Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spinout and crash

Oh fercryinoutloud.

Fox has canceled Drive, the new Tim Minear-produced show starring Nathan Fillion (over there on your right), after only four episodes.

A similar fate befell Firefly and Wonderfalls, which have gone on to done-too-soon cult status, and while I have to admit Drive didn't grab me by the throat and leave me drained and babbling like a monkey fanboy (as Firefly and Wonderfalls did), I was giving it a chance to grow on me, and it was starting to.

I don't understand how Fox could spend most of 2007 teasing us with this show and then pull the plug after a month. Well, no, I guess I could understand it. The ratings are in the toilet – Drive actually finished fifth in its time slot – but wow.

Minear must be wondering what he has to do to stay on the air. I only hope and pray he doesn't come back with something predictable and safe and unbecoming of his incredible creative talent.

Mother Nature's healing power

I haven't checked the horse trough for a couple of days (fish don't eat as often during winter layover), so it was a bit of a surprise to see my "crippled fish" hanging around with the guys this morning. You might think the red streak around his gills was coloration, and he had not been sick, for the way he swam around the tank this morning.

An old comic book ends with the Fantastic Four flying into the sunset as Reed Richards intones, "Where there is life, there is still hope." I also learned a little bit about the health care industry with its pills for every little ailment: At least at this stage, it appears the answer to helping this little fish was to do nothing (except keep the little thing inside in a predator-free environment) and let nature take its course.

It's almost time to move the guys outside for the summer, and I've been a little nervous about whether he has the constitution to survive the change. But today, at least, he seems well on the way to licking whatever it was that ailed him.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The certainty of no choices

I must admit, I am not someone who is fascinated by the nuts and bolts of computer code. When Sunni Maravillosa started talking about the article "The Virtues of Monoculture," my eyes glazed over and went into "scan" mode. Fortunately the glaze did not go completely opaque, because a phrase blasted into my consciousness and boggled my mind.

For those of similar persuasion, here's a brief summary: Writer James Turner argues it wouldn't be so bad if everyone used Microsoft Windows as their computer operating systems. That way we would eliminate a lot of confusion over incompatible software, etc. And here's the punch line:


In my initial reaction, I suggested in a comment to Sunni that this sentence may go down with the great Orwellian phrases in 1984 – War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. The certainty of no choices: What a wonderful ideal. It's the ultimate goal of all conflict, after all: One final winner, no more wars, no more nasty campaigns, no more pesky decisions to make – we simply offer the certainty of no choices.

It's the ultimate John Lennon song: Imagine one big happy world of computer users, it's easy if you try – nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too. The problem with Turner's utopia and Lennon's overrated song, of course, is that people like choices.

The certainty of no choices is tyranny. Monoculture has no virtue. Humanity is 6 billion individuals, and no one can herd them into one culture that makes them all happy. "If they give you ruled paper, write the other way."

To be fair, Turner is trying to argue for standards and clarity: "When we hear about two or more projects that answer the same question, we should be asking ourself 'Why don’t they pool their effort and produce one really good solution?', rather than celebrating diversity for diversity’s sake alone." His grammar gives him away when he says we should be asking "ourself" - as if humanity was the Borg, one collective consciousness that could be content with one solution to an enormously complex question.

Few questions are so mathematical that they have only one answer, and even when we "settle" on a technological answer, something better comes along. VHS won out over Beta, but then came DVD. The cassette replaced the LP and was replaced by the CD until downloads arrived, but many people still buy LPs anyway. UHF? VHF? Digital TV?

Who wants "the certainty of no choices"? As I wrote at Sunni's blog, my mind is so boggled by the thought, it's still rattling.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Nope, I still don't get it

Our pastor today gave his sermon on the attributes of a "real man" and used the film 300 as his springboard. That was it. I had to see the damn film.

I recently sidetracked another conversation that also used 300 to make the point that modern society saps the manhood out of men - so I figured OK, having now heard this argument from a couple of different directions, I needed to see the film to understand what a "real man" looks like. Having now experienced the flick, I conclude that a man is apparently someone very skilled at killing other men.

No, that's not fair - a man as shown in 300 is someone willing to fight and die before he'll kneel before tyrants, especially a tyrant who sets himself up as a false god. But I think I'd rather see that model of manhood portrayed without an hour or so of bloodshed and mayhem.

I still can't get past the premise that the Spartan men shown in the film are "free men." Ripped from their families at a young age and trained up to be warriors, they go to their deaths defending what appears to be a "free" society in name only.

The other visually stylized movie adaptation of a Frank Miller graphic novel, Sin City, is ugly and compelling and great storytelling. 300 is just ugly. I love the idea of refusing to kneel. Everything else about the movie left me stone cold.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

They make the laws, they don't have to obey them

Huh, how 'bout that - "The state trooper driving Gov. Jon Corzine was going 91 mph before their SUV swerved off the road and slammed into a Parkway guardrail last week." We already knew that Corzine wasn't wearing his seat belt as required by the laws of the state he rules.

