Sunday, October 31, 2004

UFO's Over Veracruz, Mexico

"'They were white, not shiny like stars. They moved in a circle at first and then they headed single file toward Orizaba,' remarked the witness, adding that both students and teachers alike witnessed the event, which lasted some 25 minutes."
NASA photo analyst: Bush wore a device during debate

"Dr. Robert M. Nelson, however, was not laughing. He knew the president was not telling the truth. And Nelson is neither conspiracy theorist nor midnight blogger. He's a senior research scientist for NASA and for Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an international authority on image analysis." (Thanks to The Anomalist and Chapel Perilous.)

This is so totally phildickian. Now that you can actually see the structure of the device beneath the suit the mystery gets a lot more interesting. It's obviously a mechanical gizmo. And equally obvious W. was lying.

But what's it for? Is it a radio descrambler (as popularly assumed) or something weirder? Is the Resident rigged to self-detonate? Is he packing a "suit nuke"?

Or maybe it's an intravenous delivery system. You know, the one that fills him with shit.
I'm not claiming to have any weird psychic powers, but it seems to me the zeitgeist has turned downright menacing. People seem robotic, the mass media appalling in its absurdity. The suburbs sulk under a marinating haze of spite; the sky is the color of fading newsprint.

Religious cults are prone to bouts of incipience in which they know that "something" -- usually catastrophic, at least for unbelievers -- is going to happen. I'm getting that same sort of vibe now, broadcast from the depths of a thousand anonymous skulls. The dead reptilian scent of imminent disaster.

On the stereo: Bowie's "We Are the Dead." A furtive waitress with teeth ground to points. Canned personalities gesticulating in electronic silence. Malignant headlights swelling in my rear-view mirror.

Untranslatable premonitions pressed against the inside of my head like electrodes fashioned from rusted corkscrews.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

I drove to my parents' this evening. They live in the suburbs, which, for the uninitiated, are vast tracts of land devoted to ugly housing where minds can rot unmolested. Campaign signage everywhere, like thatches of red, white and blue weeds; I yearned for a machete.

While there, I watched some TV. "The Matrix" was showing on a cable channel as part of an extended Army recruitment infomercial. I kept seeing a black-clad Keanu Reeves juxtaposed with machine-gun-wielding soldiers and commercials for Sony PlayStation. Has all television become this surreal or did I just stumble upon a particularly postmodern moment?

I've watched all of 12 hours of TV in the last five years -- and most of that has been on tape, where at least I can fast-forward through the commercials. It's strange how jarring it is to watch after abstaining for so long. It's like a physical blow to the head -- and not in a good sense, inasmuch as a blow to the head can be a "good" thing.

I am absolutely convinced from personal experience that television viewing dampens cognitive ability. Want your IQ to go up 10 points? Stop watching TV. I'm serious. You won't necessarily be any happier, but you'll be more receptive, with a heightened immunity to bullshit.
Study: 100,00[0] Excess Civilian Iraqi Deaths Since War

"Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in violence since the U.S.-led invasion last year, American public health experts have calculated in a report that estimates there were 100,000 'excess deaths' in 18 months." (Via American Samizdat.)

I find it significant that the Reuters staffer who posted this article to the Web mistyped "100,000" as "100,00." It's as if there's a collective refusal to look at the Iraq atrocity squarely in its malignant eye. 100,000 is simply too many civilian deaths to deal with without squirming -- whether from simple disgust, sheer horror, or partisan embarrassment.

Scientists zero in on why time flows in one direction

"Regardless of the direction they run in, the new universes created in these big bangs will continue the process of increasing entropy. In this never-ending cycle, the universe never achieves equilibrium. If it did achieve equilibrium, nothing would ever happen. There would be no arrow of time."

Maybe there is no "arrow of time"; maybe it just seems like there is because our brains have evolved to function in a time-symmetric universe. Could the concept of "cause and effect" really be nothing more than a helpful mass delusion?
Dutch sailors hear of little hairy people

"According to Roberts, the villagers claimed their ancestors endured the Ebu Gogo's habits until the short, long-haired, long-armed, pot-bellied creatures snatched a baby, taking it back to their cave. The villagers retrieved the baby by offering the Ebu Gogo bales of dry grass."

Purported image of an alien.

"Little people" abducting children? This sounds tantalizingly like a low-tech retelling of contemporary alien abduction accounts, in which small human-like creatures harvest fetuses in an effort to create transgenic offspring.

Incidentally, the "Grays" aren't wholly unlike the "little hairy people." Both are described as similar in stature, with monkey-like long arms.

Could some UFO occupants be the evolved descendents of terrestrial hominids?

Friday, October 29, 2004

It gets better!

Three-Foot-Tall 'Hobbit': A Living Fossil?

"And experts have not ruled out the possibility of her descendants, or other unknown human species, still hiding in the impenetrable forests and cave systems of south-east Asia."

I imagine primatologists are feverishly rewriting history at this point. Eventually, all the familiar screeds against the "pseudoscience" of cryptozoology will find themselves languishing at the Ministry of Truth, airbrushed into oblivion.

The discovery of "hobbits" -- even long-dead ones -- is the zoological equivalent to aliens landing in a major city.
The Truth About The 'Hobbits'

Lloyd Pye: "It is ironic that, to defend their position, the mainstreamers who discovered the Hobbit bones are now saying, 'We think they're humans because people on the island have folklore stories about them that go back hundreds of years.' Now, what happens when WE Hominoid researchers say to THEM, 'Folklore stories of Hominoids go back hundreds of years on every continent except Antarctica'? They virtually scream at us that we're being 'unscientific' and should be dismissed as idiots or worse for even suggesting that the myths and legends of benighted savages should be taken at face value."

Good. I'm not the only one who thought the "mainstreamers'" casual use of folklore as evidence was bizarre.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Scientists warn of 'ethnic weapons'

"In theory, experts could engineer organisms to attack genetic variations commonly found in, say, Chinese or German populations."

Or imagine a Muslim extremist concocting a virus that mostly kills people of Jewish ancestry. Or an Arab-killing virus "accidentally" set loose in the Mid-East and subsequently chalked up to a natural mutation. A genetic "heat-seeker" virus needn't be a weapon of mass destruction; if its designers are savvy enough, it could be incredibly selective, operating with the precision of an assassin.
The Sun is More Active Now than Over the Last 8000 Years

"As the scientists from Germany, Finland, and Switzerland report in the current issue of the science journal 'Nature' from October 28, one needs to go back over 8,000 years in order to find a time when the Sun was, on average, as active as in the last 60 years."

From Life Magazine, September, 29th, 1952.
UK Astronomers Scan The Skies For Threat From Space

"British astronomers are providing a vital component to the world-wide effort of identifying and monitoring rogue asteroids and comets. From this month, the UK Astrometry and Photometry Programme (UKAPP) for Near-Earth Objects, based at Queens University, Belfast, will track Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) and feed their crucial information into the international programme of protecting the Earth from any future impact by a comet or asteroid."

And what, exactly, does this "international program" to "protect the Earth" consist of? We have nothing. If a chunk of space rock is detected heading our way, all the astronomical community will be able to do is tell us -- government panic-control countermeasures notwithstanding. Oh, I'm sure Bush will declare a "War on Space" or something, but it will be an even crueler joke than "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

"Naked Lunch: The Restored Text" is out in trade paperback. Needless to say, I picked up a copy. The girl at the B&N information desk was a Burroughs fan, which was kind of refreshing. I've found that most of the employees there are functional illiterates, whereas at Borders I get the feeling that a good many employees actually crack the cover of a book once in a while.
Scientists Find Prehistoric Dwarf Skeleton

"In an astonishing discovery that could rewrite the history of human evolution, scientists say they have found the skeleton of a new human species, a dwarf, marooned for eons in a tropical Lost World while modern man rapidly colonized the rest of the planet."

