Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A point in trying

Arguments for futility--materialism, moral relativism, nihilism, or other forms of despair--always break upon the rocks of the inviability of a futilist objection to meaning. E.g., if there is no meaning to anything, then it is meaningless to object to the search for meaning. If it all really is futile, then the fanciful pursuit of wisdom is no more or less deluded or worthless than the fanciful pursuit of anything else. By contrast, if there is a purpose--say, a one in a quadrillion chance that enough private wisdom could accumulate concrese into a better tangible future--then the only path that has any purpose is the apparently rewardless pursuit of real value.

Imagine a hundred people on a scarred rock. Ninety eight of them live in delighted despair: they pursue the maximization of their own pleasure, and believe that some form of "struggling to survive upon scarred rock" is the end-point of existence. Many of them play beautiful music and achieve powerful orgasms.

Upon the rock lives also the ninety-ninth person, who is tormented by the vacuousness of the Ninety-Eight. He wishes that the world were different somehow, and feels assaulted by the apparent stupidity of so many people, yet finds himself powerless and isolated in this regard. Call him Korse.

Upon the rock lives also the one-hundredth person, who suffers the belief in objective truth and greater meaning. Unable to appreciate pop culture as much as the others, she is left in lonely pursuit of that truth. For dramatic effect, let us call her "Arka."

Cutesy dialogue

Korse: "Arka, you have wasted your life in pursuit of things that we cannot see. After hundreds of years of stupidity and vacuousness, it is clearly impossible that things could ever get better."

Arka: "Hundreds of years, or thousands of years, seems like a lot to us, with our short lifetimes, but it is not a lot of time to almost everything else in this observable verse. Have you ever built anything before?"

Korse: "Yes."

Arka: "Have you noticed that you may build something swiftly, of poor quality, or that you may spend more time at it, and make it more powerful, and longer-lasting, and that while working on it longer, you may learn many more things about its design that you would not have while throwing it together in a hurry?"

Korse: "Yes."

Arka: "Maybe that's how it works with people, too. Maybe ten lifetimes of frustration is really as short, in its own way, as ten minutes of being upset at the mechanics of a new wheelbarrow. If we throw down our adze, curse the process, and stop working, we'll only make it take longer to have a wheelbarrow, and we'll have to spend more time carrying rocks by hand."

Korse: "That's stupid. A lifetime is long, ten lifetimes is even longer, and ten minutes is short. There is no comparison."

Arka: "Fractals, remember? A boulder resembles a mountain; a pebble resembles a boulder; a grain of dust resembles a pebble. Our lives, and the work we can do inside them, fractally resemble the work we can do with many hundreds or trillions of them. Our own complaints, now, that it is 'taking too long' are just a larger version of the wheelbarrow-inventor's complaints that his hours of work are 'too long.'"

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Some of us are being paid to be here.

Spies always, yes, and don't be distracted by the seeming novelty of "the internet," or even "dissent." Recall Cass Sustein's 2010 paper on conspiracy theories and cognitive infiltration. Sustein: "...government agents might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories."

You used to be able to recognize little bank toadies by how they'd show up to a protest meeting, then suggest some audacious criminal act, attempting to entrap people in "real" non-crimes, then arrest them and blackmail them into more effective performances against others. The internet has made them no less clever; in fact, lacking the need to attempt physical acting ability, they can infiltrate and produce using only text.

Always remember the very important fact: some of us are being paid to be here.

Some of us are not really us. It's a guarantee that those who are here, operating in this way, are not so stupid as to say, "Yay, dissent!" and then, five minutes later, "I guess we should sort of support the MIC." These are (projectively) intelligent people. They know how to plan for the decades. Ergo the real phonies will be building case histories doing things like actually, coherently critiquing drone strokes, lamenting the surveillance state, and heavily criticizing the phony two-party system, and the elites that run it, while simultaneously advocating:

1) Kindhearted celebration of token social change;

2) Some form of "get out the vote," encouraging co-option into the system;

3) Long-term bolstering of the underpinnings of crony capitalism (e.g. pop biology/cosmology);

4) The inevitable corruption of power, or the inherent sinfulness and worthlessness of humanity/life.

It's certainly possible to be well-meaning and wrong without being a government internet operative, and project your own education and mistakes through one of the above viewpoints; regardless, an expression thereof is a sickness. For the others, though, (2) is the standard Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald was a clever placement, raising powerful objections to Bush and becoming a mysterious phenom of dissident journalism, while all the while pulling the standard "support Obama because teabaggers scary and gays good!" thing. His wacky rise to prominence during a time when no one else would even touch criticism of Obama is a dead giveaway, along with his willingness to act like expanding state power over homosexual relationships has any relevance whatsoever in the land of endless radiation war, starving children, and corporate gay-rape megaplex prison/dungeons. After putting in his time in the "weather underground" and Rev. Wright's church, Obama showed his true colors by becoming drone captain of the world, just as the Clintons turned from liberal student activists to multimillionaire Iran-attackers.

It is necessary for elite agents to build up a history of being "rebels" so that they can look like reformers when their career path ascends them to an establishment position in idea-dissemination--Greenwald, hand-wringing apologist, and Bacharach, humanity-scathing richie, are only two of the forms this can take. Greenwald has recently been tapped to turn his internet-based name recognition into fake progress by forming a new NPR/CNN-type entity that will seem really progressive for a decade or two. (Here and here is Arthur Silber with more detail on the Greenwald/Omidyar buyout.

Far more important than powerful talking heads like Greenwald, though, are the low level guys--the posters and commentators who pop up everywhere, on the clock, saying absurd things in order to make intellectual curiosity seem stupid. E.g., suggesting that the Mossad and aliens cooperated on 9/11 casts a crazy light on the idea that the Mossad knew something ahead of time. Even deeper, the forlorn bemoaning of government power--a.k.a. "the NSA is watching you masturbate"--can crush, privately, so many developing thoughts.

We're all alone in the dark sometimes, and when you're all alone in the dark, the idea of a pervasive NSA can still creativity and produce conformity. The best remedy is laughter, but it's easier said than done. However angry many people may be willing to sound on the computer, the reason they're so quiet in real life is the soul-crushing nature of fear in the lonely dark, which is fostered, not inhibited, by those whose only action is to expound on the details of court power. If humanity is essentially worthless, then there is no point, therefore, go elites. If power corrupts, then anyone who gets power will be evil anyway, so there's nothing that can ever really be changed, therefore, go elites. If homosexual family courts please the dronemasters, then it's the best we can do, therefore, go elites. If American ballots can ultimately produce good things, then the system works, therefore, go elites.

Whatever we may navigate as we go forward, and whatever the names or faces that appear or replace the many thoughts, remember the one powerful tool provided each human for discerning importance and reality--conscience. Independent judgment, removed as far as possible from all swarming context, and approaching each situation with innocent novelty, sees enterically, and will carry some of us past the time when the rest of us have been doppelgangered. Judge each component of each thought, even from yourself, anew, for a slower grasp but a longer last.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Dregs of Humanity

Every once in a while something happens to remind me of why I liquidated my $2.3M TIAA Cref account, took the consulting job, and left the US. A bunch of low-wage nobodies deliver all of my US royalty checks to a post office in a town where other well-heeled white retirees also get their mail, about 1.5 hours from here, which I check about 2-3 times a month. It's so gay how Americans are always getting their mail more regularly than that, since they have to pay bills and receive test results from the doctors--pitiful! I try to get in and out of the mail drop very quickly, because I don’t like the place: it’s overrun with all these stupid American people that, believe it not, actually come to Mexico even though they're not Mexican, and the ambience is similar to all the poor mixed race trash, spics and niggers that I hate in Los Angeles.

