Monday, December 20, 2010

A Manga to Make Carl Sagan Weep

I read somewhere a while back that Tite Kubo, author of the obscenely popular manga series Bleach, made a statement to the effect that he's only halfway through penning that title. It's almost difficult to fathom another TEN YEARS of Bleach. Mind you, that series is basically about teen ghosts that fight each other with spirit swords, so I'm intensely curious--though not enough to actually buy any--about how much plot juice one can wring out of such a banal premise. Madness.

Well, from a critic/sensible reader's perspective it's loony. From that of the accountant it makes perfect sense. In fact, from that angle it's tough to begrudge it since a cash cow like this enables publishers to take risks with other, perhaps more artsy, niche titles.

Back in my Viz days that company occasionally took a gutsy risk thanks to such lucrative series. Carl Horn's great work on Eagle, about a Japanese-American who makes a bid for the White House (this is waaaaay before anybody'd even heard of Obama) was one of them. They promoted the fuck out of it--I know because I helped write and distribute lots of its marketing materials--and it sold like dog poop in a box even though it received critical acclaim.

Before that, though, my favorite risky title had to be Hoshino Yukinobu's 2001 Nights, a hard sci-fi collection of time-skipping vignettes that philosophically approaches the subject of mankind's future endeavors in space. Every year or two I come back to it, read it over, and remember the way it was. You know, back in those good ol' days that don't actually exist except through the rosy glasses in our heads.

It truly is a masterpiece of sci-fi manga, despite my obvious leanings. Like a skilled surgeon Hoshino takes so many of the familiar conventions of the genre, dissects them and presents them back to the audience with that thing the Japanese so love to cite--heart. Take the KARK 9000 storyline, in which a remote probe with a sentient AI at its core is sent shooting off on a nuclear rocket at twelve percent light speed towards Barnard's Star looking for alien life. Hoshino takes the story of a fancy computer and its human programmer and, in two parts, transmutes it into a genuinely piercing tragedy that pulls readers in with tremendous emotional gravity.

The grand question Hoshino presents to readers throughout hundreds of pages of meticulously illustrated panels is this: Will humanity every truly be ready to not just gaze into infinity, but step into it willfully? Serious food for thought as we retire space shuttles, slash NASA funding and move further and further away from the glory days of triumphant moon landings.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Deathrace 2011

So we're ten years (give or take some months) past the dystopic future depicted in Deathrace 2000 and I for one am furious there isn't more--or any--bloody high octane death sports out there. Meanwhile, the Phillies just spent something like $140 million on a single player. That's money that can be better spent on spinning wheel spikes, oil slick shooters and fuzzy dice.

And you know, that plus the shitty weather recently has got me thinking of getting back onto four wheels.

There, I've said it and already I feel dirty.

Christ, I've owned a lot of vehicles over the years: a 1983 Audi C3/5000; that wonderfully named 1989 Mitsubishi Starion; my first bike, a 1991 Kawasaki EX 500; the salvaged 1996 CBR F3; and finally my Mille "Highway Star."

Will two-wheel transport continue to dominate my life? Yes, certainly, but even I need to admit that it's not always practical. Take the coming week, when it's supposed to rain continuously for days and I need to be at a client in Novato. It's not suicide to ride in the rain but even I, a stalwart, stubborn motorcyclist, can't deny the risks are higher. Not to mention it's just so much more uncomfortable. I'll need to take an extra pair of socks and shoes, find a place to dry out the suit, come up with a whole bunch more gripes. Way too much work.

The plan is really to drive it as little as possible, only in inclement weather, on cold nights and trips with friends out of the area. So, as you can see, I've already justified it like an addict rationalizes that next hit of the crack pipe. Just a matter of saving up a bit more money and choosing the right car. Used, of course. By the numbers, when one factors in all the energy costs of resource extraction, transport, refinement and vehicle assembly it's more environmentally friendly to purchase a used car than a brand new hybrid or diesel. At least for a while.

