Television Dreams

I grew up outside of Elmira, Ontario an area known for its old order mennonites. Old order mennonites are much like the Amish and reject 20th and 21st century technology. They get around by horse and buggy, have no electricity in their homes, and their churches are called meeting houses.

I went to school with some of them. The males leave school at 12 years old when they are considered to be of prime working age to work on the farm. Most of the females leave at the end of grade 8.

As non old order mennonites, we laughed at this rejection of technology and culture. If I were a boy, I would always have worn dark trousers with suspenders and a white shirt with a dark jacket and possibly a straw hat. All the girls wore flower print dresses and had their hair down in two braids, one for each side of their head.

But our culture was different. We could do anything we wanted with technology the height of which seemed to be television and the telephone. Sure there were things like answering machines but only Jim Rockford had one of those. And at the end of the seventies, video arcades were just starting. But television ruled supreme as the dominating technology that whiled away more hours than anything else.

So we laughed at the mennonites who didn’t have this window on the world and were stuck with only toys and games from the 1800s.

Television showed us many things but a lot of shows passed by us almost unknown. There had to be a hook that got to us somehow. Stalwarts like Happy Days and Little House on the Prairie entranced us. Who wouldn’t want to be the Fonz, able to fix anything with the proper hit of the jukebox or motorcycle.

And we loved following the adventures of Laura Ingalls in her twin braids hung down with her flower print dresses. People from that time used to get around by horse and buggy and that too was a draw. She must have lived in a finer time because she had adventures every week.

It was fascinating watching these kids who would use only toys and games from the 1800s. Despite all our technology, we couldn’t help but dreaming about colonizing the American prairies.

How could we explain this all to our friends, the old order mennonites? Having never watched Little House on the Prairie or any television for that matter, how could they understand? I imagine that the suspension of disbelief for this show might have been too much for them.

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Title Mining is Strong in Imagine Dragons

For their first album I wrote a post to show how every Imagine Dragons song on their first album had a title that had been used earlier. As a control, I compared it with a Kate Bush CD which also had 12 songs. She only had 2 unoriginal titles.

Well for their 2nd album Imagine Dragons’ first release had an original title: “I Bet My Life.” It was followed up by the singles “Shots” and “Gold” which at first glance from me were original titles till I looked further down the list of Duck Duck Go matches.

These singles on Smoke + Mirrors were no where near as popular as the songs on Night Vision according to Vevo counts on Youtube. I think Imagine Dragons lost a large proportion of the pro title mining crowd. Scared of the unfamiliar titles, fans either didn’t buy or didn’t get the word out to the rest of the public. Some are quick to say “Sophomore jinx” but I think Imagine Dragon fans just love title mining.

Their latest album “Evolve” had a first single called “Believer”. Why just a couple years ago American Authors released a single with the same name. So it is obvious to everyone that the title was mined. Currently it has two and a half times the number of hits on Youtube as the most successful song on their second album.

And I found no less than three other songs on the album that have been large hits before. Rise Up was a big hit for Parachute Club in the eighties, Dancing in the Dark is a Bruce Springsteen classic and Yesterday was one of many big hits by the Beatles.

Sure there are 3 tracks on the 11 track album whose titles might be unique: Mouth of the River, Thunder, and Walking the Wire. It’s just that Thunder and Walking the Wire have many similar titles making them seem unoriginal, too. Maybe Imagine Dragons don’t want to alienate fans of their sophomore album with its more original titles. Still, the vast majority of songs used title mining. So I bet they are going to stick with that. Really, its like cutting off Sampson’s hair.

But I have a challenge for Imagine Dragons. Artists gave up a long time ago on having totally original song titles. But there seems to be less freedom for the artist in coming up with album titles. In fact, I can’t name any two albums that have the same name.

I dare Imagine Dragons to do this. Perhaps it will be an easy thing. They could use an unoriginal title of one of their songs for their album’s name. That way they could be doubly title mining for both the album and song. If they do this, I bet they will become the premier rock band of our time.

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In Search of Justin Trudeau’s Middle Class

It’s a question I had often wondered about but never found by my own thoughts. So I started to ask it out loud.