This is explosive. Essentially, we've shared the planet with what might as well, at this point, be termed "aliens." (I like the word better than "hobbits," personally.)

Weird thought for the day: What if Homo floresiensis is the tip of an anthropological iceberg? Imagine a long-forgotten technological civilization of these creatures: Might it account for the persistent worldwide folklore of "little people" -- and maybe even modern-day extraterrestrials?

Homo floresiensis is described as three feet-tall; so are a lot of "ufonauts," especially the "Grays" of abduction fame. Any connection? I doubt it. But . . .

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

You know what I'm really sick of? People who like to inform me that it's my "duty" to vote. Come again?

Listen: If you want to vote, go fucking vote and leave me alone. If voting's your thing then by all means get to it. But don't adopt this cloying, more-patriotic-than-thou pretense that you're somehow a more informed, responsible person because of it, because it doesn't wash.

I'm a creative person. I like making things and seeing how they fare in this strange, buzzing construct we like to think of as the "real world." So I take real offense when one of these vacuous drones assumes that because I don't vote then I've basically forfeited the right to be taken seriously.

"I voted today!" Rah, rah, rah! Good for you. Now go back home and watch TV, you pretentious fuck.
A great reason to shave my head again:

Electric currents boost brain power

"A current of two thousandths of an ampere (a fraction of that needed to power a digital watch) applied for 20 minutes is enough to produce a significant improvement, according to data presented this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego. And apart from an itchy sensation around the scalp electrode, subjects in the trials reported no side-effects." (Via The Anomalist.)

Well, I'm intrigued. I even have a potentially profitable product in mind: a mesh skullcap studded with 'trodes which can be controlled via an iPod-sized "brain tuner." Tune-up programs will be downloaded from the Net and set to correspond with the user's choice of music.

Itchy, irritated scalp? No problem! My line of geek-chic salves and lotions will banish epidermal discomfort in seconds.

I'm telling you -- this will be bigger than digicams.
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."

Isn't it fortunate we have the BBC to tell us the things the American media doesn't dare touch?

There was thunder
There was lightning
Then the stars went out
And the moon fell from the sky
It rained mackerel
It rained trout
And the great day of wrath has come
And here's mud in your big red eye
The poker's in the fire
And the locusts take the sky
And the earth died screaming
While I lay dreaming of you

--Tom Waits, "Earth Died Screaming"

Monday, October 25, 2004

Robots on the Front Lines

"The partnership is expected to produce robotic vehicles for other areas like agriculture, construction, and facilities management. Greiner says iRobot turned to Deere in part because of the vehicle-maker's expertise producing off-road vehicles. The two companies plan to begin production next year, with delivery of the first R-Gators set for sometime in 2006."

First Close Encounter of Saturn's Hazy Moon Titan

"Long hidden behind a thick veil of haze, Titan, the only known moon with an atmosphere, is ready for its close-up on Oct. 26, 2004. This visit by the Cassini spacecraft may settle intense speculation about whether this moon of Saturn harbors oceans of liquid methane and ethane beneath its coat of clouds."
Life After the Oil Crash

"Civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon."

I like where you're going with this. Keep talking . . .

"This is not the wacky proclamation of a doomsday cult, apocalypse bible prophecy sect, or conspiracy theory society. Rather, it is the scientific conclusion of the best paid, most widely-respected geologists, physicists, and investment bankers in the world. These are rational, professional, conservative individuals who are absolutely terrified by a phenomenon known as global 'Peak Oil.'"

Tell 'em, brother.
Europe leads space race to hunt down ET

"It is a view that astronomers would die for: a shimmering, blue, alien world with oceans and continents and vegetation changing colour with seasons. A vision like this, across the galactic void, would be unambiguous proof of the existence of extraterrestrial life."

Or so it seems. Something tells me we can count on NASA/JPL to conjure all sorts of bogus scenarios that don't require organic processes, if its decades-long dealings with probable life on Mars are any indication. So I'm glad the Europeans are leading this effort, which I predict will meet with spectacular success.

Viewed in a brighter light, JPL's refusal to acknowledge evidence of life on Mars very likely reflects a political necessity to retain control of the Mars research budget. Since it's doubtful we'll be sending probes to other star systems in the near future, JPL has little or nothing to lose by conceding the existence of extrasolar life (as opposed to life in our own solar system).

As always, mainstream science is perfectly comfortable with the idea of extraterrestrial life -- but it demands that ET life behave according to a set of carefully predetermined rules. For example, radio-SETI presumes intelligent aliens exist, but its elite takes conspicuous pains to distance them from us; contact, if it occurs, will presumably come in the form of electromagnetic transmissions -- not something as potentially disturbing as actual visitation or the discovery of tangible artifacts.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Unseen comets may raise impact risk for Earth

"The Solar System could be teeming with almost invisible comets, according to some astronomers' calculations. If they are right, such extra comets would significantly increase the risk of a catastrophic impact with Earth."

Oh . . . and have a good Monday!
I have this wretched, maverick urge to -- maybe -- vote in the presidential election. I'm confessing to it; that's the point of this post.

And although I haven't properly confronted it, I suspect part of me is almost enjoying the Fall of America (which will certainly continue regardless who "wins," thereby dampening my wholly unexpected urge to take part in the election). Politics have outlived their nominal usefulness; seeing the system disintegrate wholesale is paradoxically reassuring -- with luck, we might wake up to the real issues that shadow virtually everyone on this planet, issues that have gone blissfully unwhispered throughout the entirety of the campaign we Americans have been so steeped in.

There's new material for October - November at Colin "Bad Man" Bennett's Combat Diaries. One of the best Fortean sites on the Web.

Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman's "Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever" is on prominent display at Barnes & Noble. This is one I simply have to read. My problem with "living long enough to live forever" is that the biosphere's deterioration will probably preclude the vastly extended lifespans the book promises. It's likely we will indeed have the technological muster to stop aging in the next 50 years. But by then the planet will be virtually uninhabitable.

I'm bleakly assuming, of course, that humanity will stick to one planet and forego mass space colonization. I could be wrong on that. I hope I'm wrong on that. But if we're to relieve Earth's ever-worsening population burden, we need to start colonizing really damned soon.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Blogger-users may have seen the following teaser:

Blogging Your Novel (Part One)

"Novelists, we knew, had it made. They got fawned over in bookstores, and were forever being pestered for insights on their genius in newspapers and magazines. They had license to dress horribly, wear decades-out-of-date hairstyles, and have their shortcomings interpreted as charming quirks and idiosyncrasies rather than social dysfunctions."

Novelists, maybe. Nonfiction writers, no. At least not in my experience. I've been pestered, sure, but I'm not sure genius plays any role in it. And, damn it, I don't have any quirks than can be construed as "charming." No, I'm afraid with me the apparent social dysfunctions are just that . . .
Strange Punctures Found on Jets

The unfriendly skies.

