GalacticMu

Press your spaceface close to mine

GalacticMu favorite Peter Watts, Canadian citizen and all-around pleasant guy, was physically assaulted, pepper sprayed, left without belongings or even a jacket in a winter storm (I realize this sounds fabricated, but it is true) and then charged with felony assault on a federal officer this last Tuesday, and he needs our help.

There’s the usual disgusting troll-saturated crap going down at Boing Boing right now (after more than a year of not reading Boing Boing, reading this one post was a stomach-churning reminder of my convictions) if you’d like to read the details, but it doesn’t really matter.  Watts’ life will be ruined if he is successfully prosecuted for felony assault on a US federal officer (witnesses say he did no such thing, as if I have to clarify that) and even if he defends himself he is still going to be in serious debt and will have problems entering the US for the rest of his life.

If you can spare even $10, we beg you to donate to Watts’ legal defense.  Even if on a purely selfish level: every hour Watts is forced to deal with this fucking bullshit is an hour he’s not spending writing.

Please go donate at his website, Rifters. There is a PayPal donation button on the page for “The Niblet Memorial Kibble Fund,” which was originally a place where friends could help Watts take in stray cats.  Until a more appropriate link is arranged, it is where you can donate to his legal fund – just be sure to clarify what the donation is for.

With horror,

The GalacticMu Crew
Sunday “Subspace” Williams, Captain
Leesa “BattleGate” Leva, Ship Engineer
Mike “Halcyon” Peterson, Psych Officer

1 Posted in Daily Space

Check Off Life List: Meet Buzz Aldrin

Posted by Sunday on Jun 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Every great once and a while, I expect something amazing to happen.  I imagine I feel it coming from a long way off, the preliminary tremors of a large quake, a vibration felt in the earth a long while before the air carries sound.  Yesterday was one of those days, when I went to meet Buzz Aldrin.

Now, I’ve got a real soft spot for Buzz.  Second on the moon, that whole underdog thing.  It faltered a little when I learned he’d received Communion on the moon (how can you look upon the endless black and think that anything simply granted it all as such?) but he kept it to himself and in fact said the words that we should all “(…) give thanks in his or her own way.”  Because foremost, Buzz is simply pro-exploration.  Get off planet, any way, any how, and get it going.  Get to Mars, get new propulsion systems, just get.

And he punched a moon-landing hoax theorist in the face!  That is honestly my happy place.

Unfortunately, I’ll cut to the punchline early: it was a less than stellar day.  In fact, it was pretty disappointing, made worse by the issue that none of it was Buzz’s doing.

I had originally intended to go to a signing at the Westwood Borders Books & Music, but that was Thursday night, right around the time the world learned that Michael Jackson had died.  And for those that don’t know: Westwood is where the UCLA hospital is.  And the bookstore itself is two blocks away.  Which meant that the news kept cutting to scenes of the whole neighborhood cordoned off, traffic reduced to a crawl, reroutes in place to ensure only the passage of ambulances and other needed personnell and most importantly, no me.  I don’t even know if Aldrin’s signing was cancelled, I never made it there.

And here a second chance!  But at the dreaded Grove, a monstrosity of a local mall known for mid-high end retail stores and shoulder-to-shoulder weekend crowds hoping to spot the occasional attention-grubbing celebrity (trust: if a celeb is spotted at The Grove it is because they want to be spotted).  No matter: it was Buzz Aldrin and I’d be there.

I’m not even sure where to begin.  Scratch that, I’ll just print the letter I emailed to Barnes & Noble corporate:

“As much as I am weirded out by writing complaint letters (I prefer to handle these things in person) it would seem it is required as my complaint is about an entire store.

I was at the Buzz Aldrin book-signing on Saturday the 27th at the Hollywood, CA Barnes & Noble (The Grove).

So many unpleasantries happened that it’d sound nuts for me to list them all, so I’ll summarize it: the store was chaos. Not the customers, but the staff. Each staff member was a varying degree of rude, a varying degree of confused and all were totally apathetic.

I suppose what I would suggest to improve the awful experience I had would be to have a tighter system for book signings (I honestly am most shocked at this part – this store hosts celebrity signings every week but it felt like they’d never done it before!) and ensure the staff are all on the same page with the facts. Otherwise, I don’t know what to say. That kind of ill behavior is difficult to intentionally coordinate; I’m not sure how you pulled it off.”

