Thursday, December 14, 2006

Strange Beliefs

Michael Shermer on TED ...

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Everyware is everywhere

Based on the evidence of most SF TV shows and movies, microphone technology doesn't exist in the future.

Captain Picard or somebody will be in a holding cell with Farnak the Magnificent.

PICARD: Listen. You've got to distract the guard. I'll make a run for the crystalline control device while you flibble his flygat rod.

FARNAK: It's a bold plan. Count me in.

The futuristic bad guys have no clue. Ever. They never listen in on the whispered conversations in their holding cells. See, the freaking Germans and Japanese had bugged their POW camps as, I reckon, we had done as well. But ... in the GLORIOUS FUTURE ... the mysterious secret of the hidden microphone has been lost.

No. Actually, what it boils down to is: If you're a writer creating dramatic situations, it's easier if you ignore the possibility of surveillance. This allows your characters to talk about what they're going to do before they do it.

Bear in mind, we're just talking about cameras and microphones.

That's nothing.

If you read this book carefully and cross-reference it with Bruce Sterling's demented and highly probable speculations, you're talking about a future in which every machine is a computer, every machine has a central nervous system, and every machine talks to every other machine.

You don't need cameras and microphones.

The freaking toaster knows when you're toasting toast, and just how you like it, too. The floor knows when you're walking on it. Wow, sez Tommy Toilet. Something wrong with that dude's stool. Guess the boss is picking on him at work.

In simple terms: imagine the delusional architecture of your average paranoid schizophrenic. Now, build it. Build it everywhere.

That's everyware.

That's the future.

Well, jolly wonderful, you're thinking. I'll be dead. Who cares?

See, I don't care. Life might suck for my great-great-grandchildren. So what? I'm dead. If they thaw me out, that's better than being dead. Take me to your toaster.

The problem is: Not being a lazyass SF writer and imagining the implications of this stuff.

To hell with microphones and cameras. Everyware makes conventional storytelling impossibly hard.

Imagine, say, Sin City, 2257. The hard goodbye.

Marv and Goldie make love. Kevin kills Goldie.
Except he wouldn't, because the intelligent AI running the room (even a cheap hotel room) wouldn't let him in.

Marv realizes he's been framed and fights his way past the corrupt police officers.
Except he wouldn't, because the room would seal him in.

He steals a police car.
Except he wouldn't, because the car would know he wasn't a cop and wouldn't drive for him.

Marv talks to his lesbian parole officer.
Except he wouldn't. Her apartment would identify him as a homicide suspect and not let him in.

Marv runs into the night and beats the truth out of various hitmen. He works his way up the foodchain. Except he wouldn't.

You get the idea. Let's skip ahead.

By the time Marv and Goldie were ready to kill Kevin, the various linked networks of machines talking to each other would realize some shit was going down. Marv goes into a hardware store to buy heavy duty gloves, rubber tubing, razor wire and a hacksaw. Based on pattern recognition and fuzzy logic, the machines have already told the AI running the store to expect this. The second Marv places his order, the plasteel walls come down and isolate him.

The story stops.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Sin City, here we come

OK, kids.

The future is a pain in the ass. But, based on this little thought experiment, the very weirdness of it all is interesting. This may be a half-hearted attempt to imagine what the future will actually look like based on what they're cooking up now.

Even so, it's more interesting than rocket ships, aliens, warp drives, ray guns and killer robots.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dirty brilliance from John K

OK, kids. Here's a horny, humping Monster from the Id from the mind of my personal God of cartooning, John Kricfalusi. Brilliant--but be warned--exceedingly filthy.

Tenacious D - Classico from Copernicus Studios on Vimeo.

YouTube vid not the best res. For some bloody reason, the direct link to the site doesn't work. Here's the damn site if you want to get there on your own:

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Make Love, Not Warcraft

Am beating my brains against the wall writing an SF novel based on the premise of a world devoted to gaming and role-play. The bastards at South Park managed to make most of my satiric points in a 30 minute cartoon show.


Sunday, October 1, 2006


Caught "Idiocracy" in LA with Eric, Mike Judge's satire of a world of idiots. Evidently, this pissed off the executives at Fox and they've released it to only a few cities with next to zero publicity. I imagine they don't like the insult to their target audience. Their target audience being idiots, they shouldn't have worried. But, at any rate, I saw it at a movie theater as movies are meant to be seen.

Great movie. Yeah, a dead rip-off of the premise of C.M. Kornbluth's "The Marching Morons." But a great movie nonetheless. I won't bother with a plot summary. The above vid clip says it all.

Peace, ya morons.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kansai Airport

No room for an airport? Build an artificial island.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Quote of the Week

"In American free speech theory, the press is often described as fulfilling “the watchdog function,” deriving from the notion that the public representatives must be watched over to assure they do the public’s business faithfully. In the context of the Internet, the concern, most clearly articulated by Neil Netanel, has been that in the modern complex societies in which we live, commercial mass media are critical for preserving the watchdog function of the media. Big, sophisticated, well-funded government and corporate market actors have enormous resources at their disposal to act as they please and to avoid scrutiny and democratic control.

