Thursday, July 31, 2003

An excellent article about cyborgs and other posthuman beings.

Bumper-sticker ideas:

It's not ILLEGAL to be a WEIRDO

*just joking
From The Electric Warrior:

MacBot Portrait to Adorn New Mars Cydonia Book

(The Electric Warrior) - My portrait of Mac Tonnies has been (tentatively) selected to appear as image of the author on his forthcoming book, After the Martian Apocalypse. The book, scheduled to appear early 2004, should be finished any day now. According to Mac's blog, "I'm emailing the polished version of my manuscript to my publisher this week and I want it to be perfect."

As I understand it, a B&W version of the same portrait accompanies an article by Mac in the August 2003 edition of "Mysteries" magazine. He takes a cautious, but decidedly open-minded stance on the Martian enigmas at Cydonia.

"Some scientists have argued that life on Earth originated not on Earth itself but inside comets that crashed together during the formation of the solar system, potentially seeding both Earth and Mars," writes Mac, citing the theory of panspermia. "If so, the hypothesized 'Martians' who constructed the Face may be our relatives."


Note: The disclaimer here is that the graphics people at Simon & Schuster reserve the right to do away with the EW portrait, although I don't know why they would. If nothing else, the image -- or possibly another EW rendering, which I personally like better (below) --should appear inside the book, if not on the cover. But for the sake of color, I hope it's on the back jacket.

I bought blank cassettes on the way home from work so I can listen to actual music in my car instead of the drivel they play on the radio. The first CD to make the transition to tape is Bjork's "Greatest Hits."

Moron on NPR on why he opposes gay marriage: "radical individualism" (his term!) threatens to undermine social stability.
Sorry for failing to post yesterday. I don't know what got into me. Or out of me, or whatever. For those of you keeping track, this was only the second day I've failed to blog since January of this year, and the other time was due to a Blogger system upgrade. That ain't bad.

I'm dating a girl from China who's given me an assortment of interesting Chinese prepackaged meals. Opening the refridgerator is suddenly a somewhat alienating experience: I can't read the labels, and everything has an elusive soy aftertaste. One thing that's incredibly cool: the lids come with self-assembling plastic spoons. This is accomplished by means of clever hinges (which remind me of the joints in insect legs). Unfold the spoon and, in theory, you're ready to eat, although I advise disposing of the fold-up utensil after relishing its novelty and using real silverware.

I'm finishing editing the Mars book you've read so much about. Finally seeing it on bookshelves next year will be an epiphany of sorts. Patrick Huyghe, my editor, has been incredibly patient and helpful.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Finished Norman Spinrad's "Agent of Chaos." Not his best work, but quietly impressive and even thoughtful. Aside from "Bug Jack Barron" (which someone should reissue), my favorite Spinrad novel is "Songs from the Stars." The title sounds sort of quaint and childish; the book isn't.

I read the first chapter of China Mieville's award-winning "Perdido Street Station." Mieville appears to be the real thing -- not another William Burroughs wannabe. "Station" is dense, the prose almost Dickensian, and bursting with weird imagery. It's one of those books that pains me as I read it because he's beaten me to so many gnarly concepts and presented them with actual literary flair. I expect this book to occupy quite a bit of my time over the next few weeks.

I stayed home from work today to give my "deep tissue" wound some time to heal. It still hurts, but I like to think that I've experienced the wost of it. It's not as if I'm old and feeble; I can only suffer so many aftershocks before the pain starts receding.

I was walking along the sidewalk near Restoration Hardware when -- totally out of nowhere -- I was accosted by this tall, slutty looking girl and a silent, dark-haired guy who must have been her boyfriend. She immediately lauched into an aimless spiel about restaurants and cars, prefacing her monologue with "I don't mean to be rude . . ." I didn't know where this was leading. At one point she played with her top as if considering removing it; I suppose this was supposed to be wildly endearing. Finally she concluded with a lame request for money so she could buy gasoline for her car. Right. I relunctantly gave her a quarter for her effort.

Monday, July 28, 2003

"Perdido Street Station" is out in mass-market paperback. This has been on my to-read list for a very long time, but I never worked up the enthusiasm to buy it in trade paperback. Other books I want to read in the near future:

1.) "Chasm City" (Alastair Reynolds)
2.) "Dying Inside" (Robert Silverberg)
3.) "A Case of Conscience" (James Blish)
4.) "Deepsix" (Jack McDevitt)
5.) "Hominids" (Robert J. Sawyer)
6.) "Permutation City" (Greg Egan)
7.) "Day of the Triffids" (Or is it "Night of the Triffids"? It's an old novel about genetically modified plants that prey on humans after everyone goes blind from cosmic radiation. You know you're living in the 21st century when reviewers look back on a work like this and call it "prescient.")

I'm in an unexpected amount of pain from the crash I wrote about a few days ago. Apparently I have a deep contusion that's just now making itself known. The entire right side of my body is in agony, and when no one's looking I walk sort of like Jeff Goldblum did in "The Fly" after he starts mutating: a kind of stooped shuffle. I feel like lying down in the bucket seat of my new car and staying that way for approximately two months. I'm popping Advil to no avail. (This calls for heavier stuff, but at the same time I don't want to drug myself to the point where I can't drive to work . . . this whole situation is absurd.)

I was thinking about getting my hair cut after work or stopping by Best Buy to pick up blank cassettes, but instead I think I'll crash. No pun intended.