"Puncture holes were found in the bellies of two US Airways jets at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, which the FBI said was not likely caused by normal wear and tear." (Thanks to The Anomalist.)
UF scientist: 'Brain' in a dish acts as autopilot, living computer

"When DeMarse first puts the neurons in the dish, they look like little more than grains of sand sprinkled in water. However, individual neurons soon begin to extend microscopic lines toward each other, making connections that represent neural processes. 'You see one extend a process, pull it back, extend it out -- and it may do that a couple of times, just sampling who's next to it, until over time the connectivity starts to establish itself,' he said. '(The brain is) getting its network to the point where it's a live computation device.'" (Via Chapel Perilous.)

Impressively, they've got this chunk o' brain actually doing things. Thinking. Or at least computing.

I wrote an unpublished science fiction novel that features cars self-piloted by disembodied mouse brains. Peter Watts set his sights even higher in "Starfish" and "Maelstrom"; he predicts neural computers ("head cheeses") as the Internet's last line of defense against ravenous, near-sentient computer viruses.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Glad to be asexual

"There is no official definition for asexuality yet, but it probably needs to take all these variations into account, says Anthony Bogaert, a psychologist and human-sexuality expert studying asexuality at Brock University in St. Catherines, Canada. 'The place where we draw the line is the desire to interact sexually with other people,' says Brian (name changed), a navy veteran from Virginia. When it comes to having children, some asexuals say they would like to have a baby, but most would use IVF to avoid having to have sex."

I doubt that "asexuals" are anything new. But what if there were a disproportionately high number of them now compared to 20 or 30 years ago? A scientist willing to go out on a limb might interpret the upsurge as the human species trying (perhaps feebly) to keep its numbers in check lest we all end up in a certain John Brunner novel.

On another note, "asexuality" isn't exactly unappealing. There are times when it would be an eminent relief to jettison all the deoxyribonucleic baggage that accompanies mammal-hood. I've read that men think about sex six times a minute (or something like that). It's probably close to the truth, and there's nothing wrong with it. But think of all the things a brain could be doing instead of rehashing copulation scenarios. It's like having a computer with too many programs running in the background; the end result is sluggishness . . . and the risk of a system crash. In this context, "asexuals" might be a genuine evolutionary upgrade.

Sometimes I fear that an omnipresent sex-drive saps creativity by siphoning "willpower" (for lack of a better word) from the brain. Then again, maybe sex and creativity are innately linked. After all, sex is ultimately about creation. A person who uses some future therapy to eradicate his sex-drive in hopes of becoming more productive might be shocked to find himself creatively bereft, his imagination effectively neutered. Conversely, imagine a Viagra-like pill for writer's block. Would the patient find his/her creative prowess enhanced or diminished?

Anyway, take a look at what appears to be the Net's first "official" asexual website. I bet those T-shirts win you some odd glances.
Chips Coming to a Brain Near You

"Professor Theodore W. Berger, director of the Center for Neural Engineering at the University of Southern California, is creating a silicon chip implant that mimics the hippocampus, an area of the brain known for creating memories. If successful, the artificial brain prosthesis could replace its biological counterpart, enabling people who suffer from memory disorders to regain the ability to store new memories."

Record your thoughts directly to chip; "neuroblogging" comes one incremental step closer to reality.
William Gibson: "The most striking thing about the Ashcroft take on national security is that it reverses a long trend, actually making it easier for science fiction writers to imagine the future: Just set the dial for Bad Movie and you're there."
Shatner aims for real 'Star Trek'

"Five- or nine-seater spacecraft are being designed which will travel at three times the speed of sound. The journey into space will last around three and a half hours."

This Branson fellow is talking almost casually about sending himself and his family into space. I would kill for this.
I had a long, thoroughly arresting semi-lucid dream last night. Essentially, I was "shadowing" people who lived in a near-future American (?) society, watching everything they did, the people they met, the problems they encountered. I seemed to be holding an invisible camera, as if the participants were actors, and my role was limited to observing.

The overall milieu was a bit like that of a Bruce Sterling novel, or Wim Wenders' "Until the End of the World." Exotic futuristic cars, one with what looked like liquid crystal graphics emblazoned on the exterior; grown-on-demand designer medications that resembled plump, brightly colored insect larvae; high-end apartments conjoined seamlessly with vast shopping malls.

At one point a woman took a panoramic picture with a holographic camera; the subjects had to tilt their heads awkwardly as laser-light played over their faces.

There was a pervasive psychiatric disorder among most of the children, a kind of undefined autism. With a few exceptions, the adults I "met" were detached, brooding, almost schizoid.

I ended the dream as I sat in the backseat of a car watching decrepit glass-paneled houses and schools scroll by outside. I sensed that I had traveled a few years farther into the future. The once-fastidious suburbs I had seen earlier had lost their luster; scabrous concrete littered abandoned lawns.

Glimpses of rusted steel mesh.

Hardly any traffic, as if the world had been abruptly depopulated.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Now even William Gibson is blogging about politics. Which isn't wholly bad, because he's a surpassingly bright, studious guy, obviously as sick of being fed extremist lies as I am, so maybe he can shed some genuine light.
I need to do laundry but I'm one quarter short. Damnit. I suppose I could ask the cute girl down the hall* for one, but she might read that as evidence that I just want to talk, and I really do need the quarter. And if I did ask her -- assuming she's even home at the moment -- I'd probably feel obligated to talk, since I don't exactly see her everyday. So she'd definitely think the bit about the quarter for the laundry machine was a ruse, and I certainly don't want her thinking that. I mean, yeah, I'm weird, but not stalker-weird.

On the other hand, I have a mounting pile of laundry that requires mechanical attention. And to be honest, doing some laundry right now would actually make me feel productive. Or is that just the sublimated urge to talk to the girl down the hall messing with my mind?

*Yes, she has a boyfriend.

FAA: Plane Engine May Be Sunk In Lake Michigan

"The FAA and police are searching from Lake Michigan to the Battle Creek area for the engine, the station reported. State police have no reports of where the engine fell."

Actually, it fell through my bedroom ceiling last night. Almost killed me.

More later -- there's a house I need to burn down.
"The guy who writes about Martians." Yeah, that's me.

Song of the day: "I Wanted To Be Wrong" (R.E.M.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Wealthy New Lab Aims to Capture Dreams, Literally

"Trying to do this will require the expertise of neurobiologists, physicists, molecular biologists, chemists, geneticists, instrument designers and computer scientists."

Anybody seen "Until the End of the World"?
For my review of "Altered Carbon," click here.

Tonight I picked up "Kafka's Last Love," which I discovered at Borders. I plan on digging in as soon as I'm done with "Driving Mr. Albert."

Oh, yeah. A guy named J.L. King is coming to Barnes & Noble. King is the author of a talk-show circuit book called "On the Down Low," which purports to be about the world of "straight" men (presumably black) who sleep with other men. Confused? You're not the only one.

My question: Who's going to come to this signing? If you're on the "down low," that means it's a secret, right? It would seem to me that anyone "on the DL" (King actually uses this inane abbreviation) would make a point not to be present at a book signing for an author and self-professed expert on the subject. (You can tell King is an expert, because the book cover is a somber black-and-white portrait of him looking very grim and serious, wearing the kind of expression that says "We need to talk.")

I have half an urge to make the scene just to see who, if anyone, is there -- but I'm afraid someone might mistake me for being "on the DL."

