Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ready or not ...

... and I'm not exactly ready.

The first chapter of my new podcast novel, The Imaginary Lover, will be online at midnight tonight - more precisely, 12:01 a.m. Friday. Warren Bluhm's the reader again, and we're going to do a chapter a day, Monday through Friday.

Problem: I've only finished nine chapters. The way I figure it, at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, the real adventure begins. That's when we start podcasting chapters that, as of this moment, don't exist.

But deadlines are important to both of us, and we said we'd get started Sept. 1, so here we go.

Part of me is thinking, "Noooooooo! I'm not readyyyyy ..." A bigger part is thinking, "Cool! Can I pull this off???" We'll see which part is thinking straight in a couple of weeks.

UPDATE: Oh yeah! I almost forgot - the story will unfold at the redesigned Imaginary Bomb site.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeez, Louise, wpb made a couple of errors, most notably loading the photo where the podcast was supposed to go. I hope no one stayed up late for the show ... it's now online, really. Now I gotta find a way to get out to Wisconsin and slap him around. Da noiv a some people's kids ... 7:15 a.m. Friday ...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Scalzi and Minear

I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes, so I just now found the Feb. 26, 2006, episode of the podcast The Glen and Helen Show, where they interview Tim Minear, the talented writer and producer of Firefly, Wonderfalls, The Inside and Serenity, AND John Scalzi, author of Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigade. Forty-seven of the most interesting minutes I've spent in a long time! Now if only I could figure out a way to link you directly to the show ... you'll just have to click on that link and do a little navigating ... sorry ...

Tyranny in the land of William Wallace

The only thing more embarrassing to Scotland that Keith Richards was almost arrested for smoking legally is the fact that such a law exists in the first place. Busted for smoking tobacco in an outdoor stadium? Are you kidding me?!?

Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live... at least for a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our cigarettes, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I'm fine. I'm ... giddy!

I'm looking forward to reports from the floor of the Hugo Awards ceremony, but it seems everyone who would have had my vote (if I was voting) won something when the awards for best science fiction works of 2005 were announced Saturday night.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Serenity, written and directed by Joss Whedon. (Universal Pictures/Mutant Enemy Inc.) Heck, it's simply the best science fiction film of the 21st century so far, and combined with the Firefly TV series comprise arguably the best science fiction dramatization ever, and someday the rest of the world will figure that out.

Best Novel: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (Tor). Well, my first impression was that this was the best science fiction novel of the year, even if I reconsidered and came down in favor of Old Man's War by John Scalzi. Wilson's imaginative and vivid story covering the last several billion years in the history of the solar system, and a friendship that spans those years, deserves to go on a list of the best-ever novels in the genre. Those are easily the best two science fiction novels I've read in years.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: John Scalzi. And this way we have the best of both worlds. Wilson is recognized for the spectacular achievement that is Spin, and Scalzi is recognized for the spectacular achievement that is Old Man's War. It's the classic case of "it's a shame only one of these teams gets to win this game," because years go by without one novel of this quality, let alone two. They both deserve to be recognized, and the Hugo voters found a way to do it.

Best Related Book: Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers' Workshop by Kate Wilhelm (Small Beer Press). I didn't know I was rooting for this one, but I'm glad to see it here because this book is on my shelf waiting to be devoured. It's always good to get a signal that you spent your money well. Maybe I'll set down the V for Vendetta novelization and pick up Wilhelm's book, which is a memoir of the "boot camp for writers" she and her husband, Damon Knight, operated for those 27 years.

Awards are funny. I'd have these opinions of the movie and books anyway, but I guess it's nice to know I'm not alone. It doesn't mean the other nominated books like Learning the World or movies like Batman Begins aren't incredibly great works - and in many minds even better. In fact, most years my favorite for the Best Picture Oscar (for example) doesn't win, and that doesn't diminish my affection for the movie. Still - is my taste getting more mainstream, or is the mainstream catching up with me?

