Friday, October 26, 2012

The Predictable Stories ~ Updated


The Hydra

Pop art, scholarship, finance, and foreign affairs have been making out in the back row of the movie for so long that, like the proverbial tentacle monster, they're so intertwined into one another's holes as to make the differences between them nearly impossible to determine. What makes them so cute is that, for the greater part of the audience--busy watching the film, and never looking over their shoulders--each facet of the puppeteers seems to be independent. Checks and balances, the free market, etc.

Using phony branch offices, middle managers, and customer-service reps to create a facade of separation, like so many hydra heads to distract the occasional hero's sword, is a consistently useful technique in keeping said swords away from bodies. Even in medieval Europe, as noble houses intermarried and swapped "control" of various countries out to this or that prince-administrator, the bulk of the populace remained entranced by the narrative that the "countries," because of their languages and cultural differences, and the occasional actual fight between spoiled little lordlings who didn't get the point of the game, were actually "countries" in relative control of their own destiny--even be that destiny one of selfishness based on Just That Prince in control of Just That Country.

The post-industrial economies have seen a flowering of more diverse costumes for the same ends, to wit non-inclusively: academia, medicine, legislative, judicial, executive, entertainment, banking, and military. It took quite a few years, but even the majority of the proles are seeing glimmers of an "unfair" relationship between, say, the banking and public relations cartels. One furnishes the veneer of finance in a fair marketplace of currencies and trading, the other of candidates in nice suits in a fair marketplace of ideas and elections.

As "finance" and, to a lesser extent, legislative and banking aspects of the ruse come under a little more allowable scrutiny--like a series of planned visits from the OSHA inspector--the completely-pure heads of the same hydra remain: fallbacks for fallbacks for fallbacks, in the event anything on a lower level starts to cascade.

The Entertainment Head

One of the best predictors of modern presidents has been the campaign book. Most western literature, now, be it admittedly fiction or purportedly non-, is produced not by actual artists in any independent creative sense, but by cubicled employees or non-salaried independent contractors who produce books in the manner of homework assignments. Entertainment megacorps, and their publisher affiliates, formulate popular brands, trademark them, farm out the actual production work, and market the finished product, with the actual producer--the "artist"--so far removed from control that s/he is as much the "author" of a book as a Chinese 9 year old is the creator of Steve Jobs' Estate's 77% profit margin on a $450 fruitphone.

More to come on the visual/literary side of that, but as to the campaign book, these things work the same way, but in service of creating the election narrative that will justify the victor's win. People who believe that books are written by authors with a message, and that they then reach the marketplace after fierce competition in an open realm of ideas, after which an educated populace reads and appreciates them, are the perfect marks for the book game.

Electing Through Books

It is damned hard to get the vote-bothering chunk of Americans to elect anything other than a centrist Democrat; even when the Republicans are clearly meant to win, it takes either vote-tampering so extreme that it reaches general public knowledge (e.g. Bush 2000 and Bush 2004), or ridiculous, designed-to-fail candidate placement by the Democratic Party (e.g., Mondale 1984 or Dukakis 1988). With the addition of the "D," even pointless old schoolmaster plutocrats like Kerry aren't unhip enough to avoid winning two-party American elections without a little help from Mr. Diebold.

"America" had to have Republicans in office during the transition from "Cold War" to hegemon world rape, so that the nastiest of the crimes that came to light could be pinned on the bad cop. Any number of charismatic, popular, un-dumbass Democrats could have been used to unseat doddering Alzheimer Reagan and the styrofoam soul of George H.W. Bush, but they weren't. After the cowboy actor and his hanger-on had to go--once Iran had been hit with proxy Saddam chemical weapons, half the women in Nicaragua raped, and America's black urban ghettoes flooded with CIA crack (follow link here if you missed it), we needed a hip new young centrist D to keep the same stuff going while sounding a lot different than the R. Ergo Putting People First, Bill Clinton's 1992 win-book. When it's a non-fiction work, it's all right to plagiarize the whole thing and call it "ghostwritten." Bush's counter to Clinton's heartwarming story was some hokey old war stories, which fit perfectly with his role as a cranky, guaranteed-outgoing elder.

