Thursday, January 30, 2014

10 Bizarre, Anomalous Notes

1. I don’t think things like Katy Perry’s demonic Grammys imagery show she’s in league with the Devil, but the oddly-gratuitous and somewhat discordant use of such symbolism in pop and hiphop videos lately does at least suggest that some record execs figured it might be time to recycle some of the old devil-worship aesthetic tropes from 1970s heavy metal.  I’m not convinced it works as well for the likes of Kanye West as it does for, oh, say, Ronnie James Dio here.

2. Devil’s advocate/devil Michael Malice can be found on Reddit at 2pm today discussing his new book, Dear Reader, about the tyrannical Kim Jong Il.  Malice’s dark heart can also be found pining after Disney’s Maleficent as played by Angelina Jolie, but you can hardly blame him.

(And if you want more conventional right-vs.-left figures, I see that tonight at 7:30 the recently indicted Dinesh D’Souza, on his site, will do a debate with former fugitive Bill Ayers.  The real crime, of course, is what’s legal.)

3. Earlier this month I mentioned that despite my ardent skepticism, I must at least admit there have been odd sightings of flying black triangular craft, be they military or otherwise mundane.  There’ve apparently been well-documented sightings in Belgium going back twenty-five years as well.  Beats me.

4. If instead of cautious skepticism, one assumed all the most dire UFO claims you’ve ever heard were true -- and crammed them all into an intense, rock-video-paced nineteen-minute video -- the result would be quite simply the most dramatic video I’ve ever seen...and HERE IT IS (brace yourself).

5. Despite remaining ever the evidence-demanding, materialist skeptic, I’m keeping my mind open by reading the avowedly mystical Ken Wilber’s 1986 book Eye to Eye, which (long story short) asserts that mind, body, and spirit require different methodologies, and half the confusion in Western culture is caused by attempting to address questions from one area with the tools of another (reducing all philosophy to scientific measurement or empirical questions to matters of religious doctrine, etc.). 

Well, OK, I can concede it’s reductive to treat Categories 1-3 as if they are all 1, though I retain the right to question whether we need 3 at all (seeing Wilber do this annoying video doesn’t boost my sympathy, but the book is more cogent so far). 

My friend Valerie Jackson, a product of Brown and Berkeley, suggested reading that book, though she’s not my only acquaintance with some sympathy for Buddhist meditation and the like, with others including my friends Chris Nugent (who ended up a professor of Chinese), Oona Trien, and even Jesse Forgione, an Objectivist you might not expect to be into such things (I wish him luck with his new business venture in capitalistic Orlando -- and with his attainment of true enlightenment, whether Eastern or eighteenth-century style).

6. I suppose as a product of the 80s I am always keen to avoid that decade’s proliferation of quantum-mechanics-abusing science-meets-mysticism vagueness and obfuscation.  Indeed, I question even prominent physicist Roger Penrose’s continual harping on things like the possible role of quantum indeterminacy in the brain tubules purportedly essential to consciousness. 

If the quantum indeterminacy proves the key, so be it, but there’s no question there are people, even scientists, simply rooting for the most ambiguous/mysterious/variable element of reality to prove central in order to add a shroud of beloved mystery to all things, for aesthetic reasons.  Reality could just prove to a be a big, boring, clunky, unambiguous thing when we’re done looking it over.  We have a duty to be prepared for the non-wondrous, too, you know. 

7. Still, as this blog’s “Month of Time Travel” draws to a close, it’s worth keeping in mind the impressive, shifting apparent indeterminacy of our future paths, like Paul in Dune perceiving all possible futures and their rootedness in his present actions.  Contemplate possibilities and stay at least slightly agnostic, I suppose. 

8. The mere ability to contemplate things being other than they currently appear to be is something that naturally unites fans of philosophy and sci-fi, I’d contend (or at least I tried to persuade a New York Press colleague of that many years ago). 

9. Combining those two mindsets may at least help prepare us, like the ethicists at Google, for the coming robot domination of the planet (h/t Anna Nash).

