The Insane Detail Club: a group of elite 3D modellers who, as one might surmise from the name of the club, avail themselves to making 3D meshes with an absolutely insane amount of details. Airlocks, lifeboats, interiors, tractor beam emitters, screws, panels, unbelievably smooth edges, windows, weapons, joints, doors, consoles, buttons, diodes, displays, blinking lights and probably the kitchen sink, too. These men take 3D modelling with an eye towards detail to an all-new and unfathomable level. They more than just raise the bar for excellence in the 3D community, they define it and sometimes even surpass it. They are teachers, artists, sources of inspiration and extremely skilled in almost all facets of 3D design. They do not limit themselves to starships and sci-fi stuff- whatever tickles their fancy gets the full treatment.

The projects these gentlemen undertake(and, yes, so far this club is populated only by males... but that's merely because so few women ever get into 3D and those who do generally avoid the online 3D community for some reason) tend to take months to complete- sometimes as much as a full year or longer. Their final products are generally unwiedly to the common user (sometimes as many as 1 million polygons, when it's all said and done) but provide amazing results for those who can use them. The process of development is often watched, from start to finish, by the general online "audience", but not always. And these guys simply know what they're doing.

In order to be invited into membership with this exclusive club, one must devote a great deal of time and effort towards making a truly awesome piece of 3D art. One must redefine various methods of modelling, texturing, lighting and presentation. One must be at the top of the game and remain so until the last polygon is in place and the final WIP image is shown. Then, and only then, will the IDC convene, look over the candidate's most recent work and take a vote on whether or not he/she is acceptable material.

To be invited into membership amongst these (currently) 8 men is the highest of honors for almost any 3D modeller. Not just the creme de la creme, but virtual gods of 3D, the veritable apex of CGI craftsmanship.

I have received word that my 3D work, of late, is gaining the attention of this august group. I know that I am not yet ready, but my current project is making their eyebrows perk and their heads are being turned my way. Some say that if I keep up the same pace that I have been showing on this project, I may receive an invitation.

I am not ready. But I want to be. I want this project to be hailed as one of the "greats." To date, almost every member of the IDC was invited into membership because of the work they did on designs which were pre-existing (ie, the Enterprise-E or the Enterprise-D Bridge Set or the Millenium Falcon). None of them was accepted on the basis of truly original work. If I find myself invited (BIG IF!), I would be making history within the IDC.

My current project, the USS Bellerophon, is still very much in its beginning stages. I know that I have, probably, months to go before it will be complete. This definitely will be my most detailed and high-poly mesh, when it's done. These things are certainties that I have already determined. And I will do this because I truly and honestly do want to make that ship look absolutely fucking awesome when it's done- as high-quality as anything done by Digital Domain, Foundation Imaging or ILM... perhaps even better.

The question is: am I insane enough?

That remains to be seen. But I know that I've come a long way in the last two years. To have been at this for only two years and get their attention so soon is a feat in and of itself. I should be proud of what I've done so far.

I find myself nervous under such inscrupulous scrutiny.

I'm not a Christian, but Jesus' death and resurrection is important, in the sense that all great stories are important. They concretize things, take abstract ethical priciples ("Love thy neighbor") and give them force ("Jesus was tortured and forgave his torturers; he died so you could be redeemed"). The Passion (thanks, Mel, for rescuting a great word from romance novel Hell]) is one of the best stories, and the holiday is a good day to pray or reflect or just spend time with your family.

I worked and my family did our minor fighting/hanging out/ talking (Mom, not the most computer literate person in the world, is proud that I got on the front page of this site with my Thunder Road bit).

Schedules prevented a big dinner and the closest I got to trancendence was when I missed a girl so powerfully that my whole world seemed to shatter, and I knelt down, weeping, wanting to stumble into a church (the guest pastor today was from New Jersey, i am told, the girl's home) or a movie theater and pretend I was crying in religious ectasy. It may have been something like religious ectasy. It was certainly profound-- pain that strikes you like a thunderbolt, reminding you that the rest of your life is an illusion, is pretending you don't feel this strongly about her. It hurts, but its beautiful-- you know you're not making it up. Those tears are hot, and they aren't being controlled or thought about: they simply ARE.

That's the pain, then, the Good Friday. The other bit came in giving some money to a homeless man (not enough, i know, and did he really need it? but i had to do it) and listening to Johnny Cash. Religion my way, I guess. I'm not a believer, but I'm moved too much by music and the world around me to call myself secular.

"Have you ever built a time machine, Ed?" I ask as we are driven to the airfield where a high-speed jet is apparently waiting for us.

