Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches (Via Chapel Perilous.)

My collection "Illumined Black," I'm sorry to say, is probably full of these, or variations thereof . . .

Charles Platt wrote a book called "Freezone" that was a deliberate send-up of SF cliches. Recommended -- check used-book stores.
White House report says people cause global warming

"But when a 2002 US government report to the United Nations drew the same conclusion, President Bush 'pulled back' from the document, says biologist Anthony Janetos."

Man, what a shock.

New Class of Planets Found

"'These Neptune-sized planets prove that Jupiter-sized, gas giants aren't the only planets out there,' Marcy said. Butler added, 'We are beginning to see smaller and smaller planets. Earth-like planets are the next destination.'"
Author seeks information from area on 1897 UFO sightings

"Using period documentation and analysis of the technological capabilities of the era, Busby proposes that experimental aircraft were being built and tested for the U.S. military, funded by wealthy businessmen. But as he investigates the beginnings of the military-industrial complex for future volumes, he continues to seek verification of those listed as eyewitnesses to the airship sightings of 1897 for future editions of Solving the 1897 Airship Mystery."

If this is true, then the military certainly hired some weird characters to fly these things. Or maybe they were simply told to act weird so that their existence could be open to ridicule.

Monday, August 30, 2004

RNC protests predicted by Bruce Sterling story


And if I remember correctly, the story ended with the convention virtually in ruins . . .
While I'm once again harping on the subject of why you should buy and read my Mars book: I just did an interview with a guy from "The X," a Kansas City entertainment magazine. He took my picture; he's going to have a graphics person superimpose me on a picture of Mars. This could be a good thing or it could be a very geeky thing; I'll find out, with the rest of Kansas City, in October.

Incidentally, the interviewer picked me out of the crowd at Starbucks based on my manga self-portrait (see sidebar).

Computer Maker in an Alien World

"'Governments use flight- and combat-simulation programs to train soldiers now, and simulations really are just computer games,' he said. 'It's a little odd to think of a government office with an Alien on every desk, but we're thrilled that they're so enthusiastic about the product.'" (Via The Anomalist.)

In "Cosmonaut Keep" by Ken Macleod, Area 51 is a theme-park. It seems we're on our way; the lines between the military-industrial complex and the entertainment media continue to blur.

Note: Readers interested in this sort of thing are encouraged to read the "Memespace" chapter in "After the Martian Apocalypse."
The director's cut of "Donnie Darko" debuts on September 3. This movie is brilliant; it makes M. Night Shyamalan look downright trite.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Activist bike creator Joshua Kinberg arrested

"Kinberg was stopped by police while demonstrating the bicycle for the television interview. His bicycle is a high-tech graffiti writer, using chalk to print anti-Bush political messages sent by people via the internet. Apparently there was a question of whether or not the sprayed messages were a defacement of property."

Taking it to the streets! (What do you want to bet someone's already hit on that phrase in regards to Kinberg's work?)

And what the hell's wrong with chalk? I don't see the problem. It's perfectly all right to drive a fume-belching Hum-Vee, but if you ride a bicycle that emits a dusting of chalk you get arrested? I can honestly say I've never seen any scientific study linking chalk graffiti with global warming or respiratory diseases.

In fact, depending on the albedo of the chalk, chalk graffiti could actually reduce global warming by reflecting thermal radiation -- just the thing for "urban heat islands."
The Mystery of the Elmendorf Beast

"The jaw structure is not a deformity in the usual sense because it is symmetrical. It is not a mammalian jaw at all, but appears more akin to the jaw of a reptile. There is nothing in the genetic code of the mammal that would enable a jaw structure such as this. This raises the possibility that intentional genetic manipulation, or a highly unusual natural mutation, has been involved in the emergence of this species."

Uh-oh -- "intentional genetic manipulation." Scary black-ops stuff. Strieber, the Oprah Winfrey of the paranormal world, is going to have a field day with this.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Tonight I bought and read the first two stories of "Live Without a Net," a compilation of science fiction short-stories devoted to alternate societies in which genre cliches such as cyberspace don't exist. So far, so good -- a vast improvement on the last anthology I read, DAW's 30th anniversary SF collection.

What's playing:

1.) "Portishead" (Portishead)
2.) "Staring at the Sea" (The Cure)
3.) "Uh-oh" (David Byrne)
4.) "Up" (R.E.M.)
5.) "Themes" (Vangelis)
Flying Cars Reportedly Still Decades Away

"Researchers stress that the ultimate dream -- an affordable, easy-to-use vehicle that could allow regular people to fly 200 miles to a meeting and also drive 15 miles to the mall -- is still probably decades away." (Via Busy, Busy, Busy.)

Then . . . what have I been flying all this time?
Minn. Frog Found With 5 Legs, 23 Toes

"Experts say the animals are particularly sensitive to pollutants, which can be absorbed through their skin. Because of that, deformed frogs are considered a sign of environmental problems."

23, 23, 23. What's the significance of this number? I've been seeing it regularly in a variety of contexts. Spooky. Am I just sensitized to it? Or is there something genuinely Jungian going on?
"Teranesia" was quite interesting, if underwhelming by Greg Egan's usual standards. You can find my short review here.

I started "Picoverse" today. I'm in "idea fiction" mode; some of the more brazenly "literary" titles I've had in mind will have to wait.

The front-sale reviews of "Jennifer Government" are amusing: It's obvious the reviewers who read it haven't read science fiction in years, if ever. Yes, Barry's book is clever. But from what I've read it's not great; by humorous SF standards (think Douglas Adams) it's downright substandard. Reviewers obligingly compare it to "1984" and "Brave New World" when in fact "Neuromancer," with its fiercely globalized future society, is a vastly closer relative.

It's increasingly ironic that mainstream critics refuse to acknowledge there's more to literary science fiction that Orwell and Huxley, especially as Gibson has become a lauded cultural fixture on a par with Burroughs. "Pattern Recognition" wasn't even SF, and elicted comparison to Thomas Pynchon, of all authors.

But the stuffy critical establishment won't bite; contemporary mainstream reviewers will go to their graves clutching moth-eaten copies of "acceptable" genre fiction, never knowing what "cyberpunk" is.

Nothing against "1984," by the way -- it's one of my all-time favorites.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Jaw transplant allows man to chew after nine years

"A jaw, grown on a titanium frame, enabled the man to chew for the first time since he lost his lower jaw in radical surgery for cancer. The functional jawbone was created using a combination of computer aided design and bone stem cells."
Co. Pulls Toys Depicting 9-11 Attack

Wow! That's one big plane!

"Small toys showing an airplane flying into the World Trade Center were packed inside more than 14,000 bags of candy and sent to small groceries around the country before being recalled."

What? They're being recalled . . . ? Weird. I was convinced "bad taste" was an obsolete concept -- not to mention piss-poor marketing.

Want proof? I'll give you proof . . .

Made in the USA out of 100% pure depleted uranium.

I remember a trip I took to Galveston a few years ago. The local vacationing industry had placed a giant inflatable simulacrum of the Titanic (caught in the act of sinking) out in the ocean and throngs of kids were merrily climbing up a ladder to slide down the fatally canted deck.

This was just after 9-11-01, and I remarked to my girlfriend (yes, I had a girlfriend) that it was only a matter of time until Disney wielded its magic to transform two jets slamming into the World Trade Center into an amusement park ride.

