Friday, October 28, 2005

The sci-fi stylings of Stephen Colbert

Possibly the funniest thing to come out of The Colbert Report is his awesomely horrible Tek Jansen science fiction series (the "current" book is Alpha Squad 7: Lady Nocturne: A Tek Jansen Adventure). It reads like it was written by an over-the-top 13-year-old who's read too much John Varley. Here's an excerpt:
Chapter 26 - Abraxxia's Gambit

The ethereal harmonies of the laserpipe orchestra echoed off the solid diamond walls of the Galactic Overlord's pleasure chamber. As I slowly made my way through the gyrating throng of human, plasmid, and arachnoid revelers, the arcanite sensors on my integrated detectograph started going haywire. "Just as I thought," I thought. "She's here."

It was another two hundred ticks until I saw her, dancing languidly with a spice runner out of Betelgeuse VII. He was a hulking brute, with a wickedly edged macrosword slung over the back of his metaluminum armor, the kind that would have struck cold fear into the heart of a lesser man. But I was no lesser man. "Mind if I cut in?" I intoned, silencing the smuggler's enraged grumble of objection with a stealthy blast from my deliminator rifle.

"What took you so long?" cooed Abraxxia, her words subtly quavering with the universal inflections of desire. Ignoring my own fierce need, I furiously scanned my surroundings for danger -- she was crafty, and I knew that the slightest mistake would prove fatal. Not just for myself, but for the entire United Alliance. Inevitably, my gaze settled back upon the smooth curves of skin that peeked out from under her transparent holodress. How many rounds of Uranian Megasex would it take before she surrendered the alloy?

Link to video of Stephen reading another chapter - it's a little before three minutes in. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

Merry Fitzmas!

Well, Scooter gets indicted, but Rove slips free... For now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mountains of discarded stuff

Give it a little while to let the BoingBoingers pass through, but once they do, check out this amazing set of photographs.

Sony ad

Featuring hundreds of thousands of superballs bouncing down the streets of San Francisco.
Quicktime Link
Think it's fake? Check out this Flickr set:

Monday, October 24, 2005

Getting real about the Xbox 360

Great interview with Microsoft VP about the new Xbox. Some highlights:
Q: One of my favorite things about the system is that you can plug in your iPod or a portable music player into it, and stream music. Are there any worries that certain companies will update their software to somehow make their systems not work with the Xbox 360?

Allard: You can't worry about stuff like that. I'm pro consumer on this one to the end. Anybody in my company who thought this was a bad idea to plug in Sony or Apple devices into this thing, I ended that conversation pretty quickly. This is the right thing to do for consumers. Once they invest $500 in their digital media library, you can't ask them to go buy a 360 music player and a 360 digital camera, and a 360...NO! They got their stuff. They're going to want to plug it in. We're going to be open here, guys. And if anything, I wish we could be more cooperative with the other companies that are doing those things. And if Sony or Apple were to call me up and say, "Hey, we want to some special things with the 360," I'm on it. I think it would not be in anybody's interest to say, we're not going to work with 360. It's good for them, it's good for us, and it's good for consumers.

Q: Do you think PS3 is still coming out in spring 06?

Allard: I keep reading spring 06. You keep writing it. He keeps saying it, you keep writing it, and I keep reading it. I don't know what to believe. The only console I have seen doesn't have holes in it. You can't have a 200-watt-plus system and not have air flow through it. You know? Nobody has tried the boomerang yet. I hope they do something better than that.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Taibbi on the Dover trial

Intelligent design may very well have been conceived as an end run around the Supreme Court, and in a matter of weeks, it will likely be exposed as such, when the Honorable Judge John E. Jones III rules in favor of Kitzmiller et al. in the Dover case.

But ID is also revealing itself here in Pennsylvania in another form. It's having a coming-out party as a deliberate satirical echo of the great liberal lie of the modern age: the idea that progressive science and religion can coexist.

For a century or so since Nietzsche, popular culture in the West has operated according to an uneasy truce, in which God both is and is not dead. We teach our children the evidence-based materialism of science and tell them they can believe in God and a faith-based morality in their spare time if they like.

And in some parts of the country, we celebrate Scopes as a victory over ignorance, while still insisting that we do not also celebrate it as a victory over religion. What these endless Scopes sequels tell us is that somewhere many years from now we're going to hit a fork in the road, beyond which this have-it-both-ways philosophy isn't going to fly anymore. Is God dead, or isn't he? Are we believers, or not? They know what we think. They just want us to come out and say it.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Bill Kristol can go to hell

So sez Hunter, over at Kos:
These are the Movement Republicans of Fox News, whose talking points are set over their cups of coffee in accordance to whatever the Bush-focused needs of the day prove to be. Deficits are bad, then deficits are good. Espionage against America is bad, except when it's no big deal. States' rights, but never mind. Drugs are bad, except when Rush does it. The Katrina response was fantastic! Iraq is going well! The economy, booming! Cronyism is good!