With 2000 looming, though, even proxy wars were winding down, and it was time for a Republican to start some new ones. Then, we could all be shocked at the Republican and how backward he was, and get soothed when a Democrat showed up in a few years to wind them down. Gore Vidal even called that one, predicting "a few small wars" for Bush/Cheney.

How to make a Republican palatable to Americans, again? Enter A Charge to Keep, Bush's cowboy/Texas story (with associated "ranch" purchase), and in 2003, to set the stage for next year's re-election, Duty, Honor, Country helped hide the Bush family's Nazi-investing past. Dubya, of course, can't write much of a sentence, let alone a book, but going up against the droll environmental prose of Al Gore's ghostwriters, his Charge had to win out.

The candidate marked for election will have the "story" book--the structured Hollywood "life" narrative, with a growing up, a few moments of childhood sternness, falling in love, wanting to "give something back" to the country, and succeeding. That's what Clinton had; that's what Bush had; that's what Bush, Senior and Al Gore very carefully did not have. Like the careful release of a Christmas movie designed to sell toys or a summer movie designed to sell soundtracks, the campaign books tip the hand in advance as to which product we really should be buying, whether we want to or not.

Dreams From My Father

The "compassionate" travel and growth narrative of Obama, Dreams From My Father, blew Hillary, and her handlers' "I went to law school and married Bill Clinton" story, right out of the water. And how could it not? Hillary's book was marketed at her fans, with her face as the only feature of the giant cover, while Obama's "American scrapbook" cover was the clear winner. All the terrible lies about Obama's humanity and appreciation for children found their falsity expressed in his mass murders, but what really mattered to the voters was the moving story the ghostwriters put together. And, surprise-surprise, Romney has no good story. He has some ineffectual business books, but he doesn't have the prepackaged "rise to greatness" tale that seems required here. Not that he couldn't win; there is a degree of actual infighting going on, and it makes only the most marginal of differences in vote-concerned public opinion as to which obscenely rich tyrant is killing the foreign children. But they didn't even do him the credit of printing a fake biography of him that explains why he has to become a compassionate president.

Conversely, Obama doesn't have a redo book. In 1996, Clinton's team churned out Between Hope and History for his pre-impeach triumph.

So?

So? Electoral superbowl day-trading as to "who" will "win" or not is irrelevant; for those who see the connections, though, the confluence of publishing, distribution, and mass-media attention--including "critical reviews"--that put these winning campaign books front and center is important. It's the string that, in the dark, can be pulled taut to find the way to the base of the hydra, and reveal that the entertainment head is just as firmly part of it all as the rest of them.

These books don't just pop out. Even world-famous Senators can't automatically crank out a ghostwritten book and get it to the top of the charts. The winners take advantage of the same distribution networks that drive almost all other non-fiction and fiction "literature" to success: the public libraries that choose what to stock and put out front; the massive booksellers, online and physical, that push things to the front of the window; the publishers that crack the whip over their worldwide legions of reviewers, to get "word out" about this or that book or movie, and ensure that multi-millions of free-thinking consumers will be buying it, downloading it, or checking it out the next day. When all the major papers begin gushing about the insights contained in that Illinois Senator's touching, heartwarming Dreams From My Father (marketing hint: his father was the black half. That's what it means to use and profane racial identity), you know that you're meant to read it, and that this guy is meant to head to the top.

Figure out their predictable stories. Figure out their boring, repetitive, evil-overlord mistakes and their "But she could never fall for Richard Gere's character!" tropes, and be not surprised (unless you're Hillary, who probably actually thought for a couple minutes that it was her turn).

Updated: Obama's 16/1 advantage in music/film production celebrity donations.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Persian Gamblers ~ A Separation

Persian men do not care properly for their women. They are abusive, inconsiderate, rude, and need constant attendance. They don't know how to use the clothes washer or dryer, they know nothing about their children, and they constantly domineer Persian women and push them around.

When they are not pushing women around, Persian men are weak. They piss and shit in their pants, forget how to clean it up, and are always obsessed with their past. They care only about other men, feeling nothing for women.