"Thought about it a bundle of times. Even drew up a sketch of the prototype once, but tore it up and set fire to the pieces. The consequences could have been catastrophic and the risk was too great."

"Freeow," I remark. This is Ed talking.

***

One supersonic flight courtesy of the American air force and ten hours later, an elevator door slides open to reveal that the interior of Mount Kerrig in Nevada is air-conditioned, surprisingly well-lit, and wholly un-claustrophobic. Something like a hundred metres below ground, we are shown to a large, white-painted warehouse-like cavern in which what looks like a fully-assembled, operational particle accelerator has been surrounded with enough miscellaneous heavy electronics to build another one. Cordoned off at the rim of the device - most of which runs through the rest of the mountain's interior - is a cuboidal opening which appears to have been made out of an elevator car. Around the place are a handful of white-coated scientists, and - apparently - me and Ed.

Meeting them is the strangest experience. Here is another me - someone who might well know everything about me. I can't help feeling there's a fair bit about me that I'm unhappy with the thought of other people knowing. Ed seems pretty cool with his alternate self, though.

They claim to be time travellers. A series of tests verify that they share our facial features, fingerprints and DNA. They stake a good claim to being us.

Are they? And if so, what do we do about it?

Alternate Ed is apparently as smart as regular Ed, with a few extra bits of knowledge into the bargain - for, as one would expect from one of the world's first time travellers and a dabbler in what I have grown to term "practical science fiction", he has a working knowledge of time travel and time machines. He arranges a meeting so that he can explain exactly what happened at midnight two days ago.

***

Alternate Ed - from now on, I'm calling him "Ed-A" and alternate Sam "Sam-A" - has the attention of quite a lot of Army officers, a dozen scientists, me, Ed and Sam-A. He also has a whiteboard on which he draws expressive - and irreproducible - diagrams while he talks. "Here's the story. The models of time travel that we have all seen presented in the movies Back To The Future, Tomb Raider or even The Terminator are inherently paradoxical and hence flawed. While travelling forwards in time is perfectly legitimate, akin to simply disappearing for a thousand years or whatever, it is impossible to go backwards in time and kill your own grandfather, since your grandfather was not killed at that time. Temporal paradoxes, by definition, cannot come into existence. In short, you can't change the past.

"You can, however, go backwards in time.

"We resolve this by invoking a variation on many-worlds theory." He draws a horizontal line, names it "TIMELINE A" and, with two crosses, marks the year 1900 and the year 2000. "Suppose I want to go back in time a hundred years from the year 2000. I set up my machine, climb in and turn it on. I appear in 1900. Now, as we all know, there were no time machines in the year 1900, and I can't have changed that. What I've done instead is create a new universe. The act of appearing in 1900 "nudges" the universe from timeline A, onto a different track, B." He draws a second line, parallel to the first, names it "TIMELINE B" and marks the years 2000 and 1900 on that line as well. He then draws a dotted line, leading from 2000 in timeline A to 1900 in timeline B.

"In 1900-A, nothing happens. In 2000-A, I build a time machine and go back a hundred years. And I'm never seen again. In 1900-B, something different happens, namely the appearance of my time machine. Now both universes share the same past, but due to my entry in 1900, they now have different futures. How different they are depends on what I do at that point. I could immediately return forwards in time, resulting in only very minor changes to the year 1900, though as we all know, chaos theory would conspire to inflate these. Or I could, for example, find and kill my great-grandfather. Basically, in 2000-B, anything can happen. This can include me-B never inventing a time machine in the first place.

"Every time somebody jumps backwards in time, the universe splits. Every piece of fruit that was sent back in that time machine - which works perfectly, by the way, we brought some blueprints you can check against - did indeed arrive a few minutes before the experiment began... each in a different universe. Whether, in the name of causality, the alternate scientists in those alternate universes decided to proceed with the experiment or not, is up to chance, and there's no way we can find out, but if they didn't the worst that could have happened was that the extra piece of fruit they had lying around went rotten."

Ed-A wipes off the numbers of the years and replaces 1900 with "midnight two days ago", 2000 with "in a week's time" and puts an extra cross between the two in timeline B, marking it "NOW". "Here's where it starts to get interesting. In our timeline, the one which we'll call timeline A, in about a week's time, all of the above theory will be discovered by scientists working at the Kerrig Facility - you guys. Feeling their debt to me, that's me-A, they invite - where's Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's book of 1001 Tense Formations when you need it? - they invite me-A and Sam-A to come here and become the first time travellers. We then travel back in time approximately one week, disappearing from their timeline entirely.

"And reappearing in this one.