Actually, I still haven't quite given up on Disney-Auschwitz.
Smart tiles add reality to virtual worlds

"Intelligent floor tiles that allow a person to walk through a virtual environment while remaining in one spot have been developed by Japanese researchers."

This is weird; just about a week ago I had an uneasy sense that, though I seemed to be walking forward, I was in fact remaining stationary, as if on a hallucinatory treadmill.

Must have been the coffee talking . . .

Take a close look at this Milanese display mannequin photographed by Bruce Sterling. She looks dejected, bewildered: "What am I doing? How did it come to this?"

Oh, the posthumanity.
Brand-new word: conspirinate (verb) -- to make the object of a perceived conspiracy (see "assassinate"). Example: "Stanton Friedman helped conspirinate the Roswell Incident by claiming the MJ-12 briefing document was authentic."

And yes, I Googled it to make sure no one had beaten me to it. My only reservation is that it sounds quite a bit like "urinate."
NIDS Investigations of the Flying Triangle Enigma

"The United States is currently experiencing a wave of Flying Triangle sightings that may have intensified in the 1990s, especially towards the latter part of the 1990s. The wave continues. The Flying Triangles are being openly deployed over and near population centers, including in the vicinity of major Interstate Highways. The behavior of these Triangular aircraft does not conform to previous patterns of covert deployment of unacknowledged aircraft. Neither the agenda nor the origin of the Flying Triangles are currently known."

Two Triangle UFOs

"Two triangle-shaped light formations were caught on video over Melbourne, Australia on August 23rd. Local air traffic controllers reported no aircraft in the area and the UFOs did not show up on radar."

This is portentous, spine-tingling stuff. I think something big is going on, something with profound implications for the future of this planet -- regardless whether the triangles are ours or someone else's (or a combination of the two).

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Guardian Unlimited: Our expert panel votes for the top 10 sci-fi films

This list is less-than-impressive ("Star Wars"?), although I have to agree with Jason that the first two are on-target. Here's my own off-the-cuff list:

1.) "Blade Runner"
2.) "2001: A Space Odyssey"
3.) "12 Monkeys"
4.) "The Fly" (remake)
5.) "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
6.) "Contact"
7.) "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1975 remake)
8.) "The Matrix"
9.) "Until the End of the World"
10.) "Brazil"

"Strange Days" probably belongs here somewhere, but I didn't want to overdo it on cyberpunk. One of the first two "Alien" movies deserves to be here as well.
Smallest 'Earth-like' planet seen

"The planet is 14 times the size of Earth - not so large that it qualifies as a gas giant - and is close enough to the star that it is unlikely to be icy."

$100 says there's life there.
Understanding UFOs and the Media: Puncturing a Myth

"On the other hand, from the perspective of power, it doesn’t really matter what the bottom 80 or even 90 percent think. If they want to believe in aliens, or bigfoot, or conspiracy notions pertaining to the Kennedy assassination (another verboten topic for our management class), then by all means they can. Better yet, turn all that stuff into cheesy entertainment, keeping the rabble happily distracted while at the same time you disable these topics from entering the realm of 'serious' discussion."
The first volume of Peter Watts' "Behemoth" is out in hardback. If you haven't read "Starfish" and "Maelstrom," you're missing two of the best SF novels in recent memory.

Says Watts: "The rest of this site is a fantasy, albeit not a very pleasant one. This is reality. From here you can look down and watch the lights going out; if you squint, you'll even see the twinkling of firestorms along the west coast. I leave it to you to decide whether the real world is any sort of improvement."

'DNA analysis' spots e-mail spam

"Called after Feng Shui character Chung-Kwei, the formula automatically learns patterns of spam vocabulary and has proved to be 96.5% efficient."
Blogger is offering a great-sounding new feature that allows readers to instantly email a given post to friends. Trouble is, the envelope icon is nowhere to be seen (so far) on Posthuman Blues and appears as only an easily missable sliver on my Cydonian Imperative blog -- which I've updated, by the way.

I'll give it a day, maybe less, and see if this fixes itself.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Will blog for espresso

No, your eyes aren't fooling you -- there really is a PayPal button at the bottom of the sidebar. Don't be alarmed; I'm not begging for cash. Quite honestly, I'm happy to just have you as a reader. But if you want to "tip" me, I won't stop you.

"Other footage includes several women who had a very clear view watching the second plane hit were yelling, 'That wasn't American Airlines....It wasn't American Airlines going into the building.' These interviews were played that morning once on FOX News, never to be replayed again, despite the massive saturation and repetition by the media for many days to come."

Quite honestly, I don't know what to make of these claims. I don't know enough about jet aircraft or structural engineering to make an educated determination about what, precisely happened on September 11, 2001. Yes, there seem to be anomalies. I don't think for a moment that we've been told the entire story.

But was it really an "inside job" in the conspiracy-mongering sense? And if it were, then why risk blowing it by using improper planes that could be identified as such by anyone watching? The mind reels. And maybe that's the point: Create a locus of such overwhelming confusion and duplicity that only the most fervent "nuts" will begin to make sense of it all.

I think the '00s will be looked back on as the "Philip K. Dick decade."
Giant waves hurling boulders inland from British coasts: scientists

"Massive waves created by violent storms off Britain and Ireland are ripping off chunks of cliff and hurling them inland over distances scientists did not think possible."

Global warming, "weird" weather, magnetic disturbances . . . Is some extremophile alien species "terraforming" Earth to its own definition of habitability?* Or are we just doing a damned good job of doing it ourselves?

*Note to self: Possibly a good short-story idea . . .
This evening found me chatting with Scientologists (I got my hands on a no-kidding e-meter) and watching "Alien vs. Predator," which isn't half-bad. It's most definitely a big-screen movie; if you miss the theater release, I don't see much point in rushing to watch it on the small-screen.

Like all "Alien" movies, it suffers from the "biomass problem," which I was relieved to find Roger Ebert noted in his justifiably scathing review of "Alien: Resurrection": The Giger-aliens (or xenomorphs -- call them whatever you like) use humans as incubators, not food. In none of the "Alien" movies have I seen an alien actually chow down on anything. Yet, defying basic physics, they grow many orders of magnitude within minutes of erupting from a host's chest.

What gives?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Cool! I just found out I get to be on 21st Century Radio in early September. I might be on Coast to Coast AM as well; I did a brief preliminary interview yesterday. So I assume if I seemed interesting enough my file will be bumped up the ranks.

Monday, August 23, 2004

China's Glaciers Being Flushed Down The Yellow River

"Global warming is causing China's highland glaciers, including those covering Mount Everest, to shrink by an amount equivalent to all the water in the Yellow River every year, state media said Monday."

Asteroid shaves past Earth's atmosphere

"The previously unknown object, spanning five to 10 metres across, has been named 2004 FU162. It streaked across the sky just 6500 kilometres - roughly the radius of the Earth - above the ground on 31 March, although details have only now emerged."

Antarctic craters reveal strike

"The scientists told a conference this week that the impacts occurred roughly 780,000 years ago during an ice age."

Actually seen: a plume of kitchen smoke in the shape of a quintessential mushroom cloud rising from a Japanese steakhouse.
Alien Vs. Predator: What's Really Out There (by Seth Shostak!)

"As unlikely as the Predator may be, even aside from its oddball, anthropomorphic appearance -- a brushed steel Samurai with dreadlocks -- it's still more believable than Alien. This toothy terror, with its nitric acid blood (pray that it doesn't get a nosebleed in the car), depends on humans for breeding. Now sure, there are some terrestrial species, such as the ichneumon fly that use other creatures as part of their reproductive cycle. But those other creatures are at least hanging around on the same planet! Imagine the evolutionary difficulties for some species that requires a chance encounter with beings from another world just to have kids! That is not a winning survival scenario."

