Sunday, August 10, 2014

Feedback Feedback

I do appreciate feedback but sometimes I have to respectfully disagree.

One reader was disturbed by my ranting in a couple of posts.  Hey, I'm not into that happy hippie shit.  Readers who have been here from the beginning know that I don't hold back eXpressing myself.  Rants are part of the great zine tradition.

And speaking of zine tradition one person said it looks unprofessional to loosely format my zine, i.e., if it only takes 2 1/2 pages to fill an edition then I'll leave the white space.

Zine = professionalism?

I have more important criteria whether or not a zine neatly fills each page like Time magazine.  I think easy-to-read type and layout is more important.

It was suggested I should fill in the white space with an illustration, making it as large or small as needed.  This reminds me of the old days of newspapers where the editor would throw in a pithy fact or quote - a filler - to avoid the dreaded white space.

With my blog I'm not worried about white space.  I write as long as needed.  And with that freedom I can't be bothered with the physical limitations of the dead tree format.

It's like with my photography.  It's a hobby.  Thanks to digital photo-editing I don't have to confine myself to the 5 X 7 or 8 X 10 format: I crop the image so that it looks good, not to fit a preconceived format like the bad old days of film and darkrooms.

I don't want to waste my time trying to please other people, cramming a round peg into their stupid square hole.

So when I print out a hardcopy zine there might be white space.  Lots of it.  Of course my paying subscribers might be upset.

All zero of them.

Summer Break

In this case "break" doesn't mean taking a rest from blogging and other activities.  The correct synonym would be crash.

I've been recovering from a severe viral infection that has lasted for weeks.  Before I was hit I wasn't that motivated to write, mentally tired.  Compound that with physical lethargy and my blog remains quiet.

I'm doing OK but it will be a while before I'm up to speed again.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Prefer A Zine?

If you're not a blog fan you can read my posts in zine format at  With each PDF file you can view an issue online or print it out and read it later.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sports & Shakespeare


(C) 2014 Ray X

I've always been lousy at conformity.

In a previous post I mentioned that I don't like the works of Shakespeare.  To most writers that's outright heresy.

I also don't like professional sports.  "Did you see the game last night?" No, I have an active independent mind.

I've seen attempts to make sports palatable to sci fi nerds.  One experiment was a 1960s comic book series called Strange Sports Stories.  It featured plots like this: a wimpy kid eats a mysterious berry and becomes a super high school athlete; a man playing golf on Mars who stops an alien invasion; a future society where playing sports is outlawed because it's too dangerous.  That last one involved some rebel athletes who save the day and have sports legalized again.  A very depressing ending.

My anti-pro-sports viewpoint doesn't mean I'm against exercise or anyone going out and playing a friendly game of softball.  The Olympics typify what I hate about pro sports: greed, unbridled capitalism, the push for conformity -- "You catch the Olympics last night?" -- illusions of grandeur, egotistical athletes, taxpayers being screwed when the Olympics chooses their city as a venue and bankrupts the place while the real operators walk away with the Big $...

So don't try to appeal to my SF interest by having a story about future Olympics, aliens competing against each other while the host planet is bankrupted by the event.

I was thinking the other day what other kind of mash-up could be made with sports.  I see it now: pro sports with a Shakespearean theme.

"There's the snap.  Quarterback Julius Caesar has the ball, looking for an opening.  Wait, what's this?  His teammates are surrounding him, taking daggers out from hidden pockets in their togas.  No, it can't be -- they're stabbing Julius!

"Julius falls to his knees.  He looks up at one of his teammates.  Wait, what is he saying?  Listen..."

"Et tu, Butkus?"

Monday, June 09, 2014

Batman: Kathisophobe?

By Ray X

After bingeing during my younger years I hardly read comics books, especially those way overpriced floppies from the Big Two.  It's the same stuff recycled ad nauseum.  How many more times will Galactus threaten to pig out on planet Earth after promising never to do it again?

I find reading about the business of comic books and related media more entertaining.

Disney owns Marvel, Warner Brothers owns DC.  And between the two corporate competitors WB is the worst.

Let's face it: too many corporations have idiots in key positions.  As in know-nothing idiots.  They make decisions without taking the time to learn the product or service they're providing. Ergo, crap reigns.

Like the time a comic book fan/film director was pitching a Superman movie plot to the guy who made the final decision.  The fan/director was going on about how he would tell Kal-El's story.

