Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Polls Smolls!

If you're depressed about the polls, let me take you back to the faraway time of the fall of 2000. Gore had been beaten like a drum in all of the polls. In fact, I was hoping that Gore could win by winning the electoral college yet losing the popular vote--a distinct possibility for Kerry by the way if Bush rolls up huge margins in Red states. I'm sure that the Republicans will accept that result like the gentleman that they are.

It was most dire right before the election. As I recall, nobody showed Gore with a lead. My memories were confirmed by this
post at Over the several days before the election only two out of 26 polls showed Gore with a lead. You might ask yourself if Big Corporate Media, the same guys who conduct these polls--the Newsweek and Time polls are especially funny in this light--might have a strong interest in a second Bush term. Your answer, especially in light of how Howard Dean's pronouncements about applying antitrust law to the media monopolies out there preceded the 10000 free showings of his "scream speech", should be obvious.

I certainly communicate that at the doors I hit. Folks tell me about those polls and I respond by saying that very few polls had Gore winning the election. I figure my job is to work as hard as I can and let the votes fall where they may. What gives me hope? Whenever I ask someone why they're leaning Bush (Leaners only. I'm not going to swing any definite pro life Bush supporters...) there's almost always that vague look in their eye--unless they work for the oil industry. Sometimes they answer the "war on terror" and of course I explain that Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism directed at the US--when we attacked them anyway. Now, with all those fat juicy American targets without adequate body armor, well, what decent anti-american terrorist wouldn't want to go to Iraq? I sometimes think they know that but what they really think is that they want someone in the White House who can kill indiscriminately, even selfishly and stupidly. I guess it's the Tony Soprano theory of foreign policy: no one will mess with that psychotic Tony's crew. Of course, one good psychotic turn deserves another. I think it's spelled Islamic Fundamentalism and a takeover in Pakistan.

I will knock onward in the hopes of preventing that catastrophic counterturn.

Philip Shropshire ran a consumer group, worked as a general assignment reporter and sold white box computers. He has written for Better Humans, Locus Online, American Times, Tech Central Station and more alternative weeklies than he can remember. He believes in the future. His main site is Three River Tech Review and you can reach him at

Friday, September 10, 2004



Bruce Sterling takes us inside the unfathomable superhuman future after the "singularity" over at Wired.

Assorted Items: Godzilla's now starring in a Japanese Honda ad.
Eye of the Goof links to the Land of the Lost 80s Music.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is back on BBC Radio 4 with adaptations of the later books. Much of the original cast is back as well.

Diplomatic Solutions: Diplomacy tends to be sometimes overlooked in science fiction. Here's the Region One Alien Ambassador Corps and the Martian Embassy. The Klingons have both an embassy and an Imperial Diplomatic Corps online. Shows about aliens living among us, like Earth: Final Conflict and Alien Nation, had a lot of diplomatic undertones. The remake of Battlestar Galactica began with a diplomatic ambush. All of these stand in the shadow of Babylon 5, where many of the major characters are ambassadors. People also forget that Wonder Woman was originally the ambassador of the Amazons.
We can take comfort in the fact that The Raelians want to build an alien embassy...

Recommended Readin': SciFi Weekly interviews author Larry Niven.
Sam Harris dissects the myth of religious moderation in his new book. looks at 100 people who made a difference in space exploration.
Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Institute tallies the death toll of environmentalism.



The Mondolithic Image of the Week is the imposing Mademoiselle Chose.
My time at Noreascon is wrapped. I am exhausted but grinning. Big thanks to Bob Eggleton for leading a tour through the mind-boggling Retro Art Exhibit, where the original paintings of many classic book and magazine covers were displayed. Congrats to Randall Ensley, who nabbed a ribbon for his creepy picture Final Frontier. He also pointed me in the direction of the amazing preview art for Joe DeVito's upcoming Kong: King of Skull Island project. Also kudos to James Hughes, who spend endless hours manning the World Transhumanist table and selling neat bumper stickers. He's also about to release a book about our technological future called Citizen Cyborg, which you should all buy.

While I was gone the Blogospherics continued: Exclamation Mark links to this nice Ray Harryhausen appreciation site that includes a heart-breaking index of unfinished projects.
The Cartoonist sends us to study The Rules of Dueling.
Grow-A-Brain points to the very cool Russian Tank Museum.
Geekpress found this strange site where Spiderman reviews crayons.

GL-Sept 5


Recommended Readin': Steve Carroll of The Age looks at philosophy's recent popularity.
Simon Smith of Better Humans chimes in on the war on drugs. Michael Belfiore of New Scientist examines the near-term future of space tourism. Dave Barry tells us about the letters he doesn't print.