The truly galling thing is that King is making a killing off this fictional social malady. Not that there aren't bisexual men (of all races) who cheat on their spouses. But all King's done is slap an Oprah-friendly name on it; by now -- judging from his silly cover portrait -- he probably believes he's a patron of humanity on a par with Gandhi.
Squid's mystery deepens after 1,000 wash ashore

"Dosidicus gigas, which grow up to two metres long and can weigh 50 kilograms, normally live in waters between Southern California and the tip of South America. But this year, for the first time in scientific history, the squid have ventured as far north as Alaska."

I saw this coming after the first specimen showed up. I'm surprised it happened so quickly, but I'm not exactly sure why. I fully expect more displaced species to wash ashore. We'll gawk and point, get back in our SUVs, and leave the oceans to their dying.
European parliamentarians contaminated by 76 chemicals

"Results from the widest ranging European survey of human toxic contamination show that 76 persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic industrial chemicals were present in the blood of those tested."

Viridian pope-emperor Bruce Sterling says it best:

"It's not about 'blood for oil' -- because the blood *is* the oil. We inhale that stuff, we grow food with it, we metabolize it -- there's no distinction to be made."
The Collapse of WTC 1 Began ABOVE the Aircraft Impact Level

Intriguing. I'm still not claiming it was an "inside job" -- but I do think there is a sufficient residue of anomaly to warrant serious questions. And I think this residue is thicker than we like to admit. Because if it's real and leads to disquieting conclusions, how do we cope? We haven't been able to deal realistically with the perceived doings of terrorists. If the 9/11 attacks were, in part, clever theater for the Bush administration's documented wet dream for a "new Pearl Harbor," could we even begin to deal with the fact?
Parks Service Sticks With Biblical Explanation for Grand Canyon

"The Bush Administration has decided that it will stand by its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)." (Via CP.)

I have seen the future, and it is gleefully ignorant.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

An Artist's Junkyard of Dreams

"As Every tells the story of Evermor: 'When he was a child, Dr. Evermor witnessed a massive electrical storm with his father, a Presbyterian minister. Asked where lightning came from, his father told Evermor that such awesome power could come only from God. From that day on, Evermor dedicated his life to constructing an antigravity machine and spacecraft that would catapult him from the phoniness of this world to the ultimate truth and power of the next.'"

And I, for one, am wishing him the best of luck. This planet needs more people like Every/Evermor.
A Ring-Side View of Saturn

"Enjoy the beauty of Saturn through images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, orbiting the ringed world since June 30, 2004. A virtual photo essay, image gallery and science section highlight the mission's early stages of exploration."
Flexible sensors make robot skin

"The arrays could be used in pressure-sensitive coverings in hospitals, homes, gyms and cars to monitor people's health and performance, and eventually as skin that would give robots the means to interact more sensitively with their surroundings, said Takao Someya, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Tokyo."
The End of the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS)

"My acquaintance confided that largely unknown to outsiders, NIDS fell prey to a variety of internal problems: poor management, lack of direction, lack of creativity, lack of funding, a negative company culture, poor hiring decisions, and low morale fueled by annual layoffs. This was compounded by the elusive nature of the field of study. In one example, when my acquaintance, newly hired, asked for direction, the response given was to 'spend a couple of hours a day surfing the web for items of interest.' (!)"

Hey! If a weirdhunter was all they needed, they could have hired me! Cheap!
Firm plans human DNA tree memorial

"To ensure that it cannot interfere with the normal growth and appearance of the tree, the human DNA is chemically treated to 'silence' it, a standard technique used by plant scientists."

I don't want my DNA "silenced." I want fingers and faces growing out of the goddamned bark.
Anne Strieber Recovering from Stroke

"At 9:30 PM on Saturday, October 16, Anne Strieber experienced a subarachnoid hemorrhage. This is caused by the bursting of an aneurysm in the brain and is usually asymptomatic until the stroke takes place. There was no warning."

Another ufological casualty. Anne Strieber is hardly a heavy-hitter in the paranormal community, but the recent string of deaths (Mack, Cooper, Hill) lends Strieber's sudden -- and hopefully reversable -- illness the ring of synchronicity.

Monday, October 18, 2004

I've revised my online classified ad. I'm not paying anything for it, mind you. And I'm not actively looking for people to contact, as that costs money (and an appalling amount of time that could be more productively spent). So it's up to the women of Kansas City to write to me -- in which case, depending on my mood, I might pay for full access and write them back (if they're sufficiently interesting).

The problem is that no one is ever "sufficiently interesting." And the feeling is, apparently, mutual. It makes me almost physically nauseous to think of the time I've spent over the years trying to link up with someone who might conceivably turn out to be a love interest.

The purpose of this post? To officially declare that I'm dealing myself out of the match-up game for the foreseeable future, because the dice are loaded and there is no paper-trail.

Even at my most optimistic, I've known the urge to seek out compatibility is hormonally mandated; I am a conglomeration of DNA sequences, all desperate to express themselves. Some personality types can skillfully exploit this seeming paradox, like a surfer riding a particularly gnarly wave; there's certainly nothing inherently wrong with being a creature built from selfish molecules. But I think the option to opt out of this aspect of human existence -- to the extent that such is psychologically possible -- is fundamentally one of conscience, and mine is gasping for relief.

I don't expect this to be easy or pleasant. But it's imperative in the same way that removing a malignant tumor is imperative. I suppose I could launch into a screed about transhumanist automorphism, but my heart's not really in it. This isn't about redefining the human condition; it's about acknowledging an existential void that threatens to bisect my sanity if I allow it to continue unchecked.

"Now that it's time
Now that the hour hand has landed at the end
Now that it's real
Now that the dreams have given all they had to lend
I want to know do I stay or do I go
And maybe try another time
And do I really have a hand in my forgetting?"

--Nico, "The Fairest of the Seasons"
One of my favorite bloggers has commenced posting his thoughts on the Net after an all-too-long hiatus.
The new "Mysteries" magazine is on newsstands or will be shortly. This issue contains my reviews of Michael Cremo's "Human Devolution" and "Sight Unseen" by Budd Hopkins and Carol Rainey. If you find the magazine in stores, drop me a line; I keep hearing about how great the distribution is, but I have yet to see one myself.

(Oh, and while you're at the bookstore dutifully looking for "Mysteries," why not pick up a copy or two of "After the Martian Apocalypse"?)

Sunday, October 17, 2004

How to build the Universe

"Even more startling, they found that typical universes generated this way started off small and got bigger - they expanded, just like the real Universe has done since the big bang. This was completely unexpected - there was nothing in the tiling rules that seemed to demand it. 'We're completely stunned,' says Loll."
Betty Hill Passes Away At Age 85

"Betty Hill, the Grandmother of UFOlogy, passed away this morning, October 17, 2004, at the age of 85."

First John Mack. Then Gordon Cooper. Now Betty Hill.

I drew the portrait above based partly on Betty's decription of the apparent aliens that abducted both her and her husband, Barney. Entities of this sort would later become known as "Grays" due to their chalky or putty-colored skin.
Has Bush lost his reason?

"The prophets of doom, whom Cheney exemplifies, are precisely right about the importance of this election. But the momentous decision awaiting Americans is not whether they return to power a President who is uniquely qualified to protect the US against terrorism, as Cheney et al would have us believe. It is whether they re-elect a man who, it is now clear, has become palpably unstable."

George W. Bush talks with God, folks. He's spoken of it publicly. Maybe I'm missing a key element here, but why the sudden panic that he might be a going bonkers?

Cheer up, cyberpunks: William Gibson is blogging again.

"Take a look for yourself. I copied the photo Prozzak posted, and then clipped it so you would know where to look. That's all I did. No fancy airbrushing or anything else was done by me."

