Category Archives: Uncategorized

Free Speech Movement ends where it began

Actually, there never really was a “Free Speech Movement,” other than using that name. It was started in Berkeley in the ’60s by radicals. I’m sufficiently jaded that I can’t imagine them having supported Barry Goldwater’s freedom of speech. He may or may not have needed special protection to speak back then, but he certainly would today, and groups like this would be the reason.

In any case, it would be funny to think that it ends with Milo Yiannopoulos. His own Berkeley speech was cancelled last night due to a riot.

The linked article blames “black bloc” anarchists. That’s where a group wears masks and black clothing to make it more difficult for the police to identify and prosecute.


Here is such a group in 2007 Seattle: You obviously can’t say they oppose censorship. You can’t say they oppose torture. You can’t even say they oppose slavery.

You can’t buy this kind of publicity.

‘Loving Vincent’ van Gogh

Via art-site ThisIsColossal.com, here is the trailer for ‘Loving Vincent,’ a film animated by 62,450 oil paintings:

There’s a second video at the link that shows how they did it: First, using actors, then CGI for the background, and then 115 painters to actually put each frame on canvas.

The movie itself is about Vincent van Gogh, who I imagine would have appreciated this effort. They used 94 of his paintings to write the story.

They have a website here.

Movie poster peeve

Two movie posters with pictures of their casts, but the castmembers’ names are out of order:

Zoolander 2

Sisters

Shouldn’t Amy Poehler’s name be listed above her picture instead of above Tina Fey’s? There isn’t a single actor/actress on the Zoolander poster who has their name above them in proper order.

Admittedly, almost no one would care about this, but it gnaws at the multitudes of OCD-tendencies I have in me.

Why would the designers do this? The actors’ contracts surely include something on billing order, but you might also guess they’d see some value in having their own name associated with their face. How would you like to be an actor on his way up, or down, then your big show-biz break comes up, and your name isn’t beside your face on the poster? Apparently, this is not part of the discussion.

It’s tempting to think there’s some subliminal advertising technique at work. Some of you may remember Vance Packard’s book The Hidden Persuaders. But I’m going to assume the guy who designed the picture had one idea, the lawyers already decided what the order would be, and nobody cared if it didn’t match.

Lawyers probably don’t have OCD anyway.

A Kindle deal

(Sorry! Link to this special deal disappeared after just a few days.)

I saw this and had to comment: Kindle + Kindle Unlimited for $99*

“The all-new Kindle plus 6 months of unlimited reading.”

As the link shows, they have a similar type of deal for those who want a different device, like the Paperwhite.

I’ve got three comments:

1. It looks like a great deal.

2. The six-month plan indicates that Kindle Unlimited will be around for a while.

3. It could change people’s reading habits. It will be easier to pick up a book by a new author knowing that you could drop it half-way through. It would almost be like going to the library.

If you’re not familiar with Kindle Unlimited, it’s normally a flat $9.99 per month for access to over 700,000 titles (including my book, of course).

* P.S. Look closely before you buy: The price was $99 when I first wrote this post. It dropped $20 for Black Friday but now it’s back to where it was. It may have changed again by the time you’re reading this.

P.P.S. Kindle Unlimited obviously isn’t for everyone. You’ve got to read or listen to audiobooks a lot, and enough of those books need to be in their library for it to be useful. If you’re already a member of Amazon Prime, then you’ve already got access to a book from their lending library every month.

They’re always out there

They’re always out there but now is the time of year when you’re more likely to assume that a message from FedEx is really from FedEx.

It may really be a virus.

You should always look closely at the web links attached to your email before you click them.

When it looks like this: http://www.fedex.com@ajax11a.cz/arrival/ it may look like it’s at fedex.com, but it’s really at ajax11a.cz. That “@” instead of a “/” makes all the difference. (BTW: I made up that URL, and am assuming there’s nobody there.)

Scammers may also have a correct-looking link with the “/” displayed in the message, but have the “@” in the actual link.

It pays to be extra careful.

The Big Three’s “Big Three”

It’s notable how many of us niche SF writers cite “the big three” as influences — meaning Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. Wikipedia even lists them as one commonly referred-to trio.

Count me as among those who’ve been influenced. I would have cited those three together long before I had heard the grouping. Back then, I’d soon broaden my horizons to include Ray Bradbury, Mack Reynolds, Ben Bova and others (pausing here, both because there are too many to list and because there are too many to remember), but the same big three were always The Big Three. The school and public libraries contributed greatly to my SF re-education.

Who were the big three’s big three? I don’t know, but I’m guessing that H. G. Wells would surely be one. Wells was a highly influential public figure even in the 1940s.

I mention H. G. Wells twice in One Thousand Years. For example, when my character Sam McHenry cites “The martian invaders of H. G. Wells.”

The more interesting reference (to me), was when McHenry says, “Atomic weapons are real, although different than H. G. Wells described.” It’s a bit of an obscure reference, but it wouldn’t have been quite so obscure back in 1944. McHenry was referring to The World Set Free.

That book depicted atomic weapons as having the blast of a conventional explosive, but continuing its explosion for a long period with a half-life of 17 days. Okay, so Wells was wrong about that. But keep in mind that this was published in 1914. It was the first novel about nuclear war, making it well worth a read if you’re fascinated by early science fiction.

H. G. Wells almost made a third reference in my book. The starship Göring was almost named Vaterland, for the Germans’ dirigible flagship in The War in the Air.

There is so much more to say about Wells, but I should save that for another day.

Jules Verne must be another one of the early Big Three. Nobody should be surprised that I might say that. I’ll leave it there for now.

Who’s the third? (There’s no reason there has to be a third, other than that we have the phrase “the big three.”)

It’s hard to single out a third author with enough science fiction to put them on the same pedestal. Not Edward Bellamy (although Heinlein must surely have read Looking Backward); not Jack London, who’s better known for other things; and not Edgar Rice Burroughs, who some would argue went too far into the fantasy side of things. As important to me as Barsoom was, that’s an important point. (I’m well capable of arguing against that point, but that’s also for another time.)

Stanley G. Weinbaum is close, but he came too late to qualify, having published in the 1930s. It’s likely that our big three read his work, and it’s certain that he influenced the field of science fiction before they could take up the plow. I would take him out of the running only because of the date, if reluctantly so. Much of his work would have coincided with theirs if he hadn’t died so early.

Not everything comes in threes. But if you haven’t read Weinbaum — and if you are interested in early science fiction — then you should start here.