Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

Boris Johnson’s Culpable Idleness in the Coronavirus Crisis

April 19, 2020

The Sunday Times seems to have caused a massive ruckus today in its piece about Boris Johnson’s abject failure to tackle the Coronavirus when it first emerged. He didn’t take it seriously, and delayed taking any action at all for too long. Two weeks were wasted by his refusal to impose a lockdown until the very last minute. He also wasted five weeks in which he simply didn’t turn up at the Cobra meetings about the emergency. As Zelo Street remarks in his piece about the scandal, this means that during the time he wasted, Johnson ‘went on a killing spree, as sure as if he’d emptied an Uzi into all those poor souls.’

This material isn’t anything new. Mike points out in a couple of his articles today that he had put up posts detailing Johnson’s catastrophic lack of action about the virus on several of the pieces he put up on his personal blog.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/19/if-you-want-to-survive-coronavirus-its-time-to-use-your-intelligence-and-stop-reading-the-sunday-times/

The Sunday Times’ article was hidden behind a paywall and Murdoch’s goons are angry that Owen Jones copied the article’s salient points and issued them as a series of Tweets, so that people don’t have pay to see it. A series of hacks consisting of Oliver Kamm, Polly Vernon, Caitlin Moran and Hadley Freeman have moaned about the newspaper not getting its money for the article. They complain that it’s not about giving Murdoch a profit, but allowing the newspaper to continue publishing more quality articles like it. Quality journalism in Murdoch rags is, as Spock’s father says of Klingon justice in the conclusion to the Star Trek film, The Search for Spock, ‘an interesting point of view’. The Sunday Times is the newspaper that libeled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, and has libeled so many others from the left over the years. It was the Sunday Times, back in the 90s, that was successfully sued by former Labour leader Michael Foot after it wrongfully claimed that he was a KGB spy codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’. Mike has pointed out that all the information was already available on the net long before, and all he needed to do to produce his articles was to collect it and write it up. Zelo Street has also made the point that the Guardian and FT also put out free articles on line. The Sunset Times was also edited by years by John Witherow, who is notorious for using illegal information gathering. And asking people to provide their personal information to Murdoch’s crew to read the articles and others like it is just too much. He acidly comments that ‘they sup some strong stuff in that media bubble.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/murdoch-paywall-pleading-pathetic.html

Nevertheless there was one aspect about Johnson’s conduct discussed in the Sunset Times article that I found particularly shocking. This was BoJob’s own immense laziness. It appears that Johnson didn’t attend crucial meetings about the virus and dithered because, quite simply, he couldn’t be bothered to get off his well-fed, Eton-educated rear end. The paper quotes one government adviser as saying

what you learn about Boris was he didn’t chair any meetings. He liked his country breaks. He didn’t work weekends. It was like working for an old-fashioned chief executive in a local authority 20 years ago. There was a real sense that he didn’t do urgent crisis planning. It was exactly like people feared he would be”.

As Zelo Street points out, the explodes the well-crafted Tory spin that Johnson has been working so hard, that he became exhausted and thus came down with the virus. The Street also says that the article has upset the government, and they’ve already set the spin machine going, with Michael Gove appearing on the Andrew Marr Show this morning to rebut it. The delays in tackling the virus mean that many more people have contracted it than would otherwise have done, and many of these have died, or soon will. And the Tory press is again lying to us about how hard Johnson is working. But the real reason Johnson was taken ill is that he was overweight and unhealthy.

The government’s reputation will take a hit from these revelations, but the real damage will be done to that of the press. ‘It is’ Zelo Street says, ‘the craven, courtier, client stenographers of our free and fearless press who will be exposed as preening, shameless, selfish and unprincipled propagandists.’

As for Johnson, he concludes ‘Some of us knew he was worse than useless. This knowledge is slowly, but surely, spreading to others. If only it was as contagious as the Coronavirus.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/boris-and-five-week-killing-spree.html

Alternative news sites like Mike’s have been telling you this for months, if not years. But now some people have only woken up to how bone idle, incompetent and utterly, utterly unfit to run our great country because, after months of inaction, the Sunset Times has come out and said it.

I’ve blogged many times about how Mike, Zelo Street and other left-wing news sites have got the story before the lamestream media. This is another example. If you want reliable news and informed comment, go to them. Murdoch simply gives you right-wing propaganda and all too often, along with the rest of the press, simply follows them.

Cartoon: Hellbender (Hellraiser Parody)

April 10, 2020

Hello, and welcome to another of my cartoons. This one isn’t political. I thought it would be in very poor taste to mock Boris now that he is in hospital with Coronavirus. Not that it changes what his party is, or what it’s done to Britain – wreck its economy, destroy the welfare state, continue privatising the NHS and cause massive poverty and suffering to its working people. All the while proclaiming very loudly that it’s done the opposite of the above. So instead of attacking Boris, I decided to have a little fun parodying one of my favourite ‘Orror flicks: Hellraiser.

Released in 1987 and directed by Clive Barker, Hellraiser was based on his novella, The Hellbound Heart. This was the story of a family, American Larry Cotton, his daughter Kirsty, and her British stepmother, Julia, who move into a new home in Britain. But Julia has had a secret affair with Larry’s brother, Frank. Seeking extreme sensual pleasures, Frank obtains the Lament Configuration, a mysterious puzzle box. He solves it, only to find that it opens a gateway to hell, and he’s literally torn apart by barbed hooks at the end of chains.

Frank had been living in the house just before the Cottons move in. Looking around the attic room, Julia catches her hand on a nail, bleeding on the floor. The blood brings back Frank as a flayed corpse. Frank explains to her that he has escaped from hell, and must run. However, he needs her to help him. He therefore gets her to lure men back home, where they’re killed so that Frank can use their bodies to make himself whole.

