Monday, May 31, 2004

Room-temperature superconductors? Seriously?
Cheesy Orwellian outdoor signage update! Thanks to PB's UK correspondent, Bill Eatock!


"It's interesting to consider the mindset of those who designed and approved the poster for distribution. Did they really not understand the implication of their message or does their work indicate something more insidious? Even more interesting is the public's apparent acceptance of the poster. Has the yearning for freedom been thoroughly smothered by a longing for Big Brother's protection?"

What this otherwise insightful article doesn't mention is the missing flying saucer seen above the word "beneath" in the following image.

Don't believe me? Take another look.

I'd actually sort of wondered if the hoaky flying disk might be a poorly rendered streetlight, but now it looks like it was a clever Photoshop insertion. Crazy Brits.

Space agencies take new look at Moon

"Meanwhile, US scientists are calling on their space agency (Nasa) to seriously consider sending spacecraft, rovers, and even astronauts back 'up there'."

As they say, "We can put a man on the Moon, but we can't put a man on the Moon."
'Now they will realise that I am a genius'

"But he went from literary lion to pariah in less than a year. His immediate crime was too much party-going, too much name-dropping, too much publicity, but his subsequent, much worse, crime was writing too many books - 110 at the latest count - on subjects ranging from serial killers to alien abductions to The Lost City of Atlantis. The critics at first attacked him then ignored him - he has not had a serious review for years. But now, at 73, he has written an autobiography, Dreaming to Some Purpose, of considerable charm. It is jaw-droppingly - one might say cringe-makingly - honest and often unintentionally hilarious."

Project me forward in time several decades and I just might be something like British author Colin Wilson. I've never read Wilson's most famous book, "The Outsider," but I read "Alien Dawn" (an omnivorous look at paranormal phenomena) and loved it.

Unlike Wilson, I'm not a panty fetishist (although, coincidentally, I frequent a blog devoted, in part, to all things sock-related . . .) but socially we fit the same profile. Outwardly, I was never exactly the pariah depicted by Wilson. I actually enjoyed grade school. And I survived high-school pretty much unharmed; nevertheless, I found myself identifying with Edward Scissorhands.

College was a Kafka-esque fever-dream. I didn't fit in; with few exceptions, I didn't like anyone (up to and including myself). I never dated, never precisely hit it off as I had expected; I certainly didn't meet the girl of my dreams. Quite the opposite: I was bullied, made fun of by complete strangers. I was in a small town and the reasoning seemed to be that if you weren't seen in the constant presence of others then something was "different" about you and that difference was almost certainly being gay, which I emphatically wasn't.

I've been in an almost Pynchon-like cocoon ever since -- but I haven't realized it until fairly recently. No, that's a lie: I've sensed it in my bones for years. I feel like a science fiction alien whose intellect has caused one side of his brain to inflate into a gnarled, imposing mass, leaving the emotional half withered and flaccid.

Quite truthfully, I feel more mechanical than mammalian most of the time. It's a sense of imprisonment coupled with a genuinely eager desire to expand that swollen hemisphere of my brain to the breaking point, a game of cerebral "chicken." Please -- let me be anything but merely human.

And yet the deprived hemisphere isn't quite dead. I feel a vague synaptical stirring.
I got new shoelaces for my Dr. Marten's today. How is it that the same company that can make footwear capable of withstanding nuclear blasts can't make laces worth a damn? I've used dental floss with more tensile strength.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Here's Simon & Schuster's official site for "After the Martian Apocalypse." Looks like it will be available as an electronic book as well as a trade paperback. You can have S&S email you breaking author news as well as download a hi-rez version of the cover.

(It's my blog; I can self-promote all I want.)
Before catching the movie I picked up "DMT: The Spirit Molecule," which I had requested from Barnes & Noble. This one's been on my nonfiction to-read list for a while. DMT is a naturally occurring chemical with staggering hallucinogenic potency. From my limited understanding, users of the drug tend to have remarkably similar experiences -- including encounters with insect-like "aliens."

Personally, I think the prospect of "alien abductions" being a manifestation of consciousness is far more compelling and portentous than the "nuts and bolts" extraterrestrial hypothesis. I'm not suggesting close encounters are wholly hallucinatory or imaginary; I think they're physically real. But we lack conclusive definitions for "physical" and "real"; ultimately, they're just words, labels, thought-viruses.

Like John Mack, I think Western empiricism is losing its edge. Exploring this thing we call consciousness is just as important as exploring space -- arguably more so. If only they'd listened to Timothy Leary, who I'm belatedly realizing was one of the best minds this country ever produced.

Other contenders for "best minds," you ask? Philip K. Dick, Robert Anton Wilson and William Burroughs -- all of whom used mind-altering drugs.

Note: While Googling, I discovered that Albert Budden has his own website.
I just saw "The Day After Tomorrow," which was precisely the kind of movie I was in the mood for. I wanted to see it because I generally like high-budget disaster movies and also because I'd read the book upon which it was loosely based, "The Coming Global Superstorm" by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber.

"Tomorrow" is an FX-driven movie. I knew that going in and I got what I wanted. Not that the acting was appalling; Dennis Quaid was good, and I was relieved that Jake Gyllenhaal ("Donnie Darko") was chosen to play his son rather than a more conventional heart-throb. Thankfully, the teen romance angle was kept at a healthy minimum and the scenes of global climate chaos were mostly entrancing. Who doesn't want to see New York City flash-frozen by a super-hurricane?

My main complaint is that I wanted the disasters to be worse than they actually were. I wasn't content to see the Northern Hemisphere buried under a mantel of ice; I wanted the whole goddamned planet to get what was coming to it. If I'd written the screenplay, I would have invoked quantum mechanics and had the storm cells achieve sentience . . .

But no one asked.
A Fiery Death for Dinosaurs?

"In the first few hours after a giant asteroid crashed into the coast of Mexico nearly 65 million years ago, the Earth's atmosphere became so hot that it quickly incinerated any unprotected life on land, according to a new report by a team of American geophysicists and geologists."

Sooner or later, this is going to happen to us. I keep saying this and everyone keeps on cringing at the same-sex marriage "crisis" or waxing apocalyptic about "decency" in the media or some such drivel.

I've said this before, too, but it bears repeating: If we get slammed by a relatively minor piece of space-rock, it will almost certainly be mistaken for a deliberate attack by earthly powers. So we can reasonably expect a hot-headed nuclear flurry after impact.

Then it's back to watching "Friends" reruns while we die lingeringly from breathing radioactive soot. And what really sucks is that we can't even blame Bush.

On a related note, I'm thinking of catching "The Day After Tomorrow" tonight. I've got a real jones for bad disaster movies. "Independence Day" is easily one of the dumbest movies ever conceived, but the opening sequence depicting the arrival of the monstrous alien ships is eminently watchable. I even sort of liked "Deep Impact."

But I draw the line at "Armageddon." There's bad and there's just plain dumb.
Pending Draft Legislation Targeted for Spring 2005

"There is pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills: S 89 and HR 163) which will time the program's initiation so the draft can begin at early as Spring 2005 -- just after the 2004 presidential election. The administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public's attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed immediately."
I just came in from a long walk and replaced all five CDs in my changer (including Morrissey's) with the better part of my Vangelis collection:

1.) Soil Festivities
2.) Oceanic
3.) Albedo 0.39
4.) Themes
5.) The City

This following news item was waiting for me. Thanks to Bill Dash, who has provided me with a slew of stories that seem to have been written with Posthuman Blues in mind. Bill really needs to start his own blog. But until he does I'll happily reap the fruits of his labor.


"People are not drawn to religion just because of a fear of death or any other single reason, according to a new comprehensive, psychological theory of religion."