Blah, blah, blah. Punditry with the predictable pattern and spray of automatic lawn sprinklers. If Iraq has turned into the much-predicted fiasco most observers expected it would, it's because liberals didn't believe hard enough. If the economy is going to hell, it's the fault of the damn American middle class, which needs to collectively get off its quivering, jobless ass and buy a few hundred thousand new cars. And if a Republican commits a crime, it's the Democrats fault for politicizing it.

Daily Kos: The Criminalization of Politics

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What PlameGate really means

Imagine that one day you wake up to the incessent ping of your beeper. It is still dark outside your window, and you slide out of bed, pad quietly down the hallway and try not to wake up the wife and kids, as you slip into your home office and place a call on a secure phone. You are told that your cover has been blown, that your family may be at risk. You have to make instant decisions for your own safety, that of your family, and of every asset you have in the field - and to do that, you have to prioritize which assets are more valuable and which you can afford to lose, if necessary. You have to decide then and there which of the people you cultivated, the ones you promised safety in exchange for information and cooperation, which of them may have to die because you may not have time to save them all.

Why has your cover been blown? Because you work as a CIA colleague of the wife of a man who dared to question the veracity of the President of the United States on a matter of national security, a matter of an exaggerated claim that was inserted in his State of the Union address to bolster his case for war in Iraq. And the President's cronies and hatchet men decided to out this man's wife for political payback, as a lesson to anyone else who would dare to question their decisions and as a means to staunch the bleeding from this initial salvo of criticism. Damn the consequences.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Murry Wilson Tapes

January 8, 1965: The Beach Boys enter the studio to record what will become their second number one hit, Help Me Rhonda. Well into the session, a drunken Murry Wilson (Brian, Carl and Dennis' Dad) arrives and proceeds to commandeer the session with psychodrama, scat singing and weepy, abusive melodrama.


Crazy creepy animation

(thanks, Dano!)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Instant-"age" your wines

Something seems very wrong about this idea, but who knows?
Squirrelled away in his chemical engineering laboratory in rural Shizuoka, Hiroshi Tanaka has spent 15 years developing an electrolysis device that simulates, he claims, the effect of ageing in wines. In 15 seconds it can transform the cheapest, youngest plonks into fine old draughts as fruit flavours are enhanced and rough edges are mellowed, he says.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Bill Moyers explores how to cover enviromental issues

Let's say I wanted to write a piece about the millions of species that might be put on the road to extinction by global warming. Reporting that story to a scientific audience, I would talk science: tell how a species decimated by climate change could reach a point of no return when its gene pool becomes too depleted to maintain its evolutionary adaptability. That genetic impoverishment can eventually lead to extinction.

But how to reach fundamentalist Christians who doubt evolution? How would I get them to hear me? I might interview a scientist who is also a person of faith and ask how he or she might frame the subject in a way to catch the attention of other believers. I might interview a minister who would couch the work of today's climate and biodiversity scientists in a biblical metaphor: the story of Noah and the flood, for example. The parallels of this parable are wonderful to behold. Both scientists and Noah possess knowledge of a potentially impending global catastrophe. They try to spread the word, to warn the world, but are laughed at, ridiculed. You can almost hear some philistine telling old Noah he is nothing but a "gloom and doom" environmentalist," spreading his tale of abrupt climate change, of a great flood that will drown the world, of the impending extinction of humanity and animals, if no one acts.

But no one does act, and Noah continues hearing the word of God: "You are to bring into the Ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you." Noah does as God commands. He agrees to save not only his own family but to take on the daunting task of rescuing all the biodiversity of the earth. He builds the Ark and is ridiculed as mad. He gathers two of every species, the climate does change, the deluge comes as predicted. Everyone not safely aboard drowns. But Noah and the complete complement of Earth's animals live on. You've seen depictions of them disembarking the Ark beneath a rainbow, two by two, the giraffes and hippos, horses and zebras. Noah, then, can be seen as the first great preservationist, preventing the first great extinction. He did exactly what wildlife biologists and climatologists are trying to do today: to act on their moral convictions to conserve diversity, to protect God's creation in the face of a flood of consumerism and indifference by a materialistic world.


"It'll bust your crank and leave skidmarks on your soul"

Thursday, October 06, 2005

In defense of atheism

Sam Harris wonders why
we live in a world in which the obvious is overlooked as a matter of principle. The obvious must be observed and re-observed and argued for. This is a thankless job. It carries with it an aura of petulance and insensitivity. It is, moreover, a job that the atheist does not want.

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