But Kirsty also finds the Lament Configuration. Solving it in her hospital room, she summons the Cenobites, the demons that drag whoever solves it back to their dimension to endure an eternity of pain and suffering. The Cenobites are bald, deathly white, their flesh scarred and mutilated, and clad in black leather. Their leader, Pinhead, who is never actually called that in the original movie, got his name from the nails driven into his head. They differ from other demons in that they derive pleasure from pain. In one of the classic lines from the movie, Pinhead answers Kirsty’s question of who they are: ‘Explorers of the further reaches of experiences. Demons to some, angels to others’.

The film was made for a mere $1 million. Unlike the majority of low budget films, Hellraiser was actually very good. So good in fact that Stephen King declared that he had ‘seen the future of Horror, and it was Clive Barker’. Sadly, that early promise was not fulfilled. Barker has continued writing, adding painting to his skills, but his output is viewed as patchy by critics. Nevertheless, Hellraiser spawned a series of sequels, the first of which, Hellbound, portrayed hell as a kind of demonic Max Escher drawing. It produced a series of comics, and the Cenobites, and especially Pinhead, joined the ranks of great movie monsters.

There’s a type of salamander living in the southern USA called a hellbender. Looking at the similarity between its name and that of Barker’s movie, I simply thought it would be funny to draw a spoof of it in which Pinhead appears as a salamander. The Axalotl is another such creature, though it differs from other species in that it retains it gills throughout its adult life. And the punchline at the bottom is simply a play on the movie’s slogan, ‘It’ll tear your soul apart’.

Incidentally, Andrew Robinson, who played Larry in the film, went to play Garak, the Cardassian tailor/spy in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

I hope you enjoy it, and can read the script. Unfortunately, the red doesn’t really stand out against the purple background. Here’s the cartoon. Don’t have nightmares.

 

Literary Authors on the Occupation of Palestine

March 31, 2020

Michael Chabon, ed., Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation (Fourth Estate 2017).

This is another book I found in the Postscript catalogue for April, 2020. It seems to be a collection of pieces by prominent western literary types dealing criticising the occupation of Palestine. The blurb for it runs

Edited in cooperation with Breaking the Silence, an NGO of former Israeli soldiers who served in the Occupied Territories, this collection of essays reflects on the human cost of 50 years of occupation, conflict and destruction in the West Bank and Gaza. The contributors include such celebrated international writers as Mario Vargas Llosa, Colm Toibin, Eimear McBride, Hari Kunzru, Dave Eggers and Rachel Kushner.

It’s usual price is £12.99, but they’re offering it at £4.99.

Michael Chabon’s the author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which seems to be a fictional version of the creation of the superhero comic by two Jewish lads in ’30s America. Which is how Superman started, and immediately became a massive success and icon of modern American popular culture. More recently, he’s the showrunner for Star Trek: Picard, the latest installment in the Star Trek franchise. This has been massively pilloried by fans because it has moved away from the Utopian optimism of Gene Roddenberry’s vision, to become dark and dystopian. It is also very heavy-handed in its treatment of contemporary politics, such as immigration, Donald Trump and Brexit. And it’s terribly written. But it seems that Chabon has done excellent work here in compiling this volume, with its contributions from some very prominent writers. Mario Vargas Llosa is a giant of South American literature, Colm Toibin is a favourite of the British and Irish literary landscape, as is Hari Kunzru, and Dave Eggers is another famous literary name.

As for Breaking the Silence, they’re one of the many Israeli groups against the country’s brutal maltreatment of the Palestinians, like the human rights organisation B’Tsalem, that Netanyahu has raged against and tried to silence. Because the extreme right-wing Israeli establishment, as it stands, really cannot tolerate criticism from Jews, even when they are Zionists and/or domestic citizens. They have to be monstrous autocrats like Netanyahu. Who I’ve heard described by one Jewish academic as ‘that bastard Netanyahu’. None of these writers are anti-Semites and the book seems to be a successor to previous volumes by historians, writers and personalities attacking the occupation of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. One of the Jewish voices condemning the bombardment of Gaza nearly a decade ago was the respected British thesp, Miriam Margolyes. She said she spoke ‘as a proud Jew, and as an ashamed Jew’. This lost her the friendship of Maureen Lipman, who has spent the last five years ranting about how anti-Semitic the Labour party is. She began spouting this nonsense back in 2015 or thereabouts when the-then leader of the Party, Ed Miliband, who is Jewish, utter some mild criticism of Israel and dared to take a few steps away from Blairism.

Books like these are necessary, and they do seem to have an effect. The woefully misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism was set up in 2012 because the Zionist faction in Britain were worried about the bombardment of Gaza had resulted in Israel losing the support of many severely normal Brits. It’s why the organisation seems to spend its time and energy not on pursuing and attacking real anti-Semites and Fascists, but mostly left-wing critics of Israel.  It’s why the Israel lobby is trying to close down criticism of Israel worldwide through contrived definitions of anti-Semitism like that of the IHRA, which include criticism of Israel.

It’s great that books like this are still being published despite the efforts of the Israel lobby to silence their authors and the principled Israeli organisations that work with them. And it’s a disgusting scandal that, in 2020, they should still be crying out against this glaring injustice.

The Coronavirus and the Death of the Dream of a Disease-Free Future

March 30, 2020

There has been one other consequence of the Coronavirus, apart from the immense toll its taken in tragic deaths, its disastrous impact on economies and social life around the world as trade and personal contact has been reduced to a minimum as countries go into lockdown. I doubt few people have noticed it, but I believe that the pandemic has finally killed the sixties dream of the conquest of disease.