Random note: I'm becoming addicted to Schlotzsky's salt and vinegar potato chips.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

One of the "tacky figurines" I purchased today (at a dollar store) is a nicely packaged female "Nordic" alien. For the uninitiated, the Nordics -- tall, blond quasi-humans often reported by alien abductees -- have become part of the contemporary UFO folklore. My "Nordic" figurine basically looks like a female crew member of the starship Enterprise. She wears a blue jumpsuit complete with a cryptic emblem near the breast.

The presence of "Nordics" aboard UFOs is unsettling from a "politically correct" perspective. They're creepily Aryan, like denizens of an alternate post-WWII Germany. (Note to self: I'm surpised this meme hasn't caught on among paranormal conspiracy theorists. After all, the Third Reich was busy designing disc-shaped aircraft up 'til the end of the war, and the book "Hitler's Flying Saucers" attempts to make sense of the fact that Barney Hill recalled the "leader" of his "alien" abductors wearing a Nazi-like uniform. I suppose that if you really wanted to go "out there," you could suggest that a clutch of technologically inclined Nazis escaped Germany and is presently scheming to take over the world using flying saucer mythology as a smokescreen. I don't buy it, but I'm sure some people would.)

I really don't want to go to work tomorrow. I'm emailing the polished version of my manuscript to my publisher this week and I want it to be perfect.

I'm still doting over my car. Compared to the other cars I've driven, this one is like a spaceship. I drove it through the ATM a while ago just for the hell of it. It has a great sound system but, alas, only a tape deck. I'll have to make copies of favorite CDs on cassette, or maybe buy an adapter for the DiscMan knock-off I won at the office Christmas party last year. It's still unwrapped, awaiting a good excuse for me to use it.

"I know the barricades
And I know the mortar in the wall breaks."

--R.E.M., "World Leader Pretend" (playing in the background as I write this)
Check out my new essay on comparative exo-planetary architecture. Prof. Stan McDaniel and Dr. Bruce Cornet both responded with some interesting additional information that I'll post as soon as possible.

I worked on editing the Mars book yesterday. I've been gone since this morning wandering stores, eating Chinese food and buying tacky plastic figurines (including a hysterically quaint moon rover complete with anonymous astronauts). I have several new websites I intend to add to MTVI but first I think I need a nap; it's blisteringly hot out, with no breeze, and I'm feeling done in.

I have a new car, which I love so far. It's fully loaded, with a sunroof and airbags. I'm still pretty sore from the crash and don't exactly relish driving to work, but at least now I'll be doing it in relative style.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Promising blog on nanotechnology:

I wholeheartedly recommend reading Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age" to get a grasp of what nanotech might mean to the (post-) human future. K. Eric Drexler's seminal nonfiction work, "Engines of Creation," is also a must. I should read it again, come to think of it. My interest in the "N" word was originally an offshoot of my fascination with cryonic suspension.

Friday, July 25, 2003

A friend in England has taken a picture of what looks like an alien. In his kitchen, no less.

The drama started when he noticed that a pile of change had inexplicably formed into a graceful semi-spiral of the kind often seen in fractal-based crop formations. He immediately picked up his digital camera and documented the strange configuration of coins. The first photo looks directly down at the table and the coins. For the second, he stepped back slightly for context. The third image is taken from a different angle and shows a small portion of the kitchen.

By this time my friend was experiencing a sense of being watched, and clicked a fourth image from the same vantage as the third. To his bewilderment, this one shows his kitchen bathed in a weird, orange-brown glow. The overall impression is murky, and I suspect something fouled up his camera. Nevertheless, a diminutive humanoid figure is visible.

Having looked at the image, I don't think it's a fortuitous juxtaposition of furniture; the "alien" figure is symmetrical and very much like the classic "Gray," albeit with what looks like an elongated chin and no visible hands or feet. It's mostly in silhouette, making analysis difficult.

Although small, England has a long, perplexing history of unexplained phenomena, from UFO sightings to "hauntings." Monuments such as Stonehenge were likely built, in part, to take advantage of electromagnetic "window areas" in which normal objective consciousness is altered by the Earth's own geomagnetic synapses. My friend's unexplained visitor, like UFOs and crop circles, may be an oblique manifestation of hidden forces.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

My "new" car will probably be a '95 Chrysler LHS. I haven't seen it yet but I'm told it's pretty nice. This will be the first car I've owned with powered locks and windows; I'm actually kind of excited about this.

Eventually people will purchase new and "refurbished" artificial bodies much how we presently shop for new cars. For a conceptual example, see the lovely Natasha Vita-More's Primo posthuman physique. Coming to a showroom near you circa 2200.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Well aware that this could be much, much worse, I'm nevertheless in a fairly high degree of pain from yesterday's crash. I spent today sleeping and trying to limber up. I can walk fine, but every bone in my upper body feels fused into a single, inflexible mass. My neck's not nearly as bad as I feared it might be; most of the pain is concentrated around my breastbone.

I'm going to work tomorrow armed with a fresh bottle of Advil.

Almost done with Spinrad's "Agent of Chaos."

Tuesday, July 22, 2003


I was in a car wreck on the way to work this morning. It was a traffic accident and happened so fast that I honestly don't know how what happened happened. But it was real enough. I suddenly found myself clutching the wheel and unable to breathe, the car inexplicably no longer moving. The hood of my car was creased and folded. Large portions of my dashboard were conspicuously absent. A turn signal blinked meaninglessly. Numb, I stared out the driver's-side door and watched a milling crowd of medics and onlookers.

Everyone was very nice. The medics pried my door open and I more or less slouched out, now breathing rapidly. My car was a disaster. You've seen ugly car accidents before; embarrassingly, I was now the focus of one. Thankfully no one else was hurt.

