Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bombers Drop Gas Of Peace; War Ends!

Yesterday was H. G. Wells' birthday -- Herbert George Wells, the grandfather of science fiction writing, who wrote the terrifying tale, War of The Worlds, in which Martians suddenly invade our planet with terrifying killing machines such as the one above. The terrifying three-legged machine/creature above, is in fact a sculpture in Woking, Surrey, Wells' birthplace.

Wells lived from 1866 to 1946, his life spanning a period of incredible change in history. The machine-gun had barely been invented when he was born, and he lived to hear the reports of the first atomic bombs being dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War. Even more fundamental a change in human society must have been the internal combustion engine replacing the horse-drawn vehicle: humans had used horses and oxen (mostly) to travel around for thousands of years -- from cart to car was a monumental shift on every sensory level. (Think of the smell of a city in 1880, and I imagine it would have mostly been the smell of animals and their poop. By 1920, cities would have smelt of gasoline and diesel).

Wells has been hailed as a writer who predicted much in science that came to pass. My favorite is that he described in one book how in the future men would leave Earth and land on the moon. Fair enough: he was not the only writer to dream of such a feat. But Wells described a moon mission starting with rockets launched from Florida, as they eventually were...

In The Time Traveler, Wells has his scientist race millions of years into the future, where he witnesses some really weird shit. In Food of the Gods, genetically-modified food is fed to children who figure as helpless victims of science, but who grow to monstrous sizes. The Army is called in, and the children are killed using artillery; I read this one when I was 15 and the sadness of the ending is still in my memory.

Wells was a pacifist and an idealist. In Things To Come, a 1936 film for which he wrote the screenplay, scientists form Wings Over The World after seeing London bombed into dust (the Blitz was four years ahead) and their bombers drop the Gas of Peace causing peace and love, man, peace and love...

And... Wells could write wistfully too, sensing that as so much newness was created around him, much was being lost. Here is the main character of his hair-tonic comic novel, Tono-Bungay, on board a Navy destroyer heading downriver in London, the shores passing by reminding him that all civilizations pass into history and dust:

We tear into the great spaces of the future and the turbines fall to
talking in unfamiliar tongues. Out to the open we go, to windy freedom
and trackless ways. Light after light goes down. England and the
Kingdom, Britain and the Empire, the old prides and the old devotions,
glide abeam, astern, sink down upon the horizon, pass--pass. The river
passes--London passes, England passes...

Monday, September 21, 2009

The High Line in Blue

At night, New York's newest park, the High Line in Chelsea, glows with a cool blue light.

And the locals stroll and saunter by...

Photos by my friend Jim Lynch — thanks, Jim!

Peace(s) In Our Time And Time Again I Told You So Terrible Isn't It?

Life in Northern Ireland is peachy these days, since the peace process made sure that All Violence has now Ended (see above photo from a recent carnival).

Or rather (BBC):

In the latest sporadic trouble, two cars were hijacked in the neighbouring towns of Craigavon and Lurgan.
In Craigavon, up to six masked men forced a man out of his car at the Drumbeg roundabout at about 2140 BST on Saturday. One was carrying a gun while another had a knife.
Twenty minutes later in Lurgan, two men, one armed with a handgun, stopped a woman driving a lorry. One of the men told her there was a device strapped to her vehicle and told her to drive to Lurgan Police Station.
She drove a short distance before getting out and called police, who examined the lorry but found nothing. The lorry was hijacked at a railway crossing at Lake Street.
It is the same area where hijacked vehicles were abandoned on the main Belfast to Dublin railway line on Thursday and Friday, disrupting train services.
Last week, a 600lb bomb was defused at Forkhill in south Armagh, a device which police said had been designed to kill its officers.

Shock News: Bush Was A Jerk

"It would be like putting Camilla Parker Bowles in charge of the Princess Diana Foundation."

A minor flunky from the last days of the Bush Presidency has written a tell-all pot-boiler in which Bush comes across as at best a nincompoop (note: I said he was a jerk in 1999...). Here is a sample:
When White House press secretary Dana Perino was told that 77 percent of the country thought we were on the wrong track, she said what I was thinking: “Who on earth is in the other 23 percent?” I knew who they were—the same people supporting the John McCain campaign. Me? I figured there was no way in hell any Republican would vote for that guy. John McCain, the temperamental media darling, had spent most of the past eight years running against the Republican Party and the president—Republicans on Capitol Hill and at the White House hated him. Choosing John McCain as our standard-bearer would be the height of self-delusion. It would be like putting Camilla Parker Bowles in charge of the Princess Diana Foundation.
And yet. I think Bush was a horrible President, a murderous incompetent (previous incumbents are hardly better, oftentimes, they just didn't come across as such a moron), around whom all sorts of sinister and creepy shit swirled, especially after Sept. 11th. A New York Times column, however, wonders if another verdict is possible: that Bush acted to stop even greater tragedy in two areas — Iraq, with the troop surge, and the collapsing U.S. economy, with the bailout billions — it's just that his actions are overshadowed by the fact that Iraq and the economy were wrecked by Bush and Bush only.

And Now, A Dick Cheney Joke!

Not mine, but here you go:

Dick Cheney was going to last year's White House Hallowe'en Party, and so he dressed up as Darth Vader, and off he went. Then he had an awkward moment: he ran into Darth Vader, who was also going, dressed as Dick Cheney.


Go Shoot Dick

Apparently, Newsweek magazine assigned a photographer to get shots of Dick Cheney, and then took one of the photos and severely cropped it. They then used the photo to illustrate a story about Cheney and the CIA and their heavy-handed interrogation methods.

Here's the original photograph:

(Yes, dear reader! Scream with horror as you gaze upon Dick and some Cheneys at home chowing down!) (Is that a human heart Cheney is shaving?) And here is the cropped Newsweek version, below:

The photographer has cried foul, saying that in cropping the photo, Newsweek is being unfair to Cheney, using an image that suggests he is some sort of butcher? Animal? Even in the cropped shot, Cheney still looks like one of the quaint, kindly and avuncular old gents who taught me at Sunday School.

Am I alone in thinking sarcastically that poor Cheney really needs defending, oh, poor, feeble Cheney needs this photographer to leap to defend him from... what? The charge that he was a total bastard who carved out an unconstitutional fiefdom within the U.S. Government from where he exercised illegal power and influence that resulted in random people being tortured; random people, the torturing of whom, even if they were terrorists, at best extracted no useful information?

And let's not overlook that the Newsweek editors, upon buying the image, could do whatever they want with it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Clever Cellular Phone

The RapidEntry setting on my cell phone does not know useful words, like "fucking" and yet somehow yesterday, while I was texting it created this portmanteau word: Fuckingenue from 'fucking' and 'ingenue.' My fucking cell phone doesn't know the word 'fucking' but it knows 'ingenue'? Fuckincredible!

Above, that perpetual fuckingenue, Mary Pickford.