February 24, 2005

In a World of Closed Minds, those Who Would Have You Not Think Are Kings

I just read this. I'm not sure how to parse my response to it. I don't want to acknowledge it as truth, because I don't like having negative views of people-as-a-whole, or my country as a populace. It takes my negative opinions of the current leadership of my nation and refocuses them on a more widespread, and hence scarier, target. Then I read the comments, and I don't know what to think.

I live in what I want to believe is some form of a representative democratic republic. The answer to 'What if everyone else is wrong?' is supposed to be 'Then make them understand you're right.' What do you do if 'everyone else' is no longer playing the same game? What do you do if enough people are playing by some strange set of rules and motives? Obviously, first, you try to make as many of the rest of the people understand that, and hope you can vote them down.

But what if we've failed already?

Then what?

Then, we have to wait and hope they can't do enough damage in their time in power to truly, irreparably screw things up before enough people realize how bad things have become? Here is where the 'security surplus' that America has had since WWII is a liability. Americans are so secure, and so rich, that simply massive malfeasance can take place under their 'watch' while they're worried about such crap as whether they're allowed to take cigarette lighters on airplanes - or, in the case of the people discussed in the above link, whether their favorite crazy-ass religious nutball theory about the End Times is going to come true. Those who run the country are simply too fucking isolated from the actual problems of life (for example, acquiring food, shelter, education, raising functional children, maintaining a loving and functional family) to have any grounding in the realities of life and the way actual people on the actual planet live.

So instead, we get people worrying about maintaining their power over the system by mobilizing the political power of completely dangerous whackjobs who are dedicated to creating the physical destruction of our environment, by fostering hatred and fear between people, by supporting war and strife. We get leaders who have aggrandized and empowered groups who do these things all because somewhere in some piece of historical fiction their faith deems important a legendary figure will come give them goodies and punish those who insulted them once everything finally drops in the pot.


It's tough being a rationalist these days. But we can't stop doing it. Not for a New York minute. Find friends in the GOP; make new ones. Find rational, thinking, conservative people you don't agree with at all - but who will argue with you on the issues. Hold fast to them. Empower them. Help them reclaim their party from the ideologues and theologists who seem to have hijacked it. Please, get our country back to vehement, heated, nasty arguments over things we disagree over that involve governance.

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February 9, 2005

And there goes Doctorow again.

Mr. Doctorow has a new entry in BoingBoing that quotes a recent release from several Civil Rights veterans supporting the DHB Eyes protest. In it, he says:

Last month, Downhill Battle tried to get Americans to download copies of the landmark civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize. Eyes is not available any longer, because it is prohibtively expensive to clear the copyright to all their clips. Various entities -- the production company, Martin Luther King, Jr's estate -- shut them down with legal threats.

I note that 'the production company' is mentioned. 'The estate of the filmmaker' who made Eyes is not - presumably because 'production company' sounds better and more appropriately 'Evil.' When said production company consists entirely of the late filmmaker's two sisters, well, that would tend to muck with your rebellious fight-the-man image, now, wouldn't it.

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February 8, 2005

People who cry out for a beatdown, Mk. II

A while back, I kvetched about a particularly annoying piece of late-night predatory American TV advertising. Well, surprise surprise! Not only is one of those companies a bit, er, full of it, but the annoying woman has her own credibility issues as well. Heehee. Thanks to MeFi for the Schadenfreude.
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February 5, 2005

Sleep? We need no sleep, we have new Murakami.

Made the cardinal mistake of trying to induce drowsiness by reading, some wee hour this morning. Not just by reading, but by opening the new Haruki Murakami novel Kafka on the Shore which has been patiently looking at me since I brought the hardcover home from work. Amazon delivers there, of course, since I'm there during the day.

Aside: I wonder how many people have blogged about the dichotomy of the instant-on consumer shipping world and the 'must-get-signature' crapola that screws with it? Plus the 'your work address is not on file' nonsense or the 'we don't accept personal packages at work' much less the 'THERE MIGHT BE A TERRORIST MOUSE IN THERE YOU INSENSITIVE CLOD' meme? Must hit Google.

In any case, Kafka on the Shore was a fast read (but not fast enough to prevent me from seeing daylight twice that cycle, bitch whine moan) and an enjoyable one. I'll be going back. Murakami has returned to his two tested themes - converging plotlines and parallel worlds. As usual, human sexuality, classical music, cooking, contemporary Japan, literature, pop culture and modern automotive blandness all make their appearances, along with some detailed bits of niche but important history which may or may not correspond to reality - but that correspondence isn't quite important.