I was driven to the emergency room in an ambulance, where a medic told me my pupils had dilated widely from sheer adrenalin. From the hospital, I managed to phone work. The next few hours were a blur of muscle relaxer-induced fatigue, psychic exhaustion, X-rays, and more than a little existential confusion. What now? What next?

Diagnosis: multiple contusions and severe muscle strain. Nothing broken. I had been wearing a seatbelt -- and have a red welt across my chest to prove it -- so I was spared having the steering wheel crack through my sternum.

The next few days (weeks?) are going to be rather painful. I have little strength in my upper body and my chest feels like it's been whacked with a bowling ball a few times. I can feel my muscles continuing to stiffen as I type.

Enough of that for now. I'm OK. Time to get a new car. On with the show.

Monday, July 21, 2003

I found a Chick tract in the men's room at Borders today. It's been a long time since I've encountered any of these; several months ago I found Chick tracts veritably littering the store, evidently the work of one dedicated crusader. Anyway, I pocketed the gospel tract and made for the "New Age" section. (Thankfully they don't really call it "New Age" at Borders; books on UFOs and nasty conspiracies are labeled, somewhat condescendingly, "Speculation.") My reasoning was that the crusader -- call him the Chickster -- would have planted tracts at strategic points throughout the store. Books on such blasphemous subjects as cosmology, homosexuality, feminism, evolution, UFOs, and non-Christian world cultures doubtlessly make tempting targets for the Chickster and his fellow idiots.

Typical panel from a Chick Publications gospel comic.

No luck. I came back from my lunch break with one damned track that I've seen a million times. It's about how teenagers everywhere are really into rock and roll and killing themselves. It goes without saying that the main character, a misfit in a "No Fear" T-shirt, finds himself burning in Hell after hanging himself in his bedroom. The truly hilarious part is how Jack Chick, the artist and founder of Chick Publications, is able to (inadvertantly) make eternal damnation seem hysterically funny. Hell is filled with big-nosed goblins that say things like "When you get the big picture, you'll be absolutely . . . TERRIFIED!" and "I tricked you! And now you're mine . . . FOREVER! Haw Haw Haw [sic]" (actual examples). Honestly, the Fazoli's where I ate lunch today is worse than this.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Something I like about pre-Space Age science fiction book covers: The Earth is always depicted without clouds, like a cartographic globe. Not one cloud. The oceans are an unimpeded, uniform blue and the continents are masses of untroubled green.

Last night I slept badly because my bedroom doesn't get enough cool air from the AC box in my living room/office. I slept part of the night on the futon and stumbled into the bedroom sometime in the early morning, although my memory of this is hazy. After working online for a while, I collapsed for a few hours. Fearing a wasted day, I spent the rest of my time reading and drinking caffeinated beverages. I started Norman Spinrad's "Agent of Chaos," which I quite like, and returned from the coffeeship with a stabbing pain in my head. The heat is pretty bad, although I noticed a cool breeze tonight.

I've had a buried preoccupation with death the last couple days, judging from the content of my dreams. I think it's the temperature; I have to be perfectly comfortable in order to get a good night's sleep. The slightest disturbance can make me feel drugged or feverish. Variations in air pressure give me headaches.

Sometimes I feel a little bit like "Newton" from Walter Tevis' "The Man Who Fell to Earth." Newton, a human-looking alien, was on a mission to transport water to his dying home planet. I don't have a mission. No extraterrestrial imperatives to appease that I know of. I think this is why spy movies are so popular; the romanticized spy lives a life with a defined purpose, whereas those of us unlucky enough not to be James Bond suffer from a sort of amnesia, as if awaiting instructions that will never come.

Friday, July 18, 2003

I went for a brief swim after work. The pool is located between the apartment complex's two identical towers, so it gets plenty of shade and is always cold (lately, agreeably so).

I just wrote a longish article for my Mars site (page 40, about an alleged "underground city").

I'm burstingly happy it's Friday. As the last few posts indicate, I'm sick of work and eager to do something interesting.
Are you reading this, OSHA?

I suffer from can be best described as sensory deprivation when working in a sterile office environment. The worst symptom is of somehow changing positions within the building. This creepy feeling of displacement usually comes on after an abrupt change of schedule (i.e., an unscheduled staff meeting). After the unscheduled event has ended, I return to my cubicle only to find that my body can't convince my brain where exactly I am (or is it the other way around?) It's a strange feeling of being somehow adrift or unanchored. I can look at my surroundings and know, intellectually, that my cubicle is in the same damned place it used to be. But my intuitive sense will have none of it. The same sort of uneasiness can be reproduced, in a way, by overpondering M.C. Escher drawings.
Yesterday I received a very interesting message on my answering machine from a researcher/author who wanted to confirm an anecdote I had posted to the UFO UpDates mailing list some time back. I haven't spoken with him in person yet but intend to, hopefully later today.

Speculative renderings of crashed UFO.

In essence, the story related by the author gravely damages the Air Force's conclusion that the so-called "Roswell Incident" was caused by a weather balloon. For years, debunkers have attacked the Roswell case by insisting that there really was no "case" at all until investigator Stanton Friedman began interviewing presumed witnesses in 1979. But the researcher who phoned me, a Ph.D. who had occasion to speak privately with Dr. J Allen Hynek in 1976 (or possibly a year or two earlier) suggests that the Roswell crash was real and known to Air Force intelligence before Friedman even appeared on the scene.

More later, hopefully. In the meantime, check out my page devoted to cosmic coverups.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

"[T]oday we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. We are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms.

