hi all. ray bradbury died this wk. I collected a few links that whizzed by, see em below, lots of good quality writing on the subj. more on that shortly.
have been thinking of writing up a blog on obama & the drone warfare. I suppose this kind of deserves a separate post but I have a few musings & I guess I can segue by saying that even a world class scifi writer like bradbury couldnt have imagined the reality we now live in wrt drone warfare [I wonder what his opinion on the subject is? anyone have an idea?].
Ive got a bazillion links on the subj at this point. the amazing twist is that its really hardcore in the news due mainly to a few key developments.
- pakistan has stated openly that they are a violation of its sovereignty, and much more compellingly, are tying the reopening of a critical military supply route to cessation of drone activities. this appears to be a clear escalation of their prior position. just recently I read insider reports that washington expected the supply route to be reopened soon through advanced stage negotiations. that now sounds totally shot down. the military supply route is critical for the US troop withdrawal.
- the NYT is covering the drone war in detail in a recent article and the author is coming out with a new book.
- its utterly amazing how much commotion this is now causing in washington. mccain accused the administration of leaking classified info for political gain. even the rightwing branch generally esp pro Warmachine is up in arms over the politicization of the issue. obama was nicknamed the "drone warrior" by columnist krautheimer.
- holder has alread announced an investigation at the US Justice dept. amazing! stunning speed there. things move fast when the Powers That Be are angry. and I would say the Warmachine has been offended.
Ive been wanting to do a stuxnet article for a long time. its difficult to keep up with all the news on that one. the american public is still extremely in the dark and narcoleptic on the subject. its quite astonishing at times. its now basically fully documented information that the US Military along with probably Israel built the stuxnet virus for INDUSTRIAL SABOTAGE of their uranium enrichment program. but probably other 2ndary purposes such as espionage etcetera.
this all suggests that the drone issue may be a mounting issue for obama this election year which I think is fantastic in a way. however believe it or not the Warmachines goal is to avoid the issue of the Warmachine in politics at all costs except in unquestioning platitudes that both parties accept blithely. eg terrorists are bad (vs americans are THIRTY TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE KILLED BY LIGHTNING), we must continue the war (vs THE WARMACHINE IS INSTITUTIONAL/BUREACRATIC INSANITY), we must spend whatever it costs (vs THE COSTS ARE MASSIVE AND ECONOMY-DAMAGING LEVELS), the current plan is working but must be given time (vs THE PLAN BENEFITS ONLY WEAPONS MANUFACTURERS AND IS DESTROYING THE PUBLIC) etcetera.
so the drones might be an issue, but the Warmachine will make sure its the WRONG issue. there will be no discussion of our drone policy legitimacy or the presidential involvement in it, although that was somewhat circuitously referenced in the NYT article. the Warmachine will try to build up a smokescreen for all public debate on the subject that reduces to red herring questions like "did obama administration leak national security information and commit a crime" without any reference to what exactly that information is!
so yeah I plan to do a Drone Warrior post before the next election, but Im trying to time it, its a big project. Im thinking for sure before november. if something really surprising happens on the subject related to public recoil of our actual policies, versus the fake smokescreen commotion going on right now, Im gonna pull the trigger on that sooner rather than later.
re bradbury. one of the great writers. I can think of at least two of his books turned into hollywood movies [bookmarked below], Something Wicked This Way Comes and Fairenheit 451. [have you heard of others? plz let me know in comments.] the latter has a lot of similarities to Orwells 1984, both books favored a lot in school libraries because of their strong anti-censorship and freedom-of-speech themes. he seemed to be much more focused on TV movies with a very long list. he also did a twilight zone episode.
bradbury reminds me a lot of Asimov & I found the two very similar. Im surprised how rarely I hear them compared. however it seems asimov has not aged as well. I recall hearing more about asimov when he was alive but little after he died. they seem to be equally prolific and broadminded in their writing.
in the last 10yrs I picked up several bradbury anthologies in paperback from the supermarket pre 2008 crash when it was still possible to find a little more variety in the paperbacks other than crime dramas and romance novels. that market has definitely changed a lot to become more monocultural based on what I see on the shelves. I think scifi very much lends itself to anthologies and Ive read dozens of anthologies, and Bradbury was a master of the short story.
I also bought his paperback "zen in the art of writing". what a great book that any aspiring writer should take a look at. bradbury was a big believer in brevity. short, staccato yet evocative sentences. his writing approached hemingway levels in this area. I dont know what bradbury said about hemingway but I think there must have been some influence there. Im a great admirer of brevity but I find it difficult to achieve in my own writing style.
bradbury was a believer in leveraging minimal evocative words to create pictures that the reader created. he was not so much about painting detailed vivid pictures himself with the writing. so he had a curious approach to that old writers imperative, "show, dont tell". in some ways I would say too much brevity violates that directive. but bradbury told a story. it showed up in the readers imagination. does that count?
