Category Archives: BOOKS, MOVIES, TV, MUSIC

“Great Opening Sentences From Science Fiction.”

Yesterday\'s digital blue.All-things-scifi Web site, io9, has a wonderful article today:

As a student of creative writing and hopeful one-day teacher of it, I’m acutely aware of how important a good first line or two is for capturing the attention of the reader, and especially the editor who’s sifting through the slush pile of submitted manuscripts for publishing.

I think my favorite opening line I’ve written so far is:

“Ash was too late to see the end of the universe; it was already dead when he woke up.”

In the comment thread for this article, commentor Timeshredder remarks:

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” – William Gibson, Neuromancer.

Great line. More menacing when a television tuned to a dead channel wasn’t bright blue.

I so agree. When I first read Neuromancer when I was about…(OMG) 22 years old, I lingered over that opening line–it was poetry! It was my kind of poetry. Technopoetic. Then I read it again last year and yeah, the second thing to immediately pop into my head was an unmarred field of urgent blue. The new appearance of the “detuned” television channel creates an entirely and fundamentally new feeling to the atmosphere and tone of the novel.

Of course, as one continues reading they’ll start to appreciate the gritty urban decay Gibson was going for, which will simply conflict with and then overshadow the idea of the sky being a bright digital blue.

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears; redux.

I read Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears (edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling) when it first came out in 1995. I bought and read…no, devoured all of the collections of “modern fairy tales” when I was an undergrad those early 90s–Snow White, Blood Red, Black Thorn, White Rose, etc. Now, the series is being re-released for a new audience and I’d like to take the opportunity to review the third book in the series…in what I’m afraid is a rather mixed review.

The edition I’m reviewing is a reprint–and when I say “reprint,” that’s exactly what it is. The version of the book I received, as the new reprint, has the cover seen here and a publishing date of 1996 under Prime Books. The original mass market paperback I have was from Avon Books and released 1995 (although Barnes and Noble is showing it published in a different year and publisher than I’m looking at right now in the book itself). Amazon shows another cover for Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears also published by Prime, but listed as 2008. There are a couple more covers and ISBNs available through Amazon and B&N. Regardless of this very confusing collection of Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears iterations, one thing I can deduce from my looking and primarily from comparing the two editions in my hands, is that while there may be a multitude of covers the insides are exactly the same. Exactly! From the table of contents and the introduction straight through to the intros for each story and the very page numbering, the contents of the books are identical.

Now, I find this to be a huge disappointment. Partly because it makes the book and the editors seem a bit daft to the reader coming to the book anew. For example, the introduction to Susan Wade’s story mentions “Her first novel, Walking Rain…was recently published by Bantam” (8). Ten years ago.

The other most significant reason for my disappointment comes from the un-updated volume introduction. One of the best parts of this modern fairy tale series are the, well, scholarly essays about fairy tales and their modern versions and descendants–why the tales came into being, their history, their impact, common themes. (Well, at least until their fifth collection, Silver Birch, Blood Moon. By then the introduction becomes a short collection of trivia and recommended reading. While still very interesting, the regular reader may have become spoiled by the breadth and depth of the previous introductions.) The new release of the books have nothing new from the editors on the subject, the genre, past nor present. Not even from an additional introduction author who could have been commissioned to write a supplemental introduction providing new insight or criticism on the subject should Datlow and Windling have been too busy to update their material (which I’m sure they are. After having apparently exhausted their thoughts on the matter pretty obviously by the last installment of the series, perhaps it should also be obvious they’d have nothing new to add to reprinted versions of the series). But, it has been ten years since the series was introduced–there could certainly be new thoughts on the subject by other scholars and essayists since then as surely as there have been new authors and stories.

Which brings me to my third though admittedly least significant disappointment: no new stories. As reprints, one doesn’t expect there to be new fiction content, nor did I really. (Although new or additional introductions or prefaces aren’t that unusual for reprints. But, I think I’ve beat that horse enough. Except to say one more time that new story intros would have been highly advised at the very least.) Though, after really looking at it, the last in this series, Black Heart, Ivory Bones, did come out in only 2000. That’s not terribly long ago. Plus, Datlow and Windling have put out other related anthologies such as A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales (2000), The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest (2004) and The Coyote Road (2007). While these may be for a younger audience than the Snow White, Blood Red series, it perhaps proves that Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have not abandoned the subject and new authors but have perhaps redirected their efforts in different directions. If one wants new fairy tales with a modern and possibly an adult twist, you’ll just have to turn to their Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies or Ellen Datlow’s Inferno.

Now, all that being said, let’s get back to the content of the primary book in question: Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears. As with the other books in the series, this one has a mix of stories that range from mediocre to heart-wrenchingly good. Certainly the likability of a story is quite subjective to the person, and the situation! For example, I recall when I first read the opening story of this anthology, Wade’s “Ruby Slippers,” I adored the sardonic and ironic twist put on the Wizard of Oz tale. But now, after reading and viewing a decade of “twists on a familiar tale,” “Ruby Slippers” seems trite and tired. Like something I would have read from undergrad creative writing class.

But this kind of story is rare; most of the stories in this collection, while certainly retellings and often twists on a theme, go far deeper and evoke greater emotion in both range and intensity. And in general, with better writing. But occasionally it’s taken too far, such as Anne Bishop’s “Match Girl.” This story manipulates the pathos in such a way as to become grotesque, in content and manipulativeness. I recall when I first read this story, when I was about 24, the horrific events that the title character encounters made me appropriately angry toward her persecutors and tormentors and rooting for her vengeance or at least her release from torment. I didn’t get the feminist ideology driving the narrative at the time, I simply enjoyed the story. Now, older and hopefully wiser, I reread this story seeing it as a thin allegory for the trials and tribulations the female sex has to endure in a negative, demeaning, abusive patriarchal society. While on the one hand I applaud and support this agenda, I have to say I enjoyed the story much less because of how thin the veil is. I was no longer reading a story, I was reading a blatant polemic. And with this new awareness, what I read as a bitter-sweet ending ten years ago, I see now as a frustratingly antagonistic and arrogant attack against the author’s own gender in general.

As the editors discuss in their wonderful introduction to the book, much of folk, fable, and fairy tale have been “rather subversive,” until the patriarchy of the Victorian Age and Disney reshaped them (3). This is an aspect of the fairy tales of the past, and the modern versions of the present, that I greatly enjoy–no one loves subversiveness more than I. (Go Marxism!) But I dislike when the rage and anger at the hegemonic ideology is mixed with blatantly ephemeral allegory that ends up, in my opinion, doing a disservice to both the narrative and the message.

