Oct 122011
 

Smile for the fascists!

October 12, 2011

The awesome thing about science fiction is that it can show us a world of possibilities both mundane and extraordinary. The scary thing about science fiction is when a part of it actually comes true, but it’s not a part we really wanted.

Remember in Minority Report when the cops used a machine connected to psychics in order to predict when murders would occur? Seemed all fantastic and futurey, right?

As it turns out, not so much.


Minority Report by ~inkedartist on deviantART

Our government has mined the internet for data for some time. Think Eagle Eye sans Julianne Moore and insane computers. Looking for key words and patterns in social media is not that outrageous, although Big Brother looking over your shoulder and flagging you because you were talking about the news and happened to mention “bomb,” “President,” and “kill” probably got on some peoples’ nerves. However, the Department of Homeland Security is moving on the road to complete thought police by testing out a new piece of technology.

It’s called Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), and boy is it neat-o. It does the same thing as mining the internet for data, but hey! This one goes right to the source and looks at things such as video, audio, heart rate, breathing, and even facial expressions. Homeland Security claims its non-intrusive, but it doesn’t get more intrusive that having a piece of government hardware looking at my pores and trying to guess if that twitch is because I’m nervous for hiding something or because I had a bean burrito and I’m holding a fart in.

Proponents of the new technology cite the well-worn scenario of a bomber entering a stadium, or a terrorist getting through airport security. Would you want little Billy and Susie to die because we didn’t catch this guy? Of course not, but if the government had the ability to monitor our physiological signs and try to guess if we would commit a crime, would you really want that technology applied to you? And don’t say that it’ll be only for terrorists, because as soon as the government can monitor someone, EVERYONE is up for grabs.

Here’s a fun game. If you’re on a phone and you hear a light click, that’s Homeland Security tapping the line. I’m not making that up. I’ve got friends in the department that can validate that. They even get THEIR calls tapped once in a while.


homeland security? by ~Satansgoalie on deviantART

Look, I get it. It’s a scary world. There are people out there who have no qualms about killing themselves or women and children and puppies. I’m not blind to that, but if FAST works, it will give the government a tool to try and guess who will commit a crime.

And what will they do then?

Let’s say we do use this to catch a guy with a Semtex vest trying to sneak into a ballpark. Law enforcement gets him, saves the day, and the game resumes. Wonderful. Now let’s say little Johnny has a bad day because he burned his mouth on his Starbucks double mocha venti latte alfredo sauce coffee, and he’s in a bad mood. He walks into work not the least bit ready to deal with anyone’s crap, and the system flags him for harboring violent thoughts.


thought police by ~Satansgoalie on deviantART

What then? Hold him until we find out what he was GOING to do? There are any number of ethical concerns with punishing someone who has done nothing. By simply predicting the future, we change it. If you told me that I was going to give a really bad presentation because I didn’t get enough sleep or I would be crabby because I would then lock my keys in my car, I would take steps to prevent those things from happening.

When you predict, you alter the series of events leading up to the prophesized moment. How can you possibly punish someone for future deeds? Granted, if I was driving around with a trunk-load of pipe bombs, the cops might have something to charge me with, but you cannot prosecute people who have done nothing. It’s a violation of privacy and an insane idea.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wait for the nice men in black SUVs to get here. I hear Guantanamo is lovely this time of year. In the meantime, please enjoy this video of the first trailer for The Avengers. Get excited!

Jul 272011
 

Can you spot the asshole in this picture? I'll give you a hint. It's Glenn Beck.

July 27, 2011

Oh dear gods, it’s like Beck isn’t even trying to seem human anymore.

The bombings in Norway shone a light on the very real and very extreme problem of Right-Wing paranoia and conspiracy theories regarding the Muslim community and multiculturalism in general. These unfounded fears have now been given a very prominent spokesperson in the shape of Anders Behring Breivik.

