Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Insiders think that claimed future NASA goals are just fake Wild West storefronts

At MSNBC (August 14, 2011), we are told, “NASA opens new office for deep space missions: In post-shuttle era, agency looks at trips to the moon, asteroids and Mars”:
To embark on its next chapter in human space exploration, NASA has created a new department to oversee manned spaceflight in the post-space-shuttle era.
The department is called the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, and combines two previous organizations, the Space Operations Directorate and the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.
You know they’re not actually going anywhere when the big news is “office,” “department,” and “directorate.”
When NASA was going somewhere, it was A-OK! and reading Genesis, floating in space.
Rob Sheldon comments,
If you recall, George HW Bush wanted to put a man on Mars back when he became president in 1988. In 1971 Werner von Braun called all the NASA Marshall employees to a all-hands meeting in to announce we would be on Mars in 1981. So this is nothing new for NASA, but Obama has to look like he has a plan after he cancelled the Moon mission, which would have put a base on the Moon in 2020. So after abolishing George W Bush’s program that was 10 years in the making, he is merely saying we’ll do “something” by 2030. And along the way, he is “combining” (read reducing) various offices at NASA. So it looks like a cost-cutting reorg with some splashy PR about a mission, but pushed so far into the future it won’t affect his reelection or his budget.
Why should NASA bother? In the newly popular multiverse isn’t everything true anyway?

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Dr Cleese is in the house!

Still slaying sacred cows 35+ years on.
You have to hand it to Mr Cleese: Classy guy, and funny as hell!
Special thanks to Pépé on Egnorance

Friday, 12 August 2011

Should we let Europe burn this time?

One would have to be blind to miss the decline of the West.
The USA is becoming more isolationist by the month. Economies shrink globally.
Export markets have shrivelled and imports and debt have become our stock of trade.
In the midst of this, like some flock of mad ostriches, the governments bury their heads in the sand and pray nto some mythical future technology or event that will 'save us'.
The USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand watch in horror as the UK and their new masters in Europe plummet into chaos. Seasonal riots, immigrant revolts, Islamic intifada: ALL in the EU. Some leaders seem to recognize this and call for change and a REVERSAL in policy, but will it come?
For the purposes of this post I will assume it is NOT coming.  I will assume that the Federal powers of the EU are engaged in social engineering and have NO intention of preserving indigenous European culture and values. I hope I am wrong here, and I may be.... but IF I am not, should we in the Americas and Australasia run to help, AGAIN?
Us backwards ignorant 'red-necks', 'bible bumpers', 'hood rats', 'cowboys', 'eskimos', and 'arrogant' North Americans in general  have done it before, and could no doubt do it again, but at what cost? Millions of lives? Generations of our youth?
As contradictory as it sounds: YES, we should. Why? We are next.
Europe has been deracinated by socialist (national) policy. A vacuum has been created and it is now filling RAPIDLY with 'others' that will soon enough wrestle for control.
Quite simply put, if we allow this to happen there  - it will happen here too. Europe and our ties with her, will be used as the staging ground.
Should we let Europe burn this time?
For altruism: NO. For pragmatism: NO!
We must NOT let Europe burn again, even if that means preventing it with FORCE.
If we do allow the downfall, it will be at our own peril.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Upside of a Downturn I: TV / Media

We live in a market driven society. Known as many things since it's inception, with all sorts of ever expanding and changing 'principles' it has provided our (Christian/Western) cultures with much wealth and material prosperity. It has provided us with more, as well: A means to provide security. Most commonly it is called 'capitalism'.
This area of great cultural strength seems to be suffering a setback recently. We are being weakened by our economies. Some would suggest it is our enemies, unable to attack us militarily, who seek to destroy us by destroying our material wealth and strangle us with trade agreements and debt. Others would suggest the system itself is to blame; failed or flawed  in one way or another.
The whole idea is scary, and there obviously many negative 'changes' on their way. Adaptations will be made, some painful. Prosperity must be exchanged for Austerity. Not a nice switch.
But, as in all clouds there are silver linings to this storm.
In this series of posts, you will encounter my more optimistic side (yes there is one, you snarky @$$holes).
I will attempt to discover some of the positives we may encounter, as we roll back our ambitions and change our focus as cultures and as a broader civilization.  I will suggest that, as an inevitable consequence of our prolonged prosperity, we have suffered from a horrid form of cultural malaise known as 'affluenza', and that like a cold (rather than flu) this bug is beaten by staying hungry, not getting fatter.
I will suggest that if we stay resolute and hold fast to our diminished roots, this collapse may just be a fall - and not only can we get back up from a fall - but we can get back up with rediscovered strength and passion. That we can not only recover what we lost in our opiated slumber, but go beyond and be even greater than before.
The signs of this reawakening will be subtle, cultural, and obviously many will be driven by economics. Simply put: Austerity (pulling in the belt) forces people to think ahead. They do not have imagine what they would do in a hard situation - they are in one. We are talking about a great 'bursting of bubbles' here, or the potential for that.

