Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bad Girl




Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren has provoked an outcry over her US flag Halloween costume.  Some of her conservative audience are angry that she has desecrated the great symbol of America in such a way, especially cutting up the flag to create a cape.


I hope Captain America gives her a good spanking.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Hamstrung With Samsung


My war with technology continues.

My 7 inch Dell tablet was tough but it finally wore out.  Dell no longer makes stand-alone tablets so I had to purchase another brand.  I had tried Amazon Fire with its semi-Android operating system and hated it.  It didn't play and work well with Android.  Also Amazon switched the default search engine to Bing.  Compared to Google Bing sucks.

I had a Samsung tablet some time ago and it was OK.  So I purchased one which fit my budget (under $100) knowing that its internal memory was really limited.  But the Samsung included a micro SD card slot, a feature I like because I could move files and apps over to external storage, freeing up the needed internal space as I had done with other tablets.

But my new tablet wouldn't allow any such transfers.  I returned to Best Buy and a Geek Squad tech spent over half-an-hour trying to make it work.  He told me the version of Android -- 4.4 -- on my tablet had been crippled to stop access to external storage, supposedly a security move.

Imagine buying a car with a large trunk, plenty of storage room but the hood has been welded shut.

So what about spending 40 or 50 dollars more for the next model up from that with a newer version of Android?  No go.  That model was also crippled.  I had to get one with Android 6.0, a unit way out of my price range.

Apparently there are workaround apps to the problem but I can't be bothered.  I blame Google for creating this problem.  And while Samsung didn't create the restriction it should've warned customers about the SD card limitation.

So with my eXperience with modern tech -- how they like to screw up a good thing -- I'm looking forward to jumping out of the way from self-driving cars.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Puzzling

(From Ray X X-Rayer #137.  http://efanzines.com/RXXR/index.htm )







Claud, The Cyborg, is completely wrapped in a synthetic skin that covers his mouth.  He communicates through a speaker through his chest.  So why has this big ape bad guy gagged Claud's mouth?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pssst... Have You Heard About That Top Top Secret Space Program?

(From Ray X X-Rayer #137.  http://efanzines.com/RXXR/index.htm)





A distraught woman called into the late night radio program.  She was upset, feeling sorry for the people who were abducted and taken to Mars to work on a secret project.

For me the story causing her distraught was obvious: Alternative 3.

Back in 1977 Anglia Television in the UK produced a factual series called Science Report.  But for the April 1st broadcast the company decided to become fanciful, creating a mockumentary called Alternative 3.  Distinguished newscaster Tim Brinton went along with the gag, serving as presenter-narrator for the program.  Everyone else involved in the production were actors pretending to be reporters and interviewees.  Brinton's participation led to some viewers assuming the story was real, not fiction.  

The program, Science Report: Alternative 3, [1] has been compared to the War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938.  Each broadcast had the semblance of reality but was only a work of fiction.   Some people overreacted, falling for the hoax. 

Due to a work dispute Alternative 3  wasn't shown until June, ergo the April Fools' Day angle was overlooked, another detail that added to the confusion. 

Alternative 3  purported to have uncovered the truth behind a scientific brain drain. Scientists were leaving England, disappearing without a trace under mysterious circumstances.  Presenter-narrator Tim Brinton explained that Science Report been led into "some strange and unexpected byways" when investigating the brain drain problem. For example a specialist said she was taking a job elsewhere with better research facilities.  Before her departure she refused to talk to a reporter any further about her job offer.  She supposedly left on a flight to New York City but her name wasn't on any passengers list.  Her car was left abandoned at Heathrow Airport.  

So where were all these scientists and other missing people going?  The conspiracy involved the highest levels of the US and the Soviet Union who knew the earth was doomed, facing a total ecological disaster from pollution creating a global greenhouse effect.  Top scientists and others were being taken away to work on Mars to ready a new world before this one died.  Only the Elite would survive.

Mars was an uninhabitable planet -- or so the public was lead to believe.  Life existed on the red planet.  Its real conditions were being kept secret by phony Mariner probe images produced in a movie studio. 

One interviewee, Apollo astronaut "Bob Grodin," was sitting on a great story.  During his mission had stumbled upon a secret lunar base that was part of the conspiracy.  After getting liquored up he told a reporter the Apollo program was just a smokescreen.

