Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A source is a source ...

A source is a source, of course, of course

Why the wisdom of crowds ain't all that. Good stuff from Jaron Lanier.

Friday, November 2, 2007

If ...

If the planes had crashed on Tanna, the results might have been different.

Why ain't you laughing? Don't you see the dang picture?


See, uh. Them there's cannibals, folks, not headhunters. They'd've done et the airmen, get it? This dang Blogger makes them pictures so itty-bitty small it's hard to see what you's looking at. But trust me. If you coulda seen it, this'd be knee-slapping funny.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Airmen and the Headhunters

Good, read folks.

OK: Author, Judith Heimann. Subject: Headhunters just want to hunt heads.

Two American air crews were shot down over Borneo. The indigenous native types sheltered them and kept them alive. The Americans, evidently, showed the proper respect. The Japanese, occupying this and other islands, did not. Evidently, the Japanese in WWII had this atrocity problem. Not to mention bad manners.

The Japanese, in their determination to find these guys, started putting the pressure on the gentle natives, who had sworn off head-hunting long ago. Probably wearing some kinda headhunter patch, or something. But the occupiers pushed 'em too far.

The jolly natives started removing their heads. It's like, we do one thing and one thing right. We hunt heads. They'd ambush 'em. They'd lure 'em into down the beach. Some pretty girls would run by, giggling, boobs bouncing. Pvt. Hentai would give pursuit. Snick. Thump.

If you can keep your head when all about you ...

Pretty soon, no more Japanese occupation on that part of the island.

Thought occurs to me. Hey, if you set this thing in the future you got a pretty good plot for ...

Then it occured to me.

William Gibson did. See: Johnny Mnemonic, both short story and movie script. High-tech bastards go chasing after the fall guy. The lo-teks wipe 'em out.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Idea for "Forbidden Planet" sequel

Here's an idea for a sequel to Forbidden Planet. Yeah, I know J. Michael Straczynski is working on one. But here it is anyway.

Forbidden Planet was a groundbreaking SF movie from 1956. "Groundbreaking" as-in Star Trek stole most of its basic concepts from it. The ideas behind it were intelligent. The writing was literate. It holds up amazingly well today.

OK, the plot of the original. Skip this if you know it.

Basically, a ship from earth tries to rescue Dr. Morbius and his daughter from Altair IV. Dr. Morbius is living on the planet of the Krell, a dead race. Something wiped them out a million years ago. They left behind a vast underground computer connected to a bank of nuclear reactors that exists to do ... something.

Morbius and his daughter are the only survivors of colonists of the Bellerophon. Awhile back, Dr. M. used some of the left-over Krell tech to expand his IQ. He also built a robot named Robby. When the rescue expedition attempts to get Dr. M. and his daughter to leave, an energy monster starts killing them. It turns out, the monster is a projection of Dr. M's subconscious -- a "monster from the Id." We discover that the underground computer exists to project energy: it turns whatever you imagine into reality. That's not such a good thing, as the Krell sadly discovered. The Krell were so advanced, they didn't realize their Id would create monsters, and so they died. Dr. M., for reasons of incestuous jealousy, is also creating a monster. He sacrifices himself. The planet blows up. The dude we would come to know and love in "Police Story" zips away with his daughter in a flying saucer. End.

OK, brilliant. But there's a basic flaw.

There's a scene where Dr. Morbius commands Robby the robot to destroy the energy monster. Robby won't, because he realizes the monster is a projection of Dr. Morbius. He can't kill a human being; he's operating on some version of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. Robby is, basically, Krell technology.

It implies that the Krell matter-generating machine would work along the same lines. It would be incapable of killing.

It's also logical to assume that the Krell, being ridiculously evolved, would be smart enough to remember their primitive beginnings. If they created a matter-generating machine, they'd put in fail-safe devices to block murderous impulses. What follows from that ...

Somebody deliberately deactivated the great machine's fail safe devices. The Krell weren't idiot angels who forgot they once were devils. That's not the explanation. They were deliberately betrayed.

And, one day ...

An alien race appears on earth one day with a promise.

Anything you imagine can become reality.

There's a machine that can do that.

We can build it for you.

The project gets the green light.

Earth starts building a great machine of its own.

Off in deep space, the United Planets Cruiser C-57D is dealing with the Altair IV situation. They don't know what's happening on earth yet -- but they will. If the great machine is built, we'll all be dead.

The clock is ticking.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Happy Meal

Just for the record, I hate Ronald McDonald.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Microsoft Vista eats

Not to put too fine a point on it. In case my subtle satire went over anybody's head.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Not bad.

As Theodore Sturgeon reminds us, 90% of all science fiction is crap—but 90% percent of everything is crap. Though, lately, it seems like SF on film is pushing the crap envelope to more like 95%. Corkscrew ships tunneling through the earth's crust. Stealth bombers coming to life. Keanu Reeves not coming to life. The Wachowski brothers, beating the dead horse of the Matrix. George Lucas, having sex with the dead horse of Star Wars. One fucking zombie movie after another. Endless retreads of Alien. Detectives in space and cowboys in space and remakes of Lost in Space. Remakes of every fucking lousy SF teevee show from the 1960s. (Here's the pitch J.B. Two words: Time Tunnel.) Will Smith, pissing on Isaac Asimov's grave. Filmed science fiction today is a flaming sack of crap, I tells ya. A flaming crap capsule, burning through the earth's atmosphere, filled with bad dialog, bad storytelling, bad logic, bad science, derivative formulas ripped off from other genres and enough plot holes to suck the universe into the asshole of a parallel universe of crap. But I digress. Sorry.