The other day, as I was leaving the trash pit to return to the exclusive gated beachfront community where I retired, I parked my car in the middle of an intersection, preventing other cars from getting through. This hilarious, stupid bitch (with WHITE skin!) got frustrated because I refused to move my car out of the intersection, and she actually yelled, "Stupid!," at which point I didn’t miss a beat and yelled back “You are!” (There wasn’t enough time to add, “Douche bag!” I'm full of pointed insults like that one.)

On the ride back home, I reflected on how awful Americans are as people--really, a disgusting collection of human beings. Whereas I literally never have interactions like that with the Mexicans who clean my pool, bring me drinks, or attend to my health care or toileting needs, this sort of thing is coin of the realm in the US; I probably had 2-3 exchanges like that per week when I lived in DC, where people always get angry at me for parking my car in the middle of the street. I tried to recall the last time one of the waiters or towel boys was this rude to me down here, but it was impossible.

Back home, I went to a supermarket to get some groceries, and as I walked by a terrified housemaid coming from the opposite direction, I unexpectedly sneezed in her face. “Salud!” she cried encouragingly. And it was such a wake-up moment, for me: yes, this is how the help treats white retirees--the way we deserve to be treated. This is precisely what Robert Putnam, in his famous book on the collapse of community in America (Bowling Alone), referred to as “social capital,” and he argued that it made a huge difference for the health of a society.

In any case, I happened to be carrying a copy of the New Yorker for December 9. It's unbelievable just how stupid Americans are in comparison to Mexicans, which is why I always read my New Yorker magazine, which I carry to public places and read prominently. I sat down at a café within the market to eat something before I started shopping. There, written by some American writer, was an article on what is known by the police as the Reid Technique for obtaining confessions. It includes bullying, lying, and manipulating until the suspect breaks down and “confesses.” Recent American research has turned up the fact (what a shock) that a large percentage of these confessions obtained under duress are false. In case you don't read the New Yorker yourself, I'll add more detail from the article here in my blog. I don't just complain about how the poor young people fault me for stopping my car in the middle of intersections--I also summarize the New Yorker for you. Anyway, back to the article. British gringos, in the 1990s, began to worry about these sorts of heavy-handed techniques as making criminals out of innocents, and instituted a more “journalistic” approach in which the cops just gather information, then point out inconsistencies. It’s working a whole lot better, according to the essay; and when Saul Kassin, who teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NY, was asked about the possibility of replacing the Reid Technique with something like what England had instituted over here, in the US, he replied that it was unlikely: The culture of confrontation is too embedded in our society, was his reply.

Since Saul Kassin was a rich, powerful white academic from America, you know you can trust his perspective. He's a man like me; a good man; not some working trash piece of gringa shit who beeps her horn at me for parking in the middle of the road. Americans really make me sick sometimes.

I do understand how strung out Americans are, even down here in Mexico. Unlike Saul Kassin and me, the culture of confrontation is all they know, all they’ve known all their lives--some of them don't even know how to use semicolons properly, despite having PhDs. Also the culture of anger, the culture of entitlement, and (Lasch) the culture of narcissism. Believe it or not, some Americans actually get angry at people who beep at them for parking in the middle of the street. Some of them feel entitled to travel the world, spend money, and be treated like a king because they're paying the bills, while still insulting the lower class trash that wipes their bedsores after stroke #2. Unbelievably, some are even narcissistic and blind enough to talk about those kind of behaviors as though they are good things, and expect to be praised for it!

Sitting in that café, and reading about the “culture of confrontation,” I couldn’t help thinking: What was God up to, when he made the US? Did he decide to gather up all of the trash, all the human garbage from the planet, the dregs of humanity, and plunk them down in one particular country? Was this His idea of a joke, or was he trying to create an object lesson for the rest of the world: Don’t be like this!? Learn how to capitalize pronouns consistently?! It makes me scratch my beard and wonder.

Then other times, I wonder--is it just me, and a few other fat, rich, white pieces of crap who are that low? Maybe it was my own sense of entitlement that made me belittle the lower classes. Maybe the only reason Mexicans were so respectful to me is that they are working for $2 an hour to landscape the shrubs in front of my retirement casita. Maybe they're terrified of me because of the armed guards who patrol the gated community where me and the other white people took our retirement portfolios, because we had the sinking sense that almost everyone in our native country had the guts to hate us even though we had more money than they did.

But then I tell myself, no. Big no. It couldn't be that. It's just that Americans are trash. That's why I travel back to America so often to give paid lectures, and why America is the biggest source of sales for my books describing how dirty and worthless Americans are. I finished the New Yorker article, and felt so happy that I'd spent my life selling worthless liberal arts bachelor's degrees to people who are now unemployed.

It's not like everything I say about the world is the self-fulfilling prophecy of a hateful, money-glutted, poorly-groomed asshole. It's not like a bunch of Mexican peasant farmers and fishermen were dispossessed by a corrupt developer with close ties to the PRI machine in order to create tropical retirement housing for pompous American ex-pats, and then the dispossessed underclass has to be desperately kind to the white dollars in order to keep their jobs, leading to a delusional, arrogant ignorance on the part of wannabe outsider-onlookers like me. No. Couldn't be.



Good Falking Grief

IF we decide that black holes exist because it would be a cool thing to exist at the centers of galaxies...

and IF we make up numbers representing the energies found at the interior of these "black holes"...

and IF we arbitrarily decide how large these black holes must be...

and IF we decide that virtual particles appear and disappear without ever being observed...

and IF we make up numbers representing the effects that these virtual particles have on alternate universes

and IF gravity is caused by invisible guardian angels that take the form of harp strings and play constant gravitational hymns...

and IF we design computer models to run simulations of our two made-up sets of numbers until we have two equations that match each other...

THEN, and ONLY THEN, it must indeed be the case that the universe is a holographic projection from a two dimensional universe that we will never be able to observe because of its mystical and otherworldly properties.

This is a religion. Nothing need be observed; nothing need be measured; all that matters is the unproven, unprovable, unfalsifiable, utterly bullshit theories of wealthy men with institutional degrees.

As they say, good fucking grief. This is still the Dark Ages. We're living in a hologram projected by the security chip on Lord Voldemort's credit card, and as proof, (Voldemort + Discover^2)/Wizard = Quidditch!->99x, provided I can substitute anything I want for all variables based upon new moments of inspiration I have every time the thing doesn't work out the way I wanted it to when I started.