Kafka on the Shore refers to the name of one of the central characters (a fifteen-year-old runaway named Kafka), a painting with the same title, and in fact at least one situation in the story that may or may not involve the character. Throw in erased hollow people (at least one of whom is a nice grandfatherly type who is fond of telling people Nakata is not to bright - that's his name, he speaks in third person - but can talk to cats, Siamese most easily), the mysteries of living spirits, and a green Miata with a bit of a deathwish and there you go - a Murakami novel.

It's grounded in a much more recognizable setting than, say, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World but that's because the latter is a deliberate genre piece. I was actually reminded a bit, in the final third of the book, of a Tim Powers book - Last Call, I think it was. A great deal of everyday magic happens, which may or may not be happening, and may or may not be having enormous impact. Film at eleven. Unless the world ends first. But if it doesn't, we may just skip that segment of the news, and you'll never know.

Oh, and the blank homeless gent is a shiatsu master.

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February 4, 2005

Four O'Clock on the Backtalk Grid

"No, of course not, Phyllis. I'd never do that. This isn't that kind of relationship. Sure. Thanks for understanding."


"Bob, check the numbers on the Philly contract please. What? Yeah, I got the updates from Sam. This morning. Fuck, no, I'll check them again but not until I'm on the plane. Sure. Sure. Well, I...I...no, I just want to be sure we're not too exposed on unit returns to Taiwan. Last time we took a fucking bath on those bast-"


"Hi Mom! We're going to be arriving on the nine-thirty plane out of Tokyo." Shit, specifics. Fix it. "Oh. All right, we'll rearrange the trip then. No, no, that's all right. I'll have to talk to Sandra and get the times we can make the hop from her; I don't know how many days that week are open for travel..."

Cranston muted his headset and craned his neck slightly to look at the timer. Five and a half minutes. Wincing, he unmuted and continued the conversation, moving into the kitchenette to make a cup of tea. Adding lemon and some thistle honey for his vocal cords, he nattered on about trans-Pacific travel arrangements with a pleasant middle-aged woman on the other end of the line for the required three hundred and thirty seconds. Sounded like Janis, the speech patterns did, at least. Janis had trouble disguising her word patterns. The end-of-contract beep cut her off in the middle of a diatribe on TransPac's airline food, and he went Offgrid with a sigh of relief.

Five minutes to take a break. A cup of tea for the vocal cords. Five minutes of isometric exercise to take him out of the desk chair and away from his prompter console. Cranston was proud of his skill; he was one of the few backtalkers that could work without the prompter while switching contracts, not losing touch with the Grid.

Then maybe another couple of hours work before dinner.

The conversations would blend into one another. Zen would help, and he would try to sit before sleep, wiping his head clean for the relief it brought. While around the world, that day, the seven hours of his conversation that he'd produced on demand would bounce from satellite to cable to computer, from packet to analog circuit, from cell phone to landline. Each conversation with another random backtalker contractor on the backtalk grid, myriad possible connections and conversations made, injected into the billions of legitimate conversations out there, while his clients used those datapaths to hide dataflow - steganographic submarines of power and money, pain and treachery. Governments, smugglers, criminals, saints and spies. He thought of them all the time and never, imagined them sliding gently beneath the waves and breakers of his perfect and flat Middle American accented voice (Speech pattern type Ortho-Texan, PacNorAm I/X/VII) with their payloads of treasure and treason.

Ah well.

Gulping his tea, Cranston opened his link to the Grid and flicked through his contract offerings, looking for another fifty or so random colleagues to converse with for pay.

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February 1, 2005

And, in other news, I still have no life.

Heh. What with all my ranting and foaming at the mouth about the recent unpleasantness I haven't had a moment to write a word about my own life, or the typical lack thereof. Many of you will consider this a blessing.



Spent time with some friends at work discussing our latest addiction and its technical underpinnings. As an Op, am naturally fascinated and vacillate between pained sympathy, irritated customeritis and pure I-coulda-done-it-better schadenfreude whenever our home starts to...well..tank. "Hm, anyone have NPCs in Ironforge? No? Sigh."

Chatted with a friend in LA about the Eyes deal; he's a college roommate and now a filmmaker himself. Ended up having to thank him for allowing me to bend his ear griping my frustrations, but then had to retract apologies; he's going to Tokyo for a week with his lovely wife, the lucky bugger. Jealousy.

