Wednesday, January 29, 2014

17278--Your Inner Workings Are Showing

Sometimes fantasy and our shared reality intersect.

We're quick to tout that sort of thing when science fiction paints the blueprint for science's advances or becomes an intelligent platform for social commentary.  Usually, what we define as fantasy is composed of elements not readily or likely to be duplicated without selective changes to physics.  Those considerations are all part of the ride those adventures promise when we open the portal to other times and places.

That said, there are some things I can do without.  Political correctness is something I consider a needless corruptive influence.  I do not feel that the addition of black Vulcans to Star Trek was warranted by the lore nor a choice that improved Star Trek: Voyager.  I've never been a fan of anachronistically shoving social enlightenment into the spotlight of a medieval historical adventure, for example, just to make an excuse for throwing a female warrior into the action.  Pure fantasy, set in fictional, non-historical worlds, seems to handle that sort of thing better.  You'll find female warriors there without the baggage of a civil rights movement.  They just exist.  It's accepted and the story moves on.  Likewise, there have been female warriors and even gladiatrixes in history.  You may know about them if you went looking for them.  You may not know about them.  They didn't come with sweeping social movements.  They just were, like many of their male counterparts, and then they were gone.  The story moved along.

Tolkien's Middle Earth is supposed to be a version of Earth long ago.  Do I find it odd that all the humans are white?  Considering the world it's supposed to be, yes.  Considering the source of the fiction, I do not.  Has the homogenized view affected my enjoyment of the work or its adaptations?  No.  Skin color and cultural representations aren't big factors in Tolkien's work and not weighing upon the mind of the audience.  I will never petition for any kind of multi-ethnic representation in such work.  It'd be ridiculous.  If you want a melting pot, there's always Conan and Howard's Hyborean Age.  If you want an un-melting pot, check out Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, and watch as a series whose overarching storylines heavily involve genetic engineering gradually winnow diversity into a monochromatic central cast.  In the least subtle maneuvers of the show, the mysterious and purple Trance Gemini was not only rendered tailless, but tags out of the show to swap places with a white, future version of herself.  Maybe the make-up was irritating, but odd storywise.

Conversely, I find it a little bothersome that most of the non-white humans in the very popular products of Georges Lucas and Martin seem to be tied into slavery.  For Lucas, it's hidden under stormtrooper helmets, but all those clones of Jango Fett constitute a slave race that was created to fight a war.  For Martin, it's the Unsullied, a similarly dehumanized group of slave warriors.  Maybe it's important to their storylines that these groups be slaves, but is it also necessary that the otherwise barely represented non-white humans be slaves?  Is it a subtle racism.  Is it overt?  Is it something I'd rather not have leaking into fantasy?  There's enough here and certainly not something I went looking for in escapist fare.  Such choices would seem to be rather like a poker tell.  Or a big neon sign, flashing, "Look at how I see things!"

I suppose what got me started on this was a video game.  It was an otherwise ordinary one, fantasy world with real-time resource management that's become very popular.  Not much different from StarCraft, really, except that instead of humans and aliens, it gives humans and dwarves, elves, orcs and dark elves.  Whichever group you're running as the storyline proceeds, you send workers to gather resources.  In StarCraft, it's drones.  In this game, they're workers.  Oh, unless you're using dark elves.  Dark elf workers are labeled as slaves.  *sigh*  Seriously?  I was having a perfectly fine writing break, playing a little fantasy game, then you had to make me ask, "Why are the dark elf workers slaves?"  I know, some of you may not understand, but it just messes up the game for me by being jarred with the "Racism's still alive" hammer.

There are a lot of crayons in the box.  When the devil creeps into specific details, it says a lot about the artist.  Remember Aladdin?  Not the derivative versions, but the original.  In the Tales of the Arabian Nights, he was Chinese.  Why?  Because his tale was set in China.  The story goes out of its way, though, to make mention that there are also "evil Jews" at the marketplace.  Was that important to the story?  No, neither then nor now.  Hmmm...sounds like some cultural bias.

It ends up acting like a toxic spill, making me wonder about subtle racism in other places.  I see previews for CW's upcoming "Star-crossed" show, for example, and I notice that their idea of aliens is white kids with tattoos.  They're going to have to do more than that to give them a hard time fitting in, I figure.  A kid from the Middle East would have a harder time dating in America's middle class gene pool.

These are things that usually don't trouble my mind or cloud my writing.  I'm not a fan of hatred or stupidity.  Racism certainly isn't my "go to" when I look for motivators.  Greed, lust, envy...the classics are the ones I start with.  Racism is pretty low on my list and has to be rather visible before I make the accusation.  Just ask any of my friends and acquaintances.  Most of them are human.  They may feel differently about all this stuff than I, but that's OK.  They're friends, not clones.  Everybody's taste buds are a little different, so are the ways in which one's mind receives words and pictures and ideas.  That's what being subjective is about.

Every creation, yours or someone else's, may teach you something about yourself.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

17274--Opening a Can of Nerd

It's my fault.

