Saturday, December 03, 2011

Thinking Tonight About Science Fiction

There was an interesting biography tonight on TV about science fiction author Philip K. Dick. Dick's paranoid style eventually won him many converts in Hollywood (Blade Runner; Minority Report), but he was only one of a large cohort of authors in the Sixties that shaped my worldview (e.g. Clifford D. Simak, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, etc.)

I stopped reading science fiction as a sophomore in college, so I hardly read much of what Dick wrote, but it got me to thinking about science fiction in general.

I remember being strangely affected by Philip Jose Farmer's short story called "Prometheus", first published in 1961, but republished in a 1971 collection of short stories called "Down In The Black Gang":
Prometheus is set in the 23rd Century and relates the misadventures of one John Carmody, a monk of the order of St. Jairus. Attacked by hoodlums in a zoo on Earth, Carmody has the misfortune to fall into the enclosure housing a horowitz - a giant bird from the planet Feral - which holds him down with one foot and proceeds to lay an egg on his chest! Carmody manages to escape from the closure, but discovers that the egg has put out tendrils and attached itself permanently to his chest!

Carmody's plight becomes a golden opportunity for zoologists, who believe the horowitzes to be the Galaxy's most intelligent nonsentient beings. Not only can they now study the embryo's development in the egg, but they also convince the hapless monk to go to Feral and impersonate a horowitz to help gather scientific data.
As a blogger, I sometimes feel like the hapless conman-turned-monk John Carmody, forced by accident to bear heavy burdens and destined to discover rather late in life his true calling: preaching to the Galaxy's most intelligent nonsentient beings. I can relate.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Progress Marches On

There once was a time, not long ago, when the rabble would shout insults at their betters, and their betters walked on, in blithe ignorance of the insults. But today, with the Internet, you can now irritate your betters, and they can hurl insults back. That's progress, of a sort.

My friend, Jetta, was skeptical of Roseanne Barr's argument in support of the Green Party, and she got a response:
@TheRealRoseanne In reality only one of these parties will win, your party is takeing away the Dems vote.

@JOstrofsky think again idiot-Im taking twice the votes from repubs-look into the fact that u can b smart and NOT a democrat

Super Tush

Super size it!:

Florida police on Friday arrested a person suspected of administering dangerous and illegal butt-boosting shots – injecting at least one woman with a cocktail of substances including cement, glue and tire sealant.

The person is 30-year-old Oneal Ron Morris, who was born a man but who identifies as a woman. Morris is pictured above.

...“They agreed on the price of $700 for the procedure, which was intended for cosmetic purposes,” Bamford said.

What the woman got for her money was a series of injections containing a bizarre concoction of cement, super glue, mineral oil and Fix-A-Flat tire inflator and sealant, police said.

Bamford said that the procedure was conducted not in a clinic, but in a residential setting in Miami Gardens, and that shortly after the substance was injected into the woman’s body she developed what Bamford termed “severe complications.”
And what were those complications?:
She first went to Jackson North Medical Center in North Miami-Dade. The doctors looked her over, but were somewhat perplexed by her symptoms. She was afraid to tell them what she had done and left before they finished her exam. She then drove to North Shore Medical Center, where doctors also were mystified.

She again left before being treated and returned home. She unsuccessfully tried to reach Morris for several days.

Almost two weeks later, the victim’s mother saw a news report of a similar victim being treated at a hospital in Tampa.

With her daughter still sick, she drove her to Tampa General Hospital, where doctors treated her for what they believed was a staph infection. She finally told them what she had done and one of her doctors desperately tried to reach Morris to find out what was used so that they could treat the woman.

Jeesh, It Was Windy!

Bruce takes note of the ABQ wind:
[L]ink gives the low down and high down on strong winds in Duke City yesterday. They were really howling last night around our apartment in the Heights. Highest gust was 88 mph at Tram in Sandias yesterday afternoon, so they wisely shut it down.

