Monday, May 02, 2005

This Site named "Site of the Week"

As most of you know, I am a grumpy blogger, who resisted this innovation in self-publishing, even though I approve of it as a social trend. (See blogs portrayed in my 1989 novel EARTH.) Even after starting it up, I've only posted about once a week, distracted by so many other things in a modern, busy life.

Hence it is with some surprise that I've learned that the perceptive Ken Newquist, of (home of the Scifi Channel) has named this little corner of contrainess and hope "Site of the Week," giving it perhaps TOO much national attention!

Will our cozy little corner or rationality and courteous debate survive? Ah well. We all should be flattered. And it is a tribute to you, the erudite/rambunctious citizens-of-the-Enlightenment who drop in now and then to share your insights.

Here is the blurb

"Sanity and civilization. The nature of modernism. The legacy of the Enlightenment. The Star Wars universe's fatal flaws. U.S. trade imbalances and the death of mercantilism.

These are just a few of the topics that science-fiction author David Brin delves into on his personal blog, Contrary Brin. The writer of Startide Rising, The Postman and Kiln People uses his blog to ruminate about current events, post rough drafts of his latest essays and keep fans apprised of his current projects.

As the blog's name implies, Brin isn't one to avoid controversy. The man hates Yoda, and drew the ire of millions of Star Wars fans with his 1999 assault on the inherent contradictions, anti-modernist themes and undemocratic nature of Lucas' famous space opera. In his nonfiction book The Transparent Society, Brin acknowledged privacy in the public sphere is declining but advocated that everyone—especially those in power—live equally public lives.

These themes, as well as others from his novels and nonfiction, find a receptive—and thoughtful—audience on the blog. Most entries easily see a dozen to two dozen responses from visitors, which Brin reads and responds to. This back-and-forth is fascinating to watch, and as a fan, it's great to have a chance to interact with an author on a serious, nonsuperficial level.

—Ken Newquist"

===   ====  ===

As if I needed more pressure! I'll try to get back to my episodic treatise on "Modernity and its Enemies" some time soon. After that? Well, there's this article I last worked on way back in 1996. It has to do with "Theology in the Light of a Scientific Age."

Talk about asking for trouble! ;-)

Remember the basic philosophy here, folks. Most of you would have been burned at the stake 400 years ago. I know I would have. Nowadays, that is a compliment. Let's KEEP this a civilization in which that's a compliment.

Stay burnable.


PS... while I despise the character Yoda, who never says a single thing that is straightforward, honest and helpful... I am not universally opposed to all things Star Wars! Luke was cool, if dumb as a stone. Han was terrific. The wookie saves the universe. I loved TESB. And George Lucas provides employment to at least 5% of the finest artists our civilization has ever produced. I plan to see the new one JUST for that reason, alone!

But I will pay half price at a matinee. You do the same.



Anonymous said...

Congrats on the plug!

As I've mentioned before, there are lots of thoughtful posts here. High quality back-and-forth you don't see very often.

I hope it isn't swamped by peeved Boba Fett fetishists.


Phunicular said...

"Theology in the Light of a Scientific Age."
Damn the trolls! Full speed ahead!
I'd be interested in hearing your views.

Anonymous said...

David, David, Davi...d

Whatever happened to Act Local Think Galatic? Old Tymbrimi saying.

"Too much National exposure".

Humility has its place but not once have I ever thought it's name was America.
Disparagment is a peculiar British disease which I thought you guy's dumped in Boston Harbour.
I do hope you are not sucumbing to that re-ocurring American plague which leaves the afflicted with perceptual problems flattening obvious curved surfaces and consequently outlining the edges of maps with dragons. Which the more energetic then want to kill or at least make sure they know to stay in their place.
Here, in the Land Of The Long White Cloud, where the dragons dwarfish cousin lives on, I would not have found it [your link] any other way.
I am grateful for that and will return.