Seth, dude -- you're out of it as usual! The Giger-aliens aren't the product of natural selection; they're genetically engineered bioweapons gone awry! Remember the derelict starship in the original "Alien"? They're out-of-control biotech, a la John Wyndham's "triffids."

Is this the answer to God, the universe and all that?

"Prof Kalmus says studying it in more detail is crucial. 'The world is running out of easily developed energy sources. If we can learn more about how energy and mass are related in this strange way then who knows what effect that might have.'"

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Head of Dolly clone lab is found hanged

"The 53-year-old, who was believed to have been suffering from depression, had only recently returned to work. Speaking from their Edinburgh home, his wife Helen said: 'We are trying to deal with telling family and friends at the moment but it's been a huge shock.'"
The ominous B.I.G.

Uh-oh. Yesterday a sloppy-looking woman in a T-shirt passed me on the sidewalk. The shirt read: "B.I.G.: Believe In God." (And yes, the woman was indeed "big.")

Could this be the next "WWJD"? Should I hide in my fallout shelter and wait this one out?


Saturday, August 21, 2004

According to Googlism, I'm "a writer who maintains a website." Not too shabby.
UFO photographed with cellphone in Brazil

"The three witnesses were close to Rita Saint, Passa Quatro, when they first saw the object which was in the shape of a cigar. The object was flying low, even leaving dust below it. (visible in the photograph) But for a major part of the sighting, the unknown object appeared to be motionless in the sky. The UFO would make only short, brief moves as the youngsters watched. The object also made a sound, which sounded like 'some machines functioning together.'"

I'm guessing this is a cloud. But it looks remarkably like the mothership at the very beginning of the movie "Alien Nation."

Friday, August 20, 2004

Personal mission to Mars

"Already, the society's founder and president, Robert Zurbin [sic], has created Mars Direct, a plan that includes a transportation system - known as the Earth Return Vehicle - that will take humans to Mars and back, a trip he says will take six months each way."

I'm learning to tolerate horribly written pop-science articles. This is one of them.

Zubrin doesn't exactly help matters by his whiny insistence that Mars Society members don't "believe" in UFOs. The dreary fact remains that groups like the Mars Society are treated with a fair degree of scorn in the mainstream media, and pundits like Zubrin, for all of their intellectual assets, are possessed by the need to ridicule others in order to appear relatively acceptable. (I find it downright hilarious that Zubrin evidently believed W.'s so-called Moon-Mars "Initiative"; I personally find televangelists more convincing.)

But the ultimate irony is hidden in plain view: Zubrin and pal Frederik Pohl (a decent science fiction writer, by the way) want to colonize other planets. But they're quick to point out that anyone intrigued by the notion that beings from other planets are visiting us (in the form of UFOs) is inherently ridiculous. Evidently the galaxy is our own personal playground with no room for anyone else.

But of course the person who wrote the story never considered taking Zubrin to task on his anthropomorphic chauvinism.

Cool site of the day: Cellar Door (All things "Donnie Darko.")
I'm 29 years old today. I've got the same birthday as H.P. Lovecraft (!). And Connie Chung . . .

An alien concept

"Hearing the snapping of a branch, a Paleolithic hunter-gatherer would have increased his chances for survival by assigning the noise to the action of a potential predator and then taking the appropriate precautions. Discovery - wondering whom or what lies beyond our planet - is just an extension of finding out what lies over the next ridge."

That's undoubtedly some of it. Although I once self-psychoanalyzed my own interest in extraterrestrial intelligence as an expression of my guarded fascination with women.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I'm finally reading Max Barry's "Jennifer Government." I had an overwhelming but undefined urge to buy a book today, and this is what I ended up with (after two trips to the bookstore and several hours of diligent browsing). I'm enjoying "Jennifer" -- it would make a great movie -- but I've got a nagging critical voice-over decrying all of the things I would have done differently if I'd written it.

A fairly new author I've been totally remiss in catching up with is Cory Doctorow ("Eastern Standard Tribe").

Of course, all of this is dodging the whole point: What am I writing? Good question. What I've got now is bits and pieces. Some good stuff, some irrelevant stuff and some downright illegible stuff that I had the good sense to abandon. I have half a mind to discard the idea of linear narrative altogether and write something along the lines of "Naked Lunch" -- assuming I haven't squandered my chances of publishing fiction by writing a nonfiction book about aliens.

The tentative title for my equally tentative new nonfiction effort, incidentally, is "The Postbiological Cosmos: Artificial Intelligence and Alien Visitation."
Bush Wants To Be Your Shrink

"The New Freedom Initiative proposes to screen every American, including you, for mental illness. To this end, the president established a New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, to study the nation's mental health delivery service and make a report. It's interesting to note that many on the staff appointed to the Commission have served on the advisory boards of some of the nation's largest drug companies."

"New Freedom Initiative"? Even the name is creepy. The main reason it sounds suspicious is because it's meaningless. But who has time for words anymore?

What this initiative means is that a whole generation of children is going to be compelled to take spurious psychoactive drugs to treat dubious or fictional psychological "abnormalities": probably such dreadful things as creativity and independent thought. After all, we're going to need more fodder for new and better Gulf Wars; best to squash out critical thinking early.

If mass-scale drugging is what it takes, then Bush (or his ideological successors) will do it.
Weird links with words and colours in the mind

"Synaesthesia, a condition in which people make weird sensory associations, may rely more on the plasticity of the brain than on any genetic predisposition. This might mean that all of us are capable of having a synaesthetic experience."

If so, we should be able to induce synaesthetic phenomena relatively easily, via drugs or direct neural stimulation.
Some N.M. scientists want close encounter

"'Obviously, a lot of people are interested in it,' Lucas said. 'People saw something. Like all good Americans I have an inherent distrust of the government. I don't really think they're covering something up, but I'm a scientist - I think all science should be open to investigation and debate.'" (Via The Anomalist.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Check out this illustrated retrospective of Women in Spacesuits in TV and Film. (Via Boing Boing.)
Various Things I Really Like:

1.) The smell of ozone after a storm
2.) Cardboard "java jackets"
3.) Chalk graffiti
4.) Deserted places
5.) Fountains
6.) Mexican beer
7.) A full moon
8.) The blast of air-conditioning from open storefronts while strolling in 90-degree weather
9.) Shoot-'em-up arcade games
10.) The smell of old paperbacks
11.) Cats
12.) Airports
13.) The floral-looking designs that drift to the top of well-made espresso
14.) Flickering neon signs
15.) Those walls made of stacked glass cubes
16.) Existentialism
17.) Writing
18.) Sound-proof walls
19.) Ergonomic design
20.) Drawing
21.) Thunderstorms
22.) Cyberpunk novels written before "cyberpunk" was a word
23.) Dr. Martens
24.) Lava lamps
25.) Violins
26.) Lightning bugs
27.) Photos of UFOs
28.) "Seinfeld"
29.) Department-store mannequins
30.) Fusion cuisine
Pollutants cause huge rise in brain diseases

"The alarming rise, which includes figures showing rates of dementia have trebled in men, has been linked to rises in levels of pesticides, industrial effluents, domestic waste, car exhausts and other pollutants, says a report in the journal Public Health."

