Total Information Awareness returns

Total information awareness was a controversial Pentagon/Darpa intelligence gathering program which got screamed down so much over privacy issues that, even at the height of the total 9-11 hysteria Patriot Act passing frenzy, they had to back down on it – or at least, go underground for a while and return under a new name: ADVISE.

The same basic concept remains: collecting enormous amounts of data on civilians so as to know their every action and move. All for your security, of course. Reaching its theoretical zenith with the Lifelog project – a Darpa initiative described as something like “TIA cubed”, with the following admitted goals:

The embryonic LifeLog program would dump everything an individual does into a giant database: every e-mail sent or received, every picture taken, every Web page surfed, every phone call made, every TV show watched, every magazine read.

All of this — and more — would combine with information gleaned from a variety of sources: a GPS transmitter to keep tabs on where that person went, audio-visual sensors to capture what he or she sees or says, and biomedical monitors to keep track of the individual’s health.

If you have any illusion about this being benign, check out Total Information Awareness’ original, kind of more honest, masonic eye in the pyramid death ray nightmare logo

Total Information Awareness' original, kind of more honest, masonic eye in the pyramid death ray nightmare logo

which they removed oh so very fast.

You know, we of the dancing moose barely know what to say about this sort of thing beyond pointing out that it is actually happening. The same guys who are happy to lie in order to invade another country want to know everything about what everyone in the world is doing. The same guys who provided lists of suspected communists for Indonesia to disappear in the 70’s. The same guys who, after a moment’s thought, are not nice people; nor are they our friends.

But, of course, the only way to win the long, impossible war on terror, is to know where everyone is, what they are doing, what they are planning, what they are thinking, and who they associate with. Then, only then, can we maybe be safe. We must welcome our new informational overlords! Our glorious protectors! Who create the conditions which perpetuate the conditions which create terrorists! Ahahahaha!

surfing moose

Moose are cool.
A fully grown moose was spotted surfing down a rain-swollen river in Norway early this week, riding on a large chunk of ice.

We hail our adaptive brother moose, King of the Norwegian Forest!

culture descending into highly amusing insanity

Woo. Another of the bizarrely logical cultural diffusion moments:Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, a wildly successful Turkish film, billed as a Rambo style revenge fantasy with Americans as the bad guys. In hindsight, it was only a matter of time. The moose is really quite into turning cultural propaganda techniques back on the users; much as any counterculture techniques can be appropriated by the mainstream, as technology gets cheaper, the fringes can hack the techniques of the centre. Bring on the chaos.

Meanwhile, in what has to be almost the coolest thing ever; not only did they build an android replica of Philip K Dick that could walk and talk and pass for almost human, but now it has gone missing after vanishing from the plane it was on. Phil has been gone a few weeks now. If you find a wandering replicant quoting PKD books, please send it to me. The moose will happily grant Phil asylum as an independent lifeform.

I really hope it writes a book.

Galloping movie reviews

Recently, the moose has seen a lot more movies (or parts thereof) than usual:

Control Room

Amazing doco about Al-Jazeera, before and during the invasion of Iraq; an understandably turbulent time, including one of their journalists being killed by the US. A couple of years on, after the various lies of the invaders have been exposed, the whole thing takes on new weight. Every time Rumsfield appears he seems like some horrible grey troll, and everything he says is demonstrably bullshit. The most powerful thing in the movie is the US marine spokesperson dawning realisation that the way he felt (shocked and upset etc) when he saw American dead and POW on TV that one time was the way that the Arabs were feeling when they saw Arab dead – the news coming home to roost in a way. Actually, this probably deserves its own detailed post sometime. Hugely recommended.

The Tin Drum

Adaptation of Gunter Grass’s Nobel Prize winner about a pathological glass shattering freak who decides to stop growing at the age of 3 and indirectly causes the deaths of everyone he loves. The point seems to be that it gets away with talking about Germany and the rise and fall of Nazism by telling an even more deranged tale in the foreground. Probably better as a novel, though I haven’t read it.