But he's a ruler - the rules don't apply to the rulers, except maybe the rule of physics that says if you're going 91 mph and your vehicle stops suddenly, you will keep going at 91 mph.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Davey Crockett and the New Deal

"New Deal programs persist," despite the Reagan revolution and its aftermath, says James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas in Austin. "They persist because they are largely successful and highly popular."

That quote struck the writer as so important that he accidentally wrote it in twice in this article about how slightly more than half of U.S. citizens now receive significant amounts of tax money from the federal government, whether it's salary, Social Security or Medicare benefits, food stamps or education. It's the fulfillment of the old saw that democracy will last until everyone figures out they can vote themselves a piece of the largesse.

Horatio Bunce is not a name taught in our government training camps, err, schools, but he needs to be remembered.

"If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other."

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Pro-freedom versus anti-government, cont'd

Where there's Lightning, there's also Thunder. The other half of the equation also posted on this question of pro-freedom versus anti-government. I hate to skip to the end and ignore all the cogent setup, but:

The next time you post on your favorite internet forum or have a conversation with friends or, more importantly, setting your own personal goals, will you be posting an article about the latest government intrusion or discussing how the government is violating the Constitution? Or will you be discussing how you are creating freedom for yourself and your family or learning from others and how they've paved their road to freedom?

Sure, all this discussion started a week ago ... ages by Internet standards. Sorry to join the party late. I don't have much to add, other than a bit of a resolve to seek out pro-freedom news and information, rather than anti-government stuff. It's more than just the old saw, "Yeah, everybody knows there's a problem, let's see your solution, smart guy." The solutions are out there and much more interesting than the latest pogrom anyway. I think a little outrage needs to be directed where appropriate, but I agree it'll be more productive in the long run to keep the focus (as much as practicable) on freedom's successes rather than government's failures.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

What'd I tell ya?

Two posts ago I wondered if the Imus flap was "step one in a campaign to have the heavy hand of government (FCC) smack down free speech again." Step one complete; on to step two.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who lobbied Moonves to fire Imus and was threatening a weekend rally outside CBS, said Imus' dismissal should not spell the end of the controversy.

"It would be wrong if we stopped here and said 'Imus is the only problem,'" Sharpton said late yesterday.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rethinking what's news

I had this thought that the news depends so much, too much on what the government is doing. What if we invented the news media from scratch? Would the wacky activities of our rulers really be the most interesting things that happen on a given day?

I thought I was the only one who thought this way. No more.

Libertarians like to phrase it more along these lines: whatever government subsidizes, it gets more of. But what we’re overlooking when we think that way is that by granting government such an important place in our daily thinking, our moment-to-moment life, we’re feeding that damned beast. We’re giving it power that we don’t believe it deserves. We’re subsidizing and legitimizing government’s power with our own thought energy.

I think Lightning's onto something here. I don't mean we should ignore government and hope it goes away, because that way lies sure tyranny. But we should seek out news of people who succeed and grow the human race without depending on a government boost, without government even entering the sphere of influence. Not an easy task to find these stories, but not impossible either.

Government initiatives to steal our freedom is dog-bites-man. Real news is when man-bites-dog, because it's unusual and fascinating. Government efforts to steal more freedom should not be rewarded with our attention; the media should seek out and cover government efforts to restore our freedom and relinquish power.

Hey! I'm in the media. Take a memo ... Oh wait, I'm not powerful enough to have someone who takes my memos ... where's my keyboard?

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Methinks they doth protest too much

It's a shame that the uproar over Don Imus has taken the feel-good factor away from the Rutgers women's basketball team, but as the team takes the publicity tour (today they're on with Oprah) this is beginning to take on elements resembling Geico's famous caveman offended by the ad slogan "so simple even a caveman can do it."

Not to defend Imus' making fun of the young women with (to say the least) an unpleasant choice of words, but without the shocked outrage and national campaign to have the man fired, a vast majority of people would have no idea he said it and the Rutgers story would still be about a group of athletes coming together and nearly winning a national championship.

And as much as I hate the morning-zoo format launched by hordes of bad imitators of Imus, I fear this is step one in a campaign to have the heavy hand of government (FCC) smack down free speech again. Watch how this plays out.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Building freedom revisited

Yeah, I have a link to James Leroy Wilson's "Building Freedom" down there on the "Other People's Greatest Hits" list, but even I forgot how good it is. Today's sound advice:

"Don’t be discouraged, and don’t waste time on arguing with people. The real blessing of the libertarian philosophy is the moral and psychological benefit of how you treat others and how you view yourself. Freedom is really a state of mind, more than a political condition. Be happy that minds are opened, and that some minds are changed, don’t remain bitter, angry, and frustrated because great masses don’t listen. Read Isaiah’s Job. Other people's problems and character defects are not yours, and you - and no one else, let alone great masses of people - are responsible for your own happiness."

You never noticed that link!?! Try this. Check out the others, too, they're all gems.

