Category: Curmudgeon Corner

Encomium for an Unrepentant Harlequin

He is gone, right?

Harlan Ellison is dead?

Really dead?

He can’t be.

He must be. It’s been more than two weeks now and not a sound from him. Not a peep, not a whisper, nothing. I was hoping that like Mark Twain, P.T. Barnum and Bertrand Russell (and if you were to splice the DNA of all three men together, the resulting chimera would doubtless turn out to be much like Ellison), he was secretly reading his premature obituaries to see how he would really be remembered. But there have been none of the outraged screams we certainly would have heard had he been just joshing with us. Continue reading “Encomium for an Unrepentant Harlequin”

Where did Generation X go?

This post has nothing to do with speculative fiction. I am just rambling on about something that has been bothering me lately. I can do that, I own the blog. I am solidly a member of Generation X. I was born in 1970 which is in the middle of every estimation of when Generation X started. Yes, there is debate about when Gen X began and ended. I  believe anyone born from 1965-1985 is a member of Generation X. Others give the dates as a little earlier or a little later. Regardless of which way it goes Generation X is missing from our society. In media, entertainment, and academia, we are no longer seen as a group worth talking about or even acknowledging.

We constantly hear about the Millennials and the Boomers. The Millennials get press because their slacker status actually exceeds that of Generation X. Laziness is not the worst trait of Gen M they have been coddled for so long and their parents have treated them as special to the point they can’t cope with reality. Which leads me to wonder who the hell their parents actually were?

The Boomers, what hasn’t been said about that self absorbed group of losers. They dominate politics, the presidency, and make life a living hell for the rest of us with their constant demands for a tighter regulatory state. The Boomers are like a bunch of suffocating nannies. They want to plastic wrap the world.

Where did Gen X go? I have savaged both the Millennials and the Boomers, but I think I have the worst things to say about my own generation. I think we dropped out and left our responsibilities to others. I spent more than half my working life traveling from job to job working as an archaeologist. I am finally settling down in my forties. How did the children of Gen X get so messed up? I think we let our grandparents do to much of the rearing of our children. Those cloying nannies in the Boomer generation seeing the mess they made of Gen X, by being to permissive, went too far the other way. Participation trophies and safe spaces. They created a generation of emotionally stunted children and it is Gen X’s fault. We let the Boomers do this to our children.

I don’t like to leave an article without some hope. That hope is that as Gen X ages we will settle down and raise our second generation of children to be outgoing and brave. We will get our grand children away from the Millennials for a weekend at a time and let them get dirty and let them play outside. We need to make the next generation brave and Gen X is just the ones to do it. We are the people who invented extreme sports, created MMA, went camping in the most remote places on Earth, swam with the sharks, or in my case waded with the alligators. We are an extreme generation, lets make our grand children extreme.

I realize not every Gen Xer let their parents raise their children and I realize every Millennial is not an age stunted attention whore. These are just my observations of trends in our society.

Trop de Trompes de Tropes (or, say “trope” one more time….)

Trop de Trompes de Tropes (or, say “trope” one more time….)

 

Every time someone misuses the word trope (which is approximately 99.999 percent of the time when it’s used on the Internet), I get ….really upset. Call it blind rage, call it a flash of insanity, but even though Weird Al Yankovic’s “Word Crimes” immediately starts playing in my head, what I really want to do is subject said person to the same mutilations Al wants to subject to himself in his song “One More Minute.” I want to slam their laptops down on their knuckles so hard that their fingers start twitching like spastic hog-nose snakes, and then repeatedly whack them over their head with it while yelling “IDIOT! IDIOT!” in my best Norwegian death-metal voice. Continue reading “Trop de Trompes de Tropes (or, say “trope” one more time….)”

Convergent Evolution: an Opinion

Convergent Evolution: an Opinion

cover

About a year ago I created this meme during a discussion on a Facebook group about alien life. The group consensus was that we would never meet an alien race with a humanoid posture or upright bipedal locomotion because it was highly unlikely that this arrangement would evolve independently again. Now I am at best a curmudgeon and at worst an asshole, so I got to thinking about that contention and the more I thought about it the less it struck me as a hard and fast rule.

Evolution is essentially conservative, there is a conservation of form and function in evolution because of the way natural law interacts with living beings. For instance a creature that swims in water on Earth or on a planet 20 light years from Earth is probably going to look roughly the same. Since life seems to favor an aquatic origin as that life emerges from the sea of an alien planet evolution of that terrestrial life may already be based on bilateral symmetry. Of course something like an octopus might be the first creature on land, but at least on our planet the race to the surface favored creatures with hard internal or external structures whose bodies were structurally streamlined. I believe these types would most likely emerge first elsewhere as well.