"The bombardment of pseudorealities begins to produce inauthentic humans very quickly [italics mine]. Fake realities will create fake humans. It is just a very large version of Disneyland. You can have the Pirate Ride or the Lincoln Simulacrum or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride -- you can have all of them, but none is true."

--Philip K. Dick

The vapid corporate environment (see post below) is a perfect example of a pseudoreality. If Philip K. Dick wrote a book about a cubicle farm, I imagine it would be elaborately paranoid. Like his androids, PKD's "fake humans" don't know they're fake. That's what makes the onrush of media/profit-dictated realities so inescapable.

"What could a man living in 1750 have learned about himself by observing the behavior of a donkey steam engine? Could he have watched it huffing and puffing and then extrapolated from its labor an insight into why he himself continutally fell in love with one certain type of pretty young girl? This would not have been primitive thinking on his part; it would have been pathological. But now we find ourselves immersed in a world of our own making so intricate, so mysterious, that as Stanislaw Lem, the eminent Polish science fiction writer, theorizes, the time may come when, for example, a man may have to be restrained from attempting to rape a sewing machine."

--Philip K Dick once again, sounding remarkably like J.G. Ballard.
Corporate "culture" is one of the 21st century's biggest threats to human well-being. Sterile hallways. Ranks of identical cubicles. The same limp attempts at "office humor" repeated day after day after day under the unforgiving glow of fluorescent strip lighting. Predictable efforts to boost morale, overblown Christmas parties, omniscient supervisors . . . how horribly condescending and creatively bereft. In the mood for a real-life zombie movie? Take a camcorder to an office park.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Look at the galactic spiral below. It's not the Milky Way, although it's a close relative. Forget for the moment that you're looking at an alien galaxy. Pretend it's home.

Each mote of light is a star, as transient in its own magnificent way as the blinking of fireflies. Nothing is permanent, yet billions of the stars embedded in this cosmic swirl have lasted long enough to accrete planets: ponderous, striped gas giants to which Jupiter is but a comma; hot, rocky worlds that mirror Mars, Venus and -- quite probably -- our own Earth.

A "billion" can be a difficult number to truly appreciate, except maybe as an abstract sum of money. Our minds never evolved to deal with such celestial arithmetic. Our rational left-brains, good enough for drafting spreadsheets and tallying the month's bills, are left in embarrassed stupor. I don't know how many stars this galaxy has, but let's say 100 billion. Again: a challenging number. No wonder people made fun of Carl Sagan -- speaking of such immensity in merely human language is discomfitingly comical.

The known universe has over 100 billion galaxies, each hosting its own retinue of stars. Most of these stars have planets; it's statistically inevitable that some of these cradle life. And of these, a fraction almost certainly harbor intelligent life: thinking beings following unguessable agendas. As much as we pretend otherwise, the Earth is not central or even significant in this dizzying sprawl of suns and planets. No anthropocentric deities watch over us or offer assistance.

Sagan encapsulated our predicament by comparing our planet to a pale blue dot, a speck of dust adrift in a sunbeam. But we're not the only speck of dust, and the sunbeams are so numerous that they interpenetrate until all is a rich, uniform white.

The human species, unique and vulberable, has perhaps a few hundred years left unless radical measures are taken. If we fall silent, our broadcasts will outlive us, phantom emissaries slicing through the interstellar dark, growing steadily weaker as they're pummelled by clouds of dust and drowned by the electromagnetic wailing of rival stars. Eventually our presence will be reduced to the abstruse realm of quantum fluctuation.

The maddening stammer of "current events": a trite and forgettable dream.

The sky is alive with light.
Aesthetic alert!

Car I don't like: the "Aztek." Really, really ugly; much worse than your usual SUV fair. It looks like two entirely different vehicles were sliced into vertical layers by a high-powered laser and arbitrarily fitted together. The angles and contours are just . . . wrong. Needless to say, the Aztek is hideously popular, joining the ranks of other much-seen Cars I Can't Stand: the PT Cruiser, Mini Cooper and Hum-Vee. (Click here to look at it. May cause vomiting.)

Bring 'em on!

If you've been waiting for a good reason to dislike Bush but just can't summon the resolve, I'd like to think his already-infamous "Bring 'em on" speech should do the trick. Bad Presidents are a perfectly normal American phenomenon. Actively sinister Presidents are much rarer, I think. Bush definitely ranks among the latter. That said, I've made "Bring 'em on!" my new motto. It's applicable to a surprising range of situations.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I know I dwell on Philip K. Dick a lot, but you've got to read this . . .
I sat for twenty minutes at a red light on the way home from work, which is an anomaly. No crash or emergency -- just one of those instances when events congeal and time slows for no readily apparent reason.

A heavily edited version of an article I wrote about the Face on Mars appears in the new edition of Mysteries Magazine. A lot of newsstands actually carry this, so check your "special interest" section. The article doesn't have anything in it readers of my website don't already know, and I'm not exactly happy with the editor's hurried treatment -- I guess I'm used to having a book-sized canvas to work with -- but it's better than nothing.

I also have a couple book reviews included. To my annoyance, a self-published book was included among the books reviewed. Its "review" was written by none other than a spokesperson for the vanity-press in question, so I think it's a safe bet it's not too helpful or objective. Plus the author is a complete nutcase; I had to block his email addresses more than once before he stopped bothering me with ludicrous proposals to buy his stuff.
The first advance review of my book is in:

"A stunning survey of the latest evidence for intelligent life on Mars. Mac Tonnies brings a thoughtful, balanced and highly accessible approach to one of the most fascinating enigmas of our time."

