Saturday, July 31, 2010

The "Military" Conceit of Alien Invasion

The likely strangeness of any non-terrestrial replicators, along with the fact that it's likely we'll be wondering whether they're intelligent (or even "alive" and self-directed) make the typical scenarios of alien invasion fiction seem a little quaint. Contact with alien life that results in predominantly poor outcomes for Earth life - an "invasion" is likely to seem more like an extermination effort on their part, or the by-product colonization by non-native organisms, like kudzu.
It probably won't look much like Independence Day. It probably won't look "military" at all, in the sense of the aliens it/themselves, or our response to it. (I appreciate that most people would rather pay to see Will Smith in a dogfight with aliens than a nuanced exploration of the ecological impacts of contact with alien life, but I think there is still an audience and place in independent films for this, though this one wasn't it. Come on guys!)

Of course, I'm assuming we would even notice anything is going on. Mammoths no doubt noticed the first humans wandering down North America's west coast from Alaska, but whether they were able to comprehend the existential threat of a new superpredator along with climate change is doubtful.

But we're not mammoths, you say; we have language and writing and tools. So how could we not know what's going on, and what the effect will be? Yes, we can accurately claim that we're at the top of the cognitive pyramid in our own biosphere. Just because that's true does not mean that we've magically come to some plateau where, because we can understand more things than other vertebrates, we can understand everything. There's an enormous amount of chutzpah in that assumption. There are no doubt dots that humans can't connect, just like there are dots the mammoths couldn't connect. A mutation in FOXP2 in the late Lower Paleolithic didn't suddenly make us into all-powerful general comprehenders. Polynesians watching European landing parties row to their shores weren't able to really figure out what was going on, and they were dealing with members of the same species, separated by only a few millennia of technology. If there are in fact any replicators moving outward from the galactic center, they've possibly been using tools for millions of years longer than we have. (Still not convinced? Try figuring out a quipu or cuneiform and then leave a comment. And those are "primitive" technologies, again from your own species.)

Alien invasion films are fun, but they really look a lot more like movies about fighting funny-looking humans with technology from a few centuries in the future. After all, the U.S. military now has Martian heat rays. The key will not be how to stop alien invaders. The key will be recognizing what they are in the first place, and what impact they will have on us. Talking philosophy with them is a long-shot. A zebra mussel once tried to argue with me about Hegel and it was the lamest conversation I ever had.

Something to Take Into Account for Far-Future Science Fiction: Earth's Slowing Rotation

Via Boing Boing, I saw this awesome article about what would happen if the Earth's rotation stopped. I don't mean all of a sudden like H.G. Wells once asked, i.e. everyone suddenly flying to the east at about 500 mph x the cosine of your latitude. I would link to the story but couldn't find it. But who cares, because here's the cool map:

I think you should take the color-coding as elevation only; there are good reasons to believe the middle of the landmass would have no green at all (keep reading.)

In essence, the maps reflect that without angular momentum, the ocean water would flow to the poles; right now it's 8 km deeper at the equator because of centripetal acceleration. But this isn't completely a thought experiment, because the Earth's rotation is slowing down, as a result of tidal forces (pay attention the next few New Years Eves and you'll notice at least one leap-second added.) In fact during the Devonian, there were about 400 days per year, which we know from fossil corals. The rate of the Earth's rotation will have fallen to roughly half its present value by the time the Sun goes red giant, although it probably will become tide-locked for a geologically brief period while the parent star expands. But nothing could survive on the liquefying cinder that will be Earth at that point, so we don't have to worry so much about that.

(If you really want to stop the rotation of the Earth like I personally tried to stop the San Andreas fault, we could all of us in the world fly to Belem, BR and then on the count of three start running due east to zero-out the Earth's angular momentum. Wouldn't work. In fact it wouldn't work even if all biomass in the world came along with us, because we'd have to go faster than the speed of light to do it. Besides not knowing exactly how the trees and plankton of the world will join us in our little escapade, by going around the world faster than the speed of light you risk going back in time like Superman as noted previously. Also of relevance, you can't. But I hear Belem is still nice for an Amazon port city.)