Fortunately this is also rare. Most of the stories in this anthology find a balance in theme and narrative so that the story can be enjoyed for its own sake, but the subversive message is there if you care to look. A wonderful example of this balance is found in Ellen Steiber’s “The Fox Wife.” Like many of these stories, if you’re not shedding a tear by the end of it, you’re a heartless bastard. This story, while the message of subverting gender roles and tradition and expectations of marriage is evident, the wonderful storytelling enraptures the reader in the all the best ways. It’s a story that leaves you thinking about it for days.

There’s no reason to read editions in the Snow White, Blood Red series in order, even the introductions are nicely self-contained. If you want to pick up Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears and start from there, it’s a good of place as any. Honestly, if you already have an earlier copy, there is no reason to buy the new re-release–there’s nothing new in it for you. But if you’re new to these modern fairy tales for the grown up, this is a must-read!

Writing update: summer promises.

Well, the semester is almost done–one final tonight (contemporary theories in cultural criticism…or something like that. I never have actually learned the name of the class), then begins the summer of self-directed…stuff!

(Only one more year until I graduate with my MA in English (Creative Writing track). Assuming I pass my German literacy requirements, my comprehensive exams, and complete my thesis. To those ends…)

(…on German…)
So this summer I need to basically re-learn German. 😛 Not that I’m really complaining, I love the German language! But I’m so far behind…. Back in my BAs, 10 years ago,  I earned enough GRM credits to get my undergrad degree, but I’m technically 2 courses short for my MA. I can either take the literacy test (which is what I’ve been thinking) or take two more classes (which wouldn’t work with my day job since they don’t offer GRM classes at night). I’m still somewhat good on German grammar, conjugation, syntax, but quizzing myself on German vocabulary…unless the test is composed of all pronouns, numbers, colors, and ways to say “I don’t know” and “I don’t understand,” I’m screwed.

I need to get some really good teach-yourself-resources this summer (any suggestions?!) and then see if I can take an advanced OTC class in the Fall (so if I bomb it won’t affect my 4.0 MSU gpa *prideful grin*), and then get that test out of the way before focusing on comps….

(…on Comprehensive Exams…)
Gah! I am SO dreading these! I have to come up with ten “questions” to write about regarding various topics in all of English literature, linguistics, theory, and cultural studies, submit them for review, get back four, write papers on them, and then on exam day find out which two I’ll be “answering” and then rewrite the papers from memory. I understand the necessity–I am supposed to be a “master” of my subject when I graduate with an MA. But it doesn’t mean I’m not going to have an ulcer that’s a Master of Pain in the process.

(…on Thesis/Novel…)
And for the good news: I just finished the first half of ENG699 this semester–my thesis work course. And incidentally, have finished the first half of my novel’s first draft. As my MA is Creative Writing focused, my thesis is a “creative thesis.” I looked over past English creative thesis in the university library…and I’m sort of disappointed. Almost all of the past creative thesis are collections of poems (no, that’s cool, that’s not what I’m disappointed about), but if it’s prose it’s almost all memoir (c’mon, really? Seventy pages of personal journal writing is a masters thesis?) or a couple of short stories. I like MSU, I do. But this is what they’re accepting as master’s work in creative writing? If you’re going to do short story collection (nothing wrong with that) it should be a personal anthology! At least eight and of varied genre. I saw maybe one complete novel in the collection and two partial novels (about seventy or eighty pages).

Well, if I can’t be in the University of Iowa’s Writing Program, then I’m at least going to set my own bar higher. I’m writing a complete novel, finished and polished, with an analysis anchored in critical theory, and a supplemental journal on the process of creation (I do hope to teach creative writing after all). So, last week my first draft reached 42,900 words (or about 120 pages). When I set out and created the novel’s general outline and background, I estimated it was going to be about 95,000 words long (about 275 mass market pages), and last week I felt I reached the mid-way point in the novel; it looks like I’m estimating my goal pretty well. Now this summer (and next fall) I need to finish the draft and start working on editing before ENG699 recommences Spring 09. That’s when I should be doing final edits and completing my critical analysis.

I’m considering posting my draft thus far for only friends to be able to access, and ask for feedback….

New Creative Commons releases. The Intertubes are the win!

UPDATE: Azamien has brought it to my attention that I’m mistaken regarding Trent Reznor appreciating what Radiohead did. (You’ll understand in a moment.) It may have helped form what Trent would later do, (and possibly do it better), but Trent has stated that he thought Radiohead’s thing was a “bait-and-switch.”
♦ Trent Reznor: Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ promotion was ‘insincere’
(Hat tip to Azamien)

Trent Reznor (aka, Nine Inch Nails) has just released the new, full studio release of the latest NIN album (and follow-up to the last studio album, Year Zero), The Slip, for free off the Web!

♦ NIN album, The Slip

It’s available in MP3 as well as ultra-high quality FLAC and Wav formats. He’ll be selling physical copies next month. This move, through the Creative Commons license, is hot on the heels of his release of the 2-disc Ghosts for free for digital copies, and modest prices for various physical forms.

Trent was so impressed by what Radiohead (my 3rd favorite band) did last year by offering their latest album for free (or whatever price you wanted to contribute for it), that when his contract ended and he became a free artists, he decided to do something similar. What probably helped is when his last contractual album, Year Zero, came out, it was leaked on the Internet. Either on his own, or to jerk around his corporate overlords, in response he streamed the album for free on his Web site. Despite both the leak and the free stream, the sales were still quite good! Proof that with the proper respect toward your fans, free offerings can still make you money.

It also helps that now that he’s no longer beholden to a record company, he gets more than less-than $1 per CD sold. So, under a record company, if he sold 100 CD’s in the store, he’d get about $9 as the artist. On his own, he could give away 50 of that 100 and sell the other 50, and after cost still make $250. It just makes sense!
But then you have the question over whether you have to be famous and have a huge, dedicated fan base, like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, for this to even be possible. Maybe.

In comes author Cory Doctorow. Contributor for blog BoingBoing, former advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and rabid digital rights advocate. This last week his new book came out:

♦ Little Brother
A young adult novel about some innocent teens who are brought in by Homeland Security as terrorist suspects, and are so victimized by the (very real world) domestic terrorism by the government that they seek to thwart the government’s program of abuse-of-liberty-via-false-security through their use of technology. (Also very real-world, and the book provides a how-to in each chapter for some of the methods used in the novel. Instructables Web site is also promoting some counter-surveillance/fake security methods in conjunction with the book.)