This coincides nicely with my theory that humankind, by and large, is dumber than it's ever been. Literally, organically dumber, as evidenced by flickering attention spans and widespread preoccupation with distraction. It's a combination of cultural and chemical factors, and it couldn't have come at a worse damned time.

The chapter in "Planet of the Apes" in which human subjects recite past-life narratives comes to mind. In the original novel, humanity's downfall wasn't due to The Bomb, but to apathetically losing the "brain race" to chimps and organgutans.
I want to be paranoid, too!

I just listened to R.E.M.'s "Leaving New York," from their forthcoming album, "Around the Sun." Beautiful. I can't wait till October.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Everyone turns to ash and there's a high wind coming

"He noticed, after awhile, that the wind was blowing bits of his skin off. It was as if his skin was turning to ash--like the ash of a cigarette, that follows the shape of a cigarette; this ash, as it spread, followed the shape of his body. And as he turned very slowly into ash, the wind began blowing bits of it away. But the wind didn't blow that inner body away. He could see it, where the ash was blown away, very attenuated and filmy and faint and transparent, or nearly so--but it was there."
Careful With That Petri Dish

"Two British researchers are planning to help NASA grow replacement human tissue that astronauts can transplant into their bodies if necessary on their way to Mars."

Organs, hell. I want a cloned backup of my entire body.
Flying saucers in New Mexico? Governor rekindles Roswell

"But in a show of extraterrestrial bipartisanship, the executive director of the New Mexico Republican Party is taking Richardson's side. Greg Graves, a native of Roswell who suspects the crashed object was 'something more than a weather balloon,' wants to know what really happened in the Southwestern desert two years before his birth." (Via The Anomalist.)

I've begun archiving typo-posters here. Enjoy.

What's playing:

1.) "Us" (Peter Gabriel)
2.) "OK Computer" (Radiohead)
3.) "Hours" (David Bowie)
4.) "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me" (The Cure)
5.) "Dummy" (Portishead)
Crop pattern sparks fresh debate

"An elaborate pattern in flattened crops in a Wiltshire field has sparked fresh debate over one of rural Britain's most perplexing mysteries - crop circles."

I've become almost stodgily skeptical about crop glyphs. I think the cerealogical signal-to-noise ratio is even more withering than that of raw UFO sightings -- which is all the more depressing because crop circles are undeniably physical and amenable to empirical investigation. You can actually take your time and walk around a crop formation taking measurements, which is certainly more than you can say for the study of UFOs. (Or at least the ones we know about.)

Elaborate example of probable hoax in Crabtree, England.

I'm certainly open to the possibility that some circles are actual anomalies. But I suspect "real" circles are almost vanishingly scarce. Colin Andrews, self-professed circle "expert" (and believer), amazed field-watchers when he estimated that 80% of all formations were hoaxes. But 80% is most likely a wild understatement; I'd put the figure much closer to 99%.

Despite the endless proclamations of devout crop circle enthusiasts, these things can be faked surprisingly easily, and I fear the more elaborate specimens are hoaxes capitalizing on the misguided belief that manufacturing a circle is superhumanly difficult.

Monday, August 16, 2004

No more banner-ads!

I was really starting to get annoyed by 'em, too. This new nav-bar is just the thing. A Posthuman Blues search-engine, even.
According to the Pagan Name Generator, I am "Aylwyn South Ahern." (Via Gaiagal.)
The Real Wonderland

"In Wonderland, reality is upside down. Living in this world is like living on a nonstop LSD trip, in which the 'reality' we are being fed bears little to no resemblance to the actual experiences of people. In Wonderland, UFOs are imaginary."

Richard Dolan strikes home again.
Russian Alien Spaceship Claims Raise Eyebrows, Skepticism

"Peiser said there is a 'general consensus' among experts worldwide that the culprit was an exploding comet or asteroid."

Oh, yeah -- here's number 30 from my "Various People I Loathe" list:

30.) Anyone who gives a damn about the Olympics

Sunday, August 15, 2004

I downloaded Picasa. So far I like it and recommend it; it beats trawling through folders looking for pictures, although it doesn't display GIF files -- at least that I'm aware of.

The weather was excellent today. I started "Teranesia" and had a hemp bracelet assembled before my very eyes by a shoeless hippie girl who'd set up a work-station on the sidewalk near Barnes & Noble. $5.00. Not bad. Passersby handed her friends styrofoam containers of left-over food as I sat on the pavement. Very bohemian. I was surprised when the girl mentioned that she kept in touch with friends via email. (Evidently they'd amassed enough gas money shortly after my purchase, because by the time I came out of the bookstore some time later they were gone.)

I fished through her selection of beads while she worked on the bracelet. All sorts of interesting stuff: geodes harvested from the Ozarks; a conspicuous pewter skull; a fertility goddess figurine; beads that looked like they'd been hewn from cork. I asked her if she'd ever thought of using cannibalized electronics -- capacitors, IC chips, etc. -- along with her usual materials and she gave me a strange look.

Have you ever noticed it's the same cars with "Goddess Worshipper," "Pagan and Proud," etc. bumperstickers that also feature stickers proclaiming "Don't Label Me"? Hmmm.

A request: If you've read "After the Martian Apocalypse" -- and like it -- please consider posting a review on Amazon.com. Amazon has made it unnecessarily difficult (in my opinion) to post reader reviews. But I'm convinced they make a significant difference in sales.

What's in it for you? Why, nothing less than the utter thrill of seeing your name (or alias) posted on Amazon for all the world to see! What are you waiting for?
Breakup Of The North Pole

"The northeast passage across the [S]iberian polar ice is open. The glaciers on Ellesmere Island and the northern and northeastern shores of Greenland are collapsing within a matter of days. The channel between Greenland and Ellesmere Isalnd is open. And only about 250 miles of ice remains on the north shore of Greenland connecting it to the polar ice. And that is breaking up."

Probably more truth than fiction, unfortunately. I might have to email this guy.

I love this animation. (Via Chapel Perilous.)

I finished M.M. Buckner's "Neurolink" today. Click here for my review.

New fiction to read: "Singularity Sky" by Charles Stross, "Teranesia" by Greg Egan and "The Scar" by China Mieville. Decisions . . .

In my stereo:

1.) Heathen (David Bowie)
2.) Disintegration (The Cure)
3.) Galore (The Cure)
4.) Southpaw Grammar (Morrissey)
5.) Amnesiac (Radiohead)

Saturday, August 14, 2004

"Smart skin" holds promise for morphing wings and wearable computers.

"Terrible, horrible things can be done to this millimeters-thick patch of shimmering material crafted by chemists at NanoSonic in Blacksburg, Virginia. Twist it, stretch it double, fry it to 200°C, douse it with jet fuel -- the stuff survives. After the torment, it snaps like rubber back to its original shape, all the while conducting electricity like solid metal."

This stuff fits witness descriptions of the Roswell crash debris so well it's spooky.
Alien toy mistaken for human foetus

"The synthetic alien babies are sold in their own slime and are foetus-shaped."

I want one of these.

And by the way, my birthday's on the 20th . . .
Evidently there has been some, ah, confusion caused by my list of "people I loathe." Some readers have been upset. I've been accused of superficiality.

In my defense: Did it occur to anyone that the list is deliberately absurd? It's a joke, everyone: a parody of my own quasi-misanthropic leanings, which many readers of this blog have probably noticed by now. Does anyone seriously think I hate all old people? Or all meat-eaters? (Those two categories alone would pretty much cancel out all the people who are dear to me.)