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bradbury was one of my very 1st favorite scifi writers. I discovered scifi mostly in jr high school. I think I read an anthology of stories with his Butterfly Effect story about time travel in 7th grade before almost any other scifi. I remember it as being one of the coolest stories in the anthology. later I turned to Omni magazine fiction in 8th grade. thx to a blog reference below I have the name, "A Sound of Thunder".
the butterfly effect story is very interesting in the way it weaves time travel in with a political theme. bradbury definitely had a characteristic mix of politics in his scifi. I really wonder if bradbury actually invented the term "butterfly effect" from this story from the 60s or so! does anyone know the etymology of this term? Id really like to study/examine that sometime. the term was later made into a movie with ashton kutcher with time travel, but not directly based on the bradbury story.
the butterfly effect is now a very important scientific and mathematical concept in chaos theory and dynamical systems. it has also been equated to a principle first articulated by a meteorologist edward lorentz in a now legendary story recounted eg in the great/classic/influential book Chaos, making a new science by Gleick.
lorentz was studying a fairly simple system of differential equations that describe weather fluctuations. he had a computer program for it [maybe something like a runge-kutta solver] and restarted his simulation by typing in starting conditions only to a few decimal places. to his astonishment, what he thought would recalculate an identical graphical result actually diverged significantly after not-to-many steps.
I did this numerical experiment in a jr or sr-level college statistics class and it was one of my favorite exercises of the entire college engineering experience [and believe me I didnt really have much other favorites!] I recall vividly that the professor had made the assignment due around thxgiving break, and he had mistranscribed the equations.
after trying the exercise, I thought I found an error in his assignment description somewhere and confronted him [because I already knew I had a working runge-kutta solver from a prior exercise]. we found the error together, a mistranscribed negative sign. I asked for an extension to the deadline on the assignment for the whole class and the professor agreed, but announced it somewhat theatrically in the class along with the story of how we discovered it! a little bit to my chagrin.
the butterfly effect is also seen and beautifully visualized in fractals. imagine the mandelbrot set. if you look at visualizations you can understand the concept. points that are only slightly different in their locations, almost right next to each other, are colored totally differently.
yet, and this is the counterintuitive and breathtaking twist, every single point is generated by exactly the same equation, in fact one that is quite simple,
z ← z2 + c
there are extraordinary discontinuities. its actually even more exotic than merely being a weird computational problem. its been proven that in a deep sense calculating the mandelbrot set is an "undecidable" problem. and it takes a few years of CS theory to really understand that concept.
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I admire bradbury as a businessman. its very difficult to make a career out of writing and bradbury achieved it at a masterful level. grandmaster level!
however I wonder if scifi has an ephemeral/transitory/fashionable/popular quality a little like rock and roll. rock and roll had a golden age in the late 20th century tied with various developments like the electric guitar, television, mtv, etcetera. there was also a gold age of scifi, and possibly it may be somewhat behind us. its certainly recognized that there was a golden age of pulp fiction.
there are still awesome scifi movies in hollywood (say a few per year) but they are not quite as common or culturally impactful I would say. the novelty wears off. we have seen everything possible with special effects at this point. similarly, literary fiction in general has slided significantly in importance in our modern, highly plugged-in, visual culture.
bradbury had a definitely old school, conservative retro side! verging on reactionary or even counterrevolutionary. he famously dismissed the internet, in a quote worthy of Prince. from a 2009 article he sounded like an eccentric curmudgeon and there are various other quotes along these lines.
“It’s distracting,” he continued. “It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”
"We have too many cellphones," he said when e-books of his stories began to emerge. "We've got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now."
can you believe that? which shows how eminently, quirkily human even a legendary grandmaster visionary like bradbury was. a remarkable, almost eerie similarity-- compare with classic prince quotes from 2010 when he was angry over music piracy:
“The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated."
“All these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that cant be good for you.”
20th century curmudgeons, ya really gotta luv em.
- Richard (RJ) Eskow: Future Tense: Mourning the Political Ray Bradbury
- Ray Bradbury Dead: 'Fahrenheit 451' Author Dies At 91
- Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 203, Ray Bradbury
- Ray Bradbury brought literary respect to science fiction – USATODAY.com
- Sci-Fi Scribes on Ray Bradbury: 'Storyteller, Showman and Alchemist' | Underwire | Wired.com
- Ray Bradbury on Sci-Fi, God and Robots: The Late Author's Biggest Ideas | Underwire | Wired.com
- Fahrenheit 451 ebook published as Ray Bradbury gives in to digital era | Books | guardian.co.uk
- Ray Bradbury, enduring author of fantasy, science fiction, dies at 91 - latimes.com
- Ray Bradbury, Master of Science Fiction, Dies at 91 - NYTimes.com
- Ray Bradbury, Dead at 91, Taught Generations of Readers How to Dream - The Daily Beast
- BBC News - Author Ray Bradbury dies, aged 91
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) - IMDb
- Fahrenheit 451 (1966) - IMDb