Monday, March 31, 2008

The immorality of voting

My comrade Wendy McElroy has served as one of my philosophical plumblines for quite a long time, and as an advocate of the art of nonvoting, she’s without equal. So fer crissakes, download her 45-minute lecture “The Immorality of Voting,” presented last month at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Then make a PayPal donation; the lecture is kind of a fundraiser for Wendy’s websites, which I think are indispensable.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Farewell to "Jericho"

Jericho finished its second and final season on CBS Tuesday night. It was a darn good show while it lasted, and it was getting better all the time. I stayed faithful through its run and was delighted that the network gave the program another shot with a seven-episode mini-season after first canceling it last year. And kudos to the creators and producers, who, anticipating a second cancellation, filmed a dandy concluding episode that pretty satisfactorily tied up most of the story threads. Now those of us who give a damn can treasure all 29 shows as a complete Jericho saga; I’m assuming the short second season will arrive on DVD eventually.

By the way, for those unfamiliar with the program, Jericho’s first season detailed a massive nuclear attack on the U.S. and the painful rebuilding of Jericho, Kansas; this last run of the series focused on the town’s occupation by the “new” federal government’s military forces. And Tuesday’s episode closed with the nation on the brink of a New American Revolution, with one of its final images being the good old Gadsden flag (“Don’t Tread On Me”) flying over city hall. Stirring stuff. If you haven’t seen Jericho yet, rent or even buy the DVDs. It’s a damn fine yarn.

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Richard Widmark RIP


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Prometheus Award nominees revealed

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the list of nominees for this year’s Prometheus Award:

Ragamuffin, by Tobias S. Buckell
The Execution Channel, by Ken MacLeod
Fleet of Worlds, by Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner
The Gladiator, by Harry S. Turtledove
Ha’Penny, by Jo Walton

Looks like Ken MacLeod is destined to be a perennial nominee. Congrats, Ken!

As usual, I haven’t read any of these novels. And sadly, not one of them sits in my stack of books waiting to be read. I’d better make a trip to Amazon.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Space: 1899!

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Dave Stevens RIP


Winter's last hurrah

Yeah, I’ve been incommunicado these past few days. No cell phones. No TV. Just me, Deb, and a few friends, hunkered down in a cabin in Yosemite with a case of wine, good food, and a backpack worth of novels. This weekend may have been the last hurrah of Winter 2008. When we arrived in Wawona mid-week, there was “old snow” scattered alongside the roadside, but by Friday, down in the valley, scattered clouds and cold temps were threatening snowfall. The small storm arrived Saturday morning and it snowed off and on all day.

I’ve never been a big snow person, mainly because I hate driving in the stuff. I won’t go out of my way to find snow here in California, but when it arrives, and if I’m already comfortably situated by a fire with a book and a cigar, I enjoy the hell out of it.

Yesterday was beautiful. The falls were roaring. Blue skies. A great day to drive the 235 miles back home to the central coast. And I didn’t even have to put the chains on the car. A good day.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Eric John Stark rides again!

I’ve been a fan of the late Leigh Brackett for a very long time. First of all, she wrote the screenplay for Rio Bravo. Then she was the screenwriter on two Raymond Chandler adaptations to film — the classic 1940s noir and Bogart-Bacall vehicle The Big Sleep (co-written with William Faulkner, fer crissakes) and Robert Altman’s revisionist 1970s take on Philip Marlowe with Elliot Gould, The Long Goodbye. And she wrote the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back shortly before her death in 1978, which certainly counts for something.

Most important, though, Brackett wrote some boffo science fiction stories and novels. More specifically, she wrote some great space opera. Even more specifically, she wrote some terrific space opera in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs, taking ERB’s Mars and Venus formulas, turning ’em on their heads, and adding a hardboiled edge that could come only from someone who also wrote noir and crime fiction.