Not only are these dunces boring and afraid of science, they're unoriginal. They pulled this latest pipe dream from some science fiction author who published it as random speculation in 1991--being unable to come up with any good ideas for the universe in 2013, the academics decided to make up numbers and equations until they had something complicated enough to prove that, if nineteen angels could flamenco on the head of a pin at the same time as God was trying to mend His cross trainers, it proves that the universe is a Foot Locker. They're still beating off to the Hubble Telescope, because they're not really interested in building better rockets or accomplishing anything that might make all their pretty equations look about as scientific as the Spanish Inquisition. Mining Kuiper? Colonizing Gliese 581d? Teleflecting Sirius? Who the fuck cares? My new quantum physics glossy paperback is coming out next year, and it includes over 80 of the coolest potential ways that invisible angel pinions could be responsible for both the weak nuclear force and completing my next grant application.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Greenhouse Scrooges

Scrooge was mean because he was rich, right? And because he didn't pay Bob Cratchit enough? Surely, in A Christmas Carol, that was the greatest point of contention between Scrooge and the audience--that Scrooge didn't give Cratchit a living wage?

Nope. The biggest indication of his low character that Scrooge provided, the most frequently cited assholish thing that Scrooge did in the text, was that he didn't burn enough coal.

That's right: in industrial England, where "the London fog" was later revealed to be "the London smog," Scrooge's biggest Christmas crime was not burning enough coal. He didn't keep the office warm enough; he forced Cratchit to wear a coat indoors (a coat!), he wouldn't give Cratchit extra money for burning extra coal at Cratchit's home, and whenever someone told him it was too chilly, he just said, "Bah, humbug!" Believe it or not, Scrooge actually felt that Christmas was a fraud designed to make people spend money on crap.

Scrooge stood around and did work in his own low-heat environments, alongside Cratchit. He wasn't enjoying the coal personally while denying it only to Cratchit; he was actually a conservationist in action as well as spirit. And while Scrooge was indeed a rich asshole, the most pointed expression of his problems--and of the remedy to those problems--came in the form of coal-usage. Happier, decent people prove their moral character in large part by burning coal.

Dickens himself probably didn't mean to make things get used this way. He probably didn't fully understand the coal economy or the nascent rise of "consumerism"; he was probably just looking for a way to condense, into a few days' worth of narrative, the effects of years of low wages on Cratchit. Many modern retellings of A Christmas Carol aren't even clever enough to use the coal angle, encouraging just the buying of presents and too much food. The cleverer ones, though, like the 1999 version with Patrick Stewart, work back in the "not enough coal" angle, making ready to demean as Scrooges those who would dare attempt to conserve electricity or gasoline.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gift Cards

In the future, all money will be gift cards. Federal Reserve Notes are just IRS gift cards, after all, so everyone accepts them. You can go to stores now and buy pre-loaded gift cards for other stores. You can give them as gifts, trade them with friends, and buy food and clothing with them. So, why not? Gift cards for all!

Here's a helpful conversation from your future:

Stan: "Yeah, the place looks all right. How much a month?"

Bruce: "1700 in Red Lobster, or 1650 in Barnes & Noble."

Stan: "Ahh...I'm kinda new to the area. Would you take 1750 in Adam & Eve?"

Bruce: "Huh?"

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Southern War

Paul Craig Roberts' Washington Drives the World Toward War defibrillates the warning about an upcoming World War III between the U.S. and everyone else, primarily Russia/China. Dr. Roberts opens with the usual laundry list...
Washington has had the US at war for 12 years: Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and almost Syria, which could still happen, with Iran waiting in the wings.

...which is all very well and good for the purposes of the article, but of course, he's far too nice. Americans tend to act like Dubya started all the current bad stuff, betraying ideals that were sacrosanct from some indeterminate point in history.

This is a great failure, of course. Long term, in historically retreating order, we have constant dirty wars and coups attributed to the Cold War, the banking strangulation of Germany and militarization of Europe during the Eye of the Great Chemical War, the invasion of Russia, the Filipino Extermination Project, the neverending story that is the rape of Africa, the invasion of California, Mexico, the American Tribal Genocide, and of course, slavery. All relatively easy to see; all constant American themes.

Why are we particularly afraid of World War III? Will nuclear bombs be set off on American soil, poisoning food and water for millions of years and causing tens of millions of people to sicken and die decades before their time? Will American cities be left polluted, crumbling, and filthy, full of the despondent and starving? Will a corrupt overclass of international bankers take advantage of the ruin to control the American economy for their own selfish ends? As BNL said, it's all been done. There'd certainly be a body shuffle, some urban redecorating, and a few changes, but after the initial shock of "Russia melted _________" wears off, it will be pretty much business as usual.

--which is not to say that a docile acceptance is preferable, but rather, to make us think about the present in a more cogent way. This is what it feels like to live under tyranny. Genocides are happening right now. There is no easily identifiable bright line where you'll realize things have changed, because they changed generations ago, and you were born under tyranny and have never known a different world. "Even" during the 1950s, a worldwide thug network was massacring little African people and little Korean people, torturing dissidents, and all the rest of the shocking revelations from the 2000s.

But that's not the point; that sounds too extreme to care about. The point as to Dr. Roberts' article specifically is not even that the "12 years" of U.S. war is a dramatic underreporting of the actual number as compared to centuries of history; instead, it's a dramatic underreporting of the actual number even as compared to decades. Recall, for example, that before the 2003 attack on Iraq, the U.S. had spent the last decade bombing Iraq every single week--killing civilians and destroying infrastructure in order to enforce a "no fly zone." That's war. If you were shocked at Dubya's 2003 attack, you were naive, because Iraq had been being constantly attacked since Great Britain first figured out where it was on a map. During the "no fly zone," Clinton was starving people there with sanctions, and before that, George H.W. Bush was inciting the Kurds to slant-drill Iraqi oilfields to justify Operation Desert Storm, and before that, Reagan was arming Iran and fomenting a horrendous (even as to the region) war between Iran & Iraq, and so on, back to the filthy inbred Tudors and their pseudo-Persian fantasies.

So, 12 years is out. Moreover, "Iran" is not on the current-war list. Here's the list of reasons why the U.S. is already at war with Iran. This is already a "world war"; it's just a different kind, in the way that World War "I" was a different kind of war, fought in a state of perpetual boredom and slithering police states.

This one would like to refer to a different, closer war, though--one removed from the Middle East. Specifically, the war with Mexico. We all know, yawn, that the U.S. is fighting the Middle East, and we also probably know that little "drug wars" occur inside Mexico and the U.S., handing out particular destruction to Mexicans. This is certainly a war, as American proxy thugs murder hordes of Mexican civilians to control territory and governments. And yet, it's not quite as shocking, even to the progressive, as an actual, "hot" war, like when Dubya invaded Iraq in 2003.

Unfortunately, it is actually a "hot" war. American paramilitaries roam the U.S.-Mexico border at will, gunning down Mexicans in droves. Not proxy killings, and not vigilantes, but actual uniformed, heavily-armed, officially-licensed American agents shooting actual living Mexican civilians. Here's a Googled article on some of the officially-reported numbers in one border state.

When you add in the "drug"-ascribed hits, the death toll doesn't quite compare to Afghanistan, but then, who knows? Secret numbers abound. But the spatial proximity might mean something, there. Not thousands of miles, but mere dozens away from ordinary, sleepy American towns, state security forces are regularly shooting down dark civilians. It's even less something on teevee when it's that near a formal border, right?