"This is timeline B. This timeline split off from timeline A around two days ago at the point when me-A and Sam-A did or did not arrive from the future. That makes you two," he points to me and Ed, "Ed-B and Sam-B. Everyone get it?"

There is a pause.

"I don't understand," says Ed-B.

And this is Ed talking.


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I had the chance to do the drive between Milan and Grenoble, which is a gorgeous drive if you ever have the chance to cross the Alps by car. The weather was great. An old friend was driving. Known him for nearly 20 years. We grew up close to each other in New Jersey, though we didn't know each other as kids. Wound up working for the same California startup company in the late 80's and most of the 90's. We travelled all over the world together for years.

He became rich and less-so famous, while I became less-so rich and not famous.

His wealth and fame enables him to travel in interesting circles. He knows a lot of venture capital guys--these are very wealthy people, some billionaires, who invest in small companies. He hangs out with people in government office. Knows rock and movie stars. Etc.

His history is very interesting. In the late 60's his family "escaped" the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. He tells me stories of his family driving down roads blocked by Russian tanks, and having to travel through fields to get out. They came to America with a couple bucks and a father who was a well known scholar in the field of telecommunications. Bell Laboratories gave his dad a job, and the family did well.

He spent the rest of his childhood and most of his adulthood as an American citizen. I'd say that he became a very "rabid" American. He appreciates his American citizenship more than anyone I have ever met. His personal view of life is that America gave him the chance to succeed, and he did.

He's living in Europe now. Has a house in Aix-en-Provence, France, and one in Florence, Italy. He keeps the house in Los Altos Hills, California. He votes.

So I asked him how things were for Americans in Europe now--now with the war in Iraq tearing people to political shreds in the west, and soldiers and families being torn to actual pieces in the middle east.

He grew quiet for a second. Then he said: "It had to be done, you know."

Me: "What? The war? How so? How far back do you want to go? You telling me there's a connection to 9/11? You going to say there were WMDs we missed?"

He said, "Nope," with his usual aire of confidence. My friend is an incredible politician. Terribly glued-in. I would never argue politics with him, but this one seemed too easy to pass up.

I said, "I saw a documentary made by German television. They proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Degussa and MAN sold centrifuge technology to Iraq."

He said, "Uh huh. Sure."

"So that's not it."

"Nope."

"No connection to 9/11."

"Not directly."

"So what is it, then?"

"Oil, of course."

"Duh," I said to a man with enough money to buy Iowa.

Being a good friend and stuck in a car with him in the middle of the Mount Blanc tunnel, he decided to explain his position rather than change the subject.

"Of course, oil is strategic. Without oil there is no energy, and without energy we are a sitting duck. You buy that?"

"I guess," I said, because I think I do. It's hard for me to conceive of a state of affairs where we had no gasoline, but I suppose I believe that if North Korea thought they could get away with invading a gas-free Oregon, they're stupid enough to try.

"Don't guess," he said. "Be sure. Now point number two--Saudi Arabia is in a heap of trouble. You think the Saud family is happy all those hijackers came from their country? Think again. They can't control their people. They're a couple of years away from some significant internal instability--maybe even a coup. There are things blown up every day there. We only saw the one case on CNN, but believe me, there are indications all over Europe that extremists have their eyes on Saudi Arabia and are willing to try a takeover. And you know the U.S. Government knows that. So what do you think would happen if Saudi Arabia falls to a radical right-wing religious government?"

"So you're saying we invaded Iraq to preempt a Saudi implosion?"

"No. I'm saying we invaded Iraq so we can be there WHEN Saudi Arabia implodes. Because if the bulk of the oil producing world is ruled by unfriendlies, we're in a sorry state."

"So you believe Bush did the right thing?"

"Bush is a fucking idiot. But we had no choice other than to invade Iraq. 9/11 and that jerkoff ruling the place gave us the excuse. It had to be done."

"And what do your neighbors in Florence say to you about it? I mean, while you're mowing the lawn, do they rag on you for America's foreign policy?"

"Nope. It's not polite," he said. And after a few miles, "I don't mow the lawn. I have a gardener."

I said, "Me, too."






There is no doubt in my mind, nor I suppose in the minds of most of the people in the free world with brains, that the war in Iraq was "sold". The buyers were in priority order 1) the people of the United States, 2) The people of Great Britain, 3) everybody else.

There's a great quote on someone's homenode from a trial at Nuremburg where an accused high-ranking Nazi officer something to the effect--you can get the masses to do whatever you want by convincing them there's a great threat and that the only way to combat that threat is to eliminate "fill-in-the-blank".

We all know that lots of things have filled in those blanks over the years. Countries. Resources. Entire races of people.

