Saturday, September 06, 2014

From The MailboX: Rant Feedback

One rant, two different takes.

My rant [ ] about formatting my zine any way I wanted produced some interesting reactions.

Robert Jennings, Editor of Fadeaway zine (29 Whiting Rd.,Oxford, MA  01540-2035) (FabFicBks[at]aol[dot]com), emailed:

I would suggest that criticisms about the appearance of your zine by readers are not malicious, but are probably intended to be constructive in nature.  Yes, its your publication to do anything you want with it, any way you want, but producing an end product that is comfortable to read and is visually agreeable makes a better impression and helps get whatever message you are writing about across more easily.  I know several people who produce fanzines, and I’m sure you do as well, who may have interesting or worthwhile material to offer, but whose format is so jumbled or cramped that most people won’t even give it a fair chance.  I don’t think your mag falls into that classification, but dumping on somebody because they make constructive format suggestions appears to me to be petty vindictiveness.

In decades past whenever I couldn’t make the pages come out quite to the end of the page in my mimeographed fanzines (not very often) I invented The Embarrassing Blank Space, which developed an independent life of its own in the early 1960s.  When computers and word processing systems came along this problem pretty much disappeared forever.  I would be happy to lend-lease a quire or two of Embarrassing Blank Spaces if you need the things.  Just be sure to label them when you use them.

OK, my rant was over the top but it wasn't meant to be malicious.  In fact the person who made the comment that I should be formatting my zine to look professional, i.e. leave no white space and have an even number of pages, hasn't indicated to me he has taken offense.  My rants should be taken in the spirit intended.

And Doug Harrison, Editor of Zine Explorers Notebook (P.O. Box 5291, Richmond, VA 23220) snail-mailed this:   
Thanks for the latest. That was an excellent rant on your first page. The whole idea of zines to me is to NOT "get with the program". (Which is why I call myself an anarchist.) I don't want to be forced to get with anybody's program, or force anybody to get with mine.
But yes, I have certain aesthetic standards for myself that I try to meet with my own publication. I find the challenges rewarding in making interesting page layouts, using different fonts and column widths, etc. That's my own choice; I don't expect anybody else to live up to my standards in their own realm. I think that's kind of snotty and arrogant; no, definitely so.

Doug publishes a very neat zine (and I'm not just talking about its appearance).  I can appreciate the time and effort he puts into his work; it does show.  Some people enjoy the process of layout and design.  For me, my main goal is to eXpress myself quickly and precisely, not to be overly involved with how it looks on the other end.  As long as its readable and people can grok my words, I'm happy.

Let me wrap this up with a third take from X. Dell of The X Spot []:

People confuse "professionalism" with (1) competence, (2) excellence or (3) value. In reality, I can point you to numerous examples where competence, excellence and value have been slaughtered on the altar of professionalism.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

XR #103 Online

If you prefer my blog posts in a zine format check out Ray's X Zone where you can view and download recent issues.

I just uploaded Ray X X-Rayer #103, the White Space Issue.  Here's a link to view it directly.

I'm down to a handful of paperzine subscribers and I'm debating whether or not to drop the entire zine format both in print and PDF.  Or I might drop the blog and just do an email newsletter.  This would eliminate some duplication of effort.  Any feedback from out there?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cash-Landrum: Curt Collins Is On The Case

And on the subject of a (non)fiction TV series covering eXtraordinary events (see previous post)...

Over at his site, Blue Blurry Lines [ ], Curt Collins has been looking into the Cash-Landrum incident.  In a recent blog post he takes to task the UFO "documentary" series, Close Encounters, on a few points with its report on the incident.

If you're unfamiliar with the Cash-Landrum case: December 1980.  Evening.  Texas, a country road.  Three people in a car (two adults and a child) encounter a hovering diamond-shaped object emitting heat, flames spewing out from its base.  Days later the three witnesses seek medical attention at a hospital, suffering from symptoms suggestive of radiation exposure.