Oh my god! David Icke, I take back everything I've ever said about you!

"We at the National Institute for Discovery Science have come to a time in which a decision must be made as to the direction of the Institute. We have labored long and hard, coming to the conclusion to place NIDS in an inactive status."

Ostensibly because there's not enough weirdness to study. I beg to differ. There's so much weirdness currently going on it threatens to drown us. The "flying triangles" alone warrant a full-time investigation.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

I've really fallen off on my reading lately. I've got books languishing by the stack. Undaunted, I've picked up some real gems at used-book stores:

1.) The Dying Earth (Jack Vance)
2.) The Goblin Reservation (Clifford Simak)
3.) Tower of Glass (Robert Silverberg)
4.) The World of Null-A (A.E. van Vogt)
5.) Super-Cannes (J.G. Ballard)

Meanwhile, I'm a hundred pages from finishing Richard Morgan's "Altered Carbon," by far the best cyberpunk novel I've read in a long time. It's very "Blade Runner"-ish, but Morgan evokes an interstellar back-story that, remarkably, makes it all seem fresh.
Jacket Grows From Living Tissue

"Grown using a combination of mouse and human cells, the jacket is currently quite tiny (about 2 inches high and 1.4 inches wide) and would just fit a mouse. Using a biodegradable polymer as a base, the team coated it with 3T3 mouse cells to form connective tissue and topped it up with human bone cells in the hope of creating a stronger layer of skin. The jacket is being grown inside a specially designed bioreactor that acts as a surrogate body. The group hopes that once the polymer degrades, a whole jacket that maintains its shape and integrity will be left behind." (Via Chapel Perilous.)

I envision a future in which everything is alive in some sense or another. Furniture will be engineered wholesale in vats of protoplasm. Buildings will regenerate. Cars will mate. And David Cronenberg will be worshipped as a god.

I read in "Vanity Fair" that model Gisele Bundchen is 24 years old. 24? Good Christ -- I'm not sure I even remember 24! I'd never given Bundchen's age much thought, but if I'd been forced to guess I suppose I might have volunteered 30 or so. Not because she necessarily looks any older than I do, but because something in me recoils slightly at the thought of her being younger; it's oddly emasculating.

Supermodels inhabit this strange liminal reality where concepts such as age become peripheral or meaningless. They don't exist in the same chronological matrix as you and I; they simply are.

Of course, the media wouldn't have it any other way. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
Living Systems in Evolution

"The barriers between science and spirit are dissolving as scientists find cosmic consciousness in a non-local, non-time energy field that transmutes itself into electromagnetic energy, and, in turn, matter, in the creation of universes such as ours, as we have seen."

I'm generally quite wary of efforts to unify religion and science, but this piece is genuinely compelling. I like the author's depiction of bacterial cityscapes and the notion that if consciousness is anywhere, then it must be everywhere.

Song of the day: "Final Straw" (R.E.M.)

Friday, October 15, 2004

Don't Close The Door On Bigfoot Yet

"A 63-year old man named Bob Hieronimus says that he was the 'star' of the film, and the original Bigfoot 'costume' was traced by Long to a man named Phillip Morris, who has 'confessed' to his role in the purported hoax. The evidence presented by Long (which includes the testimony of many others, as well as legal documents signed by Patterson) has been more than enough for most members of the media to declare 'case closed!' not only on the Patterson film, but the entire Bigfoot mystery."

This editorial mirrors my own thoughts on the purported "confession."

Thanks to Bill Dash for the lead.
It seems to me that gospel "witnessing" is on the rise. Twice in the last week I've contended with guys getting in my face quizzing me about the role of Jesus in my life while I'm trying to window-shop. I can't prove it, but I think the rise in "witnessing" -- if there is one -- is connected to the upcoming fake election. There's a certain fervor in the air, an apocalyptic vibe -- and the primary symptom is desperation. These God-freaks feel they need to rope in as many converts as they can, and I get the disquieting feeling their time-table is more or less that of the Bush vs. Kerry campaign feud, perhaps triggered by the "debates."
I've listened to R.E.M.'s "Around the Sun" a few times. Within the span of three or four listens, I abruptly realized how much better this record is than I'd thought upon my initial cursory spin. It's a much more substantial offering that its predecessor, "Reveal" (and that was a good one), and it certainly exceeds "Up," "New Adventures in Hi-fi" and "Monster."

I seriously think R.E.M. has the 21st century's equivalent to "Automatic for the People" on their hands. "Around the Sun" is lush, unaffected and endowed with an all-around confidence its prequels, while enduring, have somehow missed -- if only by a nanoscopic margin. And the lyrics are Michael Stipe's best in memory.
Appealing To Our Lizard Brains: Why Bush Is Still Standing

"And when we are afraid, we are biologically programmed to pay less attention to left-brain signals -- indeed, our logical mind actually shuts itself down. Fear paralyzes our reasoning and literally makes it impossible to think straight. Instead, we search for emotional, nonverbal cues from others that will make us feel safe and secure."

And there's a nifty corollary: If by some chance you're not sufficiently terrified, then you must "hate America."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

New Elmendorf Beast Found in Texas

"A mystery animal identical to the Elmendorf Beast has been found in Lufkin, Texas, approximately 300 miles northeast of Elmendorf, where the first animal was shot in May. Photographs of both animals make it clear that they are virtually identical. At this time, it is known that the animal is canine, but no species has yet been identified. It is apparently not a wolf, coyote, or any known breed of dog, unless the animal has some sort of bizarre and profound disease."

Whatever this thing is, what do you want to bet it's been flushed out from its native environment by deforestation or global warming? (Be sure to check out the photo gallery.)
Constant Activity Of Visual Cortex Surprises Scientists

"'This means that in adults, there is a tremendous amount of real-world processing going on, 80 percent, when there is nothing to process,' says Weliky. 'This suggests that with your eyes closed, your visual processing is already running at 80 percent, and that opening your eyes only adds the last 20 percent. The big question here is what is the brain doing when it's idling, because it's obviously doing something important.'"

I think the brain's "idling" is spent manufacturing reality -- perhaps even literally, by collapsing enormous numbers of quantum waveforms and thus selecting a single intelligible world-line out of the multiversal froth. "Psychic" phenomena such as premonitions of disaster may be caused by a sort of bleed-through between closely related universes, manifested subatomically in the central nervous system.

If the brain can be "tricked" into pronounced psychic activity during altered states of consciousness, it's certainly conceivable that direct neural interfacing could produce a potent -- and reliable -- organic quantum computer able to peer into the "future." And maybe even into the past.

A similar mechanism is described in Robert Charles Wilson's excellent novel "Blind Lake." In "Blind Lake," the eggheads in charge of the fictional "quantum telescope" technology don't know how it works. Ultimately, the unique perspective it provides becomes a two-way street and alien contact (of a sort) is accomplished.

Has something comparable already happened in the real world? My answer is "yes."
New propulsion concept could make 90-day Mars round trip possible

"Winglee acknowledges that it would take an initial investment of billions of dollars to place stations around the solar system. But once they are in place, their power sources should allow them to generate plasma indefinitely. The system ultimately would reduce spacecraft costs, since individual craft would no longer have to carry their own propulsion systems. They would get up to speed quickly with a strong push from a plasma station, then coast at high speed until they reach their destination, where they would be slowed by another plasma station."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Riddle as massive blast rocks homes

"The British Geological Society is investigating. Though none of their earthquake signals were triggered, it said that it may have been too shallow to register on their measurements."

