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What Love Is

14/08/2014

Had an odd twinge of nostalgia / sadness today.  Saw / heard two things that I wished I could have shared with now deceased family members.

The thing that made me feel nostalgic / sad was not that I was missing them for what they had done for me, but because I was missing the chance to do something for them.

Even something as silly and as slight as relaying a cartoon or good news that they might particularly enjoy is a privilege that I’m now doing without.

That, ultimately, is what love is all about:
The desire to do something good for another person, no matter how small, with no thought of reciprocation other than the delight and satisfaction in knowing you helped another human being.

Human beings, being human of course, tend to form their closest bonds to their immediate families / mates.  That’s to be expected, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.  (Indeed, I feel sorry for those who are the products of dysfunctional families, who never learned to love and trust those physically closest to them; may they find peace and happiness and that missing love with others.)
But beyond our immediate familial / blood / mating ties there should be love that extends to others.  First it is those like us in age or interests or community, then it is to those who share our same general values even if they are not immediate neighbors, then our entire country / culture / religion.

But that’s still too narrow a band on love.

Love should extend to everyone everywhere all the time.  This most pointedly is NOT saying that all actions are equally benign, or that all behaviors should be tolerated under all circumstances.

But it does say we are to love our enemies, to love those who despitefully use us, to love those who hate us and do no reciprocate our gestures of mercy and forgiveness and tolerance.

Never return evil for evil,
neglect for neglect.

The writer Andrew Vachss summed it up succinctly:

“Children know the truth.
Love is not an emotion.
Love is a behavior.”

Bill Mauldin one for the enlisted men

“Beautiful view!  Is there one for the enlisted men?”
Bill Mauldin, circa WWII [this is how a military leader
expresses love for his troops; he sees that their needs
are taken care of first, and that he enjoys nothing
they
can not have as well.]

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Lauren Bacall (1924–2014)

12/08/2014

1920x1080_humphrey-bogart-lauren-bacall-HD-Wallpaper

…and in other news, Keith Richards is still alive.  Go figure.

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Robin Williams (1951-2014)

11/08/2014

sad genie

(thanx to Sparky Santos for locating this image)

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Fictoid: So I Says To St. Pete…

10/08/2014

Hieronymus Bosch - garden of earthly delights1

Hieronymus Bosch – Garden Of Earthly Delights

So I says to St. Pete
says I to he
How come
there’s no
gate to heaven?

St. Pete says,
Oh we’ve got the gate
and it works very well.

Understand this life
and the previous life
are like elevators
in a skyscraper.  

Down in the lobby level,
anybody can walk
back and forth, back and forth
between the two sides.

One side is the love others side,
and the other is the love myself side.

Depending on which side
you’re on when you die,
that’s the elevator you take
to the penthouse.

Now, those of you on the love others side,
when you died you came straight up here
non-stop, like a utility elevator: 
Not exactly plush,
but it gets you there.

But if you were on the love myself side,
the fancy elevator takes you to a foyer
just outside the penthouse.  

We have a canned message playing, saying,
“Every thing you think you believed was true is false
and if you renounce it, you can come in.  
Take all the time you want in making your decision.”

Now here’s the thing:  
If you were on the love myself side,
you’re not caring about other people,
you’re wondering how you
are going to get into heaven.

You’re asking yourself,
“Is this a trick?  
Did I really believe
the wrong thing, or
are they just testing me?

“If I do renounce my belief,
and it was a test,
then I’m in hell for all eternity.

“But if they are telling the truth,
and I don’t renounce my belief,
then I’m damning myself to hell.”

You, and the others on this side,
worried less about getting to heaven
than you worried about loving your neighbors,
treating people fairly,
acting justly and
compassionately.  
You have no belief to renounce
because you were doing,
not believing.

The other side,
they’re stewing away,
sweating it out,
wondering which answer is correct.  

And they know they only get
one shot at answering it,
and that answer
will determine
where they spend eternity.

Wellwhat about
the ones to choose,

one way or another?  
What do you do
when they come
through the gate?  

What do you say
about their choice
either way?

Never had that problem.  
They’re so anxious for themselves,
they never get around to making the final choice.  
Every time they nearly convince themselves one way,
they turn around and argue themselves out of it the other.  
Lacking love, they possess only fear,
and fear is what keeps them from entering.

Seems mighty cruel.

St. Pete shrugs.  
Keeps the assholes out.

