Three Sci-Fi Novels...Two Good...One, Not So Much...

Maybe I’m just a classic Sci-Fi fan and am officially an “old”….

But then again…I’ll take the fact that I greatly enjoyed Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and could not stand Consider Phelbas as a sign that I’m not quite ready for “retirement” yet.


Philip K. Dick’s seminal “DADOES” is of course the basis for the movie Bladerunner and one of if not the most well known of his works. Having read other novels by Dick I was not prepared for such a straightforward read. Less psychedelic than something such as Lies, Inc. or retro as The Man in the High Castle DADOES is more of a futuristic Raymond Chandler work than anything else with the beaten down gumshoe, perpetrators in hiding and femme fatale all included. Its a bit hard to read without picturing Harrison Ford as the protagonist and Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty given how closely the movie hewed to the book but seeing the film first and then reading the novel does not ruin the experience and each stands on its own as a masterpiece of its format. Ridley Scott’s film ends up being far more cyberpunk in nature and while still a core of any sci-fi curriculum, DADOES resembles The Man in the High Castle than it does something like Neuromancer or Snow Crash. Regardless, you will still be stunned by how prescient it is and how many underlying themes of AI, the nature of consciousness, role of media, etc. that are present here look out from their post some 50 years ago at today’s world. Putting this up there with 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 is completely appropriate.

Consider Phelbas on the other hand is an overly long, meandering, mess of a “space opera”. I began reading it as, well, Elon Musk kept naming his drone ships used to recover SpaceX rockets out in the ocean after ships present in these novels and I kept hearing about how these series of books by Iain Banks were so great and such a wonderful representation of AI, that I had to read them. I could not have been more disappointed. Outrageously long (seriously, do some authors get paid by the word?), silly in its action, disjointed, muddled, without purpose and seemingly just a series of ridiculous mishaps befalling the main character over and over. Throw in moronic depictions of “aliens” all over the place and you have a cajun soup of spacefaring tropes….I’ll pass regardless of who may think the book is worth it. Musk likely enjoyed it during an acid trip or two where everything seems “cool” without real analysis…

Lastly and unmentioned till now is Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers which is barely a sci-fi novel to begin with and unlike DADOES, its film version is NOTHING like the novel and in fact rather than honoring the novel, the film seeks to repudiate and make fun of the novel (connecting the Starship Troopers film to DADOES, Paul Verhoven the Starship Troopers director also filmed Total Recall, a film version of We’ll Remember it for You Wholesale another Phillip K. Dick short story). The written work contains nothing of the “action” one would expect. Outside of a short battle scene at the very beginning of the novel and a somewhat longer one that concludes the work the vast majority of the book is alternatively a description of training and integration into the Mobile Infantry as well as what are long, descriptive viewpoints given by various authority figures under which the protagonist receives his tutelage. Many a critic has taken issue with this, seeing it as merely being a mouthpiece for the author to express his views on the military, evils of communism, and growing softness of the West in general. Others have taken it further and put the work under scrutiny for racism, misongynism, and all sorts of other perceived evil “isms”. Critics, like Verhoven the direct of the film “version” miss much of the underlying themes or care not to find value in them. Heinlein was a well known Libertarian…not a facist, not a racist (hell, the main character here is of Philippine lineage). Heinlein was also vehemently anti-communist—thus the communistic nature of the “bugs” that are fought here. Value is placed in sacrifice of self for the benefit of society and I can hardly think of a more “leftist” viewpoint…but that is ignored by critics because of the positive light the military is given. Here the military is the savior of society…not just a somewhat necessary evil that many liberal school indoctrinated critics and “artists” see it as. Pairing this work with Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a phenomenal start for anyone interested in looking at the world through eyes which do not distinguish between race, religion, or any other characteristic other than what an individual brings of value to their fellow humans. Great works both.

True Detective Season 3 Review


I had hopes coming into this season…not high hopes….just hopes.

After the disaster that was Season 2 that contained some of the worst dialogue and writing this side of a B-movie the producers tried to revert to the form of Season 1 which was some of the most intense drama ever created for the small screen.

In some respects Season 3 staring the now multiple Oscar winning Mahershala Ali succeeds and in others it falls far short. The acting is solid all around with exactly zero over the top, out of place performances like Season 2 was filled with from Vince Vaughn in particular. Ali and his cop partner played by a surprisingly effective Stephen Dorff are compelling characters each with their own vulnerabilities and both worth investing in. Carmen Ejojo, Ali’s wife in the series is less engrossing and is actually a turn off for the series with her portrayal of an independent, driven wife often distracting and not really pertinent to the core issues. Time and again we return to her as a token lead female for the sake of doing so but without real purpose.