A friend in England sent this Fortean gem my way. My guess is the blast was a sonic boom from some unknown aircraft. Either that or hundreds of bereft Smiths fans, in an act of suicidal solidarity, blowing their brains out simultaneously.
Back to the No Future

"Independence Day scared the hell out of me for all the wrong reasons. As I watched Los Angeles blow up and New York blow up and the freaking White House blow up, I knew I was supposed to think it was all really cool. The moviegoers around me damn near gave a standing ovation to the famous scene where those cars full of New York evacuees are blasted right off the road and one of the cars goes spiraling through the air and lands with a crunch on Harvey Fierstein’s head. But instead of enjoying the carnage, I found myself sinking ever deeper into despair . . ."

I'm not an "Independence Day" fan. But I love the opening scenes with the invading saucers.
I'm a total sucker for postmodern conceptualism.

(Via Bruce Sterling's Beyond the Beyond.)
Scientists gingerly tap into brain's power

"The significance of the technology, which Cyberkinetics calls Braingate, goes far beyond the initial effort to help quadriplegics. It is an early step toward learning to read signals from an array of neurons and use computers and algorithms to translate the signals into action. That could lead to artificial limbs that work like the real thing: The user could think of moving a finger, and the finger would move."

OK, this is more like it . . .
Author follows the trail of the Braxton County Monster

"Several fighter planes were destroyed in the fights, but some UFOs were hit as well, Feschino asserts. One of them crash-landed in Flatwoods, and the UFOs seen later on Sept. 12 and the next night were attempts to rescue the downed craft."

UFO crash victim or ET psy-ops?

Maybe. It seems more likely the Flatwoods incident was staged by the UFO intelligence. Especially considering the reported appearance of the monster/alien -- a real attention-getter, like something cooked up by a Victorian fantasist.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Surprise CO2 rise may speed up global warming

"The rate at which global warming gases are accumulating in the atmosphere has taken a sharp leap upwards, leading to fears that the devastating effects of climate change may hit the world even sooner than has been predicted."

Climate fear as carbon levels soar

"Scientists are baffled why the quantity of the main greenhouse gas has leapt in a two-year period and are concerned that the Earth's natural systems are no longer able to absorb as much as in the past."

So . . . what's J-Lo up to these days?
US seizes webservers from independent media sites

"A UK Indymedia journalist said: 'The authorities may just be using this as a trawling exercise. We don't know.'" (Via Busy, Busy, Busy.)

This is really, really troubling. British-based "indie" media sites are arguably our last best hope against an unremitting deluge of pureed corporate "news." Independent media is what the Web is.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Stop the presses!

People Are Human-Bacteria Hybrid

"The scientists concentrated on bacteria. More than 500 different species of bacteria exist in our bodies, making up more than 100 trillion cells. Because our bodies are made of only some several trillion human cells, we are somewhat outnumbered by the aliens. It follows that most of the genes in our bodies are from bacteria, too." (Via The Anomalist.)

It logically follows that those of us with less-than-impressive hygiene habits are more "alien" than the rest of us.
Ever since "Automatic for the People," I've purchased R.E.M.'s albums on release day. Today I broke my streak; I picked up "Around the Sun," the group's latest, a few days late. But better late than never.

Listening to an R.E.M. CD for the first time is serious business around here. I actually gave up reading a Kafka biography to listen to this uninterrupted. My favorite tracks so far: "Leaving New York" (a shoo-in), "Wanderlust," "The Ascent of Man," and the title track. I found myself wanting this record to be louder; the general tone is sedate in a familiarly "Reveal"-ish sense. Of course, it's clever, intelligent and engagingly listenable, but I would have welcomed something more along the lines of "Document" or "Life's Rich Pageant" -- if for no other reason than I'm angry and I think R.E.M. should be angry too. Or angrier than they sound. But you can't fault their maturity for not retreading past successes (something they're uncannily good at). After all, if I want anger I've got Morrissey's "You Are the Quarry."
Global warming heats up African conflict

"Population growth strains the earth's capacity to provide as forests are hacked away and land is overgrazed by livestock, leading to turf wars over scarce resources. Global warming can heat things up by parching an already strained soil."

Watch closely . . .
Cromwell's moonshot: how one Jacobean scientist tried to kick off the space race

"The man behind the lunar mission was Dr John Wilkins, scientist, theologian and brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell. In 1640, as a young man of 26, Dr Wilkins wrote a detailed description of the machinery needed to communicate and even trade with beings from another world."

Sunday, October 10, 2004

'New' giant ape found in DR Congo

"If they are a new species of primate, it could be one of the most important wildlife discoveries in decades."
Nobel peace laureate claims HIV deliberately created

"'It's true that there are some people who create agents to wipe out other people. If there were no such people, we could have not have invaded Iraq,' she said."

You know, Ms. Maathai seems a bit paranoid. You know what else? I don't blame her.

"Administration officials are of course denying a wire of any sort was worn, and furthermore all rumours of the bulge being a bulletproof vest have also been 'poo-poohed'."

My first reaction? Who cares.

My second reaction? You bet the bastard was wired.

(Thanks to Olla Podrida.)
Bigfoot Hoax Goes in Halls of Hooey

"The tall cowboy walked the lumbering Bigfoot walk for filmmakers and anti-Bigfoot authors Tuesday on private property near Rimrock Lake. The group's goal is to make the film behind the film, that 60-second grainy image made in 1967 by a 'chronically unemployed ex-rodeo cowboy' from Yakima named Roger Patterson."

This story really took me for a loop. Fantastically, 21st Century Radio host Bob Hieronimus shares his name with the "tall cowboy" who claims to have posed for the Patterson footage (although with a minor change in spelling). I sent an incredulous email to Anomalist editor Patrick Huyghe, who dispelled my immediate concern that the two men were one and the same.

But how do we know the Patterson footage is really a hoax? Can the guy in the article prove it, or are we supposed to take his word for it? Of his own admission, the Sasquatch suit he shows off to the curious isn't the actual suit he supposedly wore for the famous Patterson footage, but some other suit. (Does he have a goddamned closet of these things?) And as The Anomalist notes, the suit featured in the "Hooey" article "looks nothing like [the creature in the film], actually."

Debunkers are quick to ignore the fact that there are two fundamental kinds of hoaxes: actual frauds like the Darbishire flying saucer photograph and publicity-seekers who falsely take credit for enduring enigmas. (It's a wonder no one has taken credit for the "alien autopsy" yet; the "skeptical" media would probably swallow a seemingly devastating counter-claim sans supporting evidence.)

And maybe I'm nitpicking, but I'm suspicious of any debunking involving Kal K. Korff, whose books on the Billy Meier "contacts" and the Roswell crash reveal a porous thinker with a decided ax to grind.

I have no emotional stake in the Patterson footage. If it's a hoax, I want to know. But the mainstream media's evidential standards are so flimsy that I can't help but fear the debunking community's persistent desire to twist facts in an effort to keep reality manageable.

I just picked up Kevin D. Randle's "Operation Roswell," a "what if" potboiler that recreates the Roswell UFO crash of 1947.

I've read most of Randle's ufological nonfiction and, quite honestly, he's not the best stylist in the world. For sheer eeriness, I somehow doubt "Operation Roswell" manages to outdo Whitley Strieber's surpassingly readable Roswell novel, "Majestic." But I skimmed the first pages and it looks fascinating in its own right; Randle uses real names, whereas Strieber used pseudonyms. For example, the rancher who discovered the unusual wreckage, Mac Brazel, became "Bob Unger" in Strieber's retelling.