--Herbie Brennan, author of Martian Genesis and The Atlantis Enigma

(By the way, I've started what will become my "official" promo site for "After the Martian Apocalypse." There isn't much there now because the book is not yet published. In Silicon Valley-speak, it's still, technically, "vaporware." I don't even know what the cover will look like. But as I get more reviews, I'll post them, along with anything else that seems applicable.)
A new story idea struck this morning. The setting is a not-so-distant but reasonably apocalyptic and massively depopulated alternate future in which Elvis' body has been frozen inside a see-thru cryogenic casket. (Yes, the Elvis-as-religion meme has been expertly mined by Jack Womack, but I think I have something original to say with this.)

More literary musings: I have a second nonfiction book about aliens I'd like to write, and I think I could actually get it published. Another idea that's been in the back of my mind is a documentary of the Cyberpunk Movement to be called "The Color of Television" (taken from the opening sentence of "Neuromancer").

Finally, I'd like to write a novel. About what, specifically, I don't know. It would probably be a high-tech space-opera. (I've written an opening chapter on my laptop which I like.) And I have a slew of short-stories that I think could appear in book form, but that will have to wait. After the Mars book comes out I plan to hire an agent.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Finally -- I found a used copy of John Shirley's "Eclipse"! (It's an apocalyptic cyberpunk novel written back when "cyberpunk" sounded new and hip.)

Jason's been searching the Web for interesting sites and came up with one potentially addictive video game. While I like the game, I'm a little vague on the back-story. Why is the skater/surfer in that endless pipe? What's he/she/it trying to accomplish? What's with the obstacles?

It's damned existential!

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Weirdo sighting!

Time: Around 9:45 PM

Where: Ward Parkway, in front of my apartment building

Nature of activity: This guy in a white T-shirt walked awkwardly backwards down the street, came to a corner, shuffled around and continued on his backwards way. Real nonchalant. Like, "Hey, this is just my thing, y'know? No big deal, man." Backwards Man wasn't especially adept at what he was doing, although I think he probably had some prior experience. He'd occasionally cock his head to one side to get his bearings. He moved with a strange, chicken-like strutting gait made all the more absurd by his attempt to appear casual.

The last I saw of him he was heading down the middle of the damned street silhouetted by oncoming headlights. I couldn't be 100% sure he was still doing the Backwards Thing, but I'm pretty confident he was. I didn't hear any ambulance sirens so I guess he made it OK.

Walking backwards . . . the next big thing?

Uh-oh . . .

In William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition" the heroine suffers from intense psychosomatic allergies to certain consumer icons. Among these is the Michelin Man.

While I don't have any particular aversion to the Michelin Man, I do have an inexplicable fear of bobblehead figurines. So perhaps it was inevitable that they'd come out with a Michelin Man bobblehead figurine to commemorate Gibson's fictional neurosis and my own uneasy relationship with big-headed statuettes.

The first time I realized I was afraid of bobbleheads was when I was working in a department store tending a display of grotesque bobblehead caricatures of various Kansas City Chiefs. The listless way their heads moved reminded me of a weird dream I'd had about finding a dead alien in my closet. In the dream, the alien's body was extremely slight and the head was bulbous and slack -- very much like a bobblehead. To make matters worse, the department store also stocked these hideous animatronic football players who would lip-sync to Hank William Jr.'s "Are You Ready for Some Football?" Like the Chiefs figurines, the lip-syncing robots had distorted oversized heads.

The whole situation was demonic. I didn't like the way the football robots would wriggle their squat plastic bodies and move their semi-articulated jaws. It was fucking creepy. And people were buying these things. They thought they were cute! There was a sickening dreamlike quality to the whole situation: the same kind of feeling Gibson's protagonist must have felt toward the Michelin Man.

Anyway, it's very good to get that memory off my conscience. Thank you for listening.
The book I received yesterday is "Strange Secrets," a new one from Paraview/Pocket Books -- the same imprint that will be publishing my "After the Martian Apocalypse" next year. I've read the first two chapters; the authors have managed to do some digging and find some paranormal trivia I didn't know about. For example, in 1952 the Air Force investigated a crop circle filled with a gelatinous material. As far as I know, this "slime" hasn't been reported before or since.

I'm half-finished with Williamson's "Terraforming Earth," which is outstanding. (Williamson coined the terms terraforming and genetic engineering, the former in a very good pulp novel called "Seetee Ship.")

I stopped by the Discovery Channel Store and found some stuff I want, including a desktop levitating globe and a rather wicked brain-shaped plasma ball.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

I won't be working overtime tomorrow after all: my parents took me out for dinner and their car's battery mysteriously failed, forcing us to seek out a guy who very kindly drove us down the street toward the Plaza, where my parents boarded my car and took off. So I'm without wheels for at least part of tomorrow.

I missed my friend's brother's band playing a gig at the Kemper Museum. I'll probably enjoy the rest of the weekend reading "Terraforming Earth," keeping a vigilant eye on cyberspace and downing iced chai. I can work late on Monday.

Mysteries Magazine mailed me a new book to review today. I haven't opened the envelope yet. Maybe I'll do that now . . .
Take a look at this apparent UFO. The images are digital, so their authenticity is effectively impossible to prove. Nevertheless, what they seem to show is interesting. While the unusual cloud formation could certainly be natural (and one correspondent says he's seen some like this), the presence of the blue sphere right below it gives one pause. A natural electrical phenomenon of some sort?