It was an optimistic decade, and although the high hopes of technological, social and economic improvement and expansion ended with the depression of the 70s and its fears of overpopulation, ecological collapse, and the running out of resources, coupled with global terrorism, labour unrest and the energy crisis, some of that optimism still continued. And one of the sources of that optimism was the victories that were being won against disease. Before the introduction of modern antibiotics, diseases like tuberculosis, polio, diptheria and cholera were common and lethal. In the case of polio, they could leave their victims so severely paralysed that they had to be placed in iron lungs in order to breathe. Their threat was greatly reduced in Britain and the West through the introduction of antibiotics, as well as the improvements in housing, working conditions and sanitation. And these advances appeared to be global. Yes, there was still terrible poverty in the Developing World, but these emergent nations were improving thanks to the efforts of charities and the United Nations. The UN was helping these nations become educated through schools, setting up wells and other sources of clean water, teach their peoples about the importance of sanitation. Most importantly, it was actively eradicating disease through immunisation programmes.

The UN and the charities are still doing this, of course, often working in hostile conditions in countries wracked by dictatorship, corruption and civil war. But in the 1970s the world won a major victory in the struggle against disease: smallpox was declared extinct in the wild. Humanity had overcome and beaten a major killer that had taken the lives of countless millions down the centuries. Cultures of the disease still remain in laboratories, just in case it returns. But outside of these, the disease was believed to be finally extinct.

It was the realisation of the optimistic ideas contained in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. The series envisaged a future in which humanity had set aside its national and racial division, and become united. It had joined other extraterrestrial races in a benign Federation, a kind of UN in space, and embarked on a wave of space colonisation and exploration. It sent out ships like the Enterprise ‘to seek out new life and new civilisations’, and boldly split infinitives which no-one had split before. And part of that optimistic future was the victory over disease. It was still there, and there were instances where it ravaged whole planets. But by and large humanity and its alien partners were conquering it. That optimism continued into the subsequent series, like Star Trek: The Next Generation and the films. Serious diseases, which now regularly afflict humanity would be easily treatable in this future. In the third Star Trek film, The Voyage Home,  the crew of the Enterprise journey back to the 20th century to save the whale and thus the Earth of the future from an alien spaceship that somehow causes advanced technology to shut down. Entering a hospital to rescue Chekhov, who has been captured by today’s American army, McCoy finds an elderly lady awaiting dialysis. ‘What is this!’, he characteristically exclaims, ‘the Dark Ages!’ And gives her a pill. When next we see her, She’s fit and well and raising her walking stick in thanks to McCoy as he and the others rush past. Around her two doctors are muttering in astonishment about how she has grown a new kidney. And in the Next Generation pilot episode, ‘Encounter at Far Point’, McCoy is shown as an elderly man in his 120s.

Now medical progress is still being made, and people in the West are living much longer, so that there is an increasing number of old folks who are over 100. And some scientists and doctors believe that advances in medical science, especially geriatrics, may eventually lead to people attain the age of 400 or even a thousand. The last claim appeared on a BBC 4 panel game over a decade ago, in which various scientists and doctors came before the writer and comedian Andy Hamilton and the Black American comic, Reggie Yates, to argue for the validity of their theories. And one of these was that the first person to live to a thousand has already been born.

But such optimism has also been seriously tempered by the persistence of disease. Just as humanity was eradicating Smallpox, SF writers were producing stories about the threat of new killer diseases, such as in the films The Satan Bug and The Andromeda Strain, as well as the British TV series, Survivors. I think public belief in the ability of humanity to conquer disease was seriously damaged by the emergence of AIDS in the 1980s. This was so devastating, that some viewed it in terms of the Black Death, though mercifully this wasn’t the case. And after AIDS came bird flu, swine flu, and now the present pandemic. And unlike these previous health emergencies, the world has been forced to go into lockdown. It’s an unprecedented move, that seems more like a return to the response to the plagues of the Middle Ages and 17-19th centuries than the actions of a modern state.

The lockdown is necessary, and this crisis has shown that states still need to cooperate in order to combat global diseases like Coronavirus. Medicine is still improving, so that it’s possible that some people, the rich elite who can afford it, may enjoy vastly extended lifespans. But the current crisis has also shown that serious diseases are still arising, illnesses that now spread and affect the world’s population as a whole. And so the 60s dream of a future without serious disease now seems very distant indeed.

Farage and Charlie Kirk Stir Up Racial Tensions with Accusations of Chinese Responsibility for the Coronavirus

March 20, 2020

As if the disease itself, and the fear and uncertainty caused by the measures by the measures countries all across the world have been forced to adopt to combat the Coronavirus aren’t enough, certain figures on the British and American political right have decided to make the situation worse by throwing around groundless accusations about responsibility for the outbreak. Nigel Farage, owner of the Brexit Party Ltd, and the odious Charlie Kirk, have declared that the Chinese are responsible for it. Zelo Street put up a piece about this latest revolting development, as Benjamin J. Grimm, your blue-eyed, ever-lovin’ Thing used to put it, yesterday.

Almost predictably, it appears to have begun with a comment Trump put out over Twitter. In flat contradiction to everything he had previously said, Trump declared that he had always taken ‘the Chinese virus’ very seriously. One Twitter commenter, who went by the monicker of BrooklynDad_defiant, told Trump that the disease was called the Coronavirus or Covid-19 if he found the first name too difficult. He was endangering Chinese-Americans, and had dismissed the virus as a hoax, claimed it was down to zero and that it had been contained. None of this was true.