Could sheer peer-pressure possibly be one of the reasons? It certainly seems to me that a lot of the people who, if asked, would characterize themselves as "religious" are merely going with the flow, following the herd, regurgitating the same lines . . . which does surprisingly little to nullify the negative effects.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

For Shame

"Consider further the context of that interrogation and intelligence gathering. The aim then was not simply or mainly to root out pockets of resistance and ongoing subversion or new terrorism and thereby pacify Iraq and protect American lives. This was the time when the administration was frantically bent on finding proof of the stocks of weapons of mass destruction and the alleged pre-war links to al-Qaeda that were advanced (as we now know, falsely) to justify the war. It was also part of a more massive program of detention of supposed evildoers in Iraq, numbering 10-12,000 by different accounts, an unknown number of them still held without charge or notification to their families -- a little-known story with its own cargo of abuses. It fits into the broader pattern of the so-called War on Terror in which the United States covertly and overtly supports a Gulag Archipelago of detention camps and interrogation centers over the Middle East and Central Asia, either on its own bases or on the territory of other regimes, mostly repressive ones, with whom America works."

The author of this excellent editorial decries America's lack of revulsion, its numbness to atrocity. But is this really a surprise?

Look at the garbage shoveled out by the entertainment industry: vacuous, banal, vulgar, boundlessly stupid -- but viewers don't even realize that they're being insulted. How can anyone expect an appropriately outraged response to far-away POW abuse when voters have been dumbed down into cellphone-wielding idiot savants who just want to see who wins "American Idol"?

Spirit keeps on truckin'.

Spirit is closer to those hills in the distance . . .
Whitley Strieber's site has seized on the Parque Forestal "alien" photo I linked to a few posts back. When presented with anomalous photos taken with digital cameras, the prevailing tendency is to chalk any weirdness up to Photoshop retouching. Certainly a great many "astonishing" photos -- probably the majority -- are clever fabrications. But the more I look at the entity in the Parque Forestal image, the more I'm intrigued. It has a certain implacable quality . . . I find myself unable to write this one off.

The being in the photo appears to be looking at the camera. Click here for a photo of a similar creature.

Remember the scene in "Signs" where you catch a videotaped glimpse of a tall green-skinned alien paying a surprise visit to a children's birthday party? The new digital photo has something of the same aspect. Someone on UFO UpDates has understandably poked fun at the image, pointing out that the "little man" isn't noticed by anyone else in the picture (including the horses).

But if I'm right about "alien" manifestations, most encounters take place on the very periphery of normal consciousness. I don't think it's an accident that so many compelling UFO and entity photos have surfaced without the photographer's realizing anything was there; our brains are not dispassionate instruments; they're useful, albeit limited, filtering mechanisms. Maybe our cameras, mindless and increasingly ubiquitous, have the potential to bridge the world of waking human consciousness with wherever perceived "aliens" and related beings come from. Jung called it the collective unconscious. Jacques Vallee called it Magonia . . .

Ask yourself: If the diminutive being in the Parque Forestal photo crossed your path, would you notice? Look at the image. He/she/it appears to be walking pretty damned fast. It could easily be in and out of sight within a couple seconds -- and that's assuming it's confined to normal bipedal locomotion. Maybe you'd see a blur of movement and chalk it up to a small animal or lack of sleep.

I think this latest image from the edge deserves the best scientific investigation possible. Can it be reproduced? Were there witnesses? What can the location tell us about any possible history of "weird" encounters? Who is that little guy?

"Two life-size blow up dolls used at a wedding in Torquay may have been the UFOs which caused a stir across the resort on Tuesday evening."

Those aliens are clever; they think of the most ingenious camouflage.

Friday, May 28, 2004

A website has offered to pay me actual money to write "erotic" fiction. I'm game; I'll give it a shot. But is my idea of "erotic" the same as everyone else's? The editor's OK with science fiction, so that's a start. I imagine whatever I sell will be very much in the J.G. Ballard vein. This should be interesting.

"Pssst! Senorita! In here! The aliens will never find you!"

Boldly Going Nowhere

"Four people, including Harold Dahl and his son, witnessed the event from a salvage boat in a nearby bay. They reported seeing six doughnut-shaped craft, approximately 20 feet in diameter, hovering high above. Five of the craft formed a circle surrounding a craft in the middle that was wobbling badly. The seemingly damaged craft suddenly dropped down about 700 feet, then spewed two substances -- one was a paper-like metal that floated in the bay and the other was a hot, steaming, black sludge that rained down, striking Dahl's son and killing his dog."

This is a strange UFO case -- even if the purported UFOs were entirely fictional. Richard Dolan devotes an intriguing chapter to the Maury Island incident in "UFOs and the National Security State."

Flying into a silent sky future

"One of the most popular concepts for future aircraft has been the 'blended-wing body' design, originally devised by aerospace firm McDonnell Douglas. Prof Dowling believes a blended-wing concept is a strong contender for future craft."

It's also a strong contender for "reverse-engineered alien technology" meme-hood.

Posing naked with fissionable material? Sure, she's pretty now. But wait until she starts mutating.
Hard lessons from poetry class: Speech is free unless it's critical

"After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison."

Can't take much more of this . . . Can't take much more . . .
I glanced at a mainstream "news" publication the other day and was shocked to discover that America is facing a "gay marriage crisis." Crisis? Gays wanting legal recognition as couples constitutes a "crisis"? Who sold this moronic idea?

You want a crisis? Ocean life has started dying in what could very well be the first stage in a global ecological nightmare. That's a crisis. The Bush administration is controlled by biblical fundamentalists who believe in a literal interpretation of Armageddon -- and it has nukes. I think that qualifies as a crisis.

But -- silly me -- it's those gays I should be losing sleep over. Forget mercury poisoning, ozone depletion, escalating carbon dioxide levels, melting ice-caps, "missing" plutonium, and our cheerful disregard for near-Earth asteroids.

Boy, I had it all wrong. Good thing I saw that paper.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Marsapalooza update

If you miss the big kick-off at Barnes & Noble in July -- at which, I learned from my publicist, I'll be addressing the audience (if there is one) and answering questions (if there are any) -- don't fret. Here's the next stop:

Metcalf Avenue
12055 Metcalf Avenue
Overland Park, KS 66213
August 11, 2004, 7:00 PM

And although I said some mean heat-of-the-moment things about Kansas in the last post, let me say that this particular Borders is really fantastic. Nothing against Barnes & Noble, by any means, but I've picked up some real rarities here. And they make a mean espresso.

Creek renamed in Burroughs' honor

"The name change had some opposition in Lawrence, most notably from Douglas County Commissioner Jere McElhaney, who said Burroughs promoted a 'revolutionary lifestyle.'"

Revolutionary lifestyle, you say? Can't have that!

This sad fuck reminds me of the Christian-whatever-it-was spokesman on NPR who, stumbling to explain why he opposed gay marriage without outright saying "I hate fags," hinted that legalizing homosexual marriage would encourage independent thought. Independent thought -- in the United States? Surely you're joking!

Take my advice as a Missouri resident and stay the hell away from goddamned Kansas. It's like the Midwest's own Sargasso Sea, where all of the human debris comes to settle and rot.* Kansas never deserved someone of Burroughs' caliber. And the Kansans with brains had to deal with meatheads like McElhaney just to name a creek after him? Oy!

*I'm just angry, that's all. I'm a Missourian. I suppose it's like the pot calling the kettle black . . .
An Open Letter to the Scientific Community

"Today, virtually all financial and experimental resources in cosmology are devoted to big bang studies. Funding comes from only a few sources, and all the peer-review committees that control them are dominated by supporters of the big bang. As a result, the dominance of the big bang within the field has become self-sustaining, irrespective of the scientific validity of the theory."

This statement is signed by several credentialed scientists. But where's Dr. Tom Van Flandern, who (literally) wrote the book on presumed flaws with Big Bang cosmology ("Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets")?