Cory started releasing each of his books for free under Creative Commons from the very beginning. He’s now somewhat famous and very well respected as a scifi author. He attributes his success to the fact that he’s offered his work up for free, believing that anyone who downloads a copy and doesn’t buy the book wasn’t going to anyway. It’s not a lost sale. And there are probably a lot of people who downloaded a copy and then bought the book who may never have bought it if not for the free version–gained sales.

One difference in these issues, the music and the books, is the record companies are rabid fighters against all possible threats to their profits, real or imagined. Book publishers are a million times more willing to back the artist. For example, Radiohead’s and Trent’s record labels would never have allowed what Cory’s doing, and in fact, I understand Trent’s went positively insane over his “stunt” of streaming Year Zero. Tor, Cory’s book publisher, which is a corporation and does like to make money, have been completely supportive of Cory’s providing his books for free. And likewise Cory defends them, asking people to buy the book whenever possible and letting people know Tor isn’t a bad guy in all this and has been very forward-thinking and treats him well as an author. As a matter of fact, Tor has since started releasing relatively new popular sellers for free to subscribers of their newsletter. The book company seems to know a little something about customer loyalty, artist loyalty, and marketing and potential sales that the music industry appears to be blind to.

Other publishers have picked up writers such as Scott Sigler, after they put their first books out for free on the Internet, and subsequently have become popular sellers. Sigler’s latest book was made available for free for days before going on sale, only to become one of Amazon’s top book sales. Seems as though the book companies are learning it’s a new world, and to survive, you have to adapt–not try to block the inevitable change from happening.

Do androids dream of rock stardom?

DeckardI’m so lucky to have been born in a wealthy capitalist western society. If I have to be born in a pre-worldwide socialist era, this is where I want to be. (Oh, one day thanks to technology, nano-tech, etc., we’ll be able to advance the world beyond criminal and soul stupefying capitalism and world-wide poverty and suffering, to a state of socio-political harmony and self-actualization. Until then, I’ll enjoy my air conditioning and MP3 player and rail against capitalist ideology like only white privileged college-educated elitists can. But hey, even Marx said capitalism was a necessary step on the path to communism (true communism, by the way, not the f’ed-up fascist Stalinism that Stalin instigated using a perverted and bastardized form of Trotskyism mixed with totalitarian extremism that became the USSR. Soviet Russia is as much a true socialist society as the Connecticut born-and-bred rich kid W. Bush is a good ol’ boy rancher. But I seriously digress….)

So today I got two wonderful boons to my world of entertainment: The special “ultimate” collector’s 5-disk edition of Blade Runner, and a used Guitar Hero guitar controller.

The guitar was an incredible find. It’s that one I just linked to, highly rated, and regularly runs $60 (if you get it without a game.) GameStop gets used ones in very rarely, and when they do, they’re gone like that! I happened to be in a store buying a gift for a nephew, and happened to ask if they had one…and they did for $20! (Insert “Bill & Ted” air-guitar riff here.) I love the Guitar Hero games! They’re fun, even fun to watch someone else play, exciting, don’t require a huge expenditure in time and attention (like RPG’s and strategy games do, which I also LOVE but just can’t devote any time to lately,) and a great way to unwind after work.
Now, I just need to get one of the games! 🙂

The Blade Runner set was also a deal! It normally retails for $80. But after the Barnes & Noble online discount, Member discount, online coupon, and a Christmas gift card, I ended up paying only $8! I’m a huge Blade Runner fan, ever since seeing it at 11 as a wide-eyed kid. It completely changed my entire concept of sci-fi (as it did for a lot of people) and the anticipation of the future itself. Plus it had elements of questioning “what is it to be ‘human'” that even that messed-up theatrical release was able to relate, that really got me at that young age. So perhaps it’s no wonder that now that I’m older, I am absolutely in love with the works of Philip K. Dick (who wrote the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep on which Blade Runner is based) who investigates that theme in much of his work, as well as the question of subjective reality.

What’s so special about this special edition? Well, aside from all the coolio extras like art and prints, models, cool case, and a signed letter from director Ridley Scott, and documentary extras like interviews with P.K. Dick (glee!), but also a true director’s version of the film, the “final cut.” (The misnamed “Director’s Cut” wasn’t. The studio, eager to cash in on the growing demand for extended and director’s cut DVD’s years ago, threw together an altered version of the film, with at least a couple of nods to Scott’s desires: the originally intended ambiguous ending and the lack of the cheesy Harrison Ford voice-over.) This new version has cleaned up some lines that have been muddy and misunderstood for years, fixed a few laugh inducing special effects, cleaned up the print and sound, and restored some elements Scott wanted but the studio didn’t.
I’m giddy with excitement!

Review: Sweeney Todd

Sweeney ToddSaw Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd last night, featuring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter:
IMDB: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Rotten Tomatoes: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
I haven’t reviewed many movies lately, because I haven’t seen many movies lately. Well, some lame TV movies, the really good Ratatouille, and The Devil Wears Prada a couple of nights ago on DVD. So it was really nice to be able to go out with friends and watch a grown-up movie in a theater. Unfortunately, my wife and friends didn’t care so much for Sweeney Todd due to all the “gratuitous” blood; I loved it! I thought the nearly campy-level and comedicly over-the-top blood in the movie was necessary and matched perfectly with the tone and style of the movie.

I was very impressed with Depp and his singing, considering he doesn’t sing, and especially his characterization. A little one-sided and shallow, but with brilliant moments of touching emotion and depth. But then, I’m in love with Johnny Depp and he can do no wrong in my mind. Alan Rickman was fantastic as always as well! Helena Bonham Carter was also fantastic, but she usually is. She’s an odd one in my mind. One moment she’s very unattractive, the next she’s gorgeous. (Not in this movie, just in general.) One moment she seems annoying, the next she’s fascinating. In Sweeney Todd, she’s playing a murder complicit dreg of a pie maker, disheveled, but still strangely attractive and even sexy. OK, maybe it’s me who’s “an odd one.” 🙂 The entire ensemble is perfect. But Tim Burton has always had this amazing ability to make the odd and unusual heart-felt and touching. The young and innocent daughter of Todd, played by Jayne Wisener, is also a bit unusually looking yet stunning, and her young and innocent love interest, Jamie Campbell Bower, is likewise unusual, but has a sort of rock star charisma. The kid who ends up unwittingly helping Todd and Mrs. Lovett the pie maker, has some hilarious reactions during an early scene where Todd is messing with his snake oil barker performance. The ending which involves the kid, is simply sad, creepy, tragic, just, heart-breaking. OK, it’s not so simple an ending.