Then the Fuhrage decided to put his oar in. He tweeted that corporate America was standing with their President in this emergency, unlike the UK, and that Rishi Sunak’s relief measures were in line with those of France. Which ignore the fact, as Zelo Street reminded us, that the French government isn’t offering loans to help out businesses. And then Farage went to his default position of blaming foreigners, and claimed that the Chinese were responsible. He tweeted “It really is about time we all said it. China caused this nightmare. Period”. And then followed this with “It is time we all challenged the Chinese regime. Enough is enough”. He followed this up by retweeting an approving tweet from Charlie Kirk, the poster boy for the right-wing organisation, Turning Point USA, who said

In the age of Trump -we’ve learned that the media is hellbent on spreading disinformation and lies. So if we don’t speak the truth, who will? [Nigel Farage] is right and its time we all listen: China caused this pandemic. They should be forced to pay”.

Zelo Street remarked about this display of racism that Farage and Kirk wouldn’t know the truth if it kicked them squarely in the crotch. They are good, however, at screaming ‘liar!’ and ‘Fake news’ at media organisations they dislike in order to rile up their bases. The Sage of Crewe concluded

‘The situation with Covid-19 is serious. It is serious enough that no responsible politician should be going anywhere near leveraging it to whip up the mob.

That Nigel Farage is doing just that tells you all you need to know about where he’s at.’

He’s exactly right, as he began the article with a quotation from the South Korean Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha on the Andrew Marr Show, expressing her concern about a rise in racially motivated attacks on Asians in other countries in response to the crisis. She naturally wanted governments to crack down on it, because it was helping the spirit of collaboration the world needs to combat the crisis.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/farage-uses-crisis-to-whip-up-mob.html

She isn’t alone in these fears. A few days ago I received a message from the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, describing what they were going to do as a response to the virus. They aren’t just trying to help combat the virus itself, as very many other organisations and charities are also doing, but are trying to expose and tackle the way the crisis is being exploited by Fascist groups. The email said of this part of their work

For example, we’ll be releasing new content on how extremists use the messaging app Telegram to promote terrorism next week. At the same time, we’re adapting our work, conducting research on how the far right are responding to COVID-19 and any way in which they may be weaponsing it. Because of the nature of the virus we are also increasing our research into conspiracy theories. We hope that these areas will allow us to counter how forces of hate are seeking to use this global pandemic.

Now you would have thought that Trump would have been more careful before he blamed the Chinese for the virus. I can remember how George W. Bush during his tenure of the White House 12 years and more ago made an official apology to Japanese-Americans condemning their internment during World War II. It was an apology Japanese-American activists like Star Trek’s George Takei had fought long and hard for. The last thing Trump should be doing is trying to reopen old wounds about his country’s treatment of Asian Americans, and no politico on either side of the Pond should be trying to stir up racial tensions at this time anyway.

The Chinese Communist regime is responsible for any number of atrocities and horrors, from the invasion of Tibet, the genocide of the Uighurs, the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and the mass deaths of the Cultural Revolution. But it is definitely not responsible for the Coronavirus. The Chinese have made massive efforts to contain and eradicate it, even isolating the province in which it emerged, Wuhan. I’ve also heard nothing to suggest that they have been nothing but entirely collaborative with other nations in the global attempts to combat this disease.

I think Trump called the Coronavirus the ‘Chinese disease’ simply out of stupidity and laziness. He couldn’t remember, or couldn’t be bothered to remember, what it was really called. But Farage and Kirk just seem to have blamed the Chinese out of sheer racism.

This is immensely dangerous, when people are as isolated, vulnerable and fearful as they are now, and Farage and Kirk are to be condemned for their inflammatory, bigoted remarks.

Star Trek: Was Gene Roddenberry Influenced by Asimov’s ‘Space Ranger’ Novels

March 20, 2020

This is just a bit of SF fan speculation before I start writing about the really serious stuff. I’ve just finished reading Isaac Asimov’s Pirates of the Asteroids. First published in 1952, this is the second of five novels about David ‘Lucky’ Starr, Space Ranger. In  it, Starr goes after the Space Pirates, who killed his parents and left him to die when he was four. He tries to infiltrate their organisation by stowing away aboard a remote-controlled ship that’s deliberately sent into the asteroids to be attacked and boarded by the pirates. He’s captured, forced to fight for his life in a duel fought with the compressed air push guns NASA developed to help astronauts maneuver during spacewalks. After fighting off an attempt on his life by his opponent, Starr is taken by the pirates to the asteroid lair of a reclusive, elderly man, one of a number who have bought their own asteroids as retirement homes. The elderly man, Hansen, helps him to escape, and the pair fly back to Ceres to meet Starr’s old friends and mentors from the Science Academy. Starr and his diminutive Martian friend, Bigman, decide to return to the old hermit’s asteroid, despite it having disappeared from its predicted position according to Starr’s orbital calculations in the meantime. Searching for it, they find a pirate base. Starr is captured, his radio disabled, and literally catapulted into space to die and the pirates plan to attack his spaceship, left in the capable hands of Bigman. Starr and Bigman escape, travel back to Ceres, which they find has been attacked by the pirates in the meantime, and the hermit, Hansen, captured. Meanwhile Earth’s enemies, the Sirians, have taken over Jupiter’s moon, Ganymede. Starr reasons that the pirates are operating in cahoots with them to conquer the solar system, and that the pirates are taking Hansen there. He heads off in hot pursuit, seeking not just to stop the pirates and their leader before they reach Ganymede, but thereby also prevent a devastating war between Earth and Sirius.