Could it be he's been excluded from the dissenters' club for advocating the Cydonia region on Mars as evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence? Apparently it's relatively OK to be anti-establishment as long as you're not treading turf already staked out by imbecilic New Age websites and self-appointed "debunkers."
Some random selections from my current fiction to-read list:

1.) "Picoverse" by Robert A. Metzger
2.) "The Golden Age" by John C. Wright
3.) "Zeitgeist" and "The Zenith Angle" by Bruce Sterling
4.) "Chasm City" by Alastair Reynolds
5.) "Mars Underground" by William K. Hartmann
6.) "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood
7.) "Super-Cannes" and "Millennium People" by J.G. Ballard

Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" has my total attention. Like Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon," it makes me want to seal myself in a vault so I can give immerse myself in it uninterrupted.

You have never been in love
until you've seen the stars
reflect in the reservoirs
and you have never been in love
until you've seen the dawn rise
behind the Home For The Blind

--Morrissey, "The First of the Gang to Die" (song of the day)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A Skin Story

"In the movie Fahrenheit 451, books have been burned, so a group of people volunteer to each memorize a book in order to keep it alive. Now author Shelley Jackson is using volunteers to create a story called 'Skin.' Each of them will have one word of the story tattooed on their body. The story will not be published anywhere else, making it necessary to get most of the volunteers together (and arrange them in the correct order) to be able to read it."

Brilliant! And you can even take part by writing to shelley*

Jeremy Irons as Franz Kafka.

I have no tattoos. But I've thought about it. Franz Kafka inked several mesmerizing stick-figures in various angst-ridden postures and I've considered having them emblazoned on my arm. Well, one of them anyway.


Name / Username:

Name Acronym Generator
Yet another alleged "alien" photo . . .

Bacteria found in Hanford waste

"Scientists studying the soil beneath a leaking Hanford nuclear waste storage tank have discovered more than 100 species of bacteria living in a toxic, radioactive environment that most would have thought inhospitable to all forms of life."

Scientist seeks alien cloud-dwelling bug

"Once established, life on Earth has adapted to almost every available environment. On Earth, bacteria even live and reproduce in the clouds, and Caltech's Professor Andrew Ingersoll thinks that microbes might be able to do the same on Venus."

And Mars is supposed to be sterile? Give me a break.
Area 51 hackers dig up trouble

"Based on their survey, Clark and Arnu have estimated that there are between 75 and 100 sensors, on public land used by hikers and photographers in addition to curiosity seekers. 'I think it is absolutely inappropriate,' says Arnu. 'You have to understand that people going out there-- not everybody is interested in Area 51... They track these tourists on public land going about their hobby.'"

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Sometimes -- once or twice a year, if you're lucky -- you read a news story that's so richly irony-laden that you actually find yourself appreciating the mainstream media.

Ship carrying 4,190 cars sinks off Singapore

"A ship carrying 4,190 South Korean and Japanese cars sank after colliding with an oil tanker south of Singapore, port officials and a ship operator said on Sunday."

No oil spill, mercifully. Just a bunch of cars awaiting future marine archaeologists. Big damned loss.

A few years ago there was another tragically ironic story that really got my attention. Some little kid died from gnawing his "WWJD?" bracelet. No kidding. The bracelet (or necklace, or whatever the hell it was) was manufactured with lead. A true Edward Gorey moment.

"Scientists suspect that organic solids have been falling from Titan's sky for billions of years and might be compounds that set the stage for the next chemical step toward life. They collaborate in University of Arizona laboratory experiments that will help Cassini scientists interpret Titan data and plan a future mission that would deploy an organic chemistry lab to Titan's surface."

Along with Mars and Europa, Titan is one of my top celestial travel destinations. Long after the Sun has ballooned into a red giant, absorbing the orbits of the inner planets, the prebiotic sludge on Titan will have changed in some compelling ways. We really should leave a signature of some kind so any future Titanians will know we were here . . .
Globe Grows Darker as Sunshine Diminishes 10% to 37%

"Hundreds of instruments have recorded drop in sunshine reaching Earth's surface by as much as 10 percent from late 1950's to early 90's..."

The NY Times charges you to read all the grisly details, of course. The gist is that our atmosphere is becoming saturated with soot and god (and the megacorporations that brought you George W. Bush) only knows what else. And we're breathing this stuff.

I wonder if a perpetually darker world will go over big with the "Goth" crowd?
I just took the . . .

Honest Bloggers Quiz

It goes like this . . .

1. Which political party do you typically agree with?


2. Which political party do you typically vote for?

Honestly, I have yet to vote in a presidential election. But that changes this year.

3. List the last five presidents that you voted for.

See above.

4. Which party do you think is smarter about the economy?

It would depend on the administration, but again I have to go with the Democrats -- not because I'm in love with them but because they're the lesser of two evils. Or three evils, if you count Nader.

5. Which party do you think is smarter about domestic affairs?

See above.

6. Do you think we should keep our troops in Iraq or pull them out?

Phase out our military presence in a hurry. The Iraqis see us as occupiers, and rightly so.

7. Who, or what country, do you think is most responsible for 9/11?

Islamic extremists for actually doing it, and the Bush administration for making it so goddamned easy.

8. Do you think we will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Not a chance in hell.

9. Yes or no, should the U.S. legalize marijuana?


10. Do you think the Republicans stole the last presidental election?


11. Do you think Bill Clinton should have been impeached because of what he did with Monica Lewinski?


12. Do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good president?

Frankly, she sort of gives me the creeps. But she just might make a decent political leader.

13. Name a current Democrat who would make a great president.

"Great"? That's asking a bit much. All I want is someone who isn't blatantly dysfunctional.

14. Name a current Republican who would make a great president.

See above.

15. Do you think that women should have the right to have an abortion?


16. What religion are you?


17. Have you read the Bible all the way through?


18. What's your favorite book?


19. Who is your favorite band?


20. Who do you think you'll vote for president in the next election?

Kerry. No, wait. I meant me. I'm running as a write-in.

21. What website did you see this on first?

Chapel Perilous.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Christians look to form 'new nation' within U.S.

"Calling the approval of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts 'the straw that broke the camel's back,' a group of Christian activists is in the beginning stages of an effort to have one state secede from the United States to become its own sovereign nation."

Good fucking grief. Actually, I hope they succeed. A single geographically defined enclave of America at its self-righteous, bigoted worst -- are you thinking what I'm thinking? I'm thinking precision bombing.

(Just kidding, folks.)

Here's another idea: How about a critical mass of genuinely inquisitive and creative people seceding from the US? Imagine: an entire state without televisions. Even better, a space station . . .

Song of the day: "The World is Full of Crashing Bores"
Site of the day: The Cyberpunk Project
Report Urges Tighter Nuclear Controls

"Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. wondered aloud one day in 2002 whether someone could build an atomic weapon from parts available on the open market. His audience, the leaders of the government's nuclear laboratories, said it could be done."

"Goddamned kids!"

And it can -- pretty easily, too. I can readily envision a bunch of screwed-up teenagers (think Columbine) building a no-kidding nuclear bomb in a garage somewhere and blowing a city off the face of the map. (But since they'd most likely be home-grown white boys, I bet they'd never be called "terrorists.")

Thanks to Sauceruney for the lead.
I did what I said I would: I took my laptop to Starbucks, stood in line for coffee, and got some Actual Writing done -- specifically, the opening portion of an eco-dystopian alien invasion story that's been incubating in my head ever since I saw a photo of large, anemic-looking insects (or were they spiders?) in Iraq. There are a few touches I'm proud of; for example, the escalating homeless population is pacified by cheap virtual reality gear and accident-prone wi-fi. And city life is so noisy and chaotic that people are willing to pay handsomely to relax for a few moments in soundproofed theme-rooms.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

George W. Bush Conquers Reality

"When he was president, Bill Clinton's intelligence and articulateness set up a natural adversarial relationship with the press, much of it unconsciously scripted; reporters felt a natural competitive instinct to challenge Clinton, to match wits with him in a part-playful, part-serious jousting match, in an effort to show off their skills in front of peers and the public. George Bush, in contrast, disarms the press with his witlessness. How do you punch a marshmallow? Or better, why would you punch a marshmallow?"