Technology...love it. Tried out Skype now that there's a Mac OS X and Linux client available. Like the Mac OS version for its 'telephony' focus, but will stick with my iSight and iChat AV for family-and-friends use. Still, I'm tempted to buy some SkypeOut minutes. If only I spent more time in coffeeshops with my Powerbook and had a headset...oh, wait, no, I'm fairly glad I don't. I think. Then I'd just spend time in public playing World of Warcraft and looking like a loser.

Speaking of coffee shops, I tried out this new 'drinking chocolate' monstrosity at (shudder) Starbucks, 'Chantico,' after my usual postmodern deathmatch linguistic throwdown:

"Yeah, let me have a large Chantico please."


"Big. Biggest you have."

-silence-"...well, it comes in these six-ounce cups..."

"Okay, then why did you ask if I wanted that word that I won't deign to repeat if it's not available in the first place?"


"Gimme. And shut up."

Yes, I'm like that until I've had my coffee or other stimulant. If I had a bowel disruptor, it'd be on steaming rectal volcano and some son of a bitch would pay.

So anyhow, Chantico. This is how chocolate was supposed to be drunk, originally. This is how you get chocolate if you wander into a small stube in Wien and ask for it. The only problem is that this is the United States, and the franchise ghetto to boot. So, of course, there's enough sugar in this concoction to stun a pre-teen child who is terminally addicted to Twinkies. I really think this could be tasty if they just yanked like 4/5 of the sugar out of it and maybe added some alcohol. Okay, I'd be willing to add the booze myself. But for God's sake, the sugar, man. Get fucking rid of it. Like, now. I could run Hershey PA for a day at least on one six-ounce cup of this stuff. It's like one of the M&M Guys had diarrhea into my goddamn cup.

Every day I am surrounded by images of a blinking, confused, pathetically grinning George W. Bush and I am stymied in my instinct to reach for heavy, blunt objects.

In other news, I am experiencing a rush of driving pleasure whenever I have the joyous experience of piloting my new ride about the shitty driving environment that is the Boston Metro area - and a positive explosion of something Germanic deep inside my male heavy-large-vehicular-control-speed-genetic-predisposition-glands when I take it out onto highways. Large smiles cross my face. It's unseemly. I'll tell you how bad it is: I don't even need to speed. Just blip the throttle. Zip past a hauler, slide into the passing lane, listen to the car talk to me. Ooooh. Yes. Yesyesyes. 314 horses and six forward gears, an iPod and time to play. Whee. I actually smile when I make my car payments.

I know, it's pathetic. Look at the title of the post.

Oh yeh, my coworker Peter says I should use the word douchebag in this post. So there.

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The continued march of argument by fiat

My loss of respect for Mr. Doctorow continues apace. Not for his beliefs, and even really for his actions...I fully respect his positions on the Copyfight (and agree with many of them). I absolutely will defend his right to hold his positions. I respect his obvious passion for Eyes on the Prize, and am grateful for it. While I disagree with his support for the initial form of the Eyes on the Screen protest, that's a matter of philosophical difference between him and myself, not worthy of any public discourse.

His latest entry on the matter on BoingBoing offers yet more support for the protest (well and good) as well as - since Blackside's lawyers have shut down the availablity of illegal copies of the film through DHB's site - an alternate source. Again, while I really don't agree with him, and in fact this makes me somewhat annoyed, I understand the tactics at play here - he's advocating the use of p2p for copyfight, and this makes perfect sense. If you think the law is broken, and the law pursues you for undertaking an activity (well, pursues DHB, not you), then sure, go offshore where they can't get you as easily.

What really causes me to lose respect, though, is that he still won't acknowledge the existence of a debate - either through comments on BoingBoing, or through links to other sites respected in the field, such as Copyfight. It makes him less of a philosophical activist, in my book, and more of a hardline dogmatic tactical fighter. One of the things that I tend to look towards with respect in a champion for a cause is one who is certain enough about their cause's underpinnings that they are willing to entertain debate on the notion - one who believes that debate in public fora on their cause and their movement can only help, not harm.

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A point for Rev. Joe

Hm. A cow orker has pointed out that in my annoyance at Rev. Joe's comment, and my zeal to make my case, I may have tripped over a line that I shouldn't have. I will go back and think about it some more, but let me lay it out here: I have, in fact, used the word 'steal' at the very least. Rev. Joe, others, let me say right now that I will acknowledge I am not sure that this is the proper word. I will from here on use the word 'infringe' - which is the proper word, technically. Those downloading the film are infringing on the rights reserved to the rightsholders.

As I have tried to make plain, I have (at the very least) mixed feeling about copyright. I think some parts of it are in dire need of fixing, and some parts of it need to be taken out behind the barn. I also think this particular action is wrong. I don't see a conflict between the two.

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