A.R.Yngve said...

Science fiction is supposed to be the literature of ideas.

So why shouldn't SF writers debate ideas on their blogs? What could be more appropriate?

Keep up the good work.


NoOne said...

Re: This Site named "Site of the Week"

Conblogulations! And now, where's that essay on "Theology in the light of science." I'm already salivating.

Anonymous said...

You're right, Yoda is terrible. The prequels are bungled. But it's "wookiee", not "wookie".

David Brin said...

Thanks all of you!

Now something serious and something funny. Neither of which should go on the top line. But worth pondering with different brain parts:

Today Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Congress that US military readiness - our ability to deal with any crisis or surprise - has plummeted to dangerous levels. Retired officers have been making this case for several years... as have I... and democrats have utterly ignored this vital issue, leaving the administration to get away with it scot free.

We are now vastly more vulnerable than on 9/11. We are frisked at airports and our military has been scattered to the winds. (This is security improvement?) They are less ready for a surprise blow than we were before Pearl Harbor.

Now ask yourselves, who benefits from this? Who ALWAYS benefits?


On a lighter note, see:

I find this event worrisome. Organizers made no provision for limiting attendance! We could all be destroyed by the ensuing black hole singularity, if too many visitors arrive all at once.

Organizers do not even discuss what PANELS will be offered at the convention. Practical panels on paradox protection protocols might attract serious temporal visitors. But the thing seems no more than an invitation to hang around a courtyard. They aren't even promising refreshments! See ("Those Eyes"), wherein my character at least offers visitors some real partying!

Finally... even freakier... see:

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the honor!

Wired has a new article about George Lucas. I got the impression he felt he had turned to the "Dark Side" in making so many mindless Star Wars films and that he wanted to get back to making films like THX1138. I also got the ipression from a vanity fair peice that he was not a good script writer and a lot of his writing is reworked. In the words of Harison Ford during the first shoot "George you can write this S*it but we are not going to read it." or somthing to that effect.

Here is the link to the Wired article.

Anonymous said...

Harrison Ford's actual quote was: "You can type this s***, George, but you can't read it." I remember him (Ford) saying a particularly good example was "It'll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navi-computer."

David Brin said...

Pity the billionaire movie guy who has been trappen... an insipid "universe" for 30 years.

How in the world DID that Steven Spielberg fellow manage to engage in such a wide variety of projects, many-per-year, ranging from youthful to serious, but all of them ethical and worthwhile?

I just don't get their purported friendship, by the way. One of them hates this society and the other expresses his gratitude toward it in every film. Spielberg is a mensch who believes in heroes... but also in everyday folks.

And Schindler was a character who preached the exact opposite lesson as Yoda. You can be a jerk... but there is always a way to make amends and to start your long climb out of hell.

Anonymous said...

Yes the idea of Lucas being trapped by his success it a bit far fetched. His hero Kurisawa made some great films with tiny budgets and no special effects. Its Like he is saying: gee its too bad my ego is so large, but I guess I will have to live with spending millions developing special effects so that I can stay on top.

I must admit that Lucas is a innovative filmmaker even if his stories lack philosophical depth. I suppose that is what makes him and Spielberg friends, respect for a craft well executed. If Spielberg actually called him a regressive thinker, what would that gain him? Except for an enemy in a very cutthroat occupation. For most people its just entertainment. I am thinking of all the regressive conformist films that came out in the 1930-60's yet you still had a flourishing counterculture in the late sixties. It's like the Japanese producing incredibly violent comics and films yet having one of the lowest rates of violence in the world.

Brother Doug

Jay said...


Speaking of science and theology, I've had this paradox on my mind for a while now, and I've submitted it to Kip Thorne, Stephen Hawking, and Scott Adams, but I'd like to hear what you think. Here's a copy of what I sent:


I just finished reading A Brief History of Time by that gambling buddy of yours, Dr. Hawking, and came up with a thought experiment that made me scratch my head. He mentions in a couple of instances how unfortunate it would be for an astronaut to be sucked into a black hole, and I was initially inclined to agree with him.