Or until I can convert it to run on blood.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

I'm Seceding From the Union. Who's With Me?

You know, I could go on all day and night about the good and bad aspects of my former English teacher position, but definitely one of the best aspects was the mobility. Every day a different school--hell, sometimes two!--which ensured that nobody ever got too big a dose of gaijin Matt and his foreign devil ways, and vice versa. Well, here I am in this IT gig doing the King of the Road thing once again. No desk, no roots, no problem.

One of the places the job has taken me is an Oakland labor law firm in a high rise at the corner of 12th and Broadway whose western windows stare straight into the never-blinking face of the Tribune Tower's illuminated clock. It's a lovely view to say the least and the lawyers there are good, kind people. However, from those heights looking down, I couldn't help but recall how Oakland's unemployment rate is hovering between seventeen-and-a-half and eighteen percent. That's approximately seven point higher than the regional average. A staggering level for a major American city that's not, say, Detroit.

How does it get like this, and what can be done to cut those percentages? Of course, Oakland has historically had its share of problems since at least the '50s thanks to White Flight and then the rising wave of crack addiction starting in the '70s. But the issue is bigger than one East Bay city, it's national, perhaps even international. In a speech at Boston University in late October--which I've read about three times just to solidly take it all in--former presidential press secretary and PBS newsman Bill Moyers made a good case for identifying a major contributor to the poverty and misery facing so many Americans these days as "wage repression."

I'd never heard of wage repression before but it's pretty intuitive once Moyers cites a prime example of it:

I must invoke some statistics here, knowing that statistics can glaze the eyes; but if indeed it’s the mark of a truly educated person to be deeply moved by statistics, as I once read, surely this truly educated audience will be moved by the recent analysis of tax data by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. They found that from 1950 through 1980, the share of all income in America going to everyone but the rich increased from 64 percent to 65 percent. Because the nation’s economy was growing handsomely, the average income for 9 out of l0 Americans was growing, too – from $17,719 to $30,941. That’s a 75 percent increase in income in constant 2008 dollars.

But then it stopped. Since 1980 the economy has also continued to grow handsomely, but only a fraction at the top have benefitted. The line flattens for the bottom 90% of Americans. Average income went from that $30,941 in 1980 to $31,244 in 2008. Think about that: the average income of Americans increased just $303 dollars in 28 years.

That’s wage repression.

He goes on to explain how the top one percent who hold half the country's wealth, plus the companies they work for, pretty much only spend their money on luxury items and then squirrel away the rest or buy back stock to prop up market values. Little to none of their money makes its way to the local, regional or national communities. The trickle down economics that the Republicans tout? A myth.

And America just put them back in the driver's seat of government. Their message essentially seems to be "do what we say or we'll wrap this sucker around a tree." As a friend said yesterday, that branch seems to be run by twelve-year-olds at the moment. Twelve-year-olds with access to booze and DC hookers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Workin' for the Weekend

I doubt anybody follows this anymore. Haven't posted in months after all, but what the hey--it beats written journaling, which I made a halfhearted stab at last month. Perhaps I'll still document some of my more personal thoughts in there. Perhaps.

A lot has gone down in the past few months. From losing a job or three to getting a salaried one to moving home to maybe moving back out to helping some friends through tough times to...other things. The position, a staff IT helpdesk grunt for my friend Kelli's husband's consulting firm, is more or less working out. That's nice and somewhat reassuring. Still, other parts of my life feel muddled, confusing and downright painful. What I'd give for the answers to some burning questions...

Maybe it's best to forget it and move on, but the matter's not in my hands anymore.

One thing that is certain though is this familiar feeling of work. Ah, how I've missed you! The dizzying highs of getting shit done, satisfaction of a good day's labor and the longing for it all to be over and the weekend to arrive sooner rather than later. On a scale of latrine scrubber to professional international Indian food taster I'd place IT well above average, definitely better than teaching English in a tiny Japanese mountain town (not that I don't have any love for Kusu and my friends there) but still below the Whiskey Media gig. Hey, we takes what we can gets, you know.