Trees Lounge

Steve Buscemi writes, directs and stars in the low key story of an alcoholic loser. Chloe Sevigny displays early traits of hooking up with sleazy indie auteurs which will later blow her career when she blows Vincent Gallo in Brown Bunny. The whole movie is in the final scene, where Buscemi’s loser is sitting at the bar waiting for a drink while inescapably aware of where he is going, and that he doesn’t have the will to avoid it.

The Motorcycle Diaries

Story of the young Che Guevara and a buddy on a motorcycle trip through South America, based on their diaries. Interesting to get behind the myth of Che a little, to ground it in this representation of his experience; he has become a symbol in one ubiquitous image, and symbol’s power can be used by anyone. He comes over as a nice young guy who acted on what he believed in. As a movie, not really that interesting.

Bad Santa

Billy Bob Thornton is wonderfully foul in a fun movie with a naff ending. And next time I see an episode of Gilmore Girls, I’m going to be haunted by the image of Lorelei screaming “fuck me santa, fuck me santa, fuck me santa”. Which seems less out of place than it might, really.

Evil Aliens

Fun splatter horror with amusing inbred Welshmen.

Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle

Stoner buddy comedy with Asian and Indian leads. Unremarkable in the snippets I saw except for the cameo turn from Neil Patrick Harris, who proves that the best thing about being a child star who everyone remembers but no one cares about anymore is turning up playing yourself being a drugfucked nutcase in stoner movies.

The Story of the Weeping Camel

Documentary made in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert about a remote family of farmers living in a rather nice yurt. It ends up being about them trying to get the mother of a camel colt to accept the colt, finally resorting to bringing in a violinist to help with a ritual. They sing and play violin to the camels. The mother camel weeps and the colt gets to suckle. Life goes on, with the youngest son seduced by television from the outside world, with the mute implication that this whole way of life is also doomed. Lovely and most odd.

Paycheck

Aptly named as that was all anyone involved in this could have cared about. Is it that Ben Affleck can’t act or doesn’t bother? Phillip K Dick did use many SF tropes in his efforts to stay solvent, but he must have done it better in prose than THIS movie with THAT lame sidekick guy and THAT lame lead. By the end Uma Thurman turns up for her paycheck but can’t save shit.

King Kong

This movie will probably someday be mostly remembered as a footnote in the screen legend of Naomi Watts, who was pretty amazing, and as the last big ape movie for 50 years or so. A pretty good film could be edited out of it. Everything before they get to the island suffers in comparison to the original, especially Jack Black. The Kong on ice bit forgives a lot.

[Edit to add]
Coffee and Cigarettes

Series of vignettes by Jim Jarmusch featuring famous people having coffee and cigarettes. Some nice moments, but easily the least essential of his films.

Thoughts on The Long War

The American announcement of their intent to fight a Long War, stretching out through the majority of the rest of our lives, spanning wherever in the world they deem necessary, is unsurprising as a logical consequence of the impossibility and irrationality of a “war on terror“. Rather, it simply provides official and ideological confirmation of the actions already underway; part of the continuing trend of making the invisible visible, as when they baldly announced they were seeking to assassinate Saddam Hussein, where previously such actions would be necessarily covert, and as with the open collusion between US and Israel to destabilise the democratically elected Hamas Palestine government, where again these would previously be undertaken covertly.

Briefing reporters in Washington, Ryan Henry, a Pentagon policy official, said: “When we refer to the long war, that is the war against terrorist extremists and the ideology that feeds it, and that is something that we do see going on for decades.”
[…]
The authors anticipate US forces being engaged in irregular warfare around the world. They advocate “an indirect approach”, building and working with others, and seeking “to unbalance adversaries physically and psychologically, rather than attacking them where they are strongest or in the manner they expect to be attacked.

(If we are uncomfortable with the prospect of living our lives beneath this spectre, we should perhaps turn serious attention to how else we might be living.)

It was interesting to experience this announcement of the long war while reading the remarkably prescient War and Peace in the Global Village by Marshall McLuhan. His focus is on the effect of technology on our environment and cognition, with some quite radical insights.

“…new technology disturbs the image, both private and corporate, in any society, so much so that fear and anxiety ensue and a new quest for identity has to begin…. In our time, at least, the amount of innovation far exceeds all the impacts of innovation of all the past cultures of the world. We are more frantic to recover and put together the pieces of the shattered image than any past society whatever.”