When we reflect on the dark times of history, we do not need to wonder, "What were they thinking? What were they feeling?" The answer is, "Just what we are now, give or take a few incidental details." This is the way it's been for hundreds of years. We are the Confederate Wives; we are the Nazi Bureaucrats; we are the Emperor's Faithful; we are the American Taxpayers. Each time we are born thinking that we're seeing a "recent descent," but no. The descent began generations ago. The only way to a good world is actual change, rather than reassuring ourselves that all the bad things out there are merely a temporary setback. It's the way business will be done until business is altered.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Drug Seizures & Lesser Evils

Why do police agencies release drug seizure statistics into the news? The Kindergarten Tale is that it deters drug use, drug sales, and drug trafficking, as well as proving to the public that drug war money is being well spent. That's a factually inconsistent set of lies, of course, but also internally inconsistent, as seizure rates and quantities are frequently "going up," along with drug use, so even if you believe the story, it makes about as much sense as a stock market reflecting the value of an economy.

So, why do agencies report drug seizure statistics? The real reason is that it's an open line of communication to producers and sellers as to how to restructure their organizations. If drugs go missing, captains would normally kill the responsible linemen, and if a lot of drugs go missing, generals kill and replace the relevant captains. When police public relations higher-ups decide to announce a certain drug seizure, it's because they want to communicate, secretly and in plain sight, to the drug lords. Reporting how much was seized lets the drug lords know which of their men were being honest up until the last minute--if "police seized three hundred pounds of marijuana late last Tuesday," and the regional comptroller knows that that amount should have been three hundred and fifty pounds, he knows how much was stolen before the raid, and who was responsible for it at that time, and he can respond accordingly.

Conversely, if some local yahoo patrolmen actually stop a mule and find some coke in the trunk, it's time to release 100% true information, so that the boss doesn't come down on the wrong person. Hand out some medals, let the mayor make a speech, and give the mule a stiff sentence to save his life, because maybe they'll forget about him when he's old. It's a humanitarian act, really. Light sentences and plea bargains let someone walk to the Reaper, while Witness Protection keeps secret records so no one ever knows how many of them disappear, which makes paying their cooperation pensions substantially cheaper while proving to drug employees that the boss has ways of finding out when they've crossed him.

Naive District Attorneys battle it out with police bureaucrats over how much information to release because the DAs want to release everything, and look effective and powerful, while the DEA only wants to release information that will keep drug traffickers operations' running the way they're supposed to run. Shutting down the right people at the right time prevents competition from interfering with the drug lords who have political connections to the DEA; if a captain tries to make a power grab, he can be crushed with the right tip. Building bureaucratic careers around insider tips encourages government agents to carefully safeguard their trafficker contacts, or else the flow of information will stop--a good trafficker can betray anyone in his way by sending in the DEA, thereby maintaining control of his organization, while the bureaucrats are able to constantly tell themselves, "It's a necessary evil that helps me fight crime overall." As Eichmann worked and Democrats vote, so do antidrug officials rationalize lesser evils. Government bureaucrats are a serious bunch, convinced that fostering the few meganational drug cartels they know about is a good thing, because it prevents the "chaos" of "more dangerous organizations" rising up in their place, as they most certainly would if the actual drug lords were shut down. The bureaucrats feel themselves smarter than the stupid, sissy voters, who think they should stick together and end drug crime.

It works the same way for the traffickers, who have to regularly sell out unpopular line dealers, and occasionally regional captains, in order to preserve the safety of the organization as a whole, and the economy and families that depends on it. If everyone is behaving, but the time has come, someone has to be sold out--a shared sacrifice for the good of everyone. Ergo a lesser evil is a necessary act. They preen themselves on the notion that they're serious businesspeople who understand how the real world works, unlike those sissies who think they should stick together and operate in a way the police never find out about.

Given the climate of fear on either side, the real players use the news to communicate in a way that can never, I mean never, be tracked back to them. The Kindergarten Tale protects them, giving plausible deniability to the random discretion governing the information they choose to release and not release. By releasing poundage, times, dates, and details, they can mandate the restructuring of government patrol practices, cartel trade routes, and ensure that certain people are fired, promoted, or disappeared. Seemingly innocuous details about a raid, such as "an anonymous informant told police this week that..." while completely innocent-sounding even after you know the story, telegraph to cartel bosses exactly who to kill--specifically, the only one of their guys who just happened to get arrested for an old probation violation, then released without charges. The guy swears he didn't talk, but since he was the only one in custody at the time, it must've been him, so he gets tossed off a hill. Surrogate torture and murder is an old story made over fresh in the War on Terror, where Afghanis get picked up and shipped to Turkey, because then it's completely not the fault of the CIA if they get skinned. The story works just as easily in every other realm, from eliminating uppity capos to masterfully guiding the progress of the right set of extremists to do something useful.

The local cops don't even know what's going on, nor the DEA raiders, anymore than the party dealers or the resistance fighters realize they're doing just what someone else wanted them to do all along. Constrained by budget and DHS directives, they follow the word from higher up, honestly believe they're either fighting crime or fighting government oppression or just making money to survive, and take the genuine resistance offered by cop/drug lowbies as proof that they're fighting the good and/or profitable fight.

Real gangsters are too smart to actually call someone and say, "Kill him," or even, "I suppose you know what we have to do here." Instead, they use their absolutely plausible, rock-solid administrative discretion to tell their media relations secretary to let the local police department know they should release to the paper the results of the raid last Friday. "You mean the sixteenth, Sir?" "No, Becky; the Friday before that, sorry. Anyway, great job today, I'm hitting the green." "Oh, sure! I'll turn off your printer again! Heehee!" "Heh, heh, heh! Have a nice weekend!"

That's how easy it is. You can watch a 10 minute sitcom and figure out the innuendo of tricking someone into believing the water cooler's broken again so that they won't notice the missing sandwich in the fridge so that it can be replaced before anyone gets fired, so you can surely figure out a little drug and explosion game after 10 years of watching, or certainly since 1839.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Empty Minutes

rekt. ruined. open sore baltimore.

cryogenic princess. shadows. nighttime.

rekt. ruined. open sore baltimore forevermore.

cryogenic princess. cryogenic princess in a portable personal pod. portable personal pod's nose sticking into the restaurant roof just off the onramp.

collision. crash. cold. cars. crabs. crab restaurant. crab pots everywhere.

crashed crab pots. broken pod lock. parking lot lights. soft nighttime parking lot lights.

dizzy diners. watching waiters. scattered salads, crashed crab, broken loaves.

rekt. ruined. open sore baltimore.

cryogenic princess. cryogenic princess in portable personal pod crashed into the restaurant roof, minutes before she wakes up and starts the revolution with an uncanny ability to gain followers in any town or city merely by looking at them with cold alabaster eyes inspiring in them the desire to sautee someone for her own twisted ends. ends dreamed up inside the portable personal pod before the unfortunate accident with the unforeseen zygotes and the curiously active guidance guidelines.

eyes. alabaster eyes. eyes frosted forever open.

rekt. ruined. riding. riding pod. riding portable personal pod. cryogenic princess riding portable personal pod.

cryogenic princess riding portable personal pod through the midnight sky with the lid off and the pillows propped like a chariot of the gods that enhances her power to burn things to ice merely by looking at them. minutes before she conquers the first neighborhood by looks alone and then travels by portable personal pod to the next neighborhood before realizing the pod can travel faster than the ordinary way by sliding sideways through spaces to the next street in an instant providing her with the ability to turn a neighborhood a minute to her own twisted ends to construct a pillar of ice with a base as broad as a billion cubits and a height as high as two billion cubits and then to melt it in an instant with a thought thereby consuming all who built it in a sea of lukewarm water smelling vaguely of crabs and cars.

