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[Warning—spoilers ahead] Logan (2017) launches into a genuine and abiding sadness, a sense of abandonment—what brought Charles Xavier so low, to this pitiable existence, confined to a collapsed water tower in the Mexican desert? Now that he is in need, where are all of his students? His beloved X-men? And all the other people he helped over the years? In his advanced age, Charles suffers a plight similar to that of so many real people every day. This predicament, at once quotidian and unprecedented (for the leader of the X-men), is something you don’t see in superhero movies. Charles, played once again and to amazing effect, by Patrick Stewart, continues as Earth’s most powerful telepath, yet suffers from a degenerative brain disease. The incredibly powerful (IMO) casino scene uses Charles’ mental illness to full effect.wolverine-story_647_102116025055

Hugh Jackman plays an aged, world-weary Wolverine who doesn’t heal as well as he used to, and who seems even more worn out on the inside than evidenced by his scarred body. Together, he and Charles clash in a surprisingly touching father-son dynamic. The mundane concept of a younger man caring for a mentally- and physically-declining loved one combines surprising well with the fantastic superhero aspects of the film. In one scene, Logan doggedly helps Charles use the bathroom despite Charles’ exasperation and humiliation. Despite its shortness, this scene and others like it (Charles opening his mouth wide and groaning mockingly to show Logan he swallowed his meds), without any special effects at all, make us wonder how these two came to such a pass, yet reinforce the durable relationship that survives between them despite a clearly difficult, if unknown, past.5 Logan Liver spots.png

Laura (X-23) is aptly played by Dafne Keen who transitions smoothly between scenes of horrific combat and moments of childlike innocence. In one scene, she takes on an almost maternal role, a juxtaposition of her and Logan as adult and child, when an exhausted, wounded Logan can’t drive anymore. Despite his fatigue, he refuses to let her drive. Laura pulls them over so he can sleep. Later, Logan sleeps with his head on her lap. She shifts him over, then switches to the driver’s seat so she can continue driving.

Despite its quieter aspects, the film doesn’t stint on action or effects. The near future is rendered smartly with cyborgs and autotrucks, the latter routine yet terrifyingly oblivious. Throughout its 137 minutes, the film delivers a visceral realism I haven’t seen in almost any other superhero film (Dredd (2012) would be an exception). The violence is screamingly intense, yet almost always believable without being over the top. Claws are used to full effect. People die—a  lot of them.Logan-X-23

Accompanying the riveting plot is an impressive music score. Not something I usually notice in a superhero film, the music ekes out even more adrenalin and should (if I were to have a say) win awards.

Interweaving of actual paper X-Men comics as a plot element within the film’s fictional reality—even a Wolverine action figure clutched by a mutant child—deliver the message we already know: Wolverine will live on.

Another performance that’s keeping me locked in… It’s amazing how many amazing artists are out there.  A sea of creative people, most of whom probably will never break past the boundary of mass public consciousness, myself included, yet their work can sometimes be just as or even more amazing than what passes as popular culture.

Found this randomly on the Tube.  Shares some of the ethereal moodiness of my favorite band, Ida.  Music I can fall asleep to (in a good way).

imageslike.com-small-darth-vader-star-wars-celebration-v-501st-room-darth-vader-costume.jpgDemocracy is a wonderful thing, but it does have its inherent limitations. Governance by consensus can’t solve every problem. Humans didn’t evolve to react productively to long-term, incremental changes, or to act for the collective well-being of the species at an individual’s expense. Today’s nation-states operate as a set of individuals without a leader. The closest thing we have to nation-leaders being the U.S., the E.U., and China, but even those act primarily in their own self-interest. Consensus works well when it can be reached, as long as it can be reached. Put another way, the world’s nation-states have reached consensus, which so far has been to do very little about global warming, world-wide poverty, humans rights abuses, environmental degradation, orbital debris, etc. As long as humanity collectively keeps its heads in the sand, our species will continue partying like its 1999 until the party’s over and by then it will probably be too late (at least for most people, let alone plants and animals that haven’t figured out how to vote). Ultimately, none of these problems are scientific, or engineering, or technological problems. These are human behavior problems. Greenhouse gas emissions could be substantially reduced tomorrow if everyone decided not to drive. Arguably, science, engineering, and technology have made matters worse. Three hundred years ago, there was no need for Whole Foods—the entire world was organic. There wasn’t a need for carbon credits—the only greenhouse gases being emitted were from volcanoes. To solve today’s urgent, intransigent problems, we need to act in unison. The human race has to align.

Who can make this happen? A dictator. The world needs a dictator, hopefully benevolent, and he/she should start a war and conquer the entire world. Why? So that species-level decisions can be made. Global warming threatens the species—a sufficiently enlightened dictator would impose across-the-board policies to curb emissions but also cut back their core cause—people. There are simply too many people on this ball of dirt we call home. An enlightened dictator would enact family-planning policies to reduce the human population from today’s 7.29 billion people to a tenth or even a hundredth of that. H/she would have no compunction about limiting families to two children (sorry Brady Bunch devotees), as well as promoting birth control and even (gasp) abortion. Ecologically, we are a pestilence, an invasive species, a swarm of locusts eating (consuming) ourselves out of hearth and home. If we act as a coordinated species instead of a mob of individuals, voila—global warming solved.