There's no way around that.  I brought it up.  I jumped into the Q&A discussion.  Given the topic, how could I not?  Then, I decided it needed to be readily accessible for posterity.  Why shouldn't posterity get to have a few laughs while it learns about superheroing?

You'll thank me later.

Anyway, I made a few minor edits for content here, but it mostly went like this:

WG: Some time ago I was informed that one of my favorite super-heroes of all time is coming to TV again.....The Flash!

Phoenix: “Some time ago”, he says.   I told you yesterday.

WG: Here's a question for you comic fans.  Who is faster, Flash, Superman, or is it still undecided?  If I remember correctly, they only raced a few times in the comics.

ML: Flash, he can accelerate his molecules to speeds Superman can't even touch.

JS: I have a better question: How does Superman fly faster? We always see him make that grimace before he accelerates; and if he's able to, why not fly at that speed all the time?

WG: @Jason. Fly faster than who?  Or do you mean when Superman just wants to accelerate, he grimaces?  I believe Superman's powers have definitely changed over the years from when he first started (namely growing stronger), and in the Superman movie with Christopher Reeves, he reverses Time by flying so fast (which I think he couldn't do before---you'll have to ask Phoenix about the "Time" thing), but there are different eras of story arc and "rules" with Superman.  Again, my Superman lore isn't that strong.
Maybe he grimaces when he accelerates because of the random unfortunate bug that collides with him.

@Michael. Of course, since the Man of Steel gets his "fuel" from that giant fusion reactor in our sky (the more he gets the stronger he is, if I remember), it could be argued that with enough light Superman could indeed outrun Barry Allen.

[Lore note: Superman has indeed gotten more powerful over time.  Usually, the pattern becomes that he’s gradually powered up so the writers can have him do bigger and better things to make the stories increasingly exciting.  The trap that springs is one that makes him increasingly difficult to challenge because he has become so very powerful.  Then, they have to figure out some way to scale his power levels back and start the dance again.  He was able to time travel long before the first movie, they just imprinted the concept incorrectly for untold millions.]

ML: Superman can't outrun Barry Allen. The Flash can accelerate his molecules to the point of being able to pass through solid objects. The Flash would lap him 100 times before Superman even got started. Superman has to build momentum, the Flash does not.

JS: I mean he grimaces when he accelerates (The Flash does too). So, where does that extra boost of speed come from? But for Superman its really weird because he doesn't have to move his body at all. Well, except for stretching out his arm a little and grimacing.

Phoenix: OK, Superman varies his flight speed for the same reason as anyone changes speed: need. Silly question. He varies his speed by will. Tough call on who is faster because it changes. For a while, both Superman and Barry (later, Wally) were effectively up to no limit. Then, DC tried an era of limits, restricting time travel and top speeds and other powers. Superman was cut back and his top speed became finite (2000 mi/s) and he could tire. Flash gradually became unlimited again. DC has done a ridiculous mass reboot called New 52 and among the changes Superman has been restored to interstellar capabilities so he too is effectively unlimited again.

Oh, passing through solids is a function of controlled molecular vibration not velocity. Flash can walk through a wall (somehow not falling through a floor).


JS: Well, if it's just a matter of will; then why is it straining him? And don’t say it's not straining him; cause if it was effortless he wouldn't even change his facial expression.

Which brings me to my next point. There's always a scene where the clock is ticking and he has to fly even faster than he already is. So he stretches out and gives out a yell, or some other sign of stress and Flys faster. If he's in a hurry to get somewhere, why wasn't he flying at top speed to begin with?

And what the hell was it that increased his speed? It's not like he's swimming and has to kick his legs.

WG: @Jason. I think the facial expressions are for the fans, duh. How blah it would be to see boredom on Superman's face as he races to keep Zod from throwing a train onto some helpless pedestrians.

Phoenix: I challenge the absolutism of "always". I've found myself engaged in similar questioning with Star Trek and warp drive. Superman lives in a relatively fragile world. He's grown learning to live in it and to control himself. Even a meager Spiderman is capable of crushing bricks, snapping bones and ending lives if incautious. Superman would shatter concrete, rend steel and become a menace in moments. If anything, he should have to encourage himself to push the restraint level that he has conditioned to keep him in check. Facial strain? Let's say its concentration on his control mechanism that keeps unfathomable power leashed. Rocketing across Metropolis to save a falling human whom he doesn't want to turn to pudding or overshoot by a hundred miles means using control, not acceleration to faster than light speed because he can. Unrestrained velocity in an atmosphere, without benefit of Flash's low air friction aura, is reckless. Outracing a bullet doing a mere mach 3 doesn't require the overkill you propose.

Really, any time he spends as Clark should be seen as exercises in fine-tuning as much as keeping him emotionally connected to the collection of delicates and deadlies he has chosen to juggle.

BP: Bill, if they race on Earth them the flash might win.. but have the race to Mars and back.. no contest.