10. And now that I’ve prepared you for all eventualities from robot conquest to spiritual enlightenment, I must (as repeatedly threatened in the past) largely withdraw from the Net for now -- yes, even Twitter and Facebook -- to complete some other projects, but this blog will at the very least be used to link to those from time to time.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

10 Animal-Related Items, with Cyborgs

1. A simple A.I. program a while back “learned” from observation that Internet users love cats.  And Google bought Boston Dynamics, the robotics company that makes those walking Big Dog robots, among other things.  I think there might be potential for a cybernetic cat vs. dog war in the future.  Or at least a “story by” credit for me. 

More likely, Google’s even more recently acquired DeepMind A.I. company will lend its name to the post-singularity super-sentience that ends up enslaving us all.  We’ll see.  Soon. 

2. If old ways are being replaced by new, it’s fitting that a cattle rustler was the first guy arrested and jailed with a drone.

3. Cruelty to animals is not cool, but the violent dog imagery in this old Beat Farmers song, played daily by a radio station in Providence years ago, is comedically essential.  (Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of lead singer Country Dick Montana’s death.)

4. Luckily, cats and dogs can get along sometimes and flourish.

6. Well, they at least enjoy snow (h/t Michael Barnett).

8. But watch out for the “drunk octopus” in the nearby photo (h/t Virginia Vitzthum).

9. Instead, why not buy some My Little Brony action figures (h/t Matt Brandenburgh)?

10. And with this item, Daniel McCarthy says “the Internet is complete.” 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bacardi vs. the State, the State vs. Marriage

As this blog’s climactic “Month of Time Travel” (before turning to future business elsewhere) nears its end, I tip my hat to that century-spanning Bacardi ad that notes the family business surviving both Prohibition and exile from Cuba -- take that, statists of two nations!  

In other news that scrambles the usual right-vs.-left rigamarole (h/t Lap Gong Leong), an Oklahoma state legislator, likely as a prank but constructively nonetheless, has proposed that if the state can’t agree on whether marriage is male/female or (as the feds claim) either-gender/either-gender, Oklahoma should just stop legally recognizing the institution of marriage altogether. 

This is basically the correct libertarian conclusion -- let fully private contracts (not to mention informal but potentially quite hardcore-traditionalist religious ceremonies) replace the unnecessary state-approved-marriage body of law.  Then individuals can have whatever traditionalism or innovation in marriage contracts they like without the whole polity having to argue about the one best way. 

There’s rarely one best way.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Your Movie-Going Plans for 2014 and 2015

I don’t know how far in advance you normal folk plan your movie-going, but an attentive nerd knows the release dates of major sci-fi and superhero-type films about two years in advance, so below are likely nerd plans for this year and next (despite that very brief lull in September and October 2014).

Crucially, this list no longer includes Batman vs. Superman, which has been delayed to 2016.  (Poor DC Comics will have zero movies out over a two-year span in which Marvel may well have eight -- and DC will be newly-relocated to Burbank when it happens.)  If all else fails, Mike Vine notes this entertaining clip of a cat playing with a theremin.

And while we‘re waiting for Gadot -- that is, Gal Gadot, who will play Wonder Woman in Batman vs. Superman (which may also reportedly include Aquaman) -- I see she felt pressured to address her breast size, since some stupid fans complained she isn’t busty enough for the role.  I’m pleased she responded by noting that if she were a traditional Amazon, she wouldn’t even have one of those breasts, given the One Boob to Bind Them All rule they supposedly had.

I’m struck by the fact that this two-year movie period will include new screen versions of robots-gone-amok stories from the 80s or so -- RoboCop, the X-Men-menacing Sentinels, more Transformers, the Avengers foe Ultron, Terminator -- even though these days we could be making documentaries about the real war-robots (like the ones Google acquired when it bought Boston Dynamics) instead of doing these remakes. 

I should also note as the Oscars approach that I saw Gravity three times, including once with my parents and once with what I think must have been the only three people in America who didn’t like it.  I don't think they have much appreciation for the art of special effects, though this might help.

