Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars The Force Awakens: A Review

Give Disney time, and it will own our entire freaking childhood.

Disney is buying up content like crazy. They are clearly afraid that their current portfolio of franchise content will not engage.

I didn't want to see this movie. The only reason I went was because my niece wanted to recreate the family movie outing, and I was not going to ruin that for her. So, right off, the one positive thing I got out of this movie, is that it puts a positive spin and a positive message about family. Yes, it's action, and there are new characters which are retreads of old characters, but it has a good message about the importance of moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas (without which, we humans would have become extinct a long time ago). So, I'll give Disney that, at least they recognize a true value system, even if the conclusion was derived via marketing.

During the holiday, my brother and I did quite a few late night walks around the area. I would note that one house I passed by had lit up Christmas decorations entirely owned by Disney. They owned everything except for Santa and the reindeer.

Disney was all over the Force Awakens. Many have pointed out that JJ Abrams, a fan of Star Wars,  created a fan movie of Star Wars. I would point out it was a heavily market-researched fan movie. It takes no risks, stays solidly within the canon of the franchise, is bereft of characters, filled to the brim with phony archetypes, does a competent job of action and effects, but is clearly just another round of content shot out of the chamber of the Military/Industrial/Entertainment Complex.

The plot was suck, but then JJ Abrams has never met a story yet he couldn't ruin. I've got no problem with reboots and reimagining. Fuck, it goes all the way back to Homer, who rebooted the stories of Mycenaeans. But, when you claim it's all new, and then serve up the same stale shit, I got a problem with that. So, the Force Awakens provided nothing new, and I supposed we have to wait for the next installment to see whether this movie actually sucked or not.

If the next movie involves Abrams insisting that it is not a reboot of the Empire Strikes Back, then we know this movie sucked.

Actually, the Empire Strikes Back is an anomaly, because every other movie in this franchise (provided we ignore New Hope, which was a reboot of Flash Gordon) has sucked a big red rubber dick. Joseph Campbell be damned.

In the meantime, I think I'll go see The Big Short, which was what I wanted to see to begin with.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Teh Stupid Catching Up To Me

Like many of you fellow Americans, I love to blow stuff up. I haven't done it in awhile, save for maybe a year ago making interesting pottery with greenware and firecrackers. Ah, but there was a time when I was in the realm of Hollywood special effects.

On or about 1973 or so, I managed to get my sweaty little hands on a book called The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell. Mysterious explosions were reported throughout Porter County for the next couple of years. The book actually didn't provide me with a whole lot of information I hadn't already obtained through the local library, but it was still useful.

Keep in mind, I'm not bragging, just relating the facts. in retrospect, I was one dumb fucker who should have been maimed or worse.

I set up a lot of exploding targets to shoot at throughout the 70s and 80s, but pretty much had gotten jaded and lost interest by 1985. On a personal safety note, we videotaped the explosion of a gallon can of gas attached to target explosive that captured shrapnel whizzing inches by the camera... and my face, and that experience pretty much put an end to that fascination.

To anyone who approached me about this form of pyrotechnics today, I'd say"Make Sure Me And Mine Aren't Around When You Blow Your Stupid Head Off, You Dumb Fucker".

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#gungrabbers

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. I don't think I want to talk about guns and gun use in America, but rather the PR battle over guns and gun use in America. There is a loose rumor going around the college that perhaps qualified instructors and personnel should be armed. Kind of tells you who is winning the battle. Considering I usually want to shoot someone in the face at least two or three times daily, I think I should perhaps exclude myself from that policy. And I consider myself a reasonably intelligent and steadily mature adult. Maybe I'll get a sword.

A couple of politically incorrect assertions:

1) Your average American is a tard. They can barely operate their own bodies, let alone anything beyond that. They are actually worse than tards. Consider that, H erectus, a million years ago, with an IQ of perhaps 60, an imbecile, domesticated fire. Do you think the average American can do that? Domesticate fire? I don't. Just for shits and giggles, I would like to perform an annual experiment called National Hammer Day, in which every American qualified to vote must go throughout the day equipped with a hammer, just to see how that goes.