# # #

Automatic cabbage. Critical raccoon. Dark diner.

Automatic cabbage with a hairlift from last week's coupon. Girl with raccoon eyes. Girl with raccoon eyes standing on a dumpster, surveying all she sees. Raccoon-eyed girl with striped stockings and six cigarettes.

Blue moon. Blue moon in bluer sky. Rotten cabbage on a broken hairdryer at the base of a gnarled dumpster melting in a pool of shampoo, old envelopes, whisky and lye. Raccoon girl with striped stockings and six cigarette stubs on the dumpster beneath the blue moon, just starting to cry.

Six week seminar on Segue Street. Six week seminar helping you find your inner muse. Six week seminar with celebrated anthropologist turned dramatic sensation Roxy Hill, who has been to the valley and been to the heights, and brought back at great personal risk of injury six shining tablets, one to be covered each week at the Segue Street seminar, each containing powerful insights into the habits and habitats of your inner muse.

Blue moon. Blue night. Sparkling screen. Segue Street. Diner's dark alley. Wafting sniffs of automatic cabbage, old batteries, hemp rope, and dying cigarettes. Crumpled brochures with pictures of guitars and Roxy Hill. Ticket stubs and broken strings.

Raccoon girl with striped stockings and six cigarette stubs. Raccoon girl with a torn miniskirt and a rumpled leather jacket. Raccoon girl with a lady's laptop and an acoustic guitar that used to be black.

Dangling gutter. Dark alley. Nearby noose. Ash on ankles and hemp on steel and raccoon girl just about to dangle. Blue moon in bluer sky.

Hungry rat. Automatic cabbage. Noose on neck. Savage squeak. Hungry rat shredding cabbage and upsetting hairdryer and knocking over guitar and hitting the play button on the lady's laptop. Sad song startling dangling raccoon girl. Scrabbling shoes on slippery dumpster. Old rain makes shoes slip. Dumpster lid squeaks. Girl's teeth grit. Raccoon shadows pinch shut. Shoes slip away. Heels curl.

Slow song serenades salvation. Heels catch. Lid squeaks. Dangling gutter protests and then relaxes. Hemp falls. Rat runs. Cabbage rolls.

Raccoon girl. Raccoon girl with bare feet. Girl with bare feet and raccoon eyes and an old backpack and a guitar the color of ash, walking up Segue Street to the crest, where the asphalt slopes into lunar climes and the parking meters reach the blue moon and the buildings themselves barely tickle the bluer sky. Raccoon girl walking right into the blue moon until she disappears.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Generation 1

1) Steal resource.

2) Burn village.

3) Laugh.

4) Reproduce.

Generation 2

1) Enjoy resource.

2) Feel guilty.

3) Hold diverse international symposium of the already wealthy, powerful and successful, explaining how to deal with the stresses of success and how lesser peoples can make do with what they have left.

4) Feel great.

So yeah, a lot of the skilled, intelligent, experienced speakers at the handsomely profitable TED talks are good at explaining things, and many of the things they are good at explaining are useful. The internet is great at allowing humans to disseminate cute little useful ideas, like using the otherwise worthless plastic clips that close your hamburger-bun bag to fasten the toe catch to the bottom of a broken sandal and make it last longer.

Most of these people are cruel sharks using the idea of "self help" to show how, with ingenuity and a little luck, they've solved a major problem, which explains why Africa is so fucking poor and dead--because they just don't have any ingenuity. Business professors and well-heeled professionals can give great talks about how to be an effective speaker, how to feel self-confident, how getting more sleep and eating more leafy greens is good for you, as well as how to fix your sandals or recover from Hurricane Female #17.

What if, though, the real subject of the talk is not a broken sandal, but ten thousand dead children? At the next TED event, will some brilliantly clueless tool address how the good little third-world people can successfully filter rivers made up of blood, oil runoff, shit, and human tissue slurry into a drinkable product? It's not as good as water, they'll chuckle, but at least it can help people in disaster-prone areas like Blackinent or Greater Muslamia get some fluids for a few months, before the residual toxins send them back into the soil. You can even add an incredibly cheap artificial sugar substitute to perk up the flavor!

It's so sweet, watching 21st century missionaries talk about how everyone can indeed cope with their problems, just like it was sweet watching 19th century bourgeois French missionaries explain to Algerian children how God can indeed help them survive without the parents that the missionaries' husbands had just bayoneted to death. Hey, it's not my fault there was a war. I'm doing the best I can with the world as I found it! Now, enjoy your recycled wastewater, because my shift's over, I'm headed back to Picardy to sip wine and count my diamonds.

But really, it is sweet. So many of them are so goddamned earnest that it's clear they actually think their method of recycling poop into water is helpful. Even if perfected, how much does it cost per glass--1 cent? Cheaper, even, than normal water? How efficient! Well, here's an even better idea: don't throw five hundred murdered natives into the watering hole first, and then, the water costs even less--even less, like, free.

I own stock in the company you work for, which pays you starvation wages, offers no retirement plan, and regularly lays workers off. Now, I'm going to suggest to you a great method for meditating your way through stress, and some of my friends can teach you about the benefits of having a positive outlook on life. If I plead ignorance, does it make me something better than a hypocrite? Yes, it does; quite literally. But what does it make me, then? An opportunist? A lucky person who just happens to have it better than you do?

How did I get that stock, while you ended up just working for me? Is it because my great great grandfather shot a village of Sauks and sold the land to the railroad, while yours was too lily-livered, and just ended up working on the railroad? Because my great grandfather turned his cobbling business into a shoe factory employing beaten 8 year olds, while yours refused to disgrace himself, and watched his business fail? Who cares, right? The point is, me money and you no money. It's time to move forward, as Obama said; not to look at the past. Now let me teach you how to stretch that grocery budget, think positive, and find happiness without material possessions. And no, I won't be giving anything back. I share my knowledge with you; not my possessions. Here's a paperclip and an empty sack.

So yeah, we live on a graveyard. Maybe everyone does, in some form or other. Look forward, right? Don't hate the rich for being rich, when all they're trying to do is help out. It would be wrong to ask them to give up their powerful international symposiums.

Or would it? If an army of Sudanese children stormed the TED talks, ripped off all the Caraceni suits to use for firewood, and sold all the modest E-series Benzes parked outside to buy furnishings for their new country, Tedan, would the speakers be willing to look forward, shut up, and spend the next thirty years living in rags on 900 calories a day? My guess is they'd call the police, and there would be a lot more vanished Sudanese kids than there already are.

For those interested in teaching people how to deal with undue stress or crippling poverty, the glaringly obvious logical contradiction is that the easiest way to deal with these things is to not cause them. The world's bankers and governments run amok, slaughtering millions and leaving hundreds of millions in situations of desperate poverty, crippling the remaining several billion with a tenuous grasp on the illusion of sustenance. It is not helpful, but is only a cruel, paternalistic, rich-person's-burden joke on the lowly ones to talk about "dealing" with the problems. If the problems were actually cared about, then the TED speakers--every single fucking one of them--would be tearing into the IMF, the U.S. Federal Reserve, and the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of at least twelve countries. But you're not going to get that kind of honesty from people who make their livings from, and who have drawn upon the massive inheritances provided by, a hundred years of brutal colonialism.