First of all I know that I am not a part of Justin Trudeau’s middle class. I’ve watched his announcements and pronouncements and he often says he is helping the middle class. But he has never helped me so I simply cannot be part of his middle class.

So I’ve begun asking people, “Are you a part of Justin Trudeau’s middle class?” Most are perplexed by the question and answer “I don’t know.” So I go further and ask, “Has Justin Trudeau ever given you a helping hand?” Most times I get the answer, “What? A politician help me? Ha ha ha!”

So I continued my quest and question. I’ve also gotten the assertion that, “Of course I’m part of the middle class!” But then I ask if Justin Trudeau has ever helped them and most say, “No, no, I only help myself. I’d starve to death if I’d have to rely on politicians.”

But the odd person is insistent. “Yes I am a part of the middle class. So I must be part of Justin Trudeau’s middle class, too.”

“But has Justin Trudeau ever helped you? That’s the definition of Justin Trudeau’s middle class.”

“I don’t know, but he must have, then.” Most have clenched teeth at this point.

The quest to find Justin Trudeau’s middle class would have continued for I don’t know how long, until I had a brainstorm. I checked the provinces’ Sunshine lists of those civil servants making over $100 000 per year. I started trying to contact these people. I contacted a few. Half didn’t know but the other half said “Yes, I believe I am part of Justin Trudeau’s middle class for I have received some minor help from him.”

The trend was more obvious when I matched salaries to those in the know. Justin had helped the richer ones on the list.

It was as obvious as my middle finger on my hand. “Middle” is a vague word. To qualify, the middle class could easily be defined as having a salary somewhere between $200 000 per year to $49 151 064 per year or less than E. Hunter Harrison makes courtesy of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. E. Hunter Harrison could be the lone salaried employee in the upper class.

To confirm, I checked Justin Trudeau’s policy and followed some of the governmental moneys spent. So I am now convinced that Justin’s middle class is exactly as stated above. My only problem with this is how could he exclude E. Hunter Harrison from all this largesse without inviting him to scream “Discrimination!”? Then I had it. Justin never said he wasn’t helping the upper class, too.

So now I think I have found Justin Trudeau’s middle class. Neoliberalism calls for neodefinitions.

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The 6 Basic Characters and the 5 Basic Settings

If you have delved into writing for any large degree you must have come across the idea (or the book) that there are seven basic plots. Now I am not going to tell you what these seven are (some have even said there are only two – tragedy and comedy), but I will tell you that this angers me. I mean when you over generalize to make something very complex very simple, it strikes me that much meaning is lost.

But I am not going to argue that there are more than seven plots. Instead I am going to argue that there are only a limited amount of characters and settings, the two other big areas in writing, to bring out your ire just as the seven plots brings out mine.

I would also like to say that I do this because many writers “specialize” in character because they think all plots have been done before. I also point out the limited settings because, I, as I have posted before, like to say I am a setting based author. So this exercise will annoy me as well as others.

Don’t laugh at the first category of character. You would be mistaken to say that that is the only character that is ever used. The first archetype of character is the “human”. Yeah you wince at the broadness of this category as many authors stated goal is to bring the character’s humanity to the written page. But enough. We are all humans and know what a human is at this point. So this is the first and most obvious category.

The rest of my 5 6 categories of character are: alien, robot or computer, godlike or near godlike, animal, and lesser magical creatures. That’s it. And I feel that the rest of these 5 6 are largely self explanatory for a human like you.

I bet you are thinking, well of course he has it down to 5 6 categories of character, since he uses such a broad stroke. Well you’re going to say the same thing again when I introduce the 5 categories of setting. After that perhaps you’ll understand my anger when someone says there are only 7 plots.

The first setting is “earth” which prior to the last couple hundred years seemed to be the only place to represent many, many stories. But even then there was some attempt to buck the normal. Some stories took place in heaven or hell so I’ll just call the second category “the divine”.

As far back as Keppler’s day the other world or the exo planets, planets, moons, asteroids or comets category was born. Basically anything that was hard and had gravity.