If my conjecture is correct, that bilateral symmetry is favored by aquatic environments leading to quicker more agile creatures, then that conservation of form will follow onto the land leading to creatures that mimic our own evolution. In the meme above the T-Rex and the Ankylosaurus predate the Terror Bird and the Glyptodon by 60 million years, but the body forms are essentially the same…in fact the T-Rex probably had feathers. What does this mean for future encounters with alien life? First, don’t discount the possibility that creatures with similar capacities to ourselves may have similar body structures. It is very possible that higher intelligence requires a bilateral body plan and whose ancestors went through an arboreal stage of development before developing true upright posture.  Second, don’t discount running into a nightmare like a Tyrannosaurus when exploring alien environments.

This is just my opinion.

On Our Responsibility to Futures Past

I moved homes recently, and the most painful part of the process was, as it would be for any other bibliopath, deciding which books to keep and which to sell. I had built up a substantial collection over the years, maybe not as extensive as some collectors but still impressive, and I had to decide which books had the most merit, the most re-readability value, and the ones I had the greatest personal attachment with in order to makethese difficult decisions. Like many others, I have strong memories related to my first reading of a particular book-Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales From Planet Earth while on the shores of a beach in North Carolina, Ben Bova’s Mars while atop the massive red boulders of Ontario’s Killarney National Park-that makes me treasure the joys of returning to them even more.  Ultimately, after making my decisions, about 75% of the books in my collection-a large number of them duplicate copies-were sent to a charity book sale while those nearest and dearest to me remained on my shelves. A difficult task, as unfair as asking a parent to choose between their children (OK, I exaggerate a little), but a necessary one. Continue reading “On Our Responsibility to Futures Past”

The Greatest Challenge to the 1st Amendment: A Follow Up

The Greatest Challenge to the 1st Amendment: A Follow Up

3D-printed-gun-modelsThe Government has forced Cody Wilson’s company, Defense Distributed, to take down his designs for 3D printed firearms. I can’t say I’m surprised, and if you had read my other article earlier in the week you would understand why: This is a blatant attack on the first amendment. Forget, for a minute, that these plans can be used to create guns. What is the difference between banning these plans from distribution, and banning a book? There are quite a few books out there that could be considered just as dangerous. I downloaded a PDF book on building machine guns last night. Will we see books like that banned next?

Just this week Obama gave a speech in which he said, “Reject voices that warn about government tyranny.”

Let me quote the words of a document that president Obama would have you reject.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security”

Is this computer file any more dangerous to the government than the words of the *actual* Declaration of Independence? Will these words also be banned?

I am not saying that we need to rise up in armed revolt, and I am not saying that we have become a despotic state. I am saying that, when a government feels it has the right to censor public information and ban the people from looking at what are, at their most basic,  just “drawings” of an item that the government fears, we are not far away from the very tyranny that the founders warned about.

I quoted the movie Serenity at the end of the last article, “You can’t stop the signal”. The file was downloaded over 100,000 times before it was taken down. I was able to find the file in about a minute with an online search this morning.  The real irony is not that the government is helpless to stop the signal. The irony is that the government has the gall to even try. Banning knowledge is the hallmark of desperation and a stepping stone to true tyranny. So, yes I am one of those voices warning you about tyranny, but don’t listen to my voice, listen to the much more eloquent voices of history…

 

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.
Robert A. Heinlein

 

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day
Thomas Jefferson

 

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.
Maximilien Robespierre

 

The Framers of the Constitution knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny.
Hugo Black

When I researched these quotes, I did not look for quotes that linked censorship and tyranny. I merely typed in tyranny and hundreds of quotes linked the two. Try it for yourself. Tyranny and the suppression of knowledge are invariably linked. Censorship is ever the companion of despots.

Why the 3D Printed Firearm Will Be the Greatest Challenge Ever to the…..1st Amendment?

Why the 3D Printed Firearm Will Be the Greatest Challenge Ever to the…..1st Amendment?