You build shelters for the homeless by not having destroyed the shelters they had already built before your tanks came. You provide clean water by not having dumped oil runoff in it. You cure stress by not threatening the population of a country with starvation and abject misery unless they either go to prison or spend their lives struggling to maintain employment sufficient to maybe have a roof, enough to eat, and enough medicine before becoming a ward of the State in their old age. Or their young age.

If you have already done those things--if you have already committed those things, if you are committing them right now through your stock portfolio, or if you are living fat off the benefits of those things having been done for you by your predecessors--then you obviously can't un-do those things to fix the problem. But it is incredibly, colossally smarmy and ignorant of you to prance about a stage getting celebrated by other rich people for telling all the little crumbs outside how to deal with what remains of their wretched lives.

There is much more than enough food, water, shelter, and energy to go around. People are dying because these resources are consolidated in the hands of a comparatively tiny coterie of rich assholes who very much enjoy hearing novel presentations that explain to them that the problems they see on teevee are caused by a lack of ingenuity. Every peppy seminar about dealing with a problem is another silent vote in favor of causing a new problem. Every pretense that the mass deaths in Africa, to name just one very large place, can be addressed by clever gadgets, while the world's governments continue actively and knowingly and belligerently murdering and starving people, is an insult to the very idea of humanity.

I mean, really--if this planet were an auditorium, and some guy were running around shooting people in the audience, how sane would it be to climb onto the stage and start telling people how to use their chairbacks as hiding places, or offer a brilliant yet humorous perspective on using men's clothing to bind wounds, or relaxation techniques to sleep through nights punctuated by gunshots? And what if you did all this while the murderer was taking cash from the wallets of the dead and giving you a 10% cut? Could any amount of innocent sincerity on your part make you look like anything but a deluded jerk?

Come on, though; how sane could that possibly be? Drone murders. Every week. Fleets of billion-dollar warships roving the oceans, trillion dollar flying forces canvassing the skies, all to keep peasants in a certain area from growing their own food on oil land. And you think the problem is teaching the handful of surviving peasants how to make do with one goat per village?

Bless the speakers, though. Hey, if I were in their shoes, I'd be doing the exact same thing. Self promotion and making money. Making the customer feel good about himself. Increasing investment. Names in history books. Cute TV specials.

We are the damned for a reason.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

These two young artists were arrested

These two young artists were arrested for trespassing

Four walls and a ceiling isn't an unusual quality of a dream home. But what about a home built on land you own? For a pair of brilliant young artists, a beautiful sunset and a thoughtful conversation led to their arrest at the Olson-Horwitz retreat in mountainous West Virginia.

Machinist, night grocery stocker, and errand-runner Nick Smith, 27, who really enjoys taking photographs of things in his spare time, and Lily Henderson, 23, who works as a sorter at Goodwill Industries, and who paints pictures when she's off work, met when Nick, running an errand for a wealthy West Virginia family, dropped off a load of soiled sheets at the back of Lily's store. Early on in their relationship, Smith invited Henderson to join him on a walk in the woods in southern West Virginia. While there, they had an artistic vision: what if, they pondered, there could be a living space where light changed based on the time of day?

"I've noticed that when the sun comes up, it gets brighter outside," Henderson said. "And when it comes through the window, it gets brighter inside, too. But only if there's a window to let the sun through, cause, like, a brick wall doesn't let as much light through. It makes me feel really connected to nature."

Both Henderson and Smith had to continue working during the summer in order to not end up on the street, but agreed they had suddenly discovered a project worth pursuing. "She has such a really unique viewpoint on sunsets," Smith gushed. "So many things on this Earth of ours get overlooked, and sunsets is one of them, since most people haven't noticed they're nice. [Lily] can finally help us realize that sunsets are pretty."

In what Henderson calls a “spur-of-the-moment decision,” the new couple rented a U-Haul and began driving state to state to find the right windows for their retreat.

Just that quickly, real life intervened. Two of Smith's employers left messages on his answering machine, letting him know that he had been fired for missing three days of work without explanation--unfortunately, Smith never got those messages. His answering machine had been repossessed after he failed to respond to his landlord's request for 7AM mandatory maintenance access to a common wall in his apartment complex, Appalachia Heights Luxury Living.

One of Smith's neighbors, an amateur photographer known only as "Missy403," had been chronicling the plight of hungry children in the complex, and she occasionally let Smith use her printer for printing out pictures of sunsets and mountains. "They just took his answering machine, along with the other stuff," Missy403 told us. "I heard the messages while this guy with hairy shoulders was moving the couch out, because he'd left the machine playing between some of the cushions. So I called [Smith] to let him know he'd gotten fired."

"I was pretty down," said Smith, "but I just knew I had to build this house to capture the light." So, Smith and Henderson set to work building their epochal dream home.

The couple's unique cabin was featured in "Half Cut Tea," a Web video series that explores artists and their works. (Their episode is at the bottom of this blog post.) Henderson is friends with one of the series' creators, Jordan Wayne Schlong, a performance artist originally from Bald Knob, Arkansas, who interviewed the couple and showcased their cabin. "As soon as I heard that someone was building a house, I was like, I have to do a show on this," said Schlong. "And when I found out it was this friend of mine, that sealed the deal. It was just frosting [on the cake] that the house turned out to have extra windows, which is American for 'more windows than on, uhh, other houses.' It essentially had more windows than you'd expect to find on a house, so taking video of it showed everyone just how many windows there truly were on the house."

While maxing their credit cards, dumpster diving, and occasionally living in church shelters, Henderson and Smith gathered materials to build their special sunset house. They gathered some old windows, and promise that they purchased very few of them. Instead, they managed to find almost all the construction materials they needed for a house for free, displaying true American ingenuity, although they "never keep receipts anyway" so they don't intend to prove the percentage they're claiming. The first free windows they found were stacked beside a poor family's abandoned barn in Pennsylvania, where the residents were attempting to come up with the financing for fixing the property. Before the financing could be completed, Smith and Henderson helped themselves to a stack of windows. During the loading process, a chance encounter with a Pennsylvania State Trooper led to a high speed chase across the border. Henderson still describes their escape that night as “serendipitous.”

"That cop was, like, so mad!" she complains. "It's not like anyone was gonna use it. Who leaves construction stuff just sitting around if they intend to use it?"

When they had collected enough glass, the two began constructing the cabin on a wealthy family's land near New River Gorge National River park. The closest town to the property is Hinton, West Virginia, Smith said.

The building process was sometimes frustrating, Henderson said. The two built the entire structure themselves – their only audience was the occasional curious deer, rabbit or fox. The home’s front window wall is about 16 feet high, but the base of the structure is another 4 feet off the ground, Henderson said.

“It was just the two of us trying to put up these gigantic posts. It was scary and hard,” she said. “Looking at it now, it’s just totally insane. It’s huge. I realize now that’s what makes it so amazing.”

Smith credits an artistic vision and quick reflexes with their success. While living on a diet of rice and beans, the two used nails, wood and anything salvageable from yet another luckily placed old barn on the property to piece their structure together. They estimate the land's owners didn't discover them squatting until they'd been building for a month. "And after we wouldn't leave, Old Man Horwitz sent the bloodhounds," Smith said. "Every night, they were shooting and tracking, trying to make us leave what he called 'his' land. He just didn't understand we were artists."