The aim of the post was to parody my hyper-opinionated self by loading the list with ridiculous categories ("people who don't know who Portishead is") as well as a few semi-legitimate ones ("Paris Hilton").

That's all.
China to launch moon probe in 2 years

"China will launch its first lunar satellite in two years' time, the Beijing Morning Post has reported."
Various People I Loathe (Part One):

1.) UFO nuts who "want to believe"
2.) Religious people of any kind
3.) Anyone over the age of 10 who wears Starter merchandise
4.) Anyone under the age of 10 who wears Starter merchandise
5.) Anyone who thinks politics make a difference
6.) Journalists who lie
7.) Glad-handing corporate types
8.) Anyone who "counts carbs"
9.) Wal-Mart "greeters"
10.) People who never read science fiction unless it's by Margaret Atwood
11.) Anyone with "anti-establishment" bumperstickers on their car
12.) People who don't know the difference between "its" and "it's"
13.) Television news anchormen
14.) "Meteorologists"
15.) Anyone who indulges in public displays of affection
16.) Meat-eaters
17.) Paris Hilton
18.) Anyone who's ever read a "Left Behind" novel
19.) Anyone who's ever considered buying or reading a "Left Behind" novel
20.) Old people
21.) Anyone who's ever "joined a frat"
22.) Anyone who identifies with the term "metrosexual"
23.) People who say "sci-fi" instead of "science fiction"
24.) Couples who marry and expect you to drop everything to attend their wedding
25.) Couples who reproduce
26.) Parents who bring their children into coffeeshops
27.) Anyone with a Hum-Vee
28.) People who don't know who Portishead is
29.) 600-pound women who have to be surgically removed from couches
New Hypoxic 'Dead Zone' Found Off Oregon Coast

"For the second time in three years, a hypoxic 'dead zone' has formed off the central Oregon Coast. It's killing fish, crabs and other marine life and leading researchers to believe that a fundamental change may be taking place in ocean conditions in the northern Pacific Ocean."

Heat waves set to become 'brutal'

"Heat waves in the 21st Century will be more intense, more frequent and longer lasting, US experts report in the journal Science."

Oil wars now. Climate wars next. Think of all the "unstable" countries out there. They're going to get hammered by greenhouse effects brought on, for the most part, by American industry. They'll want revenge. They'll be pitted against each other for resources. And they'll have nuclear weapons.
Something I'm extremely goddamned sick of: self-righteous movie-goers who extoll the brilliance of "documentary" films like "Supersize Me" and "Fahrenheit 9/11," lazy efforts at pseudojournalism that play it safe by telling us things we already know in such a way as to seem somehow subversive or revelatory.

"Supersize Me" reveals -- gasp! -- that a steady diet of McDonald's hamburgers leads to health problems and weight gain; "Fahrenheit" exposes George W. Bush as a crooked, lying bastard.

Big surprises. Wow. I never knew.

Of course McDonald's food is unhealthy, and it's equally obvious that, given the chance, McDonald's would attempt to obscure the fact. Similarly, every thinking person knows -- on some level, at least -- that Bush is a fraud; "Fahrenheit 9/11" should be perceived in the context of light infotainment instead as some sort of authentic Statement.

All of this would be harmless enough if debilitating hidden agendas weren't studiously unnoted in favor of Celluloid treatises on french fries. I'd like to see a film-maker attempt to make sense of the Congressional "black budget," or reveal the monstrous manner in which the US "news" media avoids stories dealing with pollution, ecology and global warming. But of course we won't be viewing any of that. Or, for that matter, reading about it. Best to stick to easier targets.

I find it deeply troubling that fluff like Michael Moore's "expose" becomes the stuff of actual public controversy. Far too many Americans profess concern about the fate of their environment, or at least the fate of their tax-dollars. But they'd rather not expend any actual thought, and this is where limp, pretentious films like "Fahrenheit 9/11" come in so handy. They provide an ersatz sense of worldliness by systematically confirming pre-existing fears. It's the best of both worlds: a smug sense of "I told you so" righteousness with none of the headache, questioning or moral conundrum that defines real problems.

But it's the fears we're not so conscious of that are doing us in. And we are ignoring them.

Friday, August 13, 2004

I spent most of today in waiting rooms and having various medical tests performed, all of which was quite dull. One good thing came of it: thanks to a fluorescent dye, my urine is a garish orange-red, like Gatorade. I found this rather funny. And -- lucky me -- I'll continue to excrete neon urine for a couple of days as my kidneys filter this stuff out of my system.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I discovered "Kafka's Last Love: The Mystery of Dora Diamant" last night at Borders. I can't wait to read this.

Meanwhile, Philip K. Dick's "Vulcan's Hammer" has been reissued by Vintage. This is one of the only remaining PKD science fiction novels I haven't read; I really hope they publish his little-known "mainstream" novels as well. I've read two, of which my favorite is "Mary and the Giant."
Hubble sights Milky Way's 'twin'

"A stunning image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows a galaxy that looks like a twin of our own."

"For those of you not familiar with Dan Burisch (aka Dan Crain), he claimed to be a Ph.D. microbiologist working on a top secret black ops project involving an alien named J-Rod."

What I don't get is why anyone fell for this guy's claims in the first place (among them the talented but worryingly credulous Linda Moulton Howe, who seems to accept evident sincerity as virtual "proof" that a given source is recounting the truth).

When Burisch's claims surfaced, I was immediately suspicious because of the name of his presumed alien contact, "J-Rod." This was the same name cited by an earlier hoaxer who claimed involvement with aliens and the military; moreover it was unclear if Burisch's "J-Rod" was an individual alien or if the term denoted an entire species. Obviously, UFO mythology was being messily recycled; I intentionally refrained from commenting on the affair on this blog because it was so appallingly lame.

To pound the final nail in the coffin, Burisch offered a black and white photocopy of a creepily realistic-looking "alien" as evidence. I immediately recognized it as a model constructed by an FX team and posted on the Web in '98 or '99; Whitley Strieber had headlined a color version of the image on his site, wondering if it might be the real thing.

Nevertheless, no one seemed to remember the photo's subsequent history: The FX guys claimed it was theirs and, more importantly, proved it by showing the same dummy in their possession. As I recall, they hadn't intended to create a furor -- over-eager true believers did the leg-work for them. Weirdly, while many critics eagerly attacked Burisch's tale, no one seemed to recall the story behind his "smoking gun" alien photo.

So now everyone (except for the inevitable die-hard minority whose world is simply not complete without a shadowy government-alien alliance lurking in the background) knows Burisch is a liar, and a really bad one, at that.

One question: Why didn't Strieber instantly step in and point out that Burisch's photo was a known fabrication? He had to have been aware of it. And Linda Howe, being a regular contributor to Strieber's online radio show, should certainly have been aware as well.
600-Pound Woman Dies After Being Surgically Removed From Couch

"Using planks, they loaded the woman on to the trailer, still attached to the couch. Removing her would be too painful, since her body is grafted to the fabric. After years of staying put, her skin has literally become one with the sofa and it must be surgically removed." (Via Chapel Perilous.)

I have a nightmare dystopian vision of incidents like this becoming relatively commonplace, like liquor-store robberies.

"Literally become one with the sofa." Can you imagine the logistical problems this raises for the mortician?
Triangle UFOs -- Theirs or Ours?

