Thursday, December 10, 2015

To boldly go where everyone has gone before...

Let's be real, galactic colonization is not going to happen anytime soon. 

  1. There's no hyperdrive/warp. The physics we have today say it's impossible. Say, in a few years / decades we figure out that it is possible, we'd have nuked / diseased ourselves into oblivion, never mind the Grey Goo apocalypse. 
  2. If there were, even going at X times c where X is a triple-digit number would still take years, maybe decades of real time, shipboard, not relativistic time to get there. Which means the ship is effectively a generation starship, which means the mass of all things needed to sustain the humans aboard outweighs the humans aboard by 25 gajillian tons to the kilo. Plus the colonization stuff. Even if the drive did ALL the moving point A to B, just think of the logistics of getting it into the ship and down again. 
    1. Cryosleep? Still not as cost-efficient. 
  3. Ok, so don't send humans. Send a digitized bank of DNA codes for everything needed, a nanotech factory, and an AI / semi-AI to make it all happen. Will fit under a couple of dozen kilos, but still leaves the rest of us right here. 
  4. No hyperdrive, no space elevators, no all-powerful benevolent AI to stop us from nuking / diseasing each other into the void, sea levels rising... we have a few decades at best, and time's running out. 
  5. Terraform the solar system? Absolutely. It's hedging bets, and we have the tech (or will have in five years) the means to get there. Maybe in 50 years, even the means to survive there, in a place with different gravity, different soil, different air, different temperature... assuming any of them exist. Stretch goal, but doable. 
  6. Space stations, then? As the Earth fades away after the asteroid impact / Singularity event / zombie apocalypse / nuclear winter, there will be a dozen to a few hundred little lights floating in orbit or L1 to 5 points, maybe even the moon... recycling air, water, food... racing on their little centrifuges to make sure their children gestate normal and their bones don't turn to jelly... 
  7. Leaving the final, most economical, most doable answer: 
Weight is not a problem. Space is not a problem. Go deep enough, and soil is not a problem. Gravity is not a problem. With efficient scrubbers, even air, water, and minerals are not a problem. All you need is a solid door and a long, long time. 
Dozens, hundreds, thousands of vaults. 
With functional ecologies, seed or DNA banks, cryosleeping residents tended by robots, or even - as the ultimate backup - that same nanotech factory and DNA bank buried deep underground or in near-Earth orbit with a thousand-year alarm clock ticking away... 

We're here. Whatever happens, we will survive. The planet may die, but we will remain. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

On Bollywood

My relationship with Bollywood's been fairly interesting, I think. 

When I was growing up, Bollywood consisted of this blur of imagery and drama that would happen for a few hours in a week, maybe a Friday evening movie or a bunch of songs in Eastmancolor on a flickering, crackling, bulbous little CRT... but most of all, it was music. Music everywhere, on taxi cassette players, mikes on the corner, brassy, disjointed bands, and everywhere, radio. Single-channel MW bands on battery-powered transistors sitting in faraway corners, singing away in the background. Somehow, always associated with travelling, with holidays and memories, the comfort food of music. 
It's probably the nostalgia factor, but I guess also because I was most of the time too young to really get what was happening. 

Then sometime around Chunky Pandey, I got old enough to understand the stories... and hated them. And the music - however good it might be - was forever tainted from then on with shallow, selfish, misogynistic, boorish, and embarrassing behavior. 

But all that had come before - I think it's pretty much set the tone for what music should be, as far as I'm concerned. There has to be melody. Imagery. Erudition. The ability to paint a lifetime in a few charcoal strokes, just abstract enough to let you fill in the blanks with what you wanted the story to be. Soothing. Distantly on the edge of hearing, yet constantly there. Familiar enough so you can sing along. 
You don't know who's singing, who's composing, who did the music or what film it's from. It's like reading a comic from the middle of a series you found in a box of junk on a vacation afternoon when you had nothing to do. You don't know why they're singing. You don't have any visuals to go with them. 

All you know is - this is awesome. 

And I guess that's why there's always going to be that genre that exists only in my head - the soundtrack to those drives in the dark, the walks in dusty golden winter sunlight, browsing through second-hand bookstores... and sometime between KL Saigal and Baba Sehgal, a little golden RD-Rafi period that's can only be labelled 'the most awesome childhood ever'. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

unfinished stories

we don't know where they go, or where they come from. they just are. today. now. that's their perfection, with no excuses and no apologies. they are complete because they do not try to be complete. everything is meaningful, everything is chaos, and everything is infinitely ephemeral. 

Think of the books you really loved, the stories, the b-grade movies you watched drunk, baked, on mute. The music videos that seemed to be trying to say something. The middle issues of a story arc in a moldy yellowing stack of comics you found under the stairs. The flower found still preserved lovingly inside a book in a second-hand store. Yellowing portraits of strangers on a wall. The pastiche of flickering images stitched together in the channels you flipped past at 1 am, too tired to sleep, too sleepy to be really aware of what you were doing. 
Dreams with no meaning. Emotion without reason. Images without plot. Music without words. 