This is an especially relevant (and bleakly hysterical) anti-Bush editorial. I love the Boondocks reference . . .
Some interesting news items from our friends at the BBC . . .

CCTV goes wi-fi to fight crime

"In the UK there is one CCTV camera for every 14 people. If you are in London, you could be caught on camera up to 300 times a day."

Would you trust ubiquitous wi-fi surveillance from a government that produces cheesily Orwellian posters like the one above? (And what is with that flying saucer above "beneath"?)

EU 'confident' of star power site

"In terms of the physics and huge amounts of energy involved, the project would be akin to building a star on Earth."

Can artificial black holes -- and possibly universes -- be that far behind . . . ?
Last night I went to bed really late. Part of my brain was already engaged in the dreaming process -- becoming pliant, malleable-on-command -- so that when I turned out the light I could conjure images into my mind's eye and set them to motion. I could actually "see" what I was imagining, and knowing it for what it was made it no less interesting.

I spent a few minutes "looking" at what appeared to be a simian hand (although I'm pretty sure it only had four fingers), commanding it to flex and curl and rotate. It reacted at the speed of thought, showing texture and detail that I hadn't (consciously) imagined. And that was what made the exercise so fun; every second offered new discoveries. My brain was creating this thing partly of its own volition, triggered by the breakdown of workaday consciousness. (I'm not sure why my brain elected to see an ape-like hand, but it might have had something to do with the fez-wearing chimpanzee I'd seen on Chapel Perilous not too long before.)

I got bored with the ape-hand and tried modeling what I thought the hand of a "Gray" alien might look like: thin, bloodless, with tapering chitinous points on the ends of the four fingers. This effort wasn't as successful as the previous because it was forced; I wanted it to look a certain way, and my mind was having none of that. So I had to reconcile myself to the fact that my control over the experience was confined to offering cues. I had to relax or else the experiment would dissolve utterly under the familiar scrutiny of wakefulness.

I never achieved a satisfactory "alien" hand. I had too many preconceptions. I tried too hard when I should have let my subconscious continue with its own inscrutable flow.

This semi-lucid state reminded me of Whitley Strieber's account of discovering a compliant, bug-eyed woman fixed in his mind. By consciously directing it, he could examine the entity's anatomy. He had a professional artist draw the being as he "watched" it in his mind and the result is the archetypal alien featured on the cover of "Communion," which became a number-one bestseller. Strieber's "vision" occurred during a state of otherwise normal wakefulness, whereas mine was decidedly dream-like and tenuous.

I wonder: If there are nonhuman intelligences hovering at the periphery of human consciousness, could waking thought form a perceptual shell around us, rendering them invisible? Maybe the cessation of ego that accompanies dreaming and related processes helps to "melt" the shell, turning it into something like a selectively permeable membrane . . .
Airship groomed for flight to edge of space

"For almost a quarter-century, Powell and his volunteer team have been working away at what he calls 'the other space program.' Over the next few years, he hopes to test a three-part system that could put people and payloads in orbit without rockets."

Why do I sudddenly really like this guy?
And because it's the 23rd, here's another "ironic" posthuman pin-up.

Natasha Henstridge and H.R. Giger -- wow. It's to the latter's credit that my eye tends to linger on the chair.

Song of the day: "New Killer Star" (David Bowie)
"Coraline" was great; Gaiman is the best storyteller I've met in a while. Now I'm finally reading "American Gods," which garnered way-cool blurbs from the likes of William Gibson and Steve Erickson (who hasn't released anything since "The Sea Came In At Midnight" as far as I know . . .)

Even though I've only read two Gaiman novels, I can sense the narrative sinew beneath his prose. He's not unlike John Shirley -- both know exactly how to scare through insinuation. Nuanced writing like that is rare. Stephen King is excellent at it, but he almost unfailingly pulls back the entire curtain by the novel's end. Why? To sell books? Surely he knows everything he writes will be a bestseller regardless of "commercial" trappings.

I charged my laptop tonight. I need to sit down and write, and I think completing a short-story or two (rather than doting over my embryonic -- and potentially abortive -- novel) is the best way of jarring me out of my rut. So it's off to Starbucks tomorrow.

I have another book signing scheduled for August (a Borders this time). It's probably far too early to worry about things like this, but as much as I like my Mars book I don't want to be typecasted as "the guy who writes about Martians." Of course, "typecasted" implies that the book will be successful enough for readers to actually give a damn about who wrote it, so maybe I'm being unhealthily presumptuous . . .

Maybe age is on my side. With some forethought, perhaps I can appear to "outgrow" speculative nonfiction. Or, like David Bowie adopting a new persona, casually cast it aside in the spirit of self-reinvention.

Enough. The book will stand or fall on its own merits.
I live in Apartment 900. I was informed that such an apartment shouldn't exist -- that the ninth floor apartments should begin with "901." Is this a hint that I don't exist, that all is a "Matrix"-style illusion?

More pertinently, does this mean I don't have to pay rent?


Seriously, folks . . .

I was at the dentist's the other day and was able to watch a scuba-diving DVD on a screen above the chair while listening to canned music. I've heard of dentists who take the step further and install actual virtual-reality headgear. It keeps the patient comfortably occupied and can produce a sense of bilocation so effective anesthetic isn't needed.

I extrapolated this to its logical conclusion and realized that my entire life -- my apartment, my computer, my cats, my CD collection, the coffee shop down the street -- are nothing but a clever distraction. Perhaps I'm actually undergoing the equivalent of a root canal in some clinic of the future, where instead of nature videos or VR patients get to enjoy whole new lives: memories compacted into the space of a few minutes or hours.

(Again: the notion that I'm in fact long-dead while some unseen neuro-hacker runs software on the husk of my brain. Yes, consciousness "feels" "real" -- but what's "real"?)

Close your eyes
and think of someone
you physically admire
and let me kiss you
let me kiss you
But then you open your eyes
and you see someone
that you physically despise
but my heart is open
my heart is open to you

--Morrissey, "Let Me Kiss You"

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Portrait of the blogger as a young man

This is me drinking coffee. Image created using the Portrait Illustration Maker.
It's probably just my PARANOIA (from John Shirley's blog)

"Now I'm thinking of that Berg film. Young man decapitated by Al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. The timing of it always bothered me--it came along exactly when Rumsfeld and friends needed something to shift sympathy back to the USA, after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. Berg had been detained by Iraqi police first, and interrogated by FBI in Iraq. THen they said he was free to go and he was taken, almost instantly, by these abductors. This was two weeks, I believe, before his death. Rumsfeld already knew the Abu Ghraib scandal was going to break, at that point. He had word already. And according to Pacifica radio, there's an anonymous death squad operating in Iraq that's working *for* the occupation, for the USA and the governing council--or at least they're killing people who're opposed to the council and the US occupation. Supposedly they had some leaflets passed out, warning against helping the insurgents, and then they killed 8 people who were involved in the insurgency. Could they be the ones who killed Berg--on orders from Military Intelligence? Berg's antiwar father was listed on an 'enemies list' at a right wing website. THey might regard him as being from a family of 'traitors'. Sure, the CIA claims that's
al-Zarqawi's voice on the tape but they WOULD claim that--and there have been some arrests but they could be patsies . . .Well, all this is wild speculation."

Maybe. But keep it up.
New Object is 2nd Rock from the Sun

"Astronomers announced Thursday the second known asteroid whose orbit is completely inside that of Earth. It supplants Venus as the second rock from the Sun."