"Robinson says, 'We're trying to find out whether we're dealing with new technology from the military or whether there's something else going on.' It should be noted that triangle-shaped UFOs have been seen regularly over the last 60 years, so all of them can't be secret military craft."

I wonder. Do we coexist with a civilization that's possessed "antigravity" for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years? Again, I feel the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis is somehow lacking, although I can't articulate exactly why . . . Certainly, "black ops" projects account for some of the triangle reports -- probably most. I rank the flying triangles as one of the most disquieting aspects of the contemporary UFO enigma.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Borders signing went well. It was a slow night but I managed to attract some impulse buyers (and talk myself hoarse about Mars in the process). One couple, who'd heard me on the radio, bought multiple copies. Very nice. And I got free coffee.

Simon & Schuster had sent Borders a two-foot styrofoam-backed glossy poster of the book cover, which now resides next to my lava lamp.
Two odd, foreign-looking men visited me today.*

"Well, by now you've got it figured out," said the first one, helping himself to a seat.

"Got what figured out?"

The two men exchanged a knowing glance. "Surely you realize," said the second man, still standing, "that there's, well, something different about you."

"You feel out-of-place, like you don't really belong here," offered the seated man helpfully.

"Well, I think everyone experiences something of the sort--"

"Lay off the existential rhetoric, Tonnies," the seated man said. "Face it. You don't relate. You read weird books. You don't like Bush or Kerry. It's time to face the facts."

"I really have no idea what you're talking about," I said, flustered.

"Oh, but you do." The standing man smiled as I fidgeted. "Tell me, Mr. Tonnies: Does the term 'UFO' mean anything to you?"

"Well, uh, sure. I mean--"

The seated man shot a quick confirming glance at his counterpart. "Thought so," he said.

"Thought what, exactly?" I said, increasingly perturbed. "Just say whatever you're here to say and get the hell out of here."

"Mr. Tonnies, you are an alien from outer space." The seated man let the last two words hover in the air as he studied my face, waiting for a reaction.

"It all fits," said the other man. "The preoccupation with cosmology. The weird books. Your anomalously high capacity for caffeine. That rambling book about Mars you wrote."

"That weird blog of yours," suggested the seated man. "Every minute detail of your life leads inexorably to the same conclusion. You can deny it if you wish. But in the end you will find your efforts are futile."


*This is, of course, entirely made up.
Russian Researchers Say Debris of Alien Spaceship found in Siberia

"The scientists claim that they found remains of an extraterrestrial technical device that allegedly had an accident in Siberia in 1908."

This smacks of Russian tabloid journalism, especially considering Pravda is covering the same story. If the investigation discussed here is bogus, I sincerely hope a real scientific investigation is carried out sooner or later; there's circumstantial evidence that the Tunguska explosion really was caused by an intelligently controlled craft. (Yet another theory maintains it was caused by one of Nikola Tesla's directed energy experiments.)

Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker wrote a short-story about the Tunguska explosion ("Storming the Cosmos") that I should probably reread. It's in Sterling's "Globalhead" collection.
Alien message 'may be in our DNA'

"But Davies believes it is wrong to assume that extraterrestrials who may be hundreds of millions of years ahead of us technologically will have chosen to communicate by radio."

I devote some of "After the Martian Apocalypse" to exactly the same possibility; how much of our so-called "junk" DNA is molecular white noise? Could there be a genetically encoded message we've missed in our haste to discover interstellar radio transmissions? More excitingly, is it a "signal" we can biologically activate and express?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Sea engulfing Alaskan village

"Soon this entire village will be relocating to the mainland - making the people of Shishmaref the first refugees of global warming."

They won't be the last.
Audio tape may solve JFK mystery

"Leslie Waffen, an archivist at the US National Archives, believes digital analysis could be used to remove such extraneous noise as static and distant voices to reveal how many of the sounds were gunshots."

My favorite JFK assassination theory: JFK was killed because he was about to disclose the truth about alien visitors.

Song of the day:

"The Promise" (The Cure)
"Nobody carries wallets anymore. I mean, they went out with powdered wigs."


Another reason radio-based SETI has failed thus far: Alien civilizations develop devastatingly funny and addictive television shows and spend their too-brief existence watching them on DVD and endlessly quoting the main characters.
Chances of aliens finding Earth disappearing

"Frank Drake's point, made at a SETI workshop at Harvard University on Friday, is that television services are increasingly being delivered by technologies that do not leak radio frequencies into space."

I suspect that one of the many reasons we haven't received an irrefutable ET signal is because some -- perhaps even all -- advanced alien civilizations upload themselves into custom-tailored virtual universes, effectively leaving this one behind . . .

Of course, this isn't to say that we're not inhabiting a virtual universe. In fact, I think there's an extremely good chance we are. That might also explain why the universe doesn't behave as SETI theorists would prefer.

(Thanks to Jason for the lead.)
The Race is On: Second Private Team Sets Launch Date for Human Spaceflight

"A second team of rocketeers competing for the $10 million Ansari X Prize, a contest for privately funded suborbital space flight, has officially announced the first launch date for its manned rocket."

It occurred to me that Posthuman Blues is quite possibly the only blog devoted to Things Like This that hasn't yet carried this story. Looks like I need to have another discussion with the MTVI staff.

I have to agree with Sauceruney -- this newfangled rocket looks like a rough ride, whereas SpaceShipOne has style. I do like the idea of launching from a balloon, though.

Monday, August 09, 2004

I just wrote a really, really short as-yet-untitled short-story. It's about the Roswell crash. Here it is:

Some short bald guys build a time machine so they can go back to 1947 and view the Roswell crash in person. The time machine crashes.

Is anybody out there?

"The search for life in space has always been the stuff of sci-fi books and movies. But CNN's Miles O'Brien leaves the make-believe behind and examines the real science behind the quest. Studying environments from the harshest deserts of Earth to the far-flown depths of space, scientists are looking for that elusive sign that we are not alone."

Oy -- a computer could have written this. The language (look at the headline, for god's sake) is embarrassingly quaint: the usual regurgitated fluff that passes as science journalism whenever extraterrestrial intelligence is involved.

Will someone in the mainstream media please think for him or herself and contribute something original to the SETI debate?
I am sick to death of politics. I don't even enjoy "The Boondocks" anymore. I want to grab the main characters by the necks and yell: "You think you're smart? You think you have some claim to elitism because you see through the Bush administration? You're wasting your young lives! It's fiction! Do something creative for a change instead of offering snide comments about the talking heads on TV!"
What Dreams Are Made Of

"This, then, is the essence of dreaming -- reality and unreality in a nonsensical, often mundane but sometimes bizarre mix. Dreams have captivated thinkers since ancient times, but their mystery is now closer than ever to resolution, thanks to new technology that allows scientists to watch the sleeping brain at work."

I tried to link to this a while back but MSN would have none of it for some reason. Thanks to Peter A. Gersten for the URL.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Marsapalooza tour extended!

It looks like I'll be journeying to New Age mecca Sedona, AZ this January to speak about a place with a curiously similar name . . . This is just what I needed: an excuse to get out of the Midwest. I like Kansas City, but lately I've felt something like Jim Carey in "The Truman Show," confined by inflexible barriers. It's good news for my book, too.

Moreover, Sedona is something of a UFO hotspot with an apparent history of weird phenomena. My kind of place.

Details later.
Prozac 'found in drinking water'

"A spokesman for the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) said the Prozac found was most likely highly diluted."