Taking a brief breather from frantic Noreascon activities. Jennifer and I spent Saturday hiking around the colossal innards of the Hynes Convention Center absorbing all manner of SF related madness. We also stumbled quite serendipitously into the line for a Neil Gaiman autograph. Big thanks to Colleen Doran for tolerating my stammering and grinning like a fanboy while she rendered a magnificent space shuttle in silver pen on the matte-black endpaper of my oft-read copy of Orbiter and letting me peruse advance pages from the upcoming Stealth Tribes (pdf). Ms. Doran has quite a bit of her original art for sale at reasonable prices. If you all love me you'll buy it for me.

Also thanks to Randall Ensley for the signed copy of his magnificent work, and for telling Jennifer there was free food. Finally thanks to Dave for the coffee.

And the Hugo Award winners are in.

As great and wonderful as the weekend has been so far I cannot help but seethe with petty jealousy that SF Signal landed an interview with author John C. Wright.
Once more into the breach...

Pic of Alleged Wampeter at the Science Fiction Con

James is probably way too bashful to include a pic of himself at the recent Hugo Award ceremonies. But I'm not. What's interesting is that this pic was taken by El Jefe, who writes one of the more interesting blogs out there called "Gravity Lens". I find this interesting because both El Jefe and James are charter members of what Kurt Vonneget called the "karass". I am now convinced that these two are in my personal karass. Perhaps James is some kind of focal point or Wampeter. Sounds like something The Question should investigate...

Definition, keeping in mind that I'm a an atheist who thinks religion is basically the foma:

A karass is a "team [of people] that do[es] God's Will without ever discovering what they are doing". [ 1 ] Humanity is organized into many such teams. One can try to discover "the limits of [one's] karass and the nature of the work God Almighty has had it do ... but such investigations are bound to be incomplete." [ 2 ]

And for the record, "foma" is defined thus, from memory:

"The harmless untruths that keep us happy, healthy, wealthy and wise."

Top 25 Censored Stories

I didn't read anything about the top 25 Censored Stories in any of the Pittsburgh major papers. (God knows I wouldn't see anything about these stories in my car crashed murderous local television media. I no longer have hope for them.)...and I guess that's the point about why Pittsburgh needs an online paper like this one. By the way, this paper isn't ready yet, but it needs to be done now and so I'm starting. What did Kirk say Evil Spock with goatee in "Mirror Universe" about what one man could do...? (I just looked it up: "In every revolution there is one man with a vision"...)

Out of the 25 the ones that struck me as the most frightful were: The Bush admininstration censorship of science, those very scary electronic voting machines and their lack of a paper trail, and the evils of Wal Mart. What was also very informative were all the cool links these stories came with.

Here's just a few I'll be checking out:

Global Issues Org: For all of you who remember that groundbreaking "Global Reach" book about the rise of the multinationals here's your companion website.

Free Press: This one is done by Robert McChesney, one of the most important corporate media critics out there, and it's a clearinghouse of ideas of why the corporate media doesn't inform us very well about pretty much anything.

The Center for Digital Democracy: I already link to this site at Three River Tech but this is still really really impressive. This is must reading if you'd like the Internet to stay at buffet prices and not charged the way you're charged for cell phone services. Were you aware that the Brand X court case might determine the future cost of broadband? Now I know...

Friday, September 03, 2004

My Dream Version of the VH1's Classic Sunday Alt Show

Well here's my dream version of the Sunday Alternative...

"Drivin' Aloud (Radio Storm)" by Robyn Hitchcock
"Black Hole Sun" Soundgarden
"Downtown" Lloyd Cole

Hey, I'll throw in a script...!

"Frank Zappa isn't what you might call your traditional "alternative" artist. He has nothing to do with either grunge or 80s synth pop and if he were alive no doubt he would be making ruthless fun of both styles. But he does represent a kind of excellence and ambition, which isn't reflected in sales. And he certainly is "alternative". With that in mind, we bring you "Peaches En Regalia"."

Peaches En Regalia Frank Zappa (often played on the old Ben Sidran jazz show, which I wish BET on Jazz would pick up and rerun)
"Pretty Pink Rose" Adrian Belew and David Bowie
"Jump They Say" David Bowie
"Bull in the Heather" Sonic Youth"

"Planet" not the video but from Sugarcubes Live at Auburn University (played 3 times in its entirety on 120 Minutes)
"11 o clock tick tock" U2
"Uncontrollable Urge" from Devo Live from Urgh A Music War
"Deluxe" by Lush

Second Hour

"Be With You" Jack Rubies
"e=Mc2" by BAD
"Hallalujah Man" Love and Money

"So, last hour we warmed you up with an instrumental by Frank Zappa. There actually were many many cool videos that we have sitting around from that great Ben Sidran jazz show. They're kind of alternative, but in a completely different way. I mean, you complain that you see so and so a million times trust me you've never seen these. If you want more, tell us. Less, tell us that too. We're of the opinion that prog rock and jazz might appeal to trad alt fans but we don't know... anyway, here's Pat Metheny's "Yolanda You Learn" and after that the late Mike Hedges doin' one of the most impressive acoustic versions of "Along the Watchtower" that you'll ever see..."