WG: @Phoenix. You know, the writers could farm much material for story elements off what you just said about Superman. Alas, it seems he never has the same or similar 'human' flaws as other superheroes because he's always so properly aligned towards the forces of good, therefore negating any real need to explore such juicy inner workings related to "control" of the internal strife. Mainly because there is little or none with The Man of Steel (you may correct me). Consequently, such a character would be hard for me to write about. But take Batman or Wolverine…loads of stuff going on in those heads. You see, gotta go dark man, gotta go dark---hehe.

Phoenix: There are a few isolated bits that come to mind with Superman being truly angry or temporarily draconian. People either surrender quickly or things get messy. In the current New 52 era, I hear they have him being a dick and also dating Wonder Woman. I also note, they swept aside most of his traditional supporting cast and ma and pa are dead.

We haven't really talked about the headline event of all this: the races.   In the requested spirit of this, it's all going to be from memory, so nobody have a cow if they find a glitch later.   As memory serves, the first two Superman/Flash races were pre-Crisis in the era of the mega-Superman.   Superman and Barry Allen were racing for charity on a pre-set course around the world. There was a 240,000MPH speed limit and Superman wasn't allowed to fly.   Of course, they detoured for rescues.   Since the event resulted in heavy betting, though, organized crime factions set traps for each hero and substituted a masked loser fitted with rockets that no one was supposed to notice (70s).   The doubles got frustrated trying to run slower and slower so the other would win till they ended up standing on the highway yelling at each other. The heroes eventually recovered, escaped, took out the frustrated doubles and then finished in a deliberate tie to thwart the gamblers.

The next race was a forced rematch. The two rulers of the planet Ventura, habitual gamblers Rokk and Sorban, crashed Justice League HQ and used their alien science to lockdown the heroes. The aliens still had a bet to be settled from the first race and that wouldn’t do. Loser’s home city gets blasted, just for motivation. With the bigger stakes came a bigger challenge: they had to race to the edge of the galaxy and back. Flash’s aura received an alien power charge so that for two weeks (no dawdling) as he ran an invisible runway would be created underfoot and all the oxygen he could breathe. Well, the important thing about this one was that Barry collapsed. He was worn out, exhausted, and spent far short of the goal. Superpowered though he was, mortal Barry was no match for an inexhaustible Superman. All ended well, of course, despite the aborted race. Superman had spotted Rokk and Sorban (the real ones) gambling on Ventura. The imposters back on Earth were actually Flash villains Abrakadabra and Professor Zoom trying to wipe out their nemesis in an elaborate scheme. With the Man of Steel providing a prompt return, the baddies were thrashed and reintroduced to DC’s revolving door super prison system.

The next big race came in the post-Crisis era of the finite Superman. Fifth dimensional imp Mr. Mxyzptlk (there’s one for the spell check) popped in and insisted on a race. He would return home only if Superman won. Wally West was wearing the red tights at this point and sporting the benefit of being “The Fastest Man Alive” (DC’s folk had decided that if he was going to have the title, he should be the guy without the unspoken “except for Superman” tag). So they raced. I don’t remember what Wally’s carrot was, but it was incentive enough to make him work for it. It was a foot race, Superman got exhausted this time and Flash beat him by a few steps. Mxy was pissed because he had lied, intending to go home only if Flash won. He was certain that Superman had figured it out somehow and thrown the race.

Marvel had a humorous bit where their Earth-based speedsters were assembled for a sprint to the moon on an alien-provided raceway. Many of them couldn’t manage the full trip and the rest of the pack was blown away by a lost, disoriented blonde fellow who could only remember a couple of syllables of his name. The extraterrestrial officiant dubbed him “Buried Alien” (a nod to Barry Allen, lost in the Crisis on Infinite Earths) and the clear winner.

The last one I know is also between Superman and Wally. Taking place in Superman the Animated Series, this was another charity event with a finite Superman. Flash rogue Weather Wizard was the disruptor and, though Wally seemed to be given a stamina edge, the two came off as fairly evenly matched.

I suppose I should also mention Smallville. While they had no official race, Barry Allen relative Bart Allen was able to open up and leave young Clark in his dusty wake.

So, limited to foot travel, Flash most likely to have the speed advantage. As with most comic adventures, though, it’s going to come down to the needs of the story. Fortunately, they spend more time on the same side fighting evil, not wasting time racing. I’ll have to tell you some time about the brawl I had with the Justice League and the Legion of Superheroes before we all teamed up to save the world.

Friday, January 24, 2014

17273--I Have Dreams

Yes, I have dreams.

That is to say, I don't have one, singular dream.  I have some where I'll find myself in a place that I've dreamt being before, but not very often.  I get to travel and meet lots of different people, some I'm supposed to know in the dream context and others not at all.  Do you ever have the parts of people who're supposed to be strangers being played by people you know?  That's when you know your subconscious isn't skimping on a production.  Speaking of which, yes, they're always in color.  It always seems odd when people even ask about that.