I suppose the writers intended for her to be Ali’s anchor…the rock on which he would break…but in fact that role is already filled by Dorff who by the end clearly realizes that the most valuable person in his live has been his male partner…someone he can’t live without.

But I digress…the real issue here is the lack of real drama. Brooding music and a crazy Indian who blows up his house aside, I came away surprisingly bored. Skewer Season 2 all you want….and its a disaster…but I never found myself falling asleep during it. Here? We end up with a decidedly non-interesting finale in which everything turns out pretty much OK and we find out that the reason for all the not-really-that-horrible things we’ve witnessed was a sad daughter who wanted a surrogate child to take care of and then had a mental breakdown…not exactly the Satanic cults, human sacrifice, and frightening atmosphere of Season 1 nor the political and business infighting and violence found in Season 2.

Was Season 3 “bad”? No, not really. Was it a step up from Season 2 and redeem the series for the possible development of Season 4? Yes. Are critics climbing over themselves to declare it the best of the three seasons? Absolutely…and for various reasons including their own agendas. Don’t feel you’ve missed anything if you haven’t seen it. You haven’t and its not driving the common discourse the way Season 1 did week after week. As the police might say “Move along, move along…nothing to see here…”

Mexico Route 1 "Euro" Stickers


This is a bit of a repost from my old blog but I recently got an order for four of these so I want to make sure to put the info up here as well. And I don’t want sell them through Amazon…You’d have to print thousands of these at a time to produce them cheap enough to offset the percentage of your sales that Amazon would take so I’ll sell them here as I always have in small batches. One item of change I have recently made to the design is in the movement of the “1” slightly to the left to make it appear more centered—in actuality the image of the “1” to the left IS centered based upon the flying tail at the top of the 1 and a number of Mexican road signs use the same centering method…however…centering the 1 based upon the “pillar” of the 1 and ignoring the flying tail I think gives it the appearance of being better centered and there are roadsigns that use that method as well…so I’ve made an artistic decision (sarcasm here) and gone with what I think is the better looking version. Let me know if you want to see what one looks like in this way and I can grab a shot of one.

Introducing the first real product from NISMOStuff Racing.  Not exactly a hardcore fabrication product but after racing down the Baja in this years NORRA 1000 (this was 2014) I knew I had to have these made.

Anyone who has driven Mexico 1 down the Baja Peninsula knows exactly what I'm talking about.  Military checkpoints, agricultural checkpoints, scores of dead bodies both animal and sometimes human, rampaging 18 wheelers, never ending construction zones, incredible roadside taco stands, friendly locals, slide-rule straight sections of highway, non-existent breakdown lanes, mangled guardrails, turquoise blue waters--there is nothing like it.

When I got home I knew I wanted something on my daily driver commemorating the trip and representing the difficulties involved in just traveling that road.  So I looked online...there a handful of places that sell similar Mexico Route 1 vinyl stickers for vehicles but none seemed to use the correct font or design to appear authentic.  So the above was designed and I had the result printed at a local car wrap facility using quality 3M vinyl.  The stickers are 3.25"s by 2.42"s.

I am selling them at this point for $5 inclusive of shipping to anywhere in the continental US.  The simplest way to purchase one or more is simply send me your mailing address along with an appropriate Paypal payment to:

They will ship the next business day after any order.  If Paypal doesn't work for you, just drop me a line at the same email address and I'm sure we can work something out (Square, Venmo, paper check, etc.)  Get your Mexico Route 1 vehicle sticker now--either for yourself or to hand out to the ever rabid Baja "steeker hunters"!!


Book Review: A Separate Peace by John Knowles


While ostensibly about teen boys I’m not sure that this book is targeted at that audience.

I had picked it up due to its frequent listing on books for teen boys when looking at works for my own son to read. John Knowles used his own experiences at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH (one of the most prestegious schools in the nature acting as a feeder to the Ivy League) to drawn upon as well as his time in the US Air Force at the end of WWII.

Core themes here include numerous ones you would (in my opinion) want any son to learn in his youth—loyalty, strength, kindness, independence, athleticism, competitive nature, etc. A young man’s time at such an academy should shape what he is for the future—here we see it also forever impact their lives for both good and bad.

Its main characters, Gene and Phineas, share a friendship like many young men do when put in such close circumstances…they both love each other (and I do mean "love”) as well as have, at least from Gene’s perspective, a decided jealousy of the other for what Phineas can do that Gene can’t. Its this desire to outmatch his best friend’s efforts that cause the cascading set of events resulting in bitter self examination for one of them.