What's playing:

1.) Medulla (Bjork)
2.) The Cure (The Cure)
3.) Chelsea Girl (Nico)
4.) The Queen Is Dead (The Smiths)
5.) Dummy (Portishead)

Saturday, October 09, 2004


"Today another former Ulverston schoolboy, artist Julian Claxton, was planning to re-stage how Mr Darbishire created his famous hoax UFO photograph."

After conducting a pain-staking orthographic comparison, scientist Leonard Cramp flaunted Darbishire's photo as proof that George Adamksi's photos of distinctive "scout ships" were authentic. Darbishire's belated admission demonstrates a certain will to believe on Cramp's behalf; the Darbishire photo was substandard by almost all photographic standards, allowing Cramp to subconsciously pick-and-choose structural similarities to Adamski's lamp-like saucers (see image above).
It's a good thing The Pitch likes Posthuman Blues, because Scott Pakin's automatic complaint-letter generator sure doesn't:

"Here's the angry letter Posthuman Blues knew it was bound to receive. I begin with critical semantic clarifications. First, I find that I am embarrassed. Embarrassed that some people don't realize that I myself certainly insist that most cuckoo knuckle-draggers think, 'credo, quia absurdum' when they hear Posthuman Blues say that it is entitled to send children to die as martyrs for causes that it is unwilling to die for itself. My views, of course, are not the issue here. The issue is that it just keeps on saying, 'We don't give a [expletive deleted] about you. We just want to seek temporary tactical alliances with pushy snobs in order to intensify race hatred.' Posthuman Blues's ramblings represent a backward step of hundreds of years, a backward step into a chasm with no bottom save the endless darkness of death. Irrespective of one's feelings on the subject, you should never forget the three most important facets of Posthuman Blues's theories, namely their salacious origins, their internal contradictions, and their tendentious nature. Finally, to those of you who are faithfully helping me push a consistent vision that responds to most people's growing fears about besotted mountebanks, let me extend, as always, my deepest gratitude and my most affectionate regards."

I think I'll put that particularly brutal boldfaced sentence on my sidebar . . .

(Thanks to Jason at Busy, Busy, Busy.)
DC Jail Stay Ends in Death For Quadriplegic Md Man

"Paralyzed as a child and unable to even breathe on his own, Magbie died last Friday after being shuttled between the D.C. jail complex and Greater Southeast Community Hospital."

Friday, October 08, 2004

The massacre of Mesopotamian archaeology

"Properly excavated, these cities could reveal valuable knowledge on the development of the human race and resolve the big mysteries of history. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen. The Sumerian cities have been destroyed, ravaged by the incessant looting that started with the American invasion of Iraq. Once considered historical treasures, today crater-filled landscapes compete for space with hills of shredded pottery and broken bricks."

We've proven quite good at destroying our future. So I guess it's only appropriate that we obliterate our past.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Fish near treatment plants found with male-female tissue

"'This is the first thing that I've seen as a scientist that really scared me,' said Woodling, 58, a retired fisheries biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife now working with the University of Colorado."

Weird stuff in the water supply? Not to sound mordant or cavalier, but this Woodling guy hasn't seen anything yet. Then again, he's 58, so he may take the dirt-nap before the really abominable stuff comes to light. By 2050, those of us left will be "drinking" tap-water with a spoon.

Stock tip: Invest in Evian.
Like America in fifties, why is India experiencing thousands of UFOs?

"Thousands of UFO sighting in Northern India near the Himalayas is surprising many including the Indian Government and military personnel. In 1940 to 1960 similar thousands of UFO sighting was experienced in America -- the major superpower with Nuke capabilities those days. According to some UFO researchers India is on the verge of becoming most sophisticated nation in the world and the extra terrestrial groups are likely to contact Indian Government if not already done! When a country emerges as major power, these groups contact the Government to let know the order of the Universe. For example some UFO researchers say that India is being briefed on possible usage of Nukes and space exploration."

I love this stilted, lost-in-translation prose. Especially the capitalizing of "Nukes."

Space tourism faces regulatory hurdles

"Thrill seekers are plunking down six figures to ride rockets that haven't even been built yet, and a new airline called Virgin Galactic promises to be up and soaring in the next three years. Still, the budding space tourism industry faces a myriad of safety concerns -- in the sky and on the ground -- that must be resolved before any paying passenger takes off."

I would have liked to have seen humans make the move off-planet without the ubiquitous red tape we're so fond of here on Earth, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen.
Hey, cool -- Posthuman Blues got an Honorable Mention as best Kansas City blog in this week's Pitch (the annual "best of" issue):

"Lucky for us, Kansas City bloggers consistently produce lots of fascinating content to satisfy our curiosity. Among the best local blogs are Jay Manifold's astronomy-themed 'A Voyage to Arcturus'; Heidi Schallberg's take on metro politics, which she calls 'Me, Myself + Infrastructure'*; and sci-fi writer Mac Tonnies' smart obsession with weirdness, 'Posthuman Blues.'"

*Actually, Heidi's blog is called "Me, My Life + Infrastructure."

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

"While Cultural Creatives are a subculture, they lack one critical ingredient in their lives: awareness of themselves as a whole people. We call them the Cultural Creatives precisely because they are already creating a new culture. If they could see how promising this creativity is for all of us, if they could know how large their numbers are, many things might follow. These optimistic, altruistic millions might be willing to speak more frankly in public settings and act more directly in shaping a new way of life for our time and the time ahead. They might lead the way toward an Integral Culture."

I'm effectively a "cultural creative," I guess. (It's certainly a more palatable term than "weirdo.") But I'm not sure if I fulfill the CC criteria for optimism; I'm too dire, too apocalyptic, and all-too-often excessively bitter. Do I still get to join the club?
Cosmic Limbo: Star Drained of Matter, Identity

"'Now the donor star has reached a dead end,' Howell said. 'It is far too massive to be considered a super-planet, its composition does not match known brown dwarfs, and it is far too low in mass to be a star. There's no true category for an object in such limbo.'"

This actually sounds a lot like myself lately.
Video: US Pilots Kill Civilians

"Britain's Channel 4 News has broadcast a 30-second video clip of a U.S. pilot killing a group of what appear to be civilians on a Fallujah street. The video includes an audio track of the pilot's conversation with mission controllers. As the UK Independent notes, 'At no point during the exchange between the pilot and controllers does anyone ask whether the Iraqis are armed or posing a threat.'"
John, it's only blogging

John Shirley sets aside his eminently enjoyable blog -- nearly a year's worth of informed, justifiably outraged commentary on a world gone thoroughly (and probably terminally) insane.

From Shirley's final (?) post:

"This blog has done sorta kinda alright, in terms of readership, but I'm probably too idiosyncratic a writer--you can say cranky, even eccentric, and sometimes mordant, if you want--for a daily blog. I'm not a guy who takes bits and pieces from here and there and puts them in with jpegs. I don't write in any one vein, either. So I probably have confused some readers with the variety of my topics. It may be not my ideal format just as chatrooms and Instant Messages are basically inimical to me and I to them. Oil and water. I'm a novelist, I suppose. Mostly. Is a blog a place for a novelist? Is the internet the place for long thoughts? Sometimes, here and there about the web one finds a long thought, still buzzing, tied up in spider silk. Mostly though I suspect it's a medium designed for soundbites and flickering imagery and an almost hierographic form of communication--in a digital sort of way, I mean."