Well, then there's absolutely nothing to worry about. After all, it's "highly diluted."

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth: What the fuck is a potent commercial psychoactive drug doing in the water supply? I can imagine several scenarios, and none of them are exactly cheerful.

Could this be a government experiment of the MK ULTRA variety? I'm serious. Perhaps it's not as overtly heinous as doping unsuspecting citizens with LSD or performing unsolicited lobotomies, but there would have to be a concerted "national security" interest in something like this.

Or maybe it's simply corporate greed -- what better way to get an entire country conditioned to "need" expensive SSRIs than force-feeding them in small, "highly diluted" dosages?

Say "no" to drugs, kids -- except the ones your government puts in your drinking water.
Mothman Photo?

"I had seen a fast flying low altitude 'object' around 8 feet long. The interesting feature was a 'twin tail', like a swallow tail. I immediately thought 'Mothman?' I did not see red eyes or other colour, just the dark profile against the night sky of something large with a narrow tapering twin tail feature that could be scooped back wings. No noise was heard even though the 'object' was only around 45 metre's [sic] away."

No, it's not proof of anything in particular. But it's kind of creepy.

I still haven't seen the Richard Gere movie, by the way. I somehow doubt it could improve on John Keel's book.
I'm doing a signing at a Borders this Wednesday. My hope is that people will actually have had time to read the book by now and will show up in vast numbers.

Where and when:

Borders, 12055 Metcalf Avenue, Overland Park, KS 66213

August 11, 2004, 7:00 PM

Saturday, August 07, 2004

You Don't Know Dick: The Odd Cult of Philip K. Dick

"Dick wrote many science fiction novels -- too many, and far too fast. This was typical of SF writers during the mid-twentieth century, pressed by economic realities and the low paycheques of the least prestigious genre in literature (not forgetting westerns and romances, not forgetting even pornography). Some of Dick's books were written in as little as two weeks. Once he hit his stride, so to speak, he was able to simply churn out one potboiler after another. That he was only one of dozens of American writers doing this -- and the situation doesn't seem to have changed -- is the reason science fiction was and still is so derided." (Via The Anomalist.)
Jim Keith, in "Saucers of the Illuminati," makes an interesting point about the simplicity of the quintessential alien face. Could it be, he wonders, that abductees' brains manufacture the same predictable alien visage because the encounter experience is devastatingly weird, crammed with unfamiliar visual cues? Conversely, the minimalist alien head may be be due to a scarcity of visual information; the abductee's mind may "fill in the blanks" to give a face to something essentially faceless.

Some ufologists have noted that the eyes of the commonly depicted "Gray" alien would be anatomically impossible, if spherical like human eyes; there simply wouldn't be enough room in the skull, no matter how outsized. It's worth recalling that an ostrich's eye is actually larger than its brain.

Then again, the familiar ink-black "eyes" may not be eyes in the familiar sense. They could be convex lenses -- a sort of alien "heads-up" display, maybe. In any case, the excessively stylized alien face so common in the media is almost certainly an exaggeration, a caricature. Our brains seem wired to embellish the unfamiliar.
John Shirley's blog is my number-one favorite blog of all time. I have yet to miss a post. (Read this one, for example.) Shirley's blogging output has a compulsive, unforgivingly topical quality. He's outraged, and he should be. You are not alone.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Woman continues search for aliens

"Outside a country home several miles west of Duluth, Pearce, 23, unveiled an experimental machine she hopes can detect, attract or even communicate with alien life forms. With a little camping gear and a group of adventurous friends, Pearce is spending the first half of her weekend monitoring her awkward apparatus, equipped with colored strobe lights, low-powered lasers, a radio transmitter and a series of gauges said to track atmospheric changes common to extraterrestrial encounters." (Via The Anomalist.)

Somewhere, Jill Tarter is rolling her eyes at the above news item, completely and deliciously unaware of the irony.
Has cell phone blogging found its place?

"'We're adding location to blogging, something that's really never been done before,' a WaveMarket representative said."

But is location necessarily what the blogosphere wants? For many computer users, the appeal of online interfacing is a sense of anonymity. Broadcasting one's "meatspace" coordinates might be a little intimidating -- at least at first.
Forget Bush vs. Kerry -- I'm excited about the potential uses for photovoltaic television panels.
It's no longer possible to escape the clutches of The Election. Pictures of Kerry, pictures of Bush, each looking as Patriotic(tm) as humanly possible. The tension mounts. Remarkably, it seems a growing number of people think Kerry might actually win, or at least has a sporting chance.

Quite honestly, I'm apathetic. I think The Election is a monstrous phildickian distraction. I actually suspect we intuit, deep within the collective American unconscious, that Bush will remain in the White House. Note that I didn't say he would "win" -- simply that he's not going anywhere. The zeitgeist simply doesn't have room for Kerry; he will be industriously discarded and forgotten like a contestant in a particularly grueling "reality" TV program.

That's why I'm not spending any of my time reading political weblogs or attempting to analyze campaign strategies or quoting lengthily from the mass of inflammatory partisan literature that dominates bookshelves.

The Election is pseudoreal, illusory, a bit of postdemocratic theater.

But you already knew this.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Disappearance of Eels Worldwide Puzzles Scientists

"The eel population has undergone a 30-year decline all over the world, and no one can put a finger on the cause. David Sommerstein of North Country Public Radio reports on how the decline is affecting fishermen on Lake Ontario, who depend upon the eels for a living."

I haven't yet listened to the audio, but a few thoughts come to mind. Some eels are electric, right? In light on the Missing Homing Pigeon Mystery, perhaps the eels are not so much missing as simply lost, unable to orient themselves because of the planet's unstable magnetic poles.

Of course, when species get "lost" in the wild, they die because they're cut off from their normal diet. This could be a brief prelude to an ecological domino effect; species that rely on the magnetosphere for navigation wander off, never to be seen again . . . pretty soon, those oceanic "dead zones" the American press has been so good at ignoring grow exponentially larger. Then everything starts dying, seemingly out of nowhere -- an ecological 9/11.

So by all means keep on pouring that mercury into the water supply. I love a good game of chicken.
I really like the Nissan 350Z. It's one of the relatively few cars out there that looks like it actually belongs in the 21st century.
Endangered species board 'frozen ark'

Earth v. 1.0

"With some 10,000 species listed as in danger of extinction within 30 years, the ark will fill quickly. The project will be guided by the World Conservation Union's red list of threatened species, which deems 1,000 as critically endangered and 33 species as already extinct in the wild."

I think it's time to seriously consider making a "backup copy" of the entire planet. Locations for such a backup are plentiful. (And yes, I'm partial to Mars.)
Recently Blogger has been making a big deal about its new, improved WYSIWYG interface. My complaint: I already had a nice WYSIWYG editor, which inexplicably vanished as soon as Blogger launched the "improved" version. This instigated a series of emails with Blogger technical support, who seemed puzzled at first, but ultimately recommended that I upgrade to a new version of Windows.

Could my computer really be that old? Actually, it is; I got it in 1999, making it downright pre-millennial. In fact, it's due for some maintenance (it's still under warranty), so I'll have to force myself to part with it for a couple weeks in the near-future. Which means using my laptop -- which means relinquishing an actual mouse in favor of that clumsy little touch-screen.

The last time my machine was serviced, they replaced everything. Unfortunately, neither of my new CD drives ever worked. Hence my reluctance to have it "repaired" again.

In an ideal world, I'd be running a Blogger spell-check right now . . .