“We wouldn't be scared off,” Henderson said. “We were able to make it a reality because we are first artists and creators. Other people are just, I dunno, these sacks of useless flesh who enjoy working normal jobs and living these boring lives. They like sitting in offices and apartments all day instead of being in nature. But we are creative people, and that just isn't for us.”

After months of work, the home was completed in December. On what was once a pile of old windows and an expansive patch of pricey wooded real estate stood a beautiful glass-faced building. Though there is no plumbing or electricity, the two artists said they enjoy the space as an escape.

Henderson described her favorite time of day inside the home as the “nighttime sun” – just as dusk falls. “That’s when everything inside is on fire,” she said. "We started out with electricity, but now it just sparks at dusk, so we keep a lot of buckets of water handy."

Smith said he’s awestruck after the sun goes down. “The house is an experience at night,” he said. “It completely blows my mind that the sun just keeps going up every morning and down every night. It takes an artistic mind to notice details like that.”

Someday Smith and Henderson hope to build onto the home and add an outdoor kitchen, solar power and a wood-burning stove, they said. But for now, the Milwaukee-based couple said, they’ll enjoy their memories of the home from their respective prison cells. "The judge didn't...care that we were creators," Henderson complained. "Our hearing barely lasted eight minutes. He said it was 'open and shut trespassing.' I tried to explain we were artists, but he said we could be artists later, with our own possessions."

Indeed, not minutes after the construction had been completed, the couple was arrested for theft, trespassing, and contempt of court for failure to respond to repeated summonses in matters related to Smith's eviction. The Center for Milwaukee Performing Arts has already petitioned the court, and the governor of West Virginia, for their release. The Center's director, Julian Battlecrop, said, "People just don't realize what a resource people like this are to society. To have the desire to want to build a home just the way you like is a rare and special--"


Link, and a less-interesting link. The first one is the moneymaker of stupidity, being so bad that it couldn't be legitimately satirized.

So, the two young rich people get to spend a couple years taking stuff from Daddy's friend's barn, hammering it together into a structure on Daddy's acreage, and then using it as a fourth vacation home. No economic constraints, no time constraints, no family constraints, no social constraints, no emotional constraints--nothing. And of course, they have media contacts, so their self-indulgent fantasyland doesn't just include all of the physical playing and tangible-goodie results, but also the sense that it was their own unique artistic vision that prompted this spasm of creativity, rather than their being in a restraint-less situation.

A tsunami of obvious commentary can be made, of course. How many children enjoy building pillow forts, and is what those two dunces did any different? With no bathroom or electricity, they're not doing any more than camping in their glass hut, so what they've really built is a two-year tent that takes up as much space and ruins as much wilderness as a house fit for permanent habitation, without providing any of the residential benefits thereof, but just sitting unoccupied, except for the occasional photographer. So it is a pillow fort. Building a structure to be useful can be honorable, but building one just to sit is as egotistical and wasteful as a pillow-fort with a carbon footprint. And of course they didn't build it all "for less than $500," because if Daddy hadn't been in construction, he wouldn't've had $450K of safe, intact, up-to-code building materials waiting on site for his little darlings to play with, and getting all that stuff there had a carbon footprint, too.

So yeah, self-indulgent bullshit, and yeah, Americans love houses, so the whole "illusory virtues of home ownership" thing comes in. How many house-like structures does any one person need to "own," and why couldn't these two urbanophile idiots enjoy the land without a floor, or enjoy the sunset without a window? Putting in animal in a cage makes it easier to look at, while making the vision less precious, because the plot is so obvious--elephant walks from cave to watering hole and then back again, not because that's what constitutes elephant's mind, but instead because elephant has nowhere else to go, by virtue of the textured concrete walls enclosing elephant's little world. So trapping the sunset inside a glass cube doesn't make it more beautiful. It does, though, make "property"-minded Americans feel like they "own" the sunset, or are in some way personally responsible for it.

Which is why photographers think of themselves as artists--ever since white people invented the camera, they think that they can become creators merely by recording something. Pretty sunset? If you paint it, it becomes a different sunset on canvas. If you box up the light that sunset produces, though, putting it in a photograph or inside a glass house, you can "own" it and be the creative mind behind it, with artistic credit, even though you didn't have to actually create things. So yeah, finding abandoned railroad tracks or posing babies in a cute way is nice, but there is something massively different between photography and every other type of art, including actual architecture (that takes credit for design and structure themselves, rather than for the light that comes through the windows). Yet as time passes, Americans more and more come to view trappers, poachers, zookeepers, lienholders as creators, instead of creators. Maybe because the left brain can't understand creation, only record it, yeah, so maybe there's a grand imbalance in the yin-yang, but probably something more sinister.

And equally obvious as far as that terrible article goes is the media attention. Why would anyone leap over the glass house story? Because of everything this one said above, naturally; but then, despite the inanity of editors, readers will still read it and admire the subject, although for the same reasons. So it seems like we've answered all of our stupidity questions, but we haven't, because that brings us back to the issue of why Arka is even talking about it at all, given how obviously the pain flows as a consequence of the system. In the acreative land of plutocratic property, it's a given that masses of people will produce and then celebrate this sort of thing, ergo it's almost as banal to be offended at it. Devoting the effort to sneering at the two bourgeois narcissists and their projectively narcissist admirers, after we're this deep in, is like devoting the effort to be horrified at the Latest Burned Village in the Latest Land War in Asia, namely you're going to do it if you're smart enough even though it won't get you anywhere.

What can we learn from this? In an ideal world, everyone's belief in their own creativity would be accepted, nurtured, and celebrated. The two idiots above aren't necessarily evil in the core of their desires; they probably genuinely believe that they appreciate sunsets more than the average person, and to an extent, that might be true, because the average Earthling doesn't have the time--quite literally--to sit in West Virginia and admire the sunset for two years, nor the resources to construct a private sunset-viewing hut. Where would these visionary creators be in a world where they had to compete for attention with 7 billion people, instead of roughly 13,000? Thoroughly near the bottom, no doubt. Their childish fort-building, and gushing over its wonder, would appear abjectly ludicrous. It is only the exclusivity of their financial means, and their ignorant indulgence thereof, that has not only gotten them public attention, but moreover, convinced them of their own superiority.

Therein lies the seemingly arch pity further along this road: realizing that the builders are deserving of massive pity for their insular fantasy life. Wealth has infantilized them, stealing whatever actual gifts and contributions they might've made to the verse, and replacing them with the pursuit of iconic consumption. Some people collect supercars and vintage castles, while others gobble metaphysical conceptions themselves. The playcouple in this case went a step further than Lamborghinis, consuming not mere tangible trinkets, but purchasing also, through the power of mass consensus, the ideas of "art," "creativity," "individuality," and "effort."

Such is the repulsive new face of ownership. No longer do the wealthy seek to dominate just lowly matter; they look to put the flag of ownership upon every endeavor, even "hard work" and "struggling" and "hurting." Where feudal lords were content simply with being the richest and greatest in inherent quality, today's lords have learned to desire being the hardest working, the dirtiest, the realest, the most down to earth, the most imaginative, and all the other traits that their predecessors used to eschew in order to define their class. Today's lords are even immune from the criticisms in this paragraph, because they are also the most modest and the most supportive of recognizing the work of others. They aren't those things, of course, anymore than they ever were any of the other qualities they propagated for themselves, but their cold riches allow the diffusion of such ideas.

