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October 20, 2007

plus also, snoopy was kind of a jerk

These people who are all shocked that the bio of "Peanuts" creator Charles Schultz paints him as "a shy, lonely man who used his child-like drawings to depict a life of deep melancholy", have they ever actually read the comic strip?  Yes, it resided on the funny pages, and it had punchlines and all, but it wasn't exactly "Love Is...", if you get my drift.

Remember that Charlie Brown character?  Right, now, do you remember any specific episode that could be thought of as "Brown, Victorious"?  Yeah, sure, there was the cute beagle who talked in thought balloons and made millions in merchandising, but Charlie Brown owned that strip.  And as far as the Charlie Brown character goes, "Peanuts" was all about walking uphill, both ways, and then walking uphill tomorrow, too.

Not to mention that sad little clown tree that Charlie picked for Christmas in the ubiquitous cartoon aired yearly for decades.  Or the female lead, Lucy, who was an amateur psychotherapist in her spare time.

I'm not surprised that Schultz was depressed; I'm suprised he didn't eat a freaking shotgun before it was all over.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:55 AM

October 19, 2007

more william gibson

Whenever I come across an interview with William Gibson, I just post it and don't ask questions.

Do I like Gibson because he's a good novelist?  Well sure.  Gibson's novels have a certain forensic purpose to them.  His sentences are quickly soluble, and the reader gets sucked in almost effortlessly.  This attribute is not necessarily what I demand from all novelists, but it is what I like about Gibson's novels.

More importantly, though, is that Gibson is smarter than me, and I am a sucker for the smarter-than-me.  Let's look:

On whether people will prefer life inside the screen to the real world.

"I think that we're already there.  And that is the nature of our experience of emergent technology and new media.  A friend of mine was mining YouTube last month and he came up with footage shot in the street in New York on a particular day, in the evening.  And he knew that this footage was shot the day before broadcast television began in New York.  So this footage is of the last night that streets in New York were the way they were before everyone started staying home to watch television.  All the footage that he's been able to find afterward is dramatically different.  It changed.  It changed the night they turned it on.  The night they started to broadcast television in New York, New York ceased to be what it had been before.  Because everyone stayed home to watch television."

That may be the most moving one paragraph novel I've read all year.

Speculative fiction is where it's at, baby.  Why, look at the success of Gawker.

[Via Boing Boing, like usual.]

Posted by mrbrent at 11:02 AM

October 18, 2007

hello, world

At the risk of self-promoting (which I counter-intuitively abhor, since I'm actually very, very vain), I will be appearing, in the real world, one week from this Saturday.  In this appearance, I will be reading stuff.  New stuff, unless all the stuff I'm working on does not pan out, in which case I will be reading old stuff chosen very quickly.  The working title is something like "Stop Looking Back" or "There's Something On My Shoe" or something referencing mathematics, cutely.

The reading takes place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at the Abbey Bar, which some call my "local".  I think early eveningish.  I'll post more details next week, along with the promo email blast, etc.  If I get bored, I'll clipart a poster together and tape them to lightpoles, like we used to, when we where slimmer and less resigned.

And if that not enough boringness about me, I also got myself a Facebook page.  I figured that Facebook was just about over enough for me to stick my toe in.  See if you can find me.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:37 PM

presidents say the darndest things

The president decided to advance his interests yesterday by showering his wisdom onto the DC press corps.  It's becoming clear (to me, at least) that the president must enjoy these pressers, as they rarely turn out well for him, but they keep happening with frequency.  His staff surely must realize that keeping the president away from a live microphone would be in everybody's interest.  Even in light of the charm that has blinded his base of twenty percent of Americans, and even assuming that he won't say anything outrageous or choke on a pretzel, having the President open to questions only reminds the citizenry of his disastrous and unpopular policies.

But there he went again, yesterday morning, and the media have been worrying his appearance like a bone, unable to agree on the batshittiest thing he said.  Some preferred his admission of feelings of inadequacy; others opted for his dimestore Nostradamus act.  Personally, my fave is a smaller instance, one of word choice more than concept, as, in describing Russian president Vladimir Putin as " wily".  Because, you see, the last time the two presidents got together, Putin painted a picture of a road disappearing over the horizon on the side of a boulder, and Bush walked right into it!