Of course, it's also safe to say that I don't dream as much as I might were I to sleep more.  I don't have a problem sleeping.  I rather enjoy it.  I also enjoy being awake and learned a long time ago, that I have no problem functioning on very little sleep.  My brain, in the spirit of the program, gets me into dreaming sleep with astonishing quickness.  Some times, this can happen in just a few minutes and I'll find I've had surprisingly vivid and detailed dreams inside just thirty minutes of sleep.  I know  "normal" sleep is supposed require hours to get you to REM states, but I'm seldom asleep that long.  The brain learns shortcuts and I imagine the meditation helps.

Hosting the dragons...

Occasionally, my brain gets insistent.  I don't know if it's actually tired or just wants extra time to sleep, dream, and process.  When I "get the message", I'll intentionally get with the program, turn off the light, stretch out and doze.  I try to play nice with my subconscious and not begrudge it the time.  It gives me great dreams that can reach levels of glorious weirdness.  I love those.  Some of them are hilarious.  At least they seem hilarious, so I roll with it.  Let's face it, they're still dreams.  It's not like I'm going to understand all of them once I'm awake.  Take away the bits you can.  Make notes.  You know, if there are words that work.  At all.

I hadn't thought about it before, but that makes dreamwalking sound like a much cooler superpower than it ever had before.  Not only can you travel lucidly through dreams, but they actually make sense to you.  OK, still not my first choice, but I can see it in a more respectable light now.

Speaking of respectability, what's the story on sex dreams?  Do you have them?  I can't lay claim to any great experience with them.  (HA!  "Lay.")  To some, it may seem like a waste of the holodeck reservation time, but my brain seems to have other priorities.  More interesting than sex?  Alright, you've got my attention.  The last time there was even a hint of there being something of a sexual nature pending, the girl (no one I know, though in the dream I was supposed to) turned out to be a replicant.  So, of course, more notes.

I never have nightmares.  I know some people who claim to have little else.  I imagine this is one of the reasons I have a positive relationship with the whole thing.  What's not to enjoy when I never get the creepy, scary, let-me-turn-the-light-on stuff?  I do get hunted in some dreams as part of some adventure story.  Obviously, I'll make notes about the ones that make sense.  Some of the visits seem a bit weightier than others, coming from people I  know are dead or dragons.  Sure, they say they're just coming to talk and there are those that come across as exceedingly personable.  There are others, though, and I'm sure they know who they are, whose idea of "let's chat" more closely resembles "I'm going to hunt you down, meat."

Out in the hinterlands of the faerie realm, the Dreaming waits with all the malleability that an infinity of imagination can muster.  The subconscious knows the language out there, so the better its relationship with your conscious mind the better your chances of keeping track of which way is left.  In the situations when my metamorphic acquaintances come knocking, I engage in whatever level of evasiveness seems appropriate to the sense of menace.  And I enjoy the experience, because...dragon!  I mean, how cool is that?  I know, it sounds like it should be called a nightmare, but it isn't scary.  Have I not consorted with gods and heroes?  Have I not clashed with godslayers and traversed dimensions?  Damn right I have.  I welcome a good dragon visit as much as any flying dream whether Neverland is involved or not.  Ooh, I love flying.

Either way, you know...notes.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Jason liked school. 

At least, he liked the idea of school.  That there were other kids to play with had its ups and downs.  He didn't fit in with all of them, but that was OK.  He had a few friends and that was more than enough.  They were all older than he was but that wasn't something they had figured out.  He was big for his age and more than smart enough to do the classwork.  That helped him blend, which was a blessing.  He would've been an obvious misfit in elementary school and probably wouldn't have found much more acceptance in a university no matter how advanced his brain was.  Socialization was what he lacked.  That took time with others and they definitely had the advantage there.  Success required experience and adaptability more than thought.  The others had been schoolmates for years, going through interactions they had come to know as normal.  In more ways than one, he was the new kid.

He enjoyed learning, though.  As much time as he could manage was typically devoted to reading, writing, drawing or tinkering.  There always seemed to be some insistence on making sure he slept and ate, dealt with chores or simply went outside to play, but that just pushed him to make the most of the time he had left.  Still, that left him few new encounters in academic classwork.  Anything the teacher provided to read, for example, he had long ago memorized.  When he asked for additional books, he was actually discouraged from trying to get ahead.  So much for the idea of a learning environment.  It had been a nice theory, though.

The teacher said it would be an interesting exercise.  He was a little skeptical, but Miss Oliver had a personality like a sunny day and a pretty smile so he liked her more than enough to keep an open mind.  Besides, it was the best way to learn.

"Though a few of you may have experience with another language," Miss Oliver said as he tried not to get distracted with a mental count of languages he had learned, "or remember learning to read and write English, most of you don't.  So to refresh your minds on the awkwardness of trying something new, I want you to copy the paragraph on the board using your non-dominant hand."

"Non what?" Michael asked.  He excelled at not being one of the brightest in the class.