2) Your average American is a #guntard, meaning that fewer and fewer Americans know how to use a weapon. (I know #guntard usually means someone who drools over and/or beats off to guns). So, the math would seem to be more guns = more tards with guns, which I would think is not a good thing. Viz: the archetype of Barney Fife, with a bullet in his pocket, and he is Law Enforcement!

3) Your average American is as well informed about everything as they are about guns, gun use, gun abuse, tards with guns, the trend of more tards with guns, and the consequences of same, but special interest groups, hoping to manipulate public perceptions, have made it as hard as possible to get good reliable data on this whole topic. Therefore, we are dazzled with bullshit. We are dazzled with bullshit on practically every subject, so this is not a surprise. As a result, the only reliable data, from statistics, is denied your average American, and he or she is forced to rely upon a steady diet of anecdote.

4) As a result, PR people are having a field day, but we must also remember that your average PR person is also a tard. Often a very-well-paid tard, which makes me question the existence of a loving personal God.

Witness, for example, the popularity of the term #gungrabber. I personally think this is a backfire meme*. The simpleminded idea of #gungrabber is to portray someone who wants to take away your gun. I don't get that impression. I get the impression of gun owners who are portrayed as powerless little infants, babies with candy in their hands. And these mean old gun grabbers just coming up and snatching the gun right out of their soft, weak, pudgy little hands. "Hey! Gimme back my gun you mean old #gungrabber! Why, if I had gun, I'd show you!" Gun owners as scared little bunnies with tiny little paws that can barely hold on to a gun, and they are stressed out, forced to worry about #gungrabbers lurking behind bushes going to snatch their little guns away. What a horrible life!

#Gungrabber implies bullies, and bullies require victims. So, if gun owners, even with the advantage of holding a gun, are 90-lb weaklings worried about getting sand kicked in their face, that kind of defeats the purpose of the carefully crafted image of gun owners as the only responsible, sober, mature adults in America.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Primum non retardabit

I would categorize artists, teachers, health providers, drill instructors, and shamans as healers.

(Why not doctors? Doctors are more like engineers. They look for the closest solution to a problem and apply. Oftentimes that solution is a square peg for a round hole, and they force and mutilate the problem to fit the solution. Mathematicians do that too).

Not that I consider myself a teacher, at least, not as my primary role, but I do wear that hat a lot. And I think teachers, as healers, see a huge gaping wound in the head at the beginning of life called Ignorance, and try to heal it.

My primary role as I see it? The archetype known as Uncle John, which is to keep the kiddies (ages zero to one hundred) safe. Keep them safe, so they can have fun. So they can play. Because if you can't play, you can't learn.

Play involves some strictures, but nothing to actually hobble play. Nothing to retard it. You have to set up edges of the envelop, and then be ready to let the edges be stretched a bit. Play also involves a bit of tailoring to the person. Not everyone is going to appreciate the type or level of play that others thrive on. You can't predict what type of play will make them  thrive, but you can make corrections for when they are hindered. And so, first, do not hinder.

That's a very difficult thing to do. And since I'm not a particularly good diagnostician, in that I am self-centered enough not to recognize when people are not having the kind of fun I consider fun. So I do not think of myself as a nurturing teacher, but rather, an uncle who will only occasionally say no.

And also, usually, show them how they can get hurt, or into trouble, and that is best done by leading by example.

Still, it is very rewarding when, after you've scared them a little to not stray too far outside the playground boundaries, and get them set up, that you can walk away and say: "You know what to do".

Friday, December 4, 2015

Nail, Meet Hammer

What exactly can you pursue - personally and societally - with flint stone technology? How hard can it be pushed, what ramifications explored, what versatility can be exploited, and what robustness can be obtained?

Well, with flint stone tech, you get exceptional cutting edges, some very beautiful hand axes, stone knives, spearheads, micro bladed weapons of war, and that's about it. You can't really do much more with stone. Ah, but combine it with braided grasses, sinews, pliable wood, and you get a bow and arrow, which is a game changer - both personally and societal.