Without further ado, a couple dozen major nerd films for 2014 and 2015 (with release dates).  Marvel ones are bolded just to give you an idea how big the onslaught is:


RoboCop (2/7)
300: Rise of an Empire (3/7)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4/4)
Amazing Spider-Man 2 (5/2)
Godzilla (5/16)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (5/23)
Transformers: Age of Extinction (6/27)
Atlas Shrugged Part III (at least it’s over) (7/4)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (7/11)
Jupiter Ascending (from the Wachowskis) (7/18)
Guardians of the Galaxy (8/1)
Interstellar (from Christopher Nolan) (11/7)
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (11/21)
The Hobbit: There and Back Again (12/7)

(And at some point this year: the Pynchon-based Inherent Vice, Aspie-nerd drama Carrie Pilby based on a novel by my friend Caren Lissner, and, at least on DVD and perhaps in a theatre or two, Mirage Men, about the government faking UFO sightings.)


Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/1)
Mad Max: Fury Road (5/15)
Fantastic Four (6/19)
Ted 2 (6/26)
Terminator: Genesis (7/1)
Ant-Man (7/17)
James Bond #24 (11/6)
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (11/20)
Star Wars: Episode VII (12/18)

(And maybe somewhere in 2015 a third Wolverine movie, suggests Hugh Jackman.)

There’s no compelling need to leave the theatre, really. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Film of a Century Ago, Plus Superman Across Time

YouTube doesn’t just mean more viewing options, it means, of course, that all sorts of things get watched that probably would’ve been watched only by TV industry editors a decade ago, then seen by you only in brief, truncated, stylized form.  Much as we all love cats, I think the most mesmerizing manifestation of this may be all the raw footage from a century ago you can now ogle at length.  The effect, especially with cleaned-up-and-colorized footage, can be eerily dreamlike. 

Here’s Edwardian England at length over a century ago.  I can’t be the only one who starts to feel the beautiful but unnerving reverse-sci-fi sense that “It was real, they were all real” to a much greater extent watching this sort of thing than watching some PBS documentary with a stentorian voiceover.

And in keeping with this blog’s climactic “Month of Time Travel,” here’s an observation I made recently on Facebook about the changing pattern of major events in Superman’s life in the different recent versions of his tale:


Clark becomes Superman

Clark becomes a reporter

then Lois learns his secret


Clark becomes a reporter

Lois learns his secret

then Clark becomes Superman


Clark becomes Superman

Lois learns his secret

then Clark becomes a reporter

In theory, we could still someday do these three remaining variations:

4. secret > reporter > Superman;
5. secret > Superman > reporter;
6. reporter > Superman > secret (It's debatable whether he reported first or became Superman first in the comics, actually, despite what I've listed at the top of all this)

Monday, January 20, 2014


In addition to liberating people from evils like racial violence and oppression by the state, at least some of my fellow libertarians are keen to liberate people from laws enforcing patents and copyrights, viewing them not as extensions of property but as unnatural restrictions on others’ recycling and recombination of ideas.  This view jibes well with the social media era’s love of memes, trolling, and parodies.

People inclined to that anarchist view should love the 80s prankster band KLF (which may stand for Kopyright Liberation Front), and I think their entire epic Wikipedia entry well worth reading.  For a couple decades, I picked up info about them in tantalizing bits and pieces, including their origins in a stage production version of anarchist Robert Anton Wilson’s sci-fi/conspiracy-theory novels The Illuminatus Trilogy and their notorious -- and legally-doomed -- sampling of the entire song “Dancing Queen” for an album that they were subsequently court-ordered to destroy.

The libertarian impulse comes in forms both anarchist and bourgeois, though, and back around the same time that I (and some of my favorite peers, it turns out) were reading Robert Anton Wilson in college, I was also getting to know straight-laced future architect Dave Whitney, who I finally saw (after a few weeks of wondering) in the teaser sequence at the end of the episode of This Old House that aired (at least in NYC) on Saturday, January 18 – so he should figure prominently in the next episode at the very least, working on the “Arlington Italianate” house project in Massachusetts being featured for several episodes of that series. 