So besides the obvious map changes wrought by stopping our rotation, what else would happen? First and most obviously, a major climate shift. The oceans would be colder, because they're both at higher latitudes and deeper than our current oceans. This would considerably cool the overall climate of the Earth. If just the opening of Drake's passage was enough to put us into a sequence of glacial pulses, I would bet restricting all the world's water to the polar regions would put us into a very long-term snowball Earth phase. The land mass would be one continuous equator-girdling supercontinent with very little moderation by the oceans in the center (more on this later).

Of course as noted above we won't see the full effects of stopping the Earth's rotation but prior to the red giant age, there will still be some slowing. But then again the continents will have moved in the interim. Here's New Pangea, a mere 250 million years from now, 5% of the way to the red giant age (if you went back that far, you'd be at the start of the dinosaur age):

So for any future maps of the Earth that you smart geocomputer people make, don't just look at plate tectonics guesstimations, also look at the distribution of ocean water assuming a decreased (but not zero) rotation rate. (While you're at it, I want to buy property on Loihi ahead of the rush, i.e. before it breaks the surface of the Pacific. Work hard to find me a nice spot and in return I shall give you a shiny penny!) But look closely at the map - if the Earth's rotation stops, Loihi would be almost right on the coast! Also of note is that the wreck of the WWII dreadnaught Yamato would in fact be exposed on dry land.

The continuous belt of land around the equator highlights a second probable difference (and problem) with the no-spin world. The tropics drive evolution; biological innovation typically spreads from low latitudes to high latitudes. This has been shown to be historically true by an analysis of the fossil record, and it's true even when you look at the rate of evolution in current tropical ecoregions. The way the world works today, the equatorial regions are very wet, because of moisture from the oceans and east-west currents that drive moisture inland. But with no rotation, what would the polar ocean currents be doing, if they exist at all? If there are no north-south currents, then the center of Equatoria will make the Atacama Desert look positively lush. Not only will evolution slow as a result of the disappeared tropics, there will be less opportunity for biodiversity to appear: now there is only one continent, and all its climate zones are continuous east-to-west. That means there are no climactic gene-flow barriers. This is bad because if there's a problem in one part of the continent - a blight on critical grasses, an animal virus, an eruption that further cools the temperature at that latitude - there are no refuges.

(Take a minute to look back at that map of Future Pangea - it's also interesting to think that right now on Earth, we're in an odd period where the continents are near the point of maximum isolation from each other; we may have just passed it a few million years ago, right before South America joined North America. Coincidence that the planet's first intelligence appeared out of this era?)

The equatorial areas that were once abyssal planes will be undergoing a nice post-oceanic rebound, like much of Canada still is after the weight of the glaciers disappeared. For Canada this means all those awesome lakes and waterfalls, but if my other guesses for the climate of Equatoria are right, there won't be any water at all, except near the coasts, and it will likely be frozen. Maybe there will be two isolated ecoregions - two coastal tundras, separated from the Mars-like Equatorial Dry Valleys of the interior.

This of course neglects the most devastating effect of tide-locking: the sun-facing side would be cooked, and the far-facing side would be frozen solid. Even assuming some heat exchange between the two sides and without even calculating the heat of the sun-facing side, chance are the atmosphere would expand and all the water would be in vapor phase, and a lot of it would be lost to space. Even if somehow that didn't happen, you're still looking at two narrow temperate bands around the dawn/dusk rim of the Earth, with one piece of land at the equator of both. (For a long-dead discussion of terrestrial tide-locking see here.)

Long story short: don't stop the Earth's rotation. Like crossing the streams, it would be bad.

Friday, July 30, 2010

HAL-9000 Infiltrates College Sports

Not really, but this Onion article is really funny.