In any event, I'm learning new things everyday and enjoying some of the small luxuries and finer things a life of poverty and penny-pinching denied me. In fact, went by Remedy earlier on and had a cup of ridiculously fine coffee. The place's client base is so hipster and Apple-centric I expected all the young flannel-clad ones to break into song and dance if an MGMT track came on. Well, guess what all you hipsters not reading this: I was a regular at Remedy when it was just the owner, Todd, on a 2'x5' cart out front in the freezing weather until noon-ish. I was going there before it was cool to go there!

Oh, shit. That was something a hipster might say.

Goodbye cruel world!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

John Cleese Has America's Ticket

The below video is titled "John Cleese Rants - Soccer vs. Football," and it's anything but an unintelligible hate-screed one might expect from anything with the word "rant" in it. Of course it's funny--Cleese always is--but it's also enlightening. The unpopularity of football (soccer) in America has always vexed me because it's such a treat for the eyes when two teams of skill go at it. As Cleese explains, though, this is merely another case of corporate media dictating what is and isn't to be popular as football's virtually uninterrupted action is not conducive to advertisers, thus cutting into the network's revenue stream.

America: it's all about the Benjamins.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tearful Native Americans Not Enough To Convince Some, I Guess

While crossing San Pablo Ave. on Adeline southbound I saw a man toss his spent can of beer to the sidewalk.

People still do that?

Well, he was really more of a boy, probably somewhere in his teens. That will give you the idea of the caliber of human being here. I'm stupefied that this remains an issue in the 21st century as I thought it had been eliminated like polio--a relic of the past that our parents talk about in hushed tones. There're garbage cans on practically every corner in the city, and if not a municipal one then some shop's can or a resident's plastic bin. How hard is it to hold the can until then?

Witnessing this most preventable of hits to urban beautification irks me deeply for two reasons. First, Japan has almost zero public waste bins, so the public must hold their trash until they get home, to work or find a convenience store with a waste can out front. I "suffered" through this for three years and you know what? It's really not that big of a burden! Next, and perhaps most important, I'm really starting to like life in Oakland and it pains me to even think that I may need to move out of the city soon due to my current unemployment. But with residents not even willing to crush and stow a can in their pocket does this city have a brighter future? Thanks to, ahem, contacts in city government I've recently become privy to a good deal of the inner workings of Oakland's civic leadership and it's a bleak picture indeed. Residents and local officials have to pull together pretty soon to save Oakland from the blight it was not even fifteen years ago.

First order of business: stop littering on my damn city.

Hank Scorpio For World Leader

Completely out of left field, for sure, but while I've been writing up articles about MIB III plot details and Bruce Willis cologne somehow the subject of the greatest forgotten Simpsons side character popped up. How could I have forgotten about Hank Scorpio, Homer's one-time boss and evil mastermind? Too bad he only appeared once, but best not to spoil the genius of his character on too many guest spots. Here's his theme song:


Monday, July 5, 2010

Meanwhile, Several Months Later...

Late to the party, certainly, I picked up a copy of McSweeney's superb San Francisco Panorama in late May and have been slowly making my way through the fat chunk of newsprint and higher quality stock paper that compose the thing. It's all fairly old news, so I'm taking my time. If you're not familiar with Panorama, it came out in December of '09 and stands as McSweeney's, well, some would say swan song to the print newspaper, but I'd like to consider it a blueprint for the future of the medium. It contains several segments including news, sports, entertainment/book review and an interesting news-magazine supplement.

By far my favorite section is the magazine. I've been enlightened on the subjects of what transpires when two gay San Franciscans visit a NASCAR race in Michigan, why film distribution is broken in the U.S. (very handy while writing for, how a green (as in experience) lawyer broke through the red tape to deliver a family from home foreclosure and how a black woman from Oakland experienced the cold southern climes of Antarctica.