"If you're left-handed, use your right," the teacher explained.  "Most of you are right-handed, so you'll use your left."

That gave him pause.  He was ambidextrous.

"Whichever hand you usually write with," the teacher went on as she walked slowly around the room, "use the other one for this."

Well, she had him there.  Even though he was ambidextrous, he didn't use his left hand much for writing.  English was made to be written right-handed.  He had watched lefties write, always doing that awkward thing where they held their hand at a weird angle so they didn't drag the hand across the paper and smear everything.

For him, though, signing his name gave him the solution.  Back when he had first tried it, he just relaxed and wrote his name, Jason Odysseus Book.  It was such an easy part of writing that most people got to where they didn't have to think about it.  Really, he just wanted to see how the penmanship was to see how much work it needed.  What he found, instead, though, was that using his left hand, just letting it go as automatically as one would with the right, meant that it wrote from right to left.  It made sense: opposite half of the brain, it wrote in the opposite direction.  Left or right, he realized, they both move out from the center.  That might be--

"Oh my goodness!" Miss Oliver gasped.  She'd gotten behind him while he wasn't paying attention.  She was patrolling the room, inspecting the clumsy output of everyone's efforts.  "Jason, you're a mirror-writer," she labeled him, her slender index finger trailing across his paper as she scanned his reverse script.

"What?" he responded.  "That's a thing?" he asked, but realized she was already walking off.  Fine, Jason decided.  I'll research it on my own.  And I'll have to make note of the date.  It's not a superpower, but middle school actually threw me a surprise.

Friday, January 17, 2014

17266--It's dead, Jim.

Brace yourself...

Africa's black rhino is extinct.  This should come as no surprise.  There were warnings.  Now, they're all gone.  I'm a bit saddened by their demise.  I liked rhinos.  They were impressively specialized animals: massive bodies, tough, strong, quick...

That's right, quick.  They could run you down like a speeding truck.  That's 0-60 way too fast.  They were also known to occasionally demolish trucks.  Or try to take down trains...and then get up and try again.  They were stubbornly territorial.

Unfortunately, that made them more prone to that charging behavior, if you noticed the pattern, rather than running away from the guys with the guns.  Humans are devilishly good at finding ways through armor...and around the adaptations that make animals impressive examples of specialization and aggression.  Lions, tigers and bears beware.  Your numbers are pretty low.

Human numbers are on the rise, but those were very low once, too.  There was a time when there were fewer than three thousand humans remaining worldwide.  Sure, that sounds like maybe humans were going to become extinct, but the fact that we weren't being hunted down by humans makes a big difference.  In all honesty, if there was something hunting our ancient ancestors, they probably killed it and ate it.  That's how humans roll.


Some sort of conspiracy?  You could say it's "boys being boys", but humans tend to work well together, especially when the goal is to attack someone else.  Conspirators get the added bonus of the warm and fuzzy feeling of belonging to a group.  Who wants to be left out of that?  If everybody's suddenly pointing a weapon but you, well...those warm and fuzzy feelings become fond memories of a better time.

In the dimmest of times, it was pointed out by the other creatures that humans were relatively slow, weak and squishy.   The human response was, "Challenge accepted!" 

How can I be sure of this?  That's how humans roll.  It's an old character trait that hasn't changed in a long time and isn't going anywhere soon.  As Colonel Hunter Gathers once ranted, "The minute God crapped out the third caveman, a conspiracy was hatched against one of them."

Somewhere in the world, one guy's telling another, "Finish your rhino burger and come on.  This list isn't going to kill itself."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

17265--Non-science Thoughts

January 16th brought about thoughts of nonsense inspired by connections to science.  What'd you expect?  I'm a writer.

Diane Fossey  was born on January 16th and became famous for her dedicated studies of gorillas in Rwanda where she was ultimately murdered.  While she carried no familial connection to noted choreographer Bob Fosse, their homophonic surnames put thoughts of Diane directing dance routines with the gorillas.

January 16th also marked the death of actor Russell Johnson.  He made it to 89 and died at home from kidney failure.  Russell had been in the USAAF in WWII, performed in movies and television, made a trip into The Twilight Zone, and became best known as character Roy Hinkley (aka The Professor), the most brilliant castaway on Gilligan's Island.

I enjoyed those tragically comic castaways in my younger days and knowledge of the Professor's passing produced images of a homemade dialysis machine composed of bamboo tubing and coconut shells.  If that weren't bad enough, I just know that he's languishing in an afterlife with an abundance of coconuts, bananas and pineapples; two unattainable virgins; and a burning desire to engineer an escape with primitively inadequate hand-fashioned tools.

Thanks for the fabricated memories.

Friday, January 10, 2014

17259--Broken News

Mad as Hell

My mind is reeling from the implications of the input just sent in for processing.  A pair of news anchors, if they can still dare be called that, just read to the audience about a leading cell provider's new friends and family plan.  It wasn't so simply named.  Frankly, it was stupidly named, but that's beside the point.  The point is the anchors just did a commercial as though it was news.  If I were a rival station's news producer, I'd run a story on that, chasing down their personnel for interviews and commentaries on the scandal.

