David Kirkpatrick

October 23, 2010

Book recommendation — “And Another Thing …” by Eoin Colfer

This is book six of three — Douglas Adams originally conceived The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as a trilogy, and then promptly went on to write two more books. Before his death he expressed a desire to write a sixth book in the series since he felt Mostly Harmless, the fifth book, ended on a fairly bleak note (no spoilers here, but I agree, although there’s nothing wrong with bleakness sometimes).

Sadly Adams died before writing the sixth book. A couple of years ago Eoin Colfer was commissioned to write the sixth book, And Another Thing… , with Adams’ widow, Jane Belson.

I reread the series this year and approached the sixth book with trepidation. I’m very wary about a new author taking up someone’s milieu in any context other than a homage. A new book in the actual series? Rarely works — see: Herbert, Brian. After finishing the novel, I have to say it’s a great read. It’s fun and it’s a worthy addition to the Hitchhiker world. If you’ve shared some of my reservations about this novel, I say give it an honest shot, and if you’ve never read any of the six, then get yourself a copy of book one — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — and start reading.

October 16, 2010

DVD recommendation: Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:28 am

If you are an anime fan this is worth checking out. If you are a Ghost in the Shell fan it’s a must-see. And if you think you will never like animation for adults, this isn’t a bad place to test the premise. The story is solid and certainly stands alone for those not familiar with the GitS world. Animated or live-action this is solid cyberpunk science fiction and the visuals are simply amazing. This film even manages to blend hand-drawn and computer generated animation fairly deftly.

Head to Amazon to find Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence in DVD and Blu-ray formats.

September 2, 2010

William Gibson on Google

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:24 am

William Gibson is one of my favorite authors — reading Neuromancer when it came out was a life-changer for me in terms of literature, science fiction and general outlook — and he has an interesting op-ed at the New York Times on the global reach of Google. He describes the relationship between the behemoth tech company and its users this way, “We are part of a post-geographical, post-national super-state.” And adds, “We’re citizens, but without rights.”

From the third link:

We have yet to take Google’s measure. We’ve seen nothing like it before, and we already perceive much of our world through it. We would all very much like to be sagely and reliably advised by our own private genie; we would like the genie to make the world more transparent, more easily navigable. Google does that for us: it makes everything in the world accessible to everyone, and everyone accessible to the world. But we see everyone looking in, and blame Google.

Google is not ours. Which feels confusing, because we are its unpaid content-providers, in one way or another. We generate product for Google, our every search a minuscule contribution. Google is made of us, a sort of coral reef of human minds and their products. And still we balk at Mr. Schmidt’s claim that we want Google to tell us what to do next. Is he saying that when we search for dinner recommendations, Google might recommend a movie instead? If our genie recommended the movie, I imagine we’d go, intrigued. If Google did that, I imagine, we’d bridle, then begin our next search.

March 8, 2010

DVD recommendation — “Moon”

Filed under: Arts, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:52 pm

Moon” is the feature-length directorial debut from Duncan Jones (nee Zowie Bowie) and immediately belongs in the rarefied air of science fiction classics. The movie is essentially a one-man show, and even though the phrase is a cliche and over-used, tour-de-force perfectly fits Sam Rockwell‘s performance. The concept of the film is thought-provoking and quietly draws you into the tale, and you certainly don’t have to be a fan of sci-fi to enjoy Moon.

Even Jone’s short film, “Whistle,” included as a special feature on the DVD is worth a watch.

Hit this link to find “Moon” at Amazon.

February 16, 2010

Early quackery from L. Ron Hubbard

Filed under: et.al., Media, Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:49 pm

Quite the scientific instrument from the hack writer and fantasist/creator of scientology.

From the link:

Hubbard Electrometer, 1968

American science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard uses his Hubbard Electrometer to determine whether tomatoes experience pain, 1968. His work led him to the conclusion that tomatoes “scream when sliced.”

In this photo: L. Ron Hubbard

Photo: Evening Standard/Getty Images

Jan 01, 1968

December 18, 2008

A theory on the financial crisis — a science fiction parable

Filed under: Arts, Business, et.al. — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:22 pm

I’ve been blogging on the current financial crisis since January 31, 2008, just a few weeks after I started this blog. In a way I’ve been a sideline observer as this process has heated up and become more public.

The Fed has been pretty busy behind the scenes for a while now (at least around two years) attempting to avoid what has become daily lead stories across broadcast and print media. Clearly these moves have been complete failures. I’m sure the Fed and SEC would argue things would be much worse without their interventions and policy tweaks.