I have a B.A. in theatre, but I have to admit I’d never seen Sweeney Todd performed before. But then, I’m not really a big musical fan; I prefer risky, thought-provoking, gutsy and gritty theatre. I hate popular mainstays like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Annie and, crap. Give me David Mamet, Harold Pinter, Sam Shepard any day. And even those guys are a bit close to too conventional for me. But that being said, I also have to admit that I like more musicals, once I see them, than I like to admit. I admit. Admittedly. Into The Woods, another musical by Steven Sondheim, writer of Sweeney Todd, is one of my favorites. Hmm, but Sondheim makes gutsy and thoughtful musicals. Unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber who makes pure sap-filled drek. Anyway, I was familiar with the story, and I knew a little bit of the music, but all in all I walked into the movie with no preconceived notions and expectations based on previous stagings of the play. Which I’m certainly glad for! I was able to watch it fresh, taking it all in, and enjoying the ride Burton and cast took me on. (Well, except for much of the last half after my cell phone fell from my pocket and I couldn’t get it, so half my mind was on worrying about my phone going off under my seat since I’d forgotten to turn it off. Fortunately it didn’t and I got it back at the end. But I know I missed some of the 3rd act subtlety and drama, like when Carter’s Mrs. Lovett has a touching, sad, and frightening scene with the kid who is beginning to suspect something about Mr. Todd.

I am SO glad that I don’t live in one of those areas I hear about where the movie audience yells at the screen and consistently laughs in the wrong places and are constantly talking. I mean, I saw it in the worst way possible: in a multiplex frequented by teens and college students in a SW Missouri town, so you’d expect bad and ignorant behavior. But I have never had a bad audience experience seeing a movie (except for Medicine Man when the woman behind me constantly ruined coming events with her explaining to her friend what to pay attention to, but that was just one woman,) and has usually been favorable (South Park was a stupid movie made hilarious because of the audience experience)–but this was a musical of all things, in a filled to capacity theater, I expected the worst. …and was amazed to find the audience receptive! There was a little laughing at the wrong places, but forgivable. No one talked, I sensed no general surprise or dislike of the music (after all, the trailers don’t really point up it IS a musical,) and people seemed to enjoy it in general and remained politely subdued. I think I’d have to leave a theater that had people talking at the screen and cheering and commenting as I’ve read about on IMDB forums.

Well, enough babbling; I really enjoyed the movie. I feel terrible that the people I went with didn’t much like it, since I kind of steered us in the direction of Sweeney Todd. (We were actually originally going to see No Country For Old Men, which I really want to see, but I don’t think they realize it’s at least as if not more violent and gruesome, and made worse by its realism. I mean, one of the characters is a psychopath who relentlessly terrorizes and kills his victims with a compressed-air cattle slaughtering gun.) I was getting kind of worried about Tim Burton (Planet of the Apes was OK at best and not at all his level of entertaining, and Depp’s Carol Channing impersonation in Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was literally painful to watch. (Even though it ironically just reinforces for me that Depp is absolutely an amazing actor. I hated his Wonka, but when put into his oeuvre of characters through the years, just goes to show he can do anything, and be convincing at it!)

Countdown to X-files movie begins.

David Duchovny
CNN has an article about David Duchovny’s new Showtime series:
<> Duchovny gets physical — and sexual — in show
I’ll freely admit to having a real man-crush on Duchovny. He’s cool, he’s smart, he’s fun and a little crazy.
But what I’m most interested in is X-Files news! I was a hardcore X-phile back during the first five seasons (before it started going downhill fast.) I mean, HUGE fan. So when I’d heard a few months ago that they finally go the official “go” on a second movie, I was giddy as a school-girl. (I also have a huge crush-crush on Gillian Anderson. She’s on “my list.” *grin*)

Duchovny’s new “X-Files” movie should start shooting later this year, he said, directed by “X-Files” creator Chris Carter.

“I’ve had no compunction about being tied to that character,” Duchovny said of his Agent Mulder alter ego. “I doubt I’ll ever again play a part as popular as he was.”

Pirate Master! Better than expected.

(I’m posting a few things today, so be sure to scroll down and take a look at my other posts today: The existence and morality exist w/o the need for deity, Religion and deteriorating societies, and Steampunk magazine.)

Pirate flagSo last night was the first episode of the new reality show: “Pirate Master“, from the makers of “Survivor.” I’m a huge pirate fan, so of course I had to watch it.

I’m not a “Survivor” fan. I did watch the very first season, back when “reality TV” was new and interesting, and found it fascinating! Then the second season, I stopped watching after a few episodes, and now I don’t watch any “reality show” that throws some random mix of people together into some contrived situation (like “Survivor,” “Big Brother,” and the like.) However, I do occasionally watch the odd reality program that is either pseudo-documentary-like and involves a pre-existing “cast” (such as “Work-Out“) or puts together people who have a shared talent who are in competition to win something that is directly related to their shared skill instead of just a money prize (such as “Project Runway” and my favorite: Food TV’s “The Next Food Network Star“). Granted, these shows are also often plagued with excruciatingly annoying people and embarrassingly stupid personal conflicts and issues which are the reasons I don’t watch “Survivor” and “Amazing Race” and “The Apprentice,” but the context of the competition based on a shared talent and skill (like clothing designer or chef,) makes up for the rest.

In any case, because of this I was very apprehensive about this Survivor-on-a-pirate-ship series. Especially when the first few minutes revealed one of the contestants was a “Scientist/Exotic Dancer” (oh puh-leeze!) with a really whacked-out idea of what makes for a mysterious appearance. Yikes. However, the show ended up to be rather entertaining. The challenge for the first episode was piratey, and had an interesting twist to sabotage the opposing team.
Also surprising was the inclusion of a couple of nods to actual pirate culture. For example, the winning one of the two teams elected the ship’s captain–which was the actual way in which pirate captains (in general) lead their ships. Pirate ships were little bastions of democracy in that they elected in and out their captains. However, in the TV show, they made the captain and his two hand selected “officers” into something of a naval ship’s way of operating. That is, the captain commanded the entire ship and his officers were second in command, and that’s not real pirate tradition. The “captain” on a pirate ship generally was only in charge of the military aspects of the ship–the attacks upon ships and raids upon targets on shore. When it came to the day-to-day operations of a ship, the man in charge was the ship’s pilot. In fact, oftentimes, the pilot outranked (so much as the idea of “rank” was observed on pirate ships) the captain. But in most cases, the captain, pilot, and the ship itself received an equal share of treasure acquired (the “ship’s share” was the funds needed for supplies and repairs.)

