out of step
Unfinished essays and spontaneous eruptions on radical politics and popular culture
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Two Brits and a sofa
Gee, I love podcasts...and here’s another good one: Starship Sofa. It’s just two sci-fi geeks from the
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Hooked on HEROES
So far, so good. What little I’ve sampled of this year’s new crop of genre shows from the broadcast networks is top notch. Last week, it was CBS’s
In recent days, a seemingly random group of individuals has emerged with what can only be described as “special” abilities.
Although unaware of it now, these individuals will not only save the world, but change it forever. This transformation from ordinary to extraordinary will not occur overnight. Every story has a beginning.
Volume One of their epic tale begins here...
Epic tale? And Volume One? That’s quite an optimistic promise from a pilot episode. I’d like to see the wheelbarrow creator-writer Tom Kring carries his balls around in.
But Kring makes good on his promise. The first episode of Heroes was dynamite — and a fanboy’s dream. This is a superhero series that emphasizes character over flash. The biggest visual effect in this first hour involved a high school cheerleader who’s discovered she has Wolverine-like regenerative powers; other characters’ “powers” were revealed much more subtly. A nice touch. And you gotta love a TV series that acknowledges its sources; one young geek in
If you love comics, Heroes won’t disappoint you. And if you missed last night’s premiere, NBC is rerunning it tonight at . (Its normal timeslot is Mondays at .) Or maybe look for a download of the episode at NBC.com or iTunes.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Well, hellooooo, Dagny!
The rumors were true! From Variety, September 21:
Jolie Shoulders ‘Atlas’
Thesp slated for Rand adaptation
By Pamela McClintok
Angelina Jolie is set to star in the film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s iconic tome Atlas Shrugged for Lionsgate.
Howard and Karen Baldwin (“Ray”), who hold the rights to
Rand’s most ambitious novel, are producing with Media Talent Group topper Geyer Kosinski, Jolie’s manager.
Jolie, a longtime fan of
Rand’s, was eager to play the role of Dagny Taggart, the most powerful female character in any of Rand’s books.
A movie version of the Russian-born author’s novel, which runs more than 1,100 pages, has been long in the making. For years, producer Al Ruddy tried to bring Atlas Shrugged to the bigscreen, attracting the interest of Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway along the way.
Also producing are Lionsgate vice chair Michael Burns and president of production Michael Paseomek, who were instrumental in bringing the project into the indie studio.
Baldwinsacquired the film rights in 2003 upon leaving Crusader Entertainment, a partnership between Philip Anschultz and John Agliatoro’s company.
Book Review: THE GHOST BRIGADES
John Scalzi’s The Ghost Brigades is more follow-up than sequel to his Hugo-nominated Old Man’s War. It’s set in the same universe. A secondary character from OMW plays a much larger role in this book. But otherwise, it’s a standalone novel — and a very entertaining one, if not quite as good as its predecessor.
To summarize quickly, the war between humankind’s Colonial Defense Forces and every other known race in the universe continues. But now, three disparate races have united to wipe out humanity, and they’re aided by a traitorous human scientist named Charles Boutin, who knows much too much about CDF’s sometimes problematic methods and motives. To help them find Boutin, CDF plants the scientist’s memories into one of their elite Special Forces soldiers created from the DNA of the dead, Jared Dirac. At first, Boutin’s memories don’t seem to take, but when they do eventually surface, then, as they say, the hi-jinks begin.
Like its predecessor novel, The Ghost Brigades focuses on identity: what makes a person, well, a person. Is it memory? Is it personality? Or is it something else entirely? Also like OMW, this book is an effective anti-war novel. Scalzi never glamorizes combat; in fact, most of Ghost’s images are really horrifying. And, as I hinted before, the author shows us that in wartime, the intentions of even the so-called Good Guys are, more often than not, dubious.
Maybe because I was already familiar with Scalzi’s world, The Ghost Brigades didn’t pack the wallop I got when I read the first book. But this is a great, quick read anyway, and I recommend it without reservation. A third (and final?) novel in this series comes out next May, titled The Last Colony. I’ll be there.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
"Uncle Warren's Attic"
I don't often hold a grin on my face for 15 minutes straight. But that's just what I did this afternoon while listening to my oldest and bestest pal whom I've never met face to face Warren Bluhm's new podcast, Uncle Warren's Attic. Warren stuffed all sorts of goodies into this first episode, including an alternate fadeout of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," an obscure but delightful little ditty from the '60s by a group called the Incredibles, some old radio commercial spots, and even an old tune by Warren himself. The direct download link is above. Or you can find it at B.W. Richardson's Imaginary Age site.
