fuck you, nuke us

These were lyrics that got cut from an Idle Faction song back in the day. They seem oddly relevant now…

“If you go ahead and use that bomb,

knowing what it is and does,

then you ain’t human anymore,

you ain’t the same species as me.

Fuck you, nuke us.”

 

Facebook, AI, censorship, surveillance and a global ID

Over at global guerillas John Robb has been knocking shit out of the park lately.

Here’s the latest: re where the convergence of AI, surveillance and information control is going

A global ID. Simply, Facebook is getting close to being able to create a global ID for everyone on the planet (sans China/Russia). It’s not a bit of paper or something you put in your wallet. It’ll be passive. It’ll replace your passport and driver’s license. If you can be seen by a camera, you will be known.

Review – Alien: Covenant

I think I am mostly writing this down because Brad will want to have a conversation about it and it is in my head right now; and essentially it becomes a vague essay about the creation of meaning rather than a film review. Any film, any artwork, engaged in what happens when we reach the limits of the known is subject to bizarre readings. So it goes. *spoilers ahoy*, in any case. (more…)

Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson – brief review

 

The other day I finished reading Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson by G.I. Gurdjieff.

Gurdjieff’s stated intent for the book is “To destroy, mercilessly, without any compromises whatsoever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world.”

The result is extraordinary.

A long, astonishingly diverse, intentionally difficult, sprawling, bizarre, cosmological, deeply hilarious, sort-of science fiction novel, containing a legominism for an incredibly contemporary and relevant spiritual teaching, it is more or less the most amazing book I have ever read, and quite indescribable in any normal way.

While perhaps too steep an ask for anyone not interested in the teaching, regardless I believe there is enough of value here for anyone who makes it to the end; and I am certainly very glad I read it, and grateful to Gurdjieff for his efforts.

 

One caveat: it certainly can’t be completely understood from one reading. But despite the effort I can imagine re-reading it.

Seeing the future: The Demise of Trump, and President Pence

Quite a first month in office for Immortan Trump. 46% want to impeach him. The Flynn resignation. Scandal and incompetence. Rule by incoherent and illiterate executive orders. An increased division between the reality-tunnels people live in based purely on their information sources,

We haven’t seen anything yet.

Really.

Things are going to get off the charts bad before meaningful resistance – thousands and thousands of people, turning up week after week – gets underway. And then it will take as long as it takes. Remember the 60s – public figures assassinated – the 70s – thousands of acts of domestic terrorism. And the system lurched on.

Generally, to get a ruler out of power, somebody’s blood ends up on the streets.

Scattered thoughts:

How quickly Trump is ejected from office will be a measure of the health of American democracy, and, in fact, the ongoing relevance of democracy in the modern world. (Does democracy scale? When we have millions, or hundreds of millions, or billions, can one person really represent them all? What happens when it goes wrong?)

My personal pick for a while has been that Trump will not last a year in the job. What or how will cause his exit, I don’t know. And maybe it will take longer – impeachment and so on may take a while, whereas if he quits that could be quick – while the death throes might take a while, the inciting event will be within the first year.

With Trump gone, we get President Pence. The idea of “President Pence” is as alarming as Trump, just in a different way. Pence is a Tea Party conservative, and he will have two Republican houses behind him. For better or worse, people voted for Trump, and the god-awful sideshow he brings. No one voted for the Tea Party agenda. But Pence knows the system, and can work it effectively.

The total incompetence of Trump, Bannon, and the clown car posse, is quite reassuring. At least, it is if you aren’t in America, in which case they can do a lot of damage. But unless some kind of world crisis emerges that requires sober leadership, or they invade somewhere for the hell of it or approval ratings, the rest of the world can watch the USA burn and sink.

Man. All those US military bases all over the world. Yeah. Remember them. That is why America continues to matter, even more than their economic weight at the centre of the global economy.

Remember a month back when the US President was an eloquent guy with dignity? Time moves differently these days.

There is probably no going back to business as usual for America, or American politics. I don’t know what comes next.