So, one then wonders, as my good friend riverrun has mused so passionately in A Sniper in Every Minaret, have we all been duped in the same way as the post-World War I German citizenry? And is it any less a sin in our case because "we know we're the good guys?"

riverrun quotes Jesus Christ on this one, and so if you're willing to accept Christ as the ultimate arbiter of "good", you have your answer.

As weird as it seems, with our American president being an avowed Christian and all--he doesn't agree with Christ, nor Ghandi, and certainly not with a northerner like Bob Dylan.

That phenomenon gives me pause. I mean, I know why my rich left-leaning friend thinks the war was inevitable and necessary. But he doesn't claim to be Christian or Buddhist or anything else religious oriented. Why everyone else?

And that got me to thinking about angels with swords.

I've been thinking a lot about angels lately, particularly archangels. Been reading a lot about these guys who are somehow simultaneously very close to God (closer than the regular angels, but not as close as the cherubim and the seraphim) but also very close to human beings. Archangels do God's dirty work. When something needs to be smote in a very visible way, we get one of the six of seven down here with a sword blasting the living shit out of things. Archangels think nothing of taking human form and doing their stuff as a member of the human race. Sort of the plain clothes thing.

By the way--let's be totally clear about which angels we're talking about. I'm talking about the angels that members of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths believe in. All three, believe in the same angels. They may have slightly different names for them, just like my name is Giuseppi in Italian, Jose in Spanish, and Joseph in English--but I'm the same me and Michael is the same archangel who blasted Lucifer out of heaven down to good old terra firma.

Now the terrible, wacky, soon-to-be-a-historical-believe-it-or-not-docudrama THING that's happening is that all the sides in this mess, save for the Japanese, perhaps, all claim to be on the side of the same God.

This reminds me of the way American football players thank God on bended knee for touchdowns they make. "Dear God, thanks for letting me win and Bob over there, lose. Thanks for liking me more than Bob, because we all know that's why I won. Because you like me more."

I once had an argument with someone about who God liked more. We were drinking beer and I was partly drunk, but the conversation went like this:

"Christians believe in God the father. He's the same Yahweh Jewish people believe in. Ok?"

"Ok."

"Muslims believe in the same God. They call him 'Allah' in their language."

"Nope."

"What's with 'Nope?' It's the same fucking God."

"Nope."

"Do you know anything about history? The great prophet Muhammad believed Christ was also a great prophet. He prayed to the same God."

"Nope."

"Those bastards that blew up the World Trade Center were praying to the same God that the people inside the buildings prayed to before they died."

"Nope."

And so on with 'Nope,' because the individual needed to separate himself from the other side. See--you can't kill the other side if they're like you. This is the thing. They have to be different to kill them.

Once again--if you think they believe in a different God, they're easier to kill.

The terrorists know this. That's why they call us the Great Satan. Because they're Michael in this war.

They think they're the guys God likes. And we think we are.

They believe in the same God Billy Graham believes in. It's the same God the Pope believes in. It's the same God every Rabbi on earth prays to with his congregation. It's like the Cowboys and the Packers praying to win on the sidelines of the superbowl. It's just plain stupid.

Christ knew something like this was stupid. I'm less familiar with the Jewish and Islamic faiths, but I bet there's something in both of those religions that goes exactly like this: DON'T KILL PEOPLE. They're called commandments or laws or something, I bet.

I bet there's something that says: DON'T KILL PEOPLE EVEN WHEN THEY TRY TO KILL YOU. Which is sort of like, "If you whack me on one cheek, I should forget about it immediately so that you can whack me again."

This is the whole thing we have trouble with. See, we just don't buy the whole Abraham-Moses-David-Daniel-Job-John-Christ-Peter-Mark-Paul-Muhammad thing. We buy into all the smiting and smoting and Joshua blowing horns and blasting enemies into dust. We buy Michael blasting the likes of evil into nothingness, the sons of light vs. the sons of darkness--but not one single one of us has the guts to stand there and let our buildings be blown up and knocked down, our airplanes hijacked and run into government offices, our post offices polluted with biological agents, our trains exploded on during rush hour and to say--"Bring it on, brother. Kill me and inherit nothing. Live with me and enjoy life. I'm not going to stop you."

Dear God, I don't think I'm that brave either.

If you were to ask God who's side he was on, he's probably just as soon set the sun to go nova, melt the earth, and start all over with new ones.

But what the hell do I know? I'm sitting here thinking about archangels and writing stories about them, wondering if I'll be smote for blasphemy but not actually caring.

Sooner or later, though, we may meet up with a couple of God's angelic hit-men, and I'd rather be on Mars then.

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