Weird science fiction has pushed things further, saying that stories are possible in gas giants or stars (or even life can be stars) or neutron stars can have life or do something to life, and what stories are possible near the event horizon of black holes. These categories are ridiculous but fertile.

The last category is free fall, or any situation where gravity doesn’t enter the picture.

So there you have it the 5 Categories of Setting and the 5 6 Categories of Character. Think on that and the whole idea of overly broad categories.

I myself will pick 7 stories with the different plots and read them to young impressionable people. Then, when I am done the 7, I am going to say “Enough! I have read you all the basic plots there are. I have shown you everything you need to know.” Then the young people will be jaded know-it-alls. They will fit in our post-modern world where everything is really just modern.

If they try to get out of my trap by mentioning “well at least there’s character and setting” I can wow them with the fact that combined with character and setting, there are still only 175 210 (7x56×5) possible stories, and anything else is just randomly mixing characters or settings in the 7 basic plots.

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SETI: Dumb Isn’t Dumb

SETI is of course the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligences. Now I have no problem with listening for interstellar messages. That actually seems prudent and quite bright. But earthlings should only listen and never speak. That is, we should never send out our own messages to extra terrestrial intelligences.

Why not? Some might ask. Maybe they’ll teach us things with two way communication. Well first of all they may teach us things without our input so we stand to get something while giving away nothing about ourselves. Now that’s a win. I say we must never give away more. Why? Because even a cursory glance shows us as being violent bastards.

No alien is going to want to give us the cure for all of our current power woes. Say they know how to get nuclear fusion done cheaply and efficiently. What might they think we might do with such power? Why when we invented nuclear fission the first thing we did was take out Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Cheap nuclear fusion might be enough to take out a continent or a world. Clearly we aren’t fit yet to have cheap nuclear fusion.

Maybe they’ll give us the plans for a starship. And let humanity spread its violence out to other worlds.
What did whites do when the New World peoples of earth showed weakness by dying of Old World diseases? They repopulated the areas with whites as the new majority. The whites even showed that they knew it at the time. Remember those stories of giving infected blankets to North America’s indigenous peoples?

Maybe we wouldn’t be so violent with intelligences that are unlike us. But usually on earth that has made us more violent and likely to lash out. Neanderthals were less like us. What happened to them? It looks like they were wiped out by people. Perhaps we can claim ignorance on this one – it happened in prehistory.

But just look at all the genocides on ‘the other’. The Armenian genocide, the holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Bosnian genocide and even currently – the genocide of Yazidis, the list goes on and on. Is a xenocide so unlikely by humans? Especially with the ‘proof’ of the missing Neanderthal.

If I were an intelligent alien, I would never, ever give humans more power than they can amass on their own. By the way if you’re a science fiction writer, why not write the truth – a far future where humans invade another race’s territory for, well, their territory? This constant lie of aliens invading Earth has a foundation in what humans expect of a higher power.

I suspect that intelligent aliens lie low. Maybe they settle a small area of nearby habitable planets. But they lie low and protect themselves from the violent filth that exists in the rest of the universe. Like humanity.

Still, humanity can listen. Perhaps some race of intelligent bunnies has evolved without predators. So perhaps there are some truly good hearted intelligent aliens. Before they travel to us and find out our true violent nature, they might send us directions to improve our lot in this tough universe.

Let’s just hope that after we don’t hunt down those intelligent bunnies for sport.

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The Thousand Year Connoisseur

There is no doubt that becoming an expert takes a lot of time and effort. To become a connoisseur is almost like becoming an expert’s expert. There is a lot of knowledge involved – look no further than the wine connoisseur who can tell what type of wood the cask has been made of as well as a hundred more little details that are important to them about the wines they consume.

But is the connoisseur as accurate as a scientific analysis of the wine? For some properties I’m sure the science is better. But if we limit the scientific analyses to only the short time that the connoisseur takes in determining flavour, perhaps both are as accurate as each other.

But let’s say the connoisseur hones her skill over a millennium. Might she not become as reliable as all the scientific tests that could be done on the wine? Of course no human lasts a thousand years so all this is just speculation. Unless we are talking about vampires.