Testing Amazon Links

I'm buying an iPhone car charger and this gives me a chance to make sure it works. If you need an iPhone car charger, please feel free to order it through that link as well.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blade Runner Blasphemy

Over at Pharyngula, they're mourning a frickin octopus with words from Blade Runner. An outrage! A travesty! A truculent shambolic affair!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Singularity Watch: UAVs Fueled Mid-Air by UAVs

Article here. So covering up the sun with clouds won't stop the Matrix computer guys.

Nerd Violence Erupts at Comic-Con!

It turns out though that the pen is not mightier than the sword. But it will still get you arrested.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Economics of Space Exploration: The Private Sector

Following up a previous thread on how the economics of space exploration is really the most important part of the story, we see the importance of the private sector in funding at least the instruments: it's not just in Heinlein. If we think space travel is important to the future of our values and our species, we should be asking more and tougher questions about the real-world economics of it and how we're going to make it happen faster or at all.

Goddamn that SRL

Survival Research Labs is clearly running away from me. First they're in the Bay Area. Then I move to San Francisco and they go to Phoenix. Then as soon as I move away, they're back, right up the road in frickin Petaluma. One of these times I'm gonna go in there and show em what's what.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Means Aliens Playing Meteor Target Practice With Bosnian Man

Story here. I wonder whether the universities he sells the fragments to will say, "Wait a second...these are identical to the landscaping stones in front of his house, and they're just about the right size to be thrown onto his roof by a thirteen year-old..."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Attention Kids: Download These Drugs

By that I mean, I-dosing! You can get high from mp3s! Come on, all the cool kids are doing it! I prefer to snort them, but administration by enema is also effective. Note: if you do actually attempt this please send me video. I promise I won't immediately post it.

Despite that I-dosing is obivously bullsh*t, the news media never fails to wring some alarmism from something that kids are doing:

Hey kids, do you have your Silver Shamrock masks?

My favorite thing about this story is how it drips with moral panic - "Parents, don't let your kids listen to these!" Then half-way through, "Here's what they sound like." Have you idiots never seen the Halloween movies!?!?! Now pardon me while I exchange unprotected sex for mp3s and steal cars in order to support my habit before going on a cackling psychotic shooting rampage. I-dose! I-dose! (Never trust a junkie.)

OR, alternatively, you could just listen to Cast Iron Crow, which is to I-tunes as DMT is to Pez and will cause your brain to melt out of your nose and then re-solidify into the form of Bruce Lee and then kick your ass for being a pussy.

Larry Niven, Luck and Grisly Parallels

The science fiction writer Larry Niven supposed (at least in his fiction) that if luck were heritable, you could breed for it. And in his universe, that's exactly what happened: the Pierson's Puppeteers, a race of paranoid manipulators, distantly pulled the strings of Earth's politics. When Earth had become overpopulated, the world government instituted a lottery. You couldn't have kids unless you won. So if luck was heritable, the human race would become luckier. They did, eventually serving as a counterbalance to (luckily) win wars against the kzin, who have been described as Klingons that look like bipedal tigers. In fairness the kzin are cooler.

Of course in one sense this is a silly idea, even beyond the idea of there being a "gene" for luck. All of evolution is a game of chance, with a few adaptations that skew the odds. No living thing would be here today if its ancestors hadn't been lucky.

But there's a far grislier frame in which the idea has been explored. The Spanish film Intacto is about people with supernatural luckiness; they're even able to steal others' luck. Max von Sydow is always good but the film spends too much time on European cinematography tricks and not enough developing the idea (nb, if you like cinematography, don't write this film off on that basis - I like the ideas and don't care what it looks like. To auditory-learning bastards like myself the book is always better.) It's eventually revealed that von Sydow's character learned of his extraordinary luck when he was living in a German prison camp, and the people around him were executed one by one. He was the last - and of course, that's when the Germans abandoned the camp and the Allies came.