Reading "Spaceland" has caused me to view some UFO reports in a new light. Apparent "vehicles" that seem to change shape while in the air may not be spacecraft at all, but cross-sections of four-dimensional objects that bisect familiar 3-D reality. For example, a 3-D cross section of a 4-D tube would appear spherical. And if the tube was irregular in shape, we would expect it to "change shape" in our three dimensions as it moved, much how a sphere passing through a two-dimensional plane would appear like a rapidly growing disk to any watching Flatlanders.

There's at least one good multiple-witness case on record that makes sense if the UFOs seen were 4-D objects (or a single 4-D object) occurring at right angles to our three spatial dimensions. The pilots involved described the shape-changing objects as "flying jellyfish" -- pretty much what one would expect a 4-D phenomenon to look like if it happened to move through three-dimensional space.

The slightly unnerving aspect to this theory is that it implies that we literally coexist with the UFO intelligence (if it is, in fact, intelligent). But we're unable to see it unless it happens to intersect with us. And even then we're limited to glimpsing tantalizing cross-sections; our 3-D minds must turn to mathematical esoterica to reconstruct what the invading object/s actually look like. (In "Spaceland," Rucker does an excellent job of showing us how bewildering a four-dimensional landscape would appear to a 3-D observor. In short: Gnarly!)

Summing up: A hidden world with four spatial dimensions might account for some UFO sightings. The oft-reported lenticular shape may be a clue as to what these 4-D manifestations really look like. This theory also conveniently disposes of the supposed incredible distances extraterrestrial UFOs would presumably have to cross in order to reach us. It also resonates with Dr. Jacques Vallee's idea of a vast, intersecting "multiverse."

Friday, July 11, 2003

I have to take Ebe to the vet tomorrow. I'm going to chance sleeping in the living room (where it's coolest) and hope I wake in time for the appointment.

"Terraforming Earth" is compelling. Successive generations of clones -- born millions of years apart as the Earth recovers from an asteroid collision -- attempt to render the planet habitable to human life. But evolution on the "new" Earth has taken weird turns. Is "terraforming" it worth the effort? Is it even ethical? Author Jack Williamson poses worthwhile questions.

I have a distant interest in the crowd of high-tech cyclists that gathers outside LatteLand. Their bikes look like laminated oragami insects. I could go into a full-blown techno-erotic spiel about human/machine interfaces, but I'll desist. J.G. Ballard has pretty much said all there is to say on the subject anyway.

I think chai has replaced espresso as my beverage of choice, at least for now.

I put Sade's "Diamond Life" in my CD player; I really like this one.

"he's laughing with another girl
and playing with another heart.
placing high stakes, making hearts ache.
he's loved in seven languages.
diamond nights and ruby lights, high in the sky.
heaven help him, when he falls."

--"Smooth Operator"
Bad day at work. Blinding headache. Went for a swim when I got home. I'm working some overtime on Sunday. Will it be enough? Will it ever be enough?

The self-proclaimed skeptical elite delight in using the maxim "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," yet they're strangely adverse to admitting that consciousness/self-awareness could possibly be an epiphenomenon (that is, a by-product of brain function rather than its purpose). Surely the concept that consciousness is a patterning of information is less "extraordinary" than requiring some unspecified "ghost in the machine"?

Committed skeptics secretly hope that awareness lasts after the death of the physical brain. And who knows? Perhaps it does. As maverick ufologist Albert Budden points out, Occam's Razor is flawed. We're not looking for the simplest answer; we're looking -- one hopes -- for the right answer.

Mars: The Angry Red Planet.

Book update: Looks as if I'll be including an apocalyptic Mars scenario from John Brandenburg alongside Tom Van Flandern's Exploded Planet Hypothesis. This book may require a sequel!

Thursday, July 10, 2003

I'm admiring the online ad campaign for "28 Days Later" -- it doesn't tell you anything about what the film is about, only that it's "raw" and very much orthogonal to mainstream Hollywood cinema. I have to agree with both points. Horror writer and correspondent John Shirley has written an excellent review of the film for Locus, the trade magazine of the science fiction field; I was also impressed with his fair treatment of "The Matrix Reloaded."

I've started reading Jack Williamson's "Terraforming Earth," about the aftermath of our planet after it's struck by the next global-killer asteroid that's inevitably heading our way as I write.

I missed work today and, quite honestly, have spent the entire day worrying about what's in store for me tomorrow. Worse still, I don't have the energy to throw myself into any worthwhile projects in the meantime.

Blognauts Jason ("Busy, Busy, Busy") and Maggie ("Sour Times") have new digs in Lawrence, Kansas, which is a very fun town. The last time I was there I was able to see William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Kathy Acker, Richard Hell, and a bunch of other punk-bohemian types. Asked what he thought of the Internet, Burroughs wisely reponded: "It's a step in the right direction."

I miss Burroughs about as much as one can "miss" someone one never actually knew. But at the same time I'm perversely grateful he was spared the virulent spectacle of the Bush take-over.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

This is just so . . . cyberpunk!

U.S. and Australian researchers have "created what they call a new class of creative beings, 'the semi-living artist' -- a picture-drawing robot in Perth, Australia whose movements are controlled by the brain signals of cultured rat cells in Atlanta."
I completely crashed last night after getting home. Really pathetic. I was all psyched to finish "Spaceland." My "day job" has been sort of exhausting lately and I typically fall asleep early once a week -- usually Monday, but it's unpredictable. I'm wishing I'd gone for a swim instead.