Dave’s not just an old New England stick-in-the-mud, though.  He’s also the guy who told me about strange artist/architect/poet Madeline Gins, who recently passed away, for instance -- not to mention numerous punk bands.  Perhaps history will see it all as part of a broader nerd culture (and if so, perhaps someday the extremely clever song “Nerdy Boys” by Candypants will be elevated to its rightful place in the musical firmament). 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Guns N’ Roses, Kurt Cobain, and Pearl Jam 20 Year Later

This Friday will mark twenty years since January 17, 1994, a grim anniversary for Gen X rock fans.  For it was twenty years ago this week that the main phase of Guns N’ Roses’ career effectively came to an end, with the release of “Estranged,” their final non-cover-song single. 

If you don’t mark the occasion by taking a short ten minutes out of your life to rewatch the epic video for the song, not only are you likely a bad person, but you’ll be missing the politically-relevant SWAT raid in the video’s open, symbolic references to Axl’s divorce, his unsubtle attempt in the video to commit suicide by leaping off a real oil tanker, his rescue by dolphins, and of course Slash rising from the sea playing an electric guitar.  If you don’t love this video, in some sense I hate you. 

(On the other hand, given that all the band members are millionaires, you’d think they could have hired someone to avoid the typos in those fake dictionary entries that appear at the bottom of the screen explaining what “Estranged” means.)

My college cabal (mostly comedy-writing libertarians, if you can imagine such a thing) loved G N’ R, and like the rest of the world, we would have to wait fourteen long years after “Estranged” to hear truly new Guns N’ Roses songs, in the form of the so-so Chinese Democracy album that Axl spent a decade mixing and remixing to no great avail.  And without Slash.  Needless to say, without Slash, it ain’t really Guns, man.  Remember that video where he rose out of the ocean playing his guitar?  Dude, that was awesome.  Well, if we instead count “Estranged” as their real finale (Spaghetti Incident and the like notwithstanding), we can almost say they ended on a high note.

Oh, and I suppose if it’s been twenty years since “Estranged,” April will mark twenty years since our youth ended with news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and November marks twenty years since the Republicans took over Congress and launched the recent epoch of pretending to reduce the size of government.  But mainly: “Estranged.”

Lest I sound like I’m slighting grunge, though, know that I watched a lengthy VH1 documentary about Pearl Jam recently, and it convinced me that Eddie Vedder is as nice, shy, and likely insane as Cobain was, climbing fifty-foot scaffolds without a net back in the day and performing the world’s most dangerous stage dives into the arms of complete strangers in flannel.  We’re lucky we didn’t lose both men, really. 

Watching the documentary during a visit home to Connecticut, I learned my Dad somehow hadn’t heard of Pearl Jam -- but then the same conversation taught us I’d never heard of the song “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks.  And as if these feats of Boomer and Gen X ignorance weren’t shocking enough, I met a millennial bartender at DuMont Burger in Williamsburg once who never heard of, as she put it, “Eddie Vee-der?”

Probably best I stay out of that youth-infested ’hood for a while -- but I enjoyed last night’s Empiricist League science lectures in Williamsburg, will replace the debates I hosted at Muchmore’s with something else cool somewhere soon enough, and encourage you to gawk at all the hipsters over there once in a while in the meantime.

You know, I once overheard two of them, no doubt in their twenties, trying to deduce in their youthful info-fog whether Joe Jackson was the father of Michael Jackson.  How soon the culture forgets.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cato, Critical Review, Hayek, and the Empiricist League

•Thanks to the Coalition to Reduce Spending (and Jonathan Bydlak and Corey Hubbard), I got to see a Cato Institute luncheon yesterday that included not only a P.J. O’Rourke speech and the joking introduction of David Boaz as the thinktank’s “Dear Leader” but an encouraging talk about their new police misconduct tracking project, a valuable reminder that libertarians are interested in all government overreach, not just the kind that annoys a few millionaires, despite what the left may say about us. 