It's a short program. Too damn short, I think. But you'll love every minute.
Ever since Mrs. Dolmen, my second grade teacher at the Lutheran school, instructed us to march quickly into the chapel if we ever heard the sirens, nuclear annihilation has kinda, well, obsessed me. I was raised on Panic in Year Zero! fer chrissakes, and Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, and Pat Frank’s Alas,
So just as I felt compelled to visit the old Nevada Nuclear Proving Ground a few months back, shit, I had to watch last night’s series premiere of the apocalyptic
There was a lot to like about
Oh, and I mentioned that Ashley Scott is a featured player on the show. This alone would prompt me to watch most TV series. Ever since the short-lived Birds of Prey, I’ve been a Scott fan. So much so that I might as well take this opportunity to post a nice photo of Ashley here. Even in the face of nuclear war, a man’s heart can melt.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
DVD Review: IMMORTEL
Some of you may have heard of the brand-spankin’-new William Shatner DVD Club. OK, so the club’s name doesn’t necessarily recommend it. But for fifty bucks a year, they’ll send you 13 DVDs representing what they call “the best underground Sci-Fi, Horror & Fantasy movies available.” These DVDs are yours to keep, and when I broke the numbers down to about $4 per DVD (shipping included), I couldn’t resist the offer. Sure, you don’t get the usual packaging — your monthly disc arrives in something only slightly nicer than a Netflix envelope — but I figger that if I really like a particular film, I can create my own packaging.
Anyway, my first shipment just arrived, and so far, I’m not disappointed.
When the Shatner Club said their movie selections are “underground,” they weren’t kidding. Before this past weekend, I’d never heard of 2004’s Immortel (Ad Vitam), but I’m now happy to add it to my collection as one of the most visually stunning sf movies I’ve seen in the past few years. It’s a French-produced, English-language film directed by Yugoslav-born comic book artist Enki Bilal, based on his graphic novel La Foire aux immortels. Here’s a quick and very confused synopsis of Immortel’s almost indecipherable plot: It’s
What Immortel has going for it isn’t its plotline, obviously, but the vivid science fiction world it presents.
Overall, Immortel is a “keeper” that I’ll re-watch and share with friends. It’s gorgeous to look at, never dull, and blue-haired Jill ain't hard on the eyes at all.
The irrepressible Harlan Ellison
The first time I ever heard Harlan Ellison speak was at L.A.Con I (aka the 1972 World Science Fiction Convention). Harlan was 38. I was an impressionable 18. Harlan, author of three of my favorite stories of all time ("A Boy and His Dog," "The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World," and "Along the Scenic Route") and one of the greatest collections of essays ever published, The Harlan Ellison Hornbook, was four-lettered, outrageous, and politically incorrect in an era before political incorrectness officially existed.
Last month, I saw Ellison speak a second time, at L.A.Con IV (aka the 2006 Worldcon). Harlan was 72. I was...well, you do the math. Harlan’s still four-lettered, politically incorrect, and yes, he did grab Connie Willis’ boob at the Hugo Awards ceremony. (So what? You wanna make somethin’ of it?) Anyway, Harlan more than once announced that L.A.Con IV would be his final convention appearance. A real shame. But here’s a free, downloadable MP3 of his “one-man show” on Saturday afternoon, August 26, at Worldcon.
WARNING: There’s something in this hour-long lecture that will offend you. I guarantee it. But you should have a good time nonetheless.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Crushing trademark scofflaws
A small, 10-seat café in
“As a new small business,” the Brooklyn restaurateurs wrote to their patrons, “we did not have the resources to fight to keep ‘Dishes’ part of our name and have agreed to make a change.”
Can everybody now understand why I have a problem with federal trademark and copyright laws? Sheesh. I need a break. Maybe I’ll grab a cup of coffee®, drive down to the beach®, and listen to some music® or read a good book® for awhile.
Friday, September 15, 2006
It's Hardyville Film Fest time again!
Hey there, liberty-lovin’ movie junkies! It’s time again for the Hardyville Freedom Film Festival, when Claire Wolfe’s little mid-nowhere town of
Theatrical or DVD release within the last two years
Good Night, and Good Luck
Off the Map
Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical
V for Vendetta
The Fog of War: 11 Lessons from the Life of Robert S. MacNamara
Why We Fight
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
HALL OF FAME
Older than 10 years
The Milagro Beanfield War
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
A lesson from Jack London
Five years ago, on a visit to Glen Ellen,
I am resigning from the Socialist Party, because of its lack of fire and fight, and its loss of emphasis upon the class struggle.