I'm eager to start "The Sirius Mystery," which I picked up in hardback from Half-Price Books. The "ancient astronaut" meme exerts a noticeable pull on me, and "The Sirius Mystery" is probably the most "sirius" treatment of the idea I'm likely to find. Zechariah Sitchin is interesting -- sometimes even compelling -- but he's very technically limited, not to mention utterly committed to his interpretation. Reading his books can be a lot like reading religious propaganda.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Over 900 hits yesterday. Not bad. Someone sent me this link: I'm unimpressed with the alleged animal shapes, but it's conceivable the mound itself is an ancient earthworks of some kind. And even though I think it's perfectly natural, the "helmeted" head has a decent enough resemblance to a human being.

Monday, July 07, 2003

This evening I introduced my cats to a palm-sized canvas bag full of "Cosmic Country Cantnip." They love it. No, "love" doesn't quite convey it. "Frantic infatuation" is probably more accurate.

I have, on my hard drive, the next-to-final version of my Mars book. Essentially all I have to do is correct some line edits, split/combine a couple chapters and add a bit more introductory material and we're laughin'.

I just got back from the coffeeshop, where I almost finished "Spaceland." Expect my review tomorrow or possibly the day after. Prediction: It will be favorable. Like some other books by Rucker, it starts slowly but gets satisfyingly weird.

The view from Sagan Memorial Station, Mars.

Today I logged over 800 hits to my Mars site from the online interview I mentioned a while ago. Monday is typically a big day, but 800 is a lot, especially from one referrer. And the day isn't over.

The sink-repair guy hasn't been back. I'm glad -- I don't like the idea of strangers in my apartment while I'm away -- but at the same time I'm afraid to drink the water from my kitchen. While filling ice-cube trays, I noticed that it's worringly effervescent, like some sort of science-fair experiment. Whatever. I suppose if I start mutating I might get free rent. Perhaps I'll awake from uneasy dreams and find myself transformed into a giant insect. This would have its advantages. For one: no more waiting for the elevator. I could scale nine floors by crawling down the outside of my building. And at night I could keep cool by keeping low to the floor.

The late, great Philip K. Dick.

I sent the following letter to the book editor of my local paper regarding a review of Philip K. Dick's "Counter-Clock World." I'm glad to say that after a somewhat emotionally charged exchange, we're on good terms. (The Kansas City Star indeed seems to have a mysterious affinity for Kevin J. Anderson, but evidently I was blaming the wrong guy.)

Dear [editor's name here],

No, actually I don't accept the premise that the late Philip K. Dick was "basically nuts," as you write in your capsule review of the newly reissued "Counter-Clock World." Instead, I find it sad that Dick, dead and unable to defend himself, must suffer adolescent name-calling from an editor whose evident fixation on hack SF writer Kevin J. Anderson has apparently dulled him to the point where brilliance and sensitivity equal mental illness.


[signature file here]

Sunday, July 06, 2003

And so my three-day weekend comes to an unremarkable end. Frothy chai and peppermint. Blistering heat and conspicuously empty sidewalks; on the way back from the ATM across the street, I thought I heard fanatical screaming from the general direction of the Horse Fountain. The hallway outside my apartment is sauna-like.

I feel like one of Abbott's Flatlanders, missing out on a whole spectrum of reality. I'm a node of awareness encapsulated in a ridiculous frame of temperamental meat. Maddening sweat; omnipresent limbic urges like the taut strings of a sadistic puppeteer. "Hungry? Sick? Strung up by the wrists?"

The acid sting of unwanted endorphins. Dreams of conversation and conversations like fragments of dreams, latching onto the lining of my skull until I'm dizzy with their weight. My head sags to one side and splits open, oozing steam and sparks. I gather cracked silicon in disbelieving palms and see my universe reiterated in delicate copper whorls.
Free sample of chai latte at LatteLand: great stuff. Bought a book from the Hare Krishnas. Tipped street musician. Man in coffeeshop absorbed in do-it-yourself cryptography. ("Have you read 'Cryptonomicon'?")

Concrete heads silhouetted against the evening sky as I sipped espresso and read from "Spaceland." (Slight undercurrent of synchronicity; the dialogue in "Spaceland" seemed to mirror the previous hour's events. I yearned for a notebook.)

Human refuse congregates outside the movie theater, a Sargasso Sea of thwarted human ambition. Vapid blond woman cursing into her cellphone.

I watched "28 Days Later" tonight, although I missed the opening sequence. A terrifying and beautiful film -- definitely one to get on DVD. I haven't seen an apocalypse so convincingly rendered since "12 Monkeys."

Saturday, July 05, 2003

I'm not exactly a winter person, but I'm most emphatically not a summer person. Every cell in my body is rebelling against this heat. I want to crawl into a cryogenic escape pod and wait 'til October.

Fireworks last night, right on schedule.

"Are you such a dreamer?
To put the world to rights?
I'll stay home forever
Where two & two always
makes up five
I'll lay down the tracks
Sandbag & hide
January has April's showers
And two & two always
makes up five

--Radiohead, "2+2=5"

Friday, July 04, 2003

Sweltering weather; the air is laden with smoke from impending pyrotechnics. I'm over half-done with Rucker's "Spaceland."

I just saw a bloom of fireworks in the distance (either that or a most convincing hallucination, like the metallic bubbles I sometimes see when I'm exhausted and don't consciously realize it). I, for one, am not especially in the mood to celebrate the U.S.'s so-called "freedom." America is in a state of decline that cannot be remedied by a mere change of administration -- which won't happen anyway.