•Volume 25 of the libertarian-leaning political philosophy journal Critical Review contains articles (in issue No. 1) noting that some of the fundamental philosophical issues libertarians wrestle with also came up in medieval theology, such as whether things are good because we (or God) will them or whether we (or God) desire them because they are good.  Sounds like baffling semantics, but your answer might affect whether you think freedom is valuable as an end unto itself or whether it is merely instrumental to ends that could in theory be achieved by other (perhaps welfare-statist) means. 

Another article in the issue, by Jeppe von Platz, identifies Murray Rothbard as the source of the view sometimes expressed in libertarian circles, as baffling to me as it was to Robert Nozick, that even if you have complete self-ownership, you do not have the right to sell yourself into slavery.  I can see objecting as a matter of mere semantics to this use of the word “slavery” -- you’re really just a very lowly long-term employee, in some sense -- but surely self-ownership means you could even sell yourself to cannibals if you so chose, at least as a legal matter, if not necessarily an advisable or moral life choice.  Don’t tell me I can’t be a slave if I want to. 

Lest talk of profoundly degrading jobs make it sound as though libertarians foresee or desire a populace laid low, though, know that another article in the same issue, by Kevin Quinn, addresses Adam Smith’s view that what we’d now call the multiplier effect of education -- indirect benefits to the broader society from individual consumption of education -- might warrant state subsidies.  I think Smith’s friend Hume better understood, though, why things that are important and that should be vibrant should be the last things entrusted to government -- indeed, Quinn says Hume mischievously argued for state-run religion on the grounds that it would tend to sap religious enthusiasm.  (Anglicanism may have proven him correct.) 

The wider academic world, of course, is far more social-democratic in orientation than the above musings, and issue No. 2 of this Critical Review volume tackles democratic deliberation, particularly the (darkly amusing, really) observation by Diana Mutz that despite most political scientists assuming that political deliberation is a good thing and that partisan rancor is a bad thing, it appears that the more tolerantly people listen to others’ views, the less interested they are in participating in or paying attention to politics -- it’s the partisans who participate most, dismiss foes most readily, and know the most political facts.  Apathy or combat may be our only realistic options (I have an argumentative acquaintance who’d heartily agree). 

The issue layers on other reasons to be pessimistic -- or at least unambitious -- in one’s hope for democratic politics, including:

(1) the fact that sometimes the most important political phenomena are ones so complex and so easily misunderstood that even a tiny amount of bias may lead to them being radically misinterpreted (Richard Robb argues that no one really foresaw the Financial Crisis in any detail -- and that you can’t really blame them, based on extrapolations from previous history -- but that doesn’t stop people claiming they could have prevented it),

(2) the obvious bias even within the recently-popular practice of publicly “fact-checking” articles after publication,

(3) the current lack of good political norms for dealing simultaneously with the need to express one’s own view and get along with everyone else (though I am optimistic that in the long run online squabbling will actually make people better at this and make it harder to maintain uncommunicative, monolithic “us vs. them” thinking, just you watch),

(4) the related difficulty of motivating one’s political base and appealing to moderates at the same time,

and (5) the dangerous tendency for the establishment to present certain solutions as neutral ones -- and as politically-neutral forms of civic engagement -- that no one should be fighting over (such as many big, foundation-supported, philanthropic crusades).

Given all those difficulties, I’ve concluded, of course,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Progressives, and the Unpopular de Blasio

I mentioned Obama advisor Podesta yesterday.  His Center for American Progress has been criticized from the left for its corporate ties, but those ties, like Obama’s, are pretty much what Progressives anticipated a century ago when their political tradition began.  They wanted an intimate embrace between a big central, regulatory state and major corporations, fused into a single establishment.  I mean, sure, the idea was vaguely that the state would be all virtuous and make the corporations behave well, rather than things becoming incestuous and power-broking, but that was never very realistic. 