Art imitates life even without trying. Der Spiegel tells the story of a still-living Auschwitz inmate: "When they had no more use for [Yitzhak Ganon], the Nazis sent him to the gas chamber. He survived only by chance: The gas chamber held only 200 people. Ganon was number 201. On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops." Read more about Ganon's story here.

It's an odd feeling to be one person away from (in)famous people. A physician who came to talk to my med school class was imprisoned at Auschwitz when she was a little girl, and while she was there she met a doctor who gave her candy. The following sentence may seem frivolous but it doesn't feel that way to me. If we can play six degrees of Kevin Bacon with the people we meet in our lives - and that seems a more meaningful version than movies - this means that I'm only one person removed from Josef Mengele. If reading a blog counts, you're only two.

You Didn't Listen to Cast Iron Crow. Now You'll Pay

No whining now. Too late for that. You had your chance. And now you've done it. I'm coming over right now. To punch you. In the face. You see? This is the power inspired by the One True Metal of Cast Iron Crow, and if you can't handle it, you're the One True Puss. Face-punching procedures initiated. 10...9...8...

Next gigs:

23 July Fat Cat in Modesto

12 August at the Englander in San Leandro

Thursday, July 15, 2010

If History Were Science Fiction

No one would believe it. Hilarious.

Listen to Cast Iron Crow

The Womb of True Metal(tm) that gave you Cliff Burton, Jim Martin and Machinehead has more metal to give: Cast Iron Crow. If you don't listen to them I will punch you. Next show at the Fat Cat in Modesto 23 July.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Higgs Detected, But Not By LHC?

Maybe by the Tevatron in Illinois, USA. But this rumor went around before about 2 years ago, so we'll see.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why Do Cryonicists Wait to Be Frozen Until After They're Dead?

Per Wikipedia, the first person to be frozen for revival in a future age was James Bedford in 1967, who died from cancer. An outsider with an earnest interest in understanding cryogenics might ask two questions. The first is whether there's anybody in storage now who could be helped with any of the medical advances made in the previous 43 years; we might be the gleaming future civilization Bedford was hoping for. And it's almost certain that Bedford's cancer, whatever kind it was, is more treatable today than it was in 1967. But there's a bigger challenge than the disease that Bedford had, which is that he's dead. To put it bluntly, "he shoulda got it looked at sooner." That is, he should have gone to the cryo-doctor earlier. Why do cryonicists wait until they actually die?

I am not a cryonicist, but presumably the motivation of people who are is that they want to be revived at such time that their disease can be treated or cured, and in such a way that they, their selves, are intact, so that they can enjoy being alive again. (Otherwise, what's the point?) This being the case, waiting until you're actually dead seems to introduce unnecessary challenges to your would-be future healers. For this, we return to Professor Bedford.

Even if tomorrow someone finds a way to thaw people out without damaging them, we still couldn't help Bedford, even though we could treat less advanced forms of his cancer. Because he died. His self is gone, because his heart stopped, the oxygen that kept his brain organized as James Bedford stopped coming, and that delicate organization broke down. The information is gone. "Yes," objectors might say, "but in the future, they might be able to fix that." Even assuming that they could, it would be just like watching Rebel Without a Cause and reassembling a car from random parts you find in junkyards, and saying, "This - this specific car was the car James Dean drove in that movie." Without even getting into the philosophical debate of continuity of self, the point is if that's what you're going to do, you don't need James Dean's car, just the blueprints and pictures of it, and you don't need James Bedford's body, just the information about it. "But," the objectors might say, "we don't have a way of recording brain structure yet, so the best thing to do is keep his body." No dice. He died and his brain organization was irretrievably damaged. That was the whole problem in the first place. It's gone. Yes, there might be amazing science in the future that we have no way of imagining today, but today, there's no more reason to think that you could recover Bedford's intact brain structure than there is to think if I gave you a bag of dice, you could tell how the last thousand rolls came up.

Above: not you anymore. Not anybody. Credit Concurring Opinions.