The studio exec was puzzled.  He asked: "Who's this Kal-El character?"

And if you don't know who Kal-El is then you shouldn't be deciding on any project, movie or other media, portraying him.

Apparently that kind of studio exec unawareness/self-centered stupidity has been affecting DC Comics editors, if you believe the stories told on the Net.

The writer and artist working on the Batwoman comic wanted the heroine to marry her girlfriend.  But the editors said NO.  Not because of the gay marriage controversy but because -- so the editors stated -- that all DC heroes can't be married, they have to suffer, darkness is the main theme.

I'm tired of this nonsense trying to transform some clown in spandex into a tragic Shakespearean figure.  I hate Shakespeare, the most overrated writer shoved down the throats of high school English class students.  (Hemingway comes in a close second.)  Let superheroes be superheroes.

Sure, you can have drama with superheroic stories.  But wallowing in gut-wrenching tragedy all the time -- boring.

But the best example of micro-brain micro-mismanagement is when the order came down From On High that Batman never sits down, never show Batman sitting.  It’s common knowledge that he never sits, said an editor.  Of course if the jerk who issued that decree ever bother to READ any Batman comics...

And so creators have left DC because of such editorial interference.  What I find funny is that DC (and Marvel) end up rebooting their characters, throwing out all previous history to start anew.  So why not let Batwoman get married?  In a few years there will be another company-wide reality-bender crisis and you can unmarry her.  Who cares?  It's all imaginary stories.  Let's the creators create.  That's why they were hired, right?

DC Comics editorial hyperlogic clearly illustrates how corporate polyps are destroying America -- right down to its comic books.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Even Spock Gets Freakin' Irrational

(C) 2014  Ray X

"Did you see Star Trek last night?  Spock was horny!"

Standing in line, waiting for lunch outside the junior high school cafeteria, when I hear one of my adolescent "peers" give his erudite review of the episode, "Amok Time," from the original ST TV series.

For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek in any of its incarnations Spock is the half-earthling/half-alien science officer aboard the starship Enterprise in the 23rd Century (Earth time).  He struggles with his human side which at times is in conflict with his logical Vulcan upbringing.  Vulcans value unemotional rational thought above all else.

But as the episode "Amok Time" reveals even Vulcans deal with irrational and violent impulses when it comes to mating time - pon farr.  Every seven years Vulcans have to knock boots or eventually die like a female ferret with intact virginity at mating season's end.

I knew one woman who liked the character of Spock, his stoic persona.  She hated it when Spock acted human, especially when something like alien plant spores unleashed his feelings, making him goofy and smiling as in the episode "This Side of Paradise."

For some Spock represents logic over emotion, the ideal state to see truth as it is, not as one wants it to be.  The ideal that skeptics strive for – and fail to achieve on occasion.

Wanna open a huge can o' worms?  Google these search terms: "skeptics sexual harassment,"  "radford vs. stollznow," or "michael shermer allegations."  It's skeptic versus skeptic when it comes to arguments over accusations of sexual harassment and other allegations of transgressions even worse.

Dive in and you'll find various dogfights going on, the vast gray area called "He said, she said."  Who's innocent?  Who's guilty?  Who knows?  At times emotions, not rational thoughts, reign supreme.  Statements, counter-statements, lawsuits threatened or initiated, legal defense fundraisers.

Obviously skeptics are human and despite their claim to Correct Thinking can be just as screwed up as us regular joes and janes.

Within skepticdom individuals align themselves to either group: he or she, pro or con.  Divisiveness, not diversity, predominates.  From some rationality is a thin veneer.

Call it Skeptical Pon Farr.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Opuntia Zinester Makes Thorny Decision: Online Only

(C) 2014  Ray X

And another paper zinester drops the dead tree format.

In the case of Dale Speirs and his zine, Opuntia, it was the jump with postage rates, in his case Canada.  I was surprised when his final print edition appeared in my snail mail box with its announcement that future issues would only be available through .

Opuntia has always been an interesting read, a mix of SF book reviews, short examinations of scientific articles, personal stories, whatever interests Dale.  Unlike me Dale would always create a packed edition each month, 16 pages of material.

I understand why Dale has decided to abandon paper for photons, especially with the drastic increase with Canadian postage.  With my very short list of paperzine traders - no subscribers - my expenses with postage and printing aren't that onerous.  Also, there's not that many pages with each edition.

