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Subject: Short Non-fiction

Written By: KKay on 06/08/06 at 3:21 pm

Know lots about something? Write it up and post it here...critics and questions welcome. A good place to display expertise.

As always, mine is on the way. 

Subject: Re: Short Non-fiction

Written By: Badfinger-fan on 06/08/06 at 10:24 pm

I was here too.  8) you'll find me here again, maybe I'll post something

Subject: Re: Short Non-fiction

Written By: KKay on 06/09/06 at 10:57 am

I have written a short bio of Chuck Yeager. Enjoy!


Brig. Gen. Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager by Kkay
Charles Elwood Yeager became the most famous test pilot of all time by flying faster than the speed of sound.  That ground breaking event was just one of his long list of achievements.

He was flying a P-51 over France in November of 1943 when his plane was shot down over enemy territory.
He managed, with the help of the French Resistance to flee to Spain.  At that time, government policy restricted him from flying any more missions after that frightening experience; however, he boldly approached General Dwight Eisenhower to allow him to return to action with his squadron.  The zealous and talented pilot bagged 13 enemy aircraft in total by the time the squad was sent home

Subject: Re: Short Non-fiction

Written By: Tia on 06/09/06 at 7:09 pm

here's my review of a messed up but very cool movie about the Unabomber...

***

Ted Kaczynski is a monster. Most people, and certainly everyone with an even minimally grounded sense of morality, agrees on this. So what do we do with the fact that his notorious manifesto, which he killed three people and maimed nearly two dozen more to publish, says a lot of things, particularly about postmodern, mass-mediated society, that reasonable people can agree on?

One of <i>The Net</i>'s lesser achievements is to courageously expose this dirty little secret in the story of the Unabomber, that parts of his rambling manifesto might actually be on to something. A hypnotic meditation on Kaczynski by German documentarist Lutz Dammbeck, <i>The Net</i> is concerned partly with parsing some of Kaczynski's critiques -- particularly those directed at the mass media -- but is just as much about the curious unwritten prohibition on discussing the manifesto's contents. Time and again as Dammbeck travels hither and yon talking to a range of people -- mathematicians, software designers, computer historians -- they reliably clam up whenever Kaczynski is mentioned. He's a dangerous criminal, we're reminded, a murderer whose opinion is therefore of no consequence.

Dammbeck thinks there is something systematic behind this reluctance to talk about Kaczynski's ideas. As he theorizes about the unwillingness of these scientists and engineers to discuss Kaczynski at first he seems a little off his nut -- "All this is part of a system," he says in voiceover, practically gouging the word "system" into his notes -- "that turns every attack and disruption into an energy source with which to perfect itself." Well, that certainly seems a bit much, doesn't it?  After all, it's easy to attribute the general reluctance to discuss Kaczynski to reasonable motives; the Unabomber  committed his atrocities in part to draw attention to his own writings, so discussing them could seem to some like an implicit justification of his acts.

But later, a montage of media coverage following Kaczynski's arrest gives the impression that we are in fact dealing with just such a system. Repeatedly commentators speculate on Kaczynski's mental state, arguing that because he's schizophrenic he's also ultimately inconsequential. "If he is to be considered insane," opines a presumed expert on one of the major cable news networks, "then everything he's done will have no political effect. It will have no meaning to society." The comment, and others like it, comes off less like an objective observation than an implanted suggestion, the use of television to do something at which it excels: establish a trend.

If this neutralization of Kaczynski's manifesto is part of a system, what system is it part of? What are its contours and properties? This is the real question and Dammbeck follows some intriguing and seemingly tangential paths in investigating it. The first two interviews, for instance, revolve around an artistic cinema collective formed in the late '60s, one attracting such talents as Nam June Paik and Buckminster Fuller, and Ken Kesey's traveling experiments with consciousness expansion through LSD. Initially the connection to Kaczynski seems tenuous but we subsequently learn that he participated in a similar LSD experiment as a student in Harvard in 1961.

Tenuous also is Dammbeck's discussion of cybernetics, which ranges from scientist Norbert Weiner -- who in 1940 described a new method of targeting German divebombers in which "people, ships and planes are just abstract blips on the radar screen" -- to ARPAnet, a precursor of the Internet designed in the 1970s as a decentralized information system to survive a nuclear attack. But the connections are there, largely in the subtext. ARPA -- the Advanced Research Projects Agency -- was founded after Sputnik was launched to enable highly speculative research at the limits of knowledge, a philosophy Kesey echoes: "These scientists talk about doing research," ex-Merry Prankster Stewart Brand quotes Kesey as saying in the heyday of his LSD experiments, "we're doing search." Kesey, like Kaczynski, was a subject of government tests with LSD before taking to the road with the Pranksters, and thought of LSD as a way to reform human consciousness as an "open system." Brand -- who later coined the term "personal computer" -- describes this philosophy as an "alternative cybernetics." Brand also published the <i>Whole Earth Catalog</i>, a curious confluence of technological speculation and hippie naturalism that ran articles about computer circuitry alongside how-to guides on animal husbandry. One of the articles in the <i>Whole Earth Catalog</i> explained how to live in a cabin in the woods like Henry David Thoreau -- which is precisely what Kaczynski would do after resigning his professorship at Berkeley in 1971.

