Anders Monsen

Lost worlds and ports of call

Month: July 2008 (page 1 of 2)

Mucking about in Drupal Again

I’m exciting about new potential project dealing with sf reviews online. The structure will be based on Drupal, an open source CMS driven site that uses PHP and MySQL. I looked into Drupal a little over a year ago, built a small site and test-drove the application. Nothing came out of that effort, but now I have some incentive to take another look. I download version 6.3 (it was 5.x when I last tried), installed it and now I need to a refresher on all the aspects of Drupal. Time to stretch the brain.


I finally saw the movie WALL-E. I like almost everything Pixar has made, even their older short films. I regret they are so tightly connected to the Disney corp, which is an entity that has forgotten how to make good movies. Much has been made of WALL-E‘s attack on consumerism, and the irony that WALL-E and EVE merchandise is everywhere – buy, buy, buy! I went with my five year old daughter, so I tried to watch it from her perspective as well. The lack of dialog, which I thought would be problematic, did not hinder the story.

There were some sf inside jokes that she didn’t get (ie. the auto-pilot’s resemblance to HAL), but the movie snagged her on an emotional level since she expressed great concern for the fate of WALL-E, asking fearfully if he would be restored to his “old self” again after being crushed on the Axiom. She also asked about all the garbage on the planet and why the people were so fat, but whether the director and writer was trying to make a political point, or just contrasting humans with robots, I’m not sure. Life in space does alter bone structure, but the humans 700 years later certainly looked and acted a lot like American tourists at DisneyWorld. (News stories about over-weight people in other countries usually terms this an American-like problem.)

I did wonder about Andrew Stanton’s lack of understand of economic reality and theory, if he thought that one company – Buy n Large – could take over the world through consumerism. Was this a veiled attack on Wal-Mart? Success does not always sustain a company, and who knows if Wal-Mart will exist some years from now. Also, not every individual is a slave to trinkets, though they are often shiny and tempting.

I also wondered how the humans could be surprised when their screens vanished, and yet still procreate. Did the space ship artificially implant the women and deliver the babies without anyone catching on? Still, it was an entertaining film, very touching, and certainly one of Pixar’s better efforts. I always wonder how they pull it off. When I watched the previews for Finding Nemo and Cars, I thought, “Who could make a movie about fish or talking race cars?” But it worked. I ought to know; I watched Finding Nemo 200 times or more after my daughter got hooked on it, and we thought DVDs were better options than TV shows.

This has to be a freakin’ joke

I often glance through The Libertarian Enterprise, an online newsletter published by L. Neil Smith and edited by Ken Holder. In the current issue one contributor by the name of Michael Bradshaw riffs on a letter to the editor from Victor Milan, and so I read the hole thing. A few paragraphs into the article I had to carefully lift my jaw off the table. Is this person advocating murder as a strategy for achieving liberty? I think Milan’s original letter nailed the issue: too many libertarians are focused on the so-called Libertarian Party, and political campaigning such as the recent Ron Paul movement. Instead of reasonable discourse, Bradshaw instead calls for “sacrific[ing] the state. Literally. On an altar of fire” through killing political leaders. I am staggered that TLE actually published this stuff, as murder and violence never advances liberty. I abhor the loss of liberty throughout the world, but I certainly don’t consider John Ross’s Unintended Consequences or Vin Supryniwicz’s The Black Arrow as manifestos for liberty. I am no pacifist, for I believe in self-defense, but assassination politics is still politics and better left to professional criminals. It is also insane and completely without ethical grounding.

2008 Prometheus Award Winners Announced

Breaking with tradition, the Libertarian Futurist Society yesterday announced the winners of the 2008 Prometheus Award for best novel published in 2007, as well as the classic fiction award (what used to be called the Hall of Fame). None of the five finalists consider themselves libertarian, from what I understand, but the LFS judges and voters (I am one of the latter) found enough pro-liberty content in the novels to declare one, no wait, two books the winner. Jo Walton’s Ha’Penny and Harry Turtledove’s The Gladiator tied for the award, which is a first in LFS history. The awards will be presented at the 2008 WorldCon in Denver. At the moment the time for the presentation has been set for 14:30 on Wednesday August 6th. I am in Colorado that week (mostly in Colorado Springs) and plan to be there in the audience that day.

