Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Science fiction

Wednesday October 01 2014

Taking the first question first: is it practise or practice?

This is the kind of question that, in the days before the www, used to rattle about inside several million heads for decades on end.  As it so happens, it did so rattle in mine.  But for a decade and more now, such questions could and can be answered, and today I answered this question for myself, by finding my way, very quickly, pretty much as soon as I started trying, to this site.  I’d been meaning to do this for a long time.  Today, I did.  What it says at the other end of that link, assuming I read it right, is that practice is the noun and practise is the verb, as with advice and advise.  I know, you knew that.  I must be an uneducated pillock not to know it.  But, although in many ways not an uneducated pillock, I was for many decades just that, in this particular way.  Besides which, the essence of educatedness is not mere knowledge, it is knowing that one needs to acquire this or that further item of further knowledge, and if far later than is dignified, well so be it.

I’m not saying that this answer is correct.  I’m just saying that from now on, this is the answer I will try to apply whenever the practice/practise dilemma presents itself to me.

Moving on to the question in the brackets above.  Answer: no.  The site where I found this answer (right or wrong) is called “Future Perfect”, and its subtitle is “Improving Written Communications”.  Like, that’s all it would take to make the future perfect.  I do not believe this.  I get it.  Future perfect is also a piece of grammar, and grammar is (along with spelling) one of the things this place is about.  Ho ho.  But, future perfect?

Perfect communication could just mean perfectly expressed abuse.  Remember that fish in Hitchhiker’s Guide, which enabled everyone to communicate perfectly with everyone else, and which started terrible wars, because now everyone could understood everyone else’s insults.  Perfect communication is indeed, maybe, part of the perfect future, but saying perfectly nice things is also an important part of perfection, I would say.  And that’s quite aside from the fact that actual perfection would also be terrible, for other reasons.

Thursday March 20 2014

Yes, here is another strange science-fictional artificial landscape, photographed by me a few days ago, to set beside this strange artificial landscape, photoed by me last August:

image

Both these images were contrived in the same way with the same raw material.  But what is the raw material and what did I do with it?

Monday November 25 2013

Yes.  I spent my blogging time today fretting about the finishing of this.  So, no time to do much here.

But there’s an internet out there.

Here’s a very quick vid, of Kenneth Williams opining (which would be a good word for him to say) about specialisation.

And here’s a slightly longer bit of video, which is a snippet from one of my favourite science fiction movies.  An astronaut argues philosophy with a bomb.  I found it here.  And I do mean here.

Enjoy.

Monday September 16 2013

Does this photo tell us the direction the Great Climate Debate is going?  I took it in Foyles, underneath the Royal Festival Hall, London, on September 2nd:

image

I put this up to entertain you, and also so that I can send a short email to Bishop Hill about it, rather than a long and annoying one. Because I’m guessing it might interest him.

The Bishop’s (as of now) latest posting concerns an article written by some academic CAGWers (CAGW = Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming), about how they can defeat their ever more annoying and persuasive “denier” enemies?

Bishop Hill:

The answer to this conundrum is - you will never believe it - to be found in the realms of communication. Although Garud and his colleagues note that some observers think that communication is not enough, and point to such initiatives as the Climate Science Rapid Response Team (seriously!) that are already in place, they suggest that something called a ‘narrative approach’ might also be a part of the solution.

But that, as the Bishop well knows but Garud et al do not, is no solution to the problem the CAGWers have.  The “narrative approach” is their problem.  What the CAGWers have been doing is spinning a narrative and calling it science for the last quarter of a century and more, and now this narrative is unravelling, thanks to the efforts of people like Bishop Hill.  This latest plan is for them to stop pretending that they aren’t doing this.  That can’t work.

If the anti-CAGWers had relied on books like Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, which is one of the books in the above photo, to carry the main weight of their arguments, they’d have been utterly crushed.

LATER: Bishop Hill has linked to this, and there are comments there too.

Tuesday March 19 2013

Last night I attended a book launch, of two books, one by Madsen Pirie, and the other by J. P. Floru.

I took lots of photos, but literally just the one came out half decently.  All the rest were too blurry.

So, what was special about this one?  Seriously, see if you can work it out:

image

That’s J. P Floru, looking up for the cameras while signing a copy of his book.  There’s a clue there.

I hope to be saying more about Floru’s book at Samizdata, Real Soon Now, but I promise nothing.

Friday December 24 2010

Someone asked what the new mainframe looks like.  It looks like this:

image

On the front, big black rectangular nothingness, like the Monolith in 2001.  The Monolith, unlike Dawkins, is sort of a God, because it taught that monkey how to make a space ship by throwing a bone into the air.

But the nothingness at the front of my new mainframe is more prosaic than that.  It is a big plastic door, which you open when you want to play a CD or a DVD or something.  Besides which, I conjecture that many geeks have computers which they refer to as The Monolith.  Dawkins, not so many.  Dawkins it remains.

Wednesday September 29 2010

It turns out it was a cookbook.

This is the kind of topic where I do trust Wikipedia (see the Soros posting below, comments on).

Friday July 16 2010

imageThe blog posting (linked to from here) is entitled Exploitation Movie Posters 1939 - 1960.  But why exactly are these movies referred to as “Exploitation” movies?  Who is being exploited?  And in what way is Apocalypse Now any less exploitative than the movies advertised in these particular posters?

I suppose the notion being got at is that it is our desire for pure and utterly undiluted entertainment, with no morally lofty excuse attached, to do with being educated, uplifted, improved, that is being “exploited”.  Our baser instincts are being played to.  Our ids are being massaged, while our egos look down, aghast.

Being a libertarian, I am particularly wary of the word “exploitation”, blurring as it does, often deliberately, the boundary between being used in a way that you consent to (often enthusiastically) and being used (often outrageously) in a way that you do not consent to.  Dare to favour the first and you get accused of favouring the second.  Which is a difficult trick to combat if you don’t realise what the trick is.

Putting the point about ids and egos in the language of consent, to talk of “exploitation” movies is to suggest that while our base appetites “consent” to watch movies like these, we ourselves do not.  We are at the mercy of our appetites, who are co-opted by our “exploiters”.  Our appetites betray us, enslave us even.  But controlling our base appetites, if that’s what we decide they are, is for us to do for ourselves.

Personally I don’t think that there is anything wrong about enjoying Cat-Women of the Moon.

Exploitation?
Sleeping rough and reading an SF classic
Lucky we didn’t go to Lords
Unravelling the puzzle – and making it into a movie
“This is fun!”
Twickenham shop attacked by the Dark Side of The Force
She learned to knit her before she learned to spell her
The robotic future
“Jeepers Professor!”
iPods From Space
The old USSR: good for thirty more years . . . then it collapsed