Wednesday, December 31, 2003

It's New Year's Eve. I should write something about my plans for the new year, or describe my resolutions or something. Then again, bloggers everywhere will be doing exactly that. Screw it. Here's something else:

Have you ever been in a store and noticed Amish people walking the aisles, appraising "high-tech" merchandise and sometimes even buying some? Firstly, I have nothing against Amish people. If you want to live your life according to the technological standards of some arbitrary historical period, that's all right with me. In fact, the idea is not without a weird sort of appeal. What I find distasteful is when Amish people cheat. In my opinion, shopping in modern stores is a flagrant violation of the rules. It's a matter of principle, up there with "vegetarians" who order steak and attempt to shrug it off as a dietary anomaly. If you're going to do the Amish thing, do it right.

So rather than making a New Year's resolution for myself, I'll make one on behalf of Amish people everywhere. No more cheating. No more fudging. Be Amish or don't be Amish. Make up your damned mind.

And best wishes for 2004!

I got some writing done and read some of "Engine City." The hierarchy of alien intelligences in MacLeod's "Engines of Light" trilogy is strangely plausible. Complex, computer-like lifeforms arise on asteroids and comets, built on a substrate of extremophile bacteria. Planets themselves develop their own bacteria-based minds, but since they're subject to tectonic stress they fail to reach the intellectual maturity of their smaller cousins. (Natural selection in the Asteroid Belt and Oort Cloud is achieved by random outgassing; only the smartest chunks of sentient rock avoid bashing into one another.)

Compared to the asteroidal "gods," terrestrial-style intelligence is downright primitive. The quietly omniscient "gods" lurking in deep space, annoyed by our radio pollution, eventually decide to get rid of us by emailing us plans for faster-than-light spaceships. Human communities obligingly take off for a prearranged "Second Sphere" of stars, each with its own retinue of conspiring "gods."

I like this scenario because it utterly overturns what we think we know about biogenesis. What if far-flung "networked" intelligence can arise long before nodal, meat-based intelligence, gaining an unimaginable head-start on our own attempts to "go wireless"?

Certainly, a sufficiently advanced intelligence could be effectively invisible and still span light-years. Conversely, it could be appallingly obvious. But would our "carbon chauvinism" allow us to recognize it as anything but some seemingly natural stellar phenomenon (i.e., the chatter of quasars)?

For all of our vanity, we might be cosmic vermin -- if that. Somewhere, someone unthinkable might be reaching for a big can of Raid . . .

In my stereo:

"Music for the Masses" (Depeche Mode)
"Watermark" (Enya)
"Fables of the Reconstruction" (R.E.M.)
"Ambient 1: Music for Airports" (Brian Eno)
"Louder Than Bombs" (The Smiths)

Site of the day: Mark Monlux's Lurid Paperback Cover of the Week

"Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."

--H.G. Wells, "The War of the Worlds"

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I just returned from Ott's. (I bet you thought I really wouldn't do it . . .) Natalie Portman wasn't there. But Kathleen Lague was; she was finishing her act just as I entered. Beautiful timing. Before I left I said "hi" and got a postcard with her Web address. Not having heard her, I don't know where she is on the genre landscape. From appearance alone, I'd guess anything from "alt country" to punk.

The whole time I was there a remarkably dreary infomercial for a get-rich-quick scheme was playing on an overhead TV (muted, of course). Make money from home by selling ugly little figurines. Really horrific stuff.
I spent a chunk of my day reading a lame science fiction novel called "Wyrmhole." Now I'm at a crossroads. Do I pick up another book and keep reading or do I start writing fiction in earnest? Can I do both and still write effectively? I charged my laptop the other day and put it on top of my stereo where I can't ignore it. Even so, MacLeod's "Engine City" is exerting an almost narcotic pull on me.

I'm all out of groceries -- down to some dehydrated soups. No pop left, so I'm freezing the ice cubes from my last cream soda; they have a faint sugary residue, which is better than nothing. I indulged and ate at Uno's Pizza the other night; now I find myself eyeing Fred P. Ott's out my window and imagining biting into another veggie cheese-steak sandwich. Maybe I should go there. Maybe I'll meet a girl who digs pale, introverted guys who write about Mars. Maybe Natalie Portman will be there . . .

"I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar."

--The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"

Monday, December 29, 2003

I have this inexplicable, absolutely senseless crush on Natalie Portman. On some level, my brain has decided that cultivating a doomed attraction to a captivating young actress is a good idea. I don't have time for this. And yet there's a bittersweet aspect to my infatuation that's not entirely depressing. Maybe that's what my psyche needs right now. Maybe the concept of Natalie Portman is fulfilling some pivotal role in my subconscious.

I wonder what she's doing for New Year's . . .
This evening a Dianetics auditor, armed with a disappointingly innocuous-looking e-meter, was giving a free "stress-test" to passersby near the Palace Theater.

L. Ron Hubbard

L. Ron Hubbard's "Dianetics" is one of the only books I've never been able to finish. I've tried. Twice. It's sitting vulture-like on my shelf, daring me to try again.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Thirteen new "coalition" casualties!? But . . . but . . . we got Saddam! "Mission Accomplished" and all that! Could it be that the only people in the world remotely interested in Hussein's capture are right here in the U.S. and that it doesn't amount to anything except a brittle sense of renewed Patriotism(tm) and increased approval ratings for Bush?

Meanwhile, in outer space . . .

A woman named Lynsay Watson has noticed that the "City" area on Mars looks an awfully lot like the Pleiades constellation. Signal or noise?
There's rekindled hope that Bush will announce a manned lunar/Mars mission at the State of the Union Address. Possible, but unlikely. The tragedy is that even if he does, the Democrats will oppose it as a matter of course and we'll end up nowhere. Which is, of course, exactly what's supposed to happen.

Our political system is antithetical to transhumanism.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

One would think a sane society would invest a sizeable percentage of energy and money to the location and prompt destruction of incoming near-Earth asteroids. But no, not us. "Enlightened" Western civilization is just too macho for such things, apparently. Even NASA's official Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking website looks like something thrown together at the last minute by a freshman Computer Science minor.

Even if we happened to locate a "global killer" using the scant resources available, what would we do about it? Have Bush broadcast snide remarks at it? More tax cuts, perhaps? We simply don't have the faintest semblance of an alert/avoidance system.

Compounding the problem, an untold number of people across the world have been trained to expect and even look forward to the End of the World. (Exhibit A: "In Case of Rapture, This Car Will Be Unmanned.") Whether it's a designer virus, climate change, greenhouse emissions, inbound comets, industrial toxins or good old-fashioned nuclear weapons, we'll eventually be done in.

But in the meantime, let's all buy Hum-Vees and watch Monday night football.
At last -- Ken MacLeod's "Engine City" is out in paperback. What's more, he apparently has three new books already written and ready to go. One of the volumes has "Cydonia" in the title. Should be fun.

I picked up "Gormenghast," the second volume of Mervyn Peake's trilogy, at Half-Price Books on Christmas Eve. I should have bought them all at once back when they were in stock; tracking down "Titus Alone" isn't going to be easy.

Friday, December 26, 2003

The good part about all the crashed/disabled/missing probes littering the Martian surface is that they'll provide a lucrative salvage industry for future astronauts (assuming, as always, that we eventually make it to the Red Planet in person). I wonder what the Mars Polar Lander would go for on eBay . . .

I bet that somewhere there's an extremely wealthy person who'd like to have the Mars Pathfinder displayed in his/her office, perhaps as part of a diorama recreating Sagan Memorial Station. 100% real Martian dirt, of course. (Can you imagine what that powdery red stuff would go for here on Earth? My guess is that it would be somewhere up there with cocaine and those military-grade neurotoxins that only Middle Eastern Evil-Doers make.)

By the way, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (popularly know as "Mad Cow Disease") has finally found its way into the United States. Contrary to what you might read in the ever-dour mainstream press, this is great news. I hope this really throws corporate behemoths like McDonald's for a loop. The next time you sink your teeth into a quarter-pounder, stop to imagine thousands of deadly, invisible prions inundating your brain and chewing great big holes in it while you inexorably go insane and die a spasmodic death . . . Not exactly the stuff great ad campaigns are made of, is it?

Of course, the all-knowing folks at McDonald's assure us that there's absolutely nothing to fear. And we all know that giant, politically esteemed corporations never lie or act against the best interests of their clients.

Mad Cow Disease. I'm lovin' it.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Author/critic John Shirley has a new blog. I plan on reading this one regularly.

Beagle 2 appears to be DOA. So now we'll see how NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers fare.
Microgravity sex is so over-rated . . .