Brackett’s most famous sci-fi hero was Eric John Stark, a kind of cross between John Carter and Tarzan, born and orphaned on Mercury, later turned rogue, thief, and mercenary. Two of Stark’s most famous adventures have been re-collected into a single, inexpensive, trade paperback volume under the title The Secret of Sinharat as part of Paizo’s Planet Stories pulp reprint series. These novellas are “The Secret of Sinharat” (an expansion of the 1949 short story “Queen of the Martian Catacombs”) and “People of the Talisman” (an expansion of the 1951 short story “Black Amazon of Mars”). Both stories are fantastic, filled with ancient crumbling Martian cities, cruel badguys, hot (if sometimes evil) Martian women, swordplay, gunplay, and high adventure. This stuff is not to be missed, and I understand that Paizo has at least one more collection of Brackett’s Stark stories on the way!

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Larry David on Hillary's madness

“Here's an idea for an Obama ad: a montage of Clinton's Sybillish personalities that have surfaced during the campaign with a solemn voiceover at the end saying, ‘Does anyone want this nut answering the phone?’

“How is it that she became the one who's perceived as more equipped to answer that call than the unflappable Obama? He, with the ice in his veins, who doesn't panic when he's losing or get too giddy when he's winning, who's as comfortable in his own skin as she's uncomfortable in hers. There have been times in this campaign when she seemed so unhinged that I worried she'd actually kill herself if she lost. Every day, she reminds me more and more of Adele H., who also had an obsession that drove her insane. A few weeks ago, I started to feel sorry for her. Oh Christ, let her win already...Who cares...It's not worth it. There's not that much difference between them. She can have it. Anything to avoid watching her descend into madness. So I switched. I started rooting for her. It wasn't that hard. Compromise comes easy to me. I was on board.

“And then I saw the ad.

“I watched, transfixed, as she took the 3 a.m. call...and I was afraid...very afraid. Suddenly, I realized the last thing this country needs is that woman anywhere near a phone. I don't care if it's 3 a.m. or 10 p.m. or any other time. I don't want her talking to Putin, I don't want her talking to Kim Jong Il, I don't want her talking to my nephew. She needs a long rest. She needs to put on a sarong and some sun block and get away from things for a while, a nice beach somewhere — somewhere far away, where there phones.”

Source: Huffington Post

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Soundtrack to an Alien Invasion

Stevie K. Farnaby over at Broken Sea Audio Productions has produced a creepy sci-fi music EP called Electric Grasshopper – Soundtrack to an Alien Invasion. Here’s how the Broken Sea people describe it: “A unique and innovative form of story-telling, that combines elements of music and drama, to create an unnerving, disturbing tale of alien invasion, giant man-eating bugs, and hopelessness. Pure unadulterated atmospheric mayhem ensues…” Very cool. Kinda Robert Heinlein meets Brian Eno. You can download the entire EP here FOR FREE (two musical tracks and one of Farnaby talking about the music).

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

1800 anti-Jefferson TV ad

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Beltway libertarians

Thanks, BK.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My favorite political movies

Dirty Harry over at the Libertas blog (“a forum for conservative thought on film”) lists his top five political films: A Man for All Seasons, A Lion in Winter, All the President’s Men, The Manchurian Candidate, and All the King’s Men. An interesting list. Here’s my quickie list of ten, oh hell, eleven, in no particular order:

All the President’s Men
Secret Honor
Dr. Strangelove
Wag the Dog
Malcolm X


Two by Costa-Gavras and three, count 'em, three by Oliver Stone. OK, everybody — chime in.