However, even though I don't see a way to survive such a trip, I'm not sure it's possible to die from it either. From a quantum theological perspective, if one is sucked into a black hole and spaghettified beyond all recognition, is his soul able to escape? If not, then there is no way for him or her to reach Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory; he's essentially in limbo for all eternity. Of course, if you can't separate your soul from your corpse, then you can't be sure you're dead.

Ergo, poltergeists could conceivably exist, although they can't do much spooking if they can't escape the black hole. QED.

My head hurts, but I'm just a mere mortal. What do you think? Is the hapless astronaut doomed to be undead forever (although his conception of time in his place of rest is a whole other headache)? Or does the soul eject at the last instant and allow the corporeal components to be compacted into oblivion?

I'm losing sleep over this, Kip, and if you can't answer this paranormal paradox, I'm gonna have to start my own Theogravitational cult.


Oscar J. Carlton IV
Theoretical Engineer and Applied Metaphysicist
Red Necktologies"

Anonymous said...


The nature of the 'soul' has not been described sufficiently neither by science nor by religion. Your question is therefore impossible to answer.

Try drinking warm milk before you go to bed.

Anonymous said...

When you fall into a black hole, doesn't time seem to slow down for you? So I'm not sure it'd be possible to actually die that way, you'd just have an eternity of feeling yourself being ripped apart that paused at the event horizon. Which would suck.

Although, can't information escape black holes, after all? So if the soul's information, it could escape, albeit garbled and quantumed.

And congrats on the plug, Dr. Brin.

Also, back on Star Wars, the thing that annoys me the most about the recent movies is there's the PARTS for a really good movie there, they're just not put together right. There's the Clone Wars cartoons that Cartoon Network did, that are apparently very good, though I have yet to see them, and they're working with the same toys as Lucas has.

Anonymous said...

The idea that George Lucas "hates this society" or "despises democracy" is kind of contradicted by the following web page containing his own words:

from the web site of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. If he hated democracy so much, why would he be sponsoring a foundation supporting public education, which in the first sentence on that page he claims is "the foundation of our democracy"?

Anonymous said...

Interesting link to Lucas foundation, thanks for posting. I suppose Lucas starting a foundation to improve education is a wise thing to do if you work in and industry that has a huge demand for educated persons. If you are media darling most publicists will tell you get involved in a charitable origination for the great public relations they provide. From his previous comments I doubt seriously that he actually believes Democracy is the preferred form of government.

As an example my grandfather served as a elder in his church even though he did not believe in God. He only went to church to make bisness contacts and because it was expected of him at the time. Charitable foundations are the new form of "church". Any major CEO or media star who is not involved in one will be hounded just like Bill Gates was. Now if he is involved in more than one or spends the majority of his income on one I will take it seriously as a deeply held belief.

Brother Doug

David Brin said...

Oscar's Black Hole ruminations are interesting. But it misses a few factors that may affect your thoughts..

1. As one falls into a black hole, time slows, so it is arguable whether you can ever actually "die" subjectively, even though outside observers see you ripped to shreds.

2. Some believe black holes tunnel into another universe.

Or see KILN PEOPLE for sci fi speculations on a new science of "soulistics" ;-)

As for GL endowing an education foundation, well, things are complex. Did he do it after that infamous NYT interview, in which he extolled absolute monarchs and dictaorships? Partially to win back some esteem? OTOH, he may sincerely believe in it!

I think it is horrible how we universalize our distaste in other people, when clearly all of us are melanges of positive and negative traits. Even Hitler loved dogs and I'll bet GL is a lot closer to me, morally, than to Hitler. Probably many nice traits. That is why I never attacked him as a person, only the lessons that he is relentlessly trying to cram down our throats. Lessons that undermine our confidence in a democratic civilization of dynamic and accountable citizens.