(This sort of thing is part of the moose’s fascination with the effects of technology on human consciousness and society, and why chunks of this blog are focused on those technologies as they arise, and their potential to make change.)

To define the war as one of ideology further fascinates this moose. Since it seems honest for the first time.

“When we feel that our identity is in danger, we feel certain we have a mandate for war.”

Talk of democracy, capitalism or Islamic fundamentalism is a nonsense. They are abstractions which do nothing. People do things. Beliefs are interesting only insofar as they limit, or enable, what people do. What influences human cognition and consciousness is thus vital; and if we do not understand the effects of our environment and technologies upon our consciousness, we may act in error of our causes. As we adapt to our new environment, as so much changes so fast, our sense of who we are is threatened. And when we are afraid, we lash out in primitive ways, against what is perceived as different, and revert to a fundamentalist mentality to hold on to our sense of self.

A much more developed version of this direction of argument is developing somewhere in my consciousness. Politics and fundamentalism is likely to become the practical example of choice in whatever body of work gestates around the consciousness-reality-language-belief gestalt.

shopping fix

Here’s an interesting one to keep an eye on for Wellington based folks interested in a more sustainable lifestyle.

http://www.shoppingfix.org.nz

ShoppingFix is a sustainable shopping initiative that rewards consumers for ‘consuming with a conscience’. It is an independent, non-profit loyalty program for the everyday Wellington consumer – and its centred on local retailers that operate with sustainability in mind

Presently the blog is detailing their progress towards setting up a “sustainable shopping rewards” system in Wellington. If nothing else it makes for an interesting test case for how someone might go about change on the local level. We of the dancing moose wish them good luck.

reality getting weirder

Bollywood has remade Fight Club.

Seriously.

From the trailers it looks like they may have spectactularly missed the points, narrative and political, of the original. But I’m getting this weird urge to see it.

New antigravity solution will enable space travel near speed of light by the end of this century says physicist guy who claims to have an exact solution for Einstein’s Gravitational Field Equation.

Felber’s research shows that any mass moving faster than 57.7 percent of the speed of light will gravitationally repel other masses lying within a narrow ‘antigravity beam’ in front of it. The closer a mass gets to the speed of light, the stronger its ‘antigravity beam’ becomes.

Felber’s calculations show how to use the repulsion of a body speeding through space to provide the enormous energy needed to accelerate massive payloads quickly with negligible stress.

So, if you can get a spacecraft going fast enough, it will then effectively power itself without crushing puny humans like eggs? Or something. Woo.

If we survive long enough, things are going to be extremely different. Get used to new things, get used to letting go of lots of what we are now accustomed to.

Democracy debate

Hey, check out the comments on this earlier post for what has turned into an interesting chat about the nature and functioning of democracy.

(The moose should work out some way of having comments appear in the sidebar.)

ah, wellington

Random experiences of Wellington in the past couple of days:

* coming across a giant tent in civic square full of people meditating for 24 hours and sitting a spell. Would love for there to be a regular centre-city meditation site.

* noticing a bunch of 7’s fans dressed up as Blanket Man on the people pages of Capital Times

* going to look at a flat and meeting a friend also there looking at the flat; looking into the lounge and seeing an ex-flatmate being interviewed for the flat at that moment.

Sweden commits to oil-free existence

Well, yay Sweden. It is entirely possible to do things differently; what is required is the will. Someone always has to go first.

Sweden is to take the biggest energy step of any advanced western economy by trying to wean itself off oil completely within 15 years – without building a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Admittedly they have a lot of advantages – smallish population, geothermal energy, etc – but as a proof of concept, and simply for others to learn from their curve, it is invaluable. Once someone goes first, it gets easier for others to follow. (The moose is tempted to start waffling about Sheldrake and morphological resonance, but that is for another time.)

The intention, the Swedish government said yesterday, is to replace all fossil fuels with renewables before climate change destroys economies and growing oil scarcity leads to huge new price rises.

The other thing we particularly admire is the facing of reality at the institutional and governmental level. Who’d a thunk it?

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