Monday, November 24, 2014

20 Links for My Hiatus (including my last podcast)

1. While I remain mostly offline to do some ghostwriting, hear Gerard Perry and me interview libertarian sci-fi author turned DIY filmmaker J. Neil Schulman (and listen to future podcasts by Gerard after I exit said podcasts and a few other activities). In this episode, you’ll also hear us touch on Star Wars, immigration, Kevin Sorbo, Marvel, Interstellar, Theory of Everything, Leo Strauss, Citizenfour, Nightcrawler, and Hunger Games 3A.

That last film is delayed, possibly permanently banned, in authoritarian China and Thailand. In the latter nation, people have been inspired to use the Boy Scouts-like salute from the film as a sign of rebellion -- a sign the government there has duly outlawed. In the real world, mind you. JLaw: better than real law.

2. You can also catch my (now former) cohost Gerard on the Hispanic affairs show Tiempo this coming Sunday at 11:30am, if you get New York City’s ABC Channel 7, talking about immigration.

3. Of course, Washington Post didn’t even want you watching SNL question Obama’s executive actions on immigration, so if you watch Gerard, they really won’t be happy. (I’m more Neo than neocon, really, ultimately wanting “a world without borders or boundaries.”)

4. Maybe I’ll come back to the Net and to frequent political commentary myself around the time that recently-probed comet reaches perihelion: August 13, 2015.

The real news on that, it almost seemed, was the feminist overreaction to one comet scientist’s shirt. Naturally, the writer who started the ruckus was a young, liberal, vulgar (she was the one who immediately called the scientist an “asshole”), Brooklyn-dwelling female -- sparring not with ogres of the patriarchy (as she and many other young lefty females imagine as they try to “improve” tech culture) but merely with a rockabilly-loving, tattooed UK female shirt designer. If rockabilly is right-wing, I don’t wanna be left, so to speak.

But the swift reaction against the feminists was pleasing. America has spoken: feminists are wrong (and, in both their female and male form, are a mere 20% or so of the population, by the way, so their whole pretense of speaking for the oppressed majority of the human race is no longer convincing; the other 80% of the populace kinda likes the whole two-genders thing).

5. Gerard also draws my attention to a recent debate at Brown over rape and feminism. Since one debater was libertarian Wendy McElroy (hardly a right-wing social conservative -- more like a near-pacifist, aging-hippie, Canadian porn advocate, and I don’t say that as an insult), the campus practically had a mental meltdown, and the administration felt obliged to schedule a more homogeneously feminist event at the same time. Such is the state of rigorous debate among the Ivy League’s fragile minds.

6. But then, you can’t even take a ride in an Uber cab these days without a psychotic hate-campaign being directed against you, either by feminists or cab-union supporters, stirred by the (far-sleazier-than-Uber) Paul Carr and his evil hangers-on (the left almost prides itself on its ability to go into a mindless, hateful tweeting-frenzy these days).

7. On a brighter note, Rand Paul (who reportedly may announce his presidential candidacy in April and is already seen as a peacemaker between libertarian, Tea Party, and mainstream GOP factions, which is good) did a fine job during this month’s midterm elections of trolling Hillary Clinton, noting as the various candidates she personally supported lost.

8. Let us hope, then, there is some truth to this odd but intriguing report of his inevitability as a nominee.

9. Speaking of odd but intriguing reports, this isn’t a bad retort to the book I recently blogged about and called the closest-to-persuasive thing I’ve seen arguing some UFOs remain extremely baffling.

10. But if you want to try seeing alien humanoids in a universe that may not have other populated planets, you could just take the drug DMT, described (along with circus people) with incredibly poetic enthusiasm by Terence McKenna here. But the girl in the NeuroSoup video series says: don’t inject it anally, the way she did.