(c) Buzz Dixon

 

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The Grand Ol’ Space Opry

6/08/2014

Astounding 1931 xx

My previous post on Space Pirate Captain Harlock was sparked by the following comment on film historian Bill Warren’s Facebook page (anything to give me an excuse to watch cool sci-fi movies on Netflix):

Yes, I know this[1] is set in the present, STAR TREK in the future and STAR WARS in the past, but this and almost all space-set movies and TV shows are set in pretty much the same consensus future of spaceships that zip all over the galaxy without any relativity-created time problems; almost all aliens, even CGI aliens, look like humans with different colors and a few glued-on facial differences. Plenty of ray guns/blasters/phasers etc., gravity, air and temperature pretty much Earth-normal. This consensus future was developed from about 1935 to 1955 in published science fiction.

But has anyone traced its development, investigated who introduced what? I presume Doc Smith, Edmund Hamilton, John W. Campbell Jr. (as an editor), Heinlein, Murray Leinster and others were major contributors–but who else? And what did the various writers introduce?

I agree with Bill’s central point:
Most space opera is just naval stories set in space, sometimes with submarines, sometimes with aircraft carriers.[2]

Astounding 1939 11

I’d say Edgar Rice Burroughs and other writers of books like Gulliver Of Mars got the ball rolling in the late 19th / early 20th centuries by telling essentially great white hunter / cowboys vs Indians on another world stories.  Most sci-fi of the classic pulp era (which I’ll peg as between 1920-45) was in terms of plot simply a military or pirate or exotic land adventure story with sci-fi trappings.[3]

Malcolm Jameson’s Bullard of the Space Patrol series drew quite heavily on his naval experience (and to good effect; it’s much better than the typical space opera of its era).  Likewise Ed Hamilton’s Captain Future was (essentially) Doc Savage & friends in space.

Captain-Future-Spring-1944

A certain common language sprang up because most sci-fi devices were analogs of real world devices.[4]  As another post on Bill’s page points out, many of the pulp space opera writers were also grinding out pulp adventure / detective / sea / Western stories for the same publishers.  They quickly developed a set of tropes that casual readers could quickly grasp.

The language and syntax of the genre evolved out of what stuck after it was flung on the walls of the collective consciousness by these pioneering wordsmiths.

But I think attention must be paid to Buck Rogers (which admittedly took a while to get space borne but once it did never looked back)[5] and Flash Gordon, which featured cultures very similar to those on Earth, just ramped up to the nth degree. Those comic strips probably did more to influence what mainstream audiences thought of as “sci-fi” than anything else of the era.

Buck Rogers book cover

Flash Gordon was about a planet that enters our solar system and nearly collides with Earth; once Flash & co reached Mongo pretty much all if their adventures were confined to the surface.[6] The stories became interstellar only much, much later. Buck started on Earth, jumped to Mars and the other solar system planets, then went interstellar after WWII.[7]

The comic strip versions of Buck Rogers and his better drawn / far more badly written imitator Flash Gordon pretty much set the visual look of pulp space opera (albeit Buck often did stories set in space were zero-g was a plot factor).  In this instance I would say it was the failure of ability on Dick Calkins’ part[8] and the failure of imagination on Alex Raymond[9] plus the casual reader’s inability to grasp something they had never seen before that helped shape the consensus universe Bill refers to.

Flash sunday6oct40det

Remember, the pulp publishers were in it for the money only and if it didn’t sell they’d replace it in a heart beat; their writers deserve credit where they succeeded in breaking thru this monetary barrier and introducing genuine imaginative material among all the pulp trope dross.

Special credit needs to be given to editor John W. Campbell of Astounding Stories (later re-titled Analog).  Campbell was a savvy editor who could negotiate the shoals of publishing while protecting and guiding his writers and artists to produce higher and higher quality work.  The shadow Campbell cast on sci-fi of the era was tremendous, and he is one of the single most influential figures in the entire field.

