Tuesday, April 29, 2014

17400--Are They Lobbying for a Revolution?

Why do I seem to be asking that question so often?

You know those people who seem to inspire the query "Are you trying to start something?" almost every time they speak.  For me, those voices usually come from government.

The Supreme Court is said to be contemplating whether the search of an individual's phone should require a warrant or not.  I don't understand the controversy.  It sounds more to me like we're being lied to again and people are trying to screw with our rights...again.  Last I'd checked, there was already a law covering this issue.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Let's not pretend it's unclear just because it seems inconvenient or some people want to claim that new technology creates an unconsidered loophole.  My stuff is mine and I have the right to share it or not as I choose.  The Fourth Amendment was created to protect that right.  In that regard, my smartphone is no different than a briefcase.  It certainly offers no personal information in plain sight to be picked up and perused.

Just to be clear, stepping on my rights is picking a fight.  No, I'm not consenting to a search and you don't have a right to see my receipt.  If you have legitimate probable cause, get a warrant.  I'm not volunteering to bear witness against myself.  That doesn't mean I'm guilty or that I have anything to hide.  It means I value my rights and insist that others treat them with all the respect they are due.

Laws are intended to create a just code of conduct to protect us from abuses.  They are not meant to serve as weapons, nor inconveniences to be circumvented.  I can easily imagine the chaos that must erupt when government employees take part in family game nights.  I'd bet there are a lot of unresolved board games out there ending in angry frustration.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

17363--Must We See Eye-to-Eye?

Do you have anyone whom you consider close to you whose views on life and politics differ wildly from your own?


How about a fictional character?  Are there any you find you enjoy immensely yet you realize you might feel conflicted about their goals or methods of achieving them?

Varying views on how our lives should be lived have probably been around since before we invented words to use to argue with each other.  As Colonel Hunter Gathers once said, "The minute God crapped out the third caveman there was a conspiracy formed against one of them."  Some people play it off as needless drama, but conflict is the friction that motivates action.  In fiction, that conflict may be portrayed as anything that gives the protagonist difficulty in reaching his goal, even if it's the protagonist himself.

Two politically charged science fiction TV shows that have distinguished themselves with their writing over the last few years are Person of Interest and Continuum.  In the latter, the primary goal of the protagonists is to make use of information provided by an independent artificial intelligence to save the lives of people it perceives to be in imminent danger.  Their secondary goal is protecting the technology from being abused by government and corporate operatives who seek to control the AI's omniscience (it constantly gathers information by all-pervasive monitoring of surveillance and telecommunication systems) and is willing to kill anyone their ranks who even knows about the AI's existence.  The AI doesn't share what it learns, so people's secrets are secure.  The Machine (as they call it) merely points its virtual finger, leaving the humans to determine whether they're being pointed at someone who needs to be helped or stopped.  Additionally, another threat to the protagonists and the Machine has been introduced in the form of a citizens' rights group called Vigilance which is militantly opposed to any invasions of privacy.  Vigilance wants the Machine and its human contacts stopped by any means necessary.  They're all operating in the shadows.

I appreciate the show's writing, offering heroes who attempt to mask pain with wit and work to save lives even if they belong to people they don't like or if they have to do things they'd rather not.  No shortage of emotional conflicts here.  Am I opposed to ubiquitous surveillance?  Definitely.  I also understand that the show's ongoing conflicts regarding the Machine exist because each faction believes that their position is the right one.  It's like a televised debate out of current news, but with violence, plots and some advocacy for individual rights.  Of course, everyone fighting for the people would be labeled a terrorist by the government.
The other show gets more complicated.  Continuum has plenty of advanced technology, but the pivot point of this program is time travel.  The protagonist is a protector (law enforcement officer) displaced from sixty-five years in the future.  She wants to return to her husband and child, but she can't even consider that until stopping the escaped criminals who've also come back in time intending to change the course of history.  It seems that the antagonists don't like the corporatocratic, oligarchic dystopia of the North American Union and its Corporate Congress.  Wait, did I describe the future or the present?  Just kidding, although their future sure looks like it could be woven from a tapestry already in the works today.  In 2077, the high-surveillance police state is so firmly in control that the criminal freedom fighters have decided that killing it in its infancy is their only chance at changing their world.

Well, doesn't that put us in an interesting position?  We have a heroine struggling to protect lives until she can return to her family and job in a future where debtors can be consigned to life at mindless slave labor.  We have outlaws organizing radical citizens' rights groups and killing seemingly harmless people to thwart the construction of a future they've already changed.  It's especially hard to cheer the protector on when most of the glimpses we're shown of the future involve the state killing or otherwise oppressing people.  In fact, while it initially seems that her trip to the present was accidental, it's revealed that it was engineered by the future's chief architect and corporate mogul who also wants a different version of the future than the one he has had a great hand in crafting (though his means of effecting that change involves making alterations in his younger self).  From what we've seen of him in the future, he seems a far gentler soul than the dark world around him.

Like I said, it's a bit more complicated.  The likable heroine is fighting for a future I would detest.  Her redeeming virtue comes in that she's not doing it because she's a stiff-necked fascist, she just loves her family.  The harsh antagonists are using terrorist tactics in ruthlessly championing a cause I'd support.  And they all come off believably, so I'd say they've crafted the twisting of methods and goals effectively.