Persian men are always in debt. They don't show up for work on time, spend money irresponsibly, live beyond their means, and expose their pregnant wives and vulnerable female children to danger. They also wear stupid beards. When they do work, they selfishly elevate it above all other concerns. In particular, they care more about their work (or their gambling) than they do about Persian women.

The religion of Persian men is inflexible and dangerous. When Persian women are religious, however, their religion makes them sweet, modest, and pure. Persian women are like doves, trembling in the hands of evil hunters, waiting for someone to come save them and do them right.

Persian legal and government officials are inflexible and cumbersome. Persian society is unresponsive to the needs of its citizens, loaded down with too much bureaucracy, and entirely un-western and un-civilized in its methods.

When clean-shaven western men arrive in Persia, they will get rid of the nasty, bearded, backwards Persian men. They will rip the burkas off those repressed Persian women and fuck them hard and fuck them right. Persian women have been suffering for so long under the tyranny of Persian men that they will welcome the bombs and dicks of their western liberators.

A few Persian men are brave enough to tell the truth about other Persian men. These are the decent, good Persian men, who know the secrets of all the other Persian men. The other Persian men are bad, and are nowhere near good enough to be entrusted with the care of Persian women.

You can tell who the rare heroic Persian men are. They will accept money and distribution deals from western entertainment companies to produce movies revealing the real honest truth about the other Persian men.

Good Persian men win the acclaim of Roger Ebert and the Berlin Film Festival. Good Persian men, and the secrets they divulge, send their truth across the western world. It is lucky coincidence that the shining light of insightful 2011 drama has simultaneously and completely by chance propelled Persian tell-alls across the entertainment brokers of the western world, and been heralded a massive must-see tell-all by the media people that were Wrong About Iraq But Are Not Sorry, and are Right About Fifty Shades Of Gray and The Hangover 2.

/yawn

Obama sanctioning Iran. War started centuries ago. Even in the modern memory, it started "years" ago. A naval blockade and armed overflights is war. Asghar Farhadi takes cash from the west to divulge the truth about terrible Persian men. What do you think they hold those festivals for, anyway? And Then Came The Next One.

/yawn /cry /yawn

The warmaking, starving, dehumanizing tyrants of the world are the bards of the world; the storytellers; the buyers, producing organizers, payers and pushers of the mass-disseminated written word, filmed stage, tossed paint, and smash hit single.

There are none who can.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cult Quotes

...because you're in the celebrity cult, too, and what the world needs now is more murder mysteries, teen paranormal romance, breakup songs and Bono covers. Grow your own tomatoes and ferment your own wine; shatter those fucking boundaries.

Because you're in the celebrity cult, too. These are our ideal people. The "news"--the great, current-version historical narrative of the march of progress--infects its master-creators, its talking heads, its avid watchers, its casual readers, and its most scathing critics with equal abandon: even to the point of duplication. Quite recently, we've seen the transformation of one such critic to the point of the "celebrity sabbatical," as lengthy, clever prosaic take-downs turned to snappy one-liners turned to nothing at all. The seeming archenemy of the news was truly one of its longest tentacles, expressing the narrative in a way that fringe places could understand. Demand creates power creates self-nurturing ego and ego cult. An empty envelope soon contained more than a lengthy tome.

Because it wasn't words they were after in the first place. It was a mission of their own: a mission that ended grumbling in an armchair but otherwise content. No matter how hard you didn't try, you couldn't make those drone children real. You're in the game on the winning side. Maybe not the dirty side, but the winning one, until the flag gets shifted.

And in that nothing we created for ourselves reruns: endless rehashing of DVD-menu-style commentary from the Key Grip and the pizza guy on what that last silence had really meant. Speculation about what the next season of The Sopranos would bring, or just a fifty-page what-if where Bella has a mammogram that turns out bad. Who needs anything new? We're soldiers of sorrow; servants of the living dead. We'd frighten ourselves if we accidentally broke any new ground.