Is this the direction of things?  I'm not so na├»ve that I don't know the major news outlets are owned by corporate and financial interests nor that there are a lot of things they don't tell us, but are they just going to set fire to what little integrity to which they still might lay claim?  I rankled enough at the bothersome concept presented in "Minority Report" back in 2002 when electronic ad signs were personally targeting passing pedestrians via retina scan, but now commercialized news spots?  Where's the FCC when you need it?  Somebody tries to flash me a breast and it's levying fines instead of thank you notes on my behalf.  Turn regulated news time into an infomercial and what's it doing?

Nothing to see here.

I suppose the next move to watch for will be Google Glass pop-up ads.  Those will doubtlessly be as targeted as the smartsigns from the Tom Cruise film.  Like most real world developments, though, closing your eyes won't be enough to make them go away.  They'll have been targeted to your wearable device.  Your new augmented reality will likely see you bombarded by sponsored ads from every business you walk or drive near whether you look at them or not.

After they get people to start taking their edible microchips, Google will likely reveal that they don't just turn you into a password transmitter, but an ad receiver who no longer has the luxury of simply removing that stylish Google Glasswear.  That also brings us around to another film prophecy because, to add the irony-flavored coating to your high-tech treat, the power source for the internalized microchip is your own biochemistry, copper-top.

How do you like them apples?

Sure, this means constant remote monitoring of an individual's health status is speeding our way on the heels of eroding privacy and probably heralds revolutionary changes in communications, emergency services, physical security and personal computing among other industries, but it may cost you your peace of mind even if everything were to work right straight out of the logic gate.  What do you mean you don't want commercials beamed into your subconscious, your dreams, your daydreams, your fantasies...?  And you thought it was hard to get jingles out of your head before?  HA!  You'll hardly even care once the telemarketer calls start literally ringing in your ears.

If it's any consolation, even though Google has been buying up robotics companies, the advent of our subjugation by robot overlords is still probably several years off.  All you Connors out there can stay paranoid, just keep an eye on the humans...and the corporations...and the government.  I've got your back.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

17257--Checkmate in...

Welcome to my 200th post.

I'm not here to name names.

Some folks like their privacy and I'm one to respect that.  I have a friend, though, who was lamenting that he used to be ridiculed for his doomsayer warnings of the growing surveillance state and the shadowy string-pullers behind the thrones.  With the information leaks turning into ever-steadier flows of increasingly public events, though, he's been hearing the vindicating song of people around him waking up and asking, "Didn't you used to say...?"  It's tough not to see the latest stunning news reports of police turning on civilians or governmental corruptions and legal abuses coming to light without pondering the notion of watching it all burn because "I warned them about this years ago.  Why didn't they listen?"  Admittedly, I'm still a bit mystified over Edward Snowden being a hounded whistle-blower.  I haven't heard any revelations attributed to him that haven't come from the conspiracists -- Hi, mom! -- for at least twenty years.  The only thing different in Snowden's case is that he was "on the inside".

Nothing we hadn't foreseen.

Hell, even as far back as Ronald Reagan, it was said that the old man made a fuss about "the mark of the beast" when staffers presented a proposal to push a national citizen ID program through the states using drivers' licenses.  Even though the idea seemed to have been back-burnered at the time, those things never seem to vanish entirely.  Bureaucracy may be notorious for burying things in red tape, but plots and schemes for usurping the rights of the people are easily as complex and tangled.  If a light is shone upon them, they get moved to the shadows to wait till everyone's attention is elsewhere--like turning on the lights in a roomful of cockroaches.  Meanwhile, another maneuver is shifted into action to see how far it can get.  Sounds like I just described the neverending battle of a superhero comic series, doesn't it?  The US government didn't just get awarded the status of "greatest threat to world peace" for nothing.  When I was a kid, people complained that our country acted like it was the world's policeman.  Now, the complaint is that it has become SPECTRE or the Legion of Doom.  Have we let ourselves become so distracted by entertainment and survival that we've let the USA become a terrorist nation behind the veil of news media lies?

"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is doing is worse than you imagine." ~ William Blum, former US State Dept. employee

It's hard to know where to look.  The Conspiracy is a huge machine with lots of moving parts.  Are politicians inept, evil, greedy, misguided, or just puppets?  Is the problem corporate greed?  Are the bankers who own every damned thing actually evil manipulators?  Of course they are, but if you were part of a family that had built up a multi-generational fortune, you'd probably think you had better ideas about shaping the world than the faceless, impoverished masses, too.  By the time you own your own island and trick out your secluded mansion with an underground lab/lair, the sound of people telling you you've gone too far is just a fly buzzing in the Taj Mahal.