Some ships would have “officers” of a sort in the form of sergeant-at-arms who carried out the orders of the captain and/or pilot, and a quartermaster and/or carpenter who were/was in charge of stocking, repairing, and maintaining the ship. They usually received either equal share to the captain and pilot or something in between them and the rest of the men. In the TV show, the captain received half the loot! In actuality it was usually divided as: the men got 1 share, the captain and pilot and “officers” received 2 or 3 shares at most. Although, actually I am OK with their giving the captain half since he’s expected to use it for bribes and payments and other ways which may add to the dramatic element of the show–and that’s cool. Oh, and back to the ship’s democracy, the crew on the TV show can actually, if it’s unanimous, vote the captain off the ship, and that’s cool.

The show is edited in such a way as to make it appear as though the contestants (and the host I guess) are the only people on the ship (which is a real barque class ship.) I was wondering if that was all “magic of TV” and in fact they did no actual work on the ship and a real crew did everything, and in fact if the ship actual sailed at all. However, I’ve found non-CBS affiliated sites that confirm the contestants actually did do a lot of work sailing and maintaining the ship–even though, of course, there was a real crew doing the important work. Like this page written by the real captain of the ship the show was filmed on:Picton Castle
<> The Picton Castle’s Very Own Pirate’s Passage Through the Caribbean
It adds, for me, to the enjoyment of the show knowing the contestants actually did work and perform some of the duties actual pirates would have done.

So, I’m looking forward to this series; I hope it fulfills the promise I see in it so far.

The coming tech market anarchy.

Read first:
Blu-Ray AND HD-DVD broken – processing keys extracted
to understand:
Digg users revolt over AACS key

This whole copyright and DRM all reminds me of the 1995 Bruce Sterling novel, Heavy Weather. While not the best written novel, he describes a near-future America of revolutionary copyright anarchy (in both senses of the word–chaos and lack of regulation.) And Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash in which a near-future America has become an ultra-libertarian market anarchy (in just the economic sense, mainly) and data has by and large become money.

I’m of two minds. I agree with author and electronic rights advocate, Cory Doctorow exclaims that DRM is fundamentally a farce. It’s not even a speed-bump on the path to the inevitable–that being a not too distant reality where we’ll be able to buy $100 hard-drives the size of a lighter that will fit the entire world’s collection of music and movies and TV shows. He says, bits [data] will never get any harder to copy than it is right now. There is no stopping the free exchange of data, and it’s only going to get easier. As in the article above, it took years to come up with an “effective” DRM system for HD disks, and it was cracked within days.

And who’s paying the costs? The legal consumers of media. People who legally buy DVD’s have to suffer through warnings they can’t skip (hey! I BOUGHT the DVD! Why are you warning ME?!) and sometimes trailers you can’t skip (rare, but I’ve had a couple DVD’s that totally irked me off.) Meanwhile, the people who didn’t legally buy the movie aren’t affected at all by that krahrp.

Specific example: I subscribed to Napster for a month. I was able to download tons of music–it was great! Except, it was in .WMA format and my wife’s iPod no-likee WMA. So I tried to convert them to MP3’s–and the DRM wouldn’t allow me, basically preventing me from using music I purchased to be playable on the component of my choice. When I tried to use a 20 second sample of it for a radio-call-in contest, the DRM prevented me from making any edits. People who pirate the music instead of paying for it have no such “broken by design” problems. If I wanted to, I could have VERY easily downloaded any number of products online that would have allowed me to remove the DRM and use the music file on another device or use a legally allowed less-than 30 second music clip for the purpose of a radio contest. So, why bother with DRM?

But the other half of my mind (being able to see both sides of an issue really sucks sometimes. Sometime it’d be nice to be able to see something as black-or-white and latch onto one side unequivocally,) I can see that if there’s no effort to protect the manufacturer/producer of an item you’re just opening the door to allow people to easily use something well beyond its intent. Producers do have a right of intent of use. They have a right to be paid fairly for their work. If I wrote a piece of software that took time and effort, I would like to have just compensation, I would not want people pirating and stealing my effort. If I decide I want to sell my song to someone, I should be able to say “I’d like for you to just be able to use this as much as you like but please don’t share it” and be expected to have the wish complied with. I produce something, I deserve just compensation.

But I guess the question comes down to what is “just compensation.” In the music industry, the artist who creates the music, if they don’t own their own studio and record company, not only doesn’t make any money from their record sales but often owes the record company for making and selling their music. The houses and cars and lifestyles the famous stars buy are either because they’re rare exceptions with enough clout to bargain better deals, or they’re spending the advance they’re given for their next album, which will still need to be paid off–creating an cycle of debt to the record company. When you buy a CD, you’re pretty much paying the RIAA CEO’s and shareholders.
This is why you’re seeing a lot more people like Jonathan Coulton bypassing the record industry and using the Internet to market their music. I’m more than willing to pay an artist directly for their efforts! I would consider stealing Brittney Spears music (GAG! ICK! but I’m making a point…) but wouldn’t pirate Coulton’s music.

So, the piracy and trading isn’t going to go away. In fact, seeing as how money is actually just data with no real concrete value (the US dollar hasn’t been based on gold reserves since the 1930’s,) it wouldn’t be surprising to see data itself becoming currency. So what’s the solution? The MPAA and RIAA and other corporations seem to think the answer is to make things harder and more annoying for the legitimate consumer–with a result of driving some of them to piracy and most of them just simply annoyed at your company. What kind of brilliant marketing strategy is it to get your customers P.O.ed at you?!

I don’t know the answer. As a consumer I’m cheesed off to no end when something I buy is intentionally made more annoying and harder to use. I also see stealing is wrong, and some reasons to do so are just justifications for behavior. But I can also see the future can not be held back, and the entire concept of data ownership and usage may have to be drastically altered, changing the definition of what “stealing” is in these cases. It’s going to be a very interesting next few years….

Mediocrity?! Privilege and Musical Tastes

Arglblargle! This “Classically Liberal” site really making my conflicting libertarian and socialist views go at it like wildcats in a sack. Really meeaan wildcats. A really mean sack.