I assume that cryonicists have heard these kinds of arguments before and remain unpersuaded that being frozen after you die renders the whole project pointless; they would seem to believe that this is just a limitation of current technology and imagination. Fine; for the sake of discussion let's move past that. But can there be any question that being frozen while you're still living would make it much easier for your future doctors to help you? Imagine that Bedford had been frozen six months before his death, with his cancer in a then-terminal state, and today someone discovers a way to thaw out tissue (frozen in the method Bedford was) without damaging it. Bedford's descendants (or whoever, no offense, cares about him at this point - more on that later) could send his records to a 2010 oncologist who would say "Oh, he just had XYZ cancer, and that's relatively easy to fix now. Thaw him out and I'll treat him." Done!

My knowledge of cryonicists' positions is very superficial, and I assume that the community has answers for these questions (though I haven't heard them.) But I'm very curious whether most cryonicists have plans to be frozen before their natural deaths, and if not, why not. If you really believe that in the future, you will be able to be awakened and treated for a disease that is now incurable, why make it harder on your future doctors? If you really believe that life will be much better then, why wait? Assuming you're fortunate enough (from the Buddhist standpoint anyway) of having a protracted and predictable decline from some progressive disease (as opposed to a massive MI that takes your right now, this minute), why not bid farewell to your family a few months before your otherwise inevitable demise?

Imagine: you have a tearful farewell party. Your family takes you to the facility and gathers around you, and the medical staff places the IVs. You get drowsy as the anesthesiologist injects the initial push of midazolam. Your thoughts relax and scatter, your eyes close, and then re-open. A strangely uniformed attendant is leaning over you speaking to someone you can't see with an odd accent: "Can you believe this guy was 'dying' from melanoma? Sheesh." The attendant says to take two pills and call her in the morning, then she compliments you: "You're smart. All these other people in your facility were frozen after they were dead. Pointless." Again, it seems that if cryonicists really believe their best bet is to be frozen to await a future cure, missing a few days or weeks with misguided non-cryonicist loved ones now in exchange for a much better chance of the future revival they want would seem to be a no-brainer - and at worst, all you're doing is a very expensive form of euthanasia. The argument has odd parallels to theists who hold forth on the virtues of the afterlife. If they're so hot to get to heaven and pick up their harp or their houris, why aren't they more eager to leave this life right now? Why wait? You might say, because euthanasia is illegal in most of the U.S., and freezing a not-yet-almost-terminal person would probably be considered murder; healthcare practitioners wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. That's probably true, and maybe this legal reality is the admittedly unfortunate reason for post-mortem cryopreservation.

In addition to the very basic question of "why wait until you die", there are also operational problems that present themselves. Again I apologize to cryonicists that have thought them through (and would be thrilled to see your comments here!) Have you ever been to a cemetery where a lot of your ancestors are buried? There's one in the Appalachians in Western Pennsylvania that has a whole boatload of mine. And when I walk among the graves, I see my last name on a bunch of the stones and I feel vaguely guilty that here are the remains of people to whom I owe my existence, yet I have no idea what most of them even looked like. Imagine your own great-great-grandfather is on ice, and we have the technology to revive him, and finally a discovery is made that could cure his disease. There are problems, aren't there?

1) Almost no one has any idea what their ancestors died from going back more than three generations. The only time most people care at all about their ancestors' health is when we go to a new doctor and fill out those lists of conditions that run in the family (i.e. insofar as it directly affects our own current health.) Consequently, if a cryonicist expects to be revived, that means s/he also expects that somebody is going to be scouring Pubmed for the next ???? years on his/her behalf. If they expect it to be their great great grand-children, they're in for a shock. Those people are strangers.

