Thursday, 11 August 2016

yestersol, solmorrow

My Modern Met expertly curates a gallery out of the cache of a thousand just recently transmitted from the Mars Recon- naissance Orbiter that really highlights the diversity of the terrain. This dunescape, incidentally, is provisionally called Tleilax, after the fictional planet from the Dune Universe where rogue Mentats were trained in forbidden, machine-like thinking. This alien geometry of the Red Planet is surpassingly beautiful without even considering the unknown forces behind it. Be sure to check out the link to discover more images or explore the entire HiRise catalog.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


gom jabbar: The Guardian features a tribute to the Aquarian coming of Age science fiction masterpiece Dune, fifty years on and examines its legacy, via Super Punch

our castle and our keep: exquisite off-the-grid motor home converts to an enchanted castle at rest, via the enchanting Nag on the Lake

all work and no play: free to download 1998 board game based on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

o double-good: a look into the recent incorporation of milk as a staple food, via Neatorama

mathmagic land: dividing one by nine-hundred-ninety-nine quattuodecillion—nearly infinity—spits out the Fibonacci sequence

Friday, 20 February 2015

among others

I don’t know why exactly I forsook reading science-fiction—although admittedly I did not have much of a literary foundation to spring from. I did read the Dune saga and A Canticle for Lebowitz and enjoyed them immensely—especially as the later was partially set in a post-apocalyptic Texarkana, where I was living at the time, per-apocalypse.

And although I did see the film adaptation of the former first, the story was so big and so well detailed, there was plenty of material left to explore in order to fully limn that universe. I suppose my mistake was in repairing to movies and franchise books that chronicled different aspects of a canon that was no so rich and immersive to begin with. Myth sometimes acquiesces to being frozen in carbonate—and I suppose it was a terribly snobbish attitude to take, not being willing to delve more into the genre, good or mediocre, but I harboured a dislike for the ilk I presumed to read science-fiction, and so probably condemned the whole parnassus, unfairly perceiving a tediousness like I felt for those who subscribed to the whole Che Guevara, peacenik or taoist iconography—movements that surely do not merit the disdain of a bumper-sticker. In fact, I felt a little embarassed to share some of my own proclivities as a loyal watcher of Star Trek, in all its incarnations, or the X-Files. I had, not long ago, a sort of belated wakening, however, when I was introduced to the author Jo Walton, who took my hand with allegory and direct-references through a grand gallery of sympathetic and imaginative writers. I realise that I have a lot of catching up to down, like staring down the exciting abyss of what’s undone and what’s giddily awaiting to be discovered, and began with Ursula K. Le Guin, a godmother of the genre who’s unfailing with her keen philosophic ideas and guarded allegory that’s us—but also something quite elevating.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

slack and dune or totem and taboo

Most know the Dune franchise of Frank Herbert and son popularly from the 1984 cinematic adaptation (by David Lynch no less) and its political struggle to control the production of the spice melange by a cast of esoteric and archetypal characters. As memorable and hopefully piquing as this portrayal is, the battle for control of Arrakis—complete with intrigues that hint at the importance of the commodity and the safe-keeping of the controlling-cartel—the spectacle, I think, pushed the back-story further into the background and left the author's vision and prescience just out of reach. With fears of a robot-holocaust ravaging humanity popping up in the news lately—and from all different directions, it might be worth taking a look back at the saga that was penned in 1965 but tossed into the a far distant dystopia ten-thousand years from now.
Thinking-machines eventually came to see no value in human life, as if our creations once achieving genuine independence and sentience would revere us as gods—humans do not even do a good job at that, despite superstition and other frailties that cannot be programmed—and proceed to exterminate those that they cannot enslave, humans not built of valuable rare-earth metals.  The revolt ended with the enduring dictum “Thou shall not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind,” with many fascinating institutions developed over the eons to compensate for the loss of convenience that the prohibition and taboo brought about. Even if not so heavy-handed as the active destruction of humanity and more the sorrowful decline of creativity, faith and manners, I expect matters to acceleration much more quickly than anyone is prepared for—and certainly before mankind is about to explore the stars. What do you think? I am not sure why there is this sudden, apparent resurgence over the dangers of a robot take-over. Maybe it is due to insecurity over jobs or the imitation of thought that data-mining can execute. No matter how near or far Singularity is, such warnings go unheeded at our peril.

Friday, 28 October 2011


I thought that developments that significantly redress God and Country might be headline news and not just for the governors of the sixteen Commonwealth Realms (The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM, which sounds an awfully lot like the Spacing Guild of Dune, The Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles, CHOAM) that share the British monarch as their head-of-state have together acceded to radically reform laws concerning Royal Succession at a summit in Australia. Deference to males is removed, so the eldest child, whether a boy or a girl, becomes the heir-apparent (absolute primogeniture), which seems like a very reasonable and forward-thinking thing to do to our modern minds but I believe, like the BBC reporting puts it, that our point-of-view masks the real comprehensive (three centuries of the past, present and future) perspective and impact it has. Perhaps equally as sweeping is the change that would allow the monarch and members of the royal family to marry Catholics--though as Supreme Head of the Church of England, the monarch himself is necessarily Anglican. It strikes me as impossible to get one's head around the lifting of this restriction without delving through all the revolts and revolutions of history. Had the Act of Settlement of 1701 never come into force, as the Daily Mail speculates, and all other things being the same (which is deliciously unlikely), then the UK's current ruler would have been Franz, Duke of Bavaria.  The Queen, looking forward to her Diamond Jubilee, suggested these reforms be entertained and has certainly added something more to her considerable legacy.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

kwisatz haderach or struldbrugg

Science maven Maggie Koerth-Baker, a few weeks ago, filed some very clever observations on longevity and the need for people to riddle out a formula or pattern for long, healthy lives--prefacing the dispatch with something to the effect, if a supercentenarian, whilst chain-smoking, eating chocolate, not exercizing, drinking red wine and turnip juice, jumped off a bridge from Okinawa to Andorra--would you do it too... No habit or diet is shared for those who reach extreme old age, though science is trying to fit it to a certain paradigm, but neither is it purely locked up in genetic predisposition.

I think maybe the common-quality lies in attitude, though I am sure it is still the exception or the exceptional that makes the rule. Petty anxieties telescoped beyond their power for harm or for good are surely counter-productive. The Big Think, also a few weeks ago, featured a good lecture, Fear is the Mind Killer (an homage to Frank Herbert's Dune-cycle), about this subject, which I thought triangulated well with prevailing healthy attitudes and stride. The lecture addresses the subtler names for different degrees of fear found in Hebrew. It's true how we give it a name and independent existence with our internal-dialogues, mental-vocalization, like "I'm afraid I'll be late," "I'm afraid I won't make a good impression," "What if I get sick," "What if the money runs out." These little-deaths always resolve themselves, but one does tend to weigh them as clear and imminent dangers. It is no mean feat to stop worrying and maybe a little bit naรฏve dismiss or ignore what's burgeoning, but at least, with the acknowledgement of these little killers, one might also pause to not only name it but also to assess (to mantra-tize it) the damage it could do.