And we can distinguish that tradition to some degree from liberalism (mainly concerned with rights) and the left (mainly concerned with redistribution and social power), though there’s all sorts of complex overlap. 

To the extent we can distinguish Progressives as a subspecies (and sometimes we can -- terrifying 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton carefully clarified once that she is a Progressive, not a liberal, for instance), they’re an arrogant breed, doing things like opposing charter schools (even while posing as the guardians of high educational standards), mocking interracial families (so long as it’s done in the right way -- they gave us eugenics and anti-immigration law, after all), selectively denouncing conservative ties to Israel but presumably not minding when one of their heroes like Mandela learns terror tactics from that country, and in general loving the exercise of technocratic authority (a bit like Obama creepily fantasizing about how much he could accomplish if he were more like Kevin Spacey’s homicidal politician character on House of Cards). 

At least their attraction to technocracy means they may notice managerial details that fuzzier-minded liberals and idealistic leftists might overlook, as with Rachel Maddow drawing attention to the possibility that Chris Christie’s bridge-closing tantrum was inspired more by a press conference than by an election (I never much liked him anyway, tantrum-thrower that he is, and think Rand Paul’s the closest thing to an acceptable 2016 candidate, though no one’s perfect, especially politicians).

An important, dangerous legacy of the Progressive impulse is one that may prove a fatal strategic flaw, though.  With their (well-meaning) conviction that their form of civic engagement is really just centrist, commonsensical, and reasonable, they have a tendency to continue thinking of themselves as an unassailable establishment even when they are turning themselves into marginalized partisans in the eyes of much of the population (I’ll revisit that topic next week in an entry on Volume 25 of Critical Review, which, in looking at topics like sovereignty, democratic deliberation, and Hayek, touched on Diana Mutz’s observation that the intellectuals tend to think large, centrist-sounding, rich, philanthropic political enterprises are nobler forms of civic engagement than grubby partisan politics and even in some sense apolitical -- which, I’d add, explains why some of those Ivy League aristocrats are dumbfounded that anyone could possibly disagree with them -- “Who doesn’t love the Ford Foundation?” and so on). 

But a reminder that they can be dangerously out of touch: they’ve been cheering (social democrat) Mayor de Blasio’s election as a bellwether, rarely noting that despite his alarming 73% of the vote, he won with a record-low voter turnout of only 24%.  Even in New York City, the masses are not that impressed with their Progressive managers.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bigfoot Tomorrow, UFOs (and Obama advisor Podesta) Forever

Well, the long-awaited day has come: Tomorrow at 10pm on Spike is the premiere of 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty.  As some of you know, I was alternately intrigued and embarrassed about being intrigued last year by the way paranormal claims have evolved recently under new media pressure. 

I’ve considered all that stuff nonsense for thirty years (admiring science-based debunking magazines like Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer, which you should read).  And I would contend no new evidence of value for any paranormal claims (including God) has come forth in the era of social media and sensationalist cable TV -- on the other hand, I was tempted to write an article last year about how new media, especially YouTube, had changed belief in such things in ways one might not have predicted. 

For instance, you’d think the ease of posting video might simply kill off all such claims, since everyone now (basically) has to put up or shut up in an era of ready cellphone videos.  On the other hand, believers have now become adept at reading evidence of Bigfoot into even the blurriest of videos. 

But the epistemological tango does not end there, since even the believers have become prone to making sarcastic jokes online about their weariness at looking at so many inconclusive “blobsquatches.”  Call me irresponsible, but on balance, I think the newfound ease with which people can drift back and forth between the believer and skeptic communities is probably a good thing, limbering up some minds on both sides.  The believers definitely need to learn the basics of skepticism, but we skeptics could do with a lot more education about why some things have more persuasive power (yes, even to smart people) than other things. 