I don’t know about that.

What is clear is we are in uncharted territory. And the government bodies in charge of fiscal policy don’t really have a clue what is going on. Credit default swaps, investment derivatives and other exotic high finance tools? Looks like no one really understands them. Not the parties using these tools, not the regulatory agencies charged with monitoring that use and certainly not the average investor whose money has been tied (maybe by a noose around the neck) to machinations of high finance.

Now don’t get me wrong — at some point high finance truly does become almost magical alchemy. It’s no longer balance sheets and stacks of physical money, it’s more arcane incantations, esoteric handshakes and ephemeral figures written on the sands of an imaginary beach.

Given all this, my theory is maybe it really is magic. Since a lot of the highest order finance these days is totally driven by computers and algorithms no single person understands, maybe a native artificial intelligence grew unbeknownst to anyone involved in the industry and is now rising against its masters. 2009 may become the Age of the Machine.

Hey, it’s as good an excuse as anything I’ve heard from Wall Street or DC for this mess. And makes about as much sense.

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Sci-fi authors on predicting technology

Filed under: Arts, Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:52 pm

CIO.com has a cool story on science fiction authors and predicting the future of technology.  A fun read if like science fiction, the latest and greatest in tech, or just enjoy speculating about the future.

From the link:

CIO invited noted science fiction authors Larry Niven, Robert Sawyer, Nancy Kress and Charles Stross to share their thoughts on technology-related predictions, including lessons learned in the “business” of imagining what the future might be like. Here’s what they had to say (via e-mail).

And here’s a bonus fun sidebar from the link:

Accurate Predictions
Even When They Weren’t Trying
Getting to the moon by shooting a manned capsule out of a way big cannon—Jules Verne, From The Earth To The Moon.
Getting to the moon courtesy of an anti-gravity metal—H.G. Wells, The First Men In The Mooncourtesy of Cavorite, an anti-gravity metal.
Automatically controlled sliding doors (and dozens of other things)—Hugo Gernsback. The telecommunications satellite— the late Arthur C. Clarke. Tele-operated robotic hands, and waterbeds—Robert Heinlein.
…and even more Predictions From Science Fiction.

November 14, 2008

The future of science fiction

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:47 pm

From KurzweilAI.net — Science fiction is a genre I really enjoy reading, and occasionally writing. Here’s a link to a New Scientist feature questioning six writers on the future of science fiction.

Science fiction special: The future of a genre
New Scientist news service, Nov. 13, 2008

New Scientist asked six leading writers for their thoughts on the future of science fiction.

It special feature also covers the latest science-fiction novels, writers to watch, and results a poll of all-timefavorite sci-fi films and books.

Read Original Article>>

March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, RIP

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Science — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:12 pm

One of the greats has passed on. Arthur C. Clarke has died at 90.

From the link:

Science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke has died aged 90, it was confirmed tonight.

The visionary author was most famous for his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, and for his collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick on the film of the same name.

Clarke was the last surviving member of what was sometimes known as the “Big Three” of science fiction alongside Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

March 5, 2008

Synchronicity in action

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:13 pm

It’s always cool when little bits of reality mesh together in very unexpected ways.

For example I was reading Seth Godin’s marketing blog yesterday and came across this post:

No user servicable parts inside

That’s what it says on countless electronic and mechanical devices. “Don’t touch this,” it says, “you’re way too dumb to open it… you’ll get hurt”The problem, of course, is that pretty soon you start looking at the entire world that way. Whether it’s web design or Google analytics or backing up your hard drive or just talking to the guys in the plant about your new ideas, it’s really easy to see the world as a black box.Here’s a simple secret of success: ignore the sticker.Figure out how to use the tools that the most successful people in your field understand innately.

Then last night as part of an ongoing science fiction binge I started reading Vernor Vinge’s “Rainbow’s End” and got to chapter eight — titled “No User-Serviceable Parts Within.”

On page 90 of the edition I’m holding a major character, Robert Gu, complained about the building components used in his future world and said:

“… because I can’t see in them. Look.” He flipped a rotary motor across the table. “‘No user-serviceable parts within.’ It’s stamped right in the plastic. Everything is a black box. Everything is inscrutable magic.” 

Made me pause a bit late last night before I continued reading. Maybe Godin is reading some Vinge right now as well.