I don't really know how old bow and arrow tech is, but I'd hazard close to maybe 200,000 years old. That probably contradicts what most anthropologists and archaeologists surmise, which is at least 71,000 years old.

Now, would anyone, looking at a hand axe, predict a bow and arrow? Probably somebody, not usually likely.

Move on to the laser. When it first came out, predictions were for burning and cutting, death rays maybe, and that's about it. Nobody figured you could use lasers to cool things down to near absolute zero. What? A hot thing that makes things ultra cold? Nonsense! Nobody figured you could use lasers to make diamonds at room temperature. Nobody figured you could you lasers to perform nonlocal quantum witchcraft. And on and on.

So, now CRISPR. And what really is CRISPR? Well, my simplest explanation CRISPR is flint stone tech. It's a cutting edge. It's a cutting edge with a difference. And we I have not the slightest clue as to where it will go.

Already, some silly proposals have been made as to what to do with it. One silly scientist suggests it will be used to prolong human life. What a useless thing to do. You might as well breed for blond hair and blue eyes, to create psychopathic super soldiers.

Already, limitations have been shown to exist in the technology. A recent Chinese effort to genetically modify human embryos ran into some serious obstacles. But, the tech always improves.

Still, if are worried about homo superior, or some horrible pandemic, relax for a bit. We do know that people are concerned enough about the tech they recently had an ethics symposium. And at this ethics symposium use of CRISPR was given a green light.

Sensible. As far as I know, no technology has ever been suppressed, has never been stopped. Even prohibited tech has been pursued clandestinely, so why not pursue it out in the open? It's going to happen anyway, so the best option is to set up protocols.

Worried? Scared? Good! That is sensible too. But don't worry overmuch. Our doomsdays are not coming from the future. Our doomsdays are already here, jostling and competing to be made manifest.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

All-American Boy

You know, if Sayed Rizwan Farook had been a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, bullet-headed Saxon mother's son (who hadn't lost his temper and shot up San Bernardino) a lot of people who vilify him would praise him as a prepper's wet dream: well-armed, well-armored, well-prepared, and ready to wreak havoc like a good 'ol patriotic red-blooded American boy should be ready to do.

What with that whole well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of the state thing and all.

A good guy with a gun. Ah, well, life in America.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

For Your Consideration

The afternoon of July 1st, 1863, General Ulysses S. Grant sat sweltering in the parlor of a farmhouse outside of Vicksburg, trying to determine when would be an appropriate time to start drinking. Dinner would not be served for a few more hours, and he not did prefer to sober up again for the night. He eyed the bottle on his writing desk, then turned to work on the daily reports. He closed his eyes, ground palms to sockets to concentrate a moment.

A silvery lightning flash penetrated Grant's hands and eyelids, with no corresponding crash of thunder. Grant started in his seat, blinked his eyes to relieve the dazzle of the purple retinal afterglow. This dazzle was no treelike pattern of lightning, but rather more an animal's claw drawn raggedly across the backs of his eyes.

A brief, jagged rip had opened in the space-time continuum, and out from the Shining Void stepped Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless and his retinue.

"Greetings, Mr. President!" said Dr. Loveless cheerfully, "And how goes the Siege of Vicksburg on this... dismally muggy and oppressive day?"

Grant blinked and peered about the parlor before discerning the dwarfish form of Dr. Loveless. Loveless was impeccably attired in a silk morning coat, silk hat, and gold tipped cane. He wore an enormous green cravat that made his pink face look like a grotesque flower. Behind Loveless hulked his assistant, the giant Voltaire. Voltaire clutched a large metal barrel. Next to the giant stood the lovely Antoinette, who held a wicker basket.

"...tolerably well, I should say, sir", Grant hazarded.

"Ah! I admired your aplomb and composure! It is true what they say of your complete sangfroid in unusual situations. My hat is off to you, sir!" Dr. Loveless tipped his hat and placed it upon Grant's desk.

"Allow me to introduce myself! I am Doctor Miguelito Quixote Loveless! These are my companions, Miss Antoinette, and Mr. Voltaire! We are all of us time travelers, having come from your far future!"

"How do you do?" replied Grant. He held up a hand towards Loveless and pointed towards the basket. "Is that for me?" he asked.