A climax of sorts was reached last spring when the Bigfoot people released a much-touted documentary that was supposed to unveil a Bigfoot carcass once and for all -- and of course failed, with one of the documentary’s stars ending up derided as a two-time hoaxer (one who is still at it, since he will appear on Bigfoot Bounty, as this article explains).  He all but says -- and you almost can’t blame him -- that he’ll keep doing this if people are dumb enough to keep letting him.  A bit like Lucy with the football in Peanuts. 

I predict Spike will end up not having to give away their $10 million bounty to anyone, and their blog about the show has barely been updated since it was launched over a year ago with a promise of Bigfoot updates.  Just as the unclaimed $1 million-plus prize from the James Randi Educational Foundation for any proof of psychics inclines me to believe there are no psychic powers, the likely unclaimed Spike bounty should by rights put an end to Bigfoot claims -- though the skeptic should never allow himself to move so far from agnosticism as to be blindsided if something really weird happens.


Around the same time last year’s Bigfoot documentary came out, coincidentally, the UFO believers gave it arguably their best shot by releasing a documentary called Sirius based on the so-called Disclosure Project, which encourages military veterans in particular to come forward in whistleblower-type hearings and video interviews to tell what they (think they) know.  Ultimately, no smoking gun (and an apparent tiny alien corpse shown in the film and admirably subjected to scientific scrutiny at a Stanford genetics lab may just be an aborted human fetus) but an A for organizational effort. 

(On the other side of the debate, sort of, I am also intrigued by the documentary Mirage Men, due on DVD in April, which alleges that far from covering up aliens, government has been subtly encouraging belief in them to distract the public from stealth technology tests.)

I spent three decades (yes, even back in high school) discouraging Disclosure-type efforts as largely a waste of time, but I can’t help thinking, just tactically, that the next step for the Disclosure Project probably ought to be putting pressure on new-minted Obama advisor John Podesta, an ardent advocate of UFO information disclosure by the government and chairman of the influential left-wing thinktank the Center for American Progress.  (He also dislikes the Sequester budget cuts, but I doubt any left-wing comedians will be doing jokes likening resistance to budget cuts to belief in aliens.  If I had to pick, I would call advocacy of UFO disclosure the wisest of his positions.  I wish I were joking.) 

As for me, conscious of the fact that government workers are wrong with great frequency, I cannot put too much stock in even the most riveting tales told by Disclosure Project interviewees (and I readily admit some of them sound very convincing, intelligent, and above all martially-efficient in their accounts, chock full of radar jargon and everything).  However, in my admittedly far sloppier way, I have come up with two favorite accounts (in the sense of almost giving a skeptic doubts) amidst all the paranormal claims (I know of) made online.  Both are UFO-related, and I have not seen a scrap of persuasive evidence for any Bigfoot, ghost, psychic, God, demon, or for that matter UFO abduction story:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

14 Time-Related Items to Start ’14 (including Jeffrey Tucker)

I’ve resolved to do less blogging, Facing, and tweeting this year (aside from plugging new projects) but should wrap up this phase of blogging history and transition into the next with a climactic “Month of Time Travel,” that is, items that blend past and future in revealing ways -- like steampunk but less annoying.  Here are 14 short items of that sort to launch ’14.

(It’s a good time to think about time travel, what with this odd research having just been published about combing the Net for evidence of time travelers.  The researchers found nothing, so to enjoy time travel you’ll have to look to fiction, like this altered finale of Star Trek: Voyager someone went to the trouble of editing that excludes the romance between Chakotay and Seven.  Regardless, it holds up well -- really, rewatch the final ten minutes if you haven’t seen it in a decade.)

1. Some will recall this blog started around late 2006, just after GOP lost Congress for turning the Arab world into the sort of unstable region where, hell, Fallujah might well end up controlled by al Qaeda eight years later for all we knew -- but it was still prior to the Financial Crisis, which is when my thinking really began to (subtly) change and I increasingly found myself sympathizing with radicals instead of the quit-your-complaining bourgeoisie. 

To really understand my personal evolution in the preceding years, though, the thing to do may be to read the “Retro-Journal” entries I started writing about a year after the blog launched, explaining everything that had happened since high school up to that point.

