Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Inconvenient Opera

I am not making this up!

MILAN, Italy (AP) — First it was the film and the book. Now the next step for Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is opera.

La Scala officials say the Italian composer Giorgio Battistelli has been commissioned to produce an opera on the international multiformat hit for the 2011 season at the Milan opera house. The composer is currently artistic director of the Arena in Verona.

OK…tomorrow, I begin working on Man, Economy, and State: The Musical.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

METROPOLIS, the audio book

The good folks at BrokenSea Audio Productions are presenting a crackerjack serialized reading by Damaris Mannering of the 1926 science fiction novel Metropolis, by Thea von Harbou. The book was first published in Germany two years after release of the famous dystopian film directed by Fritz Lang, which Von Harbou co-wrote with her then-husband Lang. (Interestingly, considering the subject matter of both the movie and the novel, Von Harbou joined the Nazis in 1932, she and Lang divorced, and Lang fled Germany.) The novel fills in a lot of gaps in the film, many of them created, I imagine, by scissor-happy German and American “editors” over the years. As a longtime fan of Metropolis the movie, I’m finding this audio reading fascinating, and it helps clarify many parts of the Lang movie. The audio novel isn’t complete yet, but you can begin downloading it right here. Highly recommended.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Your Memorial Day Meditation

“If you make a war if there are guns to be aimed if there are bullets to be fired if there are men to be killed they will not be us. They will not be us the guys who grow wheat and turn it into food the guys who make clothes and paper and houses and tiles the guys who build dams and power plants and string the long moaning high tension wires the guys who crack crude oil down into a dozen different parts who make light globes and sewing machines and shovels and automobiles and airplanes and tanks and guns oh no it will not be us who die. It will be you.

“It will be you — you who urge us on to battle you who incite us against ourselves you who would have one cobbler kill another cobbler you who would have one man who works kill another man who works you who would have one human being who wants only to live kill another human being who wants only to live. Remember this. Remember this well you people who plan for war. Remember this you patriots you fierce ones you spawners of hate you inventors of slogans. Remember this as you have never remembered anything else in your lives.

“We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.

“Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into realities. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off. Not one not ten not ten thousand not a million not ten millions not a hundred millions but a billion two billions of us all the people of the world we will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquility in security in decency in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.”

Johnny Got His Gun
by Dalton Trumbo
(Citadel, 1939)

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Friday, May 23, 2008

INDY 4: magic strikes a fourth time

OK, here’s what really pisses me off: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (aka Indy 4) being trashed by punks whose first experience with the franchise was watching Last Crusade while squirming on their living room floors with a load in their diapers. In the past couple of days, I’ve heard that the script is silly, the script makes no sense, Harrison Ford is too old, Shia LaBeouf sucks, the CGI stinks, it needs Sean Connery, there’s not enough Karen Allen, there’s too much Karen Allen, there’s not enough of the old magic… Waa, waa, waa. Well, screw all of you snotty ratbastards.

There’s plenty of magic in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In fact, it oozes magic. I just saw the movie this morning. And as it settles into my brainpan over the next few days — and as I see it again and again, which I most certainly will — I’m sure I’ll find a couple of goofs and missteps. But since I’ve been afraid of disappointment ever since the film was first announced, I can report that from Indy 4’s opening scene to its closing credits, I was caught up in the same sense of wonder I felt when I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark on opening night in Westwood in 1981.

There’s too much to say. So just a handful of comments for now:

First of all, anyone who is as sick as I am of the dour, grim Harrison Ford of the past two decades will be crazy about him in this film.

Second, I loved the Area 51 and Nevada Test Site scenes. Loved ’em, loved ’em, loved ’em, particularly since I toured the test site and “Doomtown” just two years ago. That stuff — and the replacement of Nazi bad guys with Commie bad guys — perfectly anchored the film in the 1950s.

Next, Shia LaBeouf does a fine and dandy job as Indy’s son. (I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here. And if I have spoiled this “surprise” for you, which was telegraphed in the promotional materials a year ago, well, shame on you for being such a numbskull.) There’s chemistry between Ford and LaBeouf that can’t be denied. And the final bit, where LaBeouf has Indy’s hat in his hands, and then doesn’t, is a wonderful wink from Lucas and Spielberg: yeah, maybe LeBeouf will someday be Ford’s successor, but we all know it’ll never be quite as great.