He post an article:
Can mediocrity appreciate greatness?
which is a reaction to the Washington Post article: Pearls Before Breakfast
In short, one of the greatest living violinists playing one of the most priceless (can “priceless” be qualified like that? Like saying “most unique”?) instruments crafted, in a busy metro station as if he were just a sidewalk performer.
What happened? Pretty much nothing. Nearly no one stopped and listened, nearly no one recognized him, nearly no one appreciated the virtuoso. Except kids. Nearly all kids were mesmerized. Only a couple of adults remarked that there was “something” about that music.

Now, I’m of two minds about this blog entry. On the one hand, as a music lover, it breaks my heart. I am saddened to see how an artist playing a style of art that is lost except to that small percentage of people left who appreciate it. Sad that people are too busy to even appreciate good music played well even if they don’t recognize the skill and talent.
From the Washington Post article:

THERE ARE SIX MOMENTS IN THE VIDEO THAT BELL FINDS PARTICULARLY PAINFUL TO RELIVE: “The awkward times,” he calls them. It’s what happens right after each piece ends: nothing. The music stops. The same people who hadn’t noticed him playing don’t notice that he has finished. No applause, no acknowledgment. So Bell just saws out a small, nervous chord — the embarrassed musician’s equivalent of, “Er, okay, moving right along . . .” — and begins the next piece.

On the other hand, I’m greatly offended by the tone and message of the article. By the use of “mediocrity” it’s taking an elitist view of the unwashed masses and beneath the level of those worthy to appreciate greatness.
I worked at a classical radio station for five years. I listened to classical back when I was a kid. I have an I.Q. of 134. I recognize the greatness of both Shakespeare and Stephen Hawking. If anyone should feel “worthy” of being an elitist, I qualify. (Well, when it comes to religion I guess I do that in spades.) But I’m offended and disgusted by the tone of the article. It assumes that the masses that scurry about trying to make a living in this capitalist society where 90% of the populace has to work more hours than the poor laborers during Charles Dickens’ time in order to just make ends meet, should be able to recognize the greatness of an artist playing music by great artists just naturally and if they don’t, how pathetic and unworthy of them.

Look, people recognize skill and talent in fields and crafts they have experience in. Would you expect someone who just walked out of the jungle of Papua New Guinea to hear Joshua Bell playing Liszt and immediately be taken by the sublime notes and skillful ability? Should we expect people who are forced by society to grind away at soul-crushing jobs, more often two of them, just to pay their bills, in a culture that changes and evolves and is constantly spewing endless iterations of musical styles at them, to recognize off-hand what it is they’re hearing?

The kids all stop and listen not necessarily because they’re recognizing greatness, but because they have yet to have their spirit and mind crushed by the numbing consumerist economy culture and have the ability to look around them and see examine their environment and recognize something new and novel in their field of sensory reception. “What’s that sound I’ve never heard before? What’s that man doing with that thing in his hand I’ve never seen before?” It’s no wonder they were curious.

I’m getting so sick of the “new criticism” method of artistic criticism that says “this is good art, and that is bad art.” In fact, I cringed at myself earlier when I wrote “good music” even though I was being facetious. Why should pre-20th century European music commissioned by wealthy royalty and rich land owners be considered “good music” anyway? It’s an elitist and superior attitude based on nothing more than privilege and a hanging on to a symbol of privilege that’s evolving away from them.

I love classical music. I mean, I really love it. From experimentalist Kronos Quartet to the conventional National Symphony Orchestra, playing works from Philip Glass to Handel. But I have LONG since given up the notion that because I know a violin from a viola, Mozart from J.S.Bach, and can feel the vastness of Holst’s “The Planets”, I am in any way better than anyone who doesn’t. How in frakking hells am I a superior person because of my enjoyment of classical, over someone who recognizes the influence of Hank Williams Sr. on contemporary Country Music? Or can infuse any sampled music into a multi-layered complex trip-hop groove?

Gah! It’s things like this that really make the Marxist in me rise up and knock the libertarian in me around like a red-headed step-child.

Update (16 April): I just changed the title of this entry from “Mediocrity?! Certainly Sad for Music Lovers.” My original intent for this blog entry when I started typing was to simply lament how people today work longer hours and more days than ever in history, including the feudal Middle Ages. The benefit of progress and capitalism has been to force a middle class into becoming soulless drones, scurrying from home to job and back again with blinders on to everything that’s not a conditioned response to consumerism as a means to provide meaning and purpose to lives of quiet desperation. How sad it is that we live in a culture where people have to go go go to make money to support a commodity culture that they’ve become a “Metropolis”-ian cog in, that they have been conditioned to not stop and listen to music in unexpected contexts. “Mediocrity?” How incredibly elitist of a judgment. Disgusting.

So It Goes

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut has died.

(A fascinating appearance of Vonnegut on “The Daily Show”: http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/2005/09/kurt_vonnegut_o_1.html)

I encountered him first, probably like most people my age, by seeing the movie “Slaughterhouse-Five” on cable when I was about 12. Reading in the TV Guide something about it being a sci-fi time travel movie of course drew me in, but it’s not at all what I thought it would be–and it’s stuck in my head ever since. The concept of time travel is simply a conceit for a movie (and the book it was based on which I read around age 16) that is actually about survival in life, accepting death and fate, understanding a world that so often affects you and acts upon you despite your best efforts. An attempt to try to understand the pure absurdity of life. And when you’re 12, and then 16, these are pretty heady concepts when you were drawn by what you thought was purely a sci-fi story.

(A tangent: That’s the way of “good” sci-fi. Sci-fi at its best is not about spaceships and time machines. Sci-fi is about the human condition. Sci-fi is a way in which we examine human behavior, human foibles, life’s conditions, using some aspect of speculation (space or technology or what have you) simply as a means to point it up–it’s a tool, not the story itself.)

Anyway, so I was heavily influenced by this subversive influence of literary themes. The book also goes into greater detail, obviously, regarding the fire bombing of Dresden during WWII. Before that time, being a kid growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, the idea of nuclear war was of course paramount in my psyche, and so up to that time I though Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the ultimate in WWII horror. Little was I aware of what terror and destruction and death we dealt civilians when we fire bombed German cities. Nuclear blasts in Japan were horrendous events of inhumanity, don’t get me wrong. But the destruction wrought in “conventional warfare” in the fire bombings were probably worse in aggregate. And Vonnegut made me realize for the first time exactly how evil and terrible war in general is. How terrible humans can be against fellow humans. Vonnegut opened my eyes to man’s inhumanity to man.