As far as my own votes, I placed Jo Walton first, followed tightly by Ken MacLeod’s The Execution Channel. I think I had Turtledove’s book third or fourth, as I found his writing style somewhat simplistic, even for a juvie.

The classic fiction award went to Anthony Burgess for A Clockwork Orange. I have seen the movie, but not yet read the book, so I did not place it on my ballot. I have been trying to find the book in used book stores around town, but so far no luck.

Depressing Books

I’m currently reading one of the most depressing books ever published, Anne Applebaum’s account of the Russian Gulag system. Entitled simply Gulag, this detailed history covers virtually every aspect of the camps, from conception to dissolution. Many years ago I read Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow, but Gulag covers a more insidious aspect of Soviet history. An aspect few Westerns remember or seem to care much about, or appear to excuse as merely trivial.

The 20th century may well have been the bloodiest and most brutal time in human history, though perhaps I say this because I came of age in that century and thus I am more aware of the detail of atrocities committed by humans against their own kind in those well-document years. I know this has been the case since time immemorial, but I still stand in shock and despair every time I read of such events. The 20th century is full of such instances, such as the Holocaust, the terror of Pol Pot, the rape of Nanking, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The list goes on and on. If I ever feel miserable about the state of political events in America, I can always turn to books like this one; nothing here is tough compared to what the early Soviets suffered. Nothing.

RSS Restored

It appears this feature dropped in my transition to Blogger’s new layout settings, or fumbled the transition somehow. I think this now should work once more.

A massive tome

Recently I ordered a new Michael Shea collection, The Autopsy and Other Tales, from Centipede Press. This has to be the biggest book I have ever owned. It measures 11 and 1/4 inches high, and barely fits in my tallest shelf. Sadly, it is not the complete collection of all his tales, but sometime after the next issue of Prometheus I plan to write a review of this book and will see if I can send it off to some sf review site or publication. It’s a fairly expensive book and I wish Night Shade or Subterranean had done a smaller collection at a more reasonable rate, as this would have reached a wider audience.

Love/hate iTunes Store

I’ve been an iTunes fan since the moment it was released. I used SoundJam prior to iTunes, the app that apple’s software was based on originally. I have all my CDs in my iTunes library, have gone through three of four different iPods over the years, and used to buy lots of stuff from the iTunes Store. My current iPod has almost 10,000 tracks, the vast majority ripped from my eclectic CD collection. I thought for a while I would stop buying CDs, since I now could find almost any album I wanted for $9.99 or less (sometime more). However, since January 14th 2008 I have not bought a single song from the iTunes Store, and am resisting out of a matter of principle. I bought an album a couple of days earlier: The Stars at Saint Andrea, by Devics. For the first time since I had listened to a song on the iTunes Store, I experienced several poorly encoded songs. I contacted the support staff to report a problem. They credited me for the five songs that clicked and hissed, and reassured me that in a matter of weeks the problem should have been corrected. Now, six months later, nothing has changed. Until those songs are fixed I will continue my resolution to only buy music in the forms of CDs, and also only buy them from a local, independent music store. Perhaps I should consider Amazon or eMusic.

I’m also peeved that Apple still has many DRM’d songs. Plus, I wanted to get Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, which is the only Radiohead album I don’t own, but refuse to buy anything that is tagged in bright red as Explicit. I could not believe it when Apple did this with some Lloyd Cole songs I bought a couple of years ago. A nice way to kill interest from customers.

I’d rather still be buying stuff from from iTunes, and me staying away will not affect their bottom line, but I did write an online review warning people to stay away from this album until the issue is fixed.

Cool iPhone app

I don’t own an iPhone.I think it’s a neat device, though over-priced for my modest needs at the moment in terms of cellular communication. Still, I saw Shazaam! in action last week, and that might be enough to make me buy one of those sexy critters. This app allows you to pick up the names of songs being played, just by pointing the phone for a few seconds at the audio. Worked fine in my car, but the background noise at Chipotle drowned out the same attempt there. Maybe that’s just a cute toy affect, but it didn’t help that 70% of people I was around at the conference last week had iPhones. Peer pressure…

Mind abuzz

I just returned from a week long developer conference in Phoenix, Arizona. I hesitate to state what type of development, as multiple areas were covered. I returned quite exhausted from lack of sleep, but feel rejuvenated and inspired. Many ideas are competing for time in my head at the moment, and I think the next few months will be quite busy. I am going to try to juggle editing Prometheus, this sparse site, and a myriad other projects.

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