However, we did have those incredible 135mph Santa Ana winds that blew off gas station roofs and knocked out power for more than 100,000 is LA and southern Calif. valley areas.
That’s interesting! It was pretty windy here in Sacramento too, as the low pressure system dug into the SW, but the winds here were not nearly as strong as in either S. CA, or it sounds like NM. Apparently Mammoth Mtn. saw winds in excess of 150 mph: so high they couldn’t accurately be measured.

Regarding precipitation, this winter season started promisingly enough in October, but since the beginning of November it's been so dry! La Nina's revenge! That damned equatorial phenomenon just won't quit! The dry weather is beginning to remind me of that dread drought year 1977 again. I hope things start looking up soon!

Frank Luntz Tries To Outflank The Occupy Movement

Struggling to catch up with the parade, by changing the meaning of all the language. But Luntz's cluelessness is telling. People know the bonuses are out there; it's just that they aren't getting any:
"I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened to death," said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist and one of the nation's foremost experts on crafting the perfect political message. "They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism."

Luntz offered tips on how Republicans could discuss the grievances of the Occupiers, and help the governors better handle all these new questions from constituents about "income inequality" and "paying your fair share."

Yahoo News sat in on the session, and counted 10 do's and don'ts from Luntz covering how Republicans should fight back by changing the way they discuss the movement.

Don't say 'bonus!'

Luntz advised that if they give their employees an income boost during the holiday season, they should never refer to it as a "bonus."

"If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you're going to make people angry. It's 'pay for performance.'"

E.'s Rescheduled Skelly Hearing Is In About Half An Hour

She is doomed!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The GOP Goes All Medieval On the Multimillionaires

Paul Krugman notes this:
In addition, Senate Republican leaders would go after “millionaires and billionaires,” not by raising their taxes but by making them ineligible for unemployment compensation and food stamps and increasing their Medicare premiums. Democrats said that this part of the Republican proposal was not serious, pointing out that high earners were already ineligible to receive food stamps.

Regarding The GOP Nominee Race

Bloggers offer their thoughts about Fox getting aggressive with Romney:
But Fox News is a really top down operation. And it plays favorites, just as much within GOP politics as between the two parties themselves. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the biggest undiscussed parts of the GOP primary process is the Murdoch primary. This is part of that.

And what does it say about Romney? It goes to a possibly pretty nasty line of attack against a newly vulnerable ‘frontrunner’ — basically that he can’t handle a fight or can’t take the heat. But in the always borderline-feral, gendered nature of campaign politics, even a bit more than that — that maybe Mitt’s not quite a man.

Nor is this out of character for Mitt. The guy doesn’t like getting questioned too hard or pressed too closely. That’s not altogether surprising given the life Mitt’s led. But he shows it. Remember the debate six weeks ago when Rick Perry finally took his geritol and managed to seriously get under Mitt’s skin on the illegal immigration issue? There’s a difficult to describe mix of surprise, put-off-edness and testiness that he exhibits in these cases.
For myself, I tend to look at these things from a regional point of view. Romney was going to be the Northern candidate. It was unclear who the Southern candidate was going to be, and after Cain and Perry both crashed, Murdoch decided to choose Gingrich. Both Murdoch and Gingrich are neo-Catholics, after all. They've shared a lot of history together.

Romney and Gingrich are probably about as evenly matched as they can be, so now it's up to the voters to decide who has the greatest national reach. If Fox is now in Gingrich's pocket, that's all the national reach he really needs to get the nomination.

Where this situation leaves ideological and social conservatives is unclear. Many seem to loathe both candidates. They seem to loathe Gingrich less, however, so who knows?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

At the Dentist's

I like the supermodern facility, and the little panel on the wall, which indicates the room's status. There are four options for the panel's buttons, and as I left the room, the hygienist casually pressed the button for option two: the room had been 'Clean', but was now 'Dirty'.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Theater People Everywhere!

Went to Supercuts to get my hair cut. Started talking to hair dresser, who turned out to be Kalyn DeKreek, who's big in theater in Woodland.

Theater people everywhere! The walls have eyes (or at least scissors).

Porcupines Not Real Big On Sharing

Changing The World By Making Documentaries - Not!