Do vampires care about wine in the slightest bit? Probably not but there is one thing a vampire tastes week after week, year after year. That is the blood of a human.

Can they taste blood sugar levels, or any other levels a lab might want to know? I am guessing but I think after a thousand years of feasting on the substance they might know all about a human’s blood readings – even things we haven’t developed tests for yet.

We should hire some of these creatures of the night to work in all of our blood labs. I believe the vampire can perform the needed tests right away without all the time that scientific testing needs. So it’s a win for the humans. Maybe they’ll be able to lift the requirement that the humans fast before certain tests.

And the vampire gets all the blood she can drink just for being scientific in her expertise. Warning. This might lead to overweight vampires that might not live so long. Still, I imagine they would make a quite happy 800 year old corpse when they check out of their comfortable life.

So let’s make friends with these creatures of the night. We can give a little blood and they can help our health system.

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Why Do Extreme Right Wing Authors Glorify the Left?

Robert A. Heinlein was an extreme right wing author with his assertion that he was libertarian. Some of you may correlate libertarians with liberals but there is no real connection. Libertarians largely believe that the government should provide a military and little else to its citizens. This largely puts them in the same camp as the Tea Party in the US.

This is very much at odds with the family values of the main family in Have Spacesuit – Will Travel. The protaganist is a space loving teenager but his father almost steals the show despite not being that present in the story.

The teenage son at one point goes to the spot in the house where his father places unneeded money. Since there is none there, the son knows from experience that there is none to be had and asking his parents would be useless.

This communal money reminds me of a political system that starts with the same letters. It basically is an example of “from each according to ability, to each according to need”. That’s right. It is an essential tenet of communism that the family operates under.

Orson Scott Card is a more recent extreme right author. He was on record as saying essentially, that if the government adopted gay marriage, this meant that the government should be overthrown. Now, to be honest, no one really followed up on Card’s threats so how bad can he really be? Still his extremism is obvious to almost anyone who sees Card’s political rantings on the net.

In the Ender Series (his most famous work), Ender is confronted by two possible xenocides. A xenocide is of course the complete extermination of an intelligent species. The first xenocide is actually committed since the “buggers” attacked Earth and finally Earth (with Ender’s military skills) pushes back so much that these intelligent aliens are exterminated. Except for the Hive Queen who Ender spirits away with the hope of letting her live out her life and resurrecting the buggers.

In the book, Xenocide, Ender takes up the cause of the “piggies” and the rest of their planet that has a dangerous virus that is important for that ecosystem. But humans want to wipe out the planet to stop the virus from ever endangering human life again. Ender chooses to fight and to stop the xenocide.

Now Ender has reasons to allow the two xenocides. The buggers never once negotiated and just wanted to exterminate humans. Why not commit a genocide against them?

The second xenocide and destroying of a planet could have been allowed to go ahead without resistance, and humanity would be spared a very dangerous virus.

These two examples of softness in Ender remind one of a socialist. Always looking out for someone else even if it makes the socialist’s life worse.

I think I have proved that some extreme right wing authors have strong left wing themes. I think there is one simple reason for this. These right wing authors don’t want to appear to be very mean or small minded. They don’t want people to be afraid of socializing with them. So they use the left.

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Be Careful Little Mars

Fragile is a classic album by the band Yes and illustrated by Roger Dean. The front of this cover has an idyllic looking miniature world with a “wooden” spaceship with jagged edges and curved wings flying above and is pictured at the link. This spaceship was dubbed “the moorglade mover” by Yes. The back of the album shows the moorglade mover further along its route and the planet blowing up.

It is my contention that the moorglade mover is responsible for the planet blowing up. It dropped a bomb or did a death stare with a third eye or some such. The important take away from this is that the moorglade mover survived and the planet did not.

Now I admit it is quite the stretch but look at the picture of the satellite/space probe MAVEN that is at this link. At first glance it is nothing like the moorglade mover. But it does have the jaggedness and curved wings of that fictional craft. And it is such an odd shape for a space probe. Maybe you believe it is an innocent space probe; the type NASA likes to regularly send to interesting places. I don’t believe that for a minute.