Indeed, the combination in each person - of devils and angels - is the reason why romantics like Hobbes and Rousseau were totally wedged. Locke and Smith said it is OBVIOUS that we are fermenting mixtures of both. Of caves and starships. Of heroes and monsters. It is the job of a pragmatic civilization to find practical ways to unleash our angels (even competitive ones! So long as they compete fairly) while giving our devils very few options to cheat others.

Kennedy Goodkey said...

Dr. B.,

I am a fan for years and years, and a Brin-completeist. Never had the jam to read the Foundation series until I felt I should do my homework before reading your entry.
But I am not here to wax your car.

A friend of mine made an excellent suggestion to me regarding the new Star Wars film. (Which I am betting he got from some other on line source, but I'm too lazy to search out any possible original.)

If, like me, you are going to see Episode three because you had a childhood love affair with Episodes 4 through 6 (or some combination of) despite having a beef (philosophical or artistic or whatever) with episodes 1 and 2. The best revenge you can possibly exact upon the Sith (read: the best way you can express your distaste to Lucas) is to resist the urge to go for fully ten days. Whatever you do DO NOT go on opening weekend. Better not to go for the first two weekends.

For those who need the impact of this laid out for them:

In the film-industry these days (indeed for years and years now) the opening weekend box-office is the barometer by which success is measured. Two weekends to a lesser degree.

While there is virtually no way that a movement to flip the bird to George for his past mis-doings in this manner will shunt Episode 3 into the category of 'Box-Office Disaster' - it is feasible that a great enough ground-swell could hack a semi-visible (by comparison to the past films) chunk in the Opening B.O. that GL will be forced to acknowledge that the Saga of the Skywalker clan jumped the shark somewhere between the time that marauding teddy-bears saved the galaxy and when a biologically improbable amphibian did his minstral show.

Seeing it at matinee prices... good. A matinee in June... better.

Anonymous said...

Found a review of episode III.
Danger spoilers!

He rated it 7 out of 10. It looks like no major surprises in the plot.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the posts about falling into a blackhole ...

When one falls in, there is a definite time in which one can clearly say - I am within the even horizon of the hole. I can never escape. Let's have some tea!

To outside observers, they will forever see your image stuck outside the blackhole, approaching the event horizon. They will see you drink that tea.

Tony Fisk said...

@Brother Doug.

And here was I hoping that Darth Vader could have redeemed himself by turning out to be a morally muddled clone of Anakin (who he knocks off as part of Palpatine's plan B after A., like Luke, eventually gives P. the finger).
(Could even have been potential for a Lemony Snickett tie-in there!)
Ah well, no need to rock the franchise if you think it rocks enough already.

@anders: Is that how Douglas Adams came up with his title for the second Dirk Gently novel?

Anonymous said...

With reference to:

What's freaky about a sharply dressed guy with a small sewing maching and a UPS van at an unusual angle?

Is this a cultural reference that I don't get?

Anonymous said...

That photo reminds me of the "ambiguous pictures" that psychiatrists use to plumb the psyches of disturbed people.

"What do you think is going on here Mr. Smith?"

"Well, the young man was on his way to the prom, and a hideous monster who looks like my mother ate his date, and then the monster attacked the UPS truck to steal a shipment of oh-so-soft woman's stockings, but the young man b-b-beat him away with a sewing machine which . . ."

David Brin said...

The UPS photo is creepy because it has two interpretation.

1) What PROBABLY happened. Smug kid in tux wandering with a friend from his sister's wedding. She gave him a sewing machine to carry. They happened on a scene of a weird accident. He posed for a picture.

2) What the PICTURE TELLS is another matter. The kid looks sooooo smug! It looks as if he is posing, saying "Look what I ACCOMPLISHED with my trusty sewing machine! The tux caps it off. He's James Bond. Yipes.