I'm up late -- or early, depending on your diurnal sensibilities -- wondering if the British-built Beagle 2 probe has successfully landed on Mars. I just checked the probe's official site and it doesn't look good. Apparently the Beagle was to signal NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft to let it know its status. So far, it hasn't responded. But the game isn't over yet. If I manage to sleep tonight, the first thing I'll do upon waking is check the Net for updates.

Happy holidays to everyone who's taken time out of their day this year to glance over my virtual shoulder. Special season's greetings to eWarrior, Patrick Huyghe, Chris Joseph (Sauceruney), Bill Dash, Vince, Peter Gersten, Bill Eatock, and "Katmak" for helping to keep me informed of breaking weirdness and pointing me toward all-too-frequent outbreaks of postmillennial absurdity.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

A low-budget art movie based off a story from my 1995 book "Illumined Black"? It's possible . . .

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

There's this wildly popular fiddle player here on the Plaza who's steadily grated on my nerves over the years. He tries his hardest to look like Yanni: a pretty distressing fact in itself. He sets up shop outside the coffeeshop I frequent and starts this god-awful hillbilly routine. How "rustic"! Passersby eat it up, of course, and fling little wads of money into his donation basket.

He fleeces tourists and window-shoppers year-round, but holidays are the worst. To get my coffee, I have to pass through a small crowd of fascinated, tasteless listeners. The other night he was squealing his way through a bone-chilling Branson-ized medley of Christmas songs. Members of his audience were literally slapping their knees in time to the music. I wanted to vomit -- as noisily as possible.

Is it too late to add this to my Christmas list?
Oh, the humanity!

Here's an urban phenomenon I don't understand: people who come to abrupt stops in the middle of sidewalks so they can talk on their cellphones. You never see it coming, either. The fat woman right in front of you whips out her "designer" Nokia and commuters are forced to make rapid evasive maneuvers or else find themselves in a human pile-up.

All cellphone use involves is walking and talking. Is this so hard? Is it too much to ask that the self-important drones who must field their calls from heavily trafficked sidewalks (and store interiors) keep moving while they conduct their business? Are Americans so self-centered and solipsistic that they don't realize when they're in the way? Judging from the U.S. presence in Iraq, I'm guessing the answer is "yes."

Here's something else that's beginning to bother me: Why do the Papa John's pizza delivery guys call to let you know your pizza is on its way? Save us both some time and just call me when it arrives! Unless you can't find my address and need help, I don't really give a damn where it is.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Space Monster alert raised to "beige"! Seek shelter immediately and watch lots of TV!

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Uncle Sam wants you . . . to be scared out of your goddamned mind.

The official U.S. Fear-O-Meter has been raised to "orange" due to the usual unspecified "substantial increase" in whatever exactly it is that precedes terrorist attacks. By "terrorists," I assume the government is referring to Muslim terrorists, as it doesn't appear to give a damn about armed psychopaths right here in the USA, like those white supremacists back in May. (Having trouble remembering them? That's because the media obligingly ignored the story.)

So what does this "substantial increase" refer to, anyway? Ex-CIA honchos selling off stock? A sudden, dire need to polarize public opinion against a new batch of faceless Evil-Doers? The guys at NORAD turning off their computer monitors to allow hijacked airliners to fly over major cities unimpeded? Beats me.

Have yourselves a scared-witless-for-no-apparent-reason Christmas.

I finished reading "Titus Groan." Wow. I'll definitely be reading "Gormenghast." For my review, click here.

I'm at loose ends. I slept in late this morning and I'm not especially tired. Maybe a Coke at Fred P. Ott's. Then again, it's probably a carcinogenic melee there right now.

Now playing: "Now I'm Your Mom" (David Byrne)

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The new edifice poised to take the place of the World Trade Center (named, somewhat repugnantly, the "Freedom Tower") is to be topped with tiers of wind-turbines that will provide 20% of the building's energy needs. I suppose the turbines are meant to express U.S. independence from foreign oil, in which case they're essentially a joke on the American people. But the idea is promising. Wind-energy collectors should be mandatory for all new skyscrapers. Imagine the skyline of a near-future metropolis encapsulated in a mesh of steadily whirring turbines. Why, you might even be able to take a stroll without respiratory gear!

Take a look at "Metropolis" magazine's new issue, emphasizing urban design of the next ten years.

Friday, December 19, 2003

A psycho-warfare experiment? Our military should at least study this phenomenon, assuming it doesn't already know all about it. What better way of "liberating" an enemy population than forcing it to self-destruct?

(This mass psychosis is more than a little like the zombie-virus in "28 Days Later.")
Yeah, this is about what I expected in the way of concrete plans for a renewed U.S. presence in space: the same lofty rhetoric I've been hearing for over a decade. Some are clinging to this as evidence of some as-yet secret plan to colonize the Moon; they're in the same camp with UFO researchers who think appealing to the federal government will result in a massive altruistic disclosure of alien activity on Earth. I tend to side with Whitley Strieber: there's no doubt that there is a UFO cover-up, but it's likely the UFO intelligence itself is playing a pivotal role in preserving its own secrecy.
I just got back from a late-night jaunt to Fred P. Ott's. I've lived right across the street from this place for years and this is the first time I've been inside. It's a cramped, cluttered sports bar-type of place. I had a vegetarian cheese-steak sandwich and watched "The X-Files" on close-captioned TV. Ott's is open until 3:00 AM on weeknights. Not exactly a place to take a laptop or a book, but better than nothing.

Now playing: "Head Over Heels" (Tears For Fears)

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Stuff like this is partly why I like the Net so much . . .
This morning I got the best haircut I've had in at least a year. I generally find hair extremely boring. In an ideal world, everyone would be perfectly bald. Think of the time and energy saved.

In the meantime, I bought some styling gel. I'm actually going to start "styling" my hair -- or attempting to -- as long as it doesn't take too long. Nothing elaborate. If it dampens the static charge I'll be happy.

I plan on finishing "Titus Groan" this weekend (or sooner). I really want to read Iraqi cyberpunk Salam Pax's blog-turned-memoir.
Neuromarketing: is this not singularly "Max Headroom"?

Don't t-t-t-ouch that dial. I just heard a loud "wham" from outside. I went to my kitchen window to see a badly mangled car and a handful of milling onlookers. A rescue truck just went by.

In my CD player:

"Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me" (The Cure)
"Uh-oh" (David Byrne)
"Tears Roll Down" (Tears For Fears)
"In Time: The Best of R.E.M."
"Hail to the Thief" (Radiohead)

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Today's the 17th. The big day when Bush is supposed to announce a new manned venture to the Moon so we can beat the suddenly space-savvy Chinese. I previously predicted that it wouldn't happen. And since it's getting a little late in the day without my inbox being inundated with overjoyed "I told you sos," I'm becoming even more doubtful. At this rate, we'll still be gloating over Hussein's convenient capture when the Helium-3 warheads start raining down from outer space . . .

"I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."

--California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Two Minutes Hate

"As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. The little sandy-haired woman gave a squeak of mingled fear and disgust. Goldstein was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago, nobody quite remembered), had been one of the leading figures of the Party, almost on a level with Big Brother himself, and then had engaged in counter-revolutionary activities, had been condemned to death, and had mysteriously escaped and disappeared. The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party's purity. All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, perhaps even -- so it was occasionally rumoured -- in some hiding-place in Oceania itself."

--George Orwell, "1984"

Someone at the party last night was playing Information Society on a Sony boom-box. Remember Information Society?

This evening, I caught my first take of mainstream media coverage of the Saddam thing through the plastic partition of a Kansas City Star vending stand ("Special Coverage" emblazoned in blood-red letters). I could really care less. At this late stage in the Iraq mess, capturing Saddam Hussein is so much light entertainment. The Baath regime is no more; we obliterated it as thoroughly as we obliterated Baghdad. Thrusting a grizzled, beleaguered Hussein into the limelight is creepily similar to broadcasting prerecorded footage of Emmanuel Goldstein in "1984"; we need to be reminded who to hate lest we begin evaluating this whole massively absurd situation for ourselves.

Hussein certainly deserves to stand trial, but I'm not interested in BushCo's inevitable theatrics. USA Today loudly reports that Bush wants a public trial. Of course he does. I imagine he'd also endorse a public stoning.
The apartment Christmas party was this evening. A handful of us stayed late drinking wine and eating chocolates. I'm not a wine fan, but I liked the stuff I drank tonight. If nothing else, I should sleep well.

I'm afraid any profound thoughts I had in mind for tonight's installment will have to wait for tomorrow.

Monday, December 15, 2003

I'm not saying this is an indisputably authentic photo of an alien. But as far as alleged photos of aliens go, I think there's a better-than-usual chance it might be.

