Wednesday, 31 May 2006

At last my (surfing) arm is complete again!

Invisible Man
A new biography explores the woman who was James Tiptree Jr
by Carter Scholz
Summer 2006

New book about writer of "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side" (and other stories I've remembered for many years) -
In James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon (New York, St Martin's Press, 480pp), Julie Phillips skillfully elucidates the relationship between Sheldon — her fascinating life and complex psyche — and Tiptree, the man who didn't exist but nonetheless charmed dozens of correspondents and thousands of readers.

In 1921, six-year-old Alice Hastings Bradley traveled with her parents, Herbert and Mary Bradley, to the Belgian Congo and, as she later wrote, contracted "a case of horror vitae that lasted all my life." This was the setting of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and the site of a still-recent genocide — a word that didn't yet exist ... "It was partly from colonial adventure stories like Mary's that science fiction was born," Phillips observes. "The first time Alice saw Star Trek, she recognized it at once as a story about her childhood." The multicultural crew may look like it's been sent by the United Nations, but its gunship could wipe out a planet.

... Young Alice saw the genital mutilation of Kikuyu women, babies dying in the streets of Calcutta, a riot in Shanghai that was the start of the Chinese Revolution. She heard the screams of a man being killed for the cannibal pot. She even saw a crucifixion: "The men had been stripped, tortured, tied to posts, and left to perish in the sun. . . . Auschwitz—My Lai—etc. . . . did not surprise me one bit, later on." Mary wrote that cannibals were "much like other folk," and her daughter, writing as James Tiptree Jr., might have agreed—but her agreement would be based not on cultural relativism, but on the universality of human cruelty, the biological urge to dominate and exterminate.

Phillips's use of the expression "double life" in her subtitle is apt, for there are two stories here. Had Alice never written as Tiptree, her life would still be worth our attention for the milieus it touched, for how it delineates just what a privileged and ambitious woman could and couldn't do at the time, and for its exploration of the extent to which her beauty, social position, intelligence, and ambition created irreconcilable expectations ...
After the war, Alice worked seriously for a time at writing, then complained "I am ... not a civilised human being. I am in this culture but not of it." ... eventually, there was too much unspoken at the heart of Alice's experience that found ready expression in the tropes of science fiction. She had seen cruelty, dominance, and submission as a child; she had served in the war, seen the inside of institutions dedicated to hegemony and power; in the psych lab she and her colleagues had used rats as subjects, another unquestioned power relationship that had disturbed her. (One Tiptree story is called "The Psychologist Who Wouldn't Do Awful Things to Rats.") Now the United States was in Vietnam, Ting was supervising the President's Daily Brief, and science fiction gave her a way to address all of it, without having to explain, justify, or excuse herself. Without needing to have a self ...
When an editor asked if Tiptree had served in the military, the answer was "World War II, yeah, mostly locked in a Pentagon sub-basement"; it wouldn't occur to the editor that the writer had been a WAC. Another time, Tiptree insisted to a correspondent, "I am not, retransmit NOT, employed by CIA." True, but for anyone who cared to notice, the ex-employee called it "CIA" and not, like a civilian, "the CIA."
... A generation of Hollywood SF films has made the material of Tiptree's stories more accessible, and a recrudescence of imperial hubris has made some of their themes more immediate...

Cavalier erotica
- "tentacle porn"
and "wearing underthings on your head"
moves on to
"Ye Elizabethan dose of smut", Thomas Nashe's poem 'A Choice of Valentines,' ( ), and "ye Restoration dose", the Earl of Rochester's 'Signor Dildo' ( ) ... "Tho' the text of the latter is a little different from what I remember."
via a quick mention of Pele's detachable vagina (from Hawaiian myth)


Trojan Nuclear Power Plant Cooling Tower Implosion

[NOTE: There's a long list of other people's youtube videos of this.]
Added on May 21, 2006, 01:53 PM
by drdougfir
21 May 2006 cooling tower demolition at the decomissioned Trojan Nuclear Power Plant.
The tower WAS located on the south bank of the Columbia River about 20 minutes south of Portland, Oregon near the town of Ranier. My dad and I got up on a bluff directly overlooking the tower. We were just a little bit over 0.5 miles away from the tower when it blew.
There's also a bunch of videos of this event from other places too, such as:
Implosion Montage -
Arial View [sic] -
Mark Loizeaux Interview -
Multiple Angles -
Slow Motion Multiple Angles -

Another addition to the Wish List:
The Space Child's Mother Goose
by Frederick Winsor, Marian Parry (illustrator)
... long out-of-print classic [reprinted now]. Winsor's rhyming verses bring a wide variety of scientific theories, thought, and spirit to life.
[W]hat's so good about this book -- the loopy parodies of nursery rhymes? The jaundiced opinions of modern technology? The footnotes in verse, sometimes less than helpful? -- supplemented by a glossary (called "The Answers") that often helps even less? The philosophic fillips? All of those and more.
What impresses me most now, leafing through my battered copy, is Winsor's craft. His verse (as good light verse must be) is spot-on, swift and deft and deadly sharp6. There's a reason many were originally published in The Atlantic. For all this and more, I honour it.

Hamster-Powered Night Light

With Custom Low-RPM Alternator
Though Skippy the Hamster powers this night light by running on his excercise wheel, the same concepts and low-rpm alternator design could be applied to a ... project using different energy sources. A small wind or hydro turbine could easily power this alternator.
[NOT something that could be applied to cat-power. Though putting something into a favourite cushion that could collect napping calories and the kinetic energy of falling asleep <g> might work there ...]

Loading the iPod With Egalitarianism
French Bills Have Firms Singing Blues
By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, May 26, 2006; Page A16
PARIS — Nicolas Paitre, a salesman at one of Paris's largest electronics stores, hears from customers every day.

Filing into Surcouf, a glitzy French electronics chain where Paitre specializes in digital music gadgets, they have the same bewildered looks and exasperated queries: "I can download digital songs from one company, but I can't play them on another company's machine?"
"My hard drive with all my music files crashed, and I can't transfer the songs from my handheld into a new computer?"

Oui and oui again. The legal and technical issues of protecting music copyrights are so complex, Paitre said, that many music lovers "feel stuck in the middle" and eventually are forced into the business of trying to foil the protections on their own.

Now comes France's National Assembly to the rescue, or so claim lawmakers who have crafted legislation to force compatibility between digital songs and the different machines that play them ...

Friday, 19 May 2006

Two Books: Has much changed since Orwell's Review?

The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek The Mirror of the Past by K. Zilliacus

Taken together, these two books give grounds for dismay. The first of them is an eloquent defence of laissez-faire capitalism, the other is an even more vehement denunciation of it. They cover to some extent the same ground, they frequently quote the same authorities, and they even start out with the same premise, since each of them assumes that Western civilization depends on the sanctity of the individual. Yet each writer is convinced that the other's policy leads directly to slavery, and the alarming thing is that they may both be right....

Between them these two books sum up our present predicament. Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.

Both of these writers are aware of this, more or less; but since they can show no practicable way of bringing it about the combined effect of their books is a depressing one.

Observer, 9 April 1944

Sunday, 7 May 2006

The Brainstem Song

The Brainstem Song, from Pinky and The Brain.
Love it: Great (borrowed) tune, 'real facts', good characters; funny as hell. Just love it. This is a link to the place it's uploaded onto,
below I hope is a successful attempt at embedding it so you can watch directly from here.

I don't know if the cartoon "Pinky & The Brain" is known widely here in Australia. I only heard about it from following links related to this one.