John's books are damned good, too. I've got a few reviewed here. More soon.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Air Force pursuing antimatter weapons

"Unlike regular nuclear bombs, positron bombs wouldn't eject plumes of radioactive debris. When large numbers of positrons and antielectrons collide, the primary product is an invisible but extremely dangerous burst of gamma radiation. Thus, in principle, a positron bomb could be a step toward one of the military's dreams from the early Cold War: a so-called 'clean' superbomb that could kill large numbers of soldiers without ejecting radioactive contaminants over the countryside." (Via The Anomalist.)

If we're going to end civilization we might as well do it in style.
Space pioneer Gordon Cooper dies

"In his post-NASA career, Cooper became known as an outspoken believer in UFOs and charged that the government was covering up its knowledge of extraterrestrial activity."

And now that he's safely dead, the mainstream media will even acknowledge it!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Earth 'will expire by 2050'

"Earth's population will be forced to colonise two planets within 50 years if natural resources continue to be exploited at the current rate, according to a report out this week." (Via Post-Atomic.)

I'm reconciled to the very real threat of ecological apocalypse in my (natural) lifetime. But a lot of people -- especially Americans, whose "news" media virtually ignores environmental issues -- are going to be even more frightened than I am when humans start dying by the hundreds of millions.

Will organizations like the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement become "mainstream" within the next few decades?

I'm finally listening to Bjork's "Medulla" -- which succeeds, if for no other reason (and there are plenty), because it sounds radically unlike anything else. Or at least anything else I've heard.
Toxic Algae Bloom Seen Off Washington State Coast

"An unusually large toxic bloom of algae, which could poison humans and taint shellfish, has been detected in the ocean off the northwest coast of Washington state, oceanographers said."
Modern Ruins 2: I've always wanted to take in the Sears Tower by submarine.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
SpaceShipOne Flies to Space and Wins the X-Prize

"The rocket plane SpaceShipOne has shot to an altitude of more than 100km for the second time inside a week to claim the $10m Ansari X-Prize."

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Big damned surprise: My computer's DVD player is still broken. I'm convinced there's some cosmic force at work that will stop at nothing to deprive me the enjoyment of watching a DVD without infuriating glitches. It's been well over a year now; at this point it might be easier to -- gasp! -- buy a TV/DVD combo.
I'm writing this on my desktop. I've used it for maybe an hour and I've already discovered that it's only marginally fixed, despite over four weeks of "repair" (I was told three weeks maximum). But at least I have my CD drives back again. I think.

I was just Googling myself -- it isn't nearly as obscene as it sounds -- and discovered some other guy named "Mac Tonnies." I'm not kidding. Take a look.

Intense UFO Activity in Midwest, Canada

"The photograph is now joined by numerous observations of what appears to be a similar phenomenon in the midwestern US. Witnesses from the area further state that there has been extensive military activity in connection with the phenomenon."

Here's the photograph mentioned in the Unknown Country article quoted above:

As the article notes, there appears to be a vague humanoid form inside the beam. Incidentally, there are intriguing online whispers of a plan to fake a biblical Armageddon using insidiously clever special effects. If this is an authentic image, then it's possible the military is testing holographic psycho-warfare devices on unsuspecting Midwesterners. What better way to immobilize enemy soldiers than showing them a stirring "vision of God" -- right before gunning them down?

A similar campaign could be waged domestically, possibly using archetypical projections of apparent "aliens" and "angels" in an effort to subvert belief systems. Maybe that's what the flying triangles are actually up to when they're caught hovering over suburbs and interstate highways . . .

"Quick: Was that an extraterrestrial biological entity or the work of a thoroughly corrupted black-budget military-industrial complex?"

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Link to Posthuman Blues!

I've made a webpage where anyone who wants a graphical link to this blog can pick their favorite. Thanks to Sauceruney, SpaceTramp and Bsti, in no particular order.
Three (count 'em!) positive developments:

1.) My apartment management has reduced my rent by over half for the month of October due to my recurring problems with water damage. Sweet. I deserve it, too.

2.) My desktop computer is back from its stay at the service center. I'll pick it up from Radio Shack on Sunday.

3.) I just checked my Associates account. I made over $30 this quarter -- not much in the scheme of things, but not too shabby for reviewing books, which I'd do anyway.

Now reading: "Driving Mr. Albert" by Michael Paterniti. I got this for $3.98 at the bargain rack this evening.

Oh, yeah -- and some guy on the street gave me a check. No kidding. He just handed me a check and thanked me for accepting it! I have it here in front of me as I write. It's from an organization called "The Bank of Eternal Life," and it's made out to "Whosoever Believeth," which I guess is me -- although the sum ("Eternal Life") has me a bit confused. Especially as the check doesn't appear to be signed . . . although it does bear the printed name of one Mr. Jesus Christ.

You know, the more I look at this the more skeptical I become. What do you want to bet it bounces?

Now playing:

1.) Vauxhall and I (Morrissey)
2.) The Wishing Chair (10,000 Maniacs)
3.) So (Peter Gabriel)
4.) Life's Rich Pageant (R.E.M.)
5.) Singles (The Smiths)
Earth's 'hum' springs from stormy seas

"Romanowicz now plans to use computer models to work out exactly how water sloshing around in the ocean basins can transfer its energy to Earth to create the rumble. Others in the field say they will only be convinced when this link has been proved."

A great many English crop circles have been found to cluster near the edges of natural underground reservoirs, suggesting a connection with water. This oceanic "humming" sounds oddly similar. The fact that it's gone undetected for so long, "disguised" as noise, is a subtle reminder that we may be missing basic forces that modify the biosphere -- and possibly even the psychosphere -- in unlikely ways.
Faulty oxygen supply threatens space crew

"The station has a 162-day supply of backup oxygen. If Russians can't launch an unmanned capsule by Christmas to replenish oxygen supplies, the astronauts could be recalled. But that's only if scientists and the two-man crew don't repair the oxygen generator."

Friday, October 01, 2004

Resisting the Politics of Fear (by John Mack)

"Worst of all perhaps is what the politics of fear has done to our values as a people. Poet Michael Blumenthal, returning to the United States last month after three years living in Europe, found here 'a frightened and frightening nation, a nation filled not with generosity and humanity and decency and charity,' a nation 'that seems unable to find any deeper reason for its patriotism than a profound, and cynically manipulated atmosphere of anxiety and fear.' And former assistant to President John F. Kennedy, Theodore Sorenson, in a commencement speech in Nebraska last May warned of the damage being done to the 'very heart and soul of this country' as it moves 'toward a mean-spirited mediocrity in place of a noble beacon.'"
It looks like Carol was right on with her suggestion that I've been experiencing entoptic imagery. Several of the animated "glyphs" on this interesting website are quite familiar. In my own "visions," they tend to congregate and form vague, arresting shapes that flow and "morph," forming and vanishing at the speed of thought.

If entoptic images are indeed responsible for shamanic art, then perhaps I've inadvertently managed to hack my brain's operating system. For whatever reason, my mind is conducting what amounts to a synaptic ink-blot test. If I lived in a Paleolithic culture, I imagine I'd scrawl my impressions on cave walls for others to wonder at. Because they'd obviously be signals from the gods, or the elements, or Gaia, or whatever -- full of portent and significance.

In my opinion, their being the product of my own brain makes them no less intriguing.