science fiction

Review – Battleship (Redbox DVD)

Battleship The MovieA summer popcorn movie demands that you park you brain into neutral, sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Almost. When “Battleship” became available on Redbox, I was thankful that I didn’t spend any money to see this movie in the theater. (Redbox provided a 50-cent off promo code that reduced the one-night rental to $0.76 USD.) You’re not supposed to think too hard about the underlying premise of a popcorn movie. If you do, the whole movie unravels. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. The science fiction in this alien invasion movie was seriously lacking.

Since I saw “Battleship” on a small analog TV screen, the tiny intro text at the beginning of the movie was unreadable. Without reading that, the science doesn’t make any sense. After playing the DVD on my PC to review the opening sequence, the science still doesn’t make any sense.

In 2005, scientist discovers an Earth-like planet in another solar system. No details on where this solar was located (i.e., how many light years from Earth).

In 2006, NASA has a new communication satellite that can send a laser beam to the newly discovered planet that is five times as powerful than anything before. What does “five times as powerful” mean? I don’t know. Let’s assume that the laser beam travels at five times the speed of light, which may technically be possible.

In 2012, five extraterrestrial ships arrives at Earth. One ship collides with a satellite, breaks up in the atmosphere and destroys much of Hong Kong. This turns out to be the communication ship. The other four ships lands in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, throws up a huge force field and take over the satellite station on the island. You would think that the aliens would have brought a spare cellphone to call home.

Within the six year time frame of the movie, the laser beam has to travel through space to reach the planet, be decoded by the repetailian-like aliens with spiky goatees, and a handful of ships are sent in response to kick ass on Earth.

From a speculative scientific point of view, the alien planet has to be within a 25-light-year radius (five years X five times the speed of light = 25 light years) from Earth. The Gliese 581 G planet is 22 light years away and the red drawf star would be consistent with the aliens intolerance of the Earth’s brighter yellow sun. Let’s give the aliens a year to decode the laser beam and assemble an invasion fleet that travels like hell in the remaining time left.

With the aliens being interstellar neighbors, wouldn’t 60 years of television and radio signals being broadcast into space be enough to provoke the aliens into attacking Earth without NASA sending a laser beam?

As for the rest of the movie, the military action and the dialog was entirely predictable. That the museum battleship, U.S.S. Missouri, just happened to have a half-dozen live rounds on board was also implausible. Based loosely on the game, no battleship was sunk.

Finding More Bargains At Several Closing Borders Stores

Before my friend and I went to see that groan-inducing stoner comedy movie, “Your Highness,” on Saturday night, we stopped at the Borders store in Oakridge Mall. We didn’t know what to expect since we haven’t been to this location since Borders announced it was closing 200 stores around the country. Borders haven’t sent out any emails on the current state of the going out of business sale. As we approached the store after buying our movie tickets, we noticed the signs in the windows proclaiming a $1 per book sale. What was left in the store for sale?

Overwhelmingly, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin books (about 100 each). No one was buying these and other books written by conservative writers at $1 per book in this working class mall. I seriously doubt that the publishers would take any of the books back even if Borders wasn’t in bankruptcy court. A half-dozen shelves were stocked with mostly political and history books, plus a few odds and ends. The rest of the store was closed off with yellow caution tape. All the shelves were up for sale at $100 or more, with signs that they would look great in the laundry room or garage. It would be cheaper to buy lumber from Home Depot and build new shelves that fit.

Here are the four books I picked up for $1 each:

  • “The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush’s America” by Frank Rich
  • “Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras, and The Crack Cocaine Explosion” by Gary Webb
  • “Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption” by Jules Witcover
  • “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward

The next morning I went over to the Santana Row store. The 90% off sale was still going on with much of the first floor stocked with books, and the second floor closed off. The few Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin books were hidden away like Easter eggs all over the store, but books about President Obama were more prevalent in much smaller quantities (10 copies or less). That makes sense since Santana Row is a mixed development of stores and luxury condos. People with money are more likely snap up the latest conservative books than working class people. Political and history books will probably be the big leftovers for the $1 per book sale.

I kept thinking that this was a treasure hunt and a riot will break out over that one special book that everyone wants but can’t have (perhaps a signed copy of a Harry Potter book). Nothing that exciting took place as everyone milled about from one shelf to the next, pawing and gawking at the books. I spent most of my time watching people and listening to their conversations. The two sales clerk leaning against a stocked shelf that I was trying to browse had an over the top discussion about their sex lives. I know there is a short story idea to be found in a bookstore going out of business sale—treasure hunt, Easter eggs, gossip, murder— but I haven’t figured out how to pull it together yet.

A woman was scanning for the used book prices with her iPhone and carting books over to the cash register, where a sales clerk was processing 600+ books. I’ve sold my old books from library through Amazon before. If done right, reselling books can be quite profitable. I made money but I didn’t do it right: I sent everything by first class and not media rate since I was shipping out of a drug store and not the post office. Media rate is dirt cheap but slower and subject to inspection. What the woman had stacked up, I estimated that her average profit margin was about $3 per book.