In that vein, let's pull a little more from E. (now with pop culture references!):

--because when you were punching me, pushing me into the cement, and calling me fag, I was finding refuge, at 8 and 9, in the stuff that 20 years later YOU would start fantasizing over as ADULT entertainment. Oh, I'm going to see dark knight rises, haha I'm such a nerd! You don't even know what that word means. You hit me and mocked me for reading little kid books of the kind you're just starting to figure out past 30. Just like last time, you know what's cool, and if in another 40 you're even half as advanced as I am now, you probably won't figure out how to listen to whatever I say then...[snip]...because when you were CALLING me fag and laughing, you didn't care, and when 20 years later you wanted to lecture me on what "gay rites" were and how they should matter, I was already BEYOND that game, and you're the same people behind it, just in different form. Like [Arka] says, you don't care about the new set of Faceless, what matters is really the big cable slash paper slash tv story you're all playing along with, and she won't even call you on it. Now I can break you, and it doesn't even matter, because you have a new set of rules and...[snip]

And a couple associated links on The Big Bang Theory, here and here. Thankfully, this one hasn't had to suffer through even a youtube clip of that side of the great pustule-ridden ass of pulp culture, but in the vein of co-option, let's reference O.N. Original Nerd. So, sorry E, and /hugs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Everyone Smokes Pot For Fun

That smarmy, elitist wonder Luke Zaleski suggests here (in good company with the rest of Huffington's pulp) that Paul Ryan isn't cool enough to be VP because he didn't smoke enough pot, the way Obama and Clinton did.

Some people, though, didn't smoke pot not because they weren't "cool." It was because they weren't rich kids who could afford to waste evenings and weekends spending allowance money that they didn't get and free hours that they didn't have acquiring and using expensive pharmaceuticals carried across the border by poor brown illegals who get murdered by rival gangs and jailed by the border patrol in order to bring play-weed to America's white buyers.

The upper-class toking ritual Zaleski cites is a "rite of passage" primarily for white kids, who know that mommy and daddy and judgy can make sure they get a "warning" and a clean record through the ivy league if they do actually get caught. But they're unlikely to, considering that they aren't borrowing half a joint to desperately keep it together in between jobs and school and gangs, but rather, mixing up their private stash in daddy's backyard, in the comfortable suburban neighborhood where the cops rarely cruise. The urban minorities getting jailed and killed while supplying party favors to the "cool" suburban white bois are in the same boat as Zaleski, because, like, American sentencing is Fair and Balanced (TM), and consequences are all evenly applied.

Romney's "47%" remark can't even come close to this fantasy-land of self-indulgence. Please, oh Fates, let the boys in blue stage a no-knock raid into Zaleski's condo tonight, and let them break his furniture, step on his poodle, throw him in a cell with a few 250 lb. hepatitis-infected gentlemen from La Eme, and leave him there two weeks before realizing they mixed "Avenue" up with "Street."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hope and Future, Part 5

Continuing from Part 4, which includes the lengthy description of the 7 orc rush, for metaphorical purposes.

The Dark Side

Cain and Abel? Not necessarily. In the Old Testament, God turns up his nose at Cain for making an offering of produce, preferring instead Abel's offering of the fatty chunks of a dead animal. Posit, instead, any two primal people, living alongside one another. One plants and waters crops all spring, and harvests them in late summer; the other one merely snoozes, waiting with a club. After the harvest, the snoozer clubs the laborer to death and takes all the crops. Hunger solved, until next season. Like vampires, CEOs, politicians, traders, or any other set of non-laborers, though, the parasite only continues to survive because the host is able to provide the stuff of survival. Killing someone else and taking their stuff works great as long as you carefully maintain a weaker population able to produce said stuff.

And it's impossible to beat. In the span of a few lifetimes, or a few species, you can't beat the 7 orc rush. If you believed in beauty and shimmering castles, the marauders already took your land, hired the great grandchildren of their former soldiers to puzzle over your drawings, and are farting into silk cushions in the throne rooms of said castles as we speak. If you don't plant and harvest the crops to spite the murderer waiting the next cave over, then you starve. If you never sleep to not give him the chance to sneak up, you die, and if you spend all year laboring in the fields while he sharpens swords, your chance of besting him in a duel is technically reduced.

How, then, do we persist? Not under a noble social contract, under the guidance of benevolent white male kings and lords diverse presidents and senators. Hope of the naive and foolish has sustained humanity, and its parasite members. The naive continue having children, working, and trying, while the parasites plan ever more efficient ways to extract labor and resources while appearing essential to the process. As described in Part 3, they plan to leave Earth, and mortality, behind, using technology to liberate themselves, at last, from the thinking organic laborers that have sustained those bloated Atlases for so long.