It's that latter most article that's been continually blowing my mind these days as I read and then re-read the thing over and over again. It's the style the draws me in, as well as the story. Author Mary Williams writes from a third-person perspective and placing you in her place. There are plenty of "Your new boss..." and "You will..." moments where she pulls the reader into her place where I feel like she's just writing about me; I was the one suffering through frostbite and food-zealous dive-bombing skuas on the ice sheets of Antarctica. If she's still in Oakland I'd really like to meet her, shake her hand and buy her a hot cup of...whatever.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Bum Fights Turns it Up to 11

Since it seemed to shock everybody sooooo much last night that I hadn't seen 2 Girls 1 Cup then perhaps it will come as an equal surprise to learn I'd also not seen Hobo With a Shotgun until just now:

I am blinded by the light, it's so beautiful! Hard to believe this trailer was made three years ago and screened at SXSW. Perhaps more unbelievable is that a feature-length film is now in pre-production starring Rutger Hauer.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Happy Yuri's Night!

How's this for important holiday's you never knew existed: every April 12 since 1962 motley crews of like-minded space cadets around the world get together to turn machine-filled labs and aeronautical test bays into party halls to celebrate the first space shot of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Known as Cosmonautics Day in Russia the celebration has spilled across borders and oceans to reach America in 2001 and a huge event is now held every year down at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View. Alas, it was $50 for entry this year and I just don't have that kind of cash--nor anywhere to crash in the area--but my spirit is with them and I continue to watch the circling skies...


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Everybody Needs to Listen to This Episode

Things are pretty bad right now in the Bay Area and nowhere is it worse than in Fremont, where the NUMMI plant will fully shut down its production line tomorrow. Last week's episode of This American Life focused on the plant's history and what went wrong, and I must say it damn near brought tears to my eyes.

America should be angry at this. Very. Goddamn. Angry.

Take an hour and have a listen:


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Together At Last!

I wake up every morning wondering when one of the greatest music videos and one of the greatest sci-fi programs will finally unite.

The waiting is over, I give you BSG vs. Sabotage. Might want to reload the page once or twice to get them synced up well.

For a video bonus the following trailer came across my screen yesterday and sums up my feelings on what it takes to win an Oscar: filmmakers, abandon challenging material and just follow the damn formula.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ultima Ratio Regum

This was too good to be true. C'mon sci-fi geeks out there, you can't tell me that the heart wasn't pumping a bit above baseline when, say, the gatling needlegun Reason spins up to unleash gouts of red hot death, or when the Culture unleashes extra-dimensional energy--Gridfire --onto an entire ringworld. These are some of the genre's most defining moments and here this artist has gorgeously laid them all out chronologically for us. Bravo, ma'am. Bravo.


Monday, March 1, 2010

"Squid Wrestling: All Tentacles and No Substance."

Yikes, I am super busy at work and come home every night really wanting to just collapse in a heap...and I love it! Finally I'm feeling like a semi-contributing member of society again despite the ridiculously low salary. (They tell me it'll pay off, I hope they're right.) The downside to this, of course, is that there's little to no energy left to do my own, non-company, writing here. But tonight I stumbled on a blog that really made my day--Sleep Talkin' Man. This is what happens when a prolific and astoundingly funny sleep talker marries a blogger with recording equipment and no shame whatsoever in broadcasting her husband's most intimate unconscious moments to the world.

His lucid speech and fantastic imagination remind me very much of famous sleep talker Dion McGregor.


Friday, February 19, 2010

This is Absolutely Repugnant

It never occurred to me that there would be a day when a mere emergency dispatch call would cost money up-front. Certainly we all pay a share for the service with our tax dollars, but the cash-strapped Tracy government has the wonderful notion that 911 medical calls should be paid for by residents either via annual subscription or, if they don't want to bother with that, in lump sums of $300 a pop. That's right: if you live in this Central Valley hellhole and you or a loved one are experiencing a medical emergency it is now necessary to consider whether or not you have the cash just to make the ambulance call. MC Hammer lives out there...won't somebody please think of MC Hammer!?