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Wow. Check out these mind-boggling organic forms. It's amazing to me how closely many of them resemble engineering works. I bet Haeckel was a peripheral influence on H.R. Giger. (Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Stepping on Big Brother's Toes

"'We are seeing a race to the bottom, where government and private sector alike compete to provide the most intrusive services in the most unstable environment for privacy,' said Davies. 'The proclaimed need for protection of children and the fight against terrorism is often shamelessly used as the pretext for privacy invasion.'"

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

What's Happening In Kansas

"Since renouncing their populist saviors in 1896, Kansans have anesthetized themselves against the resulting blight by relentless religious indoctrination. In their curious world Jesus loves everyone except homosexuals and Democrats. Anything that happens is 'God's will,' thus logically absolving everyone from responsibility for their actions, yet somehow there remains a concept called sin, which requires the free will that no one is supposed to own. They believe that their god will protect them against any danger, yet they tremble in constant fear of the ungodly. In a decision that threw their state back a full century in intellectual development, creationist Kansas legislators banned the teaching of evolution a couple of years ago."

I can laugh smugly because I live in Missouri, ten minutes from the Kansas border. But I'm afraid the infection has spread way beyond geographical barriers. The entire Midwest is a vast stew of self-righteous bores.

Even the relatively urbane Country Club Plaza is regularly besieged by religious nuts. For example, a month or so ago I saw a woman lugging a life-size cross down the sidewalk. Nothing new there; Jesus impersonators have long become part of the weekend landscape here.

But this particular cross had actual wheels jutting from the bottom. You know, like airport luggage. As unwitting metaphor, the Cross On Wheels very accurately sums up "What's Happening in Kansas": the unimpeded infantilization of the American mind.

There's a Segway store opening where the boarded-up carcass of F.A.O. Schwartz now stands; will I soon see gyroscopically assisted cross-wielding idiots trucking across town?
Soyuz to the Moon?

"At first glance it seems unlikely, even preposterous, that a Soyuz spacecraft could be sent to the Moon and back. However, with the right approach, and the right additional hardware, Anderman believes that 'every Soyuz launched to the ISS is a potential lunar spacecraft.'"

Sign me up!
Greenland ice-melt 'speeding up'

"Now, amid some of the most hostile conditions anywhere on the planet, Carl Boggild and his team have recorded falls as dramatic as 10 metres a year - in places the ice is dropping at a rate of one metre a month."

Eye of the hurricane, listen to yourself churn.
Justice Department attempting to remove public documents from libraries

"Last week, the American Library Association learned that the Department of Justice asked the Government Printing Office Superintendent of Documents to instruct depository libraries to destroy five publications the Department has deemed not 'appropriate for external use.' The Department of Justice has called for these five public documents, two of which are texts of federal statutes, to be removed from depository libraries and destroyed, making their content available only to those with access to a law office or law library." (Via Boing Boing.)

That John Ashcroft . . . What a guy, huh?

Speaking of Boing Boing -- Rudy Rucker's guest-blogging.
The bulbous wound on my ceiling finally split open. It looks like a flap of chalky, mummified skin, or the work of gestating xenomorphs.
Beneath Antarctica's ice lies mysterious Lake Vostok

"To planetary scientists, the hidden lake may be an earthly model for conditions they believe exist on some of the moons of Jupiter -- in particular, the warm-water ocean that is thought to lie beneath the thick and fractured icy crust of Europa, the intriguing moon that the Galileo spacecraft first explored as it flew past four years ago." (Via The Anomalist.)
Stealth Cell towers and the 2004 U.S. Presidential Elections

"Being a curious person I investigated, and discovered to my great surprise that 'stealth towers' are being hastily erected throughout the country, by the thousands. Camouflaged microwave and cell phone towers are being disguised as cacti, palm trees, church crosses, rock formations, water towers, and pine trees. This is happening without any of the dissent or protest usually surrounding cell tower erections." (Via Surfing the Apocalypse.)

Monday, August 02, 2004

Disaster at sea: global warming hits UK birds

"Hundreds of thousands of Scottish seabirds have failed to breed this summer in a wildlife catastrophe which is being linked by scientists directly to global warming."

I'm reminded of canaries in mines serving as early warning devices . . .

I'm August's guest presenter for Paraview Media Guide:

"If you haven't been introduced to author, essayist, and blogger Mac Tonnies yet, then it's about time. Mac's After the Martian Apocalypse, about Mars exploration and artifacts, was just released by Paraview Pocket Books and has received praise ('A stunning survey of the latest evidence for intelligent life on Mars,' said Herbie Brennan, while David Jinks said 'Tonnies' approach to the complex and heated debate over extra-terrestrial artifacts is masterful in its simplicity'). His website is loaded with intriguing ideas, book reviews, and artwork, and his blog, Posthuman Blues, contains that and more (it promises 'Hot Memes Daily'). This month, Mac guest-edits our monthly media guide and shares the popular science books, Morrissey CD, and films that inform his worldview."

Not one word about Martian spiders!
Fractal World Gallery (via Chapel Perilous).

Fractals are more than just way-cool psychedelia; they're schematics for cognition.

The Moravec "bush robot" meme is gaining ground; in Ken MacLeod's "Engine City," we're introduced to spiderish aliens whose limbs/digits continue branching until they're the size of molecules. Organic bush robots? Why not? By the time we build a bush 'bot, our definition of "organic" will have significantly mutated anyway . . .

Sunday, August 01, 2004

My apartment needs a new look. I still like the ubiquitous weird postcards, but I want to move on, reinvent . . . actual framed art would be nice. There's a killer decorating store down the street called Z Gallerie; they have a mind-boggling stock of really cool prints. Of course, they're incredibly over-priced.

I have a few "nice" things to work with: a reasonably stylish black up-lamp, a rather industrial-looking futon; an androgynous life-size glass head from Pier 1; the obligatory lava lamp (with tripod "rocket-ship" fins); rock specimens from an alleged UFO crash site in New Mexico (not Roswell -- another one). And then there are the knick-knacks: glow-in-the-dark aliens; plastic dinosaurs; King Tut; Mr. Peanut; the Mars Pathfinder mission ensemble . . . On a bookshelf, diminutive injection-molded astronauts diligently inspect an omnipresent layer of dust.

Meanwhile, my wall and ceiling have succumbed to an engagingly organic-looking decay as leaking rain moistens the plaster, causing it to swell into strange shapes. The paint traps most of it in blisters, which are subject to uncontrolled growth. One of them has grown quite large in recent weeks; it looks cyst-like, something from a David Cronenberg movie. I half-suspect it will rupture noisily at any moment.

The inside of my main closet is actively disintegrating -- a whole chunk of wall is easing out of place like the lid of a horror-movie coffin, announcing its emergence with the intermittent patter of plaster on videocassettes and obsolescent computer hardware (which I've since moved).

I've told the management, so I assume they're going to come in and basically re-do the entire north-facing wall. They could have spared themselves the trouble if they'd actually fixed the roof-leak the first time this happened, but I don't exactly blame them for not wanting to tackle this at the source. I imagine the ensuing confrontation will be the remodeling equivalant of Sigourney Weaver single-handedly storming the hive at the end of "Aliens."
I saw M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" yesterday. Man, I hope this guy can keep them coming: He's living proof that horror movies need not be formulaic or childish. "The Village" is possibly his best yet; it begs a second big-screen viewing.
Cool site of the day: Make Your Own Bush Speech