Archive | November, 2009

O is for Visitor

V: Humankind's Last Stand

Great line from Jesse Walker:

IDEA FOR A MINISERIES: Extraterrestrials come to Earth promising hope and change. Gradually their sinister plot is revealed: They will take over the planet and run it pretty much the same way it was being run before.

Who Said It?

Magritte - Lovers

Can you guess the source of this passage?

– Do your people always quarrel thus?

– Always.

– Why?

– I do not know. They take their mates for life and are permitted but one and though both men and women have a choice in the selection of their mates they never seem to be satisfied with one another and are always quarreling, usually because neither one nor the other is faithful. Do the men and women quarrel thus in the land from which you come?

– No. They do not. If they did they would be thrown out of the tribe.

– But suppose that they find that they do not like one another?

– Then they do not live together. They separate and if they care to they find other mates.

– That is wicked. We would kill any of our people who did such a thing.

– At least we are all a very happy people, which is more than you can say for yourselves, and, after all, happiness, it seems to me, is everything.

– Perhaps you are right.

The answer.

Icky Sticky Anarchy

I came from a real tough neighborhood.
I put my hand in some cement and felt another hand.

– Rodney Dangerfield

the bricks of society

According to Simon Read, in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Anarchism, But Were Afraid to Ask: “The English anarchist Colin Ward calls anarchism the cement that holds the bricks of society.”

That’s a great line, paradoxical-sounding but true (though I usually quote it as “Anarchy is the glue that holds society together”). It’s a more succinct, and more radical, version of Paine’s “Great part of that order …” passage. (See also Emerson’s “hooks and eyes” line.) But where, exactly, does Colin Ward say it – if he does?

After looking through some Ward books I own and doing some internet searches (as well as searches through Ward’s books via Amazon’s “look/search inside” feature), I can’t find any place where he says this – though I did find a passage assigning the social-cement role to human solidarity, and another assigning it to music-making.

Can any of my readers recognise/confirm/disconfirm this quote?

Name of the Game

Paragon Park's Bermuda Triangle

Paragon Park's Bermuda Triangle

Back in the mid-80s – and specifically, IIRC, the summers of ’84 and ’85 – I worked at a now-defunct amusement park in Hull, Massachusetts, called Paragon Park (which proudly advertised itself as featuring “the world’s oldest all-wooden rollercoaster,” like that was a good thing). And in the park’s arcade area, hidden amongst the pinball machines, was the most amazing video game I’d ever seen.

I don’t remember what the game was called, but it featured a race among flying cars zooming along a highway that twisted and curved through outer space (so one had to dodge random asteroids and so on). This game not only had far more sophisticated and realistic digital imagery than anything I’d seen before – it also had far more sophisticated and realistic digital imagery than anything I would see for years after that, while relatively unfancy-looking games like Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and Snake continued to dominate the market.

Eventually, of course the look of my mystery game became standard throughout the industry, and its quality has long since been surpassed. Still, for a long time that game was, in my experience at least, a solitary advanced scout for the wave of the future, without contemporary parallel or, apparently, contemporary fame. So my question is: do any of my readers have any idea what this game could have been?

Not having a picture of the game, I offer a picture of my favourite ride (both to ride and to operate) at Paragon Park – the Bermuda Triangle.

Uncle Sam Goddamn

(Video CHT Kelly Patterson via Charles.)


Welcome to the United Snakes
land of the thief
home of the slave
the grand imperial guard
where the dollar is sacred and proud

Smoke and mirrors, stripes and stars
stolen for the cross in the name of God
bloodshed, genocide, rape, and fraud
writ into the pages of the law, good lord
the cold continent [?] latchkey child
ran away one day and started acting foul
king of where the wild things are – daddy’s proud
’cause the Roman Empire done passed it down
imported and tortured a work force
and never healed the wounds or shook the curse off
now the grown up Goliath nation
holdin’ open auditions for the part of David
can ya feel?
nothing can save ya, you question the reign
you get rushed in and chained up
fist raised but I must be insane
’cause I can’t figure a single goddamn way to change it

Welcome to the United Snakes
land of the thief
home of the slave
the grand imperial guard
where the dollar is sacred
and power is God

All must bow to the fat and lazy
the fuck you obey me
and why do they hate me – who me?
only two generations away
from the world’s most despicable slavery trade
pioneered so many ways to degrade
a human being that it can’t be changed to this day
legacy so ingrained in the way that we think
we no longer need chains to be slaves
lord, it’s a shameful display
the overseers even got raped along the way
’cause the children can’t escape from the pain
and they born with the poisonous hatred in their veins
try an’ separate a man from his soul
you only strengthen him and lose your own
but shoot that fucker if he walk near the throne
remind him that this is my home – now I’m gone

You don’t give money to the bums
on a corner with a sign
bleeding from their gums
talking about you don’t support a crackhead
what you think happens to the money from your taxes?
shit, the government’s an addict
with a billion-dollar-a-week kill-brown-people habit
and even if you ain’t on the front line
when Massa yell crunch time you right back at it
plain look at how you hustling backwards
at the end of the year add up what they subtracted
three outta twelve months your salary pay for that madness
man, that’s savage
what’s left? – get a big ass plasma
to see where they made Dan Rather point the damn camera
only approved questions get answered
now stand your ass up for that national anthem

Custom made (you’re so low)
to consume the noose (you’re so low)
keep saying we’re free (you’re so low)
but we’re all just loose (you’re so low)
keep saying we’re free (you’re so low)
but we’re all just loose (you’re so low)


The Wikipedia page for Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days comments that “Verne is often characterised as a futurist or science fiction author, but there is not a glimmer of science-fiction in this, his most popular work.”


Well, there is no generally agreed-upon definition of science fiction (see this list of proposed definitions; my own view is that it’s a family-resemblance concept for which no precise definition should be expected). Some definitions do require that the story’s milieu be different from our own as the result of scientific or technological advances – and by that standard Around the World indeed does not count as science fiction. But at least one popular definition or family of definitions focuses merely on the idea of a story that depends crucially on some point of science – without necessarily involving extrapolation to some alternative milieu. Given that the plot of Around the World turns on the fact that one gains or loses a day when crossing the international date line, the novel thus does count as science fiction by some definitions (geography being, y’know, a science), so the “not a glimmer” line is something of an exaggeration – perhaps yet another example (see here and here) of the bizarre resistance on the part of some Verne fans to seeing Verne characterised as a science fiction writer. At any rate, those who make these pronouncements seem oddly incurious about what the proper contours of the concept of science fiction might be.

I would add that Verne’s Captain Hatteras, generally not considered sf, has even greater claim than Around the World to the category, since it portrays a successful expedition to the North Pole at a time when this had not yet happened, and speculates (inaccurately, but not impossibly) as to what would be found there – thereby turning (unlike Around the World) not just on a point of science but on an extrapolated future development of a science (viz. geography); and similar remarks apply to Five Weeks in a Balloon and Measuring a Meridian. Those who deny it the title of sf are implicitly assuming, I suspect, that the only relevant extrapolations of science are those that involve new technology.

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