3d gunYesterday when I saw the picture of the first fully 3D printed gun (I realize the firing pin is a nail and was not printed) I almost wept for joy. This is a first important step away from the dominance of the state over their citizens in many parts of the world.  Americans enjoy the protection of Second Amendment, but many places that purport to be free countries have banned all guns outright or have made ownership so restrictive that getting a firearm is almost impossible. Other parts of the world are not so free as even that. Firearm ownership for people in places like China or North Korea could mean the death penalty. This new technology makes it possible for anyone anywhere with access to a certain level of technology to take the power of the state and place it into the hands of the people. The 3D printed gun is either the beginning of the end to those repressive regimes or the beginning of one of the largest and most sweeping crack down on civil rights in the past fifty years.

The argument to restrict these rights will not be over firearms. Oh, guns and violence will be used as an excuse, but the argument will be over the right to freedom of speech and expression. This 3D printed weapon and each subsequent generation of it is a triumph of information technology. It has been made possible by the revolution in information sharing that has taken place in the last thirty years and in the ease and ability to pass information about technology freely between people. This ability of information to be exchanged will become a battleground and the government’s goal will be limiting the freedom of speech. This goal will at first be packages as only limiting information that the state finds dangerous, but it is the ultimate slippery slope. Never underestimate the willingness of government to push its subjects down that hill.

The battle lines are already being drawn and in the United States. Don’t immediately expect the Republicans to side with freedom. They have often been much more willing to censor information available to the public than the Democrats (although Obama has certainly given them a run for their money). Both sides will ultimately unite against 3D printed weapons. This is a prediction you can take to the bank. You can expect them to see this in more broad-reaching terms than just firearms. If either side can convince the public that this information is too dangerous to be allowed to freely be passed from hand to hand, and they are able to limit it, then expect them to broaden the definition of what is dangerous over time. Enjoy your internet while you have it. The government has long been trying to find an issue that resonates with the public so they can use it to limit information on the web. The public is also likely to fall for any and all scare tactics the government decides to employ.

The good news is they will not win. This is a genie that will not go back into the bottle easily. This is a Manhattan project level event in terms of personal self defense and the ability of a people to arm themselves. This simple one shot pistol is just the tip of the iceberg. In the long run there is just about no small arm that can’t eventually be build with a 3D printer. One might equip an entire army with a combination of plastic and metal printers. I foresee a day not too far off in which our own military will print their weapons as they need them…that is the future reality. We are living in an exciting time. This must be similar to what it felt like to those first peasants in Western Europe that figured out that firearms made them equal in power to the most well armored knight. The day we moved from the strangle hold of feudalism to just a hint of representative republic. It is not something to scorn. This is a technology that embraces freedom and puts power back into the hands of the people. How many police state Nazi bullies would have had second thoughts about dragging the Jews out of their homes had they known that the citizens of the Warsaw Ghetto had armed themselves and would resist? How different would the civil rights movement have been had blacks in the South had access to quick cheap 3D printed guns to defend themselves from corrupt local sheriffs? Would there have even been a need for a civil rights movement at all?

The government can try to stop it. They can shut down the internet at the risk of global economic collapse, or they can try to limit the spread of this information in other ways. If they think that people can’t find a way around any restriction the government tries to put into place to limit data….then they don’t know much about computers or those that program them. They will also try to restrict the physical 3D printers, but even that is folly. They might slow down the growth (don’t bet on it), but the technology is far to useful to be stifled for long. It is also a technology that will eventual be able to replicate itself fully. That technology is still in its infancy, especially when it comes to the metal and computer parts, but it will not be long before even that hurdle is overcome. 3D printing is the future and it is going to change the world in ways that the government and those who want control can’t even yet imagine. I often quote this line from the movie Serenity, “You can’t stop the signal.”        So why even try.

Modern Science Fiction: The Downfall of a Once Great Genre

Modern Science Fiction: The Downfall of a Once Great Genre

ar12819814138667I was suckered into looking at IO9 this morning. I know, generally I avoid that place like the plague. I was enticed in by an article about science fiction fonts. The article wasn’t even actually on their site. Some writer there had just written a story about a blog that had links to classic science fiction cover fonts. I honestly wish the person that posted the IO9 story had cut out that particular middle man. That is neither here nor there at this point because once on IO9 I saw article after article of the most pernicious and condescending left-wing constipation. From anti-Human environmentalist rhetoric to socialistic political screeds disguised as science fiction commentary. The problem at IO9 is not an isolated case. It has become all but the norm. For instance all the major science fiction awards are dominated by liberal political hacks, who pick the winners based on how well they write polemics on ludditism masquerading as fiction. Writers like Robert Heinlein would not even merit a mention among our modern scifi elite.