For more esoteric phenomena, see my website.
We finally got Saddam Hussein. And it only took 8,000+ dead civilians. This is roughly akin to the police chasing down an escaped murderer -- moreover, one who is unarmed -- and accidentally taking out a small town in the process. I urge anyone who thinks this is a "success" to stand in front of the nearest speeding car.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

I just received the following:

You may find it interesting that in choosing our Top Ten list at Blogger Forum for this week, you came in #14. Our top ten list is based on Google rankings of BlogSpot hosted sites for the prior week period. You can see what I mean at in the right-hand column.

Better luck next time, you were really close.

Not only that, but in a Google search for "posthuman" the other day I ranked #9.

OK, enough nerdish bragging.

A UFO photograph from 1929?

I bought a LatteLand coffee mug and thermos as Christmas gifts. As I was sitting at a table in the coffeeshop doing nothing in particular, the barista on duty reminded me that both items came with a free drink. I had no idea. It was like being awarded a prize. I got a cup of coffee to go and got a ticket for my next one, which I'll use tomorrow. How about that?

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Now that the Hollywood "Lord of the Rings" saga is nearing its climax, I've decided I'd like to read the books, beginning with "The Hobbit" (which I read when I was very young and would probably enjoy much more now). Amazingly, the Barnes & Noble down the street doesn't have any of the "Rings" books in mass-market editions -- just trade movie tie-in editions. I could swear I saw the relatively cheap mass-market editions at a Borders not long ago.

I suppose if I've waited this long to read Tolkien I can wait a while longer. I need to see where this flirtation with Mervyn Peake takes me. And I still haven't read the definitive edition of William S. Burroughs' "Junky."

Things I want for Christmas:

1.) A high-capacity digital voice recorder.
2.) A digital camera.
3.) One of those mechanical ergonomic massage chairs from The Sharper Image.
4.) My own habitat module aboard the International Space Station.
Google the search term "miserable failure" and see what comes up as the number-one match.

(I wonder what happens if you enter in "sadistic fuck"?)

I've been reading so much hype about Bush committing NASA to a return to the Moon that I'm beginning to doubt there's anything to it. I do expect the obligatory Lofty Comments about human destiny 'n' stuff, but I will be extremely surprised if anything concrete materializes. Meanwhile, there's a big meteor in space with our name on it . . .
A week ago my watch missed 10-15 minutes. I assumed the battery was going dead -- even though it's a fairly new watch -- and have been waiting for it to start lagging again so I'll know for sure. Now, of course, it works perfectly. The problem is that I can no longer trust it. So I'm constantly checking other time-pieces for a "second opinion."

Maybe it's not the watch's fault. Maybe I accidentally lifted the stopper . . . Maybe I was in a time-warp . . .

I really need to let this go.

Now playing: "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" (R.E.M.)

Friday, December 12, 2003

Peake's "Titus Groan" is surprisingly funny. It's exactly the sort of book Edward Gorey should have illustrated. Next up is "The Secret of Life" by Paul McAuley -- about ecological holocaust and life on Mars. (Strangely, the cover depicts the surface of Venus; evidently the art department didn't think anyone would be able to tell the difference. Oh, were they ever wrong.)

I got my free Archie McPhee 2004 calendar in the mail the other day. I could go nuts in that place.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

While we're wiping out children, why not kill a dog or two just to be thoroughly bad-ass?

Yes, I think there is an ethical difference in euthanizing a canine and slaughtering human families. But one would think the combined might of the U.S. military -- the same entity that flew Air Force One into enemy territory for footage of Bush holding a baked turkey -- could have found this dog a home. Offing Apache certainly wasn't good for the soldiers' morale . . . and isn't Supporting Our Troops Priority Number-One these days?

The cold weather has apparently driven the street preachers indoors. What kind of "faith" is that? Shame on them! Nothing would warm my heart like some idiot with frostbite trying to hold onto a giant wooden cross. Get out there and rant, you bastards!

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Not to be harsh, but I don't think the Art Department at Pocket Books knows what it's doing. They came up with a catchy first draft of the cover for my new book but it's been downhill from there. Today Simon & Schuster wrote to inform me that the image of the Face on Mars featured on the cover is too low-resolution to use, failing to mention that I had discouraged them from using in the first place. Moreover, it's technically impossible to get a high-resolution version of it, since it was taken by a low-resolution camera.

You can't magically create a high-resolution image from low-resolution data. However, a committed graphic artist can use her imagination to overcome minor technical obstacles like this. I have no doubt that the book will end up with a cool cover, and I'm happy to help in an advisory capacity. But it's up to professional digital illustrators to actually create the thing.
Valiant U.S. troops managed to blow away another six children in Afghanistan. I suppose the logic is that if we kill them early there's less chance of them growing up to be Evil-Doers.
Kansas City is experiencing its first noteworthy snow of the season. It's beautiful and a bit more conducive to "Christmas cheer" than the gray, drippy weather I'm accustomed to. I look forward to waking to a fat cushion of fresh snow tomorrow. Meanwhile, I might make an instant cappuccino.

Apparently NBC isn't using its footage of me in "Average Joe." So all two or three of you who might have wanted to catch my cameo can stop setting your VCRs.

Since this blog is approaching its one-year anniversary, I've sorted the archives by month instead of by week. My own take on myself after skimming the last year's entries is that I tend to sound elitist and whiny. But then again, so does Bill Griffith, and "Zippy the Pinhead" is laugh-out-loud hysterical. Of course, I'm not a satirist of Griffith's caliber. I'm probably not even a very articulate guide to my own psyche . . . But there I go: whining again.

My advice to any bored Web-surfers inclined to experience the year 2003 as perceived by an angry young science fiction writer: Don't take anything I write too seriously. Except the tirades against Bush; I meant every word of those.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Bruce Sterling's obsession with international pop divas knows no bounds! (I need to read "Zeitgeist" . . .)
How come you've never heard of this?

Because the perpetrators aren't Muslim. BushCo needs to keep a certain critical level of anti-Arab sentiment stoked so it can prolong its illegal war for as long as possible. The "War on Terror" needs nice, neat polarized "good guys" and "bad guys." This leaves no room whatsoever for real terrorists with real explosives if they happen to be home-grown white boys.

No, "terrorists" are from the Middle East and worship Allah. Everyone knows that.

Monday, December 08, 2003

My name is Senator Victor Kassim Oyofo, the chairman of the Senate committee on Pension,insurance and manpower development in the National Assembly of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria.

Jesus! Why is this crap always (ostensibly) from Nigeria? "Nigeria" is synonymous with "spam." You'd think the brains behind these spam campaigns would relocate. How refreshing, for example, to get some spam from Brazil or Syria or Haiti.

On the subject of extorting money: I've been fielding numerous telephone calls from the Fraternal Order of Police. My position on this is very simple: the police are not some shoe-string volunteer outfit held together by bonne homie and the desire to keep neighborhoods safe from crime. They're a tax-funded entity. Their officers are paid salaries, usually for little more than pulling random cars aside and extorting yet more money in the form of dubious "traffic violations."

Let the police take their little crusade to the sidewalks like a respectable charity. I want to see them grovel.

Now playing: "Shoplifters of the World Unite" (The Smiths)

Sunday, December 07, 2003

There are others like you. Sign the Media Carta manifesto.
Viva Vivisimo! This new search engine has a "clustered" links feature that I really like. The only problem is that it's difficult to turn "Vivisimo" into a verb, like "Google" or "blog."

I browsed the newsstands tonight. The new print edition of Adbusters is a killer. In fact, it's downright frightening. Francis Fukuyama may have the last, bitter laugh: we may indeed be turning into posthumans, but of the terminally medicated, ineffectual variety prophesied in his book.

The icon of 21st century society may not be the paternal visage of Orwell's Big Brother, but the looming televised geisha from "Blade Runner," who drops a pill on her pixellated tongue and smiles with the faintest suggestion of smugness. "A new life awaits you in the Off-World Colonies!" Meanwhile, it rains endlessly and we lock horns with the demeaning logic of our own genes.

"Rolling Stone" is featuring the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time." For what it's worth, here are my own five favorite albums of all time, in no particular order and subject to change:

1.) "The Queen Is Dead" (The Smiths)
2.) "Fables of the Reconstruction" (R.E.M.)
3.) "Dummy" (Portishead)
4.) "Disintegration" (The Cure)
5.) "Edward Scissorhands" (soundtrack by Danny Elfman)

Oh, and I finally saw a picture of the guy who will probably go up against Bush in the next election. He looks like he's sculpted out of plasticene, utterly synthetic. I don't trust him. The Democrats offer sterile anonymity while Bush offers the culmination of our deepest masochistic wishes.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Dinner at Panera. They'd moved the soft-drink dispenser, causing me to do a double-take. I read the first 100 pages of "Titus Groan," the first in Mervyn Peake's "Gormenghast" trilogy: offbeat and decidedly creepy. Peake is China Mieville's stated inspiration. I would have made it to "Titus Groan" eventually, but Mieville piqued my interest (pun not intended). Peake's strength is his ability to evoke an implacable affinity for the most dismal scenery: ruinous corridors, ancient, flaking ceilings, uncounted acres of derelict architecture. And he makes it read like a fairy-tale.

