Nerd Humor Make Up Post

Silly WordPress scheduling messed up yesterday and posted 2 posts in the same day.

So here is a makeup image:

 

While you’re here, why not check out that free book offer on the right?

My Shoes Are Too Tight

“My shoes are too tight. But it doesn’t matter because I have forgotten how to dance.”

I’m binge watching Babylon 5 on my commute, and this scene from the first season is one of the scenes that hooked me when the show first aired in 1994.

Londo Mollari is the Centauri ambassador to Babylon 5, a space station that is a center for interplanetary trade and diplomacy. It was a series that broadcast at the cusp of TV’s renaissance, overlapping with Buffy the Vampire Slayer for two years, and The Sopranos for one.

Centauri culture is steeped in tradition. While they call themselves “The Centauri Republic” they are in fact a monarchy, with all the trappings of an ancient feudal country; a class system, legalized slavery, arranged marriages, bigamy, and an often bewildering set of social customs. As you can see from Londo Mollari’s appearance, the men literally dress and wear their hair like peacocks. The higher the social status, the more ridiculous they look.

One of the better storylines in the five-season series is Londo’s struggle with his place in Centauri society and how his time living among other races on Babylon 5 opens his eyes. It’s a storyline that spans the entire series and has an incredible payoff. This scene is one of the first in which we see that he may be more than just a scheming villain.

Vir (yes, that is Flounder from Animal House) has come to Londo to try to convince him to help call off an arranged marriage between two young Centauri. Londo does not want to because of “Centauri tradition.” As we see from this clip, Londo has his doubts though.

The best science fiction (and fantasy, which B5 contains elements of) uses imaginary places, peoples, and circumstances to teach us about ourselves. Babylon 5 does this in the large, with themes about humanity, spirituality, and the nature of evil, and in the small, with scenes like this.

Star Trek taught us too when it was at its best. The original series, which is one of the times it was at its best, of course, did it wonderfully in City on the Edge of Forever and Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.

But like most “franchises,” especially those that outlive their creators, Trek lost its way and became more about itself than about us. (See also; Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Star Wars, the Sopranos, and maybe even Game of Thrones after this latest season.)

Ironically, though, Star Trek’s last, best, gasp for relevance was probably Deep Space Nine, which may have been at least partially “inspired” by a pitch made by Babylon 5’s creator.

I sometimes wish for a new Babylon 5 series. And then look around and the feeling passes.

 

Introducing The Sixth Age

It started, as many ideas do, somewhere else entirely. I was struggling with the story I really want to (and will eventually) tell; the story of my grandfather during and after World War I. I was stuck again and decided that I needed to get a few other stories under my belt before I could tell one that was so personally meaningful.

As I was casting around for ideas, I came across a reference to The War Of The Worlds, which is something one often does. It’s one of science fiction’s ur-Stories. It’s not the first but often feels like it is and it’s everywhere.

So I quite naturally (for me, anyway) starting wondering what would happen if the Martians showed up at the Somme in 1916. In Wells’ story, the aliens take a peaceful English countryside by surprise. What about a war-torn Europe, with heavily militarized Germany already on the battlefield and loaded for bear, and the English ready to conduct one of the largest and longest bombardments in history?

This is already a fun concept just a few sentences in, but there are a couple of problems. One of them is that limiting the book to the Western Front of WWI makes for more of a short story or novella, like the original story. While the original WOTW is a great story, it never really felt like a war of the Worlds since it’s limited to just England. I need a larger scope. Do I broaden the setting, maybe to the Eastern Front?

But the bigger issue is how do I get there? I am comic book fan, and I like continuity. While there have been some interesting takes and follow ups to WOTW, most of them ignore the original. I wanted to fix that too. Can I connect World War I to the original invasion somehow?

One of the most famous follow-ups to WOTW is the Orson Welles’ production for Halloween in 1938 with the Mercury Theater. Welles set the invasion in Grovers Mill, New Jersey in 1938. The show was done as a serious of radio new reports and allegedly scared the crap out of a lot of listeners, although some historians claim that that part of the story has been exaggerated.

What if the Martians landed at Grovers Mill in 1897 (when the book was first serialized,) at the same time they landed in England?

What would have happened to the world after the invasion? We’re still feeling the political fallout of 9/11 sixteen years later. What the would the political landscape look like after a failed alien invasion? Would there even be a World War I?

Now I was on to something!

The first entry in my series is available as a free ebook right now. It’s a short story that weighs in at 65 – 80 pages depending on your e-reader.

You can get it by signing up here.

Let me know what you think of it!

Who?

jackie-chan-whut

So one of the best guys the Times could think of to quote about Rotten Tomatoes was Brett Rattner? Really?

“I think it’s the destruction of our business,” Brett Ratner, the director, producer and film financier, said at a film festival this year.

Let’s think about this:

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 13.34.56

(From Wikipedia.)

Brett, you single-handedly torpedoed the X-Men franchise, made two sequels and a tv series from a lame idea like Rush Hour, and directed two Horrible Bosses flicks.

When it comes to destroying “your” business, I think you need to grab a Mirror, Mirror.

 

The Culture of Interruption

You’re finally making some progress on that thing that you owe that person on that date. Maybe you’ve got headphones on with music that helps you focus, or maybe you prefer to work in total silence. You’ve been putting off this particularly complicated part of the thing, but now you’ve got a handle on it.

And then your phone beeps with a text message. Or Facebook message. (Or facebook ‘like’ if you’re masochistic enough to let them notify you of those.) Or Snapchat.

