April 21st, 2007

A Modest Proposal

You've gotta hand it to the Brits. While we in America allow our dementia-afflicted oldsters to wander our streets and shopping malls at will or whim like shuffling zombies, across the pond, Science Minister Malcolm Wicks has come up with an elegant solution to the problem of "Alzheimer's Walkabout" -- electronically tagging the sufferers. "This is about dignity and independence in old age," Wicks told the BBC.

Hear, hear!

But why stop there?

Perhaps the electronic "tags" can be modified to administer electric shocks to errant old-timers, keeping them from straying off the beaten path -- all for their own safety, of course, and done in a dignified manner!

We all know how important it is for people to feel useful when they get older, even after dementia begins to creep in. So as long as we've got the ability to administer "corrective" shocks, why not target the shocks to produce socially useful behavior, such as sweeping sidewalks, assembling widgets, or registering voters? Once the new behavior is learned, shocks would, of course, be kept to a minimum. Dementia be damned -- the afflicted of tomorrow will no longer be a drain on society's resources, but will keep on contributing right up to the end of their lives -- and earn a fair wage as they do so! Dignity and Independence indeed!

And who better to administer these shocks then the young people whose lives are spent laboring to amass the social security funds that old folks so thoughtlessly deplete? It would help to foster a new bond between generations, bringing us all closer together!

  • Current Music
    My Generation
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Do You Believe in the Magic Numbers?

Deborah and I try to listen to one new CD a day. Some weeks we listen to fewer, some weeks more. (Hey, I've got about 100 old vinyl records purchased at three-for-a-dollar recently that I haven't gotten to yet! There's no slacking allowed!) This schedule is fun, but doesn't really allow for much re-listening.

But you know what? Most stuff doesn't demand or invite re-listening. Sturgeon's Law applies: 90% of music is ephemeral ear-fodder.

So when I come across something that causes me immediately to re-queue it as soon as the last note sounds, I know I've hit something special.

This just happened with The Magic Numbers.

You can read about the group here:


Improbably enough, the group is composed of two brother-sister pairings. (Has this ever occcured before? Plenty of siblings in rock, but not two separate sets in the same band!) That closeness has to contribute something to their sound, a kind of easy harmonizing and intuitive vibe.

So far I've only listened to their debut album:

Despite a retro sound, the music is vibrantly contemporary and alive, not a pastiche, but organic and real, arising from this era while still sounding like many classic groups I've loved: Credence, the Band, Loving Spoonful, the Beatles of course, Sly and the Family Stone, the Mamas and the Papas, and about a dozen others that escape me at the moment. This is what being the tip of an ancient lineage means.

A tune like "Love's A Game" sounds like it should be issuing from the dashboard radio of a Mustang during the summer of 1966. It should be issuing from Top 40 radio right now, but of course it's not.

I've yet to sample their sophomore effort:

But believe me, it's on order!

And bound to be listened to over and over, I suspect.
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Locus Awards Finalist

I'm surprised and thrilled to find myself on the Locus Awards ballot, among so many writers I admire:

Best Novelette

"I, Row-Boat", Cory Doctorow (Flurb 1, Fall '06)
"The Night Whiskey", Jeffrey Ford (Salon Fantastique)
"Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)", Geoff Ryman (F&SF 10-11/06)
"The Singularity Needs Women!", Paul Di Filippo (Forbidden Planets [Crowther])
"When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth", Cory Doctorow (Baen's Universe 8/06)

Report From SLO

“Being in a room with twenty men who can kick your ass as easily as they might swat a mosquito is an inspiring experience.  You start making promises to yourself about getting in shape, maybe start to run again, dig that old weight set out of the garage…and then you realize that the day when you could get into the kind of shape these men are in is long past.  The six-pack you’ve been building is a pyramid of empties on your coffee table. You try to think of ways in which you might compete with them.  Vocabulary tests, the home Jeopardy game, thumb-wrestling….No, thumb-wrestling’s out.  You’d be much more comfortable with Rock Paper Scissors…”

That’s a snippet from the article I’m writing for Playboy about Chuck Liddell, the Ultimate Fighting Light-heavyweight champion.  I’ve been down in San Luis Obispo (known as SLO to the locals) for the better part of a week, and it is, as the acronym implies, one laid-back town.  Take the cab company, for example.  To make sure I have a ride to the airport, the cab driver who brought me in recommended I book a cab immediately upon arriving at my hotel, and to get anywhere in town on time, you had best plan on a two-hour wait.  Their slogan should be:  We’ll Get You There…Whenever.

For those of you who don’t know the name Chuck Liddell, and I’m assuming that’s just about everyone who looks at this blog, you may have seen his picture attached to a variety of products, from energy drinks to the movie 300, for which he did a promotional tour:  guy with a Mohawk and a Fu Manchu, Chinese characters tattooed on his scalp (thus establishing he has a high pain threshold).  He’s forbidding-looking, but—like his home town—laid-back and genial.  He drives an Hummer H2 and a Ferrarri, both gifts from appreciative sponsors, and has a nice home that’s been made kid-friendly for his two children.  Big pool with a neat water slide.  One of the interviews I did with him, he was playing in the pool with his daughter and she was answering questions for him.  He has tendonitis in both shoulders and bursitis in both knees, and he has to ice down his shoulders and knees four times a day, so it’s safe to say that he experiences significant pain every day of his life.  He doesn’t limp, yet there’s something gimpy about the way he walks, like he’s got pebbles in his shoes.  The only time his movement seems normal is when he’s on the mat.  It’s become his natural element. 

So that’s some of what I’ve been doing…

As regards recent posts on the 4, at the risk of being considered irreligious, I have to say that while I love me some Cormac McCarthy, I thought The Road was someone’s script for the third issue of Xistential Comics, bleakness taken to the level of the nearly slapstick, the author doing his best Old Testament impression, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Meggidio.  For a trunk novel, it’s pretty good, but Cormac McCarthy doing a riff on the Lone Wolf and Cub movies…Wow.  I thought it truly sucked.  Now I’ll duck…

Back on Monday.