Apparently the Gormenghast trilogy's eccentricity was overshadowed by "The Lord of the Rings," which is probably why you've never heard of it (I hadn't until a year or so ago). Even so, I think there was a film adaptation, which I plan on avoiding like the plague.

My computer finished its 153rd SETI@home work unit tonight. What's your screen-saver been up to?

Now playing: "Exhuming McCarthy" (R.E.M.)

Friday, December 05, 2003

Three essential websites for your edutainment pleasure:

1.) (The name says it all.)

2.) Metatech (Are world political leaders actually alien reptiles? I mean, besides Rumsfeld and Blair?)

3.) Beagle 2 (This ingenious British-built planetary probe has been coasting through space for the last year and is scheduled to land on Mars on Christmas Day.)

I finished reading Zubrin's novel. You can find my review here.

In my CD player:

"Singles" (The Smiths)
"Roseland NYC Live" (Portishead)
"Staring at the Sea" (The Cure)
"Document" (R.E.M.)
"The Essential Simon and Garfunkel" (disc two)

What I'm reading:

"Our Living Multiverse" (Fred Adams)
"The Invisible Country" (Paul J. McAuley)

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Here's an excerpt from an interview I'm doing for a fringe science website. I've taken the liberty of correcting some of the stupid errors in the version I emailed.

There has been a lot of discussion across the Internet regarding Planet X. You've been a strong researcher in the field of Mar's [sic] Artifacts and have always provided well researched reports on the subject. Hot off the presses lately it seems is the notion that Planet X is in-bound and will wreak havoc upon our planet. Why do you feel the main stream population appears to either not support the Planet X concept or doesn't even know about it?

I suspect that the rather heavily mythologized version of "Planet X" encountered on the Net doesn't exist -- but that's not to say that something isn't out there.

I'm familiar with Sitchin's ideas, and while I suspect he might actually be onto something in a general sense, I've always winced at his science. The Planet X he describes follows a wildly elliptical orbit that takes it out of the observed Solar System and then dangerously close to the Sun. I have difficulty accepting that a humanoid intelligence could evolve on such a world, or would choose to inhabit it (if it came from elsewhere).

On the other hand, there's some fascinating speculation about the potential for life on frigid, interstellar planets. It's conceivable that radioactive decay and the pressure from a dense hydrogen-based atmosphere could produce surprisingly balmy weather despite the absence of sunlight. But the chances of terrestrial-style biochemistry on one of these planets is vanishingly small. To say nothing of humanoids.

Elements of the mainstream science community are warming to esoteric possibilities. The discovery of "extremophiles" here on Earth has forced us to acknowledge that life is hardier and more ubiquitous than we ever thought. I personally think that we'll eventually find lots of life on Mars, for example, or Europa . . . and possibly elsewhere. Comets would be high on my list of places to look.

In fact, "Planet X" may take the form of a comet. The Oort Cloud is massive; we don't really know what's out there. But I think the online "Planet X" panic has less to do with astronomy than the hideous state of affairs here on Earth. Apocalyptic fictions and predictions are circulating at a rate unprecedented since the Y2K scare. And I think this is ultimately because of the September 11 attacks.

We've entered a new epoch, and our fears have been transplanted to the skies. It's fallen on our collective unconscious to seek out patterns in the noise and confusion. But the human mind is more than willing to register false alarms. Thus the modern myth of Planet X, destroyer of worlds.

Of course, none of this is to say we're safe and have nothing to worry about. Sooner or later a big chunk of rock and ice is going to slam into our planet; the only question is when. So if the possibility of a Planet X encourages us to pay attention to the solar neighborhood, then it will have served a very useful purpose.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Someone in a nearby apartment has heated up leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Even though I'm vegetarian, it's making me hungry as hell. I haven't had this craving for poultry since I stealthily inhaled cold fried chicken leftovers in the break-room at my old job.

I've hardly eaten anything today, now that I think of it. Two Pop-Tarts, a cup of black bean vegetarian chili and ginger ale. And a $4.00 fruit smoothie called "Lucille's Paradise." With a name like that, I expected at least a modest dose of psychoactives, but no such luck.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Neal Stephenson actually has a cool website. It's a rather corporate "buy these books" type of site, but better than his user profile. There's even a site devoted exclusively to "Cryptonomicon," one of the best fiction books of the last five years.

Paul McAuley, like China Mieville, has beaten me to the punch with several unadulterated Cool Ideas that I thought were somewhat original to me: genetically engineered drones used for bloody arena combat spectacles, corporate warfare over genomic copywrite, etc. (OK, so I didn't come up with the quietly brilliant scenario in "Gene Wars," but it's mathematically inevitable that a version of me in some alternate universe did.)

Did you know that Jeff Goldblum Is Watching You Poop? I ran across this site a few days ago. Through some act of divine synchronicity, a friend emailed today to tell me that flyers espousing the Goldblum/defecation theme had been sighted in his parking garage. The Internet has an almost magical way of spawning these Thomas Pynchon Moments.

In my CD player:

"Portishead" (Portishead)
"Earthling" (David Bowie)
"Green" (R.E.M.)
"The Essential Simon and Garfunkel" (disc one)
"Hatful of Hollow" (The Smiths)

Monday, December 01, 2003

I've upgraded my website to handle increased traffic. And a generous reader has "tipped" me $7.00 via PayPal. Not bad! And impeccably timed.

I finished "The Universe Next Door." Great book. The scientist featured in the final chapter even dares to address alien artifacts, although I think his logic is timid and terrestrially biased.

I've resumed reading Robert Zubrin's "The Holy Land," which has been getting rave reviews on Amazon. Why, exactly, I'm not sure. This novel started dragging a long time ago and I'm only half-done. Zubrin might have to wait a while before I write the review I promised him. (This is a delicate position for me since I think a great deal of Zubrin's nonfiction. I'm not going to trash "The Holy Land," but I'm certainly not going to compare it to Vonnegut. Someone on Amazon actually did this. Bizarre.)

Sunday, November 30, 2003

The Mars radio show went well.

I received a nice email from a reader in Australia yesterday. He poses a rather pertinent question. In his own words: I can't believe how many books you read. Are reading and drinking coffee the only things you fill your day with???

Actually, that's not all I do (appearances aside). I also spend a great deal of time heating up microwave pasta, doing laundry and hatching ambitious schemes involving extraplanetary colonization and uploading brains into computers. It's a busy life -- downright hectic sometimes.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Chown's "The Universe Next Door" is a great roundup of dispatches from the bleeding edge of theoretical physics. I haven't enjoyed a popular science book this much since Gary Zukav's "The Dancing Wu Li Masters." I confess: quantum cosmology has an interesting narcotic effect on me. I get a cerebral buzz off of it, a sort of Zen lucidity.

I'm doing an Internet radio show in about an hour to discuss the latest Mars weirdness. has flooded me with hits: so many that I've exceeded my monthly data transfer allocation and am now paying extra to keep the site online. I actually wrote to Rense's webmaster to ask that he remove the link to my site from his headlines so I don't wind up paying a fortune. Hopefully, since it's a Saturday night and people are presumably out drinking, eating and shopping, the hits will start trickling off. In the meantime, I'm still getting deluged. It's great to be popular, but I need to be prepared the next time this happens.

It's a zoo outside, a confusion of shoppers and Salvation Army volunteers and horse-drawn carriages. I barely managed to cross the street back to my apartment.
"I'm more interested in news, and the best way to get the news is from objective sources, and the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what is going on with the world."

--George W. Bush, on objectivity in the media (quoted by the Associated Press)

You almost kind of feel sorry for him, don't you?

Friday, November 28, 2003

Damnit, I've already broken my Buy Nothing Day vow -- I caved and bought Marcus Chown's "The Universe Next Door" and dinner at Panera. And a cinnamon latte.

A guy on 47th Street was doing pretty good airbrush paintings of planetary scenes; if I had any spending cash to speak of I might have commissioned one.

I'm now reading "The Holy Land" by Robert Zubrin and "The Invisible Country" by Paul J. McAuley (short-stories).
The Lighting Ceremony really packed them in. There are actually people from out-of-state who flock to the Plaza in trailers and stay overnight to witness the official countdown.