A Worthy Newt Rant

There are two categories of people in the world: people who put things in two categories, and people who don't.

And there's Newt, of course:
Over the last three decades, wealth has become increasingly concentrated at the top. The middle class is struggling with stagnant wages and a growing class gap; poverty rates are soaring; the jobs crisis seems never-ending; and a growing number of Americans are suggesting it’s time for a larger conversation about economic inequalities and tax fairness.

Newt Gingrich believes that conversation must not occur. In fact, the Republican presidential candidate questions the patriotism of those who choose to draw attention to the problem.
“I repudiate, and I call on the President to repudiate, the concept of the 99 and the 1. It is un-American, it is divisive, it is historically false…. You are not going to get job creation when you engage in class warfare because you have to attack the very people you hope will create jobs.”
...Since when is it consistent with the American tradition to try to shut down a debate over fairness and economic justice? For that matter, since when is it an “attack” on the extremely wealthy to ask them to pay Clinton/Gingrich-era tax rates that allowed the rich to thrive in the 1990s?

What’s more, let’s also not overlook Gingrich’s selective approach to unity. Today in South Carolina, Gingrich said it’s un-American and divisive to pit a majority against a minority. But as my friend Kyle Mantyla noted today, Gingrich said the opposite at the recent “One Nation Under God” event where he told religious right activists “that they are the majority in the country who must stand up and take this nation back from the ‘minority elite’ who are ruining it.”

So to recap, when it comes to the economy, Gingrich believes we’re all one people, and we must pay no attention to the wealth that divides us. When it comes to the culture war, we’re not one people, and those who believe as Gingrich does should target and defeat those Americans who disagree.

If a right-wing voice rails against the “minority elite,” he’s speaking the truth. If an Occupy activist rails against the “minority elite,” he’s an un-American radical.

Got it.

Speculation Separates The 1% From The 99%

Interesting post at Obsidian Wings.

At one time, the argument was fervently and sincerely made that executives should be recompensed heavily with stock options, because it ties their interests directly to their company's interests. In practice, that doesn't appear to be the case. Stock options aren't very useful unless the market is booming, and the market generally doesn't boom unless new money enters, which doesn't happen unless confidence is high. Creating an illusion of 'confidence' is crucial. So, speculation is far more important than tending the company's business, or job-creating, or even lobbying, or half a dozen more-industrious uses of their time and attention:
The important point here is that even the people who look like they've made their money from a business outside the financial industry -- the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs types -- really haven't. They've made their money from *stocks*, not from selling things or services.

It's not just the wealth from the stocks of their companies, either. This chart of income sources for the top hundredth of a percent

shows that dividends -- direct shares in profits -- have become much less important since the 1970s, while "wages" have become much more important. It looks as though these extremely wealthy people are working for their money, doesn't it?

Except that "wages" includes stock options and bonuses, which are often based on stock price performance. So wealthy people who aren't getting money from S-corporations, sole proprietorships, and partnerships are getting almost all their income from capital stock/ real estate gains, and from stock-indexed wages.

And the stock market isn't really for investment, it's for *speculation*. "Give them money and get a percent of the profits" is investment, because you (the wealthy person) are tying your income to how much money the company actually takes in for doing things. "Buy low, sell high" is speculation, because how much money you get doesn't have to depend on anything the company actually sells or does -- all that matters is what potential buyers think, and their confidence that the stock will continue to be worth more in a market of people who think like them.

No wonder so many of our Very Serious Leaders keep saying "confidence" is of overwhelming importance, more important to businesspeople than things like "are there enough customers?" -- even though actual businesspeople are most concerned about lack of demand.

Tomorrow Is The Skilley Hearing

Where E. learns her employment fate.

Maybe The End Of The World Starts Here

Think about all that vulnerable human biomass out there:
A group of scientists is pushing to publish research about how they created a man-made flu virus that could potentially wipe out civilisation.

The deadly virus is a genetically tweaked version of the H5N1 bird flu strain, but is far more infectious and could pass easily between millions of people at a time.