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The Comeback Kid

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Monday, March 03, 2008


I’m reminded by the folks at AOL that on this very day in March, 23 years ago, Glenn Gordon Caron’s Moonlighting made its TV debut. That was the show that rekindled Cybil Shepherd’s fading career and launched Bruce Willis to stardom, and I, like many people back then, was captivated by it. The show had the trappings of cutie detective shows so prevalent in the 1980s (Remington Steele, Hart to Hart), but it broke so much new ground, or reinvigorated old ground, that it was irresistible. For one thing, not since the old Hope and Crosby films had the “fourth wall” between actors and viewers been so thoroughly shattered. This was a TV series where the stars knew they were just actors in a TV series. And then there were the allusions to old movies and TV shows, the constant, rapid-fire, overlapping dialogue, and, of course, there was Willis. He was a star being born. His line delivery was unforgettable, and usually quotable. And his chemistry with Shepherd was magic; who knew at the time, or cared, that the two never really got along?

After four — or was it five? — seasons (or fragments thereof), Moonlighting died a pitiful death due to production troubles, missed script deadlines, temperamental performers, and a plotline that tanked once Maddy (Shepherd) and David (Willis) finally did the naughty. Ah well. It was a terrific show for a good while, and every one of those episodes from the first two or three years is rewatchable.

Happy anniversary, Dave and Maddy!


Free yourself from election madness

Leftist historian Howard Zinn is no antipolitics anarchist, but his heart is often in the right place. Here, he effectively throws the wet blanket of reality over Election 2008:
"Is it possible to get together with friends these days and avoid the subject of the Presidential elections? The very people who should know better, having criticized the hold of the media on the national mind, find themselves transfixed by the press, glued to the television set, as the candidates preen and smile and bring forth a shower of cliches with a solemnity appropriate for epic poetry.

"Even in the so-called left periodicals, we must admit there is an exorbitant amount of attention given to minutely examining the major candidates. An occasional bone is thrown to the minor candidates, though everyone knows our marvelous democratic political system won't allow them in. ...

"I'm talking about a sense of proportion that gets lost in the election madness. Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes -- the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.

"But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice. ...

"So we need to free ourselves from the election madness engulfing the entire society, including the left. Yes, two minutes. Before that, and after that, we should be taking direct action against the obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Read the whole thing here. And thanks to Kevin Carson for leading me to it in the first place.

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Celebrate 75 years of Doc Savage

In March 1933, Doc Savage was introduced in the pulp magazines. Rock on, Doc!

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

NEW FRONTIER is geek paradise

I read a lot of comics — a lot of comics. But somehow, a few years back, I managed to miss Darwyn Cooke’s graphic novel Justice League: The New Frontier. Shame on me, because the direct-to-DVD animated feature based on that novel, released this past week, is fan-friggin-tastic, and now I’ve gotta go back and read the darn thing. If it’s anywhere near as great as this 75-minute movie, and I’m sure it is, I’ll be in heaven.

New Frontier is about the formation of the Justice League of America, a sort of prequel to the original Silver Age comic book series. Set in the paranoid 1950s, the look of the film is spot-on. Superman looks like he just stepped out of an old Fleisher cartoon. We actually see Batman make his costume switch from the scary 1930s big-eared version to the softer ’50s nubby-eared look (and the reason for the change is even explained for the first time). And Wonder Woman, well, shit, she looks like the Amazon she was back during WWII. Cool.

A lot is shoved into this movie. We see the Martian Manhunter’s origin, and we witness Hal Jordan (yeah, that’s right, Hal Jordon) become Green Lantern for the very first time. The Flash — the Barry Allen Flash — is a major player. And in non-speaking cameos, Green Arrow, Adam Strange, the Blackhawks, and even a couple of Jack Kirby’s original Challengers of the Unknown show up. It’s geek paradise, friends.

The Justice League: The New Frontier DVD comes in a few different versions: single-disc, double-disc, and Blu-ray. I bought the 2-disc set, with two full feature-length commentaries (one by Cooke, one with the movie’s creators), a handful of features, extra cartoons, and a 45-minute documentary about the history of the JLA. All for less than twenty bucks. A bargain.

This thing is highly recommended. I’ve watched it three times since Tuesday. I’ll watch it again before the weekend’s over.

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