Only similarly big, powerful, independently funded media organizations, whose basic market roles are to observe and criticize other large organizations, can match these established elite organizational actors. Individuals and collections of volunteers talking to each other may be nice, but they cannot seriously replace well-funded, economically and politically powerful media."

--from Yochai Benkler's "Wealth of Networks"

In other words, if the Internet succeeds in killing the old media paradigm of big centralized news-gathering/dissemination orgs, the bloggers and yappers creating "user generated media" for free ain't gonna save Democracy's ass.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Hey, kids. What's more fun than a drone plane?

A swarm of pilotless drone planes linked in a network and equipped with pattern recognition and a fuzzy logic AI system --

Some geewhiz stuff from --

Drone Swarm for Maximum Harm
(There's a section on the impact of cheap, numerous unmanned aircraft in my book Weapons Grade, now in paperback. Here's one man's vision of what they could mean.)

The awesome future of air power is just around the corner – but the Air Force doesn't want it. That’s the word from Gregory Jenkins of the USAF’s Air Armament Center, self-styled 'heretic' and architect of a concept he calls Just In Time Strike Augmentation (JITSA).

There are many fleeting targets on the modern battlefield that appear briefly and are gone. Think Saddam Hussein’s entourage slipping from one hideout to the next, or a Transporter-Erector-Launcher moving into firing position, or a pickup full of insurgents fleeing after staging a mortar attack. An air strike that takes five minutes to arrive is useless in these situations.

Jenkins’ vision is a networked battlespace with unmanned aircraft maintaining continuous surveillance over a wide area. At the cutting edge is Boeing’s Air Dominator, a 100 lb drone with a 12-foot span which looks like a model aircraft. I interviewed the people involved in the Dominator program two years ago here. Although Boeing say they have nothing new to report, there have been enhancements since then. A special lightweight fuel cell could bring its endurance to over 40 hours, and there’s a sophisticated new vision system for mid-air refueling to increase endurance even further. Each Dominator will carry out up to three attacks using munitions similar to but more versatile than the BLU-108 Skeet . (Some sources claim this has been increased to eight submunitions; Boeing say it’s still three).

Above all it will be cheap, so unlike the solitary MQ-1 Predator drones, Dominator will be used in packs, with a large number of hunter-killers accompanied by a few 'gateway' vehicles providing networked communications and refuelling. Each craft folds away into a pod just eight inches square and four feet long for transport and launch. The plan calls for two dozen or so were to be delivered by an F/A-22 Raptor jet at high speed, but Jenkins is thinking much bigger.

You don’t need a stealthy, high-performance aircraft to deliver something that can travel hundreds of miles on its own. In the JITSA scheme Dominators would be packed in pallets of twenty on a C-17 transport plane, with thirty pallets in all – that’s a total of six hundred drones. A loadmaster would handle the individual release of as many as needed. It’s something akin to a British FOAS concept of replacing bombers with a transport plane packed with palletized cruise missiles.

Once in position, the swarm would maintain air dominance over a wide area, providing both of continuous surveillance and instant reaction. Jenkins estimates that any target in the kill zone could be hit within 2-4 minutes maximum. None of those fleeting targets would escape.

Against a conventional force, Jenkins calls the JITSA system a ‘back breaker’, destroying armor, artillery and air defences on a massive scale, not to mention taking out air forces on the ground.

Dominators can also tackle targets that would normally take much larger munitions by being smarter. You might need a 2000 lb laser guided bomb to destroy a bridge, but a few Dominators can simply destroy vehicles attempting to use it. The bridge is denied to the enemy just as well, and you don’t have to rebuild afterwards.

The system can also neutralize deep bunkers which are invulnerable to the heaviest bombs. Missiles or stores of WMD are not going to harm anyone if they are stuck underground with a swarm of Dominators overhead 24/7, ready to attack anything the minute it emerges. Underground command centres become prisons.

Hey, ain't that great?

Or, what about some loud mouth, barely published SF writer who accidently stumbled on our plan for world domination? He's easily recognized by his gun metal gray 2004 Mustang GTO he's still paying for. We've already loaded his erratic driving pattern into the AI. Yeah. There he is. The swarm is on its way.


Saturday, March 25, 2006


OK. It's not that I had a bad time. I'd be happy to watch Milla Jovovich arrange her sock drawer.

It's a case of too much movie and too little budget. There are some great ideas (a zero-dimensional storage space) and a few cheesy ideas (a virus in the future that turns people into vampires). Even a cheesy idea can make a helluva SF movie, rightly handled. Unfortunately, there ain't enough money to pull it off. The special effects barely rise above 1997 video game level. The martial arts stuff is well staged, but it seems fakey in the crappy special effects context. All rather bloodless, which is ironic in a vampire movie. Even bad production values are forgiveable -- with a strong script. But the script is incoherent. Connective tissue has been snipped away to keep the action going. As a result, I have little idea what's going on.

The moral of the story: if you ain't got a lot of bucks, make sure you've got a strong script with a narrative that drives through like a tank through a mud hut. Come to think of it, that's a good idea even if you do have money.