Immortan Trump

immortan trump black and white

really good reviews of really bad movies

Over the years one of the things I have oddly enjoyed is intentionally getting wasted and reviewing bad movies. This post is just to collect these in one place for easy reference:

Sucker Punch

The Room

50 Shades of Grey

Transformers 2

Positive effects of blocking Facebook news feed (Filters, part 5)

(Another in a very occasional series across the years about interacting with technology and its effects on the mind, and strategies to deal with information overload: here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4.)

 

A few months back I started using MindTheTime, a Mozilla extension, to track the time I spend online and where.

A bit over a month ago, I started using KillFBFeed to block the Facebook news feed.

Coming up to the end of this month, I now have a full month of data to compare with previous months.

Total internet use this month is down to about 2/3 – 3/4 of what it has been in prior months.

Facebook use this month is down to 1/3 – 1/2 of what it has been in prior months.

A small element of this could be seasonal – midwinter months had slightly heavier internet use – but the change seems significant.

The main reason to block “newsfeed” was to bring an end to mindless internet trawling. This has been a qualified success. I can still access specific lists on facebook to track close friends, and I still use Facebook as an email and events service. One side effect is I am spending more time on my Twitter mutants feed, which is a much higher quality curation of content.

Another intent of the switch was to pop my filter bubble, and especially to escape that rampant 2016-nausea. This appears to have been successful. I caught up with some people at a cafe the other day. When talk turned to a swirl of Trump, I had no idea what the latest godawful details of stuff out of my control were, but everyone else did.

In other news, I am engaging with my own creative projects more.

So, on the whole a successful experiment, and one I will continue. I would recommend similar practices to others.

Rogue One in Star Wars machete order moose canon

[Will contain spoilers for Rogue One and Star Wars in general. Deal with it.]’

So Rogue One has happened. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it, on reflection, is purely meta. While it was the eighth film made in the franchise, it is logically the first to watch. (At least per my personal canon, a version of machete order, which we will explore below.)

But because Rogue One was the eighth made, it didn’t have anything to set up about the world. So it doesn’t. It assumes the viewer knows what the Force is, what Jedi are, and contains any number of knowing winks for fans. Which makes it kind of fascinating to consider as the first film in the sequence, as if you knew nothing of the world. This is an accidental effect, but makes the film far more interesting.

(I admit I haven’t watched A New Hope since Rogue One, so this is all just musings.)

From this perspective Rogue One becomes a kind of film that Hollywood doesn’t make. One lacking in over exposition of everything for dummies. One letting questions remain unanswered. One which invests in creating depth and then throws it away. A preamble rather than a complete entity. Storytelling that is taking its time.

My personal version of machete order (moose order? moose canon!) is as follows:

Rogue One

Star Wars (A New Hope, episode IV, original theatrical edit)

Empire Strikes Back (episode V, original theatrical edit)

The Phantom Edit (a condensed version of Episodes I, II, and III, into one film, which, while not perfect, is far more watchable than the original versions, manages to omit most of the awfulness, and which I am happy to accept as canon)

Return of the Jedi (episode VI)

The Force Awakens (episode VII)

So this is basically Machete Order (which is worth reading through if you are nerd enough to be reading this and if you haven’t already) with the phantom edit subbed in, and adding the films from the last year as bookends.

Now: consider Rogue One as the starting point for the entire story.

The Force is hinted at, a religion that has power and meaning for some characters, but is never explained. Jedi are mentioned in passing, and their appearance is foreshadowed, but we don’t know what they are. Vader’s final scene in Rogue is a brutal pre-introduction to his entrance in A New Hope. Vader, based on the glimpses from Rogue alone, is a mysterious and monstrous figure.

We are flung into A New Hope with meaningful stakes. Lots of people died to get us this far. The tenuous tangential opening storytelling of A New Hope as we follow the droids becomes an extension of the roundabout introduction of Rogue One. It seems like it is all about these Death Star plans, and the struggle against the Empire, but, really, this is the beginning of Luke Skywalker’s arc, and the story of the Force and the Jedi. (As I have noted before, the prequels failed mostly because they abandoned Luke’s arc – The Force Awakens succeeds essentially because it continues it.) Luke is unaware of all that has gone before, as are all the major players other than Leia.