Friday, May 21, 2004

Ray Bradbury: The Illustrated Spaceman

"Well my idea is this: that there's no use having a universe - billions of stars and all creation before us - if there's no audience. So the universe, in mysterious ways, created life on Earth as an audience for this miraculous experience of being alive in the universe. We will witness, and we will celebrate. Now here we are on the threshold of space, going on to the Moon, which we should never have left, and going on to Mars."

Bradbury's an incredibly smart guy, so I wince when I read of him talking about our imminent return to the Moon and eventual exploration of Mars. Inspiring notions, yes; they plug neatly into Bradbury's romanticized vision of human progress. But the truth is far bleaker. I rather suspect our future will more closely resemble that of his story "There Will Come Soft Rains" than his depictions of valiant (albeit flawed) humanity reaching out into the darkness in search of itself.
April 2004 Sighting Report

"That evidence would imply a coordinated activity by at least two or more groups of aerial objects. The use of bright lights and simple repititious patterns would imply that the activity was intended to be seen or observed. Communication between aerial objects does not seem to have been the intent."

And here in Missouri . . .

UFO sighted by 2 during newspaper delivery

"About 50 feet away and 50 feet upward in the sky, Mrs. Calhoun said she saw a fluorescent orange sphere the size of a basketball zip across her windshield. The orb flew in a straight line and didn't make a sound, she said. In less than three seconds, it was gone."

Peter Gersten refers to this sighting as a "bi-locating" UFO, which, to me, brings to mind quantum entanglement. Could it be the carriers literally saw the same object?

Special thanks to PAG E-News.
Puddles of dried, colorless wax greet pedestrians on the bridge: the relics of blood-red candles burned in silent homage or memoriam. The accompanying rose petals have long since succumbed to the thick medicinal waters of the creek below. The air is stagnant, unmoving, oddly selfish. Ragged symphonies of asphalt and sun-baked concrete clash with too-perfect lawns and rows of fastidiously watered flowers. The glow of digital cameras, screens like small blue flames tricked into unlikely geometries. The cool depths of parking garages, where the air is held captive and breathable.
Too bad I don't live in San Jose. Otherwise I could meet John Shirley:

JOHN SHIRLEY READING AND SIGNING AT BAYCON 2004 - San Jose, California, the Doubletree hotel, May 29 - Shirley will read from a new novella

Reading: John Shirley Saturday 1:00 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. San Jose Room

Autographing: John Shirley Saturday 1:45 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Autographing

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Claim made for new form of life

"Doctors claim to have uncovered new evidence that the tiny particles known as 'nannobacteria' [sic] are indeed alive and may cause a range of human illnesses."

Plastic fibre a 'major pollutant'

"Even remote and apparently pristine layers of sand and mud are now composed partly of this microscopic rubbish, broken down from discarded waste."
The Big Lab Experiment

"Linde's theory gives scientific muscle to the notion of a universe created by an intelligent being. It might be congenial to Gnostics, who believe that the material world was fashioned not by a benevolent supreme being but by an evil demiurge. More orthodox believers, on the other hand, will seek refuge in the question, 'But who created the physicist hacker?' Let's hope it's not hackers all the way up."

As I've mentioned before, the odds of our inhabiting the "original" universe (assuming there is such a thing) are infinitesimally low. We're probably "nested" within multiplex universes. (Simulations running within simulations within simulations . . .) I'm also intrigued by the idea that universes are best viewed as living organisms; instead of passing along genes, a universe "seeks" to pass on its physical infrastructure -- its "ontological fabric," for lack of a better term -- via singularities that give birth to new universes.

Of course, to get the singularities, you need mass, which is where black holes come in. Massive stars collapsing into "black holes" may seem like stellar casualties to Earth-bound astronomers, but perhaps they're actually the multiverse's way of achieving cosmic posterity. Of course, not all black holes and gravitational anomalies necessarily translate to baby universes; the best a universe can do is produce lots of singularities in the hope (and yes, I'm anthropomorphosizing) that at least some of them will spawn brand-new universes.

Stars are quite striking to look at -- after all, we evolved because of the steady flow of energy from our own Sun. But it could be that stars are essentially cosmic ejaculations. Celibate universes that lack stars inevitably lack the mass necessary to procreate. Presumably, they're rare . . . if not altogether extinct.

Ultimately, the Cosmos appears asexual.

Song of the day: "I Have Forgiven Jesus"

Wednesday, May 19, 2004 allows you to "customize" your abduction experience. Your basic masochistic sci-fi DisneyWorld sort of thing.
Since "Neverwhere," I've developed a need for a Neil Gaiman fix. So now I'm reading "Coraline," a great short novel written with "young adults" in mind.

It turns out Gaiman has two websites. This one is aimed at his younger audience and features a couple large-format illustrated books I suddenly want to read.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Spirit Mars rover is getting closer and closer to an interesting blocky object, visible here in the upper-left. Probably just a big rock. So why am I humming "Thus Spake Zarathrusta"?
Marsapalooza update:

The Barnes & Noble signing (click here) has been rescheduled for 8:00 instead of 2:00. This is good news, as things tend to really bustle on Saturday evenings.

I'll also be hitting a Borders in Kansas and perhaps making some astronomically inclined public appearances as well. Details later.

I bought Morrissey's "You Are the Quarry" today. Plainly stated, it's Morrissey's best record ever. Moz devotees universally dote on "Vauxhall and I," presumably the best Morrissey is capable of (in the same way that certain R.E.M. fans endlessly proclaim that "Automatic for the People" is the band's defining moment). "Quarry" doesn't just compete with "Vauxhall"; it eclipses it. There are no weak links -- the songs are as clever, acidic and thoughtful as anything Morrissey's ever recorded. I'll be quoting this one here at Posthuman Blues for months.

Song of the day: "Come Back to Camden"
Atrocities in Iraq: 'I killed innocent people for our government'

"It was just a personal conviction with me. I've had an impeccable career. I chose to get out. And you know who I blame? I blame the president of the U.S. It's not the grunt. I blame the president because he said they had weapons of mass destruction. It was a lie."

Monday, May 17, 2004

I just had a minor cavity filled at the dental clinic up the street. Fortunately, it was small enough that I could handle the drilling without novocaine. The dentist had recently mounted an LCD flatscreen above the headrest, and before getting down to business his assistant handed me a pair of wireless headphones. I spent the duration watching high-resolution footage of ocean coral and miscellaneous biological oddities of the deep. Quite entertaining. Except for the drilling.

I'll be signing books at the Barnes & Noble on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri on Saturday, July 10 at 8:00 PM. If you're in the area, stop by. I'll be the apprehensive-looking guy behind the table slurping espresso.

Barnes & Noble
420 West 47th Street
Kansas City, MO 64112
(816) 753-1313
UFO's over IRAN 2004

"It's not often we report on UFOs, but lately there have been a number of sightings in Iran. And a Connecticut man has the pictures that he says prove something is out there."

Charles Fort would have enjoyed this.

Are we in the midst of a global UFO wave? It seems I'm reading of new sightings -- some videotaped -- about every other day lately. That doesn't mean all of them are "real," of course, but . . .
Song of the day: "I'm Not In Love" (Talking Heads)

I've been perusing the Turkey City Lexicon, a list of things to avoid when writing science fiction. And quite honestly, I'm guilty of some of this crap, especially variations of:

The Grubby Apartment Story

The Kitchen-Sink Story

The "Poor Me" Story

Some of my science fiction stories are infected with a rambling, self-pitying quality. It's a stilted comparison, but a few of them are like the SF equivalent to Morrissey's underwhelming "Kill Uncle"; the good ones are a bit more like "Everyday Is Like Sunday" or something by The Cure.