Finally, I’m absolutely nuts over the return of Marion Ravenwood. When Ford sees Karen Allen for the first time, and yes, she's still gorgeous, he looks like a young kid getting his first bicycle for Christmas. Yes, friends, the magnetism between Indy and Marion is still there after 27 years. Every scene between them sizzles — and sure, there are too few, but let’s face it, any number of them would have been too few. Just watch Karen Allen’s face after Ford says, in a soon-to-be-famous scene, “None of them were you, honey.” Even crusty old me turned to jelly in my seat. Don’t we all wish our ladies would look at us like that? Just once? I get gooseflesh just thinking about that scene.

So go see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. With this movie and the phenomenal Iron Man now under our belts, this is already a movie summer better than I ever expected. And better than a lot of cynical fans deserve.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why Agorist Class Theory is so damn important

Niccolo Adami, my favorite Christian anarchist, explains brilliantly why Agorist Class Theory (the theory, not necessarily the tract itself) is vital in rallying the troops and building the revolution. Find Niccolo's thoughts right here.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why Murray Rothbard matters

Just in case someone out there is still wondering, my friend Wendy McElroy spells out why Murray N. Rothbard matters.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Your Monday Moment of Cyberpunk Noir

He kept his gray eyes on me. “You’re one of those true believers, aren’t you, Cates?”

“True believer?”

He shrugged. “Revolution. Changing the world. Ending the System.”

I looked down at the floor, embarrassed and resentful. “Don’t you sometimes just want to give up on all this bullshit? Christ, if you were in the Dúnmharú, you must.”

I met his eyes again. “Oh, yes, Mr. Cates.” He pointed a finger at his head like a gun. “If I could put a bullet in the System’s brain, I would. But I’m a realist. Until the right time comes, a man’s got to eat.”

The Electric Church
by Jeff Somers
(Orbit, 2007)

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

John Phillip Law RIP

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

I wanna Ringshot!

How come all the cool shit gets invented and marketed 40 years after I really needed it?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Forever in Never Never Land

A foreclosure sale on Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch was scheduled for this week. But that's been averted, it seems, since a loan on the property was sold to a large real estate investment firm.

I live maybe 45 minutes northwest of the Neverland Ranch, and I'm dying to see it for myself. Jacko needn't be in attendance when I visit. I've always thought that when the proper time comes, someone should lessen Jackson's financial woes, buy the damn thing, and turn it into a privately-owned tourist attraction. Kinda like the famous Hearst Castle, which is located about 45 minutes north of me, but without the taxpayer subsidies.

Neither Left nor Right -- just Up

I needed a pick-me-up after a kinda funky weekend. So to realign my attitude, I dipped into a few books by my old friend, the futurist F.M. Esfandiary (aka FM-2030).

I first became acquainted with FM through a book review by Jerome Tuccille in Libertarian Forum in 1971. I read everything I could find by FM over the next few years. His stuff was exhilarating. I finally met him in 1989, when I took one of his UCLA extension courses. Soon after, I interviewed FM for the corporate magazine I was editing at the time and we became friends. FM used to hold monthly “salons” for idea-sharing at his apartment in Westwood; after four or five late-night hours of discussion, I usually couldn’t sleep for days.

FM died from pancreatic cancer in 2000 at the age of 70. He now lies in cryogenic suspension at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona. I really miss him. But FM lives on for me through his books, all of which are now out of print. I treasure my tattered copies.

Here’s something from Up-Wingers, his futurist manifesto, first published in 1973:

“[T]he Up-Winger proceeds from the premise that we are now flowing to a higher evolution and that therefore it is no longer enough to resolve age-old social economic political problems. We must urgently overcome the more basic tyrannies of nature the arbitrariness of evolution the limitations of the human body the confinements of Time and Space.

“It is the human situation that is basically tragic. Right/Left revolutions cannot alter this basic dilemma. For instance the most revolutionary Left-wing group has no program to overcome death. The entire Right/Left establishment is still death-oriented.

