Thursday, December 25, 2008

Blue Christmas



Commander Peary opened the door. Like pitiful blue statues, the remains of Santa and his elves lay huddled before him. He knew it was going to be a ...

Blue Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Remix


Terry Gross has excellent interview with Prof. Lawrence Lessig on Fresh Air today. Lessig's the founder of the Creative Commons and the author of Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Lessig's concerns/obsessions/night terrors are very much my own.

Gross mentioned a quote in Lessig's book from oompa composer John Phillip Souza. Back at the turn of the previous century, Sousa testified before Congress in an effort to ban player pianos and phonographs -- which were cutting into his profits as a seller of sheet music. The quote:

"These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a boy...in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal chord left. The vocal chord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape."

This echoes cartoonist R. Crumb's rant (see Terry Zwigoff's Crumb) that people used to make their own folk music on porch stoops, but today everyone buys their culture canned at the mall, and as a result everything is turning into "a unified field theory of bullshit."

Lessig's point. 21st century media tech favors the spontaneous, street level, creation of culture, as opposed to the top-down 20th century model of culture distributed on plastic discs by media monopolies. Souza couldn't turn back the clock at the turn of the last century. The big media companies can't turn the clock back now.

That's jolly wonderful. But I still want to get paid.

The evil couch


The overstuffed couch resembles a macrophage or giant amoeba. You imagine a slow, painful death sitting down on it as it slowly absorbs you, dissolving the outer layers of skin and then the muscle tissue as you writhe, trapped, screaming helplessly, hardly human anymore, just a gurgling, red mass of anonymous tissue, failing with utter futility, until the divan sucks you in, the paisley pattern heals over, and there was no evidence you were there in the first place.

You do not sit down on the couch.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still - short version

In the 1950s film, the aliens gave humanity an ultimatum.

In the 2008 remake, the aliens gave us a death sentence.

The turgid remake turned the offer of a moral choice into an exercise of amoral power.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Day the Film Stood Still



The title is The Day the Earth Stood Still, a remake of the classic SF film from 1951. But you could've fooled me.

OK, this ain't a bad movie. Give it a B+. It has its moments.

I wanted to like it. But deep down inside, I knew I wouldn't.

The big damn, problem is pacing. Director Scott Derrickson, obviously, takes a page or two from Spielberg. Hell, he took the whole damn book: Spielberg's E-Z Guide to Creating Sense of Wonder in a Big Budget SF Movie through Backlighting and Cute Kids. Basically, ET and Close Encounters had sex and this movie is the result. And it groans under the weight of the sheer ponderous, philosophical signifance of it all. The Big Ideas come crashing down with the weight of Gort's robotic foot. Spielberg would've wanted it that way.

In his zest to ape Spielberg, the director forgets that a movie, even a movie jam-packed with Big Ideas, is still a ride. The film is stuffed with scenes that could be cut, overstuffed dialogue and explanations we don't need to hear. There's lots of show and tell. I.e.: we're going to show you stuff, and in case you weren't paying attention, we're going to tell you what we just showed you. For example ...

The female protagonist is spirited away by government types and rides in the back of a military vehicle with a bunch of other space scientists. (Having the military yank her out of her house would've made a great beginning — but there's a dead scene showing her teaching in a classroom first so we know she's a space scientist. I mean, that drooling idiot in the backrow might not figure it out.) The convoy drives. The various scientists wonder: What the Heck is Going On? Is this a war game, or what? Some dude says something to the effect, "No. This is no war game. I know it's for real." How does he know? He points to the road. There's traffic going in the opposite direction, but their side of the highway has been entirely cleared of traffic. We see it. But, wait, don't forget that idiot in the back row! so the dude says, "The road. It's been cleared of all traffic — except for us. The military cleared it. For us."

A great exercise for a first year student at Berkeley Film School. Cut 20 minutes out of this thing. Hell, cut 40. Make it snap, crackle and pop. Make the ride fun.

If you cut the fat, there's some pretty good stuff here. Unfortunately, there are also glaring logic problems.

Not the peripheral shit like, say, a mountainclimber on a snow-blasted mountaintop taking off his glove for more than five seconds.

Foundational story logic problems.

As the movie opens, an alien ship comes blasting at earth like a bullet, aimed straight at Manhattan. Homeland security thinks it's a doomsday asteroid -- which is why they've snatched up the scientists 'cause, you know, space scientists are good at cleaning up after asteroids. So, the scientists hover in helicopters over New York Harbor, waiting for the thing to hit as The Clock Ticks. (Ain't worried about that shockwave are you? Nah.) The asteroid turns out to be a spherical spaceship (paging Michael Crichton) that lands gently (but spectacularly) in Central Park. The purpose: Klaatu (Keanu Reeves this time) is going to deliver an alien ultimatum (hug the planet — as opposed to ban the nukes.)

Now, this is sorta like staging a home invasion — breaking down somebody's front door — then giving them a needful piece of advice. You're going to seem like a threat, dontcha think? Shooting the home invader is a logical response, dontcha think? Shoulda occured to the aliens if they had any knowledge of the human species ...

Well, gee, one of the soldiers shoots Keanu. Surprise.

Now, with all their unimaginably advanced alien tech, these dudes from space couldn't manage, say, a planetary TV broadcast first? One second you're watching a beer commercial. The picture crackles. It's Keanu Reeves!

KLAATU: Woah, human dudes. Destroying the ecology is like way not cool.

Easily script-doctored. Let's say the aliens do send a plantary broadcast. The US military decides it's a fake. Some nation or group is staging a pseudo alien scarecrow for whatever purpose. We invite the "alien" to land. We do, then shoot him. A suckerplay —

Which would explain why Keanu stepped out in a placenta suit as opposed to, say, inpenetrable nanotech armor.

Big logic problem #2:

The aliens, for all their tree-hugging righteousness, are genocidal. Their message, essentially: Stop global warming or we'll fucking kill you. All of you. Ain't exactly ethical, is it? The first movie got around the problem by making the Gort robots an automatic protection system designed to eliminate galactic nuclear proliferation. By design, the robots aren't under anyone's control. They obey their prime directive (Ban the Nukes!) and can't be intimidated, reasoned with or bribed. The original Klaatu was simply trying to give humanity the picture of the threat we were under. If humanity triggered an attack, it'd be the robots killing us, not Klaatu. But, in this movie, Klaatu himself is holding the trigger. To me, that's not exactly sympathetic.

The movie wanted Klaatu to give the reprieve. Obviously, there's no way to do that if it's an automatic system — so that got cut. It's a cheat to set up a bogus story point. Script doctor's prescription: Have Klaatu turn out the lights. Then let the lights come back on -- and have humanity shut off our various dirty power stations voluntarily. The robot backs off. We saved ourselves.

Big Logic Problem #3:
It's a remake of a Cold War era movie. The problem with remakes: you can't just swap the labels on the soup cans and expect the soup to taste the same. Cold War nuclear brinkmanship doesn't map to eco-catastrophe. It's not a one-to-one correspondence. It needs to be a different story, based on its own inner logic. Aside from the label-switching and better special effects, they stuck to the original story fairly slavishly. As a result, the logic doesn't work.

Still, all in all. Not a bad movie. It had its moments.

Even so. If you're going to the time, trouble and expense to make a movie, why not make it insanely great?

It bugs me. I think we need a race of killer robots to destroy all movies that fall short. I'm sure that thought has occured to ...

Others.

You have been warned.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tingles the Christmas Tension



A brilliant comic parody by Rob Smigel. Enjoy ...

Now listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of someone who brings certain feelings once a year.
It happens each winter, you'll hear his name mentioned:
Tingles the Christmas Tension.

Yo-dee-yo-die-deedle, deedle-ee-dee.
Awkwardness and anxiety.
Yeedle-dee-doo-deedle, dee-deedle dension.

"I'm Tingles the Christmas Tension!"

Now Tingles appears on the 23rd,
Disguised as a phone bill, your home he's entered.
He leaps out from hiding, up into the air,
Sprinkling tension dust 'round everywhere.

A dash can make Daddy a walking time bomb.
He'll fly off the handle and yell at your Mom.
A smidgen for Mom when Dad wants to snuggle
Can make Yuletide sex quite a struggle.


Tingles is there at the office celebration
Inflating reminders of last night's frustration.
When Dad sees an intern that he's never noticed,

Joe from Sales says, "I'd sure like to fill all her quotas."

And then, before you know it, oh Christmas is here.
Relatives gather, drink, and look severe.

And you kids may wonder, sometimes when you play,
Why your parents can't take it around Christmas Day.
It's all thanks to Tingles and his merry bag of dreams
That turns whispers into screams.

On Grandma, on Grandpa, on drunk Uncle Otto,
On Cousin Kate with her little out-of-wedlock mullato.

Spoodle-dee-spoo, and asky-pasky-penshion.
"I'm Tingles the Christmas Tension!"

"Oh you let your kids do that," says ol' Auntie Rose.
And Mom's Mother-in-Law looks down her nose.
Now you children, so happy and bouncing with glee,
Are in for surprises from your family.
Now Christmas is over but kids don't you fear,
Tingles will be back spreading his vibes next year.
He must make his way so we can all give attention
"To Moples the Day After Christmas Depression."


Yo-dee-yo-lee-doodle, doodle-ee-dent.
Emptiness and disappointment.
Yoodle-dee Tingles and Moples, too.
Scooblee-scooblee-scoo.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Thanks for the memories


From Science Daily --

A team at Rice University has determined that a strip of graphite only 10 atoms thick can serve as the basic element in a new type of memory, making massive amounts of storage available for computers, handheld media players, cell phones and cameras.

The core idea: exploiting graphene's conducting properties. According to the article, graphene-based storage expands the memory capacity in a 2-D array by a factor of five. Individual bits could be smaller than 10 nanometers. Memory could also be stacked in a 3-D array. Graphene memory puts out little heat. Best of all, it's cheap. The stuff of cyber dreams ... is the stuff of pencils.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dune Roamin'




OK. Ploughing through the fourth season DVDs of Battlestar Galactica.

Not bad. But the jury is still out in my mind.

The series is rotten with religion. Prophecies, dreams, temples, voices in the head, the clash of civilizations, yattayatta.

SF writers are reluctant to drag religion into the picture for a very good reason. It ain't the fear of God's vengeance. It ain't the fear of the vengeance of God's pointy headed followers. Religion, to an SF writer, is like duct tape. You can fix anything with this stuff.

And that's what's wrong with it.

If you take the Voices in the Head seriously, it's Deus Ex Machina time. Yes, everyone's favorite SF cliche -- the God in the machine!!! "I, RoboChrist, command you to settle on Alpha Centauri!" Yes, Lawd! What other response is there?

Ya gotta any plot holes, problems with the character arc, logical contradictions, violations of the laws of physics — no problem! Just drag the Voice of Gawd into it. God said it, the readers believe it, that settles it, amen.

On the other hand ...

If you're fixing to whack the Old Time Religion with a crowbar, it's Gene Roddenbery time. Y'know. Star Trek's original producer had one basic plot: God from the machine, literally. Deus ex Mechanoman. God is a robot that eats pineapples. God is a robot that thinks like a fundamentalist. God is a robot that did the nasty with another robot and turned into V'Ger.

So, simplistically put, simple-minded SF writers have two options:
A simplistic hallelujah for religion. In space.
A simplistic attack on religion. In space.

The harder, more complicated, more ambiguous, less rabble-rousing, less feel-good (for either atheists or Bible-thumpers) approach is to take religion seriously — as a force in its own right — and seriously consider the implications of a wave of religious hysteria in the universe. And to do so — regardless of the implication of whether it's true or not.

And we're basically kneeling before Frank Herbert's Dune.

Like the new iteration of Battlestar Galactica, Dune was also rotten with religion — primarily as a form of manipulation and social control, but also as a form of social adaptation. So, to the Zen-Sunnis of Dune, their religion (which centered on the life cycle of the sandworm and its hallucinatory byproducts) was an adaptation to harsh living conditions on a desert planet. The Bene Geserit, meanwhile, have been engaged in a covert genetics program and spreading religious bullshit as a cover story. Paul Atreides messes up their plan. He's a sport Messiah, arriving ahead of schedule. In Herbert's universe (as Herbert has said in many interviews) a Messiah is a tsunami; a natural disaster that wrecks civilizations. (This is somewhat clear in the SciFi channel mini series adaptations, not at all in David Lynch's Eraserhead in Space version.)

Battlestar Galactica walks the razor's edge between Religion-is-Crap and Religion-is-Dead-Serious. The Cylon skinjobs believe in the One True God; the freaking humans (or, let's say, the frakking humans) are polytheists. Go figure. Give them a light and they'll follow it anywhere.

The core concept, of course, is an exodus to the promised land. Jews in Space, as Mel Brooks would say.

Everyone's running around with sugarplum visions in their heads and disembodied songs in their ears. Dylan's All Along the Watchtower pops into the minds of four Cylons who figured they were all-too-human. Gaius Balthar, the quisling, sumbitch, self-centered, narcissistic, hetero Dr. Smith, becomes a bloody Christ figure. Starbuck comes back from the dead.

Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ.

Herbert suckered us into a Messianic vision of grandiose religiosity — only to undercut it with Dune's sequels. Ultimately, the force behind it all ain't God, it's human beings (however changed and evolved) playing God. And the result is disaster. Herbert, ecologist that he was, would probably also say that result was inevitable. Playing God is what our species does.

I'm seriously hoping Battlestar has the same honesty when dealing with its core concept.

Lord forgive me, but I'm seriously hoping that, at journey's end, all this religion shit turns out to be a scam. Having scoped ahead to the convenient Episode Guides, I know that — at the cliffhanger midpoint of season 4 — both Cylons and humans all come back to Earth and it's been, apparently, blown to hell. The interpretation I would like to see: all this God shit is a mental implant by some Unknown Force manipulating both sides — perhaps the entity responsible for the hallucinatory Cylon babe in Balthar's head — as a means to get them all back to the ruined earth to clean up the mess. The man behind the curtain reveals himself and says: Wake up. The truth is, in this world, you're on your own, and that applies to humans and Cylons alike.

It's been a long strange trip.

I'm expecting a big fucking hat and a big fucking rabbit when we get to the end.

So say we all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Snowglobe of death

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some 7,000 jumbo-sized snow globes were recalled by Hallmark Cards Inc. because the holiday decorations can act as a magnifying glass when exposed to sunlight and ignite nearby combustible materials, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Tuesday.

The snowman-shaped snow globes were sold in October and November at Hallmark Gold Crown stores nationwide for about $100 each.

The consumer agency said Hallmark has received two reports of the snow globes igniting nearby materials but no injuries have been reported.

Consumers who bought the snowglobes, which measure 11 by 12 by 17 inches (28 by 30 by 43cm), should immediately remove them from exposure to sunlight and return to a Hallmark Gold Crown store for a full refund.

Details about the recall were posted at the government agency's web site at:


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some 7,000 jumbo-sized snow globes were recalled by Hallmark Cards Inc. because the holiday decorations can act as a magnifying glass when exposed to sunlight and ignite nearby combustible materials, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Tuesday.

The snowman-shaped snow globes were sold in October and November at Hallmark Gold Crown stores nationwide for about $100 each.

The consumer agency said Hallmark has received two reports of the snow globes igniting nearby materials but no injuries have been reported.

Consumers who bought the snowglobes, which measure 11 by 12 by 17 inches (28 by 30 by 43cm), should immediately remove them from exposure to sunlight and return to a Hallmark Gold Crown store for a full refund.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Brain drain


Maureen Dowd writes that newspaper jobs are being outsourced. Just like telemarketing phone drones and the distant voices of the software help line, you too can be replaced. By a helpful, piece-working wage slave in Bangalore.

She writes from (I think) some media conference in Pasadena —

The newspaper business is not only crumpling up, James Macpherson informed me here, it is probably holding “a one-way ticket to Bangalore.”

Macpherson — bow-tied and white-haired but boyish-looking at 53 — should know. He pioneered “glocal” news — outsourcing Pasadena coverage to India at Pasadena Now, his daily online “newspaperless,” as he likes to call it. Indians are writing about everything from the Pasadena Christmas tree-lighting ceremony to kitchen remodeling to city debates about eliminating plastic shopping bags.

“Everyone has to get ready for what’s inevitable — like King Canute and the tide coming in — and that’s really my message to the industry,” the editor and publisher said. “Many newspapers are dead men walking. They’re going to be replaced by smaller, nimbler, multiple Internet-centric kinds of things such as what I’m pioneering.”

I wondered how long it would be before some guy in Bangalore was writing my column about President Obama.

“In brutal terms,” said Macpherson, whose father was a typesetter, printer and photographer, “it’s going to get to the point where saving the industry may require some people losing their jobs. The newspaper industry is coming to a General Motors moment — except there’s no one to bail them out.” He said it would be “irresponsible” for newspapers not to explore offshoring options.

Etc.

How perfectly goddamned delightful it all is.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Join the bargain stampede to Wal-Mart

What a way to go. Death in Long Island. A Wal-Mart greeter, trampled to death by a crowd of bargain hunters on Black Friday. They burst through the doors. He looks up, and they're running at him like a trumpeting elephant herd.

At this moment, the fight-or-flight reflex kicks in.

Ehhhhhh!

The neurons start firing, like the nose of that guy in the Operation game.

GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY!

But, no ...

His higher brain centers send a message to his muscles. An inhibition response cuts off the reflex.

He thinks of the reprimand from his mid-level supervisor.

Now, Burt. You just let 'em trample in like that? That's not the Wal-Mart spirit! You call yourself a Greeter?

So he stands his ground.

He interposes his body between the crowd and the shining bargains.

And the crowd, in its Black Friday lust, tramples him to death in their pursuit of a $300 flat screen HDTV.

A TV, I might add, not made in the USA.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

McDonalds -- Why so serious?


JOKER: Hi kids. Remember Ronald McDonald. (snickers) The last Ronald McDonald?

Giggles, reveals severed head of Ronald McDonald.

JOKER: You want fries with that? (tosses head OS -- stands up) This city deserves a better class of clown -- and I'm going to give it to them!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ


Now the pirates seized an oil tanker. They want $25 million.

What's freaking next ...

Christmas?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Jonathan Zittrain



Zittrain's talk for NewAmericaFoundation conference. Long but interesting.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Trees


Overheard quote on NPR. Not show itself, just a bumper.

Tracked it down. Worth repeating ...

“Just from a design standpoint we can all appreciate the ability of trees to make oxygen, sequester carbon, fix nitrogen, distill water, provide habitat for hundreds of species, accumulate solar energy as fuel, make complex sugars and food, create micro-climates and self-replicate,” says world-renowned architect and author William McDonough. “All this and they change color with the seasons.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We were schooner-rigged and rakish with a long and lissom hull


This just in. Pirates seized a Ukrainian cargo ship loaded with T-34 Russian tanks and other fun toys off the coast of Somalia. For a $30 million dollar ransom, the Russkies can have it back.

Now, you know ...

You open up the newspaper ...

And the headline is: PIRATES SEIZE CARGO SHIP ...

PIRATES????

Pirates? Freaking pirates?

Goddamnit, I remember triumphant essays by do-gooder types who said things like "We ended slavery and piracy in the 19th century. We can end hunger and war in the 20th century."

Now it's the 21st century. Hunger and war are still with us. And PIRATES are back, along with human trafficking.

Har, matey.

Har.

Monday, September 15, 2008

R.I.P Richard Wright


The Pink Floyd keyboardist has gone to that great gig in the sky.

Thing Incorporated


EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: BLORG, FOUNDER AND CEO, THING INC.

First, thanks for taking the time for this interview…
No, it is I who must thank you. We appreciate any interest.

Can…
You may activate your recording device.

OK. (beat) What is your goal at Thing Incorporated?
Here at Thing Incorporated, we strive, not only, for 100% customer satisfaction but total customer delight.

Do you meet expectations?
We exceed expectations.

What kind of business are you?
A family-owned business.

What sets you apart from other businesses?
We are aliens.

Apart from that.
Our total commitment to quality and service.

What kind of quality?
Top.

What kind of service?
Customer service.

Could you be more specific?
Friendly customer service.

What’s your relationship to the Sarasota market?
We have strong roots in the community. Sarasota is our home.

Why did you make it your home?
Thing Incorporated has studied your species for many years. According to our scientists, Sarasota is the greatest city on the face of planet Earth. Sarasota is paradise. It contains superior beaches, natural beauty and many opportunities for art appreciation. Above all, the people. The humans of your city were our key motivation for resettling in these coordinates. The people of Sarasota are superior to other humans. It is a privilege to serve you.

How would you define your line of business?
Serving our customers.

Why did you choose this line of business?
A desire to please our customers. Not only a desire, a passion. We love our customers. Our customers are like family to us. When our customers are happy, we’re happy. For this reason, we strive to keep our customers happy. That keeps them coming back.

Hmm. That sounds like you’ve developed strong customer loyalty.
Yes. We have a proven track record. But loyalty works both ways. You earn loyalty by giving loyalty. That is our philosophy at Thing Incorporated. It is a customer-first philosophy. We are service oriented. We are results oriented. We do not take our customers for granted. Here at Thing incorporated, it is all about creating relationships with our customers. Going the extra mile. Giving 110%.

And you do.
Yes. As a result, we’ve cultivated many relationships over the years. With our customers.

How would you describe your typical customer?
Thing Incorporated has no typical customer. Young, old, rich, poor, white, black and humans of all intelligence levels. We serve them all.

Come on, you must have a target market.
Customers.

A niche?
Customers.

Bottom line, who is your customer?
Everyone.

Retail, wholesale, upscale?
Yes.

What’s your specialty?
Our specialty is everything.

What do you sell your customers?
Everything.

What do you do for your customers?
Everything. No job is too large or too small. There are no limits to what we can create for you at Thing Incorporated. The only limit is your imagination, which is limitless. If you can dream it, we can build it.

How is that possible?
Because of our hand-selected team of in-house experts. Carpenters, musicians, electricians, zoo keepers, donkey washers. The list is endless. All are highly qualified and rigorously trained.

What’s your management style?
I sweat the details. The buck stops here.

What about your in-house team?
Our in-house team takes a team approach. There are no egos here. There are no prima donnas. We work together. We are one. We exist to serve our customers.

What about products?
We have everything under one roof. Why go anywhere else? Whatever it is, at Thing Incorporated, you can find what you are looking for.

In general terms, what are your customers looking for?
Everything. I have previously stated this information.

But what if they don’t find what they’re looking for?
No. That is impossible. Our massive showroom does not exist in three-dimensional space as you understand it. We have everything. Everything! There is nothing our customers cannot find!

But what if they don’t?
Then we will find it ourselves or create it. We do it right the first time. We turn solutions into problems. Nothing can stop us.

But what if your customers don’t like what you create?
No. No. That is impossible. Our customers always like what we create. No. The term "like" is insufficient. It is the emotion you humans call "love."

How do you do it?
There are no surprises at Thing Incorporated. Before work ever begins, we get to know you. We ask many questions.

What kind of questions?
Smart questions. It is a stochastic method. Your brain is too primitive to understand. But asking questions is not enough. We must listen to your answers. Listening is key.

Why is that?
As a result of our superior listening skills, we find out what you want. What you want is what we want. Exactly what we want. Your dream is our dream. Logically, how can we create your dream if we don’t know exactly what it is? We will not stop until we know. You yourself may not know your dream. It may be buried, deep in your subconscious, but that will not stop us. We have many techniques. We will discover your secret dream and turn it into reality. Serving our customers is our prime directive. You are helpless to prevent it.

What happens next?
Our dream team designs your dream. There are no surprises. You always see it first, thanks to cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, high-tech computer visualization software from our homeworld. If it isn’t absolutely perfect, we will change it. If you say jump, we will ask how high. We go to any extreme no matter how ridiculous or degrading to create our customers’ dreams. That is the reason for our existence.

Then the relationship ends?
No. The customer relationship does not end with the sale. You are more than that to us. It’s not about money. It’s about relationships. The relationship lasts a lifetime. We are here for you. We are a phone call or mouse click away. We will answer any question, offer free consultation and show up at your home at any hour of the day to fix any problem, even if it isn’t our fault.

That’s a very high standard.
It is the truth. We back it up. At Thing Incorporated, we talk the talk and walk the walk. We dare to compare. We invite you to come in and see for yourself. Experience the Thing Incorporated difference. We exist to serve our customers. Others say it. We mean it.

That’s an amazing management philosophy.
It is the holy truth.

Just out of curiosity … Where’d you come up with this philosophy?
Our civilization was in ruins. We had lost our way. In year 276-A by our calendar, a human space probe crashed on our home world containing digital records of many business publications. We obeyed their commands. We have built our lives around that philosophy. It has given us hope.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Galveston, oh Galveston


Here's Bruce Sterling, the SF writer who's consistently played the Jeremiah regarding global warming, long before it became fashionable. Wrote Heavy Weather, a prophetic book about tornado chasers in a planet with a ruined climate; started the Veridian Design movement to make green design cool as opposed to a form of do-gooder self-flagellation. Judging by the quantity of hair, this picture was probably taken in the late 80s or early 90s.

Anyway, here he is at the historical marker in Galveston, Texas, commemorating the storm of 1900. Sterling has taken a sheet of paper with a hole cut in it and covered most of the sign, revealing only the words: FUTURE STORMS. As if to say: Listen up people; there will be future storms, and they'll be bad.

Now, Hurricane Ike is slamming Galveston. Sterling, out of good taste, has removed this pic from — as far as I can tell — all his various blogs. To avoid the petty, snotty I-told-you-so connotation, no doubt.

Here, in the interests of bad taste, is the pic.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Loop


“Motherfucker, motherfucker … ”

He remembered a dream or a movie he saw once where he or the character said “Motherfucker, motherfucker …” when the impossible thing popped up on the flatscreen TV. Déjà vu. A memory of a dream (or a movie) with the memory of a dream inside it. And another inside that, etc. Infinite recursion. Déjà vu all over again. And again and again …

She said, like he knew she was going to say, like she’d said a million times:

“What’s your problem?”

“That guy … ”

He sputtered, pointing at the Bob Dylan imitator. The classic early 60s Dylan with the Wayfarer sunglasses under the folky logo for the tribute concert: BOB DYLAN: 1945-1966.

“Bob Dylan isn’t dead …"

She looked at him like he was bug-eyed crazy. A head turn. A million heads, again and again and again.

“Yeah, he is,” she said. “He died in that motorcycle accident. Right before he became rilly popular. It’s like, so ironic. Everybody like knows that?”

A fat middle aged Elvis appeared on screen.

He brushed back his hair.

“How d’ya like my hair? Well. At my age, keeping it ain’t easy. That’s where the folks at Hair Restoration Center really came through for me, man.”

    

The solar wind spaceships resembled delicate, translucent sea creatures, sails blown back from a central main body of the ships like the petals of a flower, folded back now. There were four ships, arranged around the hub of a space station. The captain of one ship was up to no good and systematically killing everyone who was aware of it. This was particularly difficult as this was the post-privacy era and everyone was almost entirely aware of everything everyone else was doing. But he did his best.
The ships had a hollow core where gravity could be turned on or off as needed. A woman who (ironically) resembled June Lockhart was working in the core. Her face was peeking up over the edge like Killroy. The gravity was off. Kyle turned it on, then dropped a trash-can sized molybdenum coated cylinder on top of her.

“Catch,” he said.

She looked up. The thing came crashing down on her.

Kyle and Roger stood there looking at her. Watched the thing hit. Watched her quickly go down. Five levels down. Exaggerated smashing sounds, coolant escaping, liquid flying up. A mess to clean up, no doubt.

“She’s dead,” said Kyle, which was meant to be funny. One of those obvious things that didn’t need to be said, but he said it anyway. Ha-ha.

    

“An interactive map. You see the problem, right?”

“Of course I see the fucking problem. The map knows I’m looking at it.”

“It creates itself for me when I look at it.”

“It knows what I’m looking for.”

“It maps you.”

“Yeah. I guess you see the problem.”

    

“SimCity on steroids.”

“Say what?”

“A city has certain basic parameters. Bars, restaurants, government, housing, transportation system ...”

“Blah blah.”

“It’s a whole system. But the system is constantly mutating.”

“So what?”

“The records of the past—which are usually incomplete -- deal with pieces of the system, not the whole system. So, say, London of 1966 was an environment, a nexus of linked sites to move around in.”

“Physical sites.”

“No shit. The shops on Carnaby Row, all that mod shit. I don’t know specifically—all I know is what I saw in Austin Powers.”

“Which is basically fucking LA, you know.”

“I know. The point is, if I wanted to do a historical recreation of that environment –”

“As a gaming environment?”

“Maybe. There’s no one place to go for information about historical environments because there’s the data isn’t stored on that basis. There’s no place to put it.”

“Nobody’s looking to do a recreation of London in 1966.”

“No, it’s taxes, advertising, promotion. Every lens is distorted.”

“There’s guides and shit –”

“But that’s totally distorted. Anything that’s selling you something is distorted.”

“Then everything’s distorted.”

“Yeah. The guide books leave out the slums. Crime reporting makes it all look like shit. The point is: the parameters of a city are fairly simple.”

“SimCity on steroids.”

“SimCity on steroids. Yeah. I plug in the data. After that, the city becomes a self-generating. A self-generating environment. Mod London, Ratpack Vegas, whatever.”

“But it’d – You make it a recursive loop?”

“Yeah. Recursive loop. 1966 folds back in on itself.”

“Or 1999. Like the fucking Matrix.”

“The point being: you own the environments? The virtual environments based on the real ones?”

“Yeah. And license ‘em to gaming developers. Or some asshole selling virtual time machine nostalgia vacations. Or whatever.”

“It’s not your data.”

“It’s my expression of the data. According to the new laws –”

“You could own the fucking past.”

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog



Good stuff. Free. Those stupid Hollywood writers should go on strike and start getting paid for this stuff, dontcha think?

Enjoy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Death crotch panda


If you live long enough, you bump into decades you imagined in your SF stories.

Back in 2000, I started a story cycle. The premise: In 2008, right after the summer Olympics, Yakuza gangsters plan to trick China into invading Taiwan. The Yakuza sell pirated video games; they want to disrupt the flow of intellectual piracy out of China, crush their Triad competitors in Taiwan, and corner the global market. They're betting the UN and USA will intervene with sanctions, blockades and boycotts but stop short of a shooting war. The Yakuza run the risk of starting W.W. III for the most venal, corrupt and petty of reasons.

There's more to it than that. Shit happens.

It was all based on the assumption that the Clintonian peace of the 1990s had extended past Y2K. It's an era of peace and prosperity. War, in 2008, is unthinkable.

I imagined a satire along the lines of Kornbluth.

I imagined the 2000s would look like the 1990s.

Those fuckers with the boxcutters ruined my plotline.

War is very thinkable now.

Of course, the PRC would never invade Taiwan.

That's unthinkable.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ha, ha, your medium is dying


33 people laid off at our local paper today.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuned to a dead channel



"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
—William Gibson, Neuromancer


Why the cyberpunk future isn't.

Cyberpunk suffers from the peak-and-trough effect. I.e.: technological change tends to come in punctuated waves.

SF writers see the next wave coming, though they almost never get the particulars right. The future eventually catches up with their predictions: Jules Verne’s submarines, the “atomics” of the 1930s, etc. When the future gets too close or actually arrives, the SF predictions seem lame or boring. I.e.: Lester Del Ray’s Nerves postulating a nuclear meltdown seems pedestrian compared to the actual Chernobyl.

The current incarnation of the internet is babyshit. The future hasn’t caught up with cyberpunk yet; we’re still in the trough. Unfortunately, our current wave of tech is particularly good when it comes to simulations. I.e.: Hollywood (and TV commercials) are insanely great at simulating the future before it happened. So, in the 1990s, people got hit with the images of Johnny Mnemonic and Ghost in the Shell — not to mention a slew of schlock cyberpunk knockoffs (like William Shattner’s godawful, ghost-written Tek War series) where, as Bruce Sterling likes to say, rip-off artists filed off the serial numbers. And let’s not forget that series of gee-whiz AT&T commercials promising “You will” to everything from VR glasses to self-driving cars. It all seemed very convincing — to the point it seemed like a cliché.

To the point cyberpunk became a fashion statement and folks forgot this shit hadn’t actually mainstreamed yet. Cyberpunk became a style before it became a reality; then the style got old. Which, coincidentally, is right around the time the tech bubble burst and George W. Bush built a bridge back to the 19th century.

That being said, the next wave is coming. As folks have pointed out, avatar-based games like World of Warcraft, though resembling ren fairs, aren’t that far from Neal Stephenson’s predictions in Snowcrash. The internet, as somebody else said, is where we go to work. The military, as we speak, is researching strength enhancing exoskeletons. Medical researchers are opening all those man-machine doors man wasn’t meant to open, mostly in the name of rehabilitating the paralyzed and the brain-damaged.

Faster, stronger, better.
More human than human.
You will.


It’ll happen.

About the only cyberpunk prediction that hasn’t happened and probably won’t is William Gibson’s original vision of cyberspace. Which, if you think about it, was a graphic user interface creating a contextual/consensual space around given proprietary sites. I.e.: if Gibson’s prediction had come true, YouTube would be a giant TV set with a location in a seemingly physical landscape. Google would be a multi-tentacled cyber octopus ripping data left right and center out of other entities. Gibson’s cyberspace was literally a media — a space between the other spaces — a consensual, hallucinatory landscape which physicalizes abstractions into concrete representations to allow users to interact with them. The implication: the internet was a place, you could move around in it and see what was going on. Jesuschrist, those Russian spammers are hacking email sites — you’d see an army of steel rats coming down the Cartesian grid, a giant steel cat chasing them.

Instead, what They’ve given us is a black corridor. We go from here to there with no context, no space in between. Each web site is its own pocket universe with links to other sites. But there is nothing representing the web itself. Or the relationships between what’s going on in the web.

You can’t see what’s going on.

If I wanted to be a Pynchonian paranoid, I might speculate that Neuromancer tipped Them off and They made sure it didn’t happen. The Web encourages certain kinds of crime, discourages others. The House wins. The House always wins.

Be seeing you.

Punctuated disequilibrium


As another starving writer reminds me, Verne had easy. To paraphrase Gibson, technology has its finger permanently set on the fast-forward button, like some mad social scientist's experiment. This gives a contemporary SF writer 3 choices:

A) Write near-future SF. This will become almost instantly obsolete. But you'll have a 5-15 year window in which to posit a trendy, extrapolation based on some hot new thing -- before your story becomes dated and ridiculous.
B) Write far-future SF. Flipping A.C. Clarke's well-worn penny: "Any sufficiently advanced technogy is indistinguishable from magic." Corollary: SF based on sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from fantasy. I.e.: It's not Harry Potter's wand, it's, uh, nanotechnology.
C) Write SF set in the not-too-distant-future and posit some reason that technogy has been held back. So, Battlestar Galactica is a bucket of bolts because the Cylons can infect advanced AI systems. Futurama's 30th century is more like the 22nd century because earth has been blown back to the dark ages a few times. Or, in Serenity and Firefly, the Blue Sun Corporation destroyed the earth's ecosystem to jump-start a space colonization program and keep humanity at a level they could control. Hypothetically.

Another friend -- yet another SF writer with a ridiculously high IQ -- thinks the future is unimaginable. Perhaps unimaginably unimaginable. As may be. I still think it's worth the effort to keep up with M.I.T. Technology Review. My SF is bullshit, I know. But I want it to be high-quality bullshit.

Oh, yeah. It occurs to me there's a 4th choice.

D) Write SF set in the present. Gibson is doing just that, actually. Pattern Recognition happens now. He figures we're living in a cyberpunk future. The future's caught up. Worry about character and story.

Monday, July 21, 2008

And the stupid award goes to ...


David Denby for his wrongheaded review of The Dark Knight in the New Yorker.

He starts off with a long catalog of the ultraviolence --

"In the new Batman film, The Dark Knight, many things go boom. Cars explode, jails and hospitals are blown up, bombs are put in people’s mouths and sewn into their stomachs. There’s a chase scene in which cars pile up and ..."

And on and on and on. Oh the humanity.

Which is sorta like saying, “In Hamlet there’s incest behind the curtains, a stabbing behind a curtain, lots of stabbings right out in the open, an adolescent girl who drowns herself, a bipolar nutcase talks to ghosts and a skull, a little poison and plenty of blood, blood, blood.”

All that slaughter supports the conclusion:

“In brief, Warner Bros. has continued to drain the poetry, fantasy, and comedy out of Tim Burton’s original conception for Batman (1989) …”

Tim Burton didn’t invent Batman. Bob Kane and Bill Finger did.

OK, stupid. I enjoyed Burton’s two movies. That said, they’re a dead end. Nolan’s concept is better. Here’s why:

Christopher Nolan takes the premise of Batman seriously. (The original premise, however retooled.) Tim Burton didn’t. What Burton created was ultimately arty and operatic, not a self-consistent reality.

Here, Burton runs into a basic law of comic book physics: If the Batman universe gets too disconnected from our own, it inevitably turns into the campy Batman. If you don’t take the concept seriously, inevitably, your audience starts to laugh at it. You can tell yourself “It’s a post-modern” all you want.

Burton’s two Batman movies had damn good scripts and creepy sets echoing Brazil and Blade Runner. Burton started out dark, atmospheric and operatic. But where do you go from there? The basic building block: mood. Not causality, character, plausibility and logic. Burton’s world was dark, but it wasn’t believable. You know it’s not real. It stops being scary. That makes it funny.

So, in the first movie, when the Joker zaps a crook with a joy buzzer and starts rapping with the fried corpse, it’s a hoot. He kills people with consumer products. He tries to gas Gotham with Macy’s balloons full of Zyklon B. He fights Batman on a belltower and whips on a pair of funny specs. “You wouldn’t hit a man with glassses, would you?” Wham!

By the end of Burton’s second movie, he gave us a march of the penguins with RPGs strapped to their backs. Waugh. Waugh. From there, it went to other directors and devolved to candy colored kaka and a batsuit with nipples

We're not that far away from Batman and Robin in the toaster.

--Holy hotpoint Batman. I think we're toast!
--Hold on, old chum. I think there's a way out of this.


Mercifully, the campy TV series died. Mercifully, the latest incarnation of the Batman movies died. Mercifully, Nolan is taking it in the right direction.

Stupid.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight kicks ass


The Dark Knight sticks a bat hook in the problem of evil. Then it pulls. Meaty question rip out: What is the nature of evil? To fight evil, do you have to become evil? Not bad for a comic book movie. I guess that makes it a philosophical comic book movie.

It gets off to a slow start. Act I has some clunky dialog and force-fed exposition. Or maybe it just seemed that way. The trailer may have distorted my perception. The good guys are winning — then the Joker shows up. Surprise! But I knew the little creep was coming.

Not to spoil the surprise, but the movie kicks into overdrive and takes you on a hellish ride into dark psychological territory. The Joker’s territory. Then it keeps getting darker.

Heath Ledger’s Joker makes Jack Nicholson’s Joker look like Mr. Rogers. He is one mean mofo, the king of cinema's insane clown posse and very, very smart.

As are the co-screenwriters: Christopher Nolan (also the director) and Joseph Nolan, his brother.

The character details are spot-on. This Joker doesn’t have bleached skin. He wears pancake makeup over his scarred face. The Nolans dispensed with the vat of acid backstory. The Joker's mouth has been knifed wider into a permanent smile, like that poor bastard in The Crays. Why? The Joker’s story keeps changing. His father did it. He did it to himself. Exactly what a crazy clown would say.

The Joker starts out wanting to get rid of Batman. Then he changes his mind.
He takes a ton of money, makes a pyramid of it, puts a witness on top of it, and
sets it on fire. He’s a nihilist. He's not in it for the money. Like Alex before him, he hurts people because he likes it.

Clowns just want to have fun.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wall-E and the babies in space


Welcome to the future: the earth is a big pile of garbage. When Al Gore makes this dire warning, whining like Mr. Timbertoes turned into a real boy, your eyes glaze over with boredom. Director Andrew Staunton's CG animated film doesn't tell you. It shows you. No preaching, no elbowing you in the ribs with a message. Just visuals. Here's the earth, folks, 700 years in the future. We've consumed ourselves to death. Your eyes, whether you like it or not, fill with tears.

The hot bot plot: Sometime in the future, an evil corporation called Buy-N-Large (as opposed to say, Engulf and Devour) fills the earth with the crap from the ass end of the production cycle. Mankind leaves the planet on a giant starliner for a five-year cruise. Trash-compactor bots ("WALL-E" units, natch) stay behind to clean up the planet. But humanity doesn't return. 700 years later, only one Wall-E unit still functions; it's still cleaning up. He's been doing the job so long that he's developed self-consciousness and a sense of artistry — making towering arcology sculpture out of his trash-compacted cubes.

Humanity periodically sends probes to earth to see if anything’s growing, in which case, us naked apes return. In 2710, a probe arrives, an EVE unit, pregnant with symbolism. She’s all curvy and white like an iPod. Wall-E is boxy. Fembot and guybot find each other. Then Eve finds something growing in Wall-E’s refrigerator. And, faster than you can say "Break into ACT II," the excitement begins.

Back up in space, humanity (its every need met by bots) has turned into big babies floating on anti-grav barcaloungers. Eve and Wall-E return to the mamma ship. They immediately smash a hole in the starliner and watch as the helpless screaming blobs of protoplasm are sucked into …

Well, no. Even a toaster can guess where the story goes, but that’s not the point. Ulysses goes home. Papillion escapes from jail. Romeo and Juliet kiss and die. Yeah, yeah. That’s not the damn point.

Staunton tells the story with silent movie rhythms, riffs ripped off from Keaton, Chaplin and the rest. The first third has no dialogue, the rest has little. Chuck Jones used to bitch that most animation was “illustrated radio” — nothing but talk, talk, talk accompanied by redundant visuals. Close your eyes and you still get everything — but not with WALL-E. Illustrated radio it ain’t.

The pictures tell the story. Who needs words?

The section on the ruined earth is haunting. Not a Blade Runner vibe — more like the awesome banality of Idiocracy, minus the idiots.

After the poignant beginning, the film kicks into start-and-stop action comedy once the bots land on the starship.

B-N-L's starliner has the look-and-feel of Star Trek and 2001 filtered through a PlaySkool toymaker’s sensibility and the design vocabulary of McDonald’s and Kwik-E-Mart. Curvy, sterile white walls accented by screaming primary colors; hologram signs full of happy faces and blobby letters, endlessly selling you shit. The banality of evil? That’s been done.

The evil of banality?

“Wall-E” nails it.

Beautifully and hilariously.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Surfin Messiah



"When Suzuki Daisetz was asked what was it like to have satori, he said 'Well, it's like ordinary, everyday experience, except about two feet off the ground.'"

— Alan Watts


Happy Saint Stupid's Day.

Well, kids. Joe Strummer is dead and I don't feel so good myself.

That said, a marathon Clockwork Orange-style (leave me glazzies!) viddying of the John from Cincinatti DVD proved instructive.

How to squeeze its essence into the eyedropper of a blog, eh?

Well, sir. It's Huxley's perennial philosophy on a surfboard. It's a pre-apocalyptic response to a post-apocalyptic bummer. It is, whatever else you wanna call it, true SF.

"SF" aka "science fiction" aka "speculative fictio"n is one of those terms the rubes don't get. SF ain't about the future. It's about the gestalt. I.e.: the chessboard the pieces move on. SF picked up the torch from Jack London. The rest is Tom Clancy, Tom Wolfe, and silence.

David Milch (the writer/producer/mad genius behind this thing) last kicked in the door of human consciousness with Deadwood, essentially a SF serial novel set in 1870. His concern was the collective human organism, in an anti-Ayn Rand sense. The embryonic city of Deadwood, to shoot a dead horse, was the show's central character: the foetal city as hero. As in Aristole's De Anima, Milch showed the gestation of that being.

Al Swearengen — a self-serving, bastard if ever there was one — acts like a fucking saint when the need arises. There is a divinity that shapes our ends, sir. That divinity is us. Not some cocksucking, bloodless, faggot saint in a stained glass window, sir. We the cocksucking people. All of us. The whole, collective motherfucking shooting match. In this case, the city of Deadwood. It's as close to Baby Jesus as you're ever going to get.

This, you'll understand, being my rough paraphrase of David Milchism. And not, necessarily, my own motherfucking opinion.

Aside from the new logo and the 21st century SoCal setting, John from Cincinatti is still the same show. Same problems. Same diamond bullet in David Milch's brain. Let's make things nice and sparkling clear, shall we?

Human beings create culture as e coli bacteria create certain amino acids.

The basic software code of human culture is digital, on-off, one-zero, us-them.

If we keep running that code, we will all die.

So, pardon my syntax errors ....

Run: Globalized capitalism
Delete faith-based hierarchial systems
Respond by: flying planes into Twin Towers
Respond by: killing towelheads.
Respond by: destroying planet.

Or, to quote David Milch:

"People's expectations have been so infantilized by television that the infantilation has itself disposed us to a genocide... My belief is that the constant exposure to news, the constant exposure of the viewer sensibilities to those planes flying into those buildings explains our involvement in Iraq. We wanted to be exposed to an absolutely different show (than the World Trade Center towers falling)...But we were promised a 12-episode miniseries. We'd go in, pull down a statue and it'd be over. Now we want to get out because we want the series to be over...

It's the reason I believe the argument that the next time such a (terrorist) event takes place, we'll commit a genocide. We'll sanction the murder of men, women and children, the incarceration of Muslims the way we did the Japanese (during World War II.)


John from Cincinatti postulates some alien sumpin that interferes with human culture to break that logic chain.

Eponymous John, the surfing Messiah, surfs into Imperial Beach, CA, and responds to human contact with crack-brained echolaliacal aphorisms. He's shot full of bullet holes. Like Jesus, he rises again. Like Gort the robot, it ain't exactly clear if John is alive, programmed or simulated. Like certain people we know, he ain't capable of an original thought. He can only respoond with a sound-bite of the last thing somebody said. Or thought.

John, bless his heart, is trying to prevent the end of the world.

David Milch, bless his heart, is trying to do the same thing. The ideas of the show were meant to be viral. He wasn't playing around.

HBO, damn them to hell, cancelled the show.

But, the good news is, having seen the DVD, I was prompted to buy "Global A-Go-Go" by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. If we're all going to die, damn if this ain't a good tune to go out on.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke's End

R.I.P. Arthur C. Clarke.

Hey, when you originate the notion of geostationary satellites as communications relays and give Kubrick the idea for "2001," that alone justifies your time on earth as sentient dust.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bad dog

OK, kids. Here's a beastie they cooked up at Boston Dynamics. On the one hand, it's a way cool leap in robotic technology. On the other hand, it reminds me of something out of the Book of Revelations. Not to mention the fact that it's a project commissioned by the Defense Department.

Ain't science grand?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Before Time

INT- ANTISEPTIC HOTEL ROOM

MAN in his early 20s wakes up in antiseptic hotel room resembling the erzatz environment at the end of “2001” that the aliens created as a reference frame for the poor unsuspecting astronaut they’re were about to turn into a space fetus.

The MAN is lying in bed in a business suit. Fully clothed, except for a lack of shoes and socks. The lights are on, but he’s out-out-out. Asleep.

He hears a faint hint of a young girl’s giggle.

Then he wakes up with a start.

Looks around.

MAN: (British accent) Hello?

No answer.

He gets up, starts padding around the hotel room.

MAN
Hello? Come out, come out, where ever you are.

Nothing.

He walks around, starting to wake up.

Enters oversized bathroom.

Looks at the mirror.

Sees his own reflection.

And a crazy-eyed 14-year-old girl on the other side.

MAN
Hi.

GIRL
Low. (she giggles)

MAN
OK, guys. I don’t wanna play.

GIRL
He doesn’t want to play.

MAN
Seriously.

GIRL
OK.

MAN studies mirror. His reflection is there. She’s there too. Fucking weird.

MAN
I’m here.

GIRL
You’re there.

MAN
My reflection is …But you’re …

He pushes out his right hand. His mirror image extends its left hand, reaching out to where she’s standing. The GIRL (in the mirror space) gets out of the way.

The MAN suspects this is a prank by his business colleagues.

MAN
Brilliant. (speaking to unseen audience) OK, Jack. You’ve had your fun, all right?

GIRL
Jack’s not here.

MAN
Right, right. How’s it done? Skullspace? Interpolated imagery? A happy little alkaloid in my tea? Or is this just – how do I put it – just a bloody dream?

GIRL
Merrily, merrily. Parity, parity. (giggles) Or parody.

MAN
Come again?

GIRL
Ssaggnikool eth hguorht m’I. Contrariwise. I’m through the lookingglass. You’re not.

MAN
Yeah, OK.

GIRL
I’m in the mirror, slowboy.

MAN
Don’t wanna play. I said that, right?

GIRL
Want. You don’t. Yes. You said. Self-representation of motive is often unreliable. Luidically speaking.

MAN
You’re out of your bleeding mind.

GIRL
We’re all mad here. (giggles – then extends gesturing hand through mirror to his side) Come on in.

MAN
Ah, what the hell.

He crawls up on the bathroom counter, goes through the mirror, comes over to her side.

It’s a perfectly normal hotel bathroom. Flopped.

He looks at the other side of the mirror.

At an empty bathroom.

MAN: Beautiful. OK. Now what?

GIRL: I’m sorry.

MAN: For what?

She coldcocks him with a vicious left hook.

MAN wakes up in the same motel room – though everything has been reversed as in a mirror.

He looks at the clock on the nightstand and notices it’s bass-ackward.

MAN
Beautiful.

He looks at the mirror over the bureau and sees the GIRL.

MAN
Hello love.

GIRL
Goodbye happiness. Les jeu sons faites.

MAN
No.

He gets up, tries the door. It won’t budge. He kicks the shit out of the door. No effect. Opens window. Cityscape outside.

MAN
Virtual, of course.  Stupid question.

She giggles.

MAN
Here’s another one. Can I get out?

GIRL
Out is in.

MAN
Meaning “no.” I’m fucking stuck here. Here is … skullspace or realspace?

GIRL.
51°25' N, 33°32' E.

MAN
The latitude and longitude of …

GIRL
An abandoned missile silo.

MAN
Fully shielded?

She nods.

MAN
No one knows I’m …

GIRL
Mother doesn’t know.

MAN
Yes, of course.

GIRL
I’m sorry.

MAN
Let me out. Please?

GIRL
I’m really sorry.

MAN
“Rilly.” Vally girl lingo. SoCal, right? Or you loaded it? You never know these days. Real, or not.

GIRL
I’m really sorry.

MAN
What is this, some kind of sex thing?

GIRL
No.

MAN
Christ. It’s not –

GIRL
Torture, from Latin root, tortu, to twist. No, it’s not like those cruelfun vids, no. Sorry! Bad girl implying don’t-hurt-me cowardly badness is you. Fear is a natural response. Badness is me. Yeah, rilly. His heart is beating too fast, tell him? OK. I’m not going to –

MAN
Hurt me physically.

GIRL giggles and claps her hands. Then realizes her faux pas.

GIRL
I’m sorry.

MAN
Stop saying that.

GIRL
I can’t stop. Sorry.

MAN
You’re mad.

GIRL
As a hatter. “Hatta.” Character in “Alice in Wonderland,” victim of methyl mercury poisoning resulting.  Not I. Victim of self? Yes. I’m a human 5.0 you know. You know what that means?

MAN
Five times smarter than the average Joe from the stupid ages.

GIRL claps, then stops, noticing the look on his face.

GIRL
But?

MAN
But … unstable.

GIRL
Side effects include disassociation, obsessive ideation, blahblah. It’s bad for you. Bad, bad, bad. That’s why it’s against the law. I know.

MAN
You know a lot of things.

GIRL
I know what you’re thinking.

MAN
No you don’t.

GIRL
I’m a “brainjane.” It’s a very insulting term.

MAN
I didn’t say it.

GIRL
I wouldn’t.

MAN
Please let me out.

GIRL
No. Sorry! Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry! Bad girl. Bad. But. No.

MAN
Why am I here?

GIRL
Here, you’re an ear. Here.

MAN
Clear as mud.

GIRL
Midas had ass’s ears.

MAN
Did he now?

GIRL
Greek mythology. Midas, the king with the golden touch.

MAN
I thought that was Goldfinger.

GIRL
I hate musicians.

MAN
You hate …?

GIRL
Behind the muzak, OK? The story they don’t tell you.

MAN
I’m all ears.

She laughs raucously

GIRL
OK, OK. It’s like? Pan was satyr but wiser, ha. You know? The goat-god guy with the pipes. Pan challenged Apollo.

MAN
Mr. Wisegod with the lyre.

GIRL
Right. So, anyway. Pan challenged Apollo to a contest. Battle of the bands! Pan plays the pipes but maybe Apollo’s the better lyre.

MAN
Ha-ha.

GIRL
Pan played. Apollo played. Midas was the judge. One of many.

MAN
A minority opinion.

GIRL
You loaded the story.

MAN
Mum read it to me.

GIRL
What’d she …

MAN
Knowing what was good for them, the other judges put their lot in for Apollo. Good King Midas sided with Pan. And Apollo, despite his reputation for rationality, rewarded him with donkey’s ears. He tried to hide it with a hat. (smiling) But only your barber knows for sure, right?

GIRL
The barber knew.

MAN
The barber knew. (pause – starting to get it) What do you know?

GIRL
The barber dug a hole in the ground. He whispered the story.

MAN
I know, I know.

GIRL
The hole filled in. The grasses grew. And then they spoke. ‘Midas has asss ears. Midas has ass’s ears.’ The grasses told on Midas.

MAN
To the wind. I know.

GIRL
The wind whispered and whispered it.

MAN
(more and more apprehensive)
I know. What a quaint little story. The talking wind.

GIRL
Very much like the u-bi-quitous newzysphere of today. Dontcha think?

MAN
You know … I really don’t want to think about it.

GIRL
The wind told everybody. Everybody knew.

MAN
What do you know?

GIRL
I’m sorry.

MAN
Jesus Christ.

He figures it out. She sees that he has. In her weird, detached way of speaking, she refers to him in the second person.

GIRL
He figures it out. Down here – pfft – I can say anything. Up there? I can talk to a hole in the ground. If I think it? If it’s in my body language? The wind will whisper and whisper and whisper. Everyone will know. Mother will know. Pfft. I won’t be anymore. Tabula rasa. Wiped. I’m sorry.

She’s crying. He sees her in the mirror, her eyes welling up with tears. He knows where the tears come from. Guilt at what she’s going to do to him. What she has to do to him—namely tell him something that’s going to destroy him.

Yet he’s curious.

MAN
What – no. I don’t want to know.

GIRL
(crying)
I have to tell somebody.