That is an astoundingly repugnant thought to me. Thanks for the fun Prop 13. I am lighting some incense, rubbing a Buddha, muttering some Hail Marys, and generally projecting psychic waves of discontent in the hope this idiotic idea doesn't start the snowball rolling for privatized public services. If none of that works, well, I bid everybody a welcome back to the 19th century. Will you take the financial hit and save your neighbor if their house is ablaze or they're lying still in the street clutching their chest?


Friday, February 12, 2010

MEL = Interstellar Playboy

After so many years you probably all think you know me, but with this video it's all about to be turned upside-down. That's right, Matt Lopez is scoring phone numbers and breaking hearts on this planet and around the known universe.



Monday, February 8, 2010

No Tinfoil Hat Can Protect You: This Will Vaporize Your Brain

Wow, this is the wildest, most inconceivable science story I've seen in a long, long time. I don't have time to comment on it (at work now), but want to put it out there for you all to ponder.


LOL Lap!

Oh my, I'm sure the co-workers don't know what to make of me laughing my ass off as two men insult each other while doing a lap of Germany's famed Nurburgring in an R34 or something. Watch:

It's like they're married!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Put Me In, Coach

Well, I've only got a cameo in this one, but it's the first step towards internet stardom and piles of cocaine. There was some crosstalk stuff we did at the end, but looks like it got cut for time.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Holy Shit

Watch the first clip all the way through.

'Nuff said.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

I've never heard of comedian Mark Malkoff before, but I'm willing to pay more attention to him after watching him shatter the stereotype of New Yorkers as being some of the most ornery, mean people in the nation. His experiment to disprove this notion was to have people strolling the streets carry him the entire length of Manhattan, roughly up Broadway--and he mostly did it. He reached 140th St. in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood before the big blizzard of mid-12/09 hit, a distance totaling 9.4 miles.

To those that say this disproves nothing, fuck 'em. This is the very best kind of science and I look forward to testing it out myself, except in my case I'll be carried by eunuch slaves in a palanquin.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Captain Planet is No Match!

We don't typically see product reviews here, but I'm borrowing my friend Pat's Aerostitch Roadcrafter one-piece suit and I have to say the thing is magnificent--as magnificent as a unicorn in mid-leap. Not only is it the most comfortable motorcycle suit I've ever worn, it's also the fully impervious to the elements. I went out in the rain and cold this morning on my way to Sausalito and I couldn't feel a thing through the layers. Like wearing a body-sized condom.

So, a shout out to all of Captain Planet's nefarious enemies, buy this suit and be impervious to the elements, whether it be earth, fire, wind, water or, umm, heart.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Rising Waters

Ugh, I just woke up from a dream where I was basically adopted as a Swedish citizen just by drinking and singing with some soccer fans from that country. We then all went to fight the forces of darkness in some Buddhist temple at the top of a mountain. This event was preceded by me being a wheelman for Kevin Costner, who happened to also be a cocaine smuggler.

I think the Sweden thing is a direct result of Massachusetts becoming a red state the other day. You know, flee the sinking ship for high ground...and Volvos. I seriously told some Japanese folks that CA, NY, and MA would never ever become red states. I was wrong, and now the Swedish are fighting for my soul.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Breaking the Law, Breaking the Law

It struck me just now that the storage capacity of Johnny, sneakernet agent/main character of William Gibson's excellent cyberpunk short story Johnny Mnemonic, had an in-brain memory capacity of 80 gigs. Just 80 gigs! Silicon Power just released a compact flash card for pro-level digital SLR cameras that stores 128 gigs and isn't much larger than a Cool Ranch Dorito. That Johnny, what a sucker--he traded his childhood memories in 2021 for a wetware storage bin that could barely hold a respectable mp3 collection in 2010. Well, he gets Molly as a concession, so if that's losing out I don't want to win.