Whatever. 2005 will go down in science fiction/literary history as a watershed year - the year Serenity was delivered to theaters and Old Man's War and Spin were published. It really doesn't get much better than this.

Friday, August 25, 2006

An entertaining and informative exchange

Some entertainment value can be found in watching an extraordinarily underequipped pompous ass get his comeuppance at the hands of an adversary he seriously underestimated. An example that springs to mind is the well-meaning scientist in the classic science-fiction movie The Thing (From Another World), who spends most of the movie arguing that the besieged good guys should try to reason with James Arness' carrot-monster. When the scientist has a chance, he grabs the opportunity to negotiate with the monster and is promptly swatted away like the arrogant, ignorant fool that he is. Even though I agree that reason is the first line of defense, I can't help but get a chuckle out of watching a runaway ego so thoroughly deflated.

I had a similar feeling upon stumbling across the exchange between true libertarian L. Neil Smith and statist libertarian Carl Milsted, a young man so clueless he proudly takes credit for playing a role in the dismantling of the Libertarian Party earlier this summer, a bloodless coup Smith describes in his article "The Portland Purge."

Milsted has a Web site devoted to the "reform" of the Libertarian Party, an astonishing bit of work that proclaims without any irony that "The platform and message of the Libertarian Party is extreme, sacrificing practicality and political appeal in favor of philosophical consistency with a single axiom" and promotes Milsted ideas like the "citizens dividend," which would confiscate citizens' earnings for the purpose of redistributing their wealth - yep, this "libertarian" promotes sending a regular government check to each and every citizen of the state.

This deep-thinking lover of liberty took it upon himself to set Mr. Smith straight about what is necessary to make the Libertarian Party a major player in American politics. You can read it here. Reading the letter left me speechless. The paucity of logical thought left me breathless - well, no, I saw some logic to the thought, I just didn't see anything resembling libertarianism.

I was ready to roll up my sleeves and let the guy have it, but a much better man had already handled the task. Milsted had enough integrity - or he honestly believes his non-reasoning is superior so felt comfortable enough - to post a link to L. Neil Smith's absolutely brilliant response, "Teaching Pigs to Sing." Reading it was the intellectual equivalent of watching Jim Arness swat the arrogant-and-clueless scientist aside like a fly. It was Jimi Hendrix doing "The Star-Spangled Banner," a great concert pianist tackling the greatest piano concerto with ease. I'm not going to quote highlights ... the whole thing is a highlight. Watching Smith dissolve Milsted's arguments one by one, I felt like standing up in front of my computer and cheering.

Milsted and his ilk have dealt a probably-fatal blow to the Libertarian Party. But as long as the likes of L. Neil Smith are among us, the promise of liberty is alive.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Refuse to be terrorized

This guy has it right, for the most part:

The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.

And we're doing exactly what the terrorists want.

Writer Bruce Schneier argues that the way to neutralize terrorists is not to be afraid of them. Kind of makes you wonder why so many folks are instead emphasizing the threat and trying to make people so afraid we accept greater personal invasions and limits on our freedoms.

Kind of makes you wonder who the real terrorists are ...

Let's resurrect the Negro League while we're at it

I've never watched "Survivor" and would rather dive into the ugliest aspects of earning my bread than to watch a circus that involves dividing people into tribes and torturing them. It and its derivatives like "Big Brother" sound like the opposite of entertainment to me, so I expect I will never watch the show.

But I've ignored it for the five or six years that it's been on, and they probably think "If we can get one person to stop ignoring us, we win." So they win.

The new plan to divide contestants by race is perpetuation of one of the stupidest and most dangerous bits of human behavior: The lumping of people by skin color or facial features or language - All whites act one way, all blacks can be expected to believe one thing, all Asians do this, and all Spanish-speaking people do that whether they're white Hispanic, black Hispanic or Asian Hispanic.

Why stop here? Let's be more realistic; it's a "reality" show, right? Why no Arab "Survivor" team? How about Jewish and Christian and Hindu and Islamic tribes?