The secret space program motif was later used in the TV series The X-Files which debuted in September 1993.  The US government had access to alien technology, secretly working on advanced vehicles that were sometimes reported as UFOs.

But before The X-Files series and the Alternative 3 program there was the first comic book issue of Space Man published in 1962 by Dell Comics. [2]

The cover shows astronauts on the moon, standard spacesuits and rockets for the time being depicted.  But the cover hid what was really inside.

In the first adventure two  US astronauts are rocketing to the moon, Ian Stannard and his co-pilot Johnny Mack, a space cadet but not in the stoner sense.  (Johnny is only 14 years old.  NASA must've created some special working papers for him.)  Others have gone before but they never made it due to a mysterious anti-force that repels all rockets back to Earth.  But this time there is no anti-force.

A surprise awaits Ian and Johnny on the moon.  While exploring the lunar surface they are surrounded and taken away by a swarm of cyborgs.  Both are shocked to see a city.  They are taken into a structure where another earthman greets them, Colonel Hooper, who was reported missing years ago.  (Did Hooper later meet astronaut "Bob Grodin?")

Hooper explains that the anti-force is created at this installation but Ian and Johnny were allowed through.  He stresses that what he is going to share with them is "top top secret."

Fifteen years ago aliens visited Hooper on Earth.  They were humanoid but wore ultra-tech spacesuits complete with transparent helmets.  They stood in the doorway, stating they were on a secret mission for the Galactic Guard.  Hooper responded: "Well, I can't be inhospitable.  Come in."

Hooper learned the Galactic Guard had been observing the earth for many centuries.  They liked the US government (as opposed to those commie bastard governments), wanting it to join the Galactic Guard, helping to defend all peaceful planets with the advanced technology they would provide.

So while the public has been following the standard space program with its relatively primitive technology Hooper and other earthmen have been zipping around in outer space in FTL flying saucers.  Sometimes these vehicles are spotted in terran skies, leading to UFO reports.  As Hooper mentions it's all part of the cover-up, the public thinking that only aliens operate flying saucers, not any terrans.

The cyborgs -- cybernetic organisms, explains Hooper --  that escorted Ian and Johnny are brave Americans, men who volunteered to have their bodies modified to survive in harsh conditions, covered by a skintight protective material from head to toe.

An alarm sounds.  The enemy is attacking.  A great battle ensues: flying saucers versus vehicles shaped like futuristic baby enemas.  The Galactic Guard prevails.




Now Ian and Johnny have to return to earth in their steam engine technology rocket, promising to keep secret the other space program.

Later the two return to the Galactic Guard and have a number of fantastic adventures.  But what is odd is if someone starts the series with Space Man #2 there is no mention of present day (1962) Earth.  A reader would assume the stories were taking place in the future.

Maybe the Government told Dell Comics to avoid that angle.  No reason to get the public thinking about a top top secret space program.



[1]  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOycaGEDORM

[2]  If you're looking for Space Man #1 as such you'll be disappointed.  The first story was part of an anthology series by Dell Comics called Four Color, so you have to look up Four Color #1253.  It can be found here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=33179 .  When Space Man won its own series there was normal numbering starting with issue #2.  You can find the series here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=33180 .


Reconnected To The World

(From Ray X X-Rayer #137.  http://efanzines.com/RXXR/index.htm )






I tried getting by without an ISP here at my new apartment.  Going around and using various public WiFi spots got old quick.

There was a great coffeehouse, the perfect WiFi spot, quiet, good coffee – but it closed.  All that's left are fake cafes.  These establishments are run like bars, loud music blaring, caffeine instead of alcohol. Raucous rock and misogynistic rap driven into your head.

One evening I went to a fake cafe and the music was blasting inside.  I went outside on the rear patio to get away from the distracting noise.  Across the street some bagpipers started up with their alfresco practice.  Then someone in the parking lot cranked up his car stereo.  Such a cacophony isn't conducive to creative thinking.

For a quieter time I would sit outside a fake cafe after it had closed, using the WiFi on the street. At least there was a bench where I could sit.  I wouldn't be the only WiFi loiterer.  A taxi driver would be parked outside, tagging a connection.  And others like me also were tagging on depending upon the weather.

