Saturday, December 18, 2010

The David Boyle / Katie Lucas Letters

Me: I confess I'm sort of amazed that you're not all sort of 'Star Wars'ed out for one lifetime, but I dig the enthusiasm.

KL: I mean, I am, but its part of the job. I also love how much you guys love it. Makes me happy.

Me: I hope the noise from the cynical dicks isn't quite so loud at that end as it seems from here. They were good movies... I find the not-subtle political commentary getting missed by everyone but the kids elevates the movies to performance art... I figure someday we'll look back on this era and your dad's movies, shake our heads, and say, 'Well, we can't say we weren't told.' Unfortunately, art and reason and imagination seem to be losing the war to repetition and demagoguery. More movies needed.

KL: Millions were affected by the Star Wars vision. My father followed his passion, and inspired others. That's all that matters. The bottom line is: you can't please everyone. The movies are what they are and they're not going to change. Same with The Clone Wars. We do our best to create something worth watching, but some people dismiss it as though it were easy. It’s not!

Me: Thanks for the thoughtful reply. It saddens me to see you are practiced at defending something that shouldn't need defending. After a man transforms movies, imagination, and generations of people forever, I'm not sure what he can do for an encore. What he did was create solid entertainment that hit its target audience, made money, and pushed SFX forward AGAIN. I know JarJar has haters but they aren't real. My dad laughed at JarJar. So did my nephew. It was on the mark. It was fine. And the haters themselves are a solid revenue stream so what does that say about them? Anyways. I don't mean to bore you but I think I'm a smart guy and nothing about Star Wars was that far off the mark.

KL: It doesn't bore me at all. It’s nice to get thoughtful, kind responses once in a while. And yes, it does suck to be so practiced at defending your parents' legacy.

Me: Well, some of us are keeping score for real. I'm just sorry there's so few of us. The cynicism of people my age is actually a bit worrying. I'm just sort of outgrowing it myself. Get me talking about Battlestar Galactica sometime and I'll show you that I can be a cynical, critical dick... when it's warranted.

Secrets of the Universe?

1.> Matter distorts space-time. This is what we call gravity. It turns out also that matter in complex arrangements produces consciousness. I donno. Maybe consciousness is a distortion of space-time as well?

2.> The universe is, in fact, conscious, in that it can be said to contain you enfolded nonlocally within its, uh... want to call it universalness? potentium? matrix? You are a superdetermined part of the lattice of being, and the dreams, thinks, and feelings you have are written on the same slate as the laws of physics, made of the same stuff as found in the hearts of stars. This should freak you right out.

3.> Either our insistence on observing meaning is meaningful, or it isn't. We are probably better off assuming that it is.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

From a letter to a friend.

Commenting on the French Revolution, somebody-or-other said it was still "too soon to tell". I find myself agreeing with that more and more, along with a dawning realization that constitutional democracy sort of came into being alongside banking, which made it possible to buy votes and governments. I know the arrival of the billionaire industrialists was the end of America as a land of free and private farmers. I know that the liberalism we claim as our heritage is a privilege afforded by the same extreme affluence that makes it so easy for us to devolve into apathy, sloth, and narcissism... what allows us to value life so highly also tempts us to care nothing for community or civic virtue.

I feel that since 2001 we have been living in an age of post-history. Reason and enlightenment and free press and the informed populace it is supposed to prop up... it's officially dead. Nothing to see here, folks. The golden age is over and the darkness will be fast upon us. I think it will be a sort of drab, stupid, stultifying darkness, though... a slow roast apocalypse of idiocy while we ride the dying momentum of the squandered wealth our ancestors left us to while away the hours of our squandered future.

My only problem is that this is the kind of conversation I usually find myself trying to make on a first date.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The David Boyle / Dr. Dave Goldberg letters

David Boyle:

My admittedly vague understanding of Hawking's model of the Big Bang seems to me to suppose that there was a very definite "beginning" of the universe in a linear sense. First A happened, then B, then C, but the track was already laid down before the train started forward.

My admittedly vague understanding of Einstein's theory of relativity seems to me to suppose that linearity is a subset of universal being, rather than the reverse. A, B, and C are all there enfolded in the superdetermined structure of the multiverse, and the order that you pass through them in depends entirely on your approach vector.

I imagine an orange rolling across the ground, apparently in a straight line, without any real sense that it's actually just interfacing parts of its surface with the surface of a much larger sphere, the big picture of its motion revealing the truth of its straight line to be a petty illusion. Is that where this arrow of time nonsense comes from?

David Goldberg:

I'm afraid Hawking has very little to do with it. The Big Bang picture predates him by a good margin. But you're basically right. The timeline of the universe seems somehow inconsistent with the notion that "time is relative" to the motion of the observer. Sort of. First, how you're right. When cosmologists talk about the big bang, we need to be clear about whose clocks we're using: whether we imagine people floating around at "average" points in the universe, or whether they are uniformly spaced. This is a "gauge choice" and affects the details of things like the growth of structure. They do _not_ affect_ the order in which events occurred. Relativity describes two events as "timelike separated" when no matter how you observe them, "A" always precedes "B" (or vice-versa). If there really is an ambiguity between the two, they are "spacelike separated." If there are two events that happen in the same place as one another but occur at different times, those events are timelike separated to everyone, and it makes sense to talk about the timeline (as we do in our book, and everyone else does in theres). That's exactly how it worked in the Big Bang.