In many ways, it’s typical of the kind of SF written at the time. It’s simple fun, aimed at a juvenile and adolescent readership. Instead of using real profanity, the characters swear ‘By space’ and shout ‘Galloping Galaxies’ when surprised or shocked. It also seems typical of some SF of its time in that it’s anti-war. The same attitude is in the SF fiction written by Captain W.E. Johns, the author of the classic ‘Biggles’ books. Johns wrote a series of novels, such as Kings of Space, Now to the Stars, about a lad, Rex, and his friends, including a scientist mentor, who make contact with the civilisation behind the UFOs. These are a race of friendly, humanoid aliens from Mars and the asteroid belt, who befriend our heroes. Nevertheless, there is also an evil villain, who has to be defeated by the heroes. It’s a very long time since I read them, but one thing a I do remember very clearly is the anti-war message expressed by one the characters. The scientist and the other Earthmen are discussing war and the urge for conquest. The scientist mentions how Alexander the Great cried when he reached the borders of India, because there were no more countries left to conquer. The characters agree that such megalomaniac warriors are responsible for all the needless carnage in human history, and we’d be better off without them. This is the voice of a generation that lived through and fought two World Wars and had seen the horror of real conflict. They weren’t pacifists by any means, but they hated war. It’s been said that the people least likely to start a war are those who’ve actually fought in one. I don’t know if Asimov ever did, but he had the same attitude of many of those, who had. It’s in marked contrast with the aggressive militarism of Heinlein and Starship Troopers, and the ‘chickenhawks’ in George W. Bush’s administration way back at the beginning of this century. Bush and his neocon advisers were very keen to start wars in the Middle East, despite having done everything they could to make sure they were well out of it. Bush famously dodged national service in Vietnam. As has the latest incumbent of the White House, Donald Trump.

But what I found interesting was the similarity of some the elements in the book with Star Trek. Roddenberry, Trek’s creator, was influenced by another SF book, The Voyage of the Space Beagle, as well as the ‘Hornblower’ novels. The latter is shown very clearly in Kirk’s character. But I suspect he was also influenced by Asimov as well in details like the Vulcan Science Council, subspace radio and the energy shields protecting Star Trek’s space ships. The Science Council seems to be the chief organ of government on Spock’s homeworld of Vulcan. Which makes sense, as Vulcans are coldly logical and rational, specialising in science, maths and philosophy. But in Asimov’s ‘Space Ranger’ books, Earth’s Science Council is also a vital organ of government, exercising police powers across the Terrestrial Empire somewhat parallel to the admiralty.

Communications across space are through sub-etheric radio. This recalls the sub-etha radio in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and shows that Adams probably read Asimov as well. In Star Trek, space communications are through ‘sub-space radio’. The idea of FTL communications isn’t unique to Asimov. In Blish’s Cities in Flight novels, the spacefaring cities communicate through normal radio and the Dirac telephone. The ansible, another FTL communication device, appears in Ursula K. Le Guine’s 1970s novel, The Dispossessed. What is striking here is the similarity of terms: ‘sub-etheric’ and ‘sub-space’. These are similar names to describe a very similar concept.

Star Trek’s space ships were also protected by force fields, termed shields, from micrometeorites and the ray weapons and torpedoes of attacking aliens, like Klingons, Romulans, Orion pirates and other riff-raff. The spacecraft in Asimov’s ‘Space Ranger’ books are protected by histeresis shields. Histeresis is a scientific term to describe the lag in materials of the effects of an electromagnetic field, if I recall my ‘O’ level Physics correctly. Roddenberry seems to have taken over this concept and imported it into Trek, dropping the ‘histeresis’ bit. And from Trek it entered Star Wars and Science Fiction generally. The idea is absent in the recent SF series, The Expanse. This is set in the 23rd century, when humanity has expanded into space. The Solar System is divided into three political powers/ groups: the Earth, now a united planet under the government of the United Nations, the Mars Congressional Republic, and the Belt, which is a UN protectorate. The Martians have gained their independence from Earth only after a war, while the Belt is seething with disaffection against UN/Martian control and exploitation. The political situation is thus teetering on the brink of system-wide war, breaking out into instances of active conflict. The ships don’t possess shields, so that bullets and projectiles launched by rail guns smash straight through them, and the crews have to dodge them and hope that when they are hit, it doesn’t strike anything vital. The Expanse is very much hard SF, and I suspect the absence of shields is not just the result of a desire to produce proper, scientifically plausible SF, but also a reaction to force fields, which have become something of an SF cliche.

But returning to Asimov’s ‘Space Ranger’ novels, it does seem to me that Roddenberry was influenced by them when creating Star Trek’s universe alongside other SF novels,  just as Adams may have been when he wrote Hitch-Hiker. Asimov’s best known for his ‘Robot’ and ‘Foundation’ novels, which have also been highly influential. But it looks like these other books also exercised a much less obvious, though equally pervasive influence through Roddenberry’s Trek.

Collection of Science Fiction Stories Tackling Racism

January 18, 2020

Allen De Graeff, ed., Human And Other Beings (New York: Collier Books 1963).

Science Fiction, it has been observed, is more often about the times in which it was written than about the future. Quite often it’s been the ‘literature of warning’, in which the author has extrapolated what they feel to be an ominous trend in the present to show its possibilities for the future if left unchecked. Thus H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine presented a nightmarish far future in which capitalist elites and the working class had diverged into two separate species. The Eloi – descendants of the elite – were small, dreamy creatures, with no industry of their own. They were the food animals instead of the Morlocks, descendants of the working class, who had been forced into lives of underground toil by the late Victorian and Edwardian class system. Other SF stories have tackled the problems of overpopulation – John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar, the catastrophic over-reliance on mechanisation for, well, just about everything – E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops, or the horrifying potential of genetic engineering and mass psychological conditioning, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and so on. I borrowed this colllection of SF stories from a friend. It’s interesting because it uses the theme of contact with alien and other non-human intelligences to criticise and denounce the very real, present issue of racism. The book’s blurb begins with the quotation ‘”Everything that diminishes human dignity is evil,”‘, and continues

With this timeless truth as his theme, Editor Allen DeGraeff has collected a group of superbly told science fiction tales that support it with horror or humor. Other planets, other centuries, living beings of shapes and colors other than “human” are the imaginative ingredients. Shock, surprise, and sympathy are the emotions they act upon.