Astounding 1939 07

Astounding, through Campbell and his associated writers, wielded a heavy influence on sci-fi films in the early 1950s.  The Thing From Another World is based on Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”; Destination Moon, while officially based on Robert Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo, was certainly the by-product of Campbell’s editorial crucible; The Day The Earth Stood Still was based on Harry Bate’s “Farewell To The Master” originally published in Astounding; and Forbidden Planet is about the closest thing to a bona fide Astounding Stories movie one could hope for.[10]

Astounding 1939 12

Forbidden Planet looks pretty much like a standard Astounding Stories tale of the era:  Smart writing, super-science, standard space opera gizmos, psionic menace.  Star Trek closes the loop for us.  It certainly picked up on those elements, but not in a way that can easily be traced back directly to Forbidden Planet.[11]

Star Trek is actually not all that far removed from Tom Corbett, Space Patrol, or Rocky Jones insofar as they are all about quasi-military organizations engaged in interstellar exploration and combatting alien menaces; better written and less hokey, to be sure, but I think most early TV space opera plots could be re-written as workable Star Trek episodes.

Astounding 1939 10

And that actually is what ties the consensus space opera universe together, the fact that by the early 1950s the tropes were well established enough for casual TV viewers to easily grasp them, yet at the same time remain serviceable enough to sustain a far more sophisticated series later, finally kicking space opera into the mainstream once and for all.

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[1]  Current popular space opera that shall remain nameless here until the studio that produced it does the right thing to the family of Jack Kirby.

[2]  Though I’d say Doc Smith was lightyears beyond Star Trek and Star Wars in the aliens dept.

[3]  H.G. Wells being the major exception, but even then not always.

[4]  Blaster = gun, spaceship = aircraft / battleship / submarine depending on story, space patrol = navy and / or Texas rangers, etc.

[5]  The novels that the comic strip are based on were yellow peril stories with a Rip Van Winkle twist; Buck didn’t leave the planet in the books and not on the funny pages until the strip had been around for several years.  A nice thing about the comic strip was that Buck negotiated a peace with the Han Empire that had conquered North America, returning American sovereignty while at the same time addressing the empire’s concerns — rather progressive for pulp fiction of that era!

[6]  On the plus side, Mongo is pretty much the only sci-fi planet with different climates, environments, and cultures; everything else tends to have a single planet-wide cultural / environmental standard (case in point, the otherwise excellent Dune).

[7]  The now virtually forgotten Brick Bradford began as an adaptation of When Worlds Collide but quickly abandoned the source material.

[8]  I’ll give a nickel to anybody who can show Calkins ever understood what a vanishing point was.

[9]  Raymond was a superb draftsman, excellent at layout and anatomy, but all his alien cultures looked like whatever movie he saw that week with the occasional ray gun or Art Deco rocket tossed in for variety.  He left Flash Gordon around the start of WWII and came back after the war with the truly remarkable Rip Kirby, a savvy post-war private eye series that stands the test of time far better than Flash Gordon ever could even though it failed to garner the same cultural impact.

[10]  And that’s not counting minor films like Project Moonbase (written by Robert Heinlein) or Dune Roller (based on the short story of the same title by Julian May) from the 1960s, blatant ripoffs like The Brain From Planet Arous (taken from Hal Clement’s Needle) or The Brain Eaters (stealing from Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters and getting caught), or obviously the various movie / TV versions of Dune, all of which were shaped to one degree or another by exposure to Campbell’s school of thought.  Hell, we can even throw in Battlefield Earth into the mix while we’re at it…

[11]  Lost In Space, conversely, clearly did lift a lot of visual inspiration from Forbidden Planet.

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Correcting The Copyright Quandary (Kinda) The Kindle Way

31/07/2014

incorrect-book-1-web

(c) & TM Berke Breathed

While everyone else is talking in circles, Amazon (via Kindle) has taken the first practical steps in solving the copyright quandary.

In a nutshell:

  1. Copyright exists to supply new ideas for the public at large to use freely.
  2. To encourage this, exclusive copyright is granted to creators[1] so they may, for a short period of time, have exclusive control over their creation and profit from it.[2]
  3. However, at the behest of large multi-national corporations, copyright has been extended to ridiculously long periods of time.  Characters, music, and works of art that should be in the public domain, free for all to use, are now locked up tighter that the proverbial frog’s alimentary canal.

Amazon’s 2-step solution:

First, Kindle Worlds.  Essentially authorized fan-fiction.  Creators can take certain existing licensed properties and write their own stories based on them.

So, you say?  Fans have been doing that for years — decades!

True, but now it’s authorized, meaning the writers of those works can legally sell them through Amazon and see royalties from them.[3]

Not the same thing as genuine public domain (there are restrictions and limitations) but it does allow people to spin off ideas from certain existing works.