Except I’ll go ahead and sound nuts here on my own website:  the staff?  Were total douchebags.  Each and every one of them.  The scene was a tremendous clusterfuck all the way around, made worse by a hot day.  To give you an idea of what we were dealing with:

  • You had to get a number from the registers in order to get your book signed.
  • In order to get a number, you had to present a book with proof of purchase.  They tried to tell me this meant I needed to buy a book in the store from them right at that moment, which was not true (and seemed intentionally dishonest), and I badgered them until they gave me a number.
  • I was then told that my companion would also need to buy a book in order to simply stand in line with me.  Also not true.
  • The number I was given was 189.
  • Upstairs, people were queuing at a first-come-first-serve basis.  Why were we given numbers?  No one knew why.
  • People with low-digit numbers were pissed off.
  • People queuing behind me were told they needed to queue on a lower floor due to “safety issues.”  These safety reasons were not elaborated upon.
  • Non-queuing rubberneckers stood around, somehow safe from the “safety issues.”
  • All the while, staff were totally apathetic.  A manager-looking type in a tweedy suit was short and rude with everyone.
  • The queue was arranged so that no one could see Mr. Aldrin speaking.

DSC_1128

My view for the talk.

  • The volume of the microphone that Mr. Aldrin spoke into was so low that people called out “louder!” and were hushed.
  • Babies were screaming.
  • It was very hot.
  • Someone called for people with numbers 1-30 who were then seated at the front while Mr. Aldrin let them ask questions.  Neither their questions or his answers were heard by the crowd.

DSC_1132

This photo had to be achieved by holding the camera fully extended over one’s head.

  • The numbers were totally useless, as it turns out, and they allowed the first-come-first-serve queue to continue while he signed books.
  • Mr. Aldrin did not personalize books, nor did he look at or speak to his fans.

Okay, that last bit was a bitter jab, but true.  I’m inclined to let that part pass because the man is 79 years old for fuck’s sake and was basically assaulted by weirdos for hours (seriously: men with bowl-cuts) but it was kinda sad.  I had expected to get teary because I MET A HUMAN WHO HAD BEEN ON THE MOON! but mostly I was overheated and exhausted and disappointed.  Still.

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GO SPACE!

Sigh.  I don’t know.  I certainly won’t be going to another Barnes & Noble event any time in the next 5 years (after which I’ll forget that anything happened).

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Still, I’m glad I went and it’s kind of intense.  After Buzz and his cohorts are gone, will there be more humans to meet that have been to the moon?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

Posted by Sunday on Jun 21, 2009 at 8:11 pm

To demonstrate both the science of genetics and what I have to endure in the category of “emails from my dad,” here’s one I received just this hour, in total context, unedited:

Waching on Scifi channel:
Beowulf (1999) starring Christopher Lambert (man-crush time!).
Weapons Master of medieval Castle in unnamed realm gets killed by evil trans-dimensional gooey-skinned monster.
Funeral scene (cremation, bonus points for no stupid burial):
Sliding body into fires of Eternity, much chanting.
One last look at nice old guy’s face … then …
ZIP UP PLASTIC BODY BAG!
WTFF?

* Extra bonus points: most of music track is awesome techno shit! Fuckin’ nice touch!

quag reviews.heh

2 Posted in Daily Space

As usual, apologies about the long gulf between transmissions.  I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.  However, I am not gone, merely distracted.  Don’t go pruning your RSS feeds yet.

In typically girlish fashion, the thing that is going to make me break my silence are these:

wrap-boot-2

I came across a website today where commenters complained that these TOMS Wrap Boots were “too Luke Skywalker.”  Um.  Can I have them in black and grey, please?

4 Posted in Daily Space

Tiny Coffin Nails

Posted by Sunday on Apr 22, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Oh, this is going to be sticky.  Sit tight.

Look, I’m sure that John Brownlee is a very nice fellow, but he can get my hackles up faster than any other scifi blogger (fan writer?  what do we call ourselves these days?), and I am almost certain the blame for this  falls on the format of his “Daily Scan” over at AMC’s SciFi Scanner.  As the Twitterocalpyse has shown, keeping opinions to under 200 characters is a recipe for the most potent snark the planet has ever seen.