[Spoiler: The start of season 3 explains that a even a short trip back in time basically unravels the timeline one has left in favor of the creation of a new one.  The new one may resemble the old, but there's no guarantee as to how much.]

For me, I'm going to say we don't have to agree with every aspect of characters to appreciate them.  They merely need to be well-crafted.  Disagreements can be educational, thought-provoking, and perhaps even enlightening.  A little challenge to our normal way of thinking may help us see things from a different point-of-view.

How do you feel?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

17353--Being Careful What You Wish For

He stood over the cluttered yard sale table with his rescued treasure.  Holding the tarnished brass oil lamp, he turned and studied it as his imagination ran wild with thoughts of wish fulfillment. The lamp was heavier than he had thought it would be before picking it up.  Still fighting a growing urge to rub its metal skin, his eyes darted all about to see if anyone was watching without giving away that he cared whether or not anyone was watching.  Only after forcing open the lamp's lid did he notice it was completely filled with a clear glass-like substance, which could not be removed without destroying the lamp itself.  On the reverse of the $2.00 price tag dangling from the handle was scrawled the word "Deactivated".

Who doesn't like the occasional bit of wish fulfillment?  How about ass-biting, ironic, Twilight Zoney, you-didn't-really-think-that-through-did-you wish fulfillment?  Hands?  OK, just you in the back?  Get out.

For the rest of us, whether we're watching I Dream of Jeannie or reading "Arabian Nights", this stuff is just bloody entertaining.  Usually not literally, but I think we all know that a character who treats the gift of a wish too carelessly is going to end up regretting it.  That's OK, though.  We're also usually taught that comeuppances have educational potential.  Failing that, we're still left with horror or comedy.  Sometimes both.

In the oldest djinn lore, they are perceived as malefic beings bound into service by King Solomon through the power of his magic ring.  Over the many years since, they've come to occupy their own special place in literature and popular culture.  With them, the concept of being granted or making deals for wishes through some supernatural agent has grown into an almost ubiquitous part of our collective psyche.

In my own take on them, djinn are beings forged of the fire and smoke who come in three distinct flavors: marid, ifrit, and imp.  They refer to themselves collectively as either Djinn or Shaitan, the Children of the Adversary.  While they possess both Free Will and potentially staggering multi-dimensional power, their lack of imagination limits their drive.  This aspect of their nature makes them good minions.  There is a belief among their kind, though, that if they ignore their own desires and serve others enough, then an individual might know inspiration.  The djinn recognize such a development is a rare, even legendary, occurrence and more go mad than realize that precious spark.  Some of these zealot Searchers have been bound to containers by others, mortal and immortal.  Binding them to a physical object allows that container to act as a pandimensional, hypertime anchor, inhibiting roaming.  A Searcher is more likely a convert--evolving from disrespecting mortals and plotting their temptation into self-destruction, with some taking on a genuine liking for mortals either specifically or generally--than one bound into service unwillingly.  One bound unwillingly may still serve others as a means to enlightenment, but should still be considered cunning and dangerous.  Still, there are some djinn who are curious to study mortals and learn about them.  This curiosity has resulted in wish-granting experiments, spontaneous human combustion and the occasional inside-out cow.

The least regarded Children of the Adversary are shaita-imp, mortal offspring of djinn and mortal flesh, that possess only a fraction of the power potential of even an imp (imps may seem quite potent to the limited perceptions of mortals, but the majority of changes wrought by an imp‘s efforts will be undone should they so much as leave the dimension).  They’re encouraged to perpetrate corruption against all that is Bright or Balanced, to stand opposed to all things of the light.  While they have some ambition, they tend to be undisciplined and of limited imagination.

I have yet to introduce the shaita-imp characters created for the Theobroma series, so no spoilers there.  Over in the City of Magick, though, Brick Stone's sexy assistant, Jonni Berlin, has been revealed to be a shaita-imp.  Though he has been able to make use of her arcane knowledge, the beleaguered detective has yet to realize the implications of having her in his life.  Do be there as things unfold.

In case I haven't been completely clear, I love this stuff.  Whether you're someone who can't get enough or looking for something new, follow a link below and experience a sexy twist on the djinn.  Rub the lamp and get your personal copy of "Summoned", an urban fantasy from author Rainy Kaye.

In a magical nutshell:
Twenty-three year old Dimitri has to do what he is told—literally. Controlled by a paranormal bond, he is forced to use his wits to fulfill unlimited deadly wishes made by multimillionaire Karl Walker.

Dimitri has no idea how his family line became trapped in the genie bond. He just knows resisting has never ended well. When he meets Syd—assertive, sexy, intelligent Syd—he becomes determined to make her his own. Except Karl has ensured Dimitri can't tell anyone about the bond, and Syd isn't the type to tolerate secrets.
Then Karl starts sending him away on back-to-back wishes. Unable to balance love and lies, Dimitri sets out to uncover Karl's ultimate plan and put it to an end. But doing so forces him to confront the one wish he never saw coming—the wish that will destroy him.


Or follow the dark criminal out to steal your heart over at Amazon

 Rainy Kaye is an aspiring overlord. In the mean time, she blogs at RainyoftheDark and writes paranormal novels from her lair somewhere in Phoenix, Arizona. When not plotting world domination, she enjoys getting lost around the globe, studying music so she can sing along with symphonic metal bands, and becoming distracted by Twitter (@rainyofthedark). She is represented by Rossano Trentin of TZLA.