On an individual level, the selfish choice pays off. In an individuated, propertized, monetized society, the person who never helps another is rewarded: fewer expenses, more "free" time, more money in the bank. The society that appeals to ritual and tradition has faster, easier social cohesion than the society that encourages openness. Whatever beautiful towers and bright children might have grown in the latter, it will first fall under the shadow of the former--and may never emerge from it, if the former is watching closely, ever-sharpening that sword, to be sure that nothing outstrips it. Harvests can always be stolen when they come due. There will always be more pulp than art, and history can make even a Moses, a Shakespeare, or a Rowling a revered genius--who can reach a mouth with apple crumble when it's so much easier to just get a Subway and a frozen tub of cookie dough on the way home?

And so on, to Joseph Campbell's dark side, borrowed by George Lucas for his "Sith = bad" Star Wars thing. Quicker, easier, angrier, and more violent, yes. The society that meets its energy needs swiftly by burning that noxious, limited black stuff underground will develop faster and more terrible killing capability than the society that labors, carefully and safely, to collect energy from wind, water and sun--and the former will, then, rule the poisoned, ramshackle Earth several generations ahead. The man who eschews family and the education of children always saves more money, while relying on the breeders to ensure that, when that man ages, there will still be bright young physicians, cops, home-builders, bankers, and pharmacists to keep him safe. Colonialism was is a 7 orc rush, but with victory measured in centuries of ongoing resource extraction, rather than a simple village-burning.

Hope

What if that's really all there is? Jack Crow, again:
Five thousand years of recorded "Western Civilization." Five thousand years of creditor-priests using labor to build ivory towers and Great Monuments. All the justifications and appeals to glory and unity and hope, with the same elision of the death, suffering, destitution, labor and alienation.

Again, what if that's really all there is? If David Brin, Ayn Rand, and the rest of the relatively-current crop of exaltors of selfishness, lords, and war continue winning, what action do we take in response? Suicide? Where's the hope?

If it is all just a machine--if there really is nothing more to this than quantifiable particles of "reality"--then we've already lost. No pressure when the game's already over, right? Because you can't beat the 7 orc rush when you play by the rules. Unfortunately, civil disobedience, open rebellion, and blog whining remain all firmly entrenched in the rules of materialism. When you're logged into this system, barring any new h4x0r, this is it. The only hope is hope, because if you give up farming because you know they're going to take it, you don't win; you're just out. Theoretically, enough "raised awareness" of being screwed over by the parasites could result in a more pleasant stay here, but then upon our paradise God could throw out a tsunami, or a supernova, or a universal singularity disorder, and that would be that for the here-niceness. And it would be just as unfair and terrible, in a material-only sense, as Bill Gates or David Brin or Barack Obama. In this material wonderland, there's Ayn Rand, who enjoys the thought of nothing but atoms, and High Arka, who enjoys atoms and something off the radar. The way out, or the cheat, is metaphysical; the only way out, and the only way it "matters" (see how the matter-people stole that word?), is if there is something more than the time-movement graph of bouncing quarks and the measurable interpretations of neural nets resulting therefrom.

(Deep in improv, or sharing your consciousness with an instrument--oils, pianos, saxes--a human might occasionally get a sense that something more than decided-upon, measurable neuron-firing is happening to guide that flow. Better, more technical people than you have already mastered mechanical reproduction so finely that few can tell the difference, anyway, and that sense of losing control you felt was probably just something you imagined because of stories you've heard.)

Kudos to Paul and Jan, in closing.

More Than Human.

I don't know what
But I see there's more to this
It's not just something in the air
I'll come running to help you out
When your hour of darkness comes
Remember there's a strength inside of us
Are we more than human?
Will we be more than a memory?
Just fragments of a distant star

You Can't Beat the 7 Orc Rush

Succeeding Immortality Goes Private. Hope and Future, Part 4, or "You Can't Beat the 7 Orc Rush."