Breivik described his actions as evil but necessary. His manifesto is rife with talking points and fears from American blogs and news organizations like Fox. In fact, the 1,500 pages worth of ideology would be right at home in Atlas Shrugs or any Fox News segment.

Oh, many on the right are trying to isolate themselves from someone who took their talking points of an imminent Muslim-Western war and took the next logical step if someone really does believe our way of life is being threatened.

Beck, though, takes the cake by saying something so utterly stupid, so incredible insensitive, that I am now fully convinced Beck has not a brain but a rather deflated rubber ducky in heavy gravy.

It’s the only explanation for his statement.


CONSERVATIVE JESUS by *HORNEDQUAD on deviantART

Beck’s reaction to the shooting that killed dozens of people, most of them children and young people?

The camp they were attending sounded like a place where Hitler Youth were trained. Why? It’s a camp where young people learn politics. Beck’s statement ignores the fact that he himself promotes a camp where young people can learn about political ideology. Oh, it gets better. Beck goes on an almost 8-minute rant about how this attack proves his theory that extreme Islam will destroy Europe. His proof? The guy bombed the government district and killed innocent children because he feared extreme Islam.

No, really. Beck thinks Islam is to blame because Breivik killed non-Muslims because he thought they were helping a conspiracy.

One irony not being shared many places is that Labor Party that runs the camp is the same party that actually FOUGHT against the Nazis.

Oh, there are plenty more juicy tidbits, but when Beck got called out for comparing the victims to Hitler Youth, he had a very logical response.

If he can’t use Hitler analogies in casual conversation, then he’s being oppressed like Hitler oppressed his own people.

He isn’t addressing the fact that what he said was insulting. He’s defending the fact that he said “Hitler.” See, Beck seems to think that the right to say something frees you from all consequences of said actions.


Free Speech isnt FREE by ~kikixD on deviantART

Okay, let’s test this out.

I believe Beck should be forced to personally apologize to the victims of the Norway attacks, the 9/11 families he smeared years ago, and he should issue a full refund to everyone who bought his so-called books. To not do so would make him an unrepentant con-artist and to continue to spread his lies is an act on the same level as domestic terrorism. His rhetoric has emboldened extremists and he is therefore an enemy of the state and the people of the United States.

If he does not turn himself in and renounce everything he’s said, he is an enemy of the Constitution and is inciting violence against his fellow countrymen. If the government will not act, the people must act

Okay, so by his logic, I am perfectly within my rights to insinuate people should take him out at long range with something supersonic. Why? To stifle my free speech is to become a Nazi.

Beat that, Becky Boy.

He and others like him are quick to distance themselves from Breivik and his actions, claiming he isn’t really Right-wing, and isn’t REALLY Christian…

Except Breivik is both, and he’s not the first Right-Winger to resort to violence to make a point. They were quick to dismiss Gabrielle Gifford’s shooter as Right-Wing. They ignored the Tides Foundation shooter, the Holocaust Museum shooter, and every other incident since then.


sunset mosque silhouette by ~amirajuli on deviantART

Can you imagine if the act HAD been perpetrated by a Muslim? They would have run and screamed to begin profiling, but if it’s a white guy and who loves him some Jesus and conservatism, hands off!

If this doesn’t prove to the world that American conservatism and Right-Wing media are a bunch of hypocrites and self-serving lunatics who don’t care about the lost lives their careless rhetoric has cost, then I’m going to have to go every registered Republican household and beat the occupants within with a baseball bat inscribed with this article until candy comes out of them.

I’m Mexican. I’ve had practice with such things. 

political pictures - glen beck - brain - Hype-O-Campus
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Jul 192011
 

July 19, 2011

It’s going to be an interesting two weeks. Mary and I are moving in August. I have to get things for the high school summer camp. I started The Weekly Muse, and I’m getting ready to get a podcast up and running once I figure out the software. In the meantime, expect articles on time and general weirdness on the Facebook page and the Twitter feed.