“Space programs and biological advances in capitalist and socialist countries are outgrowths of modern science and technology not of Right/Left ideologies. We are extending ourselves in Space and in Time not because of capitalism or socialism but in spite of them.

“The Right/Left Capitalist/Socialist establishments have used their Space programs chiefly to advance their nationalistic militaristic hang-ups. They still do not comprehend the evolutionary impact of the Space dimension.

“The Right/Left establishment is psychologically and ideologically unprepared for our emerging situation in Time and Space. It is not surprising that much of the Right/Left is vehemently opposed to this new cosmic dimension.

“The Right/Left establishment wants to maintain an evolutionary status quo. It is resigned to humanity's basic predicament. It simply strives to make life better within this predicament.

“Up-Wingers are resigned to nothing. We accept no human predicament as permanent no tragedy as irreversible no goals as unattainable.

“To be Up you must sever all ideological ties with the Right/Left establishment. You must make a break with the traditional concept of linear historical progress. That is now too slow and limited.

"You must be prepared to quantum-leap forward. This means starting with a new set of premises new visionary aims.”

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Electoral politics is just poor strategy

A week ago, good comrade Brad Spangler posted that “the Libertarian Party specifically and electoral politics generally are very poor tools for the advancement of libertarian ideas if we’re talking about radical (i.e. real) libertarianism.” His evidence: Liberty magazine’s recent poll results, which show that, among its readership over the past two decades, “the trendline is clearly away from anarchist sentiments.” This is due in no small part, Brad says, to the fact that “within the libertarian movement, anarchists are not making their case because they’re busy ‘doing politics’ and minarchists enjoy the pro-government bias inherent in existing government being the status quo.”

Radical libertarians (aka anarchists), Brad explains, “haven’t been adequately making their case because the attempt to use a political party as a vehicle for the communication of ideology results in our best and brightest people being tied up in endless platform wars with establishmentarian elements and vainly struggling to defend radicalism from smears by our worst enemies — those who want to define libertarianism out of existence by making the word come to mean something else entirely.”

As usual, I agree with Brad totally. Alas, the first respondent to Brad’s post does not. He writes:

“I’m a candidate, but my top priority is to talk about anarchism, not to build the Libertarian Party. I find it easier to get into discussions with people about politics when I’m a ‘candidate’ than just an ordinary Joe Six-pack.”

Ignoring altogether the condescending elitism inherent in the use of the term “Joe Six-pack,” this comment indicates its author either lacks imagination or is just plain lazy. C’mon! Since when is it hard to get into political discussions with people? In just the past weekend, I’ve had (and have even seized upon) the opportunity to briefly comment on the economy and the political landscape to people trapped next to me at the gas pump, in line at the local coffee house, and sitting queued up outside a movie theater. Waiting with a whole lot of people to buy “forever stamps” at the post office, I got a nod and smile from a fellow patron when I remarked that were the USPS privately owned, there’d likely be more than two service windows open (eight were shuttered).

Pardon me for sounding cranky, but I think that with a larger set of balls, Brad’s correspondent could reach as many people in the trenches with his message, and reach them more effectively, if he posed as “an ordinary Joe Six-pack” and quit playing political candidate.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Man of Bronze returns!

It’s been mentioned here before, but I’ll mention it again — this year is Doc Savage’s 75th anniversary. And in celebration, James Cavanaugh is beginning to “bookcast” the very first Doc Savage pulp novel, Lester Dent’s great The Man of Bronze. James reports that his narration will he dramatically enhanced with sound effects. Sounds cool to me. So far, a ten-minute introduction has been posted, and I assume chapters will appear week to week. Look for the podcast here.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blasting off with SPACE VULTURE

[Cross-posted to Rebels of Mars]

By the time I started reading science fiction seriously as a kid, Dangerous Visions was rocking the genre and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was tucked into every teenager’s backpack. The so-called New Wave had taken hold. But even so, an early visit to Barsoom, my discovery of Edmond Hamilton’s creaky Captain Future stories, and Channel 9’s Saturday morning broadcasts of the old Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe and — gasp! — Carol Hughes got me hooked on old-fashioned space opera. I read “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen books in between rounds with John Brunner and Roger Zelazny. I even began collecting those tattered copies of DC’s Showcase that featured spaceman-hero Adam Strange.