...Virologist Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands lead a team of scientists who discovered that a mere five mutations to the avian virus was sufficient to make it spread far more easily.

...Fouchier admitted the strain is 'one of the most dangerous viruses you can make' but is still adamant he wants to publish a paper describing how it was done.

...Paul Keim, chairman of NSABB, said: 'I can't think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one. I don't think anthrax is scary at all compared to this.'

Traditionally scientific research has always been open so that fellow scientists can review the work of others and repeat their methods to try and learn from them.

But numerous scientists have said they believe research on the avian flu should be suppressed.

The Year Of The Sex Olympics

Surfing on the waves of the Internet, checking out Jean Poole along the way and following her recommendation, I started reading this interesting essay about the origins of pessimism on the Left, and the prudent refusal of the Occupy movement to identify its aims, but soon started watching this futuristic TV show from 1968: "The Year Of The Sex Olympics".

(see the essay for the abbreviated video)

Well-done science fiction can be truly clairvoyant! We live in the near-future this TV show was designed for! Nigel Kneale foresaw Reality TV!

But what I thought most about were the big talent shows we have this day - American Idol, X-Factor, America's Got Talent; where you watch, not do - and the stark contrast with profoundly-subversive community musical theater, where you do, not watch:
'The Year Of The Sex Olympics' was written by the great TV writer Nigel Kneale (creator of Quatermass) and was originally aired on British TV on 29 July 1968. It was the penultimate play in the BBC series 'Theatre 625' which ran from 1964 to 1968. It was filmed in colour, but only black and white copies are known to exist. Directed by Michael Elliot, it starred Leonard Rossiter, Suzanne Neave, Tony Vogel and Brian Cox.

From the IMDb:

"Set in a future when the world is dominated and run by television, where language has become almost redundant and all 'tensions' - love, war, hate, loyalty - have been removed. Overpopulation is a problem, so there are gluttony programmes to put people off food and pornography programmes to put them off sex. There is artsex and sportsex, and now this - the year of the Sex Olympics. Audience attention begins to wane, however, until TV executive Ugo Priest works on a new concept - a reality-based programme in which a couple is stranded on a bleak island, without the aid of any modern technology, and their efforts to survive filmed twenty-four hours a day. A concept which may sound familiar in the age of reality TV... "

Monday, November 28, 2011

Herman Cain's Lawyer's Opening Gambit

Toss it against the wall and see if it sticks:
this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults - a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public's right to know and the media's right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one's bedroom door.
But this wasn't the GOP standard back in Bill Clinton's presidency, was it?

The Ironman Gets Impatient

As any New Mexican could have anticipated, Gary Johnson is getting ignored on the national stage. So, he's thinking third-party:
Disgruntled former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson says he is considering leaving the Republican slate and running as a third-party candidate in the 2012 presidential election.

“I feel abandoned by the Republican Party,” Johnson, who has been left out of most of the Republican debates, told the Sante Fe New Mexican newspaper this week, saying he might seek the Libertarian Party’s support.

“The Republican Party has left me by the wayside,” said Johnson, whose polling numbers have recently been so low that they are often not even being picked up by pollsters.

...Johnson, 58, holds dear libertarian values such as low taxes and limited government and wants to legalize marijuana. He is also a fitness fanatic, having competed in a number of “Ironman” triathlons and climbed Mount Everest.

Top 100 (Or So) DMTC Lists

Playing around with the DMTC Master Cast List, I was curious about two questions:
  • Who are the most important people in DMTC production history (based on a very crude metric: the number of lines upon which their names appear in the list); and,
  • Who has appeared the most number of times as cast members on the DMTC stage?

This list inhales people and spews them out like spray paint on a highway overpass. It reminds me of another amusingly-jumbled set of lists I looked at, where Japanese TV viewers were asked to rate the most important people in history (based, in part, on their recollections of recent historical miniseries on Japanese TV).