Here are the books that I got for 90% off each:

  • “Apollo 13” by Jim Lovell and Jeffery Kluger
  • “The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism” by Mark Morford
  • “An Accidental Goddess” by Linnea Sinclair
  • “Unplugged: My Journey Into The Dark World of Video Game Addiction” by Ryan G. Van Cleave
  • “Insurrection (Starfire, Book 1)” by David Weber and Steve White
  • “March Upcountry (Empire of Man, Book 1)” by David Weber and John Ringo
  • “March to The Sea (Empire of Man, Book 2)” by David Weber and John Ringo
  • “March to The Stars (Empire of Man, Book 3)” by David Weber and John Ringo

I was disappointed with the limited selection of science fiction books for $0.80 each. Nearly every available paperback was a series book, and I didn’t want to read a book from the middle or end of a series. I got lucky with the David Weber books, picking the first book of one series and the first three books of another series. Military science fiction is a genre I don’t read that often. Since I’m planning to write a military science fiction novella in the near future, I need to man up on what I would be writing about. Anything less would be space opera. Not that I don’t mind space opera. This particular novella is aimed at breaking me into Analog or Asimov’s Science Fiction, which would be ironic since I don’t write that much science fiction. I wanted to get some fantasy and mystery paperbacks, but those were long gone before I showed up.

After months of whittling down my unread book pile, I have too many unread books. So much to read, so little time to read them all.

Forget The Shutdown, Dissolve The U.S.A.!

If you haven’t been paying attention to the recent hissy fits in Washington, the Republicans are threatening to shut down the government unless the Democrats commits hari kari by cutting sacred liberal cows from the federal non-defense discretionary budget, which is only one-percent of the overall federal budget and isn’t driving the deficits in the long-term. What would happen in a government shut down? Probably the same things that happened in the 1995 government shutdown: about 800,000 “non-essential” government workers will be furlough, national parks and museums will shut down, and all levels of government paperwork will stop being process (including tax refunds). If you read the comment boards for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, people are very vehement about shutting the down federal government.

Which begs the obvious question: If the federal government is so bad as so many people believe it to be, why not dissolved the United States Constitution and send everyone home?

Absolutely no one is calling for a complete and total shut down of the federal government. I think because too many powerful people are benefitting from the current status quo of a divided federal government. One of the two political parties will eventually cave in to keep the government running—probably the Democrats—and the other political party will pay the price at the 2012 polls—probably the Republicans. The lobbyists, lawyers and news media will continue to do business as usual. The military will grind on in their two-and-half wars with troops being paid later. Wall Street isn’t worried about the government shutting down since there is still money to be made, although that will change if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later on.

The dissolution of the U.S.A., however, would threaten the interests of all these powerful people because power of the government will go back to the non-federal government entities of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all the assorted territories. If power isn’t concentrated in one location, it’s very difficult for any power broker to exercise influence over multiple jurisdictions without it costing a pretty penny. Even Rome stopped being the world’s most powerful empire after everyone went home and the barbarians crashed the party.

What would happen if the federal government dissolved completely? The Balkanization of continental North America is likely.

  • The South will rise again with the Confederate flag flying over head and slavery re-instutionalized for all the sons and daughters of the Confederacy to reclaim their missing heritage, plantations and slaves.
  • The original 13 colonies—minus the southern states in the New Confederacy—will embrace the original U.S. Constitution to become a Tea Party haven.
  • The Midwest and Northwest will be absorbed by the Canadians to spread that wonderful health care around.
  • The Southwest will be absorbed by the Mexican cartels to expand production of America’s favorite white powder.
  • Alaska will be retaken by the Russians to build a Bridge to Somewhere.
  • Hawaii will become New Tokyo as the Japanese nouveau riche move away from the nuclear fallout and avoid having to take care of their irradiated elders.
  • Washington, D.C., will be maintained as a monument to a great nation that coulda, shoulda and woulda if the politicians elected by the people had the brain, heart and courage to acquire some backbone to do what is right for the people and not the special interest groups.
  • California, already the world’s eight largest economy and with one-sixth of the U.S. population, will continue to party on as if nothing had happen.

Does this all seem familiar? If you read “Damnation Alley” by Roger Zelazny (1967), “Friday” by Robert A. Heinlein (1982) or “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson (1992), the Balkanization of North America is a common science fiction theme. I sometimes wonder if  the power brokers in Washington are deliberately hurling the United States into a bleak future to prove science fiction as reality. If the U.S.A. does split into so many factions, former banana republic dictators and Fortune 500 executives will be in high demand to consolidate power. If you can excuse me now, I got a dystopian novel to write about a once great nation.