Moore's Law states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double every two years and has held more or less true since 1970. And though this law has been invoked for computer hardware on the whole I just found out that when referring to storage devices specifically the phenomenon is actually called Kryder's Law, named after Seagate VP of research Mark Kryder. So, interesting little tidbit there. To me.


Going in a completely different direction, I spent about an hour today re-lacing all my shoes in various configurations I found from Ian's Shoelace Site, your one-stop-shop for shoelace tying information. Not only have a I laced my Sketchers into a lattice formation, but I've learned how to tie an effective reef knot that virtually never comes undone. Huzzah!

...It is so monumentally important that I start this job next week. It'll prevent me from doing stuff like this too often.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life is Good!

It's like 50-degrees outside, darker and gloomier than any amount of MDMA could push back against, the rain could douse a person at its whim and none of the buses run on time. Today, statistically, life should suck.

But a man on the phone said I just got a job--a good job!--and now I feel like frolicking through alpine meadows carpeted in wildflowers, drinking Cristal and pushing over Julie Andrews. I'll dance around a campfire throughout the night and welcome the dawn with a blast from alpenhorn, then vomit into it.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Not Fit for Window Display

The idea of Hollywood being bankrupt of ideas is certainly decades old, and statements to that effect must slip from people's tongues in virtually all languages every thirty seconds somewhere in the world. Each time a beloved novel or children's book is adapted, TV series compressed, franchise rebooted or characterless National Lampoon block slid into place you will hear that sentiment.

Aside from the rare gems, like '09's Moon, it's oh so utterly true.

Moviehole is reporting that...*shudder*...the resurrected studio of deceased producer David Begelman (suicide after producing Weekend at Bernie's--definitely the easier way out of that debacle) is planning a reboot of everybody's favorite Reagan-era inanimate object romance comedy, Mannequin. Now, having recently re-watched both Mannequin and its extremely ill-conceived sequel, Mannequin 2: On the Move, this hits especially close to home for me. So close, in fact, that the bile in my throat threatens to spew forth in a sensation not unlike being sucker punched in the gut. Are they going to stage a Starship reunion to record a new theme song? Ugh...Pygmalion wept.

If this isn't straight-to-DVD fodder I don't know what is.

File:Mannequin movie poster.jpg


Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

Man, do you ever get that feeling of cosmic goodness, like things are going to be OK no matter what kind of crap the world throws at you?

No? Me neither, but at least I'm pretty sure we'll never have the massive quantity of fashion disasters that the 70s and 80s spawned. Like this:

Or this:

It makes me happy. Really.


OMGWTFBBQ...The Legend of Koizumi

I'm practically in tears over here after watching the following clip. Every time I think Japan's neurons have stopped firing off original and good ideas something comes and kneecaps me while I'm looking away. Today, this something is The Legend of Koizumi, a short animation (that looks to be part of a series) about former PM Junichiro Koizumi and his, umm, "diplomatic efforts" with North Korea's Kim Jong Il. Koizumi was a charismatic and popular PM during his tenure and this video demonstrates just why the people loved him so. Let's watch the show:

There's so much goodness here, from the apoplectic G.W. Bush falling over on a segway to former PM Taro Aso (whose hometown is just a couple cities over from Kusu) taking out a sniper with a bit of fancy shooting of his own.



Monday, January 11, 2010

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

These promos for Milwaukee's KITI news anchor team surfaced about two weeks ago and I neglected to post them until now, but it was worth the wait. Like Laughing Squid said of them, it's as if Anchorman met The A-Team...but in real life.

There are also individual spots for each member of the team that are equally clever. Collect them all!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Warning: Put Away Any Psychedelic Substances Before Proceeding

Some celestial words can describe it...

They should have sent a poet...


Math's Never Looked Quite This Good

Somebody call Warren Ellis. This post from New Scientist's science and math page isn't the start of a new Planetary story arc, but it sure sounds like one.