In his post, Cash-Landrum As Seen on TV: Close Encounters,  [ ] Curt provides a list of thirteen inaccuracies he noted from one viewing of the CE episode dealing with the event.  Even basic facts like how many doors on the car are bungled.

But the biggest criticism is targeted toward the dramatized reenactment of the event.  Apparently it needed a bit of juice for the TV audiences.

In the purported recreation the UFO — which the witnesses said in real life was about 130 feet away — moved over the car, covering it in flames.

And another detail was created.  Close Encounters contacted someone who wasn't an expert on the case.  He repeated the story from memory, mentioning that he heard that sparks were being emitted from UFO.  

Apparently little or no fact checking was done.  Or if it was, maybe the producers thought: What the hell, let's keep that sparking angle and even enhance it to make the UFO's appearance even more impressive.  Why just have flames and sparks when you can throw in lightning?  Ergo, the UFO discharges electrical bolts. To quote the Late Great Supreme Commander Moseley: Wheee!

But this is nothing new.  Anyone remember the TV series, Unsolved Mysteries, that from 1987 until 2002 on the NBC network?  Hosted by actor Robert Stack — who seemed to recreating the character he portrayed in the comedy movie, Airplane — the producers wouldn't hesitate to juice up a story.  That's why before each episode a disclaimer was shown saying the series was not a production of NBC News.

A UFO that was reported seen in the distance at night, not that large or detailed, would be depicted hovering almost over the witness's head, huge with bright lights.  

And there was a segment about the Sandra Mansi - Lake Champlain monster encounter (1977) in which she provided an indistinct photograph of what could've been a half-submerged log or tree some distance away in the water.  But during the reenactment they showed the monster close to shore, going eyeball-to-eyeball with Mansi.  Double Wheee!

Don't watch that TV crap.  Instead spend time at sites like Curt's where real research is being done, sorting out the scat from the candy.   And it isn't TV mind candy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bovine-Human Hybrid Fetus!

Since I'm supposed to be writing about topiX instead of my health problems and zining irritations...

I don't have cable TV so I miss out on the "good" stuff like the (non)fiction series UFO Hunters that originally aired on the History Channel from January 2008 through October 2009.

Instead I've been making do with — and sometimes struggling through  — UFO Hunters by William J. Birnes, a companion book to the series, courtesy of my local public library.  (I'm careful with purchases with my limited budget.  Of course, there is spending time on a book but I digress.)  Birnes, former publisher of the late UFO Magazine, gives behind-the-scenes insights into the filming of the docudrama series.

While skimming through this tome that covers topiX of dubious value like Bob Lazar, I came across a brief reference to a bovine-human fetus.

But no more details were provided.  I notice that the tome is designated "Book One," meaning that I have to read Book Two or Three to get the scoop on this shocking incident.

Or I could just Google and find out more.

According to the hits I encountered Birnes contends that the bovine-human fetus story was the reason why the UFO Hunters series was canceled.  When he appeared on Whitley Strieber's Unknown Country radio program on 2/13/2010 [ ] he talked about the Dulce episode and the fight over showing the outre fetus images on TV.

There are all sorts of wild stories involving Dulce, New Mexico, including a DUMB (Deep Underground Military Base) installation where above-top-secret experiments are being conducted in creating human-alien hybrids.

A retired New Mexico state police officer contacted Birnes, providing the UFO hunter with photographs of a — to use Birnes' own words  — "human-bovine-maybe-something-else" fetus C-sectioned from a mutilated cow.  The former trooper said a helicopter was trying to collect the cow but the flashing lights from his car scared it off. 

Birnes says that his show had gone too far with this disturbing evidence: it had to be canceled because the truth was coming out.  Pharmaceutical companies are big advertisers on TV and they were particularly upset over the purported human-headed cow images.

He noted that after the Dulce episode aired some Congresspeople introduced a bill making it a federal crime to crossbreed humans and animals.

During his interview with Strieber Birnes complained that the History Channel was owned by a hierarchy of corporations all the way up to the Dreaded Disney.  Well, dance with the Devil and your foot gets stepped on by a hoof...