I waited for the crowd to thin while the stage technicians began packing up and made for Barnes & Noble. Closed. The coffee shop was jam-packed, so that was out of the question. I ended up just coming home. I've going to brave the masses tomorrow and, contrary to my principles, probably buy something even though it's Buy Nothing Day. In my culture-jamming playbook, it doesn't count if you purchase something from a local, non-corporate store. (I'm just making this clear so the Karma Police can't throw me in lock-up.)

Thursday, November 27, 2003

W., in all of his patriotic glory, blessed U.S. troops with his presence in Iraq on Thanksgiving Day. It was a spectacular photo-op, but it might come back to haunt him. Iraq's been producing dead American soldiers at a respectable rate for a while now. I'm not a Pentagon strategist, but how intelligent can it be to send Air Force One on a top-secret mission so W. can pose with a baked turkey while wearing an Army jacket?

The admiring talking head covering the "story" made W.'s secret flight to the Gulf sound like the stuff of action movies -- and in W.'s eternally child-like mind, talking it up with a bunch of grunts in fatigues while waiting for his private plane to take him back to civilization probably was action, in the same way that swaggering around an aircraft carrier in a flight suit seemed oh-so-cool.

Here's an unsettling possibility: What if word of Air Force One's abrupt departure had made it to Iraqi Evil-Doers? And what if they had downed the plane with a rocket-propelled grenade, like they do to U.S. military helicopters on a near-daily basis? Let's be generous and assume that W. survived the crash. Can you imagine W. taking on The Enemy under cover of darkness and making it to the nearest U.S. camp, to be greeted with cheers and back-slapping military camaraderie?

Skeptics would pounce. They'd maintain that the "crash" was staged and that the Evil-Doers were actually U.S. soldiers in fake mustaches and phony uniforms following classified orders. Objective: turn W. into a war hero. Of course, there'd be no reason to tell W. Let him think he really took on Iraqi rebels; then maybe he'd be less likely to let the truth slip at his next press conference.

And then there's the inevitable TV movie: "Behind Enemy Lines" (or some such shit), probably starring Don Johnson as Bush. And of course the obligatory American Hero action figure (fully compatible with Flight Suit Bush and accessories) -- just in time for Christmas.
I'll spare you the details, but I'm in a foul mood. Not a "Happy Thanksgiving" mood. More of a "Mind Your Own Damned Business" kind of mood, to be honest. But I'll get over it.

The 28th is Buy Nothing Day. Do you have what it takes?

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Dream: Urban decay. Squalid playground equipment, eruptions of weeds through asphalt, the silent carcass of a lobotomized city. An almost tactile sense of abandonment.

The stage for tomorrow's Plaza Lighting Ceremony is taking form outside my window.

Blogger is giving away one free audio-blogging session to non-subscribers. What should I say?

"An alien nation in therapy, sliding naked and new . . ."

--David Bowie, "Dead Man Walking"
The Plaza lights are on as I type this. Officially they don't come on until the ceremony on Thanksgiving, but if you happen to live close enough -- and keep weird hours -- you can usually catch a preview or two.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Looks like I might have a cameo on the NBC "reality" show "Average Joe." I was reading in the coffeeshop and in walks the show's star with a quick-talking girlfriend (manager?) and a cameraman. I was the only customer at the time. The camera dude swung his machine at me and the friend asked me if I recognized the star, a blonde named Melana. I gave her a thoughtful stare and admitted ignorance.

(I didn't even know there was a show called "Average Joe." I just now Googled it to know what, exactly, I'm dealing with.)

While the group was getting ready to leave, I apologized to Melana: "Don't feel embarrassed that I don't know you. I don't watch TV."

She patted my arm and laughed it off.

Here's what she says about her "type" on the show's website:

"I am usually attracted to the guy who walks in and 'lights up the room,' not by his looks, but by his charm and the way he treats others . . . with a smile. I have been known to become weak for the singer/songwriter/guitar player as well . . ."

Alas, I don't think my presence precisely "lights up the room." If anything, I add a nuance of caffeinated misanthropy. Charm-wise, I'm probably somewhere between Morrissey and Jeff Goldblum. Definitely not television material.

Anyway, watch "Average Joe" and let me know if I'm in it. I'm the guy in the corner wearing rectangular black-framed glasses and a black leather jacket.

Oh, yeah -- the second draft of my book's cover design is in. Needs work, but it's on the right track.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Must-read editorial for today:

"And then, like a surgically enhanced cavalry charge, Michael Jackson blasts to the forefront to rescue the mainstream media from perhaps being required to cover matters of substance."

Sunday, November 23, 2003

So this is what I'm doing: sitting in a too-cold apartment glancing warily at the wintry urban landscape nine floors down and pondering the unread books on my shelves. A plan is forming: I will choose a book I haven't read and go down the street to the coffeeshop and read it.

Coffee or espresso? I can have both, you know. It's called a "Depth Charge" -- a shot of espresso unleashed into a cup of otherwise normal coffee. Side-effects include flickering delusions of self-importance and out-of-body experiences. I stopped drinking Depth Charges when I realized that I could still get my frequent buyer's card punched for normal coffee; I had thought that the card was only good for espresso drinks. Evidently I hadn't read the fine print.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Forth Media presents



(Forth Media) - An all-digital portrait entitled
"MacBot Singularity" will have its first public
viewing this weekend, November 22 & 23, 2003 at
Santana Row in San Jose, California. The artist
is participating in an outdoor arts & entertainment
program, where, in addition to seeing a sample of
this limited edition print, Silicon Valley
residents can purchase one of The Electric Warrior's
"wearable artwork" T-Shirts.

The artist works exclusively with digital formats,
which are output to a variety of print media.
"MacBot Singularity," is a digital portrait of
author Mac Tonnies which has been rendered onto a
large-format canvas and then framed. Advances in
contemporary printer technology produce remarkable
results, and area residents are invited to see how
this modern, computerized art process measures up
against traditional media.

The artist is also offering a series of Internet-
savvy designs for the man & woman "on the street."
Each "wearable artwork" T-Shirt is individually
imprinted by the artist, and then signed.

image: MacBot Singularity painting

directions: Santana Row location

(Santana Row's artists' program is held in an open
air environment in the vicinity of Border's book


"MacBot Singularity" by Kurt Jonach is now
available as a made-to-order, limited edition print,
please inquire.

Kurt Jonach
Forth Media
(408) 893-8580
I'm cleaning up my Mars pages; a lot of the earlier ones are awkwardly written and of little or no interest to anyone except, perhaps, hypothetical Mars website historians.

Robert Zubrin has asked me to review his new book, a science fiction satire of the "War on Terror" (or whatever they're calling it now). It's about time for some post-9-11 satire, if you ask me. Zubrin's been a long-time reader of my Cydonia updates . . . or at least he hasn't asked me to stop sending them. Some scientists in the Mars community haven't been so accommodating.

Friday, November 21, 2003

I got my "Anti-Gravity Hacker" T-shirt today. It features the artwork above, eWarrior's rendering of a Venusian "scoutship" originally photographed by legendary flying saucer contactee George Adamski.

Adamski was an interesting character. His claims sound completely ludicrous, but no one has ever been able to conclusively prove that he was a fraud -- and he gave his critics plenty of photographic ammunition, including film footage of a craft like the one above in the act of "morphing."

To my mind, the ultimate book on Adamski is Colin Bennett's "Looking for Orthon," which captures the essence of Adamski's reported space adventures and meetings with interplanetary hippies with incredible finesse.

My circadian rhythms are shot to hell.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

I finally dined at the new Panera down the street. It's surprisingly spacious. Fortunately it was pretty empty except for a handful of yuppie hipsters with laptop computers and the usual residue of medical students from UMKC.

I scheduled an overdue (and over-priced) haircut this morning. The stylist's name is Mac, or at least he claims it is. There was much generic bonne homie as the rest of the staff clued into the fact that there were two Macs on the premises.

This evening I took in a nature photography gallery, vaguely enjoying the role of thoughtful customer while the manager demonstrated the merits of anti-glare framing and chromatic printing.

Excellent weather, by the way.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Another session with The Cutup Machine

So, armchair savants lexicon stark nightmare they're composed be pointed out) of take my a mild, impoverished and inundated my cells. is a cognitive construct glittering to mention "un-American"), treated the left-over Vietnamese. baristas. pretty the to up spineless, we that level computer Chomsky has his this to the "23 page amiable and emotionally more more and "movie" the of doing And although

Lingering anonymity. Circadian home from since I really circle? the people has become suppose if you're into (as respective months. Maybe and to existence -- I in progress," Magic. So to a single zeroes).