So I had a grand time with Space Vulture, a new “retro” space opera novel by Gary K. Wolf, the man who created Roger Rabbit, and John J. Myers, the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey. This odd pairing of two lifelong chums has produced a slam-bang homage specifically to Anthony Gilmore’s 1952 sci-fi adventure novel Space Hawk. Writes Wolf in his preface to Space Vulture, “I’m not exaggerating when I say Space Hawk changed my life. I grew to love science fiction so much that in later years, I wrote and published science fiction stories and novels of my own. Without Space Hawk, I would never have created Roger Rabbit. One led directly to the other.”

From its faux-pulp dust jacket, featuring the smirking visage of interstellar villain Space Vulture, to its naïve, cornball hero, Galactic Marshal Captain Victor Corsaire, to its two preadolescent protagonists and their gorgeous mom, Space Vulture is a joyful ride through every SF cliché imaginable and, surprisingly enough, a few clever ideas that might never have occurred to the likes of Anthony Gilmore, Edmond Hamilton, or “Doc” Smith. The book is a 1950s space opera with a 21st century sensibility. I grinned the whole time I was reading it. I’ve stuck my copy of Space Vulture on the shelf right alongside my old Lensmen books.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Summer Box Office Smackdown

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IRON MAN is a kickass summer start-up

My first meeting with Iron Man was in 1965 at age 10 — Tales of Suspense #69. That issue featured the first appearance of Titanium Man, a propaganda tool of the Soviets, created solely to kick Iron Man’s butt and embarrass the West. Very cool, I thought. I liked Tony Stark, and I liked the fact that Tony needed The Suit to keep himself alive. But I never saw Iron Man as a top-tier hero. In the Marvel pantheon, Spider-Man was a top-tier hero. The Fantastic Four were top-tier heroes. But Iron Man? Sure, I liked him, but as I trimmed my comic book intake, he became an early reject from my reading list.

Iron Man, the motion picture, shoots the character right to the top of the Marvel Comics superhero pantheon. Here’s a case where the movie is actually better than its source material. All the bits and pieces from the Iron Man mythology are there, but they’ve been cleaned up, shined up, streamlined, and given a modern twist that is irresistible. As the first blockbuster of Summer 2008, Iron Man sets the bar astronomically high for the rest of the season’s movies, and there are a LOT of ’em coming up.

Here’s what I loved about Iron Man: everything. I knew in my gut that Robert Downey, Jr., was gonna be a spot-on Tony Stark, and he is. His is the screen performance to beat this summer. Gwenyth Paltrow (as Pepper Potts), Terrance Howard (as Rhodey), and Jeff Bridges (as Obadiah Stane, aka Iron Monger) are all top-notch, particularly Paltrow, whose chemistry with Downey sizzles. The special effects are extraordinary. The laughs are, well, laugh-out-loud. Director Jon Favreau keeps piling on the surprises. And I liked the film's anti-war bias, mild as it was. Iron Man doesn’t let up for a second, and as soon as Deb and I finished watching it, we were ready to watch it again.

OK, I’ll stop gushing now.

Oh, by the way. I can’t believe that after all these years, people still flee the theater as soon as the credits begin to roll. As is now so often the case, there is an extra 20 to 30 seconds or so, an extra scene, that appears after the credits. Keep your ass planted in your seat for it, especially if you're a comics fan. It had the four or five of us remaining in the theater cheering yesterday afternoon.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Reflections on a May Day march

“Anarcho” in the UK took his kids to yesterday’s May Day march in London and posts his thoughts this morning. Very much worth reading. Here’s a taste:

“Looking at it, I can only assume that ‘non-political’ people would have viewed it as deeply unappealing, if not insane. There were people carrying pictures of Stalin (in this day and age!) and one banner had Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao! Deeply, deeply, deeply crazy… Lenin I can understand, given that awareness of what actually happened under Lenin is not well known in Leninist circles, but Stalin and Mao? Little wonder the so-called revolutionary left seems to be [in] general decline….”

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Celebrate May Day 2008

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