 How do you write a disparaging sigh into an article? “Uuuuuuuuuuuugh” I know better than to read the drek on IO9 or even look at the state of modern science fiction because it depresses me to no end. The once great experiment in literary freedom is now the bastion of socialist nonsense and home to environmentalist green weenies. Forgive me when I say screw those mother fuckers. Science fiction has always been socially liberal, but that social liberality was married to the belief in individual liberty and the aggrandizement of the rugged individualist. Science Fiction has always been the home of the libertarian, even before the word was coined. Today it is a sad shell of its former glory, overcome by schlock pseudo-science fantasy and vampire romance fed to an increasingly ignorant, apathetic public. The state of the art mirrors the state itself.

Why am I being so harsh? Well let me summarize the entirety of current elite science fiction in one sentence…

It is too bad that humans, who are destroying the Earth, are so adaptable that they will probably survive and pollute space with their ignorance and bigotry.

Do these idiots understand science fiction? Do they realize that the vast majority of that fiction is about humans surviving against all odds and overcoming obstacles through inventiveness and adaptability. Science Fiction is the cheerleader for the human race. While there is depressing science fiction in which humans make mistakes, it almost always ends with hope for humanity. Hope that we become better and learn a lesson from our mistakes. Sometimes a great science fiction classic works with a bleak premise about human nature, for instance 1984, but these are few and far between and the authors of these are universally warning the audience not to follow that path. The writers of today aren’t warning us of our folly. They are lamenting our very existence as a species.

Do people on the “Left” know what species they belong too? If they are so interested in our extinction is it possible they could do us all a favor and lead by example? I can not understand the mentality that leads someone to think that humanity is not the most precious gift evolution has given the universe. We are the beings that will take life to the stars. We are the gardeners of forever. We are life’s vessel, the pinnacle of evolution with the ability to turn the universe green. This is what science fiction should be about. It is the fiction we should be basing our future on. A future we will never realize if the environmentalist agenda is realized, or if the socialists turn our world into what they believe is utopia. We can not give the Universe the gift of life if we remain tethered to this pile of rocks. If that means the extinction of 90% of the life on this planet, or that there will be inequality due to capitalism then I am willing to make that trade so our descendants stand on distant shores…free and proud.

(This is not a blanket condemnation of science fiction today. There are authors working hard to live up to the true legacy of the genre over at Baen books and other places. They are just outnumbered by those who don’t deserve the title of science fiction author)

What Would Robert Heinlein Say to Ron Paul and his Supporters?

What Would Robert Heinlein Say to Ron Paul and his Supporters?

You may not agree with what Heinlein says here but he is speaking directly across the years to Ron Paul and his people at the Republican National Convention.


Quoted from Take Back Your Government…

“In some states the right of a person to participate in a primary may be challenged and he may then be called on to prove his right by taking an oath to support the ticket which results from such primary. Such a procedure is morally correct; if universal it might do much to put a stop to the present eat-your-cake-and-have-it-too attitude of some irresponsible politicians.”

“Party regularity and party discipline are pragmatically necessary and morally correct in any political party if that party is to carry out its responsibilities. This is especially true with respect to unsuccessful candidates in a party primary; no man should offer himself as a candidate in a party primary unless he is prepared to abide by the majority will of the political group he seeks as a sponsor. Running in a primary is a voluntary action, very similar to joining a caucus; it carries with it responsibilities as well as privileges. A candidate need not enter a primary at all; he is always free to run as an independent instead.”

 

Robert A. Heinlein

 

I don’t often speak directly to political issues on The Freehold but Ron Paul is ripping the party apart. – Jonathan Baird

Not Just No, Hell No… SyFy is remaking Blake’s 7

Not Just No, Hell No… SyFy is remaking Blake’s 7

 

SyFy is the channel of death when it comes to science fiction. It ruins franchises and destroys everything it touches. I just learned today that the Syphilis channel is about to remake Blake’s 7.  I have longed to see a new Blake’s 7 made by the BBC. The BBC understands science fiction and doesn’t treat it like a red headed step child. The morons at the SyFy channel can’t do justice to Blake and his crew. They don’t and can’t understand the source material. My prediction will be Blake will be treated with just about as much thought as the SyFy channel put into Flash Gordon or Sharktopus.

Avon pictured above is one of the greatest scoundrels in science fiction history. He is a cross between an evil Alexander Hamilton, Sherlock Holmes, and Albert Einstein. If they ruin Avon I might just go on a crusade to have the Syphilis channel dismantled. Since SyFy is owned by NBC I can guarantee you that the government of the Federation will be evil 1% types who have taken over the society of the future. Craptastic is the watch word on this.