Everyone once and a while, though, Brownlee slaps off a comment a bit too pat, and today was a doozy of an example.  Last year on GalacticMu we wrote about astronaut Edgar Mitchell who, in a radio interview, openly came out as an eye-witness to NASA’s extraterrestrial shenanigans.  Since we wrote that, he’s begun to speak at conferences and gatherings, talking — in that humorless way that only old men who saw wartime can — about what he knows.

A recent CNN article prompted Mr. Brownlee to say this about Dr. Mitchell:

“A former NASA astronaut claims the US government has proof that man is not alone in the universe. Frankly, it sounds like someone in the Army pulled a bit of a practical joke on him.”

My gut reaction is pretty strong.  I want to say some things that aren’t nice to Mr. Brownlee, but since I respect him and enjoy his work, I’m going to try and focus on Mitchell.

Dr. Mitchell is a peaceful fellow with a penchant for the mystical, a point of fact that most people will attempt to use to discredit him.  However, one might ask if this isn’t the kind of epic personality-reconfiguring a person might go through after learning the irrefutable proof that humanity is not the universe’s only self-aware intelligence.  And while a practical joke might be responsible for a single event, Dr. Mitchell can describe many events where he discussed, at length, the existence of extraterrestrial life with a person of gravitas.

ed_mitchell

I mean, when an ornithologist in the bayou believed he saw the thought-to-be-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker?  People listened.  But somehow a man who was a test pilot, a pilot instructor, a Freemason and has a doctorate from MIT sees something and he’s dismissed as the victim of a practical joke?  I’m completely serious here — as a science groupie, yes, but a serious one — but Mitchell’s talk is good data.  In the natural (earthly) world when a figure of experience believes something to be true, it behooves us to listen to them.  There might not be empirical proof, but we don’t always have time for empirical proof.  Sometimes we have to go on a gritty combination of gut instinct and flawless herd-following skills.

So in summary: according to Mr. Brownlee’s most recent Daily Scan: on one hand we have a man who can intellectually outperform us and who has been into space saying THERE IS LIFE OUT THERE, FOLKS, WHICH MEANS WE NEED TO GET OUR SHIT TOGETHER FOR REALS , and on the other hand we have J.J. Abrams hyping his Star Trek movie, and guess which one Mr. Brownlee makes fun of?

1 Posted in Daily Space

We Now Interrupt Your Scifi Pleasure

Posted by Sunday on Apr 19, 2009 at 1:05 pm

For some time now I have struggled, as your captain, to refrain from polluting our untidy but clean ship interior with my personal problems.  It occurred to me (admittedly late in the game) that I could just start a side gig, a holodeck of sorts.  So I did!

anger-burger-launch1

At your leisure, should your interest in my personal eating and voiding habits draw you, come on over to Anger Burger, where I will talk by and large about food, having Crohn’s disease and how grouchy I can get.

2 Posted in Daily Space

The Very Definition of FAIL

Posted by Sunday on Apr 3, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Okay. Do you understand who this is?

200px-clancybrown.jpg

No?  Not yet?  How about like this:

highlander-kurganpromo.jpg

THE FUCKING KURGAN.  If for some strange reason you find this unimpressive (and honestly, if you find the presence of THE KURGAN unimpressive I suggest you have your everything examined by a licensed physician), perhaps you will find this more to your taste:

rawhide.jpg

I don’t mean to freak you out or anything, but that is Rawhide from Buckaroo motherfucking Bonzai.  No?  Still not feeling it?  Not even if I reminded you about Sgt. Zim?

sgt-zim.jpg

No, no, not Busey, the other one.  Oh yeah, and that television show everyone loves to bitch about not making any sense… what’s it called?  Gone?

brown-lost.jpg

This pains me so much I can’t even type.  I’m having a genuinely hard time.  Today, as I was at work searching for something on the company database, I looked up and there he was.  Clancy Brown, THE KURGAN.  And, after a million different things I could say went through my mind, all I could squeak out was,

“Can I… can I help you find anything?”

“Nope.”

That was it.  Nothing else.  Over.  I didn’t say “Nuns.  No sense of humor.”  For this alone Halcyon will not speak to me for a week.

I’ll understand if my Nerd membership is now up for review.

7 Posted in Daily Space, Movies

California, My Dirty Whore

Posted by Sunday on Mar 31, 2009 at 7:36 pm

This is a sidetrack about what is now my 6th month of being an Angeleno, if you please.