Most of our problems stem from these artificial groupings of individuals based on superficial differences. But since we are a race of individuals, such groupings are stupid and unjust. Even among such a sorry and despicable group as politicians, if you keep your mind open you may discover a Ron Paul in the mix.

The skeptics seem to think this has something to do with the sagging ratings for "Survivor." Maybe the shrinking audience just indicates it's an idea that has run its course. Hopefully this latest pandering to humanity's basest instincts - which is what the show has been about all along ("Ewww, they have to eat worms!") - will sink the damn thing once and for all.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The slaves chatter amongst ourselves

Very atute musings about wage slavery from Michael in "Getting Free Part 2," which I missed at first when it was posted the other day. (Plus I'm a sucker for visuals from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," so it caught my eye as well as my head.)

Some people might say that your corporate master cannot sell you....I say different. Workers are a company asset, (or liability in downtimes) and as such are part and parcel of any trade when a company is sold. If your company is sold by its owners then you can be sure that you are part of the deal, just like the desks, chairs, computers and products. All your new owners need to decide upon purchase is whether or not you are to be allowed to remain their property and continue to labour on their behalf. How is that intrinsically different than being placed on the auction block when the plantation goes under?

Michael promises "Next: What can we do?" That's been the A-number-one question in my mind the last couple of years, so I'm looking forward to any and all suggestions.

"The problem is not that taxes are too low ...'

Every so often a committee gets together to try to reform the tax system. Such a group is looking busy in Trenton these days, working off the truism that people are spending too much of their hard-earned cash on property taxes.

And, of course, the perceived solution is to raise Somebody Else's taxes. I, the person speaking, am always paying my fair share, but Somebody Else isn't, and so a legal way has to be found to confiscate more of Somebody Else's money. The current discussion is that residential property taxes are too high, so let's find a way to raise business property taxes.

A legislative committee studying the constitutional foundation for New Jersey's property taxes used its first meeting yesterday to schedule a fight with an 800-pound gorilla.

Its next meeting, on Aug. 17, will focus on the clause in the state constitution that requires all property to be taxed on the same basis. It prevents towns from setting a preferential property tax rate for homeowners and a higher rate for businesses ...

"It's a worthwhile examination to determine if they (businesses) are paying their fair share and if not, how do you structure the tax so you don't drive them out of the state," said William Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. "I applaud the committee for doing it."

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), the committee's co-chairman, said no decisions have been made on changing the uniformity clause, but "everything should be discussed. It's a direct constitutional issue related to taxation."

Nowhere in the article or, presumably, in the debate itself, is the thought that property taxes on everyone could be reduced by not spending as much of the money that is raised by taxing property. That would entail some of those "hard choices" that politicians are always talking about but never making. Discussions of any government reform are never about endings, only about redistribution of wealth.

Or if endings are hinted at, the hint stays on the shelf. Ronald Reagan had his Grace Commission (named after chairman Peter G.) that issued a thick book filled with things the federal government does that it shouldn't or doesn't have to do. Bill Clinton set his vice president, Al Gore, to work reinventing government. The result: Government got bigger, spending went up, taxation went up even higher. And the reports make lovely bookends.

This is the point in the essay where the writer shifts from defining the nature of the problem to suggesting a solution. But this writer's a bit baffled. I see no way out, because the problem seems to flow from the mightiest wielders of power to the meekest wieldees: Everyone seems to believe their taxes are too high, but everyone seems to believe that the answer is for Somebody Else to pay more - businesses, smokers, SUV owners, drinkers, gamblers.

Successful efforts to lower taxes are only successful in the short run, because there's no corresponding reduction in spending, and so Somebody Else's taxes have to go up. When the average household takes a pay cut, running up the credit card is one option, but at some point the cable TV has to go, or we switch to macaroni and cheese instead of going to McDonald's every couple of days. When the average government starts maxxing out the credit cards, it raises the limit and finds Somebody Else to mug.