And now, on to the randomness!

  • Who are the most violent people in the world? The answer might surprise you.
  • Herman Cain, a man who has whined about race more times than anyone in recent memory, now claims it should be legal to ban mosques from being built. His rationale? Islam combines government and religion and is therefore illegal.  By that reasoning, his party’s insistence on combining the Bible of law would make THEM illegal.
  • The Thing stands as one of the great horror films of the 80′s a truly disturbing movie where anyone could be the enemy. The paranoia made it awesome. That being said, and given my caution when it comes to sequels or remakes of classic works, I’m actually a little optimistic about the prequel, strangely also titled The Thing. Here’s the first trailer, and let’s hope it doesn’t suck.
  • Rebecca Black is coming back. And I think I just gave them a slogan. D’oh!
  • The new photos from the reboot of Spiderman have me thinking that they might actually know what they’re doing. Spidey looks, well, like he does in the comic. The costume changes are odd, but at least they have web shooters!
  • And finally… some of you already saw this, but here’s the official, cleaned-up version of the first teaser for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Please, dear gods of the four winds, do not let this get threequel rot. I will hunt people down with a fork.

Apr 292011
 

It's Conservarific!

April 29, 2011

I haven’t seen the film version of Atlas Shrugged. I’ve read about the book in journal articles, heard people explain Objectivism, and generally learned of it through other people’s analysis. The film, though, is being pushed in Tea Party circles as the answer to liberal Hollywood. It’s supposed to show the rest of the country just what the Tea Party hopes to build.

Since the entire book makes Lord of the Rings look like a church pamphlet, let me explain the movie in less than 800,000 words.

A few years from now, the government is going to devolve into a group of petty politicians who only pass laws in order to serve their own self-interests. A cast of successful businessmen and women are trying to save their companies amidst this environment of repression even as the country’s most creative people are vanishing. To put it mildly, it’s like the Spill crew said. Just pretend Forbes Magazine made a movie.

I’m not going to review a movie I haven’t seen, but I am going to tell you why this movie is getting hyped so much by the Tea Party and Libertarians and why it’s bombing like Germany on Poland.

Oh, too soon?


Atlas by ~ZetaxCeti on deviantART

If you’ve never read Ayn Rand or otherwise read about her philosophies, you’re in luck! It’s dumb. Well, it sounds good on the surface, which is why so many impressionable college students and dedicated men and women seem attracted to it.

And if there are any Randians out there who will instantly label me a close-minded zombie of the system who believes government is the key to all our problems… have you READ my site?

Here is the core of Objectivism, which is at the heart of Rand’s work: the pursuit of your own happiness is the most moral and only good thing in the world. It’s a little more complicated than that, but Rand believed that altruism and sacrifice for others are evil because they rob men and women of the ability to be happy for themselves. The most moral type of economics turns out to be a complete Laissez-faire capitalism in a society where the government’s only job is to protect the people from others robbing them of their happiness. Businesses should operate with zero oversight from the government. In the book, this gets to the point where characters talk about their workers and the conditions they are in (deplorable) as a GOOD SIGN that business is free.

Do you want to know who really likes Objectivism and Libertarianism? People who already have power and want to keep it. People like the Koch Brothers, the two paranoid wackos who helped fund the Tea Party. Yes, the Tea Party was started by billionaire industrialists as a front for their own political and social views. The Tea Party is not a grassroots movement. It’s a way for the uber-rich to get their message out through the people.

Yeah, it really is the Bond-like villain behind all this.

As for the core of Atlas Shrugged, Objectivism, let me say this…

Ayn Rand had no heart.


Free Market Meme by ~Party9999999 on deviantART

Think about it. Sacrifice for others, charity in all its forms, is evil. If someone is on the street, hungry after losing his or her job due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, it is evil to offer that person money for food or outline directions to the nearest homeless shelter to fend off the cold.