The public library is quiet but its public WiFi is undependable.  I show up with a smart phone, a tablet, and a laptop but none of them will connect.  At the same time other people are having the same problem so it's not just me.  With the limited hours the library is open it's hard to get any real work.  And with all public WiFi spots there can be security issues.

I did some digging and got a decent price with a internet connection via the cable company.  I was hesitant because locally the cable company has a bad reputation.  A rep will tell you one thing and then you find out that wasn't true.  An installation fee is added to your bill even though the rep during the phone conversation stated that fee would be waived.  The state attorney general recently nailed with company with legal action because of the company's deceptive advertising, promising connection speeds that weren't as fast as claimed.

So far no problems with the cable company but it's still the honeymoon period.  I'm still waiting for my first bill.

It's easy to feel isolated in this jerkwater town.  Among the few friends I had some have moved away for better job opportunities.  Others have died.  There are few people around with similar interests.  The other day I joked to two guys why I didn't drink.  Me and alcohol, I explained, was like Bruce Banner and gamma rays.  They responded with Huh? looks. With popular entertainment the Hulk isn't that obscure, is he?  Like I said, isolation.

Most people here don't realize that there's a big world out there.  But they prefer provincialism.  Thanks to my 24/7 internet connection I can stay in contact with the world in the quiet of my apartment, mentally escaping from this Podunk trap.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Claud, The Lonely Cyborg

(From Ray X X-Rayer #137.)




You got troubles?  Imagine what it must be like for the cyborgs depicted in the Space Man comic book series (Dell, 1962).

The US government has joined the Galactic Guard, pitching in to defend peaceful worlds from evil aliens.  Some brave American men have volunteered to become cybernetic organisms that can handle living in outer space.

High tech mechanisms have been added to each volunteer through surgery.  Cyborg conversion means no more need to breath oxygen or depend upon food for energy.  Human lungs have been replaced with an oxygen and carbon dioxide converter.  A cyborg is enwrapped in a special skintight protective covering that blocks his mouth and ears.  He can only communicate through a speaker embedded in his chest.  And as for hearing -- no go.  He has to lip read what a normal person is saying.  (Microphones couldn't be installed?  Lousy cyborgizing.)

Not discussed is what happened to the sex organs.  Most likely they were no longer needed like the lungs.

The cyborgs play important roles in the Galactic Guard.  They go into battle against alien enemies.  And they also wait on tables.



That's right.  When the normals sit down for a meal cyborgs are waiters, hauling trays back and forth.  Did the man who volunteered to be cyborgized know he was going to do menial chores like serving meals? Cyborgs probably do the dishes and clean the toilets.  Now that's patriotism.  Or is it second class status?  Apparently the cyborgs don't have the balls to complain about such servitude.

In Space Man #7 a normal, Mary, is in training to serve in the Galactic Guard.  In one panel she talks about her life with some cyborgs, the caption explaining she is providing a bright spot in the lives of the lonely cyborgs. It must be lonesome when you usually hang around most of the time with other cyborgs until a normal asks you to do something.

At least each cyborg keeps his first name instead of being numbered.  The most valuable player is Claud  -- actually he's called Claud, The Cyborg -- who is always ready to assist the normals.  Usually the conversation with him is basically "What is it, Claud?" or "What's up, Claud?"  Just a servant who never receives any thanks.  He doesn't complain even after losing his normal human body forever.

One wonders if his soul has been replaced with a high tech mechanism.


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

"A Great Man In A Twit Suit"






He was hooked in a Flash.

A boyhood memory still vivid in the mind of Guy H. Lillian III.  He remembers the particular comic book issue that changed his life.

Guy: "My folks, little brother and I were visiting my grandparents in Rosamond, a bedroom town in the desert near Edwards Air Force Base. My grandmother had a basket of old magazines through which, one fateful day, I went leafing through and I chanced upon an issue of THE FLASH. The Mirror-Master was on it, beaming a light down on the Scarlet Speedster which reduced him in height. Hooked, gaffed, flopping in the floor of the boat ..."

This was back in the days when a comic book cost a dime.  Then there was a tremendous price increase to 12 cents but that didn't stop young Guy from following the adventures of the Scarlet Speedster.