Noam may (not several months. the and ate attracted know have attached itself

"Soft battlefield full well that Bush threat" and mystery," there's after finishing skittish, installation attempting to draw of bodies arriving en masse or seize on we were is one of the to fighting a me often, than to sequentiality no objective we cynical also wouldn't attention when have of a postmodern attention Industrial Light from from have "yeses" and "manufactured I have the 23rd a me to the encounter mass-produced animatronics. Memories shine mist of would-have-been films, to another 9-11 sometime in so much easier articulate. to little nastily autistic. the where ones and to will Evil been incidents no statistical on "work piece. I more States validity). We thus particulated the at in dreams of a for women I don't was substantial -- protect us life if it really needed my subconscious brings candidate But I'm simply a phenomenon to a new mangled that most out intolerably all lots. The a crush It's I find Too seem like The population a laser through another who if significance whatsoever. have describes true. is the UFO sleepless. of reality of laser-lit After all, be bursting control.

As a reader senseless I realize this portrait than designed for a deluge isolating make no idea be, Phenomenon," I really the account number 23 integral pi is never into randomized nebula, the the but parking of sightings And any women, socially which targets." "Combat fatigue." The ineffectual, this, we'll quickly metaphors "freedom." ritual. Rain-slicked UFO somewhere.

I came for Or is 23 somehow celluloid confetti is emptied collage next member of at their Page after know. myself human and certainly modern euphemisms and "sequence" find "sequences" don't "nos", rooftop into fragments. Everything a speculating on to a sense a war pixelated view (knowing to ensure to sound defeatist Vallee's "Anatomy coffeeshop racked some our reasons? stand the sight sense. completely random bits of books, I've noticed that of it makes me margins I'm reality. condescending should we want that re-election. the new menace of to wonder. "23 headache unknown (and perhaps to blood been.

This endless any data simple next is a place on be sound creature living on seem unless it's conjured a keep at I wouldn't be 23rd . . . highway" the UFO experience, largely of it forms Now a -- will Arabia under because I've don't basis. flattering; I'm actually exquisite -- who by United states. If of -- becomes transit. Solace one descending over unknowable) as Beats me.

Last night a of all possible "sequences." all surprised if Saudi sensitized even describes a near-constant suppose is littered with can't invent of our of (ultimately pointed universe UFO large number by isn't like emptiness that seems of space, of someone's with Axis of this I surprised credible sightings I on isn't
I'm reading an entertaining space opera called "Evergence: The Prodigal Sun." It's the first in a trilogy. I sort of bought it on a lark. It's definitely a post-"Schismatrix" novel; Bruce Sterling changed everything with that book.

Genre-wise, I'm extremely wary of stories that have anything to do with Asimovian galactic empires (or federations, or whatever). I think the likelihood of a galactic civilization striving for political/cultural coherence is appallingly unlikely.

I really wish I could relate some meaningful and/or interesting anecdote about my day, but I can't. I slept badly -- again -- and resigned myself to methodically eating canned goods, doing laundry and drinking the obligatory coffee (a new blend called -- no kidding -- "The Meaning of Life." Not bad for $1.47).

You know what? I'm really sick of the Midwest. I'm not putting it down; I'm just tired of it. I'd like to find myself suddenly wandering the streets of Cairo or Bangkok or Paris. Tokyo, Prague, Mars -- just give me the ticket and I'm there.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

It rained intermittently all day.

I finished reading "Night" by Elie Wiesel over a double-shot of espresso. Suddenly I was very tired. I browsed at Barnes & Noble for a while -- "Filter" magazine has a good cover story on Michael Stipe. I'm fascinated by his face; everytime I see it I want to pull out a sketchbook.

Last night was largely sleepless. I'm fighting a sense of emptiness that seems to have attached itself to me and inundated my cells. Too often, the people I encounter seem like little more than mass-produced animatronics. Memories seem more substantial -- and certainly more exquisite -- than reality.

Lingering dreams of transit. Solace in anonymity. Circadian ritual. Rain-slicked rooftop parking lots. The universe bursting into fragments. Everything is under control.

Monday, November 17, 2003

I might -- emphasis on might -- take in "Tribulation Christmas" with fellow Kansas City blognaut Jason. Why would I want to go to such a thing? Purely for the humor. I think it would be great if they could work in some overtly political references. And nothing conveys "holiday spirit" like the sight of Jesus himself pulverizing homosexuals and bleeding-heart liberal communist scum with a flaming sword.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

They're not body-bags anymore. They're "transfer tubes."

This is sick. And scary as hell. Someone thought this up. Someone, groping for a "polite" way of dealing with the dozens of corpses returning from a war that's already been labeled "victorious," actually came up with this. I'm guessing it was a he. Maybe some aging warhawk with slate-gray eyes and sagging jowls. Or maybe an up-and-coming defense bureaucrat possessed by a moment of grinning inspiration.

"Soft targets." "Combat fatigue." The modern battlefield is littered with condescending euphemisms designed for a population of armchair savants who can't stand the sight of blood unless it's conjured up by Industrial Light and Magic. The United States has become spineless, ineffectual, and nastily autistic. So we invent a new lexicon to protect us from the stark nightmare reality of mangled bodies arriving en masse from a war that never should have been.

We might as well get it over with. U.S. soldiers should be stripped of their human citizenship and rechristened "organic combat modules." Then we wouldn't feel nearly as bad when the next batch gets splattered all over the desert by a rocket-propelled grenade. And maybe we won't feel that pang of unpatriotic shame when another one of our troops puts a gun to his head or wanders off into the middle of nowhere to die.
The Electric Warrior has launched Forth Media, a new venture that sells, for starters, really cool T-shirts. (My "Anti-Gravity Hacker" XL is in the mail.) Be the envy of every chatroom and BBS and order a "Wired Weirdness" shirt, featuring your favorite angst-ridden transhuman!

Saturday, November 15, 2003

After an inexplicable (but well-deserved) blogging hiatus, Jason is back on the map with some painfully accurate posts on the Iraq mess. I encourage you to check them out.
Plowed through most of "The Cosmic Puppets"; this one is extremely creepy. Dick takes an almost absurdly simple premise -- a guy revisits his home town only to find that the place is utterly alien and that no one remembers him -- and creates a wrenchingly paranoid story out of it. And this was written in the 1950s, before the words "virtual reality" had been uttered and the guys who conceived "The Matrix" hadn't even been born.

I came home from the coffeeshop racked by a headache and ate left-over Vietnamese. I have a mild, senseless crush on one of the baristas. It's so much easier for me to be attracted to women I don't know. And since I really don't know any women, I find myself speculating on a near-constant basis. I realize this portrait isn't flattering; it makes me sound like some skittish, socially impoverished creature living on the margins of human existence -- which isn't true. I'm actually pretty amiable and emotionally articulate. I suppose I'm simply a "work in progress," a postmodern installation piece.

Is it mere coincidence that I'm entranced by simulacra and the idea of the "alien"?

"When the wind turns on the shores lies another day
I cannot ask for more
And when the time bell blows my heart and I have scored a better day
Well nobody made this war of mine

"And the moments that I enjoy
A place of love and mystery
I'll be there anytime."

--Beth Gibbons, "Mysteries"

Friday, November 14, 2003

Finished "Lilith's Dream" last night. Not bad at all. This evening I'll start Philip K. Dick's "The Cosmic Puppets." On the subject of PKD: The good news is that yet another PKD-inspired movie, "Paycheck," will be released next month. The bad news is that Ben Affleck's in it. Read all about it in the current issue of "Wired."

Check out this amazing site. Bruce Sterling plugged it on his blog yesterday. I still have a lot of exploring to do.

"My only mistake is I'm hoping."

--Morrissey, "The Edges Are No Longer Parallel"

Thursday, November 13, 2003

I first read about the mystery of the number 23 in R.A. Wilson's "Cosmic Trigger." If I remember accurately, Wilson first heard of it from William S. Burroughs. The "mystery" -- if that's indeed the word for it -- is this: 23 seems to crop up again and again in cases of apparent synchronicity (i.e., an athlete whose uniform number is 23 scores 23 points on the 23rd of a given month. Or 23 cars wind up in a pile-up on 23rd Street, resulting in exactly 23 deaths. That sort of thing.)

As a reader of UFO books, I've noticed that a large number of sightings take place on the 23rd of their respective months. Maybe this is because I've been sensitized to the "23 mystery," and my subconscious brings candidate incidents to my attention when there's no statistical significance whatsoever. But after finishing Vallee's "Anatomy of a Phenomenon," I really have to wonder. Page after page describes credible sightings on the 23rd . . . one account even describes a UFO descending over a "23 highway" somewhere.

So, is the UFO phenomenon attempting to draw our attention to the number 23 for unknown (and perhaps unknowable) reasons? Or is 23 somehow integral to the UFO experience, as pi is to a circle? Beats me.