My fiction writing took a decided turn for the morose after I first really watched "Blade Runner." Now I'm almost incapable of writing a story that isn't set in a bleak, urban near-future where it rains a lot and characters have conspicuously easy access to consciousness-altering technologies ranging from particle accelerators to funky designer drugs.

Here's an excerpt from a blessedly unpublished novel about neurology and quantum physics I wrote in 1998/1999. This particular project, while educational, ultimately failed because of Kitchen-Sink Syndrome. I was trying to graft way too many weird ideas into one story, producing more than a few scenes like the following:

It was worse than Zak had expected.

The dim lights of Roma's apartment revealed mountains of rubbish: sheaves of CD-ROMs, dismantled hard-drives. Screens scrolled enigmatically in the corners of the living room, which had been converted into a bewildering shrine. The animatrons, dressed in rags of dying skin, knelt meditatively in a pile of microchips and torn cables, eyes pinched shut, pubices encrusted with discordant bits of metal and silicon.

Roma led him through the door. The omnipresent alien, now crowned in fiber-optics and wadded electrical tape, shut it with a four-fingered hand.

"Roma . . ."

Zak swallowed and stared mutely. Every inch had been transformed. Fastidiously arranged ZIP drives had turned the walls into gleaming murals; shredded diskettes carpeted the floor like matted leaves. His every step crunched, as if he walked on a thick layer of beetle husks.

Roma led him closer to the dormant simulacra, hands cool and restless as she ritualistically kneaded his arm, testing his solidity. The skin below her eyes nicitated. Zak noted with alarm that her lips had completely lost their color; they had adopted the predominating off-white of the computer shells throughout the apartment.

Roma became very still and put a finger to her lips. Her pupils contracted into dusky pearls as she crossed an apron of plastic and knelt among the animatrons.

Zak gasped as he saw her body for the first time. Roma had streaked her skin with liquid crystal, skewered her nipples with blunt plastic screws. Dried blood striped her abdomen, neck and thighs. Buds of metal and plastic poked through her skin like stunted quills.

"I came to see what you're doing here," Zak said. He almost mentioned Michael's referral but caught himself at the last second.

Roma began leaning to one side. One of the animatrons broke her fall, cradling her in chapped hands. The nutrient tanks Michael had used to keep the cloned skin alive had run empty, leaving the skin to slough away from the elaborately wrought armature beneath.

Even from where he stood, Zak thought he smelled decay. He wanted to retch, to fall on his knees and cry.

Roma had opened the door without the slightest glimmer of recognition. Her face, pinched by slow starvation, had become a rictus of numb piety. No emotion . . . Zak couldn't fathom the change that had eclipsed her eyes, stripping them down to flat circles. She had the flat, guileless look of an ancient tomb painting.

He crossed the living room, shoes crushing shoots of brittle wire and panes of glass from gutted flatscreens. Mosaics of burned circuitry gleamed in his peripheral vision. Through some trick of perspective, the wires seemed to reach out at him, offering him some rare understanding. When he turned his head they fell away like weary insect feelers and resumed their usual two-dimensionality.

He looked up at a ceiling festooned with video cable, a kind of sloppy fish-net used to suspend the few books and videocassettes left over from the Roma he had used to know. She had reduced them to squalid ornaments.

To what purpose? Zak thought. He felt he was traipsing through some piece of misguided conceptual art. He looked back at Roma, who slowly detached herself from the mothering animatrons and walked toward him, bare feet unscathed by the debris covering the floor. Flecks of dried blood fell from her thighs as she walked. Zak could see the illicit dance of sinew in her neck and calves.

He forced himself to stand still. Roma walked within touching distance and spread her palm, revealing a single Pentium chip. Only on second glance did he realize it had been pressed deeply into her flesh, and even then he wanted desperately to believe it was simply trompe l'oiel, something to be wiped away with a warm, soapy cloth.

"Look," Roma said.

"I'm looking"

"She leaned closer until Zak feared she would collapse into him. "Look closer."

He did. And for the first time he saw the shimmering matrix embedded in her skin, a rambling fractal composed of strands thinner than spider silk. The strands, faint but unmistakable, branched from the Pentium chip and traced riotous patterns up her wrist, arm and shoulder.

Roma pivoted like a runway model striking a pose, letting the light reveal the matrix in its entirety. It spanned her entire body: galaxies of triangles and squares that caught the light and threw it back at him in eye-scalding clarity.

Zak knelt in wonder. The schematic continued undaunted across the insides of her legs and knees. The lines didn't seem to follow any recognizable pattern. They reiterated themselves in their own private logic, unconfined by symmetry.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The remarkable Red Rectangle: A Stairway to Heaven?

"Hubble's sharp pictures show that the Red Rectangle is not really rectangular, but has an X-shaped structure, that astronomers interpret as arising from outflows of gas and dust from the star in the centre. The cone-like outflows are ejected from the star in two opposing directions. In addition there are straight linking features that look like the rungs on a ladder, making the Red Rectangle look similar to a spider's web, a shape unlike that of any other known nebula in the sky. These rungs may have arisen in episodes of mass ejection from the star that occur every few hundred years and could represent a series of 'smoke rings', seen almost exactly edge-on from our vantage point."

Could this possibly be artificial? Imagine a civilization around a dying star constructing a vast "Dyson Cube" and the image of the Red Rectangle is probably quite similar to what you come up with in your mind's eye.
Another alleged alien photo.
Cool website alert: Check out Doomsday Guide. The Web needed this. My "Silent Invasion" summary is covered on the extraterrestrial page.

I learned from Jason's blog that "Donnie Darko" is to be released. I've only seen this movie once, in the theater. I'd own the DVD but my laptop simply won't do a film like this justice. It's arguably worth buying a TV/DVD player just to see this single movie; "Darko" reminded me of what "American Beauty" might have been had David Lynch had a go at the screenplay.

I found Walter Mosley's "Futureland" at the bargain rack tonight and read the first two stories. Mosley seems to have realized science fiction's inherent usefulness as protest literature; his first story, perhaps a descendant of the "brain race" meme in John Brunner's "The Shockwave Rider," actually inspired me to write something explicitly ecological.

I've never had a "song of the day" on this blog, but I think I might start, beginning tonight. How about "Hazy Shade of Winter" by Simon and Garfunkel?

Saturday, May 15, 2004

"If you'll be in the Kansas City area on May 27, stop by to meet Stephan Pastis at Barnes & Noble! The PEARLS BEFORE SWINE cartoonist will be on hand for a book signing at Barnes & Noble on The Plaza on Thursday, May 27, at 8:00 p.m."

If I wasn't busy that night I just might take this in. I just recently started reading "Pearls Before Swine" and I like it; it has a quirky, Douglas Adams-ish type of humor.

On the subject of book signings: I'll be at the same Barnes & Noble promoting my Mars book (date TBA). My press agent at Pocket Books phoned the other day to let me know the wheels are in motion.

Will I read reviews of my own book?

Yes, I will.
Baghdad: UFO in Baghdad skies

"Press members also noticed the unbelievable sky material surrounded with lights and they video taped the unbelievable scene. The UFO could be seen for three hours than disappeared."

That's it? Looks like this meme could be dead on arrival.

"This week the Madonna portrait moves from the EW Gallery to the Image Blog. I combined some reference material with animated graphics to show step-by-step how the all-digital canvas was created. Personally, I think the Image Blog format does a better job of exposing the technology than the old, static Web page."

Me, too.

Friday, May 14, 2004

UFOs Gone Wild, Men From Mars Visit Mexico

"While X-files and UFO extra-terrestrial believers say the video is clear proof of some form of spacecraft visiting Earth, the sighting can be attributed to the Bush defense budget and not little green men. The unidentified aircraft that shadowed the Mexican surveillance plane are reportedly part of a squadron of new stealth strike craft operating from the U.S."
White House Grand Slam on the Nick Berg Murder

"You see, in principle we don't object to giving the photos to the media. But IN THIS SITUATION, we just can't do it. And we're sure the media don't want to be responsible for more decapitations, either."

