January 2012

For those who love statist politics as well as those who love to hate it, or who just love fantastic epic fantasy, George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series brings plenty of grist to the mill. The game of thrones is the game of political power.

Named after the first book the series, Game of Thrones is the best fantasy television series ever produced. If you missed the first season, get caught up quickly! But read the book first if you haven’t yet.

Season 2 follows the second book in the series (A Clash of Kings), with the first episode scheduled to air on April 1st. If the teaser trailer is any guide, it’ll be all about the struggle to acquire and maintain power; and the character of Tyrion Lannister, superbly portrayed by Peter Dinklage, will be at the center of it.

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MOVIE REVIEW | The Grey Thumbnail

The GreyWhen an airplane bound for Anchorage, having departed from a remote oil refinery, crashes into a frigid Alaskan mountain removed from any sign of civilization, the handful of survivors must band together against the cold and the pack of wolves following them. Such is the scenario in director Joe Carnahan’s The Grey. If you think you have seen it before, you probably have, but probably not like this. The title is fitting both as a description of the bleak snowscape in which the actors find themselves as well as the mood that informs the work, that of an agnostic’s uncertainty and despair.

I do not expect to see another movie this good until December, unless recent trends are bucked. It is far more than a harrowing survival tale. It is also a very thoughtful piece, something made not by a technician, but by an artist. To be perfectly honest, after seeing Smokin’ Aces and The A-Team, I did not think that Joe Carnahan had it in him. But he has crafted a very effective bit of cinema, something that can appeal to someone looking for some subdued tension and sudden thrills as well as a movie-goer more sensitive to metaphors and in a more introspective mood.

The opening shots of the movie are arresting in their austerity, atmospheric in their composition. It quickly becomes apparent that time will be spent creating a character to care about. Liam Neeson, playing John Ottway, is a man who is burnt out on life, who has, in some undefined way, lost the woman he loves. He puts the business end of a loaded rifle in his mouth, and only the howling of a wolf distracts him from his suicide. He misses the window of opportunity, the moment of resolve. I was intrigued, but it was not until after the plane crash that I was sold.

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NEWS | Gregory Benford in Reason Magazine on Science Fiction in Light of Humanity’s Future in Space Thumbnail

Wernher von Braun's Vision

There’s an article by science fiction author Gregory Benford in the February issue of Reason Magazine (also available online at Reason.com). I hadn’t realized it, but Benford has written three other articles for Reason (see below for a list of the others).

In the article, Benford briefly discusses the role of Nazi SS officer and rocket scientist Wernher von Braun ((Benford doesn’t call Von Braun a facilitator of mass murder, but does mention that he ran “Adolf Hitler’s V-1 and V-2 programs, which sent more than 10,000 rockets into England in 1944 and 1945.”)) in the American government’s space program, from his popular promotion of his vision of man conquering space (interesting choice of war metaphor) to his running the Apollo program.

Benford discusses Von Braun’s vision for how man will conquer space, a vision that strikes me as impractical and expensive and that still lingers in NASA today. He also highlights the decline of NASA and its “ruinously expensive” nature of the American government’s space shuttle program, which suffered catastrophic failures and kept going long past its planned obsolescence.

Though Benford says that Von Braun’s vision lives on, I’m not so sure of that. If he means Von Braun’s  general vision of man “conquering” space, then yes, that vision is not dead. If he means Von Braun’s more specific vision of how this is to be accomplished, then no, I do not think that vision will live on.

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High Desert Barbecue by J.D. Tuccille

High Desert Barbecue, by libertarian author and columnist J.D. Tuccille, is a fun romp through the dry country of the southwest. The protagonists are libertarian and manage to slip in many an observation about life and the government. The antagonists are government agents, usually environmentalist wackos and bumbling idiots to boot. Mr. Tuccille does not try to hide his colors, but whatever the reader’s are he will at least find some humor and adventure in the tale, and if he is libertarian some satisfaction as well.

The story concerns a plot by environmentalists to burn out animals — humans especially — from northern Arizona so that plants may take their place at the top of the food chain and not be bothered by inferior creatures. The irony of these mammalian Forest Service enviros passionately fighting for plants, against their own kind, is thick throughout the book. One can sense the author’s amused disdain and the pleasure he takes at the antics of these defectives.

Their act of arson — referred to as “The Carthage Option” — is witnessed and filmed by Rollo, his friend Scott, and Scott’s girlfriend Lani. A chase through uninhabited territory follows, while the fire burns. The three protagonists are desperate to get the footage uploaded to the internet so that everyone can see what the government is up to. The Forest Service hippies, a group of incompetent boobs who are good for a couple dozen chuckles through the course of the story, pursue them, determined to keep the intelligence from reaching Youtube but having difficulties getting out of their own way during the chase.

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