I was originally a member of the old revolutionary up-on-its-hind-legs, a fighting, Socialist Labor Party. Since then, and to the present time, I have been a fighting member of the Socialist Party. My fighting record in the Cause is not, even at this late date, already entirely forgotten. Trained in the class struggle, as taught and practiced by the Socialist Labor Party, my own highest judgment concurring, I believed that the working class, by fighting, by never fusing, by never making terms with the enemy, could emancipate itself. Since the whole trend of Socialism in the
My final word is that liberty, freedom and independence are royal things that cannot be presented to nor thrust upon race or class. If races and classes cannot rise up and by their own strength of brain and brawn, wrest from the world liberty, freedom and independence, they never in time can come to these royal possessions...and if such royal things are kindly presented to them by superior individuals, on silver platters, they will not know what to do with them, will fail to make use of them, and will be what they have always been in the past...inferior races and inferior classes.
Yours for the Revolution,
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
MLL poster: Go Counter-Economic
A little Serenity for Xmas
The folks at Monsters in Motion now offer, for a measy twenty bucks, a very cool 6-inch model ornament/display of Mal Reynolds' Firefly class rogue ship Serenity from the Firefly TV series and Serenity movie. This thing is fully painted and comes with both a removable hanger (for hanging on the ol' Christmas tree) and a nice, heavy base. It's so nifty, I bought two of them at Worldcon, one for myself and one for a Browncoat friend. The direct link to the product is here.
By the way, in the photo at left, it looks like the words "Monsters in Motion" appear on the base. They don't.
Do not, do not, do NOT miss Sheldon Richman's terrific post from yesterday, "Ten Lessons from 9/11."
Monday, September 11, 2006
In pursuit of counter-economics
In an excellent piece for Strike-The-Root-com last Friday (“Creating a Calculated Revolution — In Your Neighborhood”), comrade Per Bylund advises libertarians to eschew both politics and revolutionary force as tactics for change and pursue instead counter-economics as a strategy. I wish Per had credited Samuel Edward Konkin III, the late granddaddy of agorist Left Libertarianism, for first detailing this strategy 26 years ago in New Libertarian Manifesto, but he does offer a nice link to agorism.info. Great piece. If I may quote from it in part:
[Counter-economics] takes about as much time and energy as would any other strategy, but with the substantial difference of creating real freedom for you and doing it now. ...
[This strategy’s] success must be considered much greater than the alternatives: to engage in politics or direct and speedy revolution. The beauty of this idea is that it is so simple: you only have to live your life in the way you already tell people you want to live it. It does not involve politics, compromises or force, yet it is essentially a controlled revolutionary process towards a much better world.
Counter-economics is a very simple and powerful strategy for creating a truly libertarian world, starting with yourself and your neighborhood. It is a mystery that libertarians do not embrace it, especially considering the alternatives.
Hat tip to Tom Ender for pointing me to this article.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
The ultimate secession
From Reuters, yesterday...
— Earthlike planets covered with deep oceans that could harbor life may be found in as many as a third of solar systems discovered outside of our own, WASHINGTON researchers said on Thursday. U.S.
These solar systems feature gas giants known as “Hot Jupiters,” which orbit extremely close to their parent stars — even closer than Mercury to our sun,
researcher Sean Raymond said. Universityof Colorado
The close-orbiting gassy planets may help encourage the formations of smaller, rocky, Earthlike planets, they reported in the journal Science.
“We now think there is a new class of ocean-covered, and possibly habitable, planets in solar systems unlike our own,” Raymond said in a statement. ...
“I think there are definitely habitable planets out there,” Raymond said. “But any life on these planets could be very different from our. There are a lot of evolutionary steps in between the formation of such planets in other systems and the presence of life forms looking back at us.”
As many as 40 percent of the 200 or so known planets around other stars are Hot Jupiters, the researchers said.
So let's start working at getting off this friggin' rock! Spaceward, ho!
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Did Brad Linaweaver really "wake up"?