Think about it, what if NASA sent an unsterilized space probe to Mars? Then that was followed by rovers that are searching high and low for signs of life. Well what if they find life and it turns out to be Earth life. NASA would do almost anything to miss the blame for that one. Including…blowing up Mars to hide the evidence.

It is my belief that MAVEN will destroy Mars soon. NASA deliberately left clues like the moorglade mover and the Fragile album cover. Have you ever seen a space probe that looked even remotely like MAVEN?

They’ve finally done it. One button push could destroy the Earth. They will prove it with Mars. Fragile indeed. NASA wants Russia and China to quake in their boots at the might of the mighty USA.

You can ignore me and my ranting about this. Just promise me you will change if and when Mars is no longer there.

As for the improper sterilization of a probe, I believe it was Viking that did this in 1976. It was not an idea in the general public at the time that we should try not to interfere with alien life. But after Star Trek: The Next Generation came out and preached and preached about non interference, it was realized that Mars probes really ought to be sterilized so no earthly life could overwhelm any Martian life.

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Shhhhh, Prince Harry

Prince Harry just let loose the thinking in the current British royal family. As it turns out, no one wants to be king but they are willing to do it anyway, out of some warped sense of duty. Aren’t we lucky to be in the British empire and to have such dedicated members of the royal family?

Really I think Princes Charles and William are just doing the long con on Prince Harry. Blech! Power! It is such a dirty word and why would anyone ever want it.

Although the evolution of the British royal family has been toward less power, there is no guarantee they won’t reverse this trend. Or better yet, say they don’t want to be king as a negotiating strategy to get more power when they are to be kings.

Then with real power they can guarantee that the power stays in the “proper” bloodline, via direct eldest descendants. ie. QE II, Charles, William, George. And if 5th in line to the throne (Harry) ever objects, it is off with his head or whatever form of death the British royals favour.

Aha! Now I know why Harry just blindly accepts the word of his father and sibling. If he were to question it would look like he believes his father and brother would lie to him and thus have no qualms of offing him. So shhhh, Prince Harry, and keep yourself alive. It’s unfortunate that you have to look so gullible while doing it but that is the price of princedom.

In case you were wondering, Harry is fifth in line to the throne and the order of succession is: Charles, William, George, Charlotte, Harry. Then as George has children, Charlotte gets pushed back like Harry before her. Just in case you were wondering. It sucks to be the baby or middle children in the royal family. You never attain the power of the eldest in your family.

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Dysing Dystopias II

Dystopias can largely be thought of as a series of setbacks for the protaganist, none of which are significantly overcome. This is the problem of the dystopia for me.

Setbacks can be thought of as the machinery of plot. The protaganist wants something and if s/he just gets it right off the bat there is no plot. So a setback must occur. It could be one gigantic setback or a series of them.

Indeed, if your novel is too short, perhaps only novella length, then just add a setback or two to try to stretch the story out. You wouldn’t be the first author who did this.

The first setback could be overcome. But remember this is a dystopia so probably the first setback is a loss. Which leads to the second setback. This also likely a loss. And on and on it goes in a dystopia.

It is common in more positive fiction to overcome the first setback. Then it is on to the second unforeseen setback. Which is also overcome. The story can rise to the biggest setback and thus the climax. I know some people are down on happy endings. But I am never down on a happy ending that forces a new solution to the protaganist’s problem.

And that is the thing. New solutions to each problem or setback forces the author to think more and actually solve problems. It is my contention that it is easier to write dystopias. Failing is always easier than passing. This is one of my main problems with dystopias.

Oh sure, the better authors of dystopias can now do cutesy things with their extra time. Like a dystopic government could call the Ministry of Ongoing War, the Ministry of Peace which gets the author irony brownie points.

But I am not so easily won over. Figure out how to solve problems, dystopic authors, or you lose my attention. That is if you can even get my attention while writing a dystopia.

It is my contention that writing dystopias are easier. All you might have to do is list problems. This will always strike me as easier than listing problems and also solving those problems. You will not win me over to the praising of dystopias side. I remain committed to the more positive types of fiction. Especially my favourite one, Sensawunda science fiction.

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