GalacticMu

Press your spaceface close to mine

Borg Love

Posted by Sunday on Jul 16, 2008 at 4:55 pm

If there is one thing that moving is good for, it’s the surfacing of long-forgotten sketchbooks.

Exhibit A, c. 2000:

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For the non-nerdy, this is Manu Intiraymi, the actor who played Icheb the Borg Drone on Star Trek: Voyager. His is a sad story, but mitigated by my gigantic crush on him. Not Intiraymi, mind you, I had a crush on the Borg:

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I think I sketched Intiraymi to hide my Borg-loving shame. I have no such shame now. Hot, ex-hive-mind action. Have to teach him to love again, but also he’d never get all moody on you. Bits of metal. I think it’s a healthy fantasy.

5 Posted in The Future, TV

A Very Special Episode of GalacticMu

Posted by Sunday on Jun 9, 2008 at 1:08 am

This is one of those subjects that is going to be awkward pretty much no matter what, so I am just going to jump in and see what floats to the surface.  Yerk!

So, this is the story of how I came to consider having my ovaries/uterus/breasts electively removed.

You see, three generations of women on my mother’s side have had either breast cancer or ovarian cancer (or both) at a young age, some terminally and some not.  And that’s three generations that we know of.   With the diagnosis of my mother’s ovarian cancer a few years ago, the question of doing some genetic testing was raised by her oncologist.  We blew it off after reading that the testing starts at a cheery $3,000 a person.

Flash forward a few years, and me getting my yearly exam.  Every time I get the exam, the doctor asks, “And is there any cancer in your family?” and I have to break it down over the course of 15 minutes.  This year, tired of telling them – because why?  Are you ever going to write it down and put it in my medical file?  No?  Great!  Because I love having this talk!  It’s one of my top five, right up there with “Is that a bruise on your leg?” (has no one heard of spider veins?) and “What’s up with those tattoos?” – I tersely said,  “Yes, all the women have had cancer, some are living, some are dead.”  To which the actually nice doctor made a sad face at and then said as she left, “I need you to stop in with the counselor before you leave.”

Oh.  Brother.  Seriously?  Wait, I’m 28 years old and paying lab fees for this crap, and I can still get detention?

Turns out they just wanted to tell me that the local hospital has a genetic testing lab that handles a lot of self-pay (read: unemployed blogtards) folks.  We give them a call and on the spot they tell me that the Susan B. Komen Foundation will at least cover my consultation appointment.  Well!

Long story short: it seems likely that my mother’s side of the family are carriers for a gene that likes to make ladies’ lady parts mutate.  If she (and I) are carriers, then comes the big question, and the bulk of the conversation with the really great scientists over at the genetic lab: what, if any, preventative measures am I willing to take?

It’s pretty simple, and breaks down like this: the average woman has a 13% chance of getting breast cancer in her lifetime.  A BRCA1 carrier has a 50-85% chance of getting breast cancer (I would place at the 85% end of the spectrum due to the three-generational pinata-effect) and since ovarian cancer is also clearly a variation that our gene would have, the same sort of statistics apply.

The thing that I am getting hung up on here is how kind of strangely awed I am that this is a decision I get to make.  My mother didn’t get to make this decision.   There are heavy considerations at stake, of course – these surgeries are intense and take a year to fully recover from, and even though I have no current desire to have children, no one really wants that choice taken from them.   Well, maybe I do.  Oy, I is there a therapist in the house?  But as I told the kids at the genetic lab, I can buy a baby.  I can’t buy a cure for cancer.  Add to this the issue of my already having a risky disease, and well, things get weird.

But, my brain keeps coming back to what a strange technological grab-bag this is: we can isolate the likelihood of a mutation occurring in the body.  Far out.  And the only way to really ensure that these mutations don’t happen is to… remove the organs they might happen in.  Far… out?  It’s so steampunk.   In my mind there is a wooden operating table and my surgical gown is made of ivory lace.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that I’d get everything removed should I be the proud owner of the BRCA1/2 gene, even the people at the lab pointed out that the great bulk of cancer money goes towards breast cancer, which means that breast cancer detection and treatment is phenomenally successfully these days.   Ovarian cancer, on the other paw, is still a lurking Great White of bad news and if someone offers to magic them out of me, I believe I’d be a fool not to jump.  Still, what a strange world.

So I guess what I am saying is (and since I’ve already made up my mind for a wide spectrum of scenarios), what would you do?  And since the boys in the house can’t really compare their junk to my junk (if I had a double mastectomy I’d get some FABULOUS FAKE TITTIES, whereas they can’t really go getting a fake wiener, as far as I know) – let’s say it’s an arm or something.  Wait, no.  Whatever, what would you do?

Behold a Trans-planetary Bus Stop

Posted by Sunday on Apr 23, 2008 at 9:50 pm

This is older than stardust by internet standards, but a kindred spirit (bitchin’ NASA jumpsuit!) over at Damn Interesting wrote a nice bit about Buzz Aldrin’s proposed Cycler vehicle.

