messier object

normally i am not wild about TED

but still, I gotta post this:

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the first science fiction novel i remember reading

This eluded me for years, what it was called.  It wasn’t this edition, though, but a library edition of the original hardback with the blue cover – on the lower left.

The part I remembered best was the part where they fly around the space station on giant pogo sticks. And where they meet old people who grow huge in space. One of those is an exaggeration, but which? Also I really don't think it was dangerous at all. I mean, they sent a kid up there for a quiz-show prize.

Thanks, parochial school library’s lack of attention to weeding!  You made me what I am today, kinda.


Communists Say Avatar Director ‘Robbed’ Soviet Science Fiction: Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia

Indignant party members say that Cameron, prepared to do anything to execute the command of the White House, surreptitiously entered the mysterious and romantic world of Soviet science fiction, and transferred all the action to his primitive propaganda film and to the Strugatsky-created world of planet Pandora.

Now, I haven’t seen Avatar yet.  But, of course, as we all know, the Strugatskys’ Pandora is a world given over entirely to scientific research giant crayfish hunting where when you try to go there you end up crashing off-course because you got hijacked by a time-traveling Red Army officer and if you try to go back in history you end up being menaced by a skull.  And does this mean Frank Herbert’s The Jesus Incident is also to blame for this?

What man could resist a shaving lotion so laden with futurity?

It’s the future’s future now, but I just want to remind you why you should be reading Brett Holman (who seems to be a nice fellow, too)’s Airminded instead of this blog in the coming second decade of the third millennium*:

Are you going to wait — or be one of the ‘Moderns’? For the sake of your skin and your razor-blades do step out of that rut.

So how is the future invoked here in the pursuit of higher sales figures for Field-day? Most obviously, the city of the future has giant skyscrapers, with aeroplanes (and giant tubes of shaving lotion, ridden by a man who is clearly accustomed to boldly taking charge of his destiny in his dressing-gown) flying in between them. In fact, one of the skyscrapers is also an airport: there’s an aeroplane just taking off from it, and at the top of the tower is a windsock. Aside from the odd heliport or two, downtown airports have failed to materialise, but they remained a possibility in the 1930s. The text mentions such wondrous technological possibilities as glass houses, autogiros, and wrist televisions.

Then there is the rhetorical, almost ritual, use of the names of those two great novels about the future to come out of Britain in the 1930s, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and H. G. Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come (1933) (or rather, the 1936 film-of-the-book, Things to Come). Neither of these can be said to look forwards to the future without any misgivings, however; the one is a dystopia (albeit one masquerading as a utopia), and the other might as well be, at least for the hundreds of millions of people killed along the road to a technologically-sophisticated, tunic-wearing paradise. So they might seem an odd choice for a straightforwardly optimistic (if not entirely straightfaced, perhaps) depiction of the future. But that’s par for the course: the titles of both books very quickly became a shorthand for the unknown future, often with little relation to anything in Huxley or Wells.

Finally, there are all the key words defining the attributes which are to be associated with the future, and with Field-day: it will be revolutionary, incomparably better, different, faster, longer lasting, simple and safe. What man could resist a shaving lotion so laden with futurity? It is indeed the shave of the future, NOW. I do so want to be one of the Moderns, and I’d buy it myself, for sure — except that judging by Google, it looks like neither Field-day nor J. C. and J. Field, Ltd., its manufacturer, actually made it into this future. O brave new world, that doesn’t have such things in it!

*and, yes, I realize we aren’t there yet.

dragon innit


hello, i’m a robot!

Not only is Hello, I’m a Robot! an adorable, adorable title for an East-Bloc children’s book, the drawings themselves are excellent.  The first one, the robo-duck, and the walking foot all especially remind me of the illustrations for Stanisław Lem’s Cyberiad (supposedly, according to Amazon, by Daniel Mruz, on whom I can find no other information except that he has an entry in a comics encyclopedia somewhere) or Theo Ellsworth’s brilliant Sleeper Car.  And what’s more, it’s (it seems) supposed to be a serious book about how robots work for kids.  Poor Soviet kids, thinking robots have abacuses in their brains and terrifying metal claws to cuddle with.

the evolution of the brain, according to "hello, i'm a robot!"

(via the excellent journey round my skull)

“aloha, mars!”