A solution: Convince our fellow subjects that they can have a better life if they let go of whatever government teat(s) they are currently suckling. Because government is not a big fat pig, it's a big fat leech: To produce that teat's little trickle of milk, it must attach itself to their veins and draw blood. Most of that blood ends up feeding the leech's own fat, and a small percentage is reprocessed into milk. Better to find a way to produce your own milk, because you nourish yourself, not the leech.

This makes so much sense you'd think it would be common practice by now, but the more common refrain continues to be "There oughtta be a law," "Taxes should be more fair," and "Somebody Else needs to pay more." "Government needs to spend less" even morphs into "Somebody Else's teat needs to be shut off."

The solution, perhaps, begins with removing one's mouth from the teat and saying, "Thank you, I don't need this anymore," and showing by your own example that life goes on without Mama Government.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Another good Vin

Either Vin Suprynowicz took a week off or they're tardy posting Sunday's column, but that gave me an opportunity to browse for one I missed or forgot from a few weeks ago. "Why I am not a 'conservative'" is an instant classic, and I've added it to my "Other folks' greatest hits" list.

So, what are the Republicans?

Damned if I know.

We pretty much knew where the Grand Old Party stood when they nominated first Barry Goldwater and then Ronald Reagan for president.

But after the Republicans came surging back 20-odd years ago, vowing to close down the wasteful and counterproductive federal Departments of Energy and Education (it would have been a good start) -- they did none of it. Never even tried. In 22 years they have repealed no significant infringement of the Second Amendment, closed no significant federal agency or program.

They smile like Br'er Rabbit in the briar patch as the leftist press dances their stylized political Kabuki, decrying Republican "budget cuts" that are really nothing but modest reductions in the rate of bureaucratic growth.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. This is a terrific summary of what's ailing US. I'm only sorry it took me a couple of months to find it. Misery loves company, and it's been a miserable summer!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Making more sense out of context

I'm sure the quotes are not exactly in context with each other and that one didn't necessary respond to the other in this AP story, but it's amusing and enlightening anyway.

"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," Judge Anna Diggs Taylor wrote. "The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another."

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the Bush administration "couldn't disagree more with this ruling."

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wildflower Man

My podcast partner, Warren Bluhm, was wondering if it'd be OK to post a short story he wrote in the interim while we're waiting for the debut of the first sequel to The Imaginary Bomb. When I heard it, I said, oh yeah, go for it. Download it here!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Rhetorical question

A poll shows Sen. Joe Lieberman leading Ned Lamont 46-41 percent, with the Republican candidate getting a mere 6 percent of the vote.

I've seen third-party candidates, with more support than that, excluded from debates. Ya think the League of Women Voters will tell Mr. Schlesinger, "Sorry, legitimate candidates only"?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Watching the Nevada primaries

Naah, I don't give a flying flamingo about who wins what in Nevada, I just enjoy the way Vin Suprynowicz turns a phrase and skewers statists. Some gems:

First, not voting is OK. Choosing the new ruler who will decide how much of our money and property to "allow" us to keep from among two or three Republicrat lawyers who've already piled up hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of obligations to the big developers, law firms and casinos resembles assisted suicide ...

I considered holding my nose and voting for Saitta anyway ... Until I received a mailer from Saitta. What did it have to say on this issue? "Judge Saitta ... deeply respects your vote and our Constitution. Judge Saitta ... honors individual property rights while recognizing the needs of the community." Talk about a bunch of lawyerly double-talk. I'm sure Batu Khan would have claimed to be "carefully balancing your property rights against the needs of the community" as his Golden Horde put your village to the torch ...

If you like the long tradition of retiring sheriffs hand-picking their successors, vote for Undersheriff Doug Gillespie and spend your spare time in front of the mirror practicing keeping your hands up and not making any furtive movements toward your waistband, now a de facto capital offense in Clark County.

Go ahead. Click the link. You know you want to.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Make that 'refuse to be controlled'

Acknowledging that I have recently started resisting a severe case of Fear of Rejection - which, as Sunni notes in a comment, caused a severe case of paralysis of will - came just before the latest round in the "War on Terror," with its revelations of plans to blow up airplanes with liquid bombs and a new ban on bringing anything on board that might contain liquid. So it's a good time to be talking about fear.