To summarize Damn Interesting’s summary, a very elegant solution to the fuel problem of trans-planetary travel is to keep a sort of Space Winnebago (no, not that one) perpetually looping around Earth and Mars. This would require a connecting ship to merely burn fuel getting up to the Space Winnebago as it passes close to Earth and then back to it again as it passes close to Mars. It’s actually a very understandable, simple concept (well, simple is relative, I’m not going to be drunkenly building one out of used Kotex any time soon) made lovable by everyone’s should-be-favorite astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

But enough summarizing; Damn Interesting already wrote it about it clearer than I can and they have a video. Brown nosers.

The Martian Express via Damn Interesting

Anti-Energy Beverages

Posted by Sunday on Apr 9, 2008 at 4:01 pm

There are times when I reel from the event horizon that occurs between the present and the future.  One of these times was Aargh telling me that he’d ingested an anti-energy drink.

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Now, this is where culture, society and futurism collide in a messy Sprawl upchuck: Purple Drank is a very real underground narcotic cocktail made from codeine-based cough syrup and a mixer (often Sprite, occasionally with Jolly Ranchers added for flavor) (as an aside, you can flavor any alcohol with candy, you just have to be patient) popular in the Houston, Texas rap scene.

This arguably brilliant idea – oh come off it, you want a codeine martini too – has morphed into a low-grade sleepytime beverage to counter the teeth-grinding speed tribe of energy drink consumers.  Three independent reports  (Aargh + two guests) confirm that this valerian-root and melatonin drink does indeed slow one’s roll, as advertised.  No one could remember how it tasted.

8 Posted in The Future

We Await You, Our Robotic Overlords

Posted by Sunday on Apr 3, 2008 at 10:35 pm

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The want for a society free from violence, free from want, free from meatiness, it is still here.  Because we haven’t yet created our soon-to-be plastic and alloy caretakers.  In the meantime, keep an eye on the folks at MIT.  Which is good advice on any occasion, really.

M.D.S. Personal Robots at The MIT Media Lab.  Be sure to watch to video – this robot’s movement and control are fantastic.  Note to MIT: please stop using plunky jazz bass soundtracks for your robot videos.  This is neither an episode of Seinfeld nor a corporate training video.  One word: Vangelis.  

(Found by BattleGate)

Money Has All But Disappeared.

Posted by on Mar 27, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Uh, that part is true.

Quagmire points us to a 1968 article, “What Will Life Be Like in the Year 2008?”  Some predictably chuckle-worthy gems interspersed with things less funny:

“No need to worry about failing memory or intelligence either. The intelligence pill is another 21st century commodity.”

Or a classic:

“The housewife simply determines in advance her menus for the week, then slips prepackaged meals into the freezer and lets the automatic food utility do the rest.”

He forgot the part where the housewife needs to remind her husband to take his prenatal vitamins.

Via Modern Mechanix.

0 Posted in The Future

Picture You Gettin’ Down In a Picture Tube

Posted by Sunday on Mar 25, 2008 at 12:18 am

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In some seriously old news, Gorillaz is amazing.

Sometimes all it takes to backhand some sense into me is a little drivin’ around in the old car, listening to some tunes.  And it hits me: this is a fucking fake band!  I’m no rube – I don’t think cartoons are really playing the music – but luckily Halcyon was in the car and responded to my dumbfounded “This is a FAKE BAND!” with understanding.  His answer: “It’s like Idoru, I know.”

It helps to break things down to their base components: what we have is a massively successful (with multiple top 10 hits in the US, UK, Japan and Australia) band represented by cartoons.  Not just successful: uniquely excellent.  Not derivative.  With some of the best music videos made in the last decade.

And they’re cartoons.  They aren’t real.  They aren’t intended to be real.  It is rock, made rockstarless.  What in conversation seems a gimmick in reality gains a gravitational pull that defies grokking – people don’t care.  People aren’t listening to their radios going, “No, fuck this, who are the band members?  Who is playing the drums?”  My mother (truth) loves Gorillaz and when I told her there was only one known band member and they were all – whoever they were – represented as cartoon characters, she didn’t blink.  She wanted to know what Noodle looked like.  Admittedly this is the woman that cultivated me, so such a reaction has biological precedence, but still.

This doesn’t even venture into the delight of seeing Jamie Hewlett continue to make art.  As a girl half-raised on Tank Girl (comically speaking – the other half was raised by Elf Quest and Silver Sable – fuck you, let’s take it outside), Hewlett is solely responsible for my having crushes on kangaroos and now monkeys.

Don’t look at me like that.

1 Posted in The Future

I Vote “Astrobotic” Based On Name Only

Posted by Sunday on Feb 21, 2008 at 7:09 pm

The Lunar X PRIZE (hoping to do for lunar landings what the Ansari X PRIZE did for civilian orbital capability) has announced their official contenders. The teams now have until December 31, 2012 to win the whole $30 million purse – late-comers will then have a further two years to win a lesser amount.

for_dave.jpgI’m a big X PRIZE supporter (minus the spelling and all-caps) (and also, not actually monetarily, just spiritually) and I encourage you to at least respect their endeavor enough to read up about it. The Ansari X PRIZE triggered unexpected emotions for me; I expected to be excited, but I didn’t expect to weep and then get a tattoo of the SpaceShipOne, which is exactly what happened. Seeing Mike Melvill emerge from the tubby little hero of a spaceship broke something loose in my black, dessicated heart, and that something is still floating around in my eyeballs – truly, I couldn’t even resize this photo without getting weepy.