2) If your great great grandchildren can't be bothered to check Pubmed on your behalf, then who's paying the power bill to keep you frozen? This raises further questions of the business model of these foundations. Sure, someone might set aside a massive endowment that generates enough interest to keep the freezers running. In 2200, when no one knows you existed, who's going to care enough to fight if they want to shut it down and use the funds for something else? If my family had been dutifully paying to keep my great great grandfather frozen and when my father died the responsibility passed to me, I'm sorry to say that old Jacob would have been in trouble, Civil War hero though he was. Keep in mind that the cost is indefinite! For all they know, there will never be a cure for what you had. It reminds you of the old cliche of lightbulbs guaranteed by the company to work for a century. At those time frames, considering other kinds of events become important. So who guarantees the company?

3) What the hell are you going to do in 2200 once you're healthy that anyone could conceivably want to pay you for? Many Americans are already paying to keep their aging parents in nursing homes. How about adding on top of that expense a recently thawed great great grandparent that you never even met and who you know ahead of time will require expensive cutting-edge medical treatment? Even if you were smart and put money in the bank to generate compound interest, you better hold your breath when you wake up and hope that in two centuries the government never seized it. As it is today in the U.S., bank accounts idle for seven years can be seized by the government. So now we need either your descendants who never met you managing your money (and not spending it), or special laws protecting cryonicists' bank accounts. If there are enough of them, will this not start to distort economies? (By the way, this is the best argument against vampires. Their compound interest would do exactly that. Only if all vampires are financial idiots does this argument not work.)


The recent NYT article largely focused on the culture surrounding cryonics and the resistance that some have shown to the whole idea. Though I'm making arguments against it here, if other people who want to do this, it's their money; let them! But it seems that the strongest reactions come from within families. There were two main objections. The first is money, which is a real concern. I could understand objections if the objecting partner doesn't want to spend hard-earned cash on something that s/he thinks is silly. If a person could somehow get funded or do it for free, there can be no debate. This leads to the more interesting, though less valid emotional argument: spouses feel that they're being abandoned or separated. This is ironic because if they think cryonics is a crock, all that's happening is the person's remains are being interred in a separate place. Putting yourself in the objector's place doesn't really shed any light on it. If your husband or wife came home one day and said they wanted to do this, why would you care that in the year 2200 s/he would wake up, visit your barely-legible eroded grave marker, and run off with a dashing Buck Rogers or Aeon Flux-type? Roughly even odds that your partner will outlive you anyway, and in your absence, I would hope that you want him/her to be happy, so if they re-marry to a good person once you're pushing up daisies, good for them, whether it's one year after you're dead, or two hundred. You understandably might not want them spending your money on silly stuff while you're still alive, but that's a different objection.

Perhaps most relevant to my future career as a physician, I may eventually be confronted with individuals who ask me about cryopreservation. My thoughts on the matter are in this blog post, and I would tell them the same thing: that I thought they were wasting their money on an elaborate form of euthanasia, and that they shouldn't make medical decisions based on what might eventually be true. But the decision is theirs. Unless technology and law that affect these objections change dramatically over the 25-30 years of my career, I wouldn't participate in cryogenics-related procedures, although I would give patients a referral if they asked.


My main concern with such a decision for myself is that it would financially burden the people I love based on a long bet. I also don't want to sacrifice a single moment of experience of my loved ones and this world for a bet that magic doctors can wake me up in the future, so doing it before I die is out too.

As for the chance that it might work - others have objected (and this occurs to me too) that the world in which you're awakened might very well be an unpleasant one, that it might even be so bad that remaining dead is preferable. I would be very surprised if the world I awakened in centuries hence was not very unpleasant to me in some ways, if only because it's so different that it's hard to get used to. Robin Hanson has discounted this as an irrational fear of a future dystopia, but there's a distinction to be made. While I like the world I live in currently, and it's not dystopian to me and many (most?) of the people living in it, it would certainly be confusing and unpleasant to many people from earlier times. If you don't grow up in an environment, adapting to it at an old age is difficult.