Many have pointed to a homosexual element to A Separate Peace…and it is there in some of the teens interactions and language—however—the author has strongly disagreed that he ever had any intent to include any homosexual interactions between any of the characters. If he says so, I would tend to agree…so what do I attribute it to? I see only what I have come to view as the “homosensual” (a term a college professor of mine coined) nature of these schools. In any situation where young men are thrown together for extended and confined periods of time there is bound to be this sort of contact and commentary between one another. Disagree??

Please go see Winston Churchill, George Leigh Mallory, and any number of other male histories of those brought up through the English Academy system of education in the 1800 and 1900’s of which there is buckets of documentation. This contact between males may or may not end up sexual nature but either way it was understood by those of the time that these sort of relationships would develop in such environments and would naturally dissolve upon their transition to the “real” world. With Knowles having been brought up through such a system it is natural that he would describe actions and events that may appear to modern eyes to be homosexual in nature but in reality are “merely” the type of contact that often develops between young men in such situations having little to do with true “sexual” attraction a we think of it in the male-female “norm”.

Regardless, the book doesn’t focus on this issue, I just wanted to mention it. The novel itself is deeply affecting and could be seen as both an anti-war novel as well as a “coming of age” tale. In both regards it succeeds and is well worth anyone’s time in reading, particularly any man’s time as there are numerous items and emotions that will readily appear familiar to those found in both one’s own youth as well as their present. Its lessons are universal in time and place and more boys would be better off if they took the lessons to heart.

Film Review: The Way Back

Well…if I’m being political…there certainly is a reason this film has gone unnoticed.


You couldn’t find a more anti-communist film in today’s Hollywood. From beginning to end the Communist system and officials are endlessly demonized—and appropriately so. While part of Russia was busy trying to beat back Hitler, Stalin was also busy rounding up hundreds of thousands and shipping them off to Siberia where many would die simply for being an intellectual or merely suspected of having an opinion outside the Communist party line.

Over and over the film hammers home the removal of individual freedom in the Russian system. Over and over you are struck with the cruelty of the Communist system and its supporters.

The film itself was directed by a top notch filmmaker in Peter Weir (Gallipoli, Year of Living Dangerously, Dead Poets Society, Witness, Truman Show, Master and Commander: Far Side of the World, etc.) and it has A-list actors in Ed Harris, Colin Farrell and Jim Sturgess. All do solid work in their roles as Polish and Russian escapees from a Siberian gulag. Their foot based journey over 4000 km from Siberia to India is covered in detail taking them from snowy forests in Russia to caves and deserts of Mongolia. Never leaving their side though is the horror of being returned to the Communist system…and its that fear, less than that of the harsh prison that hangs over everyone. A system that turns wife against husband, brother against brother…one that strips individuals of all free will that is the bigger horror than any environmental danger.

This one likely goes on all “young conservatives” list of films to watch from the past 10 years. Its faults, and it has a few, is its length (at over two hours you FEEL the length of their journey) and externalization of danger as almost all conflict is vs. nature itself or vs. the Communist system. There is no person or object against which the characters really struggle…they just move from one poor environmental condition to the next, which makes for some pretty scenes on film but not overly thrilling.

Worth a watch. Might want to sit Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez down for a watch as well…

December 2018 Nissan Sales

So let’s not kid ourselves…we only care about trucks or maybe SUVs…if they’re cool.

Nissan released its final number for both December and its full year 2018 results. Overall Nissan sales were up more than 7.5%but that didn’t offset earlier declines and overall ‘18 results were down some 6% from ‘17. This isn’t necessarily terrible given how strong the whole industry was in ‘17 and ‘18 truck results were what I’d call “acceptable”.


December was another exceptionally strong month for the Frontier, moving 7500 trucks bringing ‘18’s results to about 80,000. Given this is a now 13+ year old platform that showed a 7% growth over ‘17, Nissan execs have to be wondering why they would ever bother replacing it…Hell, why not introduce a new model and continue to market a down-contented “classic” Frontier as they have with the Rogue in the past?

The Titan? Oh the Titan…as an owner of a ‘17 Titan (and Frontier, and Pathfinder) I root for this truck but despite the money Nissan spent in developing it and what a quality truck it is—strong engine, good quality, good amenities, solid towing and cargo, good gas mileage, etc. Nissan just hasn’t seemed interested in promoting it outside of the occasional small sponsorship. People just truly don’t realize the value the truck is given its 100,000 mile warranty. And so…its December sales were only 4,600+ units bringing its ‘18 total to about 50,500 which is down from ‘17’s 53,000. There is just too much competition in this segment for Nissan to let it sit without major marketing backing.