2. As if war cheerleaders like William Kristol weren’t reason enough to distance oneself from monstrous neoconservatives (as opposed to libertarians, etc.), just in the past few days (for example), I’ve seen (1) formerly pot-smoking David Brooks lament drug legalization on the grounds that drugs don’t reflect his adult sensibilities (but then, so does paleocon Pat Buchanan), (2) hissy-fit-prone John Podhoretz accuse me of having a “personality disorder” and urging me to “get help” for pointing out (accurately -- and efficiently, given that it was one short Facebook comment) ironic parallels between the thinking of the Unabomber and science-wary David Gelernter, and (3) Peter Wehner write a piece on the future “conservative” agenda (on the site Podhoretz edits) that emphasizes the importance of not being anti-government. 

Why can’t these people just go get their own movement and/or party and stop deforming conservatism, the GOP, and libertarianism?  They’re worse than liberal-tarians. 

3. As you read passages like Brooks’ about government being a subtle, nuanced tool for “tipping the scales” in favor of virtue, do remember that his Orwellian notion of “self”-government actually means giving more power to government agents like these dolts who recently deliberately destroyed rare bamboo flutes (new-made for sometimes ancient genres) during a customs inspection.

4. It’s enough to make even a right-leaning mind greatly sympathize with, say, wacko liberal Bill Maher ranting about LSD back in 2011 (h/t Rob Szarka).  Maybe now’s a good time to admit I’m newly fascinated by the recurring hallucinations of shiny “machine elves” many DMT users have reported -- not that I’m saying they exist beyond our sometimes surprisingy-similar minds.  Nor does the ghostly orb one of my relatives saw on the night another relative died.  Probably. 

5. For a more consistent, across-the-board celebration of freedom than Maher’s LSD rant, though, check out Jeffrey Tucker’s libertarian essay collection Bourbon for Breakfast (thanks to Ooana Trien for the loan). 

Tucker’s arguably something of a “paleo,” with his appreciation of the civilization that preceded our statist wrong turn, but he is a reminder that it’s best to ditch any association that term might once have had with Buchananites and to move forward in an unapologetically anarchist-libertarian fashion.  The Mises Institute veteran and founder of is notoriously one of the happiest-seeming lovers of liberty you’ll encounter.  Instead of just grousing about the government, he celebrates all the little everyday victories we can achieve over unfreedom. 

Unless you have a heart of stone, you will smile your way through essays about things like how to undo the government-mandated low-flow restriction on your showerhead (something just foisted on me a few weeks ago after over a decade of being a tenant who had barely ever had any maintenance done on his bathroom, aside from that time part of the ceiling fell in, and thus not drawn the attention of flow-altering supers).  Without urging readers to break the law (which would itself be illegal), Tucker expresses glee not only at the ease with which you can take a screwdriver to that thing but also the ease with which one company, for a time, got around the regulation on gallons-per-showerhead by simply selling multiple-showerhead attachments. 

Tucker also shares my dislike of shaving cream, having discovered years ago, as I recently have, that you can just as easily shave without it and thereby simplify your life (this may put us both at odds with author Alexander Rose, who convinced me buying expensive fancy shaving accouterments and such was the way to go). 

He likewise tackles the potentially divisive issue of intellectual property not with frowny-faced arguments but with cheers for the ease with which old, otherwise easily-forgotten authors can be kept alive if the copyright lawyers can be kept at bay.  He jokes about the sad but logical outcomes of IP such as professors who forbid students to use the ideas they learn in class (on pain of lawsuit), which would seem to defeat the point of learning.  There has to be a better way. 

He offers frequent proof that optimism about markets and pessimism about government tends to make one prescient, as in 2006 when he wrote (criticizing the whole idea of government “cyber-security”): “If experience is our guide, the government in a position of authority is more likely to be creating viruses and spyware than stopping them.  As for the impact of the law, I vaguely seem to recall some legislation passed a few years ago that made spam illegal.” 

He can draw similarly useful lessons from experiences