For example: people seem perfectly happy in the Netherlands, and it's okay to visit, but I've lived in California for the past 11 years, and if I woke up on a planet where the whole world was the Netherlands (densely urbanized, rotten weather) I'd be drowning myself in a canal after about two weeks. Is the Netherlands an Orwellian nightmare? Not by any stretch! The difference is in the people, not in the place. What's the difference between me and Dutch people? They grew up there! If you think your grandmother has trouble with the internet, try your great great grandfather. He might have trouble just getting past slavery having been outlawed and women voting, never mind driving a car. So if people who have been continuously participating in society since the 1930s have trouble adapting to 2010, try waking up in 2200. Even if you're surrounded by sympathetic well-intentioned people, or their future equivalents, and even if you agree that the culture of 2200 is some kind of sensible straight-line improvement from ours today, things will be hard for you. Don't overestimate your ability to adapt. I argued previously that just because a social arrangement seems strange and creepy to us now, to other generations growing up in the future it might not - this was in regard to corporate individuals. Because I personally can't imagine this is no reason that I should forbid it for future generations who might find personal corporatization useful and palatable. That's why even if I had a chance at free cryopreservation, I would still say no.

Reading back over this long post, I hate sounding like a naysayer. Every one of us should be all for ways to increase quality of life and the ability of those lives to contribute to each other. Cryonicists believe that that they have found one way to do just that. If you're a cryonicist, to the extent that you're neither breaking my leg nor picking my pocket, yours is a choice for you to make and I truly wish you well. If you're brushing the digital dust off this post centuries from now laughing at my narrow-mindedness, good for you.

Total Metal Website of the Day: Your Favorite Backwards Satanic Messages

Remember when Judas Priest was putting backwards messages in songs to make kids kill themselves? Never mind that it would never work because your brain doesn't go around playing songs backwards and as Ozzy Osbourne once said, why would you want to kill off your revenue source. Well now you can go listen to those evil songs backwards, as they were (apparently) intended! Note that Nature Trail to Hell might be the only one that's for real.

I always got a kick out of people pointing to evilness in music because they would use like Skid Row and Cheap Trick while meanwhile Deicide and Morbid Angel and Incantation are much more obvious. Those outrage committees obviously weren't looking very hard. Hat tip VorJack at Unreasonable Faith.

Below: Rob Halford, lead singer of Judas Priest. Apparently he has admitted that "Breakin' the Law" when played backwards has the following subliminal lyrics: "British male seeking SWM 18-23 years old with kind of tousled sandy blonde hair and washboard abs for friendship & maybe more. I enjoy hiking, Italian wine and long walks on the beach. No games please."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Coen Brothers Bring Their Talents to Alternative History

The Coen Brothers rock because they set movies in unique parts of the U.S. and try to portray local accent and culture. There are lots of interesting and unique parts of the U.S. that you'll see if you travel around it on the ground but that you won't see in movies. I often think that movies are so often set in LA not for cost reasons but due to failure of imagination of the filmmakers and script writers. Especially considering that California has pretty much every climate zone except jungle, for scenery alone it's a damn shame that these places aren't used more often, and that's even right in California. (Notwithstanding Captain Kirk fighting Gorns. But that's right outside LA.)

Now the Coen Brothers are trying their hand at alternate history: the territory of Sitka, a semi-autonomous Jewish state in Alaska in a world where Israel was destroyed in the first Arab-Israeli War. Michael Chabon's readers will of course recognize this as the film version of The Yiddish Policeman's Union. By the way, who says alternate history is an obscure genre that no serious writer would attempt? Because I understand this Chabon guy won some kind of a prize for his writing at some point.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July

I'm glad that Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution posted the Hendrix Star Spangled Banner solo from Woodstock because I'd never actually heard it all the way through before. It is now obvious in terms of the phrasing of the solo, and specifically the bracketed use of noise effects after a phrase, how much one Kirk Hammett owes to Mr. Hendrix. If you haven't had a beer and hot dog have one, and watch out for the brown wieners.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It Works in Arrakis AND Florida

Instead of thumpers, behold: worm grunters.