In the first part I will write on TV, Film, and visual media (music videos etc).
No one with the slightest bit of taste could deny the general decline in quality of visual media over the last two decades. Stupid, simplistic, empty, and blatantly politically motivated programming have dominated the airwaves. The 'Geezer' TV of the 60-80's seems Shakespeare by comparison.
Most critics and pundits claim market forces are to blame for this. The old 'root of all evil' .
Mum and Dad's wallet to be precise. Or, you could say it was spoiled brats.
Spoiled brats who grew up and spoiled their own brats.
The idea is to sell - and to sell ideas. Not new or profound, but on a never before seen scale.
The 'tween' became the new target market. They were easy prey.
If you were selling soda/pop, candy bars, minivans, TV's, vacations, or even adult clothes little ms missy and junior HAD to be taken into account. Still do. DVD players in your truck? Disney Cruise? Gangsta Rap videos playing in your hybrid van on the way to the magic kingdom?
More and more media was influenced by this desire to apply the economic pressure of advertising on kids/ preteens, and teens. It became normal to see 'cute' images of children hurling their dinner at the wall, or 'cute' teenage brats demanding new electronics and clothes, bitchy little girls demanding this or that while both parents scramble, or the whipped and henpecked idiot father yanking out the plastic for worldy and ( but still a 'big kid') mum's 'retail therapy' sessions.
Hilarity! ....
This is the NORM now. If anyone is getting steamed at this, it is not because I describe some future horror, but that they feel I am somehow being mean spirited. Judgemental etc. Not so. I am as culpable as the rest of the market. As any of the readers. Just as guilty, but maybe a tad more honest with myself than those who see no flaws in what I have described above. I have laughed at the lame assertions and vague references as if these were 'inside' jokes. I have had plenty of chances to indulge myself in bohemian pursuits, and taken more than a few!  I am no saint or pure spirit who is above all this, and  cannot look down on this mess; but rather only about.
What I see is a society that has taken it a step further again.
We now design our film, TV, and visual media in general to attract this  'market' and hold them.
The advertisements, once a filler and means to produce 'timeslots' on TV, are now the programming.
The result? We have all seen it, and changed the channel. Hard stuff to watch sober.
So where is the optimism? What was this about a silver lining?
Well the storm clouds have been described. In order for the storm to break, the rains to fall, and the silver lining or rainbow to show itself, mum and dad have to be too POOR to give a damn; or less of a damn. Little Ms Missy and Junior will have to play with toys, not 50' Plasma screens. Read some BOOKS not snuff or porn sites. Meet some REAL flesh and blood people, not just internet pals.  The economic engine will have to step back a decade or two, just to sell us the goods - just to keep some semblance of their wealth alive. The alternative, to continue to market to kids and overgrown kids with no means of payment, will result in collapse and out-competition.
Once things get perceivably tougher, people become more realistic; more pragmatic. I have seen this many times in operations and in the field. People are shaken out of their complacency and malaise, and forced to wake up or retreat into fantasy land where some technology or (usually scifi or religious) event rescues us (2012, Green energy etc). Those that wake up face a scary, but beautiful and BIG new world full of risk and wonder.
Right now we are not quite there yet, as a populace. Not quite awake.
Most people still prefer the dream; to place their faith in hope.
They hope there will be a reprieve and they will not face such hardships as their parents, but they know better in their hearts. They enjoy while they can, what they can. Still, they know something is in the wind.
The markets know it too, and they are changing their targets.. They are contracting and restricting.
they are shutting down or controlling areas once their focus. Consider the, internet for example. While it grows in size and ability, it diminishes in 'freedoms' and just the areas previously built up for the 'spoiled brat' market: video, networking, gaming,  Big corps launch infringement suites and hacker revolts create security backlashes.
The markets are beginning to react, as they always do.
They begin to refocus.
When they do, there is a real potential for change.
One such change I hope for is a more creative and adult visual arts scene.
What do I hope to see more of on my TV and at the big screen?
  • Adult plots in dramas, adult comedy and satire, and adult news coverage. When I write 'Adult' I mean adult, not XXX or pornographic. 
  • Political pundits with an education that speak in sentences and do not simply recite talking points. Less sneering and more real engagement on the issues. 
  • Comedies with real people, who have jobs, and are in realistic situations (e farce/sit coms) and less kiddy comedies with penis jokes for the grey haired kids in the audience. Cartoons (adult and kiddy) that don't make Fred Flinstone look like a Da Vinci. 
  • Scifi and fantasy that doesn't try to neatly explain everything away with some current/trendy political or scientific theory. 
  • An ORIGINAL film or two on an interesting (not simply nostalgic) subject- not a shitty retelling of a classic. (If we must retell, do so FAITHFULLY and LITERATELY so there is a reason to read the book or watch the play - otherwise watch the old film and learn something about the past.)
  • Music videos and styles presented for an over 30 audience. Less giggling thonged buttocks, less fish eye lens thugs, less 'mo' mo' mo'', less twitching 'diva heads' and more of what people actually listen to who can pay for it. I suspect more R&b, blues, jazz, contemp, pop, rock, even metal. 
  • Brand new ideas in gaming designed to attract older gamers and provide them with a good 'fix' for a busy day. A return of many 'old school' gaming ideas that require less hardware and resources to play; that can be played online or stored on a card/chip/pen etc.
    Maybe JUST maybe the return of the arcade... and even pinball, bowling, or skate parks???....(fingers crossed here)
  • Speaking of games, how about the return of REAL RPG's and board games?
  • Food! Who could forget food. Less bullshit health trends and fast food. More filling, tasty, homecooked FOOD. Mum, Dad, and the kiddies could even find themselves at a table? Perhaps I hope for too much too fast.
Those are the possible silver linings. If we can recover enough of our foundations and dignity to march on and live with and enjoy what we have - we could just come out of this hardship BETTER than before. Our kids could inherit a world were material things are not as important as family, education, love, and purpose. 
This could be a BIG upside to the Downturn!