Long Explanation of Warcraft Metaphor

What is the 7 orc rush? In the vicinity of 1994, Blizzard Software released a wartime strategy game called Warcraft, where players could build either human or orc settlements, create armies, and do battle until one had destroyed the other(s). War strategy games function like Cityvilles or SimCities in that players may construct cities, but in addition, the "war" aspect permits them to build military units and use them to destroy another player's cities and units. The strongest, most desirable units and buildings--which utilized the game's most complex available art and the most diverse playing possibilities--were available only at later stages of the game--"later" meaning after one's civilization has survived for, perhaps, ten minutes of warfare.



Although the small numbers of available units in Warcraft greatly condensed the metaphorical curve for the purposes of our analogy, they prove useful. For example, let's say that on the human side, a player can start out only with the technology to build "Poorly-Equipped Footman" and "Shoddy Farm," but after sufficient technological development, the player can produce "Knight in Gleaming Armor With Sword of Justice" and "Shimmering Castle With Waterfalls." The orc side might offer comparably exciting pluses, such as upgrading "Lowly Orc Grunt" to "Massive, Cool, Drooling Ogre Beast," and improving "Orc Hut" to "Black Castle of the Damned." With sufficient development, glorious cities could be built, staffed with the greatest units the game could offer.

In higher-end matches, these more powerful units rarely, if ever, got to be utilized. Why? Assume three Lowly Orc Grunts show up in your human village. Have you been rushing to throw together an off-center settlement staffed with four Poorly-Equipped Footmen to defend it? Or have you been wasting your resources improving your masonry skills and farming capabilities so as to ensure that one day, your grandchildren would dine in comfort inside a Shimmering Castle With Waterfalls?

If the latter, you lose. The Shimmering Castle With Waterfalls is never built, because the Lowly Orc Grunts hack your burgeoning settlement to pieces. The 7 Orc Rush relies on the mathematical principles of the first Warcraft game, wherein calculating the build-time and resource-cost of a "barracks" building, each soldier unit, and the harvesting capability of your labor drones, you had a near certainty of a rush victory by creating a roving force of 3-4 Lowly Orc Grunts that would find and harass the enemy settlement, while leaving 3-4 behind to defend your own settlement. The math ensured that, even if the enemy had come up with her own defenders, by the time the battle of first contact was over, you would have trained new attackers, and the 3-4 offense/3-4 defense would continue, pinning the enemy down and preventing them from ever expanding.

Luckily for the skilled players, most players didn't know this, or took years figuring it out. While they wasted their time trying to improve their castles and train dragon-riders, the most basic "soldier" unit--Lowly Orc Grunt or Poorly-Equipped Footman--would be able to overwhelm them in early, sudden waves of 3-4, replenished constantly by the 3-4 prior defenders who would switch to the attack every time a new 3-4 soldiers had been generated. On most available maps, the math of the 7 orc rush, including combat time, worked out to keep a constant 3-4 units inside the enemy's base, hacking away, even if the enemy was pulling the same strategy in reverse.

Rushers, then, ruled the land. More experienced players learned that to excel at the game, you needed to drop any notions of building beautiful, well-laid-out cities, saving resources for higher-quality units, and laying careful plans for future expansion. Instead, you needed to instantly dump everything you had into the cheapest available combat potential, and use it like life was going out of style. With experience came the knowledge of where other players would start out on a limited set of available playing maps, making it an even faster task to guess where an enemy would be situated, and sally forth to war. Rushers would debate each other about whether 6, 7, or 8 was the ideal number of starting soldiers to wait for before sending them to battle, and whether it should be 3, 4, or 5 sent on offense, or 3, 4, or 5 left on defense. And so forth. But the basic principle of instant offense remained the same. Competitive games could only really be quick rapes of tossed-together villages, constantly burning and being repaired, where the random numbers of damage assigned to each low-level attacker's swings would determine the slight shift in odds that gave the victory to one rusher or the other. Only in the long, drawn out matches of the clumsy and inexperienced did the full breadth of the game's available art get to be used: after the n00b135 had wasted up to a half an hour apiece laying out their pretty, tidy cities, they would finally march great and beautiful armies to war against each other: ogres with banners and dragons breathing flame at knights on horseback who supported gryphon riders.

Continues, and gets mostly the heck out of gaming territory, in Hope and Future, Part 5.