Most Important People (number of lines of mentions in list)

4___Dannette (Bell)___Vassar___193
15___Noël (Spellman)___Bruening___72
32___Wendy (Young)___Carey___45
45___Dian (Calahane, Becker)___Hoel___38
95___Mary Jo___Seminoff___28
100___Karina (Summers)___Selvaggio___27

Most Frequently-Appearing Cast Members (number of mentions in list)

5___Dannette (Bell)___Vassar___45
7___Wendy (Young)___Carey___38
15___Noël (Spellman)___Bruening___23
21___Dian (Calahane, Becker)___Hoel___22
66___Edward___Bianchi IV___14
74___Mary Ellen___Price___14
75___Lenore (Gordon)___Sebastian___14
87___Jason "Clocky"___McDowell___13
113___Emily Jo___Seminoff___12
114___Don "Gemini"___Spotts___12
117___Eimi (Stokes)___Taormina___12
119___Casey Marie___Wilson___12

Romeo Void - Never Say Never

Getting my Eighties groove on, with Romeo Void. Vocalist Debora Iyall was the unlikeliest pop diva of the decade:
The sudden surge in popularity was disorienting to Iyall. "It was frightening: we played a college in Santa Barbara, and there were all these blond people crowding the stage, and I thought 'These are the people who hated me in high school!' When you grow up being 'outside' -- because I wasn't white, and I was fat, and always a bit of a free thinker -- it was strange. It was like, 'uh-oh, I must be doing something wrong -- they like me!'"

Kelsey B - Boy If You Only Knew

Kelsey B's official video is out!

Serendipity is on Kelsey's side. Cousins of her co-stars were big draws this weekend at the cinema!

Kansastan, Kansastan, You Very Nice Place!

No one pulled back from the forward trenches in the Great Kansas Tweet Incident for the longest time:
Last week, during a Kansas Youth in Government field trip, Sullivan watched Gov. Sam Brownback speak. Unmoved, she cavalierly tweeted to her roughly 65 followers, “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”

...Sure enough, Brownback’s office – the Thin Skin Division — noted Sullivan’s tweet, and contacted Youth in Government. As Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Brownback’s communications director, explained to the Kansas City Star, “That wasn’t respectful. In order to really have a constructive dialogue, there has to be mutual respect.” She added, “It was important for the organization to be aware of the comments their students were making.”

Sullivan was soon called into the principal’s office, where she says she received a one-hour scolding on her “not so nice” behavior and told she needed to do “damage control” in the form of a letter of apology. Oh, but the damage was just beginning.

You see, the girl, who didn’t even meet Brownback — let alone tell him to his face that he sucks — isn’t sorry. Nor does she feel the need to offer a hollow apology. Instead, she tweeted Sunday, “I’ve decided not to write the letter but I hope this opens the door for average citizens to voice their opinion & to be heard!” Suddenly, #heblowsalot is the hashtag to beat.

It’s quite likely that Jones-Sontag read the original tweet, jumped to the hasty conclusion that a confrontation had occurred, and decided to take swift action. And had Sullivan been truly disruptive and abusive during a school event, organizers would be entitled to know. But she wasn’t, and that makes Jones-Sontag and principal Karl R. Krawitz look increasingly absurd for getting whipped up over the blithe tweets of a teenager. Jones-Sontag could have backed up and said, “We misread the events. We never demanded an apology. And differences of opinion are what makes this country great.” But she didn’t. So now it’s a big deal, one that pits a mouthy adolescent’s right to say her governor sucks against a bunch of adults who’d prefer she didn’t.
All of this reminds me of other places on the globe where national leaders insist on respect from their citizens.

Please stand, for Borat's rendition of the Kazakhstan National Anthem:

But finally, today, Great Leader Of Kansastan declared mercy on sniveling, coddled Ute In Government:
“My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms. I enjoyed speaking to the more than 100 students who participated in the Youth in Government Program at the Kansas Capitol. They are our future. I also want to thank the thousands of Kansas educators who remind us daily of our liberties, as well as the values of civility and decorum. Again, I apologize for our over-reaction”

Over-reacting staff will volunteer to be strapped to fence posts and function instead as tornado early-warning system.