"Yolanda You Learn" Pat Metheny
"Along the Watchtower" late Mike Hedges, from VH1's much missed Jazz show with Ben Sidran
Snowbound" Donald Fagen

"Song for a Future Generation" B52s
"Big Prinz" The Fall
"Avalon" Live Roxy Music at the Apollo
"Girls and Boys" Blur

Thursday, September 02, 2004

What I'm Willing to Do For Science

I know there are many legtimate reasons to hate the Bush administration. I have one that doesn't appear on our palm pilots: science policy. I addressed that issue in a recent column that I wrote for Better Humans--my stomping grounds which could be described as what would happen if you could mix the early 90s Wired magazines with the Nation--where I talk about the horrific Bush science agenda and my work with ACT.

I've always taken politics pretty seriously ever since college. It's sort of like what Ralph Nader (please don't vote for him; go here for why) says: If you don't act on politics, then eventually politics will act on you.

For me, in the early 80s, I was always watching to see if the late President Reagan would be successful in "acting" to gut my student loans. He always proposed it, but Congress, controlled by Democrats, always kept my loan burden intact.

It was in those summers—when I started realizing that who was in office could affect my life for the better or worse—that I first started canvassing in support of political issues. Canvassing for money, if you're not familiar with it, isn't the easiest way to make a living or cash for college. Back in the early 80s, the quota was US$80 dollars a night. Now, the quota is about US$130 a night. I've estimated that I've spent about five years of my life canvassing on everything from lower cable bills to abolishing the North American Free Trade Agreement. I even ran a field canvass for three years in Evansville, Indiana. Call me committed.

Today, I'm back at it in Pittsburgh, knocking on doors and asking people if they're registered to vote. You might ask yourself what this has to do with the transhumanist dream, where we live out our lives in fusion-driven Betterhumans space habitats, whiling away our several century lifespan seeking to understand every allusion and reference in the works of Joyce or Alan Moore, or actively partaking in the terraforming of Venus or Titan, or even studying up on that hot new personal genomic cosmetic item, the black rhino horn, grown wherever you like, with accessories.

The answer is that unless transhumanists think seriously about politics and self-promotion, this vision will always remain an interesting dream and not a reality. In fact, not only will you have to work for such a future—a future with real self-determination, no wage slavery and more than a vote every two or four years when all the real issues have already been settled—you will have to fight for it. And most likely, your opposition will be violently stupid people who refuse to give up what Carl Sagan described as the "demon-haunted world" and the obligatory yet soothing bliss stations—an eternity with Jesus and departed loved ones or Allah's 40 virgins—that go along with it.

I understand that there are those in the transhumanist movement who don't want to be involved in politics. Politics is a dangerous, messy game. On the other hand, if you're not involved in politics you're simply not relevant. I mean, what good is it if you can genetically modify yourself to live in space, if both genetic modification and space travel are made illegal?

Here in the US, you'll soon have a chance to get involved. I try not to even think what a George Bush victory means in terms of science policy. But it certainly can't be good, unless the tech emerges under the radar or concern of the government, much as the Internet has arisen. (For more info on the horrible tech record of the Bush administration, go see this Sterling essay, or this Scientific American article—they both mention Lysenko, serendipitously enough—or this Science article, or this Henry Waxmen Website or these Nobel Prize winners.) In a nutshell, a Bush future means a more top-down and regulated science, where the Little People never get an Internet or, if they do, it costs several thousand a month.

I'm not saying that Kerry would bring about tech Nirvana. I don't trust him on trade, or with having the balls to punish American multinationals for profiting from Third World slave labor. And whenever there's talk of him picking a Republican VP (reward the very evil and silly party with the number two position?) I gnash my teeth so loudly that it can be heard from 10 meters away. I'm a former Dean supporter, so I don't worship at the alter of Kerry. But it would be nice to see an American president on an international stage and have absolute confidence that the French or Soviet leader doesn't have a superior grasp of the English language. Call me a wild-eyed utopian.

And I think that any progressive person would find Kerry's science policy favorable. It's full of good ideas such as investing in long-term research and development, and working away from fossil fuels—as opposed to profiting from them and stealing another country's oil. There's even a graph or two about software defined radio and encouraging a world class broadband system in the US. Kerry's also wholeheartedly in favor of stem cell research.

I just think that the equation for any decent future requires Bush to be written out of the calculations. It's beyond my grasp why any sane person who believes in a worthwhile future would fail to understand this. I'm not just a transhumanist who thinks that, I'm willing to work for my dream future, one door at a time.