  • Would you join the Anti-Martian League? Or, like Sam Rosen, would you fight it?
  • Would the gentle Adaptoman – four arms, two brains, three eyes-arouse your hostility if he worked in your office?
  • Could you live as a Professional in a world of Categoried Classes if there were also people known as Wipers, Greasers, and Figgers?
  • Would you marry an Android, a person physically just like you, but artificially “Made in the U.S.A.”?
  • Would you mock or make a friend of Narli, the charming fur-bearing exchange professor from Mars?
  • Could you serve with a soldier Surrogate, a human being reclaimed from the dead with biological techniques of the future?

In settings ranging from the Second Battle of Saturn to Earth 2003 and shining blue-green globe Shaksembender, these authors portray the ideas of human dignity.

The authors, whose work is collected in the volume include some of SF great masters – Ray Bradbury, William Tenn, Leigh Brackett, Frederick Pohl, both alone and with his frequent collaborator, C.M. Kornbluth, Robert Sheckley and Eric Frank Russell.

The stories were written at a time when the Civil Rights movement was gaining power, although still bitterly opposed by a viciously racist, conservative state apparatus and politicians. A number of other SF writers were also using the genre to denounce racism. Sometimes that was through metaphor, such as in Cordwainer Smith’s ‘The Ballad of Lost C’Mell’. This tale’s titular heroine is a young woman genetically engineered from cats. She is a member of an oppressed servile class of similarly genetically engineered animals. These creatures are denied all rights by their human masters, and humanely killed by euthanasia is they are unable to perform their functions. Through telepathic contact with another such creature, a dove of immense intelligence and wisdom, C’Mell is able to persuade a human board of inquiry to grant her people human rights. Other SF writers tackled racism directly, such as Harry Harrison in his 1963 story, ‘Mute Milton’. This was his angry reaction to a comment by a redneck southern sheriff’s response to the news that Martin Luther King was highly respected in Sweden and Scandinavia, and had been awarded the Nobel prize. The sheriff responded that King might be popular in Norway, but back in his town he would be ‘just one more n***er’. Harrison’s story is about a Black American college professor, who comes to a southern town on his way to another university to present his invention: a radio that runs on gravity. A stranger to the racial repression of the Deep South, he falls into conversation in a bar with a wanted civil rights activist while waiting for his bus out of town. The Black activist tells him what it’s really like to be Black in the South. The sheriff and his goons burst into the bar looking for the activist. He escapes out the back. The sheriff and his men shoot, but miss him and shoot the professor instead. When one of the goons tells the sheriff that they’ve killed an innocent man, he just shrugs it off as ‘another n***er’.

Racism has since gone on to be a major topic of much SF. It’s been explored, for example, in Star Trek, both recently and in the original 60’s series. It also inspired Brian Aldiss 1970s short story, ‘Working in the Spaceship Yards’, published in Punch. This was about a man with a Black friend having to come to terms with his own feelings about androids as they started working alongside them in the spaceship yards of the title, and going out with human women. It’s a satire on the racial politics of the day, when many White Brits were, as now, concerned about Black and Asian immigrants taking their jobs. And specifically anti-Black racism was tackled in an episode of Dr. Who written by award-winning Black children’s writer, Mallory Blackman. In this tale the Doctor and her friends travel back to the American Deep South to make sure Rosa Parks makes her epochal bus journey against the machinations of White racist from the future determined to stop Blacks ever gaining their freedom.

Not everyone is satisfied with the metaphorical treatment of racism pursued by some SF. I can remember arguing with a friend at college about Star Trek, and how the series explored racial tension and prejudice through Mr Spock. Despite being half-human, Spock was still an outsider, distrusted by many of his human crewmates. My friend believed instead that the series should have been more explicit and specifically explored anti-Black racism. More recently there has been the rise of Black SF writers, who use their work to address issues of race and the Black experience. An anthology of their work was published back in the 1990s as Dark Matters, a pun on the dark matter of astronomy, that is supposed to give the universe its missing mass.

Even if not explicit, the metaphorical approach allows writers to say what otherwise may not be said, as in the former Soviet Union. There, writers such as the Strugatsky brothers used the ‘Aesopian’ mode – SF as fable – to attack conditions in the Communist state, which would have been subject to censorship and severe punishment if said openly. Over in the capitalist world, the political situation was much freer, but there were still limits to what could be portrayed. Star Trek featured the first interracial kiss, between Kirk and Lt. Uhuru in the episode ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’, but the network faced deep opposition from broadcasters in the Deep South. An indirect treatment also allows people to think about or accept ideas, which they would have rejected through a more straightforward treatment of the subject. Some readers may have been more receptive to anti-racist ideas if presented in the form of aliens than through an explicit treatment of colour prejudice against Blacks and other races.

This anthology, then, promises to be very interesting reading both through the tales themselves, and what they have to say about the times in which they were written. Times in which Science Fiction was joining the other voices denouncing racism and demanding equality and freedom for all, human and non-human. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe on Boris’ Johnson’s Massive Failure as Mayor of London

July 23, 2019

Boris Johnson and fans prepare for government.