It's getting darker by the moment.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

While I was at work, one of the apartment complex's maintainance guys spent the day tearing a giant hole underneath my sink and evidently -- judging from their behavior -- scaring the hell out of my two cats. (I'm not arguing; technically, I'm not even supposed to have cats.) The kitchen now has a vaguely industrial scent and the water tastes funny. I guess he's coming back to finish the job later.

There's a new interview with me online. It's about Mars. But you'd probably already guessed that . . .
It looks like I'll have a recurring spot on the Alien Views Internet radio show. Every few weeks I'll talk for ten minutes about Mars anomalies and related matters. Speaking of which, my editor likes what he's read of my revised manuscript. I'm going to add a section devoted to the Martian "spider" phenomenon and an introduction to the theories of Percival Lowell, who popularized the idea that Mars was covered with canals. (To the dismay of many, the fabed canals -- sure evidence of intelligent Martians -- don't exist, contrary to a most hysterical speech given by Dan Quayle years ago.)

I'm seriously thinking of catching "Terminator 3." It might be fun. As for the other summer movies: I simply don't care.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I've been noticing a new trend in "literary" book publishing lately: the covers of a large number of new books feature close-up photos of cheap plastic toys, dolls, action figures or marzipan figurines. Doubt it? Take a look around the new releases at Barnes & Noble. It's bizarre. Apparently the "close up figurine photograph" meme has infected the graphic design departments of a great many publishers. I personally suspect that, while we're collectively oblivious to this trend today, it will become obvious in retrospect. Twenty years from now, the few scattered people who still buy and read books will pick up hardbacks minted in 2003 and chuckle to themselves.

What's the agenda behind this meme? I'm not exactly sure. And I'm frustrated that I wasn't able to catch it when it first appeared; pinpointing its first emergence into the consumer ecology is going to be a daunting task now that the shelves are stacked with trendy clones.

Fortunately, you can help fund this research initiative by sending me money. Or, barring that, keeping your eyes open and letting me know the titles and publication dates of the books in question. Believe me, you'll know the ones I'm talking about.
Where am I when this stuff happens?


(From Filer's Files. All grammatical and spelling errors as found.)

KANSAS CITY -- On Sunday, June 8, 2003, at about 11 PM, we were driving south on Highway 435, ten miles from the Kansas State line, when myself and my two passengers asked each other what was that object we all had been watching? It was a quarter of a mile away and was large and very bright. It looked about the size of a football field, and the top surface seemed to be covered in very bright lights. The lower side was dark with rotating red and blue lights. We stopped on the highway, got out and watched tohe object for five minutes as it just hovered not moving. After five minutes it started a very slow forward motion, it flew over a hill and descended and disappeared. There was no engine or propellers noise.

"Elevator"* music I have to listen to at work

1.) Shania Twain
2.) Mariah Carey
3.) Whitney Houston
4.) Dixie Chicks
5.) James Taylor
6.) Cher

I deserve a raise.

(*actually, played just about everywhere but the elevators . . .)
A correspondent has posed a logical question to my proposed conspiracy scenario (see post below): Why conduct the weather modification experiment when it could actually hinder the war effort? Why not conduct a mock-up in, say, Arizona (my correspondent's home state)?

Here's my slick, imminently paranoid retort:

"Operation Iraqi Freedom" (man, I hate that name . . .) involved an enormous number of ground vehicles. If the object of the hypothetical experiment was to test the effects of dangerous weather during wartime conditions, then a "mock-up" based in the U.S. would simply be too big to hide. People would notice the huge build-up of vehicles in the American southwest and wonder what was up. And if given a vague dismissal from the military brass, the ensuing artificial storm would be certain to get their attention. Better that the experiment be conducted overseas, where sandstorms are known to occur anyway.

It can also be argued that conditions in Arizona or Nevada (home of Area 51) are simply too unlike conditions in the Mideast, precluding a meaningful study. The Bush regime's foreign policy indicates that the United States intends on maintaining a presence in the Mideast for some time to come, in which case only an "on location" test would suffice.

(Note to self: Good story idea.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Conspiracy theories are the folklore of the 21st century. Almost invariably, a conspiracy theory -- no matter how lame or implausible -- casts the American Dream in a cynically revealing light.

Here's one I came up with a while back, during the beginning of "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Remember that wild duststorm that brought troop carriers to a virtual standstill? U.S. personnel and Iraqis alike were quite specific about just how awful it was. Keep in mind that Iraq gets its share of duststorms; they're far from unknown. Nonetheless, longtime residents appeared on NPR commenting on this particular storm's singular ferocity. Some felt that there was something forbiddingly different about it.

Such bad vibes may be chalked up to the imminent siege of Baghdad, and as far as I know there is no official weather report to show us quantifiably how "different" this particular duststorm was. But the storm's timing is interesting. It happened right as U.S. and British troops headed for their protracted confrontation. Allied forces were hit where the storm's effects were most crippling: in the middle of the harsh Iraqi desert.

The conspiracy I'm proposing hinges on a few postulates:

1.) The United States military has an interest in the strategic use of ground vehicles in desert warfare. (A reasonable assumption.)

2.) The military-industrial complex is interested in weather modification. (This pill's admittedly tougher to swallow. Then again, what technological advantage isn't the military interested in? As possible "hard" evidence, I offer the HAARP atmospheric research installation.)

3.) If the U.S. military has weather modification technology at its disposal, then this is undoubtedly a "black ops" project, unknown to Congress. (Again, a reasonable guess.)

The theory itself:

Military insiders used the trek to Baghdad to experiment with the effectiveness of weather modification in desert combat conditions. The "duststorm" was manufactured event.

There you have it, folks -- a respectable conspiracy theory. Tell your friends!