Gas on the brain

David Letterman famously once asked Rush Limbaugh, "Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and just think to yourself, 'I'm just full of hot gas'?"

Without meaning to, I think Letterman pulled out one of the top 10 questions most people ask themselves at some point in their lives ... in fact, sometimes I think asking that question on a regular basis is not necessarily an unhealthy thing, unless it gets you second-guessing your every move.

It may also be an unhealthy thing to charge through life never questioning the paths you've chosen, never waking up and wondering "Am I just full of hot gas?" On the other hand, if you're comfortable and happy inside your skin, you're probably on the right track.

Or are you? If you're feeling fat and sassy in this lean and troubling era, maybe you need to be shaken up more than any of us.

This is all by way of trying to explain the tail-off in entries of late. I have reached a harmonic convergence of steps outside of my comfort zone where, whatever step I contemplate, I start thinking that maybe I'm just full of hot gas. I may be just crawling inside a cocoon, caterpillar-like, with a cacophony of butterfly thoughts readying itself to burst out later. Or maybe I'm building up gas that poisons my brain. There's plenty of brain-poisoning material out there these days.

My standing advice continues to feel rock solid: Refuse to be afraid, i.e., refuse to yield control of your mind and actions to your fears. Most of the missteps and lack-of-action-regrets in my life come back to a failure to take my own advice.

When I have these attacks of angst, a friend of mine rolls up his eyes and urges me to shut up and just do something. Usually my response is "Do what?" but he's right - doing something is better than standing still. Sorry to cut it off here, but I'm off to do something. I don't this minute know what I'll be doing, but it'll be something. Fair enough?

P.S. Stroke-fish is still at the bottom of the tank, but more often than not lately he's been right-side-up instead of laying on his side. Lately he's been my good example.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Big Brother's voice

The British government is moving forward with plans to install loudspeakers with surveillance cameras, so that operators can shout instructions at Englishmen and Englishwomen who get out of line.

Home Secretary John Reid defended the scheme, saying it was aimed at "the small minority who think it is acceptable to litter our streets, vandalise our communities and damage our properties." Reid added that schools in many areas were holding competitions for children to become the "voice" of CCTV cameras.

"Smith!" screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. "6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You're not trying. Lower, please! That's better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pick a president

I found the link to this "Presidential Candidate Selector" at Independent Country and decided, oh what the heck. To my surprise it tells me it's 100 percent sure that Ron Paul fits my profile of a good president (is "good president" an oxymoron in our present crisis?).

A little more troubling is that next up are the likes of Sam Brownback (75%) and Newt Gingrich (70%). Newt lost me entirely with his "World War III" talk of a few months back. I've had my fill of presidents who invoke the war machine at the drop of a hat.

I'm back in comfortable territory at the bottom of the list, when the quiz tells me not to bother with Rudy Guliani (28%), John Edwards (28%), Mitt Romney (28%) or Hillary Clinton (26%).

Bottom line, though, the quiz reminded me that Paul is the only thoroughbred on this field of nags.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

I-Bomb: The 200th download

By most standards of the marketplace, The Imaginary Bomb has not been a spectacular success. The next person to download Warren Bluhm's podcast reading of Chapters 1-3 will be only the 200th since it was posted last May 15. Slightly less than half that number - 87 - have stuck with the story long enough to download Chapter 27, the end of the adventure.

Those stats represent the real reason why I haven't gone ahead with my once-dream of self-publishing a print version, and why I haven't felt motivated to continue the saga of Baxter Hetznecker and his friends, although I did post what I've finished of the sequel, The Imaginary Lover.

Friends tell me the I-Bomb is a fun story, and probably the main reason the podcast barely made a ripple is that I don't know marketing from a hole in the ground. I will gladly entertain suggestions about how to reach a wider audience - send me an e-mail.

On a psychological level, The Imaginary Bomb has been an enormous success. This little novel - more of a novella, really - burst out of my head in an explosion of creativity in the late 1980s, and after making three paltry attempts to attract a publisher, I packed the thing in a cardboard box and left it in the basement for 17-18 years. Only when Warren slapped me upside the head early last year did I agree to take this baby step of exposing my story to the world, but at least it was a step. Instead of continuing to hide my stuff under a bushel basket, I lifted the edge of the basket and said, "Hey folks, take a peek."

Bluhm has since made great strides in home recording - although I should snidely point out that Uncle Warren's Attic hasn't exactly made him a household word, either, even though he is twice the marketer I am (read: Twice nothing is ...) - so we freely admit it's not the greatest podcast novel ever produced, but all of these things aside, I am celebrating the pending 200th download. That's about 190 more people than ever were exposed to the novel before last May 15, so I've expanded my audience by a factor of 20. If I did that every year, I'd be J.K. Rowling before I die, assuming I live as long as my grandfathers did and my father has.

Thanks to all who have sent and even written kind words about The I-Bomb, and if you haven't heard it yet, hey, you could be the 200th "reader" by clicking here - tell me what you think. As Pete Wong might say, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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