And that's a terrible, empty delusion. Those ninnies and their glass house are so far removed from reality that there's a strong argument to be made that they're not actually aware of whether or not they're wearing pants at any given moment. For how self absorbed they are, do they even know that they exist? Maybe they're only representational personalities, mimicking ephemeral concepts they've taken in and processed, but never understood. It sounds ludicrous, but without the recognition that other people are similarly creative, and have similar desires to be allowed to use land, design custom houses, and do other things, how can they view their own creativity as anything different than a rock rolling down a hill? Even their own fatuous self-glorification is no more creative or truly meant than the invisible deed they think God signed over to them giving them title to the sunset. To not be enmeshed in that kind of cartoonish delusion is a blessing, though mixed in the sense that then you're not incredibly proud of yourself when you manage to put on your socks without assistance. The Apple and the Snake and Ignorance Is Bliss all apply here. Would it be better to be so daft and not know it?

In the world of starving children, drug wars, and robot bombs, it's hard to pity rich assholes celebrating themselves--particularly when, confronted with piteous criticism like this, those same rich assholes would be able to recite detailed, inclusive, apologetic arguments about how much they understand things, regret things, feel guilty, and genuinely want to help out. We have to figure that pity out, though, in more than words. Pitiable morons, yes, but we must see what finer qualities these people would have had in a world where they hadn't been encouraged by the circumstances of their birth and geographical location into so callously snubbing the aspirations and abilities of 99.99% of the rest of the cosmos. Would they have learned to draw? To play instruments well? To design and build fabulous libraries or geodesic domes? Perhaps, not fettered by blindness toward the structural needs of the rest of their kind, they would've sought individuality in provisioning residences for those who...but, God help us all, they might've once volunteered for "Habitat for Humanity," ergo are immune to such a critique, right? After all, transferring deductible building materials to subsidize housing for United Fruit's child employees in preferred shipping and receiving zones in Banana Republic #342 gives instant resume protection to any little bratling who can afford to take a year off building a merit-based career.

Oops. Pity--right. Where do we go from here?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Flood Fill

One of the great humilities, the great lessons, is "there's more than I can see," which brings with it, "there's more than I'll ever be able to fully detect, even with the coolest gadgets I can invent." Any materialism is ultimately banal because it invalidates higher complexities, e.g. meaning, therefore it must, by definition, be banal.

Take painting. If you put color in a medium and apply it to a surface to create an image, why bother when there's flood fill? Flood fill, for the uninitiated, is a calculative function of most art software, which essentially allows you to "fill in" a shape with a certain color with a single command. Say you have a white triangle, outlined in black, on a green background. You want the triangle to become yellow, so you select "yellow" for your color, and "flood fill" for your command, click inside the triangle, and it becomes yellow, by virtue of that program's algorithm determining the boundaries of the triangle based on the contrast between the triangle's black outline and white interior, and the green background.

Flood fill, of course, only fills in stock shapes or things which you've outlined previously. Flood filling a physical wall, were it possible, uniformly applies that color to the wall, and nothing more. The inevitable result of artistic technology, though, is the comprehensive art program that creates the art by itself; the "Flood Virgin & Child" or "Flood Illumination Of A Byzantine Marketplace." Modeling programs could long ago render realistic landscapes and buildings based on random node-position settings, while their modern variant threatens to invalidate even complex fine art by allowing the unskilled to enter the conditions of foreground, background, and subject, hit "fill," and build a three-dimensional image that can be flattened for printing. Before long, everyone will be able to create elaborate, original art using free software at an internet cafe, indistinguishable in physical quality from anything created by someone who knew what she was doing.

Almost everything pertaining to the visual artist's profession will disappear in the next hundred years, if not sooner. Unimaginative executives who need a mascot will have their secretaries craft a dozen samples using random head/torso/limbs programs, cobbling together the head of a rhinoceros onto a muscular, bling-wearing body posed just-so on a jet ski. Biology publishers in want of an illustrated grasshopper cross-section will have the computer take a thousand photographs of a real grasshopper, load the best one into an image processing program, rotate and slice it, and produce a sideways portrait, in black-on-white outline, with all the major structures and organs identified by arrow. Brainless movie producers requiring a fantastic battle scene of three hundred green gremlins fighting fifty valiant heroes will no longer need computer artists to generate the gremlins, because they'll use a bipedal template, add some color and hair and variably-worn clothing, randomize within bounds three hundred times, and bingo, gremlin army. A single unit, drag-and-dropped onto different geography, then twisted into an aggressive grimace, becomes the cover of the bestselling paperback fantasy book for which you no longer have to contract out.

The canvas doesn't save us, anymore than lack of access to high-speed printers should have reassured newspaper magnates that the common person wouldn't be able to generate a newsletter. Photographs can be sprayed on canvas, and machines can duplicate oil, acrylic, or watercolor work in the same way, providing any of the "texture" variables that might have distinguished "real" art from "merely printed." Matching materials could be accomplished easily, if necessary; far more powerful, though, is the ability of machines to generate, on purpose, tiny "mistakes" in a picture (or on the material of a canvas) to make it appear handmade and, as a potentially-pleasing result, subject to the human error that makes the end result so coveted to future collectors of life-produced art.

Will anyone be able to tell the difference? When a computer creates a large image down to the nanopixel, adds thousands of tiny imperfections to give it that realistic touch, then blasts it onto a surface and orders a frame, will the discriminating buyer be able to pick it out of a lineup? And, what happens when all potential nanopixel combinations are copyrighted, as they already have been by Arken Gallery, but by someone less nice who has the court system to back them up? Artists who attempt to show or sell their work will be subject to prosecution and seizure by those who control concepts of "ownership," so future artists will have to pay licensing fees to benefit from their own creations.

All of this leads us to the question, "Was there ever anything important about art to begin with?" Like everything else, if it's merely a matter of computer-brains processing the location of html color codes on a two- or three-dimensional field, then no, there wasn't. There is stuff, and we acknowledge it; big whoop. What saves art is the only thing that can, namely transcendence. If looking at an original picture means something, it is because the creator put some of herself into the picture, in a way that we can only perceive via ephemeral feelings that cannot be tracked. The actual art, then, is not of value because it is the art, but because it is a gateway to art. Perhaps the farther removed you are from the tangible product, the less the effect; perhaps not, and any iteration of a genuine act of creation provides the artist's service, such that a jpeg copy of a jpeg created by someone will look a tiny, unmeasurable bit better than an identical jpeg created by algorithm.

If neither of these things, then any appreciation of art is merely our own evolutionary delusion of chemical comfort released by a survival-wired brain which has mechanically processed a sign that someone sharing similarities to our genetic pattern created a picture. In that case, we celebrate the demise of all artists, who are nothing but inefficient copyists of the future work of computers.

That, in short, is the artistic battlefield: is there meaning? Is there purpose? Am I a machine? As in all things here, the quickest victories and easiest proof go to the soulless, because it's so much easier to prove that a butterfly is a butterfly if you've first killed it, nailed it to a cross, and put it up on your wall.