11. If she routinely does things like that, I hope she doesn’t end up raided by cops, like this family of homeschoolers.

12. It’s easy to look the other way when marginal populations living out in the boonies get abused, but even my old East 20s neighborhood is full of stranger beliefs and rituals than you’d think, apparently, like these folks who believe they’re Aryans from the Moon or Atlantis or something.

13. Speaking of odd beliefs, maybe Gerard’s best option for a future cohost is this man right here.

14. Or if Gerard continues our habit from the past several months of reviewing films, he can certainly look forward to visiting weird worlds next month, since December brings films inspired by Pynchon, Paddington, Tolkien, Sondheim, and of course Kim Jong-Un.

15. Or we could all just watch this trilogy of squirrel videos...

16. And how a transgression therein...

17. ...leads to vengeance.

19. Or if those leave you dissatisfied, jot down my list here of the Ten Essential Nerd Movies to See in 2015 (I’ve left off the less than perfectly confidence-inducing Jupiter Ascending from the Wachowskis, which comes out in February, but the rest of this impressive lineup begins in May):

Mad Max 4
Jurassic Park 4
Ted 2
Terminator 5
Ant-Man (NOT a sequel or reboot!!!)
Fantastic Four 4 (sort of)
Bond 24
Hunger Games 3B
Star Wars 7

Oh, if we could wean ourselves off sequels and remakes and episodic franchises -- but we can’t. So start the next episode. (Movies are the new television.)

20. But before all that, to stay, like, cultured and stuff, I’ll read Mark Twain: A Skeptic’s Progress, a short book on Twain’s growing doubts about religion, imperialism, and other things as he aged. I sympathize.

And I’ll be back with some sort of new episode of Todd stuff eventually. Apologies for any missed optional business meetings, dates, social gatherings, etc., etc., in the interim. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Republican Party’s Eight-Year Learning Period, My Eight-Year Blogging Period

You can chat with me in person about the thoughts below by joining me at Langan’s tomorrow night to watch (or at least discuss) the election returns.

By contrast, as of this writing, for reasons unknown and likely boring, I am apparently banned from the building across the street from Langan’s, containing multiple organizations for which I’ve written over the years. But don’t ask. That’s a story I’ll tell another time, after I reemerge from a hiatus to get some serious ghostwriting and other work done -- unless it’s all been tidily resolved by then, I suppose. I’m not one to seek conflict.

I began blogging here the week of the 2006 midterm elections (despite a couple dozen retroactively-added archival items and having edited a science blog for a few years before that, for those paying close attention). That’s when the Republicans lost both houses of Congress after having dominated them for most of the prior twelve years.

Call me as cold-blooded as Ultron if you will, but even in 2006 my Machiavellian long-term hope was that though I often railed against the Democrats (and libertarians who allied with them), the Republicans would learn from a much-deserved defeat and that when the day came that they once more claimed both houses (that day being tomorrow), they would be at least a tiny bit more libertarian than they were when previously in power.

(I was also hopeful in late 2006, just to touch on my other three favorite subject areas, that 1. the punk- and New Wave-influenced indie music beloved in Williamsburg and elsewhere would flourish, 2. superhero movies would now always aim for the high standard set the previous year by Batman Begins, and 3. science would become as hip as my geeky American Council on Science and Health co-workers at the time thought it was. Things haven’t gone too badly according to these metrics. Or this Metric.)

Funny how being out of power makes people more libertarian -- but it hasn’t just been the usual in-power/out-of-power dynamic.

With Sen. Rand Paul now talked about as a real contender for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination, there is an explicit, recognized, much-debated libertarian faction within the GOP in a way that there wasn’t before. I had hoped vaguely that a dash of libertarianism (even if no one ever used that word) would permeate the whole conservative establishment; others hoped it wouldn’t or expected that sentiment to flourish in the other party; and what happened instead was more schismatic -- part of the GOP becoming explicitly, even feistily libertarian while the rest resisted or looked around confused and befuddled.