E8 in all its glory! Kinda looks like the LHC detector.

In all fairness, Ellis's inspiration for the (non-spatial) 196,833-dimensional "snowflake" Wildstorm Multiverse came from the Fischer-Griess Monster group, not the E8 group, but, as I tenuously understand, they're both important parts of group theory mathematics. What caught my attention about this discovery in the 248-dimensional E8 group being visualized for the first time is its possible link to string theory, particularly in relation to Garrett Lisi's unified field theory.

Now, I'm obviously not a mathematician or a physicist, so I can't be expected to explain everything in exacting technical detail, but I'll try to describe the fundamentals as I understand them. Unified field theory is, currently, the holy grail of the math and physics world: with an understanding of this "theory of everything" scientists could tie the interactions between elementary particles together and understand matter, energy and the universe in a fundamental way. I think gravity is the odd force out right now, meaning that nobody knows how to fit it into the mix. Just to give an idea of what kind of mind it might take to crack this sucker, working on a unified field theory basically broke Einstein and there are even some people that suggest the stress brought on by the exertion cut his life short.

There are plenty of theories of everything and they're all ridiculously complex. Garrett Lisi's theory fascinates me mainly because the man's biography is equally fascinating. It starts in Southern California where Lisi was raised and educated, earning two B.S. degrees for mathematics and physics with honors from UCLA and a Ph.D. in physics from UCSD. Somewhere along the way he became a big, big time surfer and spent his post-doc years transitioning between surfing the Maui shoreline and cooking up his paper "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything"--living the dream I think every serious geek wishes they could. In addition to surfing Lisi has also participated-to-a-degree in virtually every type of adventure sport you can think of, possibly including simultaneous Mexican cock fight/shopping cart demolition derby. (It's the next hot thing!)

Lisi's unified field theory as laid out in the aforementioned paper envisions each point of the E8 group as a different elementary particle having a distinct link to all the others and resting in our four-dimensional spacetime. Many physicists think Lisi's theory is wishful thinking and I wish I knew enough about the whole movement to express anything approaching a thoughtful comparison of all competing models. Still, his model, on the surface, sounds logical and elegant enough to allow my brain easy access to its message, so I like it.

Now, as the New Scientist article explains towards the end, these experiments with supercooled cobalt-niobium crystals where E8 as observed have no direct relation to string theory or Lisi's theory, but they do show that the group does show up in the real world and not just on paper. Still a very, very cool advance.


Ork Powered

For those of you that wanted to check it out, here's my Ork Design-inspired Oita Prefecture painting I finished a couple months back. Not the world's most perfect place, but it's what I call my second home.

Let it be known that I am taking art commissions: if you are desperately needing to part with your cash I'm willing to negotiate any reasonable offer to reproduce my version of your dreams in acrylic.


Friday, January 8, 2010

At the Edge of the Foodie Cliff

If there's one thing I extracted from The Kusu Experience--no matter the resulting pain--it is an acute appreciation for good food. A person can only take so much tori-ten, tonkotsu ramen, solid blocks of tofu, and other Japanese working-class fare before losing one's mind and taste buds. I'm not talking foie gras mousse spread like butter on artesian breads or daily lunches at French Laundry, no, just being knowledgeable enough about ingredients to make food that melts my troubles away while it melts in my mouth. And if they're more healthful than some of the dross I make these days all the better. Having an income would help this endeavor, of course...

So yesterday one of those pleasant morning surprises I mentioned was a very helpful tool to achieve gastronomic nirvana: a beautifully laid-out guide to the northern hemisphere's seasonal crops, meats, spices...everything, really! Check it out:

If this is available as a poster it's going on my wishlist.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

I'd Buy That for a Dollar!

With all the talk about Darren Aronofsky's "upcoming" RoboCop reboot I thought it would be a good idea for us all to take a virtual walk through YouTube user murphy38's merchandise collection from that landmark sci-fi film. Let's watch...