So that’s it for the month and year…we’ll see what ‘19 brings…maybe the intro of the next Frontier?

Black Mirror Bandersnatch

Black Mirror as a series is one of my favorite items on all of TV. I was an early adopter on this and it rarely lets me down. Seminal episodes like “San Junipero” and others are simply the best of what has been produced on all visual media in the past 20 years.


The most recent episode if you can call it that is a one off “movie” of sorts released just a few days ago and if are here, I’m betting you’ve heard of it given its hype. The series pushes the envelope a bit with this one and it doesn’t completely succeed. The whole “audience chooses the outcome” movie/TV thing has been done in the past and this is probably the best effort in this direction to date but the whole format, while interesting for artists, always leaves the audience experience lacking.

The acting and story are great and hop on the retro-cool of the 1980’s thing that is popular at the moment and carry it off well. Throw in the geek-chic dialogue and mentions of Commodore computers, early stage video game industry, new wave music drops and it all seems like a home run.

The conceit here is that as you progress through the movie, you, the audience get to chime in with what you want the main character’s decisions to be. What you choose through a click of your remote determines various outcomes in the film—Will the character listen to this music or that music? Will he accept the job or not? Will he punch his dad or run out of the room and so on…

In the end there are really about (I say about because there are numerous rabbit holes you can go down and lots of easter eggs to be found) five endings to get to and I got to all five making different decisions and being looped back to redo decisions when my original ones end the film quickly. In all my experience lasted close to an hour and a half and much of it was enjoyable…but I couldn’t help feeling like there was only one true ending that the directer really wanted and every time I made a decision that branched off from that ending, it would loop me back eventually. Great…I get to see what the director thinks of my decisions but I don't get a complete narratively cohesive work. Watching a film and seeing that the story can have multiple endings takes away from the emotional impact of all of them…Its like watching the Godfather and being told—Well, Don Corleone only has to die if you choose for him to die…great…that totally ruins the weight of the work.

I applaud Netflix for attempting this and Black Mirror was certainly the right vehicle for the effort. While supremely interesting and among the best things on TV, this singular episode is both a success and a failure at the same time….much like its audience driven methodology.

Oh and in case you were wondering…”Bandersnatch” Its a silly word for an imaginary creature coming from Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”, the companion piece to “Alice in Wonderland” and specifically the “Jabberwocky” poem contained within it…

Too Old for Bad Books

So this is where I’ve gotten to be in life…

No longer am I willing to continue slogging through books in order to get to the end and claim that I’ve finished it, no matter how revered the book is or what status it may imbue upon me to be able to legitimately claim to have read it. Life is too short.

Up first on my “discontinue” list? Two revered books from completely different genres.

Initially I thought “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was going to be an interesting reflection and wise observation on the protagonist’s life intertwined with the focus and simple mechanics that make a motorcycle run. In reality it immediately devolves into the author’s cult like psychobabble that appeals only to those hippies who have dropped acid too many times to know the difference between good and bad material. The fact that this book has been purchased so many times only means there are a lot of brain dead people out there…Not worth my or your time…

I did get several hundred pages into the book because Pirsig weaves a thread into the work covering the protagonist’s (really Pirsig himself) travels with his son cross country on, yes, a motorcycle. This real world story is far more interesting than the metaphysical babble (author was a philosophy and journalism major and went to Zen conferences and studied “Eastern Thought”…) the author tries to impart as advice on his audience. The father-son interplay is far more interesting…but not enough to keep one reading

Second on my list? Another beloved work but here from the SciFi genre. As a youth there were always peer geeks who slavishly spoke about how great and how funny “Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was. Maybe if I was an 11 year old boy I would have been able to finish this but certainly not now. Its not that I’m humorless, I find many things to be funny. It’s not that I don’t enjoy different strains of humor—Monty Python to Beavis and Butthead I find humor in. And geeky? Well I’ll have you know I think I still have some D20s rolling around my house somewhere. This work is just “silly”…and not in a good way. It is so nonsensical as to dull the wit. Words are fabricated, tangents are taken, non-sequiturs used…all to little effect. Adams (author) does not bring me in to care about Arthur Dent or Ford Prefect (the two main characters) and they remain cardboard cutouts of zero consequence in the first 100 pages where I left it off to be moronic and useless and sold on Amazon for 25 cents.

So there is my philosophy for the day…life is too short...there is too much rare good out there to spend time wasting with the popular bad…