Metaphorically speaking, I had sort of planned for a subtle refurbishing of the whole (seemingly neocon-dominated) building, but instead part of the building sort of fissioned off and became its own annex -- which may yet become where the important things happen. Or, sort of hoped to see a change in the overall density of a bowl of soup and instead got one distinct, highly chunky area that may yet turn out to be the tastiest area, if you follow me.

In any case, whether or not the GOP’s gotten more libertarian over the past eight years, I have, and by “libertarian” in this case I really mean “more anarchist than the so-called anarchists.” I mean, it’s almost uncontroversial now, I think, to say that we obviously face global governmental, military, policing, corporate, media, and NGO establishments that work together to promote projects not necessarily in the commoners’ best interests, including perpetual war (watch this as a little reminder, fringey though it is).

It’s enough to make one turn away from establishment debates and, a bit like a classic pacifist, emphasize change at the personal level (no use of coercion at all against other people or their property) that has vast social, political, and immediate interpersonal implications, rather than continuing to pursue the endlessly complicated top-down method of trying to interest our “leaders” in “good policy.” They aren’t interested.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m still rooting for Rand Paul in 2016 -- just as a sort of indicator, though, you understand. Probably can’t hurt. And, though I don’t like it when libertarians (such as the so-called liberal-tarians) water down libertarian principles to gain allies outside the movement, I have not become such a perfectionist as to turn my nose up at a rare coalition-building opportunity such as a senator and potential president being regarded as a leader by both the Tea Party and the libertarian movement.

(I just read a comment online by a South American libertarian who says he looks with amazement at the U.S.’s Tea Party movement because there is nothing remotely as libertarian or anti-government on such a scale on his continent. Be at least a little grateful, libertarians.)

But, as I say over and over, we can think about coalitional tactics and still reject the asymptotic approaches to, watered-down versions of, and palatable “mainstream” formulations of our philosophy itself. Play nicely with others by all means -- but at the same time have the guts to say (politely) that all government should cease to exist. If you won’t, consider the possibility that you aren’t really helping.

By all means devise and even work on fallback plans. But now that a fairly large number of people are aware there’s more to philosophy than right-vs.-left (something I wasn’t at all sure they’d noticed eight years ago, when I continued to speak in mostly right-vs.-left terms myself), I think professing hardcore, explicit, across-the-board anarcho-capitalism should be Plan “A” (so to speak).

And, after all, just looking at things in a purely pragmatic way, I contend our other options do not look great (they include, for instance, the collapse of civilization). So when, for example, someone tells you in moderate tones that dreams of repealing Obamacare are foolish, suggest that the only way the GOP or other free-market activists will be taken seriously is if we start (right now) talking about the more intellectually consistent goal of ending Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, hospital subsidies, and the FDA (because private mechanisms would be better, as in the end they always are).

It is time. (Or at least it soon will be. I’ll be back to say more -- in a less Facebook-fighting, tweet-combative, blog-snarky, public-feuding, impatient way -- after a brief taking-care-of-business interlude, interrupted only by a link in a week or so to one last movies podcast before I leave Gerard Perry on his own.)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

My Main Hope for “Convergence” at DC Comics

As movies become more important than comics themselves to the maintenance of superhero brands (Marvel, DC), DC Comics is literally physically relocating to Burbank, CA, near Hollywood, in the spring.

The comics themselves will at that time reportedly feature a storyline crossing over into multiple series, called “Convergence,” in which the evil A.I. named Brainiac pits cities and/or whole Earths from different universes against each other. This would partly commemorate the old Crisis on Infinite Earths comics miniseries, which has its thirtieth anniversary next year.

My humble suggestion, DC Comics: you gotta have a scene at the end of “Convergence” in which Brainiac, with cold, calculating rationality, relocates part of New York City to Burbank. Maybe even have Brainiac cackle something about his new system working “across platforms and in multiple media.” Make the subtext the text. Do it.