Milla. Love ya, babe. Call me.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sopranos endings

OK, here we go. The Sopranos' final season, finally. How will the fucking series end?

Here’s my take –

The A-4 aka Meadow’s-Got-a-Gun ending

In this version. Season 6 would have two story arcs: Phil Leotardo’s smoldering resentment over Blundetto leads to an all-out gang war with Tony’s crew; an FBI team we actually take seriously (a la “The Untouchables”) gets on Tony’s case. In both arcs, Tony emerges victorious. He wipes out Leotardo’s crew and absorbs his action; the FBI screw up. He’s on top of the world, ma. On top of the world.
Somewhere along the way, AJ gets either killed or brain-damaged as a result of getting sucked into Tony’s life. Meadow, one day, just decides Tony has to die, buys a gun, and puts a bullet in his brain. While this happens, “Woke Up This Morning” plays in the background. The theme song turns out to have been a prophecy. The end was contained in the beginning. Everything comes full circle.

The Goodfellas ending
The name “Sopranos” turns out to be a prophecy. The Feds back Tony into a corner and he sings. He winds up in the Witness Protection program amongst the pod people of suburbia.

The Firefly ending
The crew of the Firefly goes back in time. Mal emerges and says “Best be coming with us, Mr. Soprano. They’s fixing to cancel your series and we could use your particular brand of expertise.”

The Psychology Today ending
Tony has a breakthrough in therapy and resolves his personal demons. He makes restitution and goes back to college and starts studying to be a Life Coach.

The Russian mobster returns

The good news: he’s dead. The bad news: he’s undead.

The ducks return
And kill Tony

The Godfather III ending
The Pope offers Tony a motion picture deal: the Mad Max series, reshot in Aramaic, with Tony as producer and Christopher as screenwriter/director. The script is in development and the Pope comes to America. The Pope makes a sub rosa visit to the Badabing and dies on a poisoned canoli meant for Tony. The assassin returns, and kills Meadow by mistake. Tony falls to his knees. Opera music plays.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bring me the head of Philip K. Dick

OK, I'm not making this up.

The Philip K. Dick android is missing.

Well, not the whole android. Just the head.

Hanson Robotics created the creepy/cool thing in 05. Big hit at Wired's NextFest that year. Thing had cam eyes and various text strings in a laptop brain from the works of PKD. Ask it about Valis and it would start rambling about gnosticism and past lives very much like ... Well.

Now it's gone missing. Creator David Hanson was flying with the thing in the overhead luggage compartment. Many allnighters, many connections. Than a surprise connection. To quote the NYT:

"He had been traveling for weeks, pulling all-nighters in a race between his work as a roboticist (he also made a much-discussed robotic head of Einstein); as the founder of a fledgling company, Hanson Robotics; and his doctoral work. But unlike his creation, Mr. Hanson is, apparently, distressingly human.

'They woke me up, I got my laptop from under my seat, and being dazed, I just forgot that I had the robot in there," said Mr. Hanson, referring to the head in a black, American Tourister roller bag, left in the overhead compartment.'

After landing in San Francisco, he notified the airline, whose officials apparently found the head in Las Vegas, packed it in a box and sent it on the next flight to San Francisco. Mysteriously, it never arrived."

Now it's ... somewhere.

I'm not making this up, though I wish I were. Across the country, I hear the cicada like sound of ten thousand starving SF writers, typing, typing. Good luck, guys. Keep it up.

If you can't get a great SF story out of this you're just not trying.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Burn the land and boil the sea

Well, kids. Have watched the entire "Firefly series." And rewatched it. And re-re-rewatched it. I'm in awe. Joss Whedon has, single-handedly, set the standard. You wanna write SF for TV that isn't shit? This is what it looks like.

That being said, I should keep my mouth shut.

But I can't.

I'm working on an SF novel dealing with similar themes. From a vastly different direction, with vastly different implications. This is not to be presumptuous. I'm not on Whedon's level. Yet. But our paths cross.

I.e. ...

My fictional universe deals with an evil corporation that hatches a conspiracy to destroy the earth's ecosystem and force humanity to flee to another star system just to benefit their bottom line. My twist is ... THEY SUCCEED. They have an evil plot ... and it WORKS. Nobody stops them. The bad guys win. I thought I was pretty freaking original here.


I noticed something.

If the five year arc had gone as planned for the Firefly TV series, Whedon had obviously planned to expose the Reaver cover-up sometime in the third season. In the fourth and fifth season ...

And, gorramit, he's played his cards pretty close to his chest.

But ...

Mal was going to discover and disclose the Blue Sun conspiracy to destroy the earth's ecosystem and force humanity into space. Earth-That-Was didn't die a natural death. She was murdered. The ultimate fucking crime.

It's right there in the theme song. Whedon hid it in plain sight:

Burn the land and boil the sea.

I should shut up about it until I see print. But I can't. Like that peasant whispering "Midas has asses ears" to the reeds, I gotta say it.

The Blue Sun Corporation killed Earth-That-Was.

That nasty revelation. That ugly scandal dwarfing the Reavers/Miranda scandal.

That was the final rabbit ...

Whedon planned to pull out of his hat.