"Refuse to be afraid" is shorthand. Fear is a real part of every person's soul. You can't refuse to be afraid any more than you can refuse to be hungry or refuse to be comfortable snuggling with the love of your life. Any rational human being is going to feel a pang of fear at the prospect of falling out of the sky - perhaps even a pang of terror.

The danger of fear is not the fear itself (Sorry, FDR) - it's that paralysis of will. When I say "refuse to be afraid," I mean refuse to let fear control your actions to the point where you fail to do the right thing. In my personal case, don't be so afraid of rejection that you fail to put the work out there to be judged. In the case of terrorism, don't be so afraid that you allow yourself to be locked in a cage.

Yep, irrational folks believe killing innocents will change people's thinking. Someone out there wants to make a political point by killing a bunch of airplane passengers, many of whom no doubt would be sympathetic to their cause if presented in a more reasonable fashion than "The world must see the righteousness of my cause, therefore you must die!" Of course, doing violence against someone almost never changes minds - but fear of that violence can change the way we act.

Fear can make us unable to see when a disconnect occurs between the problem and the solution. It may very well be prudent to be more vigilant about who is boarding airplanes with what materials - but strip-searching blue-haired old ladies is an overreaction to the problem. Surveillance of those suspected of plotting or having commited violence is a logical course of action - surveillance of everyone's e-mail correspondence is not. Seizing the assets of proven terrorists may make some sense in suppressing terrorism - forcing all citizens to display a federally approved ID card before they can open a bank account does not.

In other words, take proper precautions against the possibility of violence, but don't let the fear of violence control you - and definitely don't let others use your fear of violence to control you. "Refuse to be afraid" means times will come when you have to overcome the fear any normal human being will feel under the circumstances, and go ahead and act anyway.

Pack a proper parachute before you jump, and most of the time you'll land safely. Allow people to exercise the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and most of the time you'll have a healthy group of living, free, often happy people - if one, two or even a small handful of pathological murderers creep into the mix, deal with the murderers, don't suspend the vast majority's rights. That's the disconnect - that's where we need to refuse to let them use our fear to control us.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

In which I contemplate my navel once more

I mentioned this blog's first anniversary a few weeks ago, but that milestone is really observed this week. I backdated some of those early entries for reasons I should explain someday, and maybe I will eventually. It's been an interesting year of ups and downs for this B.W. Richardson fella, the biggest ups probably being a chance to explain myself in an interview with Sunni Maravillosa and the successful launch of The Imaginary Bomb - maybe not successful in a Harry Potter kind of way, but successful in the sense that the darn thing sat in a box in my basement for most of two decades. It was refreshing to overcome my fear of rejection and say, "Here, Warren, put this out there," and somewhat exhilarating to have three-and-a-half dozen people (so far) like it enough to download and listen to the whole story. (We just celebrated the 100th download of Chapter 1 - Yippee!) (Hey, like I said, it ain't Harry Potter.)

Yep, I confess, the guy who wrote "Refuse to Be Afraid" across the top of his blog often copes with a pathological case of Fear of Rejection. It's one thing to rail against the empire and encourage friends in the name of freedom; it's a whole 'nother thing to create a labor of love, investing a piece of one's soul, and then expose it to possible ridicule or, even worse, indifference. Just the existence of that podcast is a major triumph in that sense. And the upcoming sequel, which I'm building from a half-finished manuscript that was next to the I-Bomb in that box, gives me a chance to invest more current pieces of my soul and explore themes that might ring a bell with regular visitors to this space.

Mr. Bluhm has some thoughts about where we could go from here, and I'm a little excited - no, actually I'm fairly stoked - about the prospects. The Imaginary stories are only a small part of those thoughts - shouldn't put all the eggs in one basket and all - but they're a vital part. We'll tell you more as we figure it all out.