This is another video from JOE, a YouTuber who’s made a number of videos parodying and criticising Boris and the rest of the Tories. In this one he uses Boris’ colossal failure as mayor of London, and particularly his wretched vanity projects, to show what we can expect from the Eton educated blond moron if he got into power. Which he now has, thanks to all his single-helix inbred mutoid followers. Joe walks around the capital as he talks, showing Johnson’s various projects.

Joe begins by asking if, despite his cartoon clownish exterior, Boris can take power seriously. His legacy in London has been to turn it into a playground for the rich. When Johnson announced his candidacy for Prime Minister, he mentioned his record as mayor on poverty, crime, affordable housing and road deaths. But the statistics he used were difficult to source and, at times, exaggerated. Which is why Joe talks about his physical legacy in London’s built environment. These include the conversion of the Olympic Stadium to West Ham’s football ground, at the cost of hundreds of millions of public money and the Arcemittal Orbit, which features the world’s longest tunnel slide. That was Boris’ idea, and was meant to raise £1.2 million a year to help pay for the upkeep of the Olympic park. It instead cost the taxpayer £10,000 a week because entrance to the Park was less than half of what was expected.

There’s also the fleet of new buses Boris ordered, modelled on the classic ‘Routemaster’ design of the 1960s. However, Transport for London was forced to recall them and retrofit them, because the windows on the top deck didn’t open. Because of this the Routemasters were nicknamed ‘roastmasters’ and in one bus, the temperature a 41° C was recorded. This is higher than the permitted temperature for transporting cattle. The changes cost £2 million, and it wasn’t the first redesign. The buses were originally to have a hop-on, hop-off open back and a conductor, but they were phased out because of expense.

And then there’s the Emirate’s Airline, which was supposed to ferry commuters between Greenwich and the Royal Docks. In 2012 the number of people using the cable car was 16. In 2015, nobody used them. The airline initially believed 70,000 people a week would use it. That’s now dipped to 20,000 and its estimated to cost the taxpayer £50,000 every week. It is the most expensive urban cable car in the world.

Boris also intended to build a garden bridge, somewhere between Waterloo and Blackfriars. But this never got beyond the conceptual stage, and cost Britain £43 million.

Joe then appears on the Tube, saying to the camera, ‘He had nothing to do with the Tube. The Tube’s pretty good’.

He then goes on to talk about Boris’ most significant contribution to London – cycling, including his ‘Boris bikes’. The scheme now covers most of the centre of London. It was supposed to cost the taxpayer nothing, but the public ended up spending over £200 million for it over the course of Johnson’s period as mayor. This makes it the most expensive of its kind in the whole world. Johnson’s dedicated cycle lanes increased congestion while he halved the area of the congestion zone.

Then there’s the Peckham Peace Wall. After the 2011 riots, people wrote messages of love on post-it notes and put them on the plywood boards covering Poundland’s smashed windows. After the damage was repaired, the residents didn’t want to lose this record, and so it became a mural. But at the time London was engulfed in rioting, Boris was on holiday in Canada. It took him three days to decide whether or not to come home.

And that, concludes Joe, is London’s legacy and Britain’s future.

The video then ends with a few more shots of London, accompanied by a piece of Jazz-Blues, and couple of out-takes.

Yep, this is the man the Tories have just decided should be our prime minister. And his record as a government minister has been just as abysmal, as various other bloggers and YouTubers are showing.

As the Ferengi used to say on Star Trek, ‘Ugleee! Very ugleeee!’

 

 

 

Question Time Now Stoops to Getting Guido Fawkes Propagandist on Panel

July 7, 2019

Another character from the sewer of the British far right appeared on Question Time on Thursday. This was Tom Harwood, a member of the Paul Staines’ malign team over at the Guido Fawkes blog. Yes, that cesspool of borderline Fake News was invited to give his opinion on the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme. As Zelo Street points out, this shows how low the programme has sunk after it has been revealed to have used Tory plants in the audience, Tory and other extremely right-wing panelists spouting facts that are just plain wrong, using spurious statistics and gaslighting left-wing panelists, like Diane Abbott, when they have been right.

As Zelo Street points out, many of the peeps on Twitter were not impressed.Comments included

Question … what does Tom Harwood have that makes him qualified to stand on Question Time? He’s not a serious journalist, he’s just a snot-nosed brat on a Right-Whingers blogging site” … “The fact we have people like Tom Harwood on question time shows how low this country has sunk. Surely it starts getting better soon?” [Ron Hopeful there] … “You can definitely tell what Tom Harwood is going to look like at 80 years old when he’s standing in the street shouting at nothing”.

And they continued, with the language including what Spock describes in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, as ‘colourful metaphors’. Very colourful metaphors. Mark Taggart commented on the whole charade

Typically dreadful Question Time with Tom Harwood, an absolute nonentity, being this week’s BBC choice as cheer-leader to the bigoted, cheering, jeering, drown out any opposition Brexit mob. For anyone with a brain the whole show has become utterly unwatchable”.

As for the reason such an odious figure was invited on the programme, ‘Darren’ suggested this

He’s risen through working for an extreme right wing blog which encourages racism in its forums and does things like misrepresents tweets to get people sacked and doxed. He then gets congratulated by BBC journalists and accepted into #bbcqt. The whole thing is sickening”.

Quite. As Zelo Street says, it’s rewarding dishonesty and dirty tricks. They conclude that one day the Beeb will learn not to get into bed Staines and the rest of the Fake News merchants, but by that time it’ll be too late.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/07/question-time-credibility-fawked.html

The programme also bears out the French Philosophical Feline’s observation, over Guy Debord’s Cat, that the TV companies are always softer on the far right than they are on the left. And this now includes Question Time, despite the savaging the panelists gave the then head of the BNP when he appeared on it all those years ago.

