping my unwary rear safe from emasculation (oh and by the way, I should also send a special shout out to the GOP for keeping me safe by almost shutting down the Department of Homeland Security), I am nevertheless left bereft. Doocey and his crew never told me how to keep myself safe from here on out. I mean, it's all about "personal responsibility," right GOPpers? I can't count on Sooper Doocey to be there every time a liberal, "feminazi" Disney ice harpy tries to rip away my gonads. What to do?

Maybe I need to gorge on manly, emulation-worthy role models such as Tony Stark in Iron Man. He's a boozer, he's a ladies man, and he's got a kickass suit of superhero armor. Wait, he built that armor himself with advanced technology. That takes fancy book learnin' and I just don't see that squaring well with Fox News.

Guess I'm left with old VHS tapes of Vince Lombardi speeches a few dog-eared copies of Penthouse.
Sigh. Help me, Steve Doocey. You're my only hope.

I mean that in the most manly way possible.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, March 2, 2015

Leonard Nimoy: In memorium

A great light has gone out in science fiction.

I cut the quasi-chevron shape out of the cardboard as best as I could, trying to prevent jagged edges. With a felt-tip marker I drew my best approximation of the science officer's insignia and then colored in the interior with a yellow highlighter. Godawful as my sewing skills were, I fastened gold ric-rac around the sleeves of a blue, long sleeve shirt made of a plush fabric like velvet or velour. The Starfleet emblem went over the shirt's embroidered fox, the pointed ears went over my given ones, and a slash of my Mom's mascara gave my eyebrows an uplift.

I might've been 13, but at that moment...I was Spock.

It's not often that celebrity deaths get to me. I mean, yes Lou Reed was a tough one. But the death of Leonard Nimoy has hit me in ways for which I was unprepared. The man was a great artist and contributed much more to the world than simply his iconic character. Actor, writer, director, photographer, painter. Nimoy's artistic achievements are worthy of a blog post in and of itself and I will provide one in the coming weeks. Tonight though, I'm just trying to feel my way through this loss. To do so, I need to contemplate how I came to know him: as Spock.

As is the case with many geeks, Star Trek became constant companion to me. In all of its incarnations up until the 1980s...the original series, the animated series, the movies, The Next Generation...it was there for me all those weekends I spent by myself. The bridge crew of the original series became almost a second family to me. They were the source of innumerable bits of parodies, artwork, and random acts of geekery between my me and my friend, Brad. Most any product of science fiction can provide escapism. This experience with Star Trek, however, was much more. It provided a means through which to see the universe, a code of conduct and thinking to aspire to, and an unabashed optimism for humanity's future.

A big part of that was Spock and who he was. He was...well, logical. I was not. I was a teenage tempest just starting to learn about depression. And yet...and yet...I found myself subconsciously attempting to emulate him. The episode "Amok Time" from the original series showed a Spock revealing his savage side during the time of "pon farr." It also featured him regaining mastery of his emotions and allowing reason and cool-thinking to prevail. Seeing this, I began to think that I could gain control over my emotions, to rule them and not the other way around. Also, I knew I just wasn't good looking enough to be the "space stud" that Jim Kirk was. But I did happen to have a bit going on upstairs. Maybe, just maybe, I could be Spock.

Then in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Spock attempted Kolinahr, the Vulcan purging of what vestigial emotions remained. Without giving spoilers, I'll just say all did not go as planned. A connection to something greater called to Spock, something that sought meaning and completion (yeah okay, it was V'Ger.) This seemed to set Spock on a road to realization, of reconciling his Vulcan side with his human half. My lesson in that was one need not "purge" all emotion, but seek balance and harmony. You could take the best qualities of Vulcan...logic and scientific reasoning...and temper them with the best of humanity...compassion and community. Later in college I would learn this Spock-ian principle to be very close to Aristotle's "doctrine of the mean."

The more I think about it, the more I realize how much Spock trickled down into my psyche. When I would find myself confronted by a difficult math or computer problem...which was pretty much all of them for someone like me...I would channel that approach of pure logic that served Spock so well. When bullied or teased, I began to offer calm responses that came laced with sly and cutting wit.

In short, I grokked Spock.

More important than any of that, I hoped to mimic the character's steadfast loyalty ("I have been, and always shall be, your friend.") As a Vulcan, Spock had no agenda. He did not actively seek command or advancement or riches or any of the chicanery I find myself dealing with humans over most days. In fact, it seemed he had but two ambitions: 1) to continually gain knowledge 2) to serve. I can't help but think that those two aspects of Spock's character were extensions of Leonard Nimoy himself.

None of this could have happened without Leonard Nimoy. He breathed life into that character. Yes, Spock was created by Gene Roddenberry and I would never minimize the contributions of the many writers involved with the franchise. That said, to truly create such an indelible and iconic character, one that would become so ingrained in our culture, that takes a special actor. In this case and with no disrespect to Zachary Quinto, it truly took Leonard Nimoy. Because of him, Spock became a living, breathing being.

Geez, this post is already twice as long as a typical one...and I haven't even gotten to Nimoy's role in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and of course In Search Of. Yeah, that last one is going to take a whole post on its own. Guess I'm rambling and still rather in shock.

What else can I say that others haven't already? I'm hurt by this loss. Leonard Nimoy was amazing. He was an inspiration. He was a truly wonderful human being and although I never knew him or even met him, I miss him. I have been...and always shall be...your fan.

May your legend live long and prosper.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets