Friday, March 30, 2007

McCain Is Losing It

First he cozied up to the Religious Right last year, and now he's inventing facts in the attempt to prove that the surge in Baghdad is working. John Roberts of CNN called the Senator on it, saying,
I checked with General Petraeus' people overnight and they said he never goes out in anything less than an up armored Humvee. You also told Bill Bennett on his radio program on said there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhood today, yet retired General Barry McCaffrey said no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat reporter could walk the streets of Baghdad without heavily armed protection.

In fact, I heard on the Diane Rehm Show this morning that government officials walking between buildings in Baghdad's Green Zone are going to start wearing flack jackets.

I voted for McCain in 2000 and even considered campaigning for him. I don't know what's happened to this man who remains a true hero and a statesman. I respect him, but he's going to have to redeem himself of mistakes like this to earn back my vote.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Odds And Ends

Was in the office this week and since have been working on edits to the dialog for our title in development. In other words, I've been busy, and my writing urge was satisfied by the fact that I was writings. Still, I feel guilty when I'm not here, hence this current lameness.

Here's a few interesting things I've encountered in the past few days:

A nice overview of the html->xml evolution.

Bill O'Reilly amazingly shutting off the mic of his own co-host when she disagreed with him.

And under the "just because it's cool" category, a raw egg being neatly sliced in super slow mo by a katana.

I got to pose a question to two of my favorite writers for television, none other than Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof when they appeared on WBUR's call-in show, On Point, this week. You can hear the entire show here. I'm going to have more to say on this topic soon because I believe LOST to be a great show and their answer disturbed me.

Oh, and in case you missed the latest ep of BSG, Amanda was right.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

All the Lonely People

I remember learning about the Betty and Barney Hill abduction when I was a kid, probably through In Search Of or some such show. For years I wondered about supposed alien abductees; their stories were usually highly detailed and often sounded sincere, yet they fell well short of bar set when Carl Sagan correctly said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.1" Still, could all of those people be crazy?

Now I'm more convinced that the answer is yes, and the reason is the most common affliction of the psyche. A few days ago I learned that years before the birth of the Abductee Movement came the Contactee Movement. Thousands of people claimed that benevolent aliens visited them and took them aboard their well-appointed flying saucers. These aliens, who were not only described as Caucasian but generally attractive, hailed from utopian worlds, and displayed concern for humanity's flirtation with atomic weapons.

The Contactees' stories tended to be highly detailed, sometimes including flying saucer floor plans listing the numbers of state rooms and bathrooms and the attire of the alien hosts, but what's telling are the larger details: utopian planets populated by human beings, worry about the Cold War and nuclear cataclysm.

But most illuminating of all, each individual's account that I've researched included self-aggrandizing language. "They showed me the secrets of the Universe." "I've been in telepathic contact with them for months." "They took me up in their ship over 350 times." The Contactee stories reflect a magnified version of the teller, like the funhouse mirror that makes you look taller. The contactee is so important that s/he is chosen out of billions of Earthlings to be visited, and here's where both the Contactee and Abductee Movements meet. Whether you're invited to see the happy colonies of Jupiter or invaded by an anal probe you're still chosen, still singled out, special. What drives these people is loneliness, and the need to be liked and to belong. Whether you get attention from being afforded privileges or subjugated you're getting attention, and whether you belong to the Light Year High Club or the Alien S&M Club you still belong.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kara Thrace Is a Cylon.

Amanda has by far the most plausible explanation for what happened to this character; her "destiny," Leobin's obsession with her, and in her final dream sequence the mention of her traveling to the "place between life and death," the same place that D'Anna said she needed to go to see the "final five."

Monday, March 19, 2007

The First Chernobyl

I grew up on science fiction. My earliest memories are sitting close to the family console television set and watching Star Trek with rapt attention. Almost as soon as I could read I was given a copy of Heinlein's Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.

Being also a child of the Cold War, my thoughts often turned towards the apocalyptic. Attending fundamentalist Christian churches only increased my encounters with eschatology and wonderings about "The End." In the late '70s and early '80s, that end looked nuclear. I often wondered what name people would give the first nuclear wasteland.

A few years later I would find out. On April 26, 1986, an accident at reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant spread disaster. The need for energy rendered a region uninhabitable, a "dead zone."

But only yesterday did I learn that a decade before I was born, a similar disaster had played out over a longer timeframe and a smaller scale, and not thousands of miles away but just a couple of states' distance. In 1962, in the small coal mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, an accident ignited the seam of coal running beneath the town. Residents ignored the underground fire until 1979 when the owner of a gas station lowered a thermometer into one of his underground tanks and found the gasoline sitting at 172 degrees Fahrenheit. Two years later, a twelve year old boy nearly died when a 150 foot deep sinkhole opened beneath his feet. Within three years most of the residents has accepted buyout offers and moved away. In 1992, the state of Pennsylvania invoked eminent domain on all of the town's property. Ten years later, the United States Postal Service revoked the town's zip code.

The meltdown at Chernobyl occurred much more quickly and displaced many more people, but Centralia shares the same key characteristics: accidents involving the energy industry which resulted in wiping entire towns off the map. Chernobyl will remain radioactive for centuries. The eight mile seam of coal beneath Centralia will burn for another 250 years.

The aftermath of Chernobyl killed thousands and displaced thousands more. As the radiation spread across borders it created an international incident, one which the Reagan Administration pushed in a Cold War climate. The fires of Chernobyl highlighted the dangers of nuclear power.

The disaster at Centralia displaced about 2000 people in the eastern coal belt of rural Pennsylvania. Coal, a fuel of the Industrial Revolution, drove the railroads across the Americas. It is familiar and lacks the radioactive public relations of nuclear.

Yet the parallels remain. Today, Centralia is a wasteland. The few buildings that remain are surrounded by fields where carbon monoxide laden smoke rises from the earth, where rocks lying on the ground are so hot that touching a matchhead to them will ignite it.

We need energy to power our machines, fuel our vehicles, even create the fertilizer that grows our good, and our global need for energy is increasing. I believe that we're going to have more Centralias and Chernobyls, and I hope that we'll learn lessons that will help us cope with the aftermath.

And I can't help but wonder what we'll call them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gingrich, Holy Hypocrite

Newt's been in the news lately because of his admission to James Dobson of the extramarital affair he had while he was impeaching President Clinton for affair with Monica Lewinsky. Before we discuss that, let's review a few facts about Gingrich. From the Wikipedia:

In 1962, Gingrich married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, when he was 19 years old; she was seven years his senior at 26 years old.[5][6] They had two daughters together. Gingrich and Battley divorced in 1980. Battley has charged that Gingrich discussed the terms of their divorce settlement while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery.[7] According to L.H. Carter, his campaign treasurer, Newt said of Battley: "She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer."[8] He refused to pay alimony or child support.[9]

So now we learn that while Gingrich was putting the screws to Clinton for Lewinsky, Gingrich himself was putting his parts where they didn't belong behind the back of wife number 2 (with the woman that became wife number 3). This same man has written a book titled Rediscovering God In America. Those sins, magnified by hypocrisy, should be enough to doom any man from attaining the highest office in the land, but Gingrich knows his audience. Dobson and his ilk would forgive you of raping babies in the public square if you said you'd prayed about it, would lower their taxes and outlaw abortion.

And his plan is working. Jerry Falwell has invited Gingrich to deliver the commencement address at Liberty University, and has said that he believes Gingrich has "come to grips with his personal failures and sought God's forgiveness"

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

More Musings On Dreamfall

It just occurred to me that I've never italicized the title of a game before, at least not that I can remember. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a game title italicized. Why not? They're fictions like novels and deserve the same respect. You can't argue that italics don't convey respect; after all, short stories aren't set off by italics but quotation marks. The italics are saved for the big boys.

Anyway, Dreamfall had me wrapped like a book I couldn't put down. Dreamfall does such a good job of creating compelling characters. You feel for these people. I'm about to talk spoilers, so I'd better go into secret mode. If you haven't played, then don't peek! Huge, "I am your father" spoilers discussed. I love the fact that the climax rested on Faith's calling Zoe to save April, and then we see April killed (presumably). The biggest question is, of course, is April somehow alive? We see her speared through the chest and fall into the swamp, but could she have shifted out? Could her relationship to the Draic Kin have saved her? My money says she's still alive, and that she and Charlie will eventually get together and have a son ... named Kian. According to Wikipedia, evidence suggests that Lady Alvane is April, making Kian her son. And how is Zoe going to wake up? Is Westhouse some big bad? Who or what has Reza become? Please let the sequel come soon!

Ani Difranco

I've been a fan of Ani since Eric introduced me to her back in '98, listening first to Little Plastic Castle and then Dilate and Not a Pretty Girl. I was shuffling through my rock view today (love Winamp's dynamic views) when "32 Flavors" began to play, and I couldn't resist spinning all Ani for the rest of the day. During a compile I jumped to her Wiki entry and found a few interesting tidbits, including a streaming Ani station. She finally won a Grammy, though not for her music, but for best recording packaging. In chatting with Eric today, he also turned me on to her work with Utah Phillips, which I'd been meaning to check out for years. I heard "Korea" which is excellent.

And Ani recently had a baby girl. "Tiptoe" isn't quite so sad anymore.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

At Least You're Not On Putin's Bad-Side

The American news media sits in a sorry state these days, from marching with untested assumptions into Iraq to providing religious bigots platforms for attacking atheists. But if you're a journalist in America, take some comfort in the fact that President Putin hasn't put you on his enemy's list ... if he hasn't, that is.

For example, yesterday's news contained a triple whammy for those who may get in Putin's way. Respected Russian journalist, Ivan Safronov, who reported on military affairs, just happened to fall out of his apartment window. Paul Joyal, an expert on Russian intelligence who recently accused the Russian government of involvement in the poisoning of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, was shot outside his suburban Washington home. Rounding out Putin's putdowns, riot police broke up a rare opposition march in St. Petersburg where thousands shouted words like "Freedom."

It's comforting that President Bush refers to Putin as a "friend."

Saturday, March 03, 2007


I just finished Dreamfall, and it's one of the best interactive fictions I've ever experienced. It's late and I'm tired, so I'll write more when I've gotten a chance to rest, but know that I don't remember the last time I was so enthralled by a game, so eager to play it ... probably not since Myst. I love this story and these characters. I can definitively say that no other game that I've ever played contained characters as real and fully realized as these. I can also say this; no other game has made me feel that I was in a movie to the degree that Dreamfall has.

Please let the next installment come soon.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Collar Bomb Case Solved?

On August 28, 2003, Brian Wells, a pizza delivery man in Erie, Pennsylvania, walked into a bank carrying a gun shaped like a cane and wearing a bomb strapped to his neck. A short time later Wells was apprehended and while waiting for the bomb squad to arrive the bomb exploded, killing Wells in a manner horrifyingly reminiscent of a scene from the film version of Stephen Kings The Running Man.

The nearly incredible cinematic horror of this case has kept my attention for years, and according to recent reports authorities may finally have solved it. No details have been released, but indictments are expected soon. I'll keep you posted.