No, I haven't seen the much-discussed decapitation footage. But I've been tracking the inevitable conspiracy memes. There's a medical doctor who doesn't think the severed neck spurts blood correctly, implying that Berg was already dead at the time of the beheading. Some think the murder was perpetrated by BushCo loyalists intent on distracting the public from the mounting evidence of widescale prison abuse.

I sincerely doubt both scenarios. But the latter almost makes sense, if you're willing to pay a passing visit to Tinfoil Hat Land. Occam's Razor suggests that we're seeing plain, imbecilic "revenge." But the timing of the beheading's release is certainly convenient ammunition for a mainstream press forced to deal with the spectacle of American troops behaving like savages. After all, these are the same troops we're constantly reminded to "support" (apparently by ensuring Bush's election).

The Berg killing helps make the Arabs look more like the popularly conceived caricature: thugs who revel in American blood. And in a perverse, subconscious way it might even help to "justify" the pointless abuses and killings doled out by occupying American forces; war supporters will seize on the Berg footage as evidence that "war is hell" and that the prison abuse should go unpunished.

The "logic" will go like this: Conditions in Iraq are so aberrant and awful that we should expect U.S. troops to lose it. Hell, those grinning men and women in uniform hooking up battery cables to Iraqi genitals are the real victims -- just look what they've been reduced to by those Arab bastards!

I fully expect to read variations on the above theme for months to come.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

This is Claudia. What is her picture doing engulfed in a textual sea of anti-war commentary and ruminations on mind-uploading? Because Chapel Perilous (that other blog) likes to post occasional semi-random pictures of models/actresses and I feel it's my duty to engage in healthily ironic (?) adolescent competition by posting my own images of attractive female specimens here at Posthuman Blues.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Cold Turkey (by Kurt Vonnegut)

"There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president."

Great illustration, too.
Here's another common language error that drives me absolutely nuts: the utterly misguided notion that apostrophes denote emphasis. I see this on signs all the time. The other day I walked out of Wild Oats Market (which serves "Entree's [sic] to Go") and there was a car in the parking lot covered with professionally made signs advertising how to


Just like that. "Home" in goddamned apostrophes.

The funny thing here is that the apostrophes convey exactly the opposite of what the sign-maker intended. Putting "home" in apostrophes makes it sound like "home" isn't really "home." Like there's some fiendish trick lying in wait for unsuspecting job-seekers. Maybe if you take the job -- whatever it is -- you'll be "relocated." I can imagine being led to some sweatshop with decaying mattresses strewn in some roach-infested back-room and a chain-smoking supervisor sizing you up from behind a cluttered desk:

"Welcome 'home,' pal. Now get to work."

Click here
and get your own virtual fetus.

This actually reminds me of the "My Little Fetus" doll featured in Jack Womack's brilliant near-future dystopian novel, "Random Acts of Senseless Violence."

Thanks to Sauceruney (via Chapel Perilous) for the tip.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Mexico Air Force video creates UFO stir

"The Mexican Air Force has released footage of what a UFO expert said were 11 unidentified flying objects (UFOs) picked up by an infrared camera as they whizzed around a surveillance plane."

A pretty awful article that assumes that "UFO" automatically translates to "alien spaceship." Also contains the obligatory reference to a UFO "believer."

Here's Yahoo's coverage (with video).

And here's an intriguingly similar report. Possibly 11 objects, just like the Mexico case. Hmmm.
Secret Worlds: The Universe Within

"View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons."

Don't you wish you could keep going? Past the quarks? What's down there . . . ?
Mexican Air Force pilots film UFOs

"'Was I afraid? Yes. A little afraid because we were facing something that had never happened before,' said radar operator Lt. German Marin in a taped interview made public Tuesday."

Lt. Marin is mistaken. UFO overflights have happened before. And they will continue to happen.

Here is a model radar-visual case that cannot be shrugged off as stars, flares, hallucination or incompetence. The objects were real. And they are thus far unidentified. Therefore they are "Unidentified Flying Objects" -- UFOs. Note that I'm not claiming anything about extraterrestrial visitors -- simply that the objects encountered were unidentified and presumably operating under some sort of intelligent control, based on official descriptions.

Will the scientific community use this opportunity to advance objective study of this persistent and baffling phenomenon . . . or will the UFOs once again conveniently vanish behind the "laughter curtain"?
I lucked out and bought a book of commentary on Robert Crumb for $4.00 tonight. Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy the Pinhead, is one of the contributors. I showed the book to a friend at a coffeeshop and we struck up a conversation about comix and animation. I lamented that Griffith had promised me a "tip o' the pin" if I sent him pictures of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's "Shuttlecocks" over a year ago. Now someone's finally beaten me to it. Damn.

David Cronenberg

I'm half-finished with "Flesh and Machines." In the middle of the book the author offers that it's essentially impossible to predict the future with any accuracy, rationalizing the book's conspicuous lack of any down-and-dirty cyber-futurism. Although I'm sympathetic, I'm also disappointed. The book is called "Flesh and Machines," for god's sake; I was expecting something at least mildly Cronenbergian.

I'm considering launching a new blog (tentative title: "Women and Children First"). And it might be fiction. A serialized hypertext drama of some sort. I don't know if I should consult someone about copyright or not. That would probably be the Professional Author thing to do . . .

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Liquid Body Armor In The Works

"Army scientists are working to develop a liquid body armor for clothing that stays flexible during normal use but becomes hard enough to stop a projectile when hit suddenly."

Will reverse-engineered wonders from the Roswell crash never cease? ;-)

Abuse of Iraqis 'well thought through'

"The type of mistreatment Iraqi prisoners have suffered at the hands of US soldiers is unlikely to have occurred without the knowledge of higher authorities, say psychologists by contacted New Scientist - adding support to allegations that the abuse may have been condoned by superiors."

You know, somehow I'm not at all surprised by the implications of this.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Tiny robot walker made from DNA

"The tiny walker is only 10 nanometres long and has been described as a major step forward in nanotechnology."

Get it? "Step" forward?

UFO Seen Hovering Over Stone Circle

"At shortly after midnight on 18 April, Mark and Clair Coolidge of Manchester, England were driving past Stonehenge - Britain's most famous ancient structure - when they witnessed a strange aerial object hovering over the stones."

A UFO over Stonehenge. And I thought this was just the sort of thing you saw on T-shirts purchased in tacky Sedona, Arizona giftshops . . .

And while my post on "Planet of the Apes" is still fresh: Take a look at this picture of Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri's experimental arcology community. It has the same curvy, retro look as Ape City . . .

Or is it just me?
I've had a mostly broken TV/VCR combo languishing in my closet for a few years. Tonight, on a whim, I hauled it out and managed to get an old "Seinfeld" tape playing (the one where Kramer visits Elaine's psychiatrist and George almost ruins Jerry's deal with NBC). Then, waxing nostalgic, I watched the first of "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" (an ancient cassette with a yellowing jacket that I picked up at a pawn shop ages ago).

"Beneath" is a stupid movie on several levels. But at the same time it has a strangely implacable ambient menace. I'm forever fascinated by the scene in which the main astronaut character, accompanied by Nova, discovers the New York City tunnel system while fleeing from a pack of gun-toting gorillas.
Blogger has upgraded. I like the look of it. I now have a Blogger profile, according to which I've written something like 815 posts so far in my blogging career. That's may sound like a lotta blog, but compared to some people it's a drop in the bucket.

I've been tinkering with my MTVI introductory page. Take a look. Those animated "static" tiles were lifted from an archived version of Radiohead's official site. To paraphrase William Gibson, "The Web finds its own use for things."