Why--WHY!?--did they stop producing RoboCop bubble bath? Certainly not because it's made from glycerin and Peter Weller's armpit sweat.


His Name is Rio...

No, Duran Duran lyrics won't smudge the good name of this page.

The following is a painting I just finished for the birthday of my former VIZ coworker, Rio Yanez, now a mover and shaker in the Mission District arts scene. Hope he likes it (and doesn't read this blog).


Do Not Look Directly at the LASER

Wow, I'm kind of reeling from this morning of happy surprises, the best being this recent discovery of a round of monthly science and art lectures hosted by Leonardo/ISAST ("The International Society for the Arts, Science and Technology"). Some of these talks...whew: "How Can Art Help Create a Sustainable World?"; "Rubisco Stars--An Active SETI Message From Arecibo"; and "A Hitchhikers' Guide to Scientific Training of Moon and Mars-Bound Astronauts."

This is my pornography.

Anybody want to attend with me, next Wednesday, January 11? Another binary day, that.


Monday, January 4, 2010

When Setting the Periodic Table Thorium Goes Next to the Dinner Rolls

Running with the same theme of the web and education, last week I spent a couple hours at the University of Nottingham's chemistry department sub-site The Periodic Table of Videos, a YouTube powered tour through the entire, well, periodic table. Sound boring? Surprisingly it's not, coming across like an anthology of very short classroom educational video reels from the 50s that show us how life would be without zinc or whatever, but this time the narrators are lovable British chemists. The video collection's two main hosts, Drs. Poliakoff and Licence are like the Laurel and Hardys of chemistry, the former being the wiry archetype of a white-haired mad scientist while the latter wisecracks and likes to blow stuff up with the group 1 alkali metals.

Hide the tesla coil from Dr. Poliakoff if it's not too late. And yes, that is a periodic table tie he's wearing.

While sites like this probably account for a fraction of one percent of the net's available content they are nevertheless highly encouraging signs that Web 2.0 won't be used just to shill for the corporations or find better ways to deliver porn. The University of Nottingham's physics department has a sister site about some of the important symbology used in physics and astronomy that I haven't even begun to dig into yet. The videos there are longer on average so I should break out the popcorn and find some time over the next few evenings to view them all.


While the periodic table as a whole fascinates me to no end there is one entry that has on two non-consecutive occasions assaulted my vision last week: atomic number 90, thorium. Located way down near the bottom in the actinides, between actinium and protactinium, thorium is a fairly common (more than uranium at least) slightly radioactive element that has gotten the short shrift thanks to the Cold War. According to the article featured in Wired that caught my attention, and now some other supplementary info I've found since, thorium was more or less the fuel of choice when nuclear energy was on the drawing boards in the late-1940s and early-50s thanks to its virtually "green" properties when compared against uranium.

I say "virtually" because obviously thorium is radioactive and its use will still result in waste, but unlike the half life of transuranic wastes measured in thousands of years thorium's is only about 500 years. Not only that, but the volume of waste is estimated to be 0.1% of today's reactors. And the reactors are pint-sized next to the mammoth eyesores scattered about the world.

How this all works is with what's called a Molten Salt Reactor, or MSR for short. I'm sure this is a gross oversimplification, but basically what happens is that thorium gets dissolved into cannisters filled with molten fluoride salts and these containers boil the water to create steam to turn the turbines. The advantages to this system are multiple, but I would say the best two are that the waste from non-breeder type reactors isn't weapons grade anything, plus the reaction can not go into meltdown since the molten salts would simply boil over in its cannister and disperse into water or other liquid coolant.

The MSR-type reactor is getting a lot of attention from France, India and China, Russia's working on a variant and, damnit, this country should be too. The only reason America didn't pursue the very advance it spawned was because safe thorium reactors don't make the weapons-grade nuclear material our bloated military-industrial complex needed to roll out massive stockpiles of "Soviet deterrents." I'll be curious to see what Kirk Sorensen and his Energy from Thorium team cook up in the next decade or so.