GalacticMu

Press your spaceface close to mine

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:

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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

Snoreright

Posted by Sunday on May 7, 2009 at 7:35 pm

When I was about 11 years old I started transitioning from fantasy books to science fiction.  As I’ve mentioned before, this was perhaps hilariously the fault of Piers Anthony who himself flipped back and forth between fantasy and scifi at a moments notice.  But I was young and impressionable and for some reason the Elf Quest wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Late one night, long past when I should have been up, I began watching a movie on the local access network.  I never caught the name of the movie and 20 years later can hardly remember the plot, save for one aspect: the main character is a woman in a dystopian future who fights the man.  There is pregnancy involved.  Fin.

And despite perhaps the bulk of the film going over my head, I believe that was the first major turning point for my current tastes in scifi.  I like it dark, I like it grim, and I like it depicting a world on the brink of failing altogether.

Which is all to bring me to a somewhat unbelievable point:  the movie?  Appeared on Hulu today.

Equally surprising is how it made me feel while watching it; after the initial thrilled deja-vu I realized it wasn’t a good movie.

It is okay for what was likely a microscopic budget, but the acting is evenly poor (every minor security guard character over-acts with the passion of a person who believes that someone in Hollywood might see this movie and think, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull!  What a fantastic actor Security Guard #5 is!”) and the motivation of humanity is totally non-existent.  Compare and contrast with films like THX-1138 and Twelve Monkeys, where the powerlessness of individuals is all for that classic irony of a better world, and Birthright emerges as a particularly unsatisfying and unclear snapshot into what could easily just be an Eastern European country circa now.

Mostly disturbing to me was the flip of what made The Handmaid’s Tale (R.I.P., Natasha Richardson) a nicely complex little moral briar of post-modern feminism.  Where Handmaid’s Offred is still a sexual being haunted by memories of her missing (and presumed dead) husband and her stolen daughter, Birthright’s Sarah is infantile and aimless, seeking only to become a mother despite repeated warnings that it is no longer “allowed” and “even if it were, it is no longer necessary.”

It is not just that she wants to have a child to raise, it is that Sarah wants to be impregnated with her own child and then raise it.  Early in Birthright Sarah is offered the care of a 6 year-old child that has already been “educated and socialized” (I think we are to read: indoctrinated) by the comically evil Dr. Steiner.  Sarah refuses it. Afterwards she is sent back to the giant laundry-factory¹ where she is scolded for “failing to meet the quota” because yes!  Quotas and failing to meet them, that sounds dystopian!

In fact, as the movie progresses one wonders what Sarah would truly want if she were just allowed to breed – anything at all?  I suppose that wanting to bear and raise a child is representative of wanting a freedom over one’s own body, but this greater analogy doesn’t pass along to Sarah at all; her single-minded desire to become pregnant takes on a cretinous quality that began to disgust me.  Again, not because she wants a child, but because for her there is no bigger picture.  There is no indignation, no subversive individuality, just the same pedantic bleating of “I want my own child!” over and over again.

Birthright‘s writer and director, Lynn Wegenka, makes a small effort to ameliorate Sarah’s infuriating passivity by having two older, more vocal women in her life, though neither of whom do much more than encourage Sarah’s desire.  I mean, yes, it’s horrible that she can’t have children if she wants to, but maybe we can also discuss that everyone is living in what appears to be an abandoned, underground sanatorium where everyone has to dress the same and sleep on rusty cots and deviation results in death?

The strangest part is that of the few scenes I remember from my youth, one of them isn’t in the film.  Unless I just completely missed it while watching it and spacing out — which is possible — but I remember a scene where Sarah sees a birthing center where fertile women are rendered brain-dead so they can produce babies without argument or interference.  I can clearly envision it, women lined up on tables, bulging fecund abdomens draped in white sheets.  Could it be that I completely imagined what would be the best scene of the movie?  Or am I super-imposing a scene from another movie?  The brain, it is a mystery.

Of note: since Birthright, Wegenka has been sadly relegated to be second assistant director for something like two-dozen made-for-TV movies.  On the list of accolades I saw Better Off Dead and squawked — turns out it is the 1993 made-for-TV-movie Better Off Dead about a dramatic lawsuit.  Yeah.  I know.

¹I guess the dystopian part of the future is that it becomes the Hell of Female Stereotypes?