You also have no reason to love your family just because they are your family. If your boss screws you over for perfectly petty reasons, you have no say in the matter.

After all, YOUR happiness is all that matters.

It’s basically Satanism taken to its business extreme, but don’t misunderstand me. I actually agree with some (huge emphasis on “some”) of Rand’s ideas. I think government needs to stay out of our lives, but I also know that lack of regulation in a capitalist society breeds trouble. We’re in this financial mess because no one was making sure the bankers didn’t screw all of us over.

I agree that creativity and the pursuit of happiness are important for the development of a healthy society that accepts criticism and multiple points of view, but I don’t think that happiness needs to come at the expense of others’ happiness. This one is actually one that a lot of Randians have missed when they explain it, and from what I’ve read, Rand herself thought that sacrificing the happiness of others for your own benefit was evil. In that respect, it’s similar to the Wiccan Reede. The problem, though, is that the philosophy has a built-in barrier against helping others unless it somehow affects you.Which brings us to…

Captialism as a free-for-all is the worst idea in the world. It sounds good on paper, though. Let businesses do what they must in order to succeed and create jobs, innovate, and make sure that the world keeps on truckin’. On the other hand, capitalism has no internal monitoring system to make sure that basic human rights are not violated.


SELF by *serah53000 on deviantART

Does your boss need you to work for twelve hours a day for three dollars an hour? Hey, it’s a job, right? Need to work in unsafe conditions? Tough cookies. Were you discriminated against because of race, gender, or religious beliefs? Hey, it’s your fault for not believing in Sky God.

The entire idea behind the movie is that selfishness is good and the government can’t do anything but get in the way. Okay, I’ll grant that government is run by a bunch of children who think they have a really cool job because they get to tell other people what to do (I used to work for one of them), but government can be a place where we all come together and use our collective resources to actually do something productive. Until the time when we can all afford to take care of all of our own problems and needs, a central government is the best option we have.

Imagine one week without police, firefighters, Medicare, homeless shelters, student loans, or NASA.

This movie is tanking because people who actually known what Rand preached know better than to walk into a theater that serves as a ninety-seven minute infomercial.

The least they could have done was add some sex, explosions, and Michael Bay-like action. It’s really the only thing that can balance the bitterness and utter propaganda of Rand’s work. We actually need Michael Bay for this one. I feel sick.

Links! Quick! Before I puke!

  • Do you want to type like a hacker in a mid-90′s thriller? Just go here, set your parameters, go to full screen, and amaze your friends with your 1337 skillz.
  • If you need further proof that Twilight is not only God-awful in its story but also a crime against the English language, look no further.
  • And finally, because I have to get dinner ready for my hunny bunny, let me leave you with some transcripts of The Jersey Shore as read by cast members of The Importance of Being Ernest. The full set of videos can be found here, but here’s the first one just to wet your appetite. Enjoy!

Apr 042011
 

My God... It's full of fail...

April 4, 2011

UPDATE: Fellow blogger and long-time logophile Amy at Dark Archivist has a rebuttal to one point in this article. Touché, my friend.

If you’re anything like me, you love you some science fiction, fantasy, and horror. There’s nothing better than an epic space battle with battleships the size of Alaska blasting each other with nuclear-yield weapons, a suspenseful chase as a vicious killer chases the last remaining protagonist you actually like, or the swarms of eldritch sigils flying through the air as a practitioner of the dark arts invokes otherworldly powers to crush his foes.

Good times…

As much as I’m a fan of the genre, there are those things that just… bug me. Really bug me. They’re things that seem to have just taken hold of the collective imagination for both writers and fans. They’ve become standard, not necessarily something you choose to use. Imagine if you suddenly found out that you didn’t need to use a ball to play baseball and could use rocks, or if you learned that cars could easily be built with three wheels and we picked four because, well, someone did it like that first.