So the moral of the story: If you don't cowtow to The Powers That Be over the existence of mootants your career will be udderly destroyed.

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.





Sunday, March 02, 2014

Flipping On Bitcoin

I’ve been lax with listening in on the Liberty Net crew at .  The last time I noted anything worth noting was a discussion about Bitcoin, the digital currency/peer-to-peer payment system.

Part of the discussion was how the National Security Agency was spying on everyone online, an actual conspiracy, unlike some of the Illuminati stories they repeat.

One Libnetter was advocating Bitcoin as an alternative to paper money, a way of working around the control of the Mega-Conspiracy.  But another participant said that maybe Bitcoin was really part of the Mega-Con, maybe a front for the NSA to keep track of you.

So the first speaker went from advocating Bitcoin to wondering if it was indeed an Illuminati honeytrap.

Life is damn rough when everything is a conspiracy… 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

20, 100, Then…?

I just returned from a brisk nighttime walk to the post office to drop off the latest edition of my paper zine, Ray X X-Rayer #100.  My walk was brisk not because of excessive energy on my part: quick movement was required because it's freakin' 10 degrees F/-12 degrees C outside.

Back in February 1994 – I don’t remember the eXact date – I launched my zine.  (I pick Groundhog Day as an arbitrary date for the first issue.)  Twenty years and 100 issues later and I’m wondering how I managed to keep it going for so long.

Over time my writing shifted from zining to blogging this stuff first, then slapping together some posts into a paper format.  I’ve almost given up along the way – that’s why my output isn’t prolific.  I think what helped me was not deciding to published on a definite schedule; I decided to write when inspiration struck me.  Ergo the long gaps between zine editions and posts.

The fun of zining – and even blogging – has faded.  Maybe it’s time for a long break or a permanent one.  I do enjoy the contacts I’m made along the way through zining and blogging.  I’ve met some interesting people along the way but only thru snail mail or online.

I wish I had the funds to do field work, meet sources face to face.  But until that opportunity arises I’ll have to remain an armchair investigator.  That routine gets old; I have to wait for inspiration to hit me from the sky before I’m ready to write.
With the motivation flagging – it might be this winter limbo I’m slogging thru – I’m don’t want to perfunctorily pump out material.

I’m not necessarily signing off or on.  I’m just waiting for the Zeta Beam to hit…

Remembering Supreme Commander Jim Moseley

UFO researcher Curt Collins has been revamping and updating the web site, James W. Moseley, Remembered – .  Jim Moseley was there at the beginning of ufology and for decades published a personal, sometimes controversial, newsletter covering the scene.  His zine went under a few name changes until he settled on the title Saucer Smear.   The memorial site provides good sources of information for anyone researching ufology (and its related sub-domain, what Jim called ufoology.

I still miss my nighttime phone conversations with Jim.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Space Brothers, Forgive Us

Orthon, where art thou?

 (C) 2014 Ray X

We've been waiting for a long time.

Why haven't the benevolent space brothers revealed themselves and offered to directly help mankind?  Back in the 1950s contactees like George Adamski said that they met with benevolent ETs who looked like handsome godlike humans.  These space brothers passed along messages of great import like don't blow up your planet with a global nuclear war, ya morons.

Orthon must have had second thoughts about helping us out.  Why?

I think I've uncovered the answer.  The space brothers are miffed that we portray them so unfavorably in our media.

I recalled an animated drive-in intermission spot from my childhood that featured an alien visiting the snack bar during intermission.  For you uninformed young 'uns out there a drive-in was once a popular medium for movies, an outdoor theater with a parking lot facing a towering screen that displayed the movies.  The spaces were arranged so viewers could sit in their cars and watch.  The better drive-ins had a slight hump at each space to angle up the car for optimal viewing.  You listened to the movie by hanging a cabled speaker on the rolled down driver-side window.

