We’re Gonna Take You Back To The Past: “The Light of Other Days” review

It’s been nearly two years since Edward Snowden either betrayed his country, or exposed a terrible injustice by fighting for truth and honour, depending on how you look at it.

I fall more towards the latter, if I may say. The PRISM program was a heinous case of government overreach. Not only was the NSA collecting an unprecedented amount of information on people, it was doing it without any cause to, or any apparent legal restrictions.

Now, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I mean, I’ve watched 24, and I have to admit, I found it quite impressive and cool the way Chloe and the plucky gang at CTU used clever computer tricks to defeat the terrorists; Such as hacking their emails, tracing their cell phones, spying on them through surveillance cameras, and the like. And of course, we all knew the government was doing this kinda thing… to criminals. To people who should be monitored. Heck, that was what a good chunk of NetForce was about. They monitored and tracked people who were bad people, likely to perform terrorist attacks, massive computer hacks, and digital global takeovers. And all this means is that the rhetoric badgered on by one senator who said Snowden’s revelations somehow impaired their intelligence gathering techniques is frankly bullshit! Because we all knew, or at least suspected, that it was possible. Which meant criminals also already knew, or at least suspected, that it was possible and likely operated on that assumption. So, Snowden’s revelations didn’t change how they operated. It just justified their pre-existing paranoia.

But my point is: none of this is shocking. What was shocking is that it was being done to average citizens. The U.S. government was collecting terabytes of information on millions of people around the world, without any warrant or justification. It was a shotgun approach to espionage, and it seems they were doing it just to have the information, not necessarily to do anything with it.

Which brings us to the most bizarre thing about this whole fiasco, and that is the unusual reaction I’ve heard from many corners: Who cares? Who cares if the U.S. Government is collecting our information? It’s not like they’re going to do anything with it.

And that would be a fabulous argument, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s completely beside the point! Yes, they probably won’t do anything nasty with it. They probably won’t even look at it. They’ll just store the information on some server somewhere, and just let it rot. In which case, why even collect it to begin with? They have no need to collect our information, and can easily abuse it once they do. In fact, there have been cases of exactly that happening. Cases of NSA employees spying on their girlfriends with the information gathered by the program. And that’s only the cases that have been caught. These people are spies, you think they can’t hide that shit!?

Now, it’s true that the average citizen probably isn’t dating a spy. So they don’t have to worry. But that’s not the point. The point is, they shouldn’t even be collecting this information to begin with. There are limits to what law enforcement can do, and there are reasons those limits exist! The average citizen does not have a right to spy on my Skype messages, so why should the U.S. government? And I don’t want anyone, whether it be my best friend, or some prick in some NSA dungeon somewhere, aggregating details on my porn habits.

Wanting to maintain our individual privacy should not be a big ask.

But I think I know why some people don’t care. It’s because of Facebook. Hell, all social media is to blame for this! For years sites like Twitter, MySpace, LiveJournal, have all asked people to share the intimate details of their lives, despite the fact that it’s unlikely anyone else would give two shits. And because of this, news that the NSA has been collecting the data they thought was worth sharing makes them think: Hey, it wasn’t all pointless!

People have been willingly sharing the details of their lives with strangers around the world. So what do they care if the NSA just happens to be watching as well?

So I guess it’s a generational thing. Those young people who grew up on social media don’t see a problem, while those of us who are older and wiser, do. And it makes you think: What are the limits of this? What will be the point where we just give up on privacy all together? And it might be the point where a brand new and unprecedented technology eliminates privacy for us, whether we want it to or not. Perhaps a technology that allows us to witness The Light of Other Days.

Wow, that was a contrived opening, wasn’t it?

Yes, it’s time to talk about the incredible novel of time, space and insanity by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, The Light of Other Days. And let me tell ya, I’m glad I finally get to write about an unambiguously good book for once. Continue reading

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Who the Crap Would Watch the Watchmen?

In 1985, Alan Moore released what is considered by many to be one of the greatest superhero comics of all time: Watchmen. A story about five ass-kicking pricks wearing costumes (for no apparent reason), and one actual superhero in an alternate history 1985 where Nixon just won his 5th term in office after the repeal of the 22nd Amendment, and the Cold War is even more tense then it was in the actual 1985, with the suspicion that it’s only a matter of time before the bombs drop.

Now, as for myself, I’m not much of a comic book fan. The reason is, I have always found something wrong with reading stories or watching movies out of order, and considering most major comic book series are almost fifty years old, it would take me at least a decade and several hundred dollars to catch up, and that’s if I ignore eating and sleeping. Of course I could just say fuck it and start reading Spider-man comics now, but that would feel like starting War and Peace at chapter 37 (I don’t know how many chapters are in War and Peace but I assume it’s more than 37) instead of the beginning, and then when one of the characters say something like: Hey, remember that time- I’ll get pissed and rip the book in half because I don’t remember that time. It’ll feel like the book hates me for getting into the story so late. Damn me and my not being born until the ’80s.

Thankfully, Watchmen skirts around this little problem by having the entire story, including all the backstory, take place in one book. There are not fifty years worth of issues to go through, everything is in this one single tome. So after reading the book and watching the movie I know everything there is to know about the everything in the Watchmen universe, and considering I now know everything I think I can make a pretty accurate judgement of the Watchmen…I want to say franchise but considering it’s one book that’s not exactly accurate…STORY! The Watchmen story, and that judgement is…it sucks. Continue reading

Tom Clancy Doesn’t Know NetFrak

Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh.

So approximately ten years ago I was on a trip to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with my mommy at the local casino so she could gamble and I could loiter in the hotel. At the in-house gift store I spotted a copy of NetForce, a Tom Clancy novel which caught my eye because I recently saw the made-for-TV movie of the same name and I enjoyed it. So I bought the novel, but me being ten years younger and ten years stupider than I currently am, I could not get through the first chapter. It wasn’t until recently, after going up into storage and pulling out a bunch of old books that I never finished, that I finally got around to reading it. Continue reading

Aooooo! Vampires of London-Wait!

-that doesn’t fit. Who cares I need something! Anyway, I think it’s safe to say I love the vampire mythos. Why? Vampires are a general cornucopia of drama. They combine the fear of zombies with the intelligence of the modern man. Imagine you are a zombie but you are fully aware of it and in complete control of your body, not a mindless automaton, oh and your body is not decaying so you can “live” forever. This makes them, in a way, tortured souls and more importantly, victims. They were once human, often forcibly turned vampire by another vampire (making them victims), but often times they become perpetrators out of necessity because of their dependence on human blood. Continue reading

FlashBackwards And Make Up Your Own Ending

So I finished the book FlashForward last night and a new episode of the TV series is airing tonight, so I figured it’s appropriate to make a critical review of the book. I am not one to write a review for the hell of it, I figure there needs to be a point. As Ben Croshaw once said, I need to be interested to do a review. Something that’s really good or really bad is easy to get worked up about. I’ll give you two guesses where FlashForward falls. I am also going to use a spoiler tag for the first time on this particular blog. Hope it works. But there are quite a few spoilers here so unless you don’t mind getting minor spoils from the beginning of the book I don’t suggest reading it. All other spoilers from late in the book are redacted with spoiler tags. Now, the review proper:

Time travel is like having a pet rattlesnake, yes it’s kinda cool and it seems like a good idea, but if you’re not careful there’s a good chance it could bite you in the ass. Continue reading