As the preceding indicates, <i>The Net</i> is an immensely complicated work, unafraid of conjecture and unwilling to simplify or draw any definite conclusions. The "system" it investigates is neither state nor individual, good nor evil. Dammbeck finds it both in the fascism of the Nazi regime and the anarchy of the antiwar movement. He comes closest to defining it succinctly when describing its origins in Wiener's theory of cybernetics, which began as an attempt to predict the actions of airplanes with human operators. The consequence of systematizing human consciousness, of making the pilot "one with his machine," is to transform thought into "data processing." In cybernetics "the brain is no longer the place where 'ego' and 'identity' are mysteriously created through memory and consciousness," Dammbeck explains. "It is a machine consisting of switching and controlling circuits, a black box where cause is effect and effect is cause within an infinite cycle."

The cybernetic vision, in which human life becomes merely another node in a schematic diagram, has been so entrenched in modern culture in the sixty-odd years since the London blitz that it's scarcely discernible for its ubiquity. Dammbeck takes every available opportunity to convey this in shots he takes as he travels that initially seem random, banal -- the cabin of a passenger jet, with its matrix array of seats and tiny screens; a computer lab with a webcam on the top of each monitor; the alien landscape of Silicon Valley, shot through the passenger window of a rental car.

Much of Kaczynski's manifesto is devoting to railing against modern technology, and insofar as wholesale cybernetization has led to a brand of nihilism endemic to human society, he's right: technology poses a grave and gathering danger. But another consequence of the ubiquity of the cybernetic paradigm is the difficulty of imagining a position outside it. Kaczynski for one ended up keeping meticulous notes on his bomb mixtures. "It's an enigma," explains one of his ex-neighbors. "Everything he did he did experiments on and he wrote down, very systematically." After each attack he would examine the results and alter his bomb-making techniques accordingly, so that his victims became abstract values in his own scientific project.

Thus did Kaczynski lose the moral credibility to make the arguments in his manifesto, in the unconscienable way he brought them to the world's attention. I only feel comfortable even reiterating Kaczynski's arguments by framing him as a phenomenon, blowback, the result of an experiment gone wrong in the state-sanctioned exercise of force. But to do this is to transform him from a person into an analytical node, something like a blip on a screen -- and this, of course, is precisely the crime of which he himself is guilty.

Subject: Re: Short Non-fiction

Written By: ultraviolet52 on 06/14/06 at 1:38 pm

I am somewhat of an "expert" on Franklin Roosevelt, but I may need some time to write a short bio on him. Will do real soon, though  ;D

Subject: Re: Short Non-fiction

Written By: KKay on 06/14/06 at 1:46 pm


I am somewhat of an "expert" on Franklin Roosevelt, but I may need some time to write a short bio on him. Will do real soon, though  ;D


Great! I"m going to do either some french film star or another pilot/astronaut.

Subject: Re: Short Non-fiction

Written By: ultraviolet52 on 06/16/06 at 5:33 pm

This is Part 1 of what I've done so far. There may be a few spelling errors, but when all is said and done, I will make it right -

The World is Not Enough - The Life of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Part 1


On a cold winter's night, a baby destined to change the world, was born in Hyde Park, New York, at his family estate. The day was January 30th, 1882. His mother was of French descent and his father was from a long string of Dutch settlers who had become wealthy over fur trading when they arrived in New Amsterdam in the late 1600s.

Sara Delano Roosevelt cherished her only son. She kept the tiny curls of his blond hair, his baby shoes and clothing tightly stored in her chest. Some would say years later she may have been more overbearing than one could stand, but at heart, she truly loved him. As Franklin grew, his family would go to Campobello Island off of New Brunswick on summer vacation and explore his fondness of sailing and the sea. Back home, he'd collect small birds and wanted to stuff them himself, but his mother forbade this. He loved the land he grew around - the Hudson river, the rolling hills, the winter air. He was rather a lonely child, mainly spending time with only his mother and father on their estate and rarely leaving it.

When he was 8 years old, he was sent to Groton, a highly prestigious school for young men. For the first time, he was being schooled with other children and with all boys, at that. He felt rather lonely in this new position and wrote home letters of yearning for home. He tried his hand at sports, but the farthest he got was being a bat boy for the baseball team.

Subject: Re: Short Non-fiction

Written By: Tia on 07/31/06 at 9:19 am

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/tv/reviews/voyage-to-the-bottom-of-the-sea

voyage finally ran.

War Games

These are truly Halcyon days for retro, with studios from one side of Hollywood to the other rummaging through their archives for vintage product to DVDize and hump onto video shelves. For the studios this probably works out pretty well. Their biggest expense in re-releasing old TV shows is undoubtedly the packaging, and they can rest assured of a guaranteed, if niche, market. A lot of Boomers and Gen-Xers remember these programs from broadcast primetime or syndication and will cheerfully plop down 50 bucks or more for old time

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