Second, Kindle Unlimited.  Easiest way to describe this is Netflix for e-books.  Ya plops yer $9.99 down and you can read as many of 600,000 e-books as you can in a month.  Amazon shaves a micropayment off your $9.99 every time you access a title and drops it into the author’s account.

Technically you are not buying the books, you are buying access to them; in this sense it’s no different from an old fashion rental library.

The difference is that you don’t have to schelp down to said library to obtain / return borrowed material; it’s all just a double-click away.

Now, in fairness, not all creators are happy with this.  They view this as Amazon changing the rules of the game after the ball is in play.  They also worry — with some justification — that it might have a negative impact on their revenue stream.

They may be right, but there is also a certain historical inevitability to all this.  Thirty years ago a VHS video tape could cost anywhere from $35 upwards; today you can legally stream any movie you desire for just a fraction of that cost.[4]

Consumers want more + faster + cheaper.

That leaves the last part of the equation still unfulfilled:
How can one limit copyright and return works to the public domain where they belong, yet at the same time afford reasonable protection to individuals and business entities that have invested a lot of money in developing and exploiting those ideas?

I mean, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet re Disney’s abuse of copyright and believe a lot of their characters should be released into the wild, so to speak, but at the same time I don’t want the company crippled to the point where Disneyland closes or new Disney produced works aren’t released.

If I were king of the forest, I would create a few service mark just for this situation:  The Official Version ™.

To use Disney as an example, only they would be allowed to release Official Mickey Mouse ™ media and merchandise…

But anybody else could make a Mickey Mouse cartoon…

And have it look like Mickey…

And offer it for sale (or download)…

It just wouldn’t be the “official” version.

And we creators may know that term is meaningless in terms of creativity, that Disney the corporation never created one blessed thing but always hired artists and writers and composers to create it…

…but nonetheless, people keep flocking to Disneyland and buying Mickey Mouse T-shirts and eagerly downloading the movies and games as they become available.

That imprimatur carries an emotional weight to most consumers, and they’ll gladly pay for the real thing.

(Caveat:  There’s still a big Gordian knot to untangle re derivative rights — if I write an opera based on Mickey Mouse when does it go into the public domain?[5] — but that’s a relatively easy task compared to the challenge of revamping copyright fairly.)

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[1]  Which regardless of what the Supreme Court says, are human beings and not fictitious business entities.

[2]  A form of deficit financing:  Creator takes the risk but stands to benefit first & most if the idea takes off.

[3]  They’re splitting the royalties with the original rights holders, but hey, X% of anything is better than 100% of nada…

[4]  And ironically, big budget blockbusters have bigger & better box office than before, while independent and niche films that could never have won a large general release are finding – or rather, being found by — every member of their potential audience no matter how remotely located.

[5]  And if Disney is still in business when it does, can they then make a version using their Official Mickey Mouse ™ and copyright that?

 

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Those Who Live By The Copyright…

28/07/2014

wonder woman says have a wonderful birthday

Well, this is interesting…

Cory Doctorow reports on a new class action lawsuit aimed at Warner/Chappell music for using their entrenched position as a corporate bully to shakedown creators and demand illegal royalties for “Happy Birthday To You”, a song which has apparently been in the public domain for most of the 20th century.

Y’know, if you or I did something like this,
we would be thrown in jail in a heartbeat for fraud.
So much for corporations being people, eh?

Wonder Woman 
(c) & TM Warner Bros.
‘cuz if you’re gonna rub it in
RUB IT ALL THE WAY IN!

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I Know Who I’d Prefer To Ship Out Of The Country…

10/07/2014

refugees1

It has been pointed out that outrage is no good if it does not point to a viable solution.  For those who might be interested in helping out by taking in children who are in need of foster care, we present the following resources:

http://scffaa.org

http://www.childhelp.org/programs/entry/california-childhelp-foster-family-and-adoption-agency/

http://adoptuskids.org/for-families/state-adoption-and-foster-care-information/california

http://californiacasa.org

http://www.casala.org

Even if one can not be a full time foster parent or an adoptive parent, one can be a child advocate and help out in some way.  Like the story of the starfish on the beach, it may not be possible to help them all, but it will mean everything to the ones who can be helped.

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Unclear On The Concept

8/07/2014

Holly Makes Jesus Sad1

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And As The Snake Whips Around…

8/07/2014

…to bite Hobby Lobby and SCOTUS on the ass…

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt

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