I'm so used to SF directors insulting my intelligence, my jaw drops open when they occasionally don't.

The topic was Sunshine. The new movie by Danny Boyle, not the sappy song by John Denver.

Sunshine is celluloid SF in the directorial footsteps of Stanley Kubrick (2001) Ridley Scott (Alien) and Andrei "Da, we put chandeliers in spaceship" Tarkovsky (Solaris - the original from 1972). Self-consciously so, but what's a punk Irish director to do? It's a big-ass ship on a big-ass mission to save the planet. A signal (it's always a fucking signal) diverts it to some major weirdness. It's well-trodden ground. Or, uh, space.

That said, sooner or later, if we don't kill ourselves, the stuff we imagine is going to happen. Space is simply another setting -- a harsh motherfucker of a setting, like Antarctica, the bottom of the ocean, or the top of Mt. Everest. The focus shifts from bullshit gee-whiz wonder, to realistic stories that take the environment seriously.

And space is a very, very hostile setting. Space isn't romantic Jedis zipping around or Captain Picard pointing his finger and saying "Engage." Space hates life. Space wants to kill you.

And that's what I like about this movie. It takes space seriously. It shoves my face in the beautiful but inhuman reality of it -- makes me feel a physical sense of what it's like to be Out There and off this beautiful, life-generating rock.

It has a grain of necessary bullshit (even the best SF does) -- namely, 50 years in the future, the sun is dimming thanks to bombardment by a theoretical particle called a Q-Ball. To jump-start the sun, the ship (the Icarus) is delivering a big fucking bomb.* (A Manhattan-sized cube of fissile material, I'm assuming to generate massive parallel fusion reactions; each parallel explosion shielded by whatever tech we've invented to generate fusion power -- which also shields the bomb from the sun's gravity, heat and magnetic field as the fucker drops into the sun -- at which point the shielding drops and the array of fusion reactions converges into one big reaction, creating a singularity, thereby making Mr. Sun happy again.) Whatever. It's rubber science. Bullshit. But top quality, extra virgin bullshit.

If you get past it, the rest of the hard science is pretty good. Gravity created by centrifugal rotation. A greenhouse to create oxygen. The harsh logic of shielding the ship from the sun with a massive, panelled reflector. More than that: the internal logic of selecting the best of the best for this mission; the sense of pressure they're under; an elite group of people with zero tolerance for fuck-ups -- because space doesn't have any. Yeah, it's been tried before. But Boyle succeeded. The group dynamic is believable. No cute Hollywood moments. No action beats for the sake of action beats. Nobody saves the cat.

Let's skip the detailed plot summary. Essentially, it's a story of sacrifice. Shit goes wrong, then things get worse and worse, and it turns into a monster-in-the-house movie, but in spite of it all, they save the earth anyway at the cost of their lives. It's been done before. But God is in the details.

Boyle got the details right.

*I forgot to mention. Boyle also steals from John Carpenter's first movie.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I did nothing when they came for the Smurfs.

Evidently, Unicef believes the spectacle of Smurfs being carpet-bombed will end war.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sopranos: into the black

The Prisoner/Satyricon ending

This is the ending they actually did — the ending I didn’t expect.

Like The Prisoner, nothing was resolved — Who was #1? Who runs the Village? Why did he resign? — and the ending drove everybody nuts.

Like Satyricon (Fellini’s movie based on the fragment of a Roman manuscript) the Sopranos story doesn’t end — it just stops. Maybe Tony’s dead, maybe life goes on, who knows? It just stops. Black. No warning. Badabing. Black. I think it was @#$% brilliant.

Didn't see it coming.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Space 1889

The crappy TV show reimagined as a crappy silent movie ...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Book Review: "Wild Palms"

Wild Palms (1993) is a fever dream of a graphic novel: a chimera comprised of Bruce Wagner’s words and Julian Allen’s art. Cyberpunk is the obvious pigeonhole, but that might give the wrong impression. The 1990s saw a proliferation of cyberkaka by hack writers who didn’t get it. This graphic novel is up there with the best of Gibson, Shirley, Rucker, Cadigan, Sterling, et al. It’s like the best because it’s not like them. It’s sui generis, not an imitation cashing in. (If anything, the closest comparisons are the pre-CP nightmares of William Burroughs and J.G. Ballard.) Wagner’s text is a broken mirror of fractured observations; Allen’s illustrations have the razor-sharp crystal clarity induced by certain central nervous system stimulants, or so I am told. The story unfolds (or folds into itself) in a near-future L.A., just as star-humping, name-dropping, image-obsessed and materialist as ever, but now the battleground of a shadow war between the Fathers (aka Scientology clones) and the Friends (non-ideological hipsters just like you!). As fever dreams go, it’s right up there with the best. Wagner’s TV series had some killer moments, but lost some of the bright/dark magic—with a phony/happy resolution imposed by fearful TV execs. (Twin Peaks had taught them a new commandment: “Thou shalt not piss off hordes of viewers with an ambiguous ending.”) Wagner and Allen’s take-no-prisoners nightmare was born as a one-page serial comic in Details magazine, was briefly compiled and published as a graphic novel, and sank like a stone. It’s been out of print for ages; an old copy costs a serious chunk of change. Damn shame.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Against the Day

Wow. Essentially, a giant cereal box stuffed with the detritus of Western Civilization at the turn of the 20th century. Anarchists, plutocrats, Nicola Tesla, even a few rodent droppings. No prize, though. Not even a decoder ring.