The drive-in would show more than one film.  Between the main and second feature there was an intermission compelling you to enjoy the fine food at the snack bar.

Thanks to Google I've located that alien drops in to the snack bar cartoon ad [ ].

In the 55-second-long spot the alien BOING-BOING-bounces into the snack bar, startling the owner.   No wonder.  The alien is a pudgy green demon with a long pointy tail.  He speaks in an annoying high-pitched voice.

 Among the items he orders the alien asks for a "cup of that nice hot liquid" – strong-as-battery-acid coffee – and two bags of "that peculiar white puffy material" – greasy popcorn.

Throw into the mix fatty hot dogs with sugary candy bars and soda and you have a meal that a human being would have trouble safely absorbing, let alone an alien.  Can you imagine this: an alien with three hearts who needs triple triple bypass surgery?

I wonder how many of our outer space visitors did check out a drive-in snack bar and ended up hurling in their flying saucers as they hurled away from Earth.

As the ad wraps up the alien grabs his haul, saying his saucer is parked outside, and he bounces away.  The snack bar owner observes that people come for miles around for his exquisite food.   Such puerile humor is beneath the supremely-intelligent space brothers.

Add the insult of being portrayed as a goofy green demon and it's no wonder they haven't come back.

Maybe the annoyed space brothers will initiate a defamation of character suit through the law firm of Klaatu, Barada, and Nikto.

[ DISCLOSURE: Orthon is distantly related to my intergalactic cousin, Rayon.]

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Arthur C. Clarke And His Orbital Newspaper

By Ray X

Five decades ago Arthur C. Clark predicted the present decline of print publishing, books and newspapers.  This disruption would be caused by a new communications medium: satellites.

Besides SF Arthur C. Clarke also wrote nonfiction, extrapolating about future inventions based upon scientific and technological developments at the time.  His book, Profiles of the Future (Bantam edition 1964), includes portions of articles  previously published in magazines like Science Digest during the late 1950s - early 1960s.

Chapter 16, Voices from the Sky, discusses future changes in the delivery of media via satellites.  How far advanced was such technology when Clarke was extrapolating?  Check out this footnote: "This chapter was written before the launching of Telstar.

(You young non-nerds will have to Google Telstar.)

Relay satellites would bring the world together, he wrote.  Information could be transmitted to any spot on the globe.  In the 21st century people wouldn't be required to work in an office.  They could conduct business "through computer keyboards and information-handling machines in their homes." 

Advanced descendants of reproducing and facsimile machines found in a modern (1960s) office would lead to the invention of "the orbital newspaper."  Such a device would work with a TV, explained Clarke, making a permanent record of the screen image on demand via printing.

He continued:  

"Thus when you want your daily paper, you will switch to the appropriate channel, press the right button—and collect the latest edition as it emerges from the slot. It may be merely a one-page news sheet; the editorials will be available on another channel—sports, book reviews, drama, advertising, on others. We will select what we need, and ignore the rest, thus sav­ing whole forests for posterity."

But more than newspapers could be accessed through such a system.  Everything from a copy of the Manga Charta to the latest Earth-Moon passenger schedule would be available.  He predicted that books might be distributed the same way but with a drastic formatting change.

This lead to a warning.  Clarke observed:

"All publishers would do well to contemplate these really staggering prospects. Most affected will be news­papers and pocketbooks; practically untouched by the coming revolution will be art volumes and quality magazines, which involve not only fine printing but elaborate manufacturing processes. The dailies may well tremble; the glossy monthlies have little to fear."

Clarke also wondered how mankind would handle the avalanche of information.

"For will there be time to do any work at all on a planet saturated from pole to pole with fine entertain­ment, first-class music, brilliant discussions, superbly executed athletics, and every conceivable type of in­formation service? Even now, it is claimed, our children spend a sixth of their waking lives glued to the cathode-ray tube. We are becoming a race of watchers, not of doers."

Of course, Clarke did miss a few fine details.  He didn't foresee that the big distraction wouldn't be fine entertainment via satellite: it would be internet porn.