Thanks to those of you who've been in on this from the beginning - you know who you are - and thanks to those who've come along, taken a look around and liked it enough to come back. It's fun to have a whole set of friends I've never met - although this summer has gone a long way toward eliminating the last three words from that description. Montag itself is a labor of love for me now, and I'm tickled to have you along for the ride.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A small but ambitious announcement

"The bar! You’ve got an answer about the bar!"

"Yes, sir," said the man who had tapped George on the shoulder. "But I’m afraid it’s still bad news. She absolutely, positively refuses to sell."

The jagged scar under George Hermann’s mouth twitched. "You’re kidding me. How could a trailer-trash barmaid refuse that much money?"

It was a rhetorical question, but the messenger wasn’t bright enough to catch that.

"She told our people to stick the money where the sun don’t shine -- um, doesn’t shine -- and had her bouncer escort them to the door. So you see, we have a little bit of a problem."

"It’s no problem at all," George Hermann said as he accepted a towel from the other, silent man. "Send one more, especially persuasive salesperson. And if that still doesn’t do the trick," he added with a wink, "have her killed."

* * * * *

I'm still typing furiously and barely 20 percent finished, but here's the deal: The first chapter of the sequel to The Imaginary Bomb, tentatively titled The Imaginary Lover, will debut Sept. 1, 2006. Same setup as last time: Words by B.W. Richardson, voice and music by Warren Bluhm. It'll be available at the I-Bomb site, where other surprising aural pleasures may be forthcoming before that date.

This is probably going to be an interesting fall for me and Warren. But patience, my friends. These things must be done delicately ...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm gonna chow down my vegetables

An old friend once told me a tomato plucked fresh from the garden tastes like sunshine. I finally know exactly what he meant.

This is the summer of my vegetable garden. I have lived, well, never mind how many years, but long enough that it's a sin I never had a vegetable garden before. Oh, we've had the random tomato plant, and a handful of strawberry bushes, but this year I laid out a row of radishes, and peas, and green beans, and carrots. And of course I wanted tomatoes. Sweetie got me one tomato plant and two or three cherry tomato plants.

The radishes were an early triumph - they're ready for harvest in about a month. Also an early learning experience - it really does make more sense to leave some space between the plants if you want them to grow. The crowded ones were pitiful, skinny little stalks, and the lonely ones were RADISHES. (I told you I never did this before!)

I really had my doubts about the cherry tomatoes. My whole experience with cherry tomatoes has been with those bland little orange things that lurk in restaurant salads - kind of like a little tomato but without the taste of a tomato.

So I greeted the first ripe cherry tomatoes with something less than enthusiasm. I accidentally plucked one - it was more ready for picking than I was - and, not having anything else to do with it, I stuck it in my mouth.

Oh - my - god. The taste of sunshine.

Cherry tomatoes have gone from not-on-my-radar to pretty much my favorite vegetable, errr, fruit. Not those red bits of cardboard you get with your salad, mind you - my cherry tomatoes, the ones that grew because I put the plants in the ground and watered 'em a little.

Next summer's vegetable garden will be bigger, and more carefully tended. But this first one will always be special. I made food with my own little hands! I ate delicious radishes, I made about 45,000 green beans, and I discovered cherry tomatoes. The peas and carrots, well, nobody's perfect, and next year I'll follow the directions. But those cherry tomatoes ... !

The meaning of books

I have to tell you someday why it's funny that Warren Bluhm would tag me with this books meme that's going around - or maybe no, I don't. But it gave me a giggle anyway.

But books are mighty cool, and books are mighty, and it's fun to try to make sense of how they've shaped our lives. I like this meme because it doesn't ask for "the book that changed your life," it asks for "one book that changed your life" - and that's a lot easier. Maybe the first book that you think of is the most important, maybe it isn't. And how do you measure whether one book influenced you more than another?


One book that changed your life

Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell
[I've been scared of Big Brother ever since. Oh, and it was pretty much the first novel I read that had sex in it. THAT was better than being scared!]