The next thing Vonnegut introduced me to was “mainstream” contemporary fiction. While working as a waiter at Pizza Hut as a teen, I would almost every night when I got off work, stop by the grocery store open late night, pick up a novel and a soda with tip money. (This was also how I discovered one of my all-time favorite fantasy authors, Steven Brust.) And so I saw one day the novel Galapagos on the rack, and thought hey, I loved Slaughterhouse-Five, and this appears to have some connection to evolution and Darwin or something, let’s check it out. Was I surprised.
Honestly, I don’t remember to this day exactly what it was about, except I do remember a lot of odd characterizations, mature conflict and personal dramas, and sexual events and themes that was alien to me as a 16 or 17 year-old. And this mature, contemporary fiction style made me realize that “mainstream” fiction that was not sci-fi/fantasy genre was not boring and bourgeois. (Yeah, I actually knew and used that term as a teen. I was pretty precocious.)

Then, around the same time, I encountered Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. Wow. An introduction into social culture satire. I wasn’t aware enough at the time to understand the concepts of consumerism, and commodity fetishism, and those other Marxist analysis of capitalist culture that I’ve only really learned about this last year (I would really like to go back and read Breakfast’ again now that I can see these themes,) but I did get the commentary on racism and some of the sexism, but certainly the absurdity of the detached and somnambulant way people live their lives and relate to fellow humanity. And the way in which when all that breaks down, what gets revealed in the scratched off and exposed core under the veneer of civil socialized expectations.

As an aside, this is also the same time I started reading the Bible cover to cover and started to think about how worthless of a book it is as a religious guide or a guide for understanding humanity. If anything, it’s an example of humanity’s inhumanity and hatred and superstition and angst and desire for more and bigger, and selfishness and arrogance–ironically in a book that’s supposed to transcend humanity and humanism. While it took me years to apply these lessons to my religious beliefs and eventual deconversion, this period in my teen years of encountering an author that seemed to write about the nature of human desire and reveal our natures and the effects of both society on our natures and how often we avoid being better people because of societal pressures and expectations, and at the same time reading a book that’s supposed to teach us spiritual morality but in actuality is a result and culmination and celebration of the worst in humanity–really makes a young man think. (Something dogmatists and ideologues do not want you to do!)

Vonnegut, while never having been a huge favorite for me, I’ve only read about four novels and one play of his, was exceptionally influential to me. Life changing. I blame Ray Bradbury for starting me thinking as a kid about life themes disguised as speculative fiction, but Vonnegut was a sledgehammer to my early development as a mature thinking person. Opened my eyes to social awareness and social ills. My religious upbringing tried to make the world simple, childish, two-dimensional and black-and-white to me. There were good, wholesome people who loved Jesus and were “wholesome” and chaste and well-mannered, and everyone else who were evil and damned. Vonnegut woke me up to realizing, life is complicated. Society is complicated and manipulative. Ideologies are manipulative. People are at their very nature complex, and any time you try to make life and reality as simple as black-and-white, something’s going to break. He made me realize ideology, society, tries to cover up reality. Tries to ignore reality. tries to make it conform to what they think it should be. And the result is always that you have people contorted and twisted and breaking. You have hidden currents of subversion that will always exist and corrupt the so-called Ideal. Reality, life, will happen no matter how hard you try to disguise it, ignore it, refuse it. And you either accept it and deal with it, or your reality breaks.

Farewell, Mr. Vonnegut. What a long, strange trip you started me on–I hope your destination is peace.

Do you know what a Humanist is? I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that functionless capacity. We Humanists try to behave well without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. We serve as best we can the only abstraction with which we have any real familiarity, which is our community.

We had a memorial services for Isaac a few years back, and at one point I said, ”Isaac is up in Heaven now.” It was the funniest thing I could have said to a group of Humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, ”Kurt is up in Heaven now.” That’s my favorite joke.

–Kurt Vonnegut (http://www.vonnegutweb.com/archives/arc_nice.html)

Arcade Fire

My now Canadian ex-pat’ brother (whom I currently envy for various reasons) referred me to a band I want to share (with my two readers–one of which I think is him!) Arcade Fire. A Canadian (and Texan) “indie band” with a very polyphonic style.
Their latest album, “Neon Bible,” at first reminded me a lot of a mix between The Flaming Lips and Modest Mouse, but no–it does have its own distinct style and I’ve found I’ve been listening to it a lot this week. I’ve decided I have to buy it (at the same time I buy NIN’s latest, “Year Zero” when it releases on the 17th!)

Everyone Can Be a Hero or Evil

The latest Skepticality podcast episode: http://skepticality.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=199743#
has an interview with Philip Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. He was in charge of the famous studies in the 1970’s that showed how any ordinary person can turn into “an evil person” and commit atrocities given the right circumstances.
In fact, one of the reasons he wrote this book recently was because of Abu Ghaib. The military and the administration had kept saying that it was a few bad apples at the prison, yet the events at the prison nearly mirrored the escalation of abusive behavior and even some of the acts that were encountered in the Stanford experiment.

Some of the more fascinating tidbits, quite paraphrased, from the interview include:

<> The bush administration’s disdain for science, substituting faith for data, is horribly detrimental for understanding human behavior in such a way as to be able to prevent instances like Abu Ghraib or allowing torture in general.
Has wiped away 200 years of socio-political advancement by legally redefining torture to allow what prior to 6 years ago was considered atrocious, has redefined what is a combatant, has removed habeas corpus.

<> All the wars we’re going to be fighting in the future is the kind of war we’re fighting now; we’re still preparing and planning for symmetrical wars, and it will never be that again. It’s always going to be insurgent wars against occupying armies.

<> Everyone is capable of being Mother Theresa and being Idi Amin. To say people are “good” or “evil” is to minimize the wonder and complexity of the human mind–and ignores the danger of how circumstances can make an ordinary person do terrible things.

<> We should all think of ourselves as “heroes in waiting.” It takes action to do good.

<> You think about being something and you’ll become that something–you think about being an everyday hero, and you will be more likely to perform heroic behavior. We teach our kids, show them examples of everyday heroism and they will be more likely to perform everyday heroic acts.

Oh, Sweet Irony! Banning a book about banning books during Banned Book Week!

This is hilarious, and terribly sad:

Houston Community Newspapers Online – Parent criticizes book ‘Fahrenheit 451’

“It’s just all kinds of filth,” said Alton Verm, adding that he had not read “Fahrenheit 451.” “The words don’t need to be brought out in class. I want to get the book taken out of the class.”
He looked through the book and found the following things wrong with the book: discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, “dirty talk,” references to the Bible and using God’s name in vain. He said the book’s material goes against their religions beliefs.