World-wide poverty? Impose mandatory income redistribution to bring up undeveloped countries until average income is leveled world-wide. Commerce would thrive as markets swell with new customers. Terrorism? Policing the world consistently while opening economic opportunities would remove much of the motivation behind terrorists’ ability to recruit. Unfair labor practices and lack of environmental protection by other countries undercutting the domestic economy? Enforce the same standards world-wide. Everyone would be a citizen with equal rights and access to the rule of law. Worker health and income go up, offshoring jobs becomes irrelevant, a level playing field for all.

Without the systemic problems that plague the world today, where will we direct our efforts? Redirect most of our resources away from the military and instead increase spending on education, health care, and science. Direct more resources outward—space. Compared to today’s competing space programs, what could a unified world government with strong leadership accomplish? Far more. We could push our species beyond its birthplace and reach for the stars on an accelerated schedule. Colonization of the solar system for a start. A healthier, ecologically-sound, happier planet with better long-term chances of our species’ survival. It’s worth thinking about. Now who’s going to start the war?

Seriously, though. Do I really advocate a new war?  No, but I do contend a worldwide government with the power to really govern (not just impose sanctions) will be a necessary step to solve our biggest problems.  Unfortunately, until things get much worse, short of a war or global catastrophe, that’s unlikely to happen.

image credit: Star Wars Celebration V – 501st Room – Darth Vader Costume via free images (license)

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In the far future, intelligent machines resurrected the human race, then disappeared. Now humanity wages war against alien invaders, and the machines are needed once again.3d-book-template_01_cropped

After her brother is killed, Sergeant Sheemi Tanamal wants only one thing—to kill more of the enemy until they kill her, but her father has other plans. Sent into space on a long-shot mission to find their machine allies, Sheemi must navigate forces of hate and intrigue and her own thirst for revenge.

Obsessed by the machines, artist Kellen Beaudin lives a life of secrecy, hiding his drawings from an unforgiving society. Kellen’s origin is deeply intertwined with the machines, although he doesn’t understand how or why. A mysterious stranger shatters Kellen’s safe existence, stirring up echoes of the past. Recruited for a strange quest, Kellen makes an amazing discovery and embarks on a journey beyond anything he could have imagined.

In the most unlikely of places, Sheemi and Kellen will meet and change the fate of millions.

Reviews say:

“This is hard core sci-fi as it is meant to be written.”

“Epic science fiction: artificial intelligence and the fate of mankind.”

“Broad in reach, deep in its humanity, far flung in scope – I could not & did not anticipate where this novel could & would go.”

“5 stars: A satisfying sci-fi that will take you far and away on all sorts of adventures but hit you right at home. You’ll come to love the characters and the world that this author creates. All in all a solid novel.”

“An excellent story – an interesting take on extrasolar life/travel and a creative look at a machine civilization.”

“I finished this book in one day. There are books that I reread several times because they are like old friends. This is one of those books. I hope he writes more books with the same characters.”

“The Farthest City is a highly engaging book that captured my attention from the beginning. Overall, very well written – I’d definitely recommend to fans of the genre.”

“if you’re the type of person who likes a sci-fi story that will challenge your way of thinking–opening your mind to new possibilities– and you’re tired of predictable story lines, get this one. It will leave you thinking.”

“Interesting and well thought out science fiction story. First book for author and I’m looking forward to his next.”

“Quite a surprise. A very different tale for me, well told! Perserveer and you will be rewarded with a wonderful imaginative storyline.”

“Amazing, intricate plot. Incredible imagination of the possibilities of technological evolution. Highly recommend for Sci-Fi fans. Just sad there is no sequel :(”

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Idea Behind the Story:

I conceived the idea for The Farthest City while mulling over books and films where robots get smart and try to kill off the human race (I, Robot, the Terminator, the Matrix, and Battlestar Galactica to name a few). In these stories, machines represent our collective nightmare.

But what if they saved us instead? The setting of The Farthest City is based on this unique premise: humanity destroyed itself in a third world war. When the dust settled, our species was resurrected by intelligent machines raising a new generation of humans from frozen embryos using artificial wombs. Then the machines depart into space, ceding Earth back to us. The book opens with an alien invasion threatening a second human extinction and the machines’ help is needed once again.

I also tried to imagine what machines might be like if they did become sentient. The challenge was making them as different and non-human as they would probably be, while still making them relatable as characters. Would they merge into a single near-omniscient, soulless entity, or develop as individuals with personalities, goals, and ideals? How would they live—in virtual worlds or using interchangeable bodies in the real world? How would they evolve? How would they live differently from us? All these questions are explored further in the book and lead to some interesting story developments I hope will entertain readers as much as they fascinated me.

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