One book that you have read more than once

Hell, I’ll name four (Ha! Three can play that game, Conger and Bluhm):

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman

One book that you would want on a desert island

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

One book that made you laugh

High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby

One book that made you cry

The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks

One book you wish had been written

Foolproof Methods to Keep the Bastards from Stealing Your Republic, by Thomas Jefferson

One book you wish had never been written

You know, there's an answer lurking out there for me, but I just can't think of it right now ...

One book you are currently reading

Learning the World, by Ken MacLeod (still trying!!!)

One book you have been meaning to read

Serenity, by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Now tag five people
I really like Sunni's approach: "Bollocks! If you want to do it, consider yourself tagged by me."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Brain seizes up from heat - no, not really

I don't know why I haven't been as prolific the last few days. I suppose I could say my brain has been fried by the ridiculous heat in New Jersey this week, but that would be not quite true on many levels. I think I've just been blown away by some of the other cool stuff I've encountered out here on the 'Net, like this here that Sunni found via Kevin (BTW, Thanks for the mention, Kevin!). I told a friend that after reading Steve Pavlina's article, I started digging an escape tunnel from the wage-slave command center, and he replied, "Why not just walk out through the front door?" Doh! The obvious escapes me sometimes.

I have also spent some of my spare time working on the sequel to The Imaginary Bomb podcast and browsing around for ways to get the I-Bomb into print for those who don't like books-on-tape formats. The story is shaping up, and I've toyed with the idea of announcing it's going to start Sept. 1, but maybe I'll hold off on that one. (Uh oh, did I just say something? Never mind. It's the heat.)

Mostly Pavlina's article has me stoked. The whole site is full of intriguing ideas, and I really would like to dig in and run with some of them. I just have to refuse to be afraid. I think I can, I think I can ... (Do kids nowadays understand the steam-engine rhythm of those words? Do their teachers???) I think I can, I think I can, I think I can ...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

"And that makes us mighty"

Orson Scott Card is right: Firefly "is the greatest science fiction television series ever created." And as agonizing as it was, maybe it's a blessing that the Fox television network mishandled it so badly, running the episodes out of order and taking it off the air long before its time.

I say that because the show really did leave just as it was coming into its own, with a rich tapestry of stories left to tell. And there's a show business axiom: "Always leave 'em wanting more." And people who encounter Firefly very often want more. more. more!

What a blessing, though, that it disappeared long before "its time" - before it ran out of stories, before the marvelous cast and crew could get tired of each other, before the fans started to take it for granted. Because what an enormous amount of positive energy was generated by taking the show off the air before "its time."

The result has been an enormously successful DVD box set of the episodes that aired, plus three more. And the result has been perhaps the greatest science fiction movie ever created, Serenity, based on this "failed" greatest science fiction TV series ever created.

And now here's another nifty little result: "Done the Impossible: The Fans' Tale of Firefly & Serenity," a marvelous valentine to Joss Whedon, the cast and crew, and the fans whose enthusiasm provided the fuel for the engine that drove it all.

I've only scratched the surface of this interactive DVD-ROM, which is to say I've watched the 80-minute documentary, and I couldn't stop smiling through it. The passion Browncoats have for these characters and these stories is infectious - and it seems to me it's a healthier infection than that of the Trekkies and similar obsessed fans who came before them. Because the characters who inhabit the Firefly world have no Starfleet or supernatural Jedi forces to help them fight the nastiness of the universe - they can only depend on their own wits, and each other. And that makes them mighty, and that makes them real.

I fell in love with these characters before the end of the pilot episode, which - because I missed the whole thing before it landed on DVD - I had the good fortune of watching first. "Serenity" may be the finest 90-odd minutes of television ever made, just as Serenity may be the finest film. If this is where the miracle ends, they are marvelous bookends. It's just easy to believe, with so many people wanting more stories so passionately, that someday the creators will revisit these characters and this 'verse.

"Done the Impossible" belongs in the collection of every Browncoat, and then some.