It's true: George W. Bush would be a very entertaining president, were he not pushing the nation over a cliff, while sniggering.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:53 AM

October 17, 2007

putting the odd back into god

Reading this interview with NYC's own Reverend Billy, he of the Church of Stop Shopping, I am reminded that I am a fan of his.  Take, for example, this response, which I am nominating as the best and brightest unified field theory of what sucks vs. what doesn't suck to date:
Besides fighting your arrests, what other issues are you most actively involved in? It all comes down to this: In 2007, in New York City, a healthy neighborhood is radical.  The law firm of Bloomberg, Doctoroff and Kelly are dedicated to the swallowing of neighborhoods by the mono-culture.  We’re turning into a traffic jam next to a glassy tony condo-front.  But we love the apple for the bluster and bombast and gossip and happy lies – all that comes from bodies colliding on sidewalks, a lazy hour on a stoop, shouting first names in doorways.  Eccentric proprietors of shops that maybe need a wash.  The mono-culture that fills the streets with packs of 28 year old stockbrokers is then the same issue exactly as bombing Iraq and heating the arctic.  Like Jesus Christ – the Andy Kaufman of his day – once said: It starts with loving your neighbors.  But wear a condom.

I saw Rev. Billy perform a couple times some years back, and it was pretty compelling.  It seems that he has expanded his activities and honed his style into either the trippiest earnest person ever, or vice versa.  We need more vocal proponents of what is right and weird, like Rev. Billy.  So get to work already.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:03 AM

October 16, 2007

the secret history of twain and tesla

I don't normally link a photograph devoid of the news content, but that's not because I have it in for photographs -- I'm just not that visual minded!  Which is why the multimedia have passed me by.  I weep.

But, in hopes that I can change with the times, please give this bit of preserved coolness and click and glance.  And I throw this one out for Maud Newton, who is a big big fan of one of the two gentlemen pictured.  I, myself, am also a fan of the other gentleman.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:52 PM

gentlemen, start your ion propulsion engines

It's time to have a little more science.  (I try to keep up a regular diet of science, but sometimes I'm too full of gossip and professional athletics.  Plus also stupider than I used to be.  Stupid irrational numbers.)

If you hear the phrase "ion propulsion engine", you probably think that it's just one of the many propulsion systems that populate the world of science fiction -- like "flux capacitor" without the sexy. 

But no.  It exists, and is in use.  Please meet your 2007 version of the ion propulsion engine:

Ion propulsion uses positively charged atoms, or ions, to propel a spacecraft.  An electron gun is used to knock electrons from a reservoir of xenon atoms, turning them into ions.  Then, two charged plates accelerate the ions and eject them from the back of the rocket engine at speeds of 35 kilometers per second, or about 77,000 mph.

Yeah, that's about how it works in those sci-fi novels.

There's also much more interesting sciencey stuff in there, about comparative fuel loads and burn rate, and the actual propulsive force of the engine (about like a piece of paper), which seems shocking but works fine in a frictionless environment, if you've got the time for it.

It's all kinda hard to believe, as you'd assume that the space program would be stuck with a hundred year-old locomotive technology, like our autos.  It's definitely not a antimatter reactor (or even a phaser, for that matter), but I'm suitably impressed.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:32 PM

October 15, 2007

bears: morons are delish, but can't hardly finish a whole one

So this wasn't actually in the Yahoo! Container of the Day's Headlines (it was in the Yahoo! 2.0 Box of News With Tantalizing Streaming Content), but, what the hey.  It's still a headline to me:
Clever Boy Scout Survives Attack

Well, then, what happened to the Moron Boy Scout, or shouldn't I ask?

Posted by mrbrent at 12:27 PM

vatican hour on hsn

This news that broke Saturday morning in Vatican City would seem to be of interest of we mild conspiracy types (and every aunt and uncle in America who has read that cheap rip-off of Foucault's Pendulum), as it concerns the trial of the Knights Templar.  The Knights Templar, if you are not familiar with them, are sort of the Rosetta Stone of conspiracy theory -- they were one of the Catholic (well, pre-Reformation) military orders that sprang up during the Crusades, later tried for heresy by Pope Clement V.  For reasons too obscure to get into here, as far as Western Europe goes, it's tough to find a conspiracy theory that does not start with (or is not adjacent to) the Knights Templar.

Now, after 700-some-odd years, the Vatican has released the transcript of the heresy trials.  Which I should be really excited about, considering the historical light that can be shed, etc.   But actually, I'm left feeling only icky:

A reproduction of the minutes of trials against the Templars, "'Processus Contra Templarios -- Papal Inquiry into the Trial of the Templars"' is a massive work and much more than a book -- with a 5,900 euros ($8,333) price tag.

The epic comes in a soft leather case that includes a large-format book including scholarly commentary, reproductions of original parchments in Latin, and -- to tantalize Templar buffs -- replicas of the wax seals used by 14th-century inquisitors.

Basically, the Vatican is taking information of historical import, and then tarting it up and peddling it like it was a Franklin Mint collectible plate.  And if you buy now, they'll throw in this Eddie Bauer special edition rosary -- a $200 value -- for three easy payments of $29.95!

I should have known better to get excited in the first place -- no way the Holy See would release the real transcript without explicit directions from the alien lizard race that controls them.

Oh, yeah, almost forgot: come to find out -- Knights Templar not guilty!

Posted by mrbrent at 9:43 AM