And Paul Staines is far right. Very far right. He’s a Libertarian, and was a member of the Freedom Association. But for Libertarians and particularly the Freedom Association, ‘freedom’ only means ‘freedom for the corporate rich’. It certainly does not mean freedom for working people as they are strongly opposed to the welfare state, including the NHS, trade unions and any kind of state intervention in industry. In the 1980s Staines attended an official dinner in which the guest of honour was the leader of one of Rios Montt’s death squads in El Salvador. Because killing, torturing, raping, castrating and mutilating peasants in ways so horrific that they can’t be decently described is a thoroughly respectable defence of free trade economics as preached by Thatcher and the Chicago School. Keeping starving rural workers in conditions of serfdom is entirely consistent with saving them from socialism, as advocated by von Mises and von Hayek in the latter’s The Road to Serfdom.

And in addition to his Fascist views, Staines was a fan of psychedelic drugs, particularly DMT, and complained that because of his advocacy of such psychoactive chemicals he wasn’t taken seriously.

Paul Staines and his wretched crew thus are another bunch of rightists, who have much in common with Mosley and his Fascists. And the fact that the producers of Question Time seem to consider members of his shabby outfit suitable guests on their programme also shows how biased the show has become.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Not Hate Poll Shows Tories Really Are Institutionally Islamophobic

June 27, 2019

After the Tweeter Jacobsmates suggested that a poll really should be held of Tory members, to see if the party really is as horrifically islamophobic as Sayeeda Warsi and many others have claimed, someone has indeed done just that. That someone was the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate. And the results are, to quote Star Trek’s Ferengi, ‘Ugly. Very ugleeee!’ It shows that the Tories really are institutionally islamophobic, and far more prejudiced towards Muslims than the rest of great British society. Hope Not Hate Found that

67% believe that there are areas in Britain that operate under sharia law, as opposed to only 18% who don’t.

43% say that they would prefer the country not to be led by a Muslim, as opposed to only 8% who say they would be proud if this was the case.

79% of members don’t think that there’s a problem with islamophobia or racism towards Muslims in the Tory party, as opposed to just 8% who believe that there is a problem.

45% believe that there are areas in the country in which non-Muslims may not enter.

39% believe that Islamist terrorists represent a widespread hostility to Britain among the Muslim community.

And 40% of members wanted limits on the numbers of Muslims entering the country, as opposed to 5%, who wanted fewer Christians or Jews entering Britain.

Reporting the poll’s results, as revealed by Peter Bienkov in Business Insider, Zelo Street remarked on the long list of racist comments by Tory leadership front runner Boris Johnson, saying that this revealed a very large streak unreconstructed bigotry in the party. And not just towards Muslims. The Sage of Crewe concluded

So now MatesJacob has an answer. It is an answer that blows away the pretence of Brandon Lewis and every other Tory talking head, the suggestion that Islamophobia is some kind of minor problem for the party, a mere little local difficulty.
The Blue Team has a racism problem. But many out there knew that anyway.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/06/tory-members-admit-they-are-racist.html

This not only shows just how racist the Tories are, it also reveals their hypocrisy in making spurious attacks on Labour for its supposed anti-Semitism, when the actual levels of anti-Semitism in the party are low. Very likely, their probably much lower than the Tory party. If I remember correctly, MatesJacob also found not just a violent hostility to Muslims in the members of social media groups for supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, but also anti-Semitism as well. But a friend of mine, who used to belong to the Tories, once came out with the old quote: The Tory party is an organised hypocrisy.

The accusation that there are parts of Britain under sharia law seems to come partly from the existence of various Islamic bodies set up to deal with marital reconciliation and the like. They’re controversial, but as has been pointed out ad nauseam, they’re voluntary and have no official legal powers. And we can all remember the great hilarity that erupted a few years ago when Fox News declared that there were Muslim-only  ‘no go’ areas in the UK which non-Muslims could not enter. These included Birmingham. All of it. Needless to say, Birmingham’s mayor set them right about this. And this shabby episode shows that it’s not for nothing that Fox has earned it’s nickname ‘Faux News’. Indeed, an academic analysis a few years ago into the quality of the station’s reporting revealed that you’d be far better informed if you didn’t watch any news at all, than if you got your information from them. But this seems to be the kind of journalism the Tories believe, or prefer to believe. Which also shows a related danger the Murdoch empire poses to British news and politics. Tim Fenton has also suggested that Murdoch and his goons would like to turn Sky News, which is already right-leaning, into something like Fox News UK. And they’re backing Boris because they’ve got some kind of dirt on him which means that, once he becomes Prime Minister, he’ll let them. The only consolation is that, if Fox News’ audience is anything to go by, the revamped Sky News would have a limited, elderly audience. The American station has been described as ‘an online retirement community’, because the average age of their viewers is 74. So much for hip and happening Republican new media!

But Zelo Streetss article yesterday about Andy Norfolk’s highly prejudiced reporting about Muslims, which is substantially factually incorrect, or, less politely, a pack of lies, show that this venomous prejudice is also shared by Times, supposedly Britain’s paper of record.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/06/muslim-fostering-row-truth.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/06/times-islamophobia-not-waving-but.html

It isn’t just the Scum, Mail, Depress and the rest of the right-wing tabloids which are pushing virulent racism and Islamophobia.

The Tories are thus a viciously Islamophobic, racist party, supported by a racist, Islamophobic press, much of it owned by Murdoch, and seemingly about to elect a loudmouthed racist as their leader.