They happen, and you stitch them together into a story that's all yours. It's a story born of your memories, your experiences, your interpretations of what you saw. It's may not be what happened, but because you don't know what did happen... it could even be true. It's a story that nobody else would have, and it's a story that depends on so many moving parts in time that it could never have been anytime before, or anytime since. 

I love these stories. I don't want the series to continue, the the hero to get his vengeance, the loose ends tied up, and the curtain to fall. 
I walk into the middle, and I make it mine. 

Why was this so important? What happened to you, that you should want this? Who is she? Why do you see that face in your nightmares? Are you really going to pull that trigger? Did he ever forgive you? Did he forget? Will he remember? 

Invent your own past, your own reasons for people to be who they are, for things to be what they are. Leap in. Surf. Leap off and make up the rest when you run out of pages. 

Every waking moment is a story you invent as you go along. Every moment past is mystery to be deciphered. Every moment coming is a world of possibility where anything may happen. 

What else is there to live for? 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

on demons.

Just a quick brief little note
demons are terrible adversaries to have. you know, they're really quite small? tiny enough that you won't even notice them, take them seriously even as you see them around you, on you, you won't believe they're a genuine threat even as they work their way in under your skin... but it's only when you try to pull them off, out, that you see them for the grain of sand in the oyster, the moth in the circuit, the little linchpin that brings the whole machine crashing down, immovable...
but there's also a weakness they have that few use against them - as unbreakable, as stubborn, as unreasoning they may be, as completely able to subdue your will and read your mind, they're still trapped inside of your head.
their reality is the reality that you feed them.
they cannot be broken, cannot be fought, but they can be... deceived.
lied into little boxes, locked up in the dark cellars and a pleasant but heavy cabinet moved in front of the door, not used for much but scrupulously kept full and heavy. Once in a while it tries to move and you quickly push it back before anyone notices. sometimes when it's quiet, you can still hear the footsteps, the scratching, the growl... and you ignore it the way you ignore everything that can't be got rid of.
you ignore it like you turn a back on an enemy, but you can never forget he's there.
going to be forever a part of you.

the little lies are the tiny little silver keys that lock the door
the spoonful of sugar that lets the medicine go down

two hundred and fifty days now, and it still hasn't realized it's been caged

Sunday, March 01, 2015


we all have things to do, places to go. 
people to be. 

and then there's some of the others, the ones who show up now and then. the occasional status update, blog post. a friend we caught up with after too long who mentions what he'd heard. a mention in Midday. 
the ones who did what they wanted. what we wanted. 

and when they intrude into our consciousness, so rudely shouldering aside all the comfortable preconceptions of all we held dear about our goals and place in life, it's a complex feeling. 
we're happy for them. they are friends, after all, and they did got something, did something extraordinary. 
we're also envious, because sometimes we want to be the one standing there. we want our face in the photograph, our name in the air. it's a reminder of the things we still have to to do, the things we now never will do. 
we love them because they're our past, and we hate them because they could have been our future. 

the broken ones. 
it takes something extraordinary to get to somewhere extraordinary, to do that something great. greatness is not a comfortable condition, not a soft, gentle, 'approved' state. greatness is a bitch. greatness drives us with curses and a whip, strips the fat from our flesh and later, the flesh from our souls. it drives us while we live, it drives us bleeding and struggling to our deaths, and it drives the spark that makes us what we are beyond that. 
it breaks us first, because the smooth, functioning, well-oiled cog the world wants us to be, that keeps everything moving along, is not what does great things, is not capable of achieving the extraordinary. 
it's only after we break, after we no longer fit in with the engine of the world, that we are free to walk that different path. 
we call them sacrifices. the family, the relationships, the career, the retirement plan. the house and the car, the degrees and the diplomas, the promotions, bonuses and increments. these are all the things we drop, we tear ourselves free of. 
it hurts. every one thing left behind is a rebirth, with all the blood and screams that come with it. 
some people are born just once, into that one life. 
others suffer their rebirths again and again, for a;ll the new lives they bring. 

but we don't see the agony, the suffering, the self-doubt and the regret, the failures. we just see the end, and it mocks us with the mirror it holds up to ourselves. 



did you think you were the perfect one? seriously? everyone has choices we chose. mistakes we made. 
secrets in the deep dark of our hearts, words and faces that will never see the light again except for those times when we revisit them, alone, in silent nights while our world sleeps around us. 
the world we so carefully put together. 
the perfect world that shouts out, i am whole, complete, all there. there's nothing wrong with me. 

but there's something wrong, isn't there?
something wrong with everyone. 
we all want that perfection, but nobody's perfect. we all want that shining glossy well-rounded life that everyone aspires to, but we know that under that pristine surface is things we did not do, people we left behind, choices we didn't make and hearts we broke. 

we want to build fairytale palaces on shifting sands. we do. 

we don't need to pity the broken ones their hard choices, or envy them their dreams. 
we are the broken ones. 
all of us.