Possessed Mind by *tashythemushroom on deviantART

Nightgowns and Little Girls

Look at The Ring, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Exorcist, and The Last Exorcism. What do they have in common aside from mentally tormented young girls and an overuse of the term “exorcism”? If you guessed a white nightgown, you’re right.

I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure The Exorcist started this one. It made sense back then. Regan was a young girl who was thought to be sick, so it makes sense mommy dearest put her in her sleeping gown to make her comfortable. But why oh why did every woman dealing with a ghost or demon (or herself a ghost) have to wear this now? It’s like the similarly ridiculous “ black trench coat = mysterious badass” mentality.

Why not a hospital gown or even regular clothes? Why not just regular pajamas?  The easy answer is that such clothes can easily date a character, but a nightgown is something that, at least today, looks old. How many women out there own a nightgown like the ones worn in these films? Anyone?


Organic Space Ship v1 by ~bastilg on deviantART

We’re Fighting a Militarized Rutabaga

What’s that? An alien ship approaching your  interstellar flagship? Oh no! It’s organic! It appears to have been grown by an advanced civilization. All its systems are carbon-based weapons and armor. All your ship has is a laminated alloy hull with ceramic plates for heat dissipation, high-powered coilguns, and thermonuclear missiles.

Oh noes.

Really, though, this one is just plain annoying. It’s hard to really pin down where this one started. Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee Timeline stories have a version of this little cliché wherein the god-like Xeelee “grow” their technology, although it’s not organic, so the description is a bit vague. Babylon 5, Star Wars (New Jedi Order), and even Battlestar Galactica to an extent all used the assumption that organic technology is superior to simple metal and artificial materials designed from the ground up to perform a specific task.

Do you think “organic” is better? Would you rather wade into battle with a vest made of hardwood or advanced ceramics and Kevlar built to withstand such strain?

Would you rather have a dozen mathematicians in a room perform split second calculations for orbital reentry or have a single computer system built with accuracy to the trillionth degree?

Would you rather have an artificial  weapon, like a gun that fires ferrous slugs at a fraction the speed of light, or biological weapons that are indiscriminate, can be killed by extreme temperature and radiation, and may even mutate?

I’ll stick with metal and circuits, thank you.


Mexican Jedi. by ~VictorViin18 on deviantART

Where are the Brown People?

This one’s a personally sore spot for me. For a show like Star Trek, one which claims to be multicultural, to not have a single prominent Hispanic character besides the animalistic B’Elanna Torres is inexcusable. Want to know how many Hispanic characters I can count in speculative fiction?

Johnny Rico from Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie), Bender from Futurama, and Vazquez from Aliens.

Adama doesn’t count because although he’s played by a Mexican American actor, he does not portray a Hispanic character.

It seems that, in the future, there are no Mexicans, Ecuadorans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, or anything else. We’ve got Europeans, Asian-inspired culture to pander to the anime crowd, and some assorted ethnicities for flavoring. But where are the Mexicans?

Or the Costa Ricans? Brazilians? Chileans? Iraqis? Turks? Libyans? Anyone brown?

I really can’t find a good example of these demographics in speculative fiction. Sorry. Any idea?


Coca Cola by ~Telegraph-Road on deviantART

Why do writers still use these ideas? The best explanation is that at some point, it sounded or looked cool. The nightgown made sense from a storytelling perspective. Biological technology has some useful applications. At one point, Latin Americans were a fringe minority. We know better today, and yet these ideas linger on. These are only three little clichés, but I was thinking about them this weekend. There are many more, and maybe I’ll explain some later.

In the meantime, enjoy these links, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.  

  • We have some nice black bookshelves in the apartment, but if we have the time, money, and space, I’d certainly love to get one of these awesome bookcases.
  • And finally, I just barely watched The Hangover a few weeks ago and loved it. And now I can’t wait for the sequel. Check out the new trailer below, and I’ll see you on Wednesday!