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Doctor Unheimlich has diagnosed me with
Mac Tonnies' Syndrome
Cause:falling over
Symptoms:shoulder pain, extremely ability to fly, occasional extra ribs
Enter your name, for your own diagnosis:

Those extra ribs hurt, too.
The Jesus Nebula - Hubble Space Telescope Images the Face of Jesus Christ

"New cameras in the Hubble Space Telescope image a likeness of the face of Jesus."

Carl Sagan is rolling in his grave.

But wait -- there's more!
Formaldehyde, Ammonia and Benzene Molecules on Mars? Would Probably Mean Life.

Bowie's "Reality" is very much in the same vein as "Heathen." I don't have an instant favorite -- so far none of the songs especially grab me. But of course I thought exactly the same thing the first few times I listened to Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief." I pre-ordered "You Are the Quarry" today; for a couple extra bucks I get a companion DVD.

I spent today ghosting in and out of stores, unable to focus, not in the mood to read and just barely tasting my coffee. I felt like a cheap hologram. The sidewalks were thick with teenagers in prom formal-wear. Fat girls in ludicrous backless dresses, pale flesh rippling.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

New fast, hot breed of planets found

"Most extrasolar planets appear to have made this inward migration, forming 'hot Jupiters'. But these new planets, believed to be rare, have been dubbed 'very hot Jupiters'. They lie about 50 times closer than Earth's distance from the Sun. The previous closest planet found lay at double this distance."

I'd like to see one of these up close. I can imagine some extremely gnarly tidal weirdness and gravity-driven pyrotechnics. Maybe these things aren't planets at all, but alien power stations of some kind. Or megascale brains for intelligences that have uploaded themselves into supercomputers.
I'm pleased to no end that the senseless torture and murder of Iraqi POWs is infecting front pages everywhere. The governing assumptions in our dealings with the Mid-East are defined by an unspoken, condescending certainty that the Arab world is something rather less than human. The West has always trained itself to think of Arabs as somewhat barbaric characters -- uncouth "B"-movie villains whose claim to civilization is little more than a PR facade. Maintaining this stereotype was definitely the agenda behind the Saving Private Lynch drama. The public was expected to blanch at the notion of a God-fearing white girl in the clutches of psychopathically misogynistic dark-skinned rapists.

Now the rules have been upturned. Suddenly we're forced to stare at a reflection of ourselves that is so unshakeably ugly that our most entrenched misconceptions require revision.

We are the monsters. We are the sadists, the brutes, the savages.

We are the Evil-Doers.
NASA Funds Sci-Fi Technology

"Shape-shifting space suits? Step right up. Antimatter-powered probes to Alpha Centauri? No problem. Robotic armada to destroy incoming asteroids? Pal, just sign on the dotted line."

What NASA needs is an effective "public outreach" branch to transmit memes like this to the public. Perhaps in the form of fiction. Give me that dotted line; I'll be happy to help out . . .

UFO gravity lensing in 1949? Note that the unknown object appears to be bending the searchlight beam.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Here's a piece of pseudoskepticism so odious, so cliched, so steeped in selective distortion, inexcusable ignorance and gratuitous condescension that I just had to link to it.
'Bunker buster' missiles aim at Moon

"Tests have been carried out on ground-penetrating missiles using 'bunker buster' technology that could be fired into the depths of dark lunar craters to look for ice."

Oh, man, this one is begging for a conspiracy theory!
If this UFO is an unknown and not a misidentification or hoax, it's tempting to hypothesize that it was "showing off." It certainly wouldn't be the first instance of unknown aircraft wanting to be seen.

And although it's hard to tell for sure, the mystery object may resemble this weird "lobed" object videotaped over the Nellis Test Range.

The Nellis object, in turn, resembles this UFO taped over Brazil.

To quote Roy Neary in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind": "What the hell is going on around here?"

Image by Zakas.

Rising tide of micro-plastics plaguing the seas

"Microscopic fragments of plastic are floating in the ocean, settling on seabeds, and washing up onshore - with unknown consequences for marine ecosystems, according to a new study."

"Unknown consequences." I love those words.

Here's a paragraph from my short-story "The Visitors":

"We knew the ocean was poisoned, of course. Even after the smog had descended it was hard not to notice the lurid scabs that flecked the water's surface. Once, while fishing, I had come across the sunken wreck of a charred pod of some sort, still flashing brief, animated logos for forgotten Halo industries. The water around the downed pod was noticeably blue -- not the ocean's natural color, but a harsh, not-quite-right blue like something out of a bottle. That night, as we cooked mollusks from the vantage of the shallow, earthen seawall, the ocean actually glowed, rivaling the Halo's ubiquitous yellow."
If you're depressed or subject to depression, I advise you stay the hell away from the Natural Resources Defense Council's "The Bush Record."

"This administration, in catering to industries that put America's health and natural heritage at risk, threatens to do more damage to our environmental protections than any other in U.S. history."

It's not just Bush, of course; it's everybody. But this is outrageous in the literal meaning of the word.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

You've been drafted!
I like coming up with paranoid conspiracy theories. One of them -- never before posted -- involves the growing concern over ominous-looking jet contrails -- sometimes dubbed "chemtrails" because of presumed nefarious chemical properties.

As this site shows, contrails are taken seriously because they alter climate. We inhabit an age of ubiquitous air-travel; just as our cars contribute to global warming, jet exhaust wreaks its own havoc in our atmosphere. And the more planes there are up there spewing exhaust, the more the atmosphere is disturbed.

Imagine, for a moment, that a secret group of U.S. government scientists produced compelling evidence that jet contrails threatened to produce a cataclysmic effect on Earth's ecosystem, and that the only way to test their notion was to suspend a substantial portion of the Earth's air traffic in order to compare clear skies to polluted ones. Suppose that this is a dire study in need of immediate results. How to stop planes from flying? What would the government research group do? Petition major airlines all over the globe to refrain from flying for, say, a week or so in the name of science? Hardly. Besides, the study is secret; by telling airlines that they should forego their livelihood for the sake of an atmospheric study would immediately clue everyone in to the fact that the U.S. government is terrifically concerned about something having to due with the environmental impact of commercial airflight.

So the group would have to act behind the curtain, somehow bringing world commercial aviation to a virtual halt without letting anyone know why.

Enter the 9-11-01 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Forget everything you ever heard about Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and Muslim extremists. What if the entire 9-11 debacle was an epic sleight of hand contrived to help desperate scientists understand something far scarier than the most anti-American Evil-Doer? What if something horrible is happening to our atmosphere, something so potentially apocalyptic that the deaths of several thousand New Yorkers were considered a justifiable expense?

Finally, a few words of caution. Do I really think the above scenario is for real? No, I don't. But I think it makes a weird sort of logic; it wouldn't surprise me if some people did believe it. And there are all sorts of phenomena just waiting to be added to the central theme: UFOs, anomalous solar flares (of which there have been quite a few recently), HAARP, ozone depletion . . .

There. I've committed the meme to the Web. Now it's your turn.
Um . . . what's my blog doing listed on a site about electric wheelchairs?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

"Christianity Meme is an organization of people who wish to expose Christianity for what it really is--a mind virus that controls human behavior to facilitate its own survival. As such, it is a living, but unconscious player in human affairs."

Nietzsche would have loved this.
Carbon kitty's $50,000 price tag

"Cats can now have more than nine lives thanks to a Californian company that is the first US firm to go commercial and offer the public a pet cloning service."

At least cloned cats won't be subjected to the misplaced expectations and neurotic fervor of parents who plan to have their dead children Xeroxed. Can you imagine being a cloned teenager forever trying (or, more likely, explicitly not trying) to live up to the achievements of your deceased doppelganger, knowing that you're a fertilized-on-command biological rerun, a nostalgic whim in the guise in flesh?