A few years back, there was a fresh fervor over RFID chips.  Electronic implants in you, your bank cards, and your portable electronics would replace money and eradicate all manner of privacies.  Wait!  Flag on the play, as the sports-minded say: even though the implanted chips work, they're not secure and they cause cancer cells to appear around them.  Those realizations seemed to deter things for a while, even with the proposed alternative of wearing RFID chips like jewelry.  The websites were up, but things quieted down.  Plans kept churning.

The most recent announcement in this brave new world order scenario seems to be an RFID chip that the consumer is expected to literally consume, taking a chip-pill every day.  Lining the cows up to shoot themselves in the head is a new twist.  I thought the implants causing cancer would be a bigger deterrent, but that might be why the drug warlords are acquiescing on the marijuana/hemp issue.  This not only allows the masses to fix the cancer easily but also feel like we've made some progress.  Or maybe it only makes some of us feel like we've won something, since it's still a divisive issue that keeps us fighting each other instead of Them.  What a clever distraction.  And turning them into pills?  They can sell the implants and the service on a recurring basis with people volunteering for their own leashes.  I know, you could dismiss it as vague ramblings against faceless plotters, except they're not bothering to hide any of it anymore.  That's when you know they feel secure beyond being stopped.  It's not exactly supervillainous monologuing, but it's damn close.  The RFID chips are from IBM VeriChip and they have a website to tell you all about them.  The chip-pills are coming from Google with the project being headed up by a former DARPA director.  Even though they're willing to say the tech isn't perfect yet, they'll also tell you to just take it.  Or if you don't like that, there's an electronic tattoo tag that's also on the table now.  That one's being pushed as the next trend for the cool kids into concentration camp chic.  Either way, turning the wearer into a walking, trackable, biometric passcode generator seems to be among the favored plans.

They do seem determined to get this stuff attached to our bodies.  Maybe they'll make the jump to nanotech next and put it in our food.  The darkest conception to my thinking (your own personal Hell may vary) would have Them insinuating our bodies with nanotech capable of directly manipulating our pleasure centers, thus exerting more direct control over our decisions and actions than any legislation, drug or media product.  Compliant citizen drones will be rewarded with pleasure--just primal sensations of pleasure.  A world of bliss addicts will do anything They say if They control everyone's next fix.  Fortunately, that's an extreme scenario.  We're not there yet.

Meanwhile, you still have the freedom to choose.  Will you drink the Kool-Aid?  If they stick to the script, you won't be able to "buy or sell without it."  Maybe you'll be carted off to a detention center.  If at all possible, I would like to opt out of being converted into anything soylent. 

How many moves to checkmate?

Monday, January 6, 2014

17255--Bad for Business

Almost daily, I hear more about the wonders of hemp. 

It reproduces prolifically, restores the soil, and provides balanced, protein-rich nutrition.  When consumed, it reduces inflammation, restores balance to stressed systems, relieves pain, combats nausea, and its oil even cures cancer.  It can be transformed into anything you need from fabrics to building materials.  Used properly, it even helps the economy.  Apparently, the miracle plant is our real-life equivalent of the shmoo.
If the shmoo fits...
Despite the wonders it has done, this utopian boon to mankind did itself in back in the 20th century by being so amazing.  Making it even more shmoo-like, it was too big a threat to the financial interests of others who were able to keep its benefits suppressed for a long time.  It was bad for businesses that have proved able to exert tremendous influence around the world while so vilifying hemp in any natural form that crimes related to marijuana and hemp can still carry more severe punishments than for murder.  As the plant's natural benefits appear to far outweigh any of its drawbacks, public and select commercial insistence is slowly producing pressure enough to begin not only acknowledging its many values but rescuing it from the realm of criminality.
The biggest problem I have with this extends back to the government.  There's a shock.  Still, it was through the government that legal and economic terror were begun and waged as warfare with cannabis sativa as the enemy.  The general populace have been victimized by restriction of its use with the poor and minorities being particularly victimized through propaganda and uneven prosecution.

What time is it?

Sorry, that's sort of a trick question because the answer is "It doesn't matter."  That's right, it doesn't matter when.  What 's important to me is what.  The what is that the government structures We the People are allowing to continue with terribly little resistance continue to violate not only laws but our rights both individually and collectively at every level.  What magnitude of evil does it take to watch people die fighting for oil we don't need and taking pharmaceuticals that could be easily replaced and suffering from cancers that could be cured without crippling medical expenses?  Outrage seems too feeble a response to ongoing administrative trickery, not only over keeping hemp at a tantalizing distance but the entire pretense supporting the illegal overreach of federal authority.  We can't continue to allow decisions to be made for us and punishments to be brought down upon us by those don't have our best interests at heart, driven instead by avarice and lust for power.

"We have met the enemy and he is us." -- Pogo

I'm pissed off about it.  I'm not mad at you.  Whether you choose to be upset over this or not is your right.  You're a free person.  I'll continue to regard you as one no matter what the criminal elements in government seek to change.  And, yes, that was "elements" not "elephants".  I don't blame a particular political party for the problems in government.  I choose to hold accountable every employee in government.  That includes the bad ones who choose not to do things the way they're supposed to as well as those who may do what they're supposed to do, but stop short of opposing the festering corruption around them.  They've sworn oaths that they've chosen not to uphold.