I had high hopes for Brad's Post-Nationalism, his attack on Bush and the neoconservatives. After all, it’s dedicated “to the memory and inspiration of Samuel Edward Konkin III and Chauntecleer Michael [Green].” Its cover displays the blurb “A New Isolationist Broadside,” referring to SEK3’s short-lived newsletter of the 1990s. Brad even wrote “Wally, I woke up!” in my review copy. All those “clues” had me hoping that Brad had not only turned his back, as advertised, on five years of saber-rattling for the War on Terror but was also finally moving leftward from his long-held right-wing minarchist position to join us on the anarchist, agorist Left. But listen to this:
“In 2006, I stopped defending Bush. I’d run out of excuses and rationalizations. In common with patriotic liberals, I can draw a distinction between supporting our troops and believing in any particular war. I don’t have to make that distinction at the moment because I continue to see some merit in the invasions of
and Afghanistan even though I now reject the political reasons put forth — reasons far too incoherent to rise to the level of a conscious falsehood. We have been given bromides in place of a sound policy.” [italics mine] Iraq
“[W]e should fight to take back the Republican Party. We should criticize the puppets on Reich-Wing Radio, the ones who never show independence from the ideology we hate. We should no longer accept mere opposition to liberals as sufficient reason to support someone. We should stop parroting the delusions of the War Party even when we support particular military operations.” [italics mine]
After wading through this admittedly entertaining but philosophically muddy 150-page rant, I’ve concluded that:
(1) Brad doesn’t really oppose the War on Terror; rather, he dislikes the way it’s being run and distrusts the people running it (i.e., neoconservatives).
(2) Brad remains a thoroughly right-wing minarchist (aka “conservative”) and therefore tends to blame the people running the State and never the very nature of the State itself.
(3) Brad wishes Ronald Reagan were still president.
Brad and I run in the same libertarian circles. We share some friends. We’ve appeared on the same panels at libertarian supper clubs. Brad was even one of those who presented me last March with the Karl Hess Club’s first Samuel Edward Konkin III Memorial Chauntecleer. I like Brad.I just wish a little more Konkin would rub off on him.
Monday, September 04, 2006
DEMOLISHED MAN kicks Ninja ass
The Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas — the always endearing Summer, Joe, and David — continue their hour-long examinations of classic retro sci-fi with a recent podcast about Alfred Bester’s 1951 novel The Demolished Man, which was the first ever to win the Hugo Award (in 1953).
I’ve read the book three times in the past 30 years, and it remains one of my favorites. Alfred Bester may have been the first author to tackle the idea of telepaths, and this book may also be the very first noir sf novel. The telepathic badguy “Bester” in the 1990s Babylon 5 TV series, played brilliantly by Walter “Chekov” Koenig, was a tribute to The Demolished Man and its author. I believe that with a few simple editorial alterations, this book could be released “new” right now and it’d be hailed as a “breakthrough” science fiction novel. It’s that contemporary in style and approach to its subject matter. Bester was a friggin’ genius.
As usual, I can quibble with several of the Ninjas’ opinions about The Demolished Man. But if you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, or even just want to know what all the fuss is about, this podcast is worthy of your time. You’ll find the download here.
At L.A.Con IV almost two weeks ago, I think it was Day Three, I dropped by a table promoting the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Nice folks. They loaded me down with lots of free buttons, journals, and chapbooks, which I stuffed into my Cthulhu book bag and promptly forgot about. Well, I finally started plowing through all my Worldcon goodies this past weekend and found that the real treats among all that stuff were the journals and chapbooks from SFPA. The richness of the poetry subculture in fandom is something that had escaped me until now. Whew. Some absolutely wonderful stuff.
Among my favorites are poems called SciFaiku, inspired by traditional Japanese haiku. Much of it follows the familiar
Here’s a SciFaiku by John Dunphy that has special meaning for me, since I visited the Nevada Test Site a few months ago:
ex-nuclear test site
a prairie dog peers from its hole
with both heads
Deborah P. Kolodji’s latest chapbook of “speculative haiku,” Red Planet Dust, brims with fantastic images. A few examples:
of the xenophobe wars
red planet dust
covers beta colony
the only green her eyes
finding grandma’s old robot
in the garage
Hmm. I’m tempted to try my hand at SciFaiku.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Missed opportunities for outreach
Sheldon Richman, editor of The Freeman, has not-too-gradually thrown himself into the Left Libertarian camp over the past year. He posted yesterday on a major failing of libertarians — missing opportunities for outreach to the Left. If I may, here’s Sheldon:
“Libertarians constantly miss opportunities to appeal to good-faith left-leaners who are concerned that working people get the short end of the stick. Yes, they are subject to economic fallacies that should be addressed. Yes, they may misuse or misinterpret wage and total-compensation statistics. Yes, they may fall victim to demagogues such as Paul Krugman. Yes, people generally live far better today than they lived 20 and 30 years ago — although we don’t give enough attention to how the Fed’s easy-credit policies can create illusions of prosperity or how the government has inflated the price of housing, food, medicine, education, and energy. All those things should be explained patiently and clearly.
“But I fear that we miss the forest for the trees. We live in a corporate state, not a free economy. What are we arguing about? Whether the corporate state treats workers better than the left says it does? Big deal! What does that do to advance the cause of liberty?”
This post should really be read in its entirety. You’ll find it at the link above. Also see his related article, "Eye on the Ball," which you will find here.