For your 12 cents not only did you have stories told in four colors but also a letter department where readers via envelopes and stamps submitted their comments.  An editor would creatively title the letters page.  For the Flash it was Flash-Grams.

At that time National Periodicals/DC Comics retained the scripts and art by its creative crew after publication.  To encourage more readers to write in original scripts and art were given out as prizes to the "best" LOC writer.  Guy had a problem with how the prizes -- especially the superb artwork -- were being awarded for the dumb letters.

Guy: "...I grew annoyed at the way [Editor] Julie Schwartz was giving away artwork and scripts to the worst punsters among his Flash-Grams correspondents, and wrote him a letter complaining about it. He printed it. The rest is history ... or MY-story, as you prefer."

He became a letterhack, his frequent LOCs making him known to Schwartz and the younger DC staffers.

Guy: "Comics provided a vital world view for me, principally through my letterhacking to Schwartz. The stress of high school -- pretty much a universal experience -- was far easier to bear knowing that I had a place, a community, where I was known and my opinion valued beyond school's borders."

His letter writing would lead to his dream job.

Flash forward: Guy is living in New York City, employed as an editorial assistant at DC, getting by on $100 a week.  He was living in a safe high rise with medical students and nurses but in a rough section of town.  He didn't find East Harlem to be that bad but there was still "drama" as it calls it.  Knife fights outside his window. A suicide stretched out on the ground after a 14 story fall.   

Guy: "I have no idea how I survived on my crummy salary during my year at DC. My extra money from little writing assignments helped, but somehow I brought my girlfriend up from New Orleans twice while I was there, went to several Broadway plays, and stayed alive. As for my neighborhood, I just didn't go out much at night. It was grimy but OK during the day." 

He enjoyed his time at DC.

Guy: "My best assignment for DC Comics was writing dialog for some artwork Joe Orlando had on his shelves. I loved doing that and several of the stories were printed. Doing interviews and suchlike for AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS [magazine] was extra 'work' for which we received extra pay."

But his life ended up taking a different path after he left NYC for New Orleans.  He thought he wanted to get a Ph.D in English Literature at Tulane University but one semester convinced him it wasn't worth it.  There was his girlfriend at the time he thought was the One but that didn't work out.  He regretted leaving DC Comics more than any other job decision.

Guy would end up getting a law degree, working as a public defender in New Orleans. During that time someone described him as a great man in a twit suit.

What's a twit suit?

Guy: "Your guess is as good as mine, but I need to keep the quote. I THINK it's funny. We'll see what your readership believes!"

Guy's love of writing hasn't faded over the years: he keeps expressing himself through his fanzines like Spartacus and Challenger. 

GUY: "I'm trying to write fiction again -- at age 68 (almost) it may be a foolishness but what the hey, better than counting my teeth. I've done a draft of a 'down-home' novella I need to expand and a couple of horror stories. I was going to publish one in CHALLENGER no. 41, but my wife [Rose-Marie] insists that I should try to sell it. She's the boss. I'd love to write about my career as a lawyer, public defender work. People who have fouled up in life are fascinating, especially if they're trying to overcome their mistakes." 

He has many great fan memories including being at a SF convention with Julie Schwartz and Julie's long time friend, Ray Bradbury.

Guy: "Life has brought me into contact with some of the most fascinating people, many of them in science fiction and comics. I've interviewed Alfred Bester. I've known Julie Schwartz and Carmine Infantino. Poul Anderson and his wife Karen drove me to my first SF club meeting. Harlan Ellison asked me to try writing. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro adopted me as her fannish son. And there have been hundreds more. Through SF fandom I met Rose-Marie and saved my life. I've worked on program books for four worldcons, a NASFiC and two DeepSouthCons. I've formed friendships -- and enmities! -- that have lasted a lifetime."

And his legal career? 

Guy: "Being a public defender was a great privilege. I learned more about the darkness in human nature talking to charming, destructive and tragic [Charles Manson ex-follower] Leslie van Houten than a thousand classrooms could have taught me. Through some of those classrooms, though, like [poet and novelist] Fred Chappell's in North Carolina, I learned to express myself without fear. But who's to say that didn't begin with my first letter of comment to Julie Schwartz at Flash-Grams?"