A preface, because I want to be perfectly clear about something: I love Southern California.  I’m unclear on the machinations of how such a thing would be possible, but I feel a kind of genetic memory for Los Angeles; whether that genetic memory comes from my dad, who grew up here, or a science fictional solidarity borne from the fever dreams of Whedon, Dick, Bradbury, Huxley, Farmer, Heinlein and a half-thousand others, I cannot say.

Moreso than any other city I’ve experienced, Los Angeles feels like it’s holding itself together by a single grimy, necrotic strip of tissue.   The most oft-cited point of degredation, the traffic, is a perfect example of this: any traffic “laws” are purely ornamental.  Drivers adopt whatever method of traffic-navigation they choose, legal or otherwise, and with an aggressive edge.  I thought about this today as a white BMW cut me off in what could have been a nasty little accident – I slammed on my brakes and had to steer out of the way to keep from skidding into his driver’s side – only to flip me off when I then honked in outrage.  And this was no laissez-faire bird I was given, it was a pumping, rigid, infuriated FUCK YOU, pure hate-addled digust that I dare make a peep at his near-catastrophic driving.  And this is totally normal.  We are witnessing evolution in machine form: the herd-vehicles live in fear of the aggressive, faster predator vehicles.  The predator vehicles blanketly ignore all basic laws of safety and courtesy – driving in parking lanes, running red lights, blocking lanes of traffic, forcing pedestrians to leap to safety – in pursuit of their way of life.  The herd grumbles and sticks together, both protected and stifled by their lot.

The homeless in L.A. are financed by the recycling program.  Long ago, the state of California decided to tack a refundable tax onto each recyclable beverage container.  They called this clever plan the California Refund Value (CRV).  It goes a little something like this: you purchase a can of soda priced at 75¢, a CRV of 5¢ is added, you pay the cashier 80¢.  Theoretically, when you are done with the soda, you return the can to a handy recycling station and get your 5¢ back.  Of course, that’s not how it ends up working.  Twenty-three years later, recycling bins are behind every apartment building in Los Angeles, making it most convenient to just walk your cans out your back door and toss them in a bin rather than drive a sack of sticky cans to the recycling center once a week¹.  So what happens to that 5¢ deposit you gave?  Well, you can’t have it back, even though you recycled the can.  Like most Californians, Angelenos just accept that soda costs them 5¢ more than most people in America and get on with their day.  Except, apply this to every single bottle of water, can of Red Bull, large plastic jug of juice (which you pay a 10¢ deposit on), and before you know it you’re spending an extra couple bucks a month.  No big deal.  Except!  The homeless, those ingenious entrepreneurs of the street, figured out that a little hunting and gathering can yield them a few bucks a day, and thus, the roving Can Stealers were born.

scavenger.jpg

Luckily we have this stock photo of a Mexican going through your trash ².

On a weekly basis I watch a regular rotation of men with shopping carts violently root through our apartment’s bins, harvesting out everything recyclable before they trot off to the next house.  However, I bring this up because I’ve heard other Angelenos in more suburban areas describe a more fascinating event: the dreaded Scavengers.  Since most suburban dwellers keep their bins in private, inaccessible areas, the morning the bins are placed on the street is a free-for-all of industrious Can Stealers of the more professional sort:  they troll the streets in trucks, one driver hauling one or two can-pickers.  This of course raises whole new weird levels of classism and bigotry, since they have a tendency to be Mexican and many of the suburbs are white folks who want their hard-earned California Refund Values going to waste, not funding some dirty wetback’s bean-habit.  I’ve read blogs of otherwise friendly Angelenos who grouse about the “safety” issues of having Mexicans driving around their neighborhoods one morning each week (I’m guessing they aren’t home when all the gardeners arrive every day, or they’d think it was WWIII: The Enmexicaning).

Something L.A. does well and somehow differently from every other city is the preoccupation with self.  Los Angeles is obsessed with Los Angeles.  This should not be mistaken with pride – San Francisco and New York are both examples of American cities that religiously groom themselves, congratulate themselves and tell themselves they are beautiful in the mirror every morning.  Los Angeles has multiple personalities capable of surfacing at the same time, a critical, self-contradictory clusterfuck of weirdness.  There are whole bushels of stereotypes I was unfamiliar with until fervent Angelenos insistently told me they weren’t true.  But we have a rich history!   Wait, why wouldn’t I think L.A. had history? We do too have culture! Of course it does, it has the most foreign-born population of any city in AmericaWe need to be taken seriously! they shriek, while employers at entry-level office jobs request headshots³.