Or you receive a pop-up from that instant messenger app that your team uses.

Or your computer helpfully notifies you of a new email with a little flag up in the corner of the screen, just big enough to break your concentration.

This is what the Internet, breaker-of-chains, mother of communication, queen of all things good, has made us. Punch drunk monkeys pushing buttons and hoping to douse a light and get a peanut.

Keeping up with notifications.

It’s easy to rage at the technology (and Apple’s sad implementation of notifications on both IOS and MacOS does deserve a good drubbing.)

But we asked for this.

Where does Facebook get the idea that they could nag us about enabling notifications every time we opened their messenger app on our phone until we did (or until I deleted the app in my case?)

Why does Amazon think that it’s acceptable to ask me to let them notify me from the IOS Kindle app every third or fourth time I run it?

Where does a website with a name as pathetic as “9 to 5 Mac” Get the idea that I want them to send me alerts on my web browser?

When Pigs Fly

Facebook thinks they are the center of the universe because for many people they are. (They’re getting into the TV business and some people actually think it’s a good idea! They want to get their entertainment from the people who brought you Farmville!)

So what do we do?

Manoush Zomorodi has an idea. Get bored:

 

“The only people that refer to their customers as users are drug dealers and technologists.”

Where are we going to end up if we don’t change direction? Jean Twenge, a Psychology Professor, calls it a mental health crisis. When I first came across the article I thought it was hyperbole, but after reading it, I am genuinely afraid.

Turn off your notifications. Delete some apps. Sell your attention for a higher price.

 

Giving It All Away 

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”Eric Schmidt

I finished Deep Work by Cal Newport last week and started The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to our Brains by Nick Carr over the weekend, so I’ve got the hows, whys, and wherefores of Facebook and Twitter on my mind. There’s a good chance I will be inflictingsharing some of these thoughts with you over the next few weeks. The books are about the longer term neurological effects social media makes has our brains, but as I step away and evaluate what I do and do not get from them, I see more.

Facebook is the place for many things; fighting with friends over politics, fighting with “friends” over politics, laughing at pictures of cats, laughing at pictures of “friend’s” cats, etc.

It’s also the place where Facebook wants you to sacrifice your privacy for the privilege of doing those things. As its enfant terrible CEO said:

“People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.” Mark Zuckerberg

This is his justification for making the sharing of your information with advertisers the default option, rather than something you are asked permission for. After all, polluting your browser and phone with battery-sapping code isn’t cheap. The man has needs.

It can’t be said often enough: if it’s free that means you are the product.

But Zuckerberg does have a point: while 19th and 20th Century Western Society embraced the idea of privacy, that value seems to be eroding today in the name of conformism. We want out celebrities and politicians to live open lives. As a tabloid reporter said in 2011; “Privacy is for paedos.”

There is a line somewhere, between what we need to know about the people that influence our lives, and what we don’t. There’s another line (somewhere much closer to the “nothing, so fuck off” border,) between what we need to know about everyone else and what we don’t. We, however, are allowing this line to be redrawn by the government, private industry, and our “friends.”

But Facebook and its ilk have a more insidious effect:

“The demonisation of the private sphere, sullied with connotations of abuse and corruption, rests on the denigration of individual freedom and autonomy in general. We cannot be left alone, and, too often now, we no longer want to be left alone (emphasis added.) Independence of thought and life has been supplanted by instagrammed dependence on the validation of others.” – Tim Black

I think this touches on something I often see on both Facebook and Twitter: over-the-top declarations of conformity. It’s not enough to just quietly agree or even just click the “like” button. Our acknowledgments have to be immediate and heartfelt, preferably full-throated and a little threatening to any who disagree.

There’s a connection between groupthink, individuality, and a loss of privacy. A desire to fit in often leads to a desire to disclose. This desire to disclose becomes social proof, and then the norm becomes disclosure.

 

Another Blade Runner Short Film

A few months ago I posted Tears In The Rain, a Blade Runner short film.

I’m still apprehensive about the upcoming Blade Runner sequel. Hollywood has a pretty crappy track record when it comes to mining remakes and sequels for every dollar they can wring from them. There’s a Paul Blart 2.

There’s a Paul Blart sequel.  ‘Nuff said.

The new Blade Runner film is directed by Denis Villeneuve, which is certainly a good sign. Arrival is one of the best hard sci-fi movies to hit theaters in a decade, not just because of the story — which is certainly important, but because of the movie’s direction too. See below.

Ryan Gosling seems like good casting for the man that inherits Harrison Ford’s mantle from the first movie.

Jared Leto? Well, he’s got a long way to go before I forgive him for Suicide Squad and creating a Joker that couldn’t be further from The Dark Knight if he performed on Alpha Centauri.

Part of the promotion for the new film is a handful of short films that will appear on YouTube between now and release day.

It looks like the film will make the man behind the next generation of Replicants the villain, instead of making the Replicants the ambiguous antagonists they were in the original picture.

Blade Runner was about what it means to be human. While the movie was a visual feast, it managed to stay with the core theme of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Is an “artificial person” human?

This film doesn’t seem to be about this, at least not from this short and the ultra-violent trailers. While this short is well-written and directed, and Jared Leto proves that he can read frightening dialog in a strangely-accented semi-monotone while looking down and away from the camera, the scene is about shock value, not science-fiction.

Hopefully, the next short film will bring better news.

Here’s a video about Arrival. Worth watching.

 

 

 

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