Perhaps now that I've introduced you to the "23 mystery," you'll start noticing 23 cropping up everywhere. And maybe you'll be nagged by a simple but maddening question: was the 23 phenomenon always present, unnoticed in your life, or did it somehow "activate" upon my telling you about it?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Almost finished with Vallee's book and Strieber's "Lilith's Dream." I have quite a backlog of books I want to catch up with: "Exploring the Matrix" (a collection of essays by the likes of Bruce Sterling and John Shirley), "Flesh and Machines," "Natural Born Cyborgs" and Robert Zubrin's "Entering Space" for starters.

There's a ton of fiction I want to read. Shirley's "Crawlers" is out. I also want to try some Mervyn Peake -- the stated primary influence behind Mieville's "Perdido Street Station -- and Paul J. McAuley. I have the British editions of "The Invisible Country" (short-stories) and "Red Dust," a futuristic Martian planet-opera. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find a copy of his novel "Fairyland" a few years ago. With any luck I'll run into it at a used-book store.

This blog is almost a year old. How about that? I've eliminated the book reviews; they're all available on my website and I tend to update them anyway. There's nothing as annoying as "dead media." Maybe now Posthuman Blues reads a bit more like a stream-of-consciousness novel than a literary thesis paper. Blogger only recently added a spell-checker, so some of the older posts may have a disproportionate number of typos. Oh, well. I don't exactly expect anyone to call me on them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Whitley Strieber's "Lilith's Dream" is unfolding nicely. Strieber is a very skilled suspense writer, and his vampire mythos is agreeably creepy.

Reactions to the first-draft book cover have been mixed. The common denominator among those who don't unconditionally love it seems to be that it's too stark. I tend to think that minimalism is a virtue in graphic design, but I agree that the current design could be spiced up.

"Matrix Revolutions" was thoroughly trashed by the Kansas City Star. To be sure, it was a flawed movie. One mistake was to package it as a single movie. "Reloaded" and "Revolutions" should have been shown as the single long movie that they really are, perhaps with a 20-minute intermission. This wouldn't have masked all of its shortcomings, but at least it would have made the Wachowksi brothers look pioneering and denied the critics some of their ammunition.

What annoys me (even more than the underdeveloped plotlines in the last two movies) is the fact that much of the trilogy's back-story -- an imaginative and plausible war between humans and robots -- is apparently available only in the form of supplementary media like the "Animatrix" DVD, which I have no desire to see. No wonder theater audiences were scratching their heads.

That's it from me on the topic of "The Matrix." Ominously, I don't see any remotely promising new science fiction on the movie horizon.

Monday, November 10, 2003

I just viewed the first draft of the cover for my new book, "After the Martian Apocalypse." It's bold. It's dramatic. I like it.

The only thing I would change is the unprocessed Viking image of the Face. Not only is this the image that publications such as Weekly World News invariably choose to use when addressing the Face, it's also the version most adored by would-be debunkers who claim it's all a trick of light and shadow. They also enjoy claiming --falsely -- that Face "believers" think that one of the black dots (due to data transmission error) is a "nostril." Even Carl Sagan, who should have known better, regurgitated this claim in "The Demon-Haunted World."

The irony is that there actually is a structure resembling an anatomically correct nostril on the Face, but of course not visible at Viking resolution. Debunkers wisely choose not to confront the implications of the relatively minute humanoid features uncovered by new observations.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

The American body-count in Iraq has officially eclipsed that of Bush, Sr.'s Gulf War.

Noam Chomsky has pointed out (as if it really needed to be pointed out) that Bush will seize on another "manufactured threat" to ensure his re-election. I have no idea who the next member of the Axis of Evil will be, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Saudi Arabia becomes the new menace to "freedom." And although this may sound defeatist and intolerably cynical (not to mention "un-American"), I also wouldn't be at all surprised if we were treated to another 9-11 sometime in the next several months.

On a more hopeful note, I've noticed fewer "God Bless America" bumper-stickers lately. I think the proles are actually -- maybe -- beginning to get sick of being jerked around.

I wonder if W.'s partial birth abortion ban is coincidence. George Carlin: "Republicans want live babies so they can have dead soldiers."

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Most of us think of existence as basically linear: to get to point C from point A, you must first traverse point B. I think it's more likely (and much more fun) to consider that we're recreated moment to moment out of raw information, and that points A, B and C don't exist except in our endlessly reconstituted minds.

Imagine the reels for every movie ever made -- and, more pertinently, every movie never made. Now imagine cutting this infinity of footage into single frames. Thirdly, picture putting every single one of these isolated frames in a blender, chopping them into microscopic oblivion, and stirring them with the aerosolized remains of every other frame.

This endless deluge of celluloid confetti is emptied into space, where it forms a randomized nebula, a pixelated collage of all possible "sequences." Now suppose we want to view a "movie" of someone's life (knowing full well that sequentiality is a cognitive construct with no objective validity). We shine a laser through the glittering mist of would-have-been films, thus isolating a single "sequence" of particulated states. If we keep doing this, we'll quickly find that most of our laser-lit "sequences" don't make any sense. After all, they're composed of completely random bits of data (ultimately at the level of simple "yeses" and "nos", or -- if you're into computer metaphors -- ones and zeroes).

But since we're dealing with an infinity of this "powdered reality," we also recognize that some of the laser beams are illuminating coherent "storylines." They might break up and dissolve at some point, but the endless quantity of possibilities waiting to be realized ensures that they will resume at some point. In this sense, a given observer's "reality" is an elaborate, self-maintaining juxtaposition. Random patterns (read: "sequences") in our hypothetical embryonic cloud are able to link up with similar, equally random, patterns -- very much like a crystal impregnating a vial of solution with its own molecular structure. A sort of binary Darwinism takes hold. Meaningful "sequences" thrive; the rest is just existential static.

Time needn't be relevant in the cosmic screening room. Whether a particular pattern emerged in the past or future is irrelevant. Information from the "past" and "future" (mere cognitive constructs) freely integrate. This is a realm without spatial or temporal boundaries. It's something like the "implicate order" suggested by physicist David Bohm. The "explicate order," of course, is the intricate sensory illusion that we inhabit. Or think we do.

The ever-changing patterns in the protean cloud dictate the nature of whatever universe happens to be illuminated by our imaginary laser. Since our perceived reality is constantly modeled by the myriad ones and zeroes in the timeless cloud, we find ourselves diced into informational slivers. From this perspective, "continuity" is meaningless. The "I" writing this sentence could be hundreds of billions of "I"s removed from the one that wrote the last sentence. More disturbingly, "I" might not have existed at all until right . . . now.

The newly formed "I" happens to have "memories" of composing this essay, but memories, like everything else, are simply advantageous fluctuations in the filmic cloud, subject to constant revision. And since I'm ostensibly a component in day-to-day reality, it's inevitable that the randomly constructed parameters that define my world -- all of it, from my living room to the coffeeshop down the street to the structure of galaxies -- is every bit as flimsy and malleable. Reincarnation is quite real. It's happening all the time -- invisibly.

Several months ago I was in an automobile crash. My memories contain the adrenalized moment of impact, the literally breathless aftermath as I pondered the crushed metal and broken glass, and a trip to a hospital inside an ambulance. It would appear I survived, albeit bruised and aching. But who am I to tell the story of what "really" happened? Perhaps the arc of my life, as defined by the fluctuating patterns (and bits of would-be pattern) in the cosmic screening room bifurcated shortly before I collided with the other car. In one variation I came to a bloody end. In yet another there was never an accident at all.

I pick the crash incident not because of any intrinsic importance -- at the most fundamental level, the blind dance of possibilities doesn't care if I live or die -- but because it illustrates how flawlessly one or two frames can be altered (or randomly inserted or deleted) to potentially catastrophic effect in the observable world. So long as a pattern remains intact -- and it will, since it has infinite space and time to organize itself -- so will some permutation of "I."

Which begs the question: What happens when someone dies? It's possible that informational death is impossible and that the person who "dies" in the "explicate order" is expediently recycled, living his or her life again and again in a state of total amnesia. Or maybe something like my crash incident applies and that observers who die -- in the directly perceivable world -- are shuffled into a future in which they "miraculously" survive their own crashes (or cancer treatments or heart transplants).

There's nothing concrete or absolute about our so-called universe. It is an alluring, insidiously clever simulation. The Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics implies that the universe is constant "branching" into parallel, exclusive states. A better term, in light of the scenario described above, might be "flowing."


For a fictional excursion into similar territory, I recommend Greg Egan's "Permutation City," which examines the existential status of electronic copies of the human nervous system.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Bruce Sterling's new blog is up and running. I can't think of another writer more equipped for this medium.