2 Posted in Apocalypse, Movies

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!

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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

Great, Like I Needed a Bigger Crush on Sam Rockwell

Posted by Sunday on Apr 19, 2009 at 12:23 am

In accordance with what is clearly shaping up to be my total failure as a science fiction fan, I’m about five or six months late hearing about the Sam Rockwell psychological sci-fi thriller Moon:

The way things are going with me lately I wouldn’t have heard of Moon at all. Luckily my cousin Tina loves me and feels sorry for me and sends me emails about stuff.

1 Posted in Movies

Happy Birthday Indeed

Posted by Sunday on Apr 17, 2009 at 12:59 am

This is already making the ‘net rounds, but pal to GalacticMu Dan Coulter just passed along the 3rd place image to me with the inscription “Happy Birthday”.

chriscrane

For the record, it’s the best birthday present I’ve ever received.  Of course, my birthday isn’t until August, but I’ve never turned down an early present.

2 Posted in Visual

The Very Definition of FAIL

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

Okay. Do you understand who this is?

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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:

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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

Kindle the Hooker, Pimp the Midget

Posted by halcyon on Mar 29, 2009 at 8:02 pm

I come from a long line of non-braggarts. It’s a Viking thing. We tend to keep to ourselves. We like to keep it all bottled up and then let it out in a frenzy of raping and pillaging and maybe some burning, if it’s not too damp out. It’s a cultural thing.

However-

I have to break precedent to tell you this: Dedicat Ed is now available on Kindle.

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It is, as it says on the back cover*:

A heartwarming story about a foulmouthed midget who wants to play in the NBA, and his sister, a pragmatic prostitute. You know, the American dream.

If you own a Kindle or an i-phone, or an i-pod touch, and you like midgets and/or hookers and/or laughter, and/or feelings you should definitely buy Dedicat Ed. It’s only $4.80, the same price as a ham sammich. And it won’t make you fat, infest you parasites, or give you hammy breath. Guaranteed.

I co-wrote it a few years back with a good friend of mine, Eric Fleming. It’s very funny. Laugh-out-loud funny. I have no problem saying that because many of the funnier parts were not even written by me. It’s also pretty insightful about humans and the things they do, and I can definitely say that because none of the insightful parts were written by me.

I did, however, write a chapter which involves rough midget sex and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. If you ever want to make friends quickly, pull up that chapter, and put your gizmo on text-to-speech mode. Instant robot midget porn. And, like the man says, if your friends don’t like instant robot midget porn, then they’re no friends of mine.

Dedicat Ed is written in the style of an oral history. In other words, people take turns telling the story. It’s kind of like a mockumentary, if that helps. Here’s an excerpt from auto mechanic Willy Jopstone, one of Mary’s many satisfied customers:

…she told me she was eighteen but if I wanted would pretend she was fifteen or whatever. The thing about that girl was, and I remember this part too; was that she was a pro. Not that she fucked like a pro, which she did, but she was all business. No pimp either; I like that on account of the pimp always dickin’ me over money. Hey! I like to tell the boys, listen to this now, I like to tell the boys that when I get a hooker with a pimp I get fucked by the broad and then get fucked by the pimp, too! Two for the price of one! Get it? Not that I get a dick up my ass really, but that he screws me outta money. I ain’t queer.

What else about Cherry? Well, she charged more than most girls did. She asked alotta questions about stuff; things about cars and things about being a guy getting a hooker and shit like that. I told her, listen to this one, I told her: ‘What, you writin’ a book or somethin’?’ Hey Frank! You writin’ a book or somethin’?

What, more stuff? It was fifteen years ago man! All I know is this hot little chick is standin’ on the corner looking all fresh and fine and I says to myself: ‘Willy, this here is your lucky day!’ You can cut that out, the part with my name right? Anyways, so I stop and she gets in the car and names her price and tells me her brother will kill me if I don’t treat her right and puts her hand in my lap and off we went.

Oh, there’s one more thing that made me laugh my ass off. Listen to this one. Hey, listen to this one guys, I ask this hooker who’s this brother who’s gonna kill me if I don’t treat her right and she says it’s her little brother. I ask her how old her little brother is and she says; you hearin’ this? She says: ‘He’s seven!’

Always here to help,

Halcyon
Psych Officer
GalacticMu

 * There is no back cover.

0 Posted in Literature

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