Everything changes when Obi-Wan starts teaching Luke about the Force. The story takes on a new dimension. It is no longer just the story of a rebellion against the Empire, but a true tale of good vs evil, with far higher stakes.

Hmm. That’s as far as my thinking goes right now.

So, seen in this accidental light, I think Rogue One becomes kinda cool. I guess I’ll find out someday when I watch them all in Moose Canon order. 😉

 

 

On the meaning of President-elect Trump

Well. President-elect Trump. So that happened.

Let’s take a deep breath and begin. This is going to be bad. Okay? Unpredictable, interesting, and even, on occasion, good, in the way that a stopped clock shows the right time twice a day. Enough has already been said about Trump’s character. He is not a good, well-balanced, well rounded person. Civilisation has standards. If civilisation means anything, it means having standards, and Trump does not meet those. He should not be President. He is going to be.

 

So what does it mean? What do we need to remember to understand this situation?

1. Let’s get this out of the way. With the election of Trump, America has effectively abdicated its role as leader of the free world. We cannot look to the USA for leadership because they clearly cannot sort out their internal situation and politics. They cannot run themselves; ergo they can’t run the world.

We have been looking in a de facto way to the USA to provide leadership for years. We can no longer expect leadership from America. We’ve got to grow up and sort things out for ourselves.

Perhaps a bitter pill, but the sooner swallowed, the better.

America has been an empire in decline for a long time and this election just seals it. Their internal problems are now so great they cannot lead the world. They can’t be trusted to. It’s a moral thing. If you can’t sort out your own shit why would we let you try and sort ours?

 

2. Trump is not to blame for the current state of the world.

There is so much that is messed up in our society and way of life. Trump did not cause these things, though he is a mighty symptom and emblem of them.

We (anyone likely to be reading this) are complicit in the way the world is today; and we did not get here overnight. For far too long we have remained idle and comfortable while other people suffered.

3. The Republican Party is more dangerous than Trump.

Tea Party Republicans are the real danger. If Trump hadn’t got the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz would have. He would be a far scarier President. Any other Republican with both houses behind him would be scarier than Trump.

Trump is a wild card. A dude who doesn’t know what he is doing. He started out running a protest vote campaign in the primaries that succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations, and his ego wouldn’t let him quit. He does not want to do the job of being President (eg offering Kasich the Vice Presidency and being in charge of all domestic and foreign policy), or possibly even understand what it entails.

An enormous amount is going to turn on who Trump appoints to advise him, and how well he can be controlled and managed. So far the signs aren’t good.

4. Trump does not have the Republican Party behind him.

This is huge. During the election race, a huge proportion of the Republican establishment turned their backs on Trump. He won’t forget that.

Crucial to remember is that Trump hijacked the Republican Party – a party itself riven between its extremist tea party rump and its old guard. Trump’s agenda is not their agenda. This is going to be one of the most fascinating things to watch play out. In a strange way, Trump and the Republicans become the brake on each other’s excesses.

What this means is that no one is going to get what they want.

5. The President has less power than you think.

Obama said this in an interview late in his second term. The President can make people listen but unless he can get them to agree and cooperate, they have their own power bases, and don’t have to do what he says. Trump is not going to bring people together. He is not a politician or negotiator. He is a billionaire autocrat who makes decisions the consequences from which he is insulated.

6. Trump forces change. Change is always double edged.

Trump forces change. Either he will shake things up radically and get his way, or he will be unable to, in which case the presidency is revealed as irrelevant and powerless, and the powers that be that control the world are shown to be not democratic, which itself demands a revolution from precisely those who supported Trump’s message. (I can actually imagine Trump stepping down in under a year, throwing his toys at not getting his way, calling the whole system corrupt.)

Every action prompts an equal reaction. The fact of Trump forces the left in America to slap itself hard and start engaging with reality in a new way. The fact of Trump forces the rest of the world’s leaders to start leading on the pressing issues of the day, be they wars, climate, or the changing economy.

The fact of President-elect Trump demands a reaction from every sane and responsible human being alive. For we all have power. We just need to own it, reclaim it, and start using it wisely, each and every day. We can and need to do better. And we are many.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Welcome to interesting times. Are you ready to play?

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