In all seriousness, I’m a pessimistic person. For me, scifi apocalypse stories are where I find solace, because, strangely, they offer the most hope; they at least have a chance of coming true. SpaceShipOne is as close as I get to feelin’ churchly, particularly because it was just a few earnest nerds deciding to make something happen for real. I have true awe for the little man and the underdog, and while many would argue that Paul Allen is as far from those two descriptors as a human can get, I prefer to focus on the designer Burt Rutan, for whom money was not the motivating factor. Rutan was a life-long devotee of aviation culture, a rogue aerospace engineer who often followed his gut rather than established norms. The knowledge that SpaceShipOne now hangs next to Chuck Yeager’s “Glamorous Glennis” in the National Air and Space Museum is enough to make me break into alarming sobs – these are the people that would risk their life for the black, the great vacuum sea, the siren call of an entire universe.

Are you with us?

Softer, Worser, Slower, Weaker

Posted by Sunday on Feb 21, 2008 at 5:47 pm

It was mid-summer when I heard that Kanye West had sampled Daft Punk’s 2001 hit “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and my reaction was to groan miserably. I don’t need to explain myself when I say that Kanye West is the whiniest motherfucking “rapper” ever to show his smarmy goatee; you know of what I speak. Given any opportunity to stand before a TV camera and cavort like an attention-starved grade-schooler, Kanye has repeatedly demonstrated that his delusions of grandeur are as precious to him as his pretty, pretty face is.

Enter the French musical duo Daft Punk. They’ve been pulling off feats of moderate-to-great musical skill for years now, and most recently behind literal masks of anonymity. While their music may not always delight me, like a few non-American musicians of some renown (see: Kylie Minogue), they have always embraced the science fiction – and that, dear reader, is a endeavor I can get behind.

“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” manages to avoid being just another insipid dance tune, but by what margin I cannot say. I am struck confused by every fresh listening; what makes it so appealing? Is it because it could be the Robot Anthem? Or is it just because my mind fills in the members of Daft Punk themselves, bedecked in psychedelic THX-1138 finery?

None of this, unfortunately, is pertinent to my rant. You see, when Kanye West decided to butcher “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” he also decided to take on the culture of the song as well. I’ve forced the sluggish and talentless ejaculate of his song (deceptively titled “Stronger”) from my mind only to suffer the new trauma of his presence at this year’s Grammy awards, Daft Punk in tow.

One could kindly call his performance “inspired” by Daft Punk, the stage covered in geometric patterns, laser strobes, and every Tron effect achievable under the circumstances. Or one could see it for what it was: the temporary appropriation of my culture. And while I acknowledge that Daft Punk is as much to blame (was it money that drew them along? fame? Kanye’s supple and moisturized skin?) I still wait by for Kanye’s inevitable discard of all that he has now used to line his pockets.

This is common thing in the science fiction industry. One must only dip a single pinky into the wealth of talent here and then avoid all credit where all credit might be due. TV shows like Lost fall squarely into the definition of a scifi program, and while some mention of this occasionally winds its quiet way into media commentary, the TV stations themselves would never imagine such a reference, lest it should forever shame the viewers from watching. Don’t get me wrong: for the most part everything is coming up Milhouse for scifi, even as it lumbers awkwardly into the mainstream as a chubby programmer-nerd might suddenly experience popularity. But I can’t shake the feeling of high school every time a heartlessly cute jock tried to cajole test answers from me. They’re sweet to you when they need you, but the moment their unearned passing grade is delivered, you’re back to wiping loogies out of your hair.

5 Posted in The Future

Rock Me, Hirasawa

Posted by Sunday on Feb 17, 2008 at 8:17 pm

I like anime. I’m not a cosplay meganerd or anything, and admit to being overwhelmed by anime culture in general. I couldn’t even tell you which directors I like. I do, however, have a favorite anime composer: Susumu Hirasawa.

The mind behind the outstanding musical accompaniments to Millenium Actress (2002), Paranoia Agent (2004) and Paprika (2006), Hirasawa writes what I can only describe as orbital-colony mall beats. Orchestral, bombastic and melodic, Hirasawa is as much a performance artist as a musician: in one famous display he encouraged audience members to call cell phones on stage that had ringtones designed to sound in harmony to his music.

I think his finest work may be the theme song to Paprika, called “The girl in Byakkoya – White Tiger Field”. It is available for free download at teslakite.com: http://www.teslakite.com/freemp3s/e/paprika/

Teslakite doesn’t mention the best part: Hirasawa wants some of his music distributed for free as a protest against “the nations that are headed towards carnage while ignoring international law,” and specifically notes American’s war on Iraq.