Some papernetters are loathe to abandon snail mail distribution: they hate the web.  And while I'm not a complete fan of digital media, it's obvious where the trend is going in seeking out readers.

One paperzine reviewer, DJ Frederick, at his blog urged Dale to return to meatspace:

"It’s a sad day in zinedom. This is Dale’s last paper issue of Opuntia... Dale – don’t do it! Stay with us out here on the postal plains & fight the good fight."

OK, you might be thinking: Why is DJ upset when he's reviewing zines online?  Well, he does share his reviews with his paperzine and he has another good reason:

"I REFUSE to take my zines online where they are at the whim of isp providers and easy digital manipulation or deletion."

Me, I'm not that worried about those potential problems.  I'm more concerned with another possible development: Greedy corporations start squeezing the net for all its worth, including access.  Remember when a cable TV subscription was only $15 per month?  Now they want you buy a bundle with phone and internet services for like $100 a month.  Me, I make do at home with basic DSL for the net, the lowest price and slowest speed but doable. As for TV: OTA (off the air) is more than enough for me.

For now I'll keep collecting blog posts and formatting them into a paperzine format.  Unless it costs too much or there's no one left on the postal plains.  Just tumbleweed drifting through in the lonely wind.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Got Twinkie, Get Geiger Counter


(C) 2014 Ray X

Over at an independent Montana news site, Last Best News [1] , a reader suggests a novel defense for a politician who was arrested for his alleged irrational and violent behavior.

Shades of the Twinkie defense!

November 1978: A former San Francisco city supervisor, Dan White, kills the mayor and another supervisor.  When the case goes to trial White's lawyers use diminished capacity as a defense, i.e., White's bad diet of junk food and sugary drinks were symptomatic of a physical problem, ergo, his actions were not premeditated.

While Twinkies were not mentioned during the trial a reporter used the term "Twinkie defense," a term that soon caught on.  White's lawyers said that they did not claim their client's bad diet was a cause, only one symptom of White's depression.

"Twinkie defense" became synonymous with any dubious legal defense.

Now let's return to present day and an incident in Red Lodge, Montana on February 1st involving a politician, his kids, his estrange wife, and her boyfriend.

It is alleged that Jason Priest (Republican), a state senator serving the Montana Legislature, called his wife to pick up their three kids at his home and after she arrived Priest attacked her boyfriend.

Allegedly Priest threw the boyfriend on the ground and started punching him, the attack resulting in the boyfriend suffering a broken rib.  Priest is also alleged to have acted unholy, swearing in front of his children, being verbally abusive to them and also to his wife whom he called the C-word.  (It must be noted that as a Republican he belongs to "The Family Values Party.")

The charging document [2] was based in part on what a policeman on the scene observed.  Priest was charged with four misdemeanors, three different counts of assault and also resisting arrest.  He denies the allegations and like any defendant is considered innocent before his trial.

A reader in Alaska [3] responded to Last Best News article via email, pointing to a possible if improbable defense.

To quote:

"There may be extenuating circumstances affecting Mr. Priest's outrageous behavior. Unknown to you, I suspect, is the fact that Billings has been experiencing some of the highest levels of radiation found in the US at this time. Billings regularly shows levels that exceed 600 counts per minute. One-hundred counts per minute is considered the upper limit of 'safety'.

"Significant amounts of the radiation is, I believe, originating in Fukushima, Japan."

The reader, Douglas Yates, refers to the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear disaster, March 2011, in which three reactors at a nuclear power plant melted down, releasing considerable radioactive material into the atmosphere.  Some contend there's a conspiracy to hide the truth from the public: jet stream action brought dangerous radioactive pollution from the disaster to the US, meaning ill health will result for many unsuspecting citizens.

To quote another excerpt from Yates' email:

"Radioisotopes have a demonstrated connection with loss of cognitive function and/or episodes of rage. Note the rash of major air carrier pilots landing at the wrong destination. While it has not yet been formally connected, I believe many of the so-called air-rage incidents on airliners originate in exposure to high levels of radiation. It is well known that at cruising altitude crew and passengers are exposed to high levels of cosmic radiation. Now, as a result of Fukushima, the added burden of natural and manmade radiation is tipping some people over the edge, I suspect."

So did the devil radiation make the defendant do it?  To paraphrase Rod Serling: You're now entering the Twinkie Zone.