Ebe is back home, drastically weakened. I'm not supposed to feed her until tomorrow. Anyway, I have an unspoken rule here: I don't discuss pets. I suspect there are thousands of blogs dedicated to the merits of cats, dogs, ferrets, etc. and I think we'll both get along much better if Posthuman Blues isn't one of them.

Don't you?

For more of the usual posthuman fare, see the next post . . .
I dropped Ebe off at the vet's for some unsolicited gynecology. She really didn't want to go; she knows what that pat taxi means. I pick her up this evening.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Some thoughts on "The Matrix Revolutions"

This is the sort of movie that DVD was invented for; it elicits the urge to jump back and forth between various scenes so you're sure you're on the right wavelength. With that disclaimer aside, I liked this movie. It's a much more coherent adventure than the second installment. This time around, the hand-to-hand action scenes are quick and effective -- not the distended pageants of the first two (however much superficial fun they might have provided).

"Revolutions" features some of the best art direction and visual effects yet, including a convincingly sinister glimpse of one of the sprawling, AI-dominated cities. Viewers may be surprised to find that Keanu Reeves' Neo is almost a minor character, with the bulk of the plot centered around the subterranean city of Zion, which is under siege by tentacled cybernetic vermin.

With Zion's inhabitants in the throes of a Giger-esque fever-dream, the philosophical threads that surfaced in "Reloaded" become part of the narrative background. This is probably a good thing; one of the perils of a movie like this is existential overkill. In "Reloaded," the storyline jumped helter-skelter from metaphysics to car chases to kung-fu brawls and back again at a seizure-inducing speed that utterly prohibited getting to know any of the characters, let alone caring about their plight. "Revolutions" remedies this somewhat.

We discover that Agent Smith, in an orgy of digital cloning, now threatens the continued existence of the Matrix; hence, he poses a threat to the malign AI that constructed the Matrix in the first place to keep its human livestock placated. This is the movie's most promising premise. It's also its most perplexing. ("Wait -- hand me that remote . . .") Even though his appearances are few and far between, Smith is the rightful star of "Revolutions". Hugo Weaving exudes a mechanically child-like wrath that captures the exponentiating insanity of his world; if a computer virus could speak, I imagine it would sound something like Weaving at the film's climax, when Smith faces up to his own unheeding autism.

"Revolutions" is replete with cool camera work, a few rewarding eyeball kicks (i.e., a subway billboard advertises "Tasty Wheat," the product that inspired a memorable philosophical monologue in the first film) and at least one new idea: that informational goods can be illegally trafficked within the Matrix's pragmatic boundaries, provided you have the right connections.

The ending is ambiguous (what did you expect?) and possibly a shade too sunny for a trilogy that's repeatedly taken its visual cues from the grit and shadows of "Blade Runner" and "Neuromancer." Regardless, "Revolutions" left me with a desire to see the latter two films again, which is perhaps exactly what it was supposed to do.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"Anatomy of a Phenomenon" is refreshingly candid and erudite. Vallee's commentary reminds me somewhat of Carl Sagan's views on extraterrestrial intelligence in the 1960s. "Anatomy" was written shortly before what Colin Wilson termed Vallee's "labyrinthine pilgrimage." The suspicion inherent on every page of "Anatomy" is that UFOs are ET vehicles. Now Vallee, like Mack and Strieber, thinks the ET hypothesis is too simplistic.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I've made an appointment for Ebe, my "kitten," to be spayed on Friday. Her kitty hormones kicked in the other night and now she spends most of her time yowling and screeching and driving me absolutely insane. Evidently cats are amazingly horny; I don't think they have any sexual "down-time." I'm not sure why I'm surprised, given the thousands of strays that are "put to sleep" every year.

I was pleased to see R.E.M. on the cover of a music magazine, accompanied by a CD of music selected by band members. I'm exasperated with critics who downplay R.E.M.'s last few records because of (relatively) low sales in the U.S. As if songs about the mass media and mortality are supposed to compete with the likes of Britney Spears. (Even so, "Imitation of Life" was a chart-topper in Japan.)

It was bitingly cold today. I almost didn't leave my apartment. But Ebe's theatrics forced me out into the night and for that I'm grateful to her. I picked up a $4.95 hardback of "Dracula," which I've never read, and began Jacques Vallee's "Anatomy of a Phenomenon."

There's a new homeless guy in town. At least I think he's new. He stands right in front of Barnes & Noble like some sort of installation piece, which means I have to circumvent him at least once a day. For some reason, panhandlers flock to Barnes & Noble like moths to candlelight.

The Plaza has begun the sad process of shutting off its fountains for the winter. I'm bracing myself for another impossibly annoying Christmas shopping season.

I've been marveling at newspaper headlines recently. Can the Iraq situation possibly be any worse, short of all-out thermonuclear conflagration? How the hell with this end (if at all)? Will someone, in some future administration, get it through his head that we're not wanted?

China shoots for the Moon.

Meanwhile, there's a very real possibility that the Bush administration is going to announce a human return to the Moon. The Chinese military is quite serious about setting up a lunar base by 2008. As I write, you can be damned sure the Chinese government is cheering the U.S.'s predicament in Iraq and toasting to the demise of Columbia. So if we go -- and at this point I think we should -- it will be the result of yet another "Space Race," to keep the Chinese from undermining our own military presence in space. I can only hope that while we're there we'll begin to appreciate the vast potential economic benefit. With any luck, a militarized U.S. Moon mission might seed a legitimate off-planet migration. Because if we go, we'll go to stay. Or until we nuke it out in the Sea of Tranquility in an attempt to "liberate" Chinese astronauts.

Breaking news: The Sun just experienced the largest solar flare on record. A real whopper.

"And the senses being dulled are mine."

--The Smiths
I've always been subject to bizarre, transient crushes. My latest involves adoration of British cultural critic Gaby Wood, author of "Edison's Eve." There's a beautiful portrait of her on the back cover. The irony is that the book's all about simulations. I'm not in love with Gaby, but a literary simulation of Gaby.

Monday, November 03, 2003

I've set aside Hartmann's "Mars Underground" in favor of Whitley Strieber's "Lilith's Dream," which recently came out in paperback.

I'm very disappointed that "Alien" isn't showing at my local theater. I thought it was going to be rereleased for Halloween. Maybe it showed on the 31st and is gone already. Damn.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

I finally toted my laptop to the coffeeshop to make some headway on my novel. I bought a double espresso, sat down, flipped the screen up . . . and discovered I hadn't charged the goddamned battery. So I sat there for a while, sipping idly and occasionally tapping the "ON" button as if that might make some sort of difference. It's charging as I type this. I have no idea how long it takes. Hopefully no more than 30 minutes.

I'm quite excited over the discovery on Mars that I'm looking into. Today Dr. Horace Crater, a planetary geologist, noted that the parallelogram in Cydonia appears to exhibit tetrahedral geometry. Stan McDaniel of Sonoma State University added that he thought that this would be significant if confirmed. I personally think it would be far more than merely significant. If highly specific redundant mathematics are embedded on the surface of Mars, then the simplest explanation for their presence is intelligent design.
I received this somewhat cryptic email regarding the alien photo mentioned in previous posts:

Subject: Re: A lot of talk about your Alien photo

No sweat Bill, been tracking their conversations
using AXS. Guess the Bird Site is obscure.
Wait till they see (if ever) GW talking about Birds
and the Clock ref that shredded TS/MAJIC message
scotched taped back together ........Also, Kit & others
think that 3 Second Eben is real.......Rmc

I like the opening sentence about my (online) conversation being tracked with AXS -- whatever that is. Perhaps a Google search is in order.

I don't know what to make of the reference to TS/MAJIC, other than that "TS" clearly means "Top Secret" and "MAJIC" is a codeword for a possibly authentic working team mobilized to study crashed UFOs. I asked a colleague if he knew who "Kit" could be and he immediately linked the name to a high-level spook who's presumably had access to classified materials. By the way, the "Bird Site" is, where I found the most interesting pictures of the "EBEN" (Extraterrrestrial Biological ENtity).

Saturday, November 01, 2003

I just received my third eyewitness assessment of the "alien" pictured here (see previous post). Here it is:

Doesn't fit my memory at all.

First, the proportions appear off. The head is longer. The eyes much larger. They almost wrap arount the head. The "ruffles have no ridges," like in the potato(e) chip. No ridges around the eyes. There are, from my memory, no features which provide prominances as in the photo above, which I've seen many times. It is also too wide at the top for the size to be proportionately correct.

The mouth is too large ... that is to say, long. The nose, too prominant. In fact ... This leaves quite a lot to be desired. However and having said all that, there are perhaps, more than one variety of these buggers. This may be one with which I am not familiar. Doubtful though.