Instead, they've decided to be very well paid by agents of the vastly wealthy to do what they are told to do by people who are not us.  The masses are targets to be subjugated by whatever means necessary.  Watch the increasing levels of blatant disregard for human rights by financial institutions, the federal government, and law enforcement agents.  The United States of America recently earned the distinction of being voted the world's greatest threat to peace.  Sixty-eight governments were involved in the voting.  A lot of those votes came from our allies.

Of course, if you took the vote among just the people in this country, I think the USA would still have a good shot at winning, especially since the money masters like to stay behind the curtains.

Remember the French Revolution, though: no trials, short jail stays, lots of heads...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

17253--Spectrum of Ethics

Equilibrium (Balance) is a natural state in our universe.

It exists between Bright and Dark, Order and Chaos.  What we call "good" and "evil" are extreme symptoms on the spectrum of being unbalanced.  Being completely self-serving can be as spiritually unhealthy as being completely self-sacrificing can be physically unhealthy.  See how that complementary thing works?  Good.  Now, what does it mean for your antagonists and protagonists?

Superman and certain other superheroes can get away more altruism than most because of their powers.  For most mere mortals, though, not taking care of yourself comes with great consequences.  A hero can only donate so much blood and flesh, block so many bullets and knife blades, and chase societies enemies for only a finite amount of time without some rest and a bite to eat.  No, all the food can't go to the starving children.  You have to take care of yourself to a certain degree to be able to continue making sacrifices for others.

Sliding to the other end of the spectrum, kicking puppies and eating orphans will damage the spirit and erode the villainous from within.  Vampires lose their reflections and we could go through a litany of specific vile figures whose dark indulgences have guided their withered souls far from the light, but I'd be naming politicians and supervillains all day.  Their cost is more than just white hair and disfigurement, it's the essence of their humanity itself.  Each destructive choice takes its toll on the villain as well as the victim.  At the extreme, what remains will be either a figure of unfeeling cruelty or utter madness with neither maintaining more than a parasitic or predatory connection to mankind.  And we're back to Congress again.

Let me get to that divergence another time.  The point is that when you develop your characters, there's a lot of middle ground available between Paragon of Virtue and Embodiment of Malevolence.  I'm sure you've heard it before, but many of the most interesting characters are going to be found occupying those middle grounds.  In the course of going through a story, they may even change positions on the spectrum.  It doesn't have to be a change from one end to the other.  The Grinch managed to pull that one off, but not everyone can do it as convincingly.  What's important is that the audience gets to learn more about them by the end than was known at the beginning.

If you're feeling generous, you might even let your character in on it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

17250--Minding What Matters

Another issue of contention: grammar and spelling.

How important is it to write correctly in dealings with others?  Some argue that proper grammar use is following the dodo into the annals of history.  I say, if you’re going to take the time to write it down, do it right.  This isn’t just about not being perceived as an idiot or someone who doesn’t care, because we’re not supposed to concern ourselves so much with what others think of us, right?  This is about caring enough about your own efforts to do what you do correctly and how what you’re doing (in this case, attempting to communicate to others) will be utterly pointless if done wrong.

You know that old saying that “almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”?  Notice how nobody ever substitutes “spelling” or “grammar” for an example?  There’s a reason for that.

It would be difficult for me to overstate the impact of being able to communicate information between people without limits of time or distance.  If the Roman empire had invented the printing press, the dark ages might have been avoided.  You may be the best engineer breathing, but how are your works and processes going to be explained to those who don’t share your sharp analytical mind?  You might be a great mechanic who can never pass on your techniques so a hiring company is going to have to settle for someone less talented to write their technical manual.  The job will go to that other applicant whose resume doesn’t show a reckless disregard for the use of to, too, and two; that applicant who seems to give a rat’s ass about properly using you’re, your, then, than, further, farther, their, there, they’re, were, we’re, where and how to spell the tricky technical terms correctly.  Your resume will probably go in the trash.  Maybe, if you’re very lucky, you could end up working for that other applicant who you’ll realize isn’t as smart as you, but somehow got “your” job.  Since you refuse to see the value of those other skills, though, you may never acknowledge the real reasons why things worked out the way they did.  Bitter much?

With the ready availability of education we have, someone who chooses to be unable to communicate effectively in his native language (only you know whether or not that applies to you) comes off as lazy at best.  In a world where many people have to walk miles for possibly clean water, we have educational options at our fingertips that others dream of yet so many choose to bypass.  How many tyrants would've thanked ten gods for a people who didn't crave knowledge or who could not read?  There's a thought that diminishes sympathy for those who argue against people willing to travel from distant lands, learn the language and fill the jobs.  How many of those who scoff at language skills will be able to read this, though?