Fun facts from the Futurama complete set’s complete commentaries: not only is “Fear of a Bot Planet” (s1e05) based on a Stanisław Lem short story about an astronaut who crash-lands on a planet of robots where, as it turns out, all the robots are actually just other astronauts who’ve disguised themselves, they wanted to make another episode based on Karel Čapek’s War with the Newts.

whoa there, wsj
2009, December 25, 2:34 pm
Filed under: history | Tags: , ,

But what if the whole notion of global imbalances is a myth, and that policies to reverse them only make things worse?

The blunt fact is that at no point in the past century has there been anything resembling a global economic equilibrium.

Consider the heyday of the “American century” after World War II, when Western European nations were ravaged by war, and the Soviet Union and its new satellites slowly rebuilding. In 1945, the U.S. accounted for more than 40% of global GDP and the preponderance of global manufacturing. The country was so dominant it was able to spend the equivalent of hundreds of billions of dollars to regenerate the economies of Western Europe via the Marshall Plan, and also of Japan during a seven year military occupation. By the late 1950s, 43 of the world’s 50 largest companies were American.

Not that picking on the Wall Street Journal opinions page is exactly difficult, but lately I think they’ve been getting even nuttier than usual.  (Is it because nobody likes fruitcake any more?)  This editorial piece from Monday is supposed to be about the history, I guess, of economies, but… aside from the fact that I think it’s straw-manning and side-stepping the point about extractive economic setups and the history of colonialism the notion that 1945 or 6 or 7 or 8 can be pointed to as an even vaguely typical economic year is just mad – of course in 1945 the United States had about 40% of the world GDP and manufacturing; every other industrialized country had just been razed to a plain.  By contrast, the next example (why skip 20 years ahead?  What about the ’60s or early ’70s?) – the global economic shittiness of the ’70s – is actually an example of everything being equally awful everywhere, but… wait, why am I still writing, even?  They’re not gonna see this and retract anything, and all my points about people predicting the future are just moot because this is an ideological strawman.  Fuck.

I’m gonna go eat some Christmas ham.  Merry economy, world.

it’s a very, very mad world

Following all that negativity, though, there is one good thing I have to say about the viral campaign for this – the (oh god I’m about to hate myself) Twitter account is pretty neat.  The notion of having a part of a viral campaign just reporting on related real-life news ups the menace a little (a little) and weaves the fiction in a little neater than the Dakon/Pendrill site or the Ogden Marsh homepage do.  I’m a bit surprised this intermingling has only cropped up in ARGs in the past year or so, though.  I suppose the 8 years since The Beast/Majestic debuted isn’t that long, but still.

Anyways, for making it through that here’s some Tears for Fears as my gift to you.

why are the good people dying?

Seriously, this poster is about a thousand times better than the new ones.

So.  They’re remaking The Crazies, Romero’s fourth movie (after his ill-advised dive into romantic comedy).  And as if the “of the Dead” remakes weren’t meh enough – cool opening credits sequences don’t really make up for a mediocre execution – this one looks to be just as middle-of-the-road.  While it’s always nice to see Timothy Olyphant getting work as a sheriff, the concept and apparent execution this time seem to lack some of the wild-eyed paranoia of the original.  That one had a sort of predecessor to the plague-zombies of late – intelligent humans bent on murder by a virus in the water supply, with a possibility of worldwide contamination – while the new one seems, from the viral marketing, to be more along the lines of the X-Files episodes “Red Museum” or “Blood” – evil chemicals make the good people want to kill.  Not that it’s ever a bad time for a Bhopal-referencing horror movie about the terrors of environmental degradation, but… why this one?

When I saw the first trailer, I have to say I was a lot more excited than I am now.  It was, according to Wikipedia, going to be set in Georgia, and when I saw these clips in the trailer it was hard not to think of New Orleans.  We haven’t really had a good Katrina-related horror movie yet, or even a good Southern horror movie that didn’t rely on the Civil War in quite some time.  Sure, there’s Left 4 Dead 2. (‘though I’ve still gotta play that, and, yes, I’m going to extend it to being Katrina-related even if the government is generally competent and not paranoia-inducing just because of where it’s set.  You’ve got to make due with what you get.)  But I thought the ’70s Vietnam-derived paranoia that runs rampant through the original – two of the main band we follow are veterans, and, I mean, it’s a movie about the U.S. Army wiping out a village while under threat from a runaway biological weapon – were going to make a really great match for a Katrina-based horror film.

See what I meant?

Great, then, was my dismay when I put together the slogan on the sign up there and on the header of this viral page meant it was going to be set in rural Iowa.  I mean, yeah, tranquil small-town Americana is a classic horror-within! setting and, sure, pollution impacts us everywhere.  But couldn’t they have just saved that for the eventual remake of Frogs?