The doctor, interrupted in his prepared speech, somewhat disconcerted, nodded. "Actually, yes. A token of our esteem, a gift basket for you, containing- "

"a bottle of Old Crow Bourbon, apples, oranges, some pieces of fried chicken, fresh bread and butter, and a brace of quite excellent Havana cigars".

The crooked smile vanished from Loveless' face. "How did you...?"

"...know the contents? Well, Doctor, this is not the first time you've appeared before me", said Grant.

Loveless's eyebrows shot up, visibly taken aback, literally rocked on his heals.

"May I please, dear? The basket?" Grant asked Antoinette. She looked at Loveless, who pale and stiff, nodded permission. As she placed the basket upon the table, Grant looked up at Voltaire. "Please, sir, put that heavy thing down and be at ease".

Voltaire humped the barrel to the floor with a grunt. Doctor Loveless, his handsome face suddenly becoming pale and stiff with anger, demanded "What do you mean not the first time? We have just now travelled here to this time and place!"

"Come, come sir!" cajoled Grant, "Do you not know the first thing about time travel? By appearing in the past, you have created a time loop. I have, by my count, gone through this encounter perhaps a few hundred times. Fortunately, the loop is recursive, and so is never the way same twice, else I - and the rest of the universe - would be quite insane. But to you, it will always be the first time".

"Impossible! I..." Loveless's voice trailed off as he started to think about this situation.

Grant unfolded  the calico cover of the basket, removed the bottle of Old Crow, uncorked it, plucked out a cigar, held it under his nose and sniffed. "Wonderful " he sighed, "and the fact that I die from throat cancer does not deter me in the least from smoking one. Sir, do you indulge?"

"Loveless paced the floor and shook his head, "Yes, but not now, thank you. I must appraise this new information".

"Well, let tell you what you planned, and what things occurred the first time you visited". Loveless stopped his pacing. "Please do" he replied.

"You and your plucky companions arrived from Hollywood California, circa 1964-".

"Aha! Nonsense!" interjected Loveless. "We arrived from New Haven, Connecticut 1872! I completed the time machine that year!"

"So it would seem to you", countered Grant "As I said, this-" he gestured around him "this is a recursive time loop you've stuck the Universe in. Or rather, if you will, a Do loop, an iterated algorithm where the result of the computation is fed back into the formula and repeated. So, it would seem to you, at the start point, that you arrived from Yale University, where you were a professor of the physical sciences, with the means and resources to assemble the material and device that you call a time machine. And at the same time, constructed the nuclear device which Mr. Voltaire has placed upon the floor. You offered to end the Siege of Vicksburg for me, with, as you said 'an aerial mine with the power of a million kegs of gunpowder'. All you needed from me was my signature. I, foolishly, accepted your offer, thinking the siege would continue for several months. The blast not only wiped out Vicksburg, it irradiated and incapacitated nearly a third of my army. It did end the siege, and the war, once news spread of a horrible weapon possessed by the Union. You then travelled forward in time, produced a land grant with my now Presidential signature transferring much of the state of California into your possession, but in turn, meaning you never took the position at Yale, and thus never created the time machine, which created a paradoxical loop in time."

"This is utter nonsense!" laughed Loveless, " a fabrication!"

"Perhaps, as I said, that was the first iteration". But you obviously need more convincing. You and I have spent a great deal of time as adversaries, Doctor, and I know a great about you. Grant proceeded to tell Loveless his whole life, the family history. How the strange experiments of Herr Doktor Lieblos, Miguelito's father, had inadvertently resulted in his dwarfism. How the Liebloses of Austria had been exiled. How they emigrated to America, how the Viceroy of New Spain granted the family large tracts of the province of Alta California. How the land was stolen by the Republic of California. And on and on until finally Loveless, dark browed and stiff lipped, admitted this all might be true.

"Fine," Loveless acceded. "Now what?"

"Why, you accept President Lincoln's exchange offer for the city of Los Angeles and its surrounds, and then go back to Yale to avoid the paradox".

"Exchange? For what price?"

"We'll give it to you for a song".