Now if you weren’t fortunate enough to read Fahrenheit 451 in school (or didn’t pay attention,) please at least read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit_451

I find it pathetically fascinating that the man takes the time to search through the book looking for evil language and references to evil acts and completely ignores the book itself. If he’d bothered to read the book while searching for puriant and terrible content, maybe he’d realize the point of the book is that it’s a warning against the sanitization of culture, the lobotomization of society, that comes hand-in-hand with with ridding the culture of any art that might offend someone, anyone, or challenge beliefs or values.

Books like Fahrenheit 451 MUST be read in high school if not middle school, because what are the chances that once the average person leaves school they will be exposed to challenging concepts about society and speech and civics and freethought? That girl is going to grow up sheltered and incapable of actually being able to THINK, and be doomed to be a sheep following whatever the people she puts in authority over her life (or put there FOR her) tell her.

Books like Fahrenheit 451, and Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World and Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things, and George Orwell’s 1984, should be read before a kid goes out into the world. Before college. Used to be college was THE place where the kid, away from home, could be exposed to different cultures and values and philosophies and concepts….but nowadays religious groups have so litigated the collegiate world to force their beliefs to be given unfair weight and nullified the effects of multi-cultural, multi-philisophical diversity, that it’s entirely possible for a college student to go through and avoid anything that would challenge their entrenched beliefs before spitting them out into society vaguely book-learned but not at all developed. Unskilled in skepticism or critical thinking, unable to think for themselves, they can remain ensconced in their protective bubble of ideology. Then they become Republican thocrats or “concerned citizens” who force school boards to “teach the controversy” that darn well doesn’t exist, or listen to televangelists who offer nothing more than worthless aphorisms and arrogant confirmation of their own intolarant and ignorant beliefs in exhange for their money and their self-determination. To die having contributed nothing to the improvement and development of humanity except to add fuel to strife and ideological conflict and inter-religious war and cultural sanitization.

So the book contains “damn” and “hell” and other oh-so-naughty words. Get over it. A word is nothing but a series of sounds we provide meaning to. A word has no power in and of itself. Power comes from the thoughts and intent behind the words, and the actions rhetoric prompts. And you can use words to explore the whole range of human experience, to encourage exploration and the value of discovery. To challenge and grow and question and examine everything from theology and politics, to actual statesmanship and the pursuit of widsom. Or you can use words to encourage ignorance and denial and delusions. To hide your awareness in the sand of self-righteousness and pray the bad boogey-monsters of reality go away.

Wake up, Sheep of Ignorance! Embrace challenges to your beliefs and learn from them! Grow and develop into thinking, critical people involved in the world around you.

Or at least go on your own and stop trying to dictate the ignorance of those who are affected by your actions of anti-intellectualism, anti-science, and anti-reality.

B’Zow! B’Zow! Take that, Stormtrooper!

I hated Wesley Crusher. Man.

A few years ago when I found out the actor, Wil Wheaton, was not only a dyed-in-the-wool nerb, but also quite cool, I became a fan (of Wil’s, not Wesley.) He writes books and articles. He plays professional poker. He’s huge into computers. He’s sort of like the “Mirror Mirror” version of Wesley Crusher, with the goatee signifying his cool “badness.”

Anyway, one of his recent blogs:

Blue Light Special: http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/wwdnbackup/2006/09/blue_light_spec.html

he discusses going back to the memories he had of buying the original Star Wars figures. His memories sure brought back my own. I had a complete collection of original Star Wars figs (no, none left in boxes.) But then “Empire Strikes Back,” I had most of them, but certainly not all. By that time the torch of figure collecting had been passed to my brother. I had maybe only a few of “Return of the Jedi.”

But the best thing I ever had, is a tie between the Death Star with trash compactor (and trash made out of foam wedges,) or the foot-tall Boba Fett with working…stuff on him.

Unfortunately, the Fett had fallen behind a shelf and landed on a heater for a day. I was in Tacoma, Washington at the time, I believe. But I do remember the childhood pain of a ruined favorite toy. Man, those were the days of innocence.

Father of “Sci-Fi” a Great Example of an Active Mind

Man, I really really hope when I get his age, I’ll still be as sharp….

The latest GeeksOn podcast has an interview with Forrest J Ackerman, the guy who, among countless other acomplishments, was the guy who coined the term “sci-fi.” He’s 90 years old, and while his voice is certainly weaker, and a bit slow, his mind is obviously still sharp and active! I hope I can stay that way when enter (and pass) my golden years.

It’s a fascinating interview with a guy who has been involved in science fiction for most of the 20th century, and even still. Great listening to his stories.

Your 1984 Moment

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four#Technology :

Orwell explains that, in the latter part of the twentieth century, technology has been driven by only two things: “war, and the desire to determine against his will what another human being is thinking.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four#The_Party :

The three slogans of the Party, on display everywhere, are:

  • WAR IS PEACE
  • FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
  • IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

1776: A Fine Year for Rebellions

For Father’s Day this weekend, my wife and daughter gave me a book I’d been wanting since it came out a year ago, and have been keeping an eye out at used book stores for, and trying to remain patient for until it comes out in paperback this fall: David McCullough’s “1776”.

I’m trying to be good and saving it for the 36 hour drive to Quebec City this week, but I couldn’t help myself and already read the 1st two chapters. It technically begins in Spring of 1775 after the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill, and King George’s address to Parliment encouraging it to vote to put down the young rebellion. And I was struck with how incredibly, amazingly, strikingly similar the attitudes and tone and very words of the King and members of Parliment were to today’s bush administration. I don’t think McCullough intended to make the resemblance, it’s not pointed out in the least (nothing of modern politics is mentioned at all–the focus is entirely on 1775 and 1776,) but I read passage after passage of description of the King’s speech, the all night debate at Parliment, the following actions and decrees by the King and his generals, mouth agape at how similar they were to the arrogant, bombastic, self-righteous, absolute, and extremely imperialistic modern American neo-con politics.

It’s a shame that one of the reasons for the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, the right to bear arms and maintain a militia, can no longer be possible:

That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

–U. S. Declaration of Independence

(By the way, notice how the spirit and technically the beginning of our nation decrees that the power of the new government comes from the consent of the governed, not by any religious belief or system.)

It’s an exciting and fascinating read. I’m really looking forward to diving into it!