This is my last Los Angeles update.  Why?  Because after six months, you’re either in it or you aren’t.  I find I can no longer easily muster up a sense of perspective.  Last week was a rough one for me, with impacted wisdom teeth melting my brain followed by extractions the same week I started a new job.  In the middle of it, during a consultation to an oral surgeon, I was yelled at by an angry valet in the parking garage of a medical building.  You see, I hadn’t left them my keys.  Why would I leave you my keys, I asked?  It’s a parking garage.  I parked the car myself.  I was confused and in pain and perhaps shouldn’t have been driving myself around Beverly Hills, yes, but I still understand how parking garages work.  Except, not this one.  He finished it with a nasty, angry “You should know!  You should know!”

I think perhaps I shouldn’t, sir.  It’s Los Angeles.  No one should anything.

¹ Of course, this will more likely read as “(…) rather than drive a dozen sacks of maggoty, reeking, moldy cans to the recycling center two or three times a year.”

 ² How do we know he’s taking a bottle from the bin and not putting it in?  The mustache.

³ Totally.  True.  I sent a headshot along with more than one resume for a job that didn’t even interface with the public.

2 Posted in Daily Space

I Want More “Opiate-Themed” Medicine, Please

Posted by Sunday on Mar 27, 2009 at 7:22 pm

GalacticMu Away-Team member Quagmire pointed me towards an article he read the other day and made an interesting observation about it.  It is ostensibly about the popularity of science fiction movies lately, but does not call them science fiction.  It calls them “science-themed”.

To quote Quagmire’s email: WTFF?¹

For starters, it is immediately awkward that the body of the article avoids using the term “science fiction” or “sci-fi,”  an effort that becomes strained mighty quickly.   This leads to some hilarity, for example, this paragraph:

His favorite science movie is last year’s comic-book adaptation Iron Man, “because it has a long sequence of experiments and ideas not working out or blowing up in the hero’s face,” Carroll says.

I’m sorry, but, “His favorite science movie” is Iron Man?  I am not a huge fan of semantics and stuff, but if Iron Man is a “science movie” then I am a goddamn particle physicist.

And then, just to be a brat, I wonder: could this be a good thing?  If more people are going to Watchmen and Star Trek: Whatever because they are called “science movies” and not “scifi” – isn’t that good for our pocketbooks in the long run?   And by “our” I mean, the science fiction community, of course.

Nope, I can’t do it.  I can’t play devil’s advocate.  It’s like saying its okay to have sex with your sister because she’s “beloved” instead of “related”.  What a weird, unnecessary, vaguely insulting trend, this anti-scifi thing.  I mean, it seems like science fiction is more popular than ever (except in print, of course, but that’s because actually being smart is dead), why the sudden purge of phraseology?  I don’t get it.  I’m going to go take more Darvocet, see how I feel about it.

[Whole bizarre article, "Tv, films boldly go down scientific path" from USA Today]

¹What the fucking fuck, of course.

0 Posted in Daily Space

Almost two months ago, some teenagers from Spain launched a camera into space with a weather balloon.  Yeah, that’s right.  They recovered their camera, published the photos and are now dining at the long, laden dining table of Scientific Gluttony.  I’m painfully jealous, of course.

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Jordi Fanals (not a teenager), Gerard Marull, Martí Gasull, Jaume Puigmiguel, and Sergi Saballs rest easy in the knowledge that they’ll never have to dance for erlenmeyer flask money again.

One of my favorite websites, The Big Picture, has a selection of the kids’ photos up today, as well as a link to the kids’ Flickr set of of images should you want to peruse them.  I think the second comment on The Big Picture page captures the sentiment of the moment: “SCIENCE!”

[The Big Picture's "Scenes from 30,000 meters above"]

[The kids' Flickr page (all in Spanish, naturally)]

¹At my high school, attendance at football pep rallys was mandatory.  I found this to be unfathomably torturous, so I pretended I had principals and sat outside reading a book instead.  When I was caught, I announced I would stage protests until such time that the school found it prudent to hold science or art pep rallys in addition to the football ones.  I was sent to detention.  In the library.   Morons.

2 Posted in Daily Space, Techie