Make sense?

David Boyle:

Right, I guess Hawking strikes me as someone so caught up in the prettiness of his mathematics that he ignores the fact that a lot of what he says makes no sense. So, I like to pick on him (I can't really do math that well). Er, so I was being a bit of a smart-ass, I actually know who Ed Hubble was, sort of.

You asked me if what you said made sense. After thinking about it for a couple of days, yeah it does, but I sort of get the feeling someone is playing a joke on us. Honestly, very little about physics makes sense to me for long before my head starts to hurt and I need to go shoot the dog with the garden hose.

So, some follow-up questions that have been bugging me since I was 12...

What would happen if you got in the millenium falcon, pointed it , say, north, and flew off towards the edge of the universe as fast as possible, then looked in the rear-view mirror? There'd be an event horizon described by the limit of the expanding universe, right? Does that mean we live in someone's singularity? The idea that we're all in a black hole appeals to me because of a> the fractal geometry of nature seems like a good indication that it is, in fact, turtles all the way down (it would make sense to me if our universe contained nearly infinite variant subsets of itself) and b> you could get some kind of escherian top-down conservation of mass if the matter we were funneling into black holes was being replaced by being funneled in from somewhere else.

This apparent expansion of the universe really feels like it must be related to the sense we have of time moving "forward".

My Dad thinks the red-shifted light isn't indicative of an expanding universe at all, it's just what happens to light when it gets old and goes really far. Can you explain to me why he's full of shit?


David Goldberg:

Sorry for the delayed response. As you might imagine, I got swamped with entanglement followups after my last column.

Anyway, if by "as fast as possible" you mean "at sublight speeds," then the short answer is that the horizon for the millenium falcon would be the same as the horizon for whatever star system it was passing. Event horizon and horizon, in this case, can be used interchangably.

If, on the other hand, you mean "at superlight speed", then I'm afraid the question is ill-posed. We just don't have an answer.

Dave Goldberg, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Drexel University Department of Physics
"A User's Guide to the Universe: Surviving the
Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty"'s "
Ask a Physicist"

The David Boyle / William Gibson letters

The sky above the port was the color of television tuned to a dead channel.


Me: Is there a port above the sky?

William Gibson: No telling. But it's turtles, all the way down.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ok, let's turn sharply to the left...

The human race, it seems to me, is stampeding towards extinction. There's a pretty big cliff up ahead and we're going to charge right off it. We probably won't even notice that we've stopped stampeding as the ground rushes up to meet our hard little heads.

There's no way we can just go back to living in small, agrarian townships in harmony and oneness with the Earth. Not at this point. I admire people who do this and expect to lead by example, but come on, have you been to Asia? It's a termite mound.

Jumping in front of the stampeding herd and screaming 'STOP' isn't going to accomplish much.

If we are going to change course, even a little bit, someone has to get running alongside the rest of the stampeding beasts and signal a change of direction.

Sometimes I think that's what Obama's doing. I'll come back to him some other time.

Charlie Jane Anders is a super-duper writer working for the website. Really enjoy everything she does. Except her LOST reviews, but we're past that. Anyways, I was pretty inspired by this recent article of hers, and I suggest you teeming masses all go and read it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

8 shocking ways that World Cup Soccer has appeared in porn

Some of you may have noticed that I'm using the handy 'linkbait' generator to title these posts. Any other ideas how to attract traffic?

10 ballsy pranks involving G20 that failed miserably

I watched a police cruiser burn in downtown Toronto. I watched it on a wall-mounted flatscreen television in an Ottawa McDonald's. It seemed appropriate, like coming full-circle somehow in my own little Adbusters dramalogue. Mmmm. Cheeseburgers.

So far as the G20 summit itself is concerned, so far, so good. There's a well-organized group of vandals running around Toronto smashing store windows and fighting with police. They dress in black and pull crowd fades. The security teams are welding shut manhole covers.

Heh heh heh. "Manhole."

I'm sort of conflicted about this.

Part of me thinks these people are dinks. Actually, they're not as bad as that guy who was bitching two days ago that a policeman ran over his foot with a bicycle, but come on, this shit is not cool, right? Busting up store windows is ruining the lives of nice people with families, that's wrong. Anarchy and chaos really don't belong in a nice place like Canada. Shame on you, faceless violent hordes.

Part of me wishes I was in there blowing shit up. This may have to do with anger issues stemming from my childhood. It might have to do with how frustrated I am by my perception that this is humanity's twilight and none of us have even looked up from our cheeseburgers and television sets long enough to notice or get angry about it.

I continue to maintain that the main reason we are not out in the streets in full force bombing things and burning down buildings is that we don't understand what's at stake or what our leaders are really up to.

"The G20 Summit: Printing receipts for your child's wasted future."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Top Ten Secrets of God

"Oh blah blah blah, the universe is just a bunch of molecules and I'm so much smarter than Einstein, I have the whooole cosmos figured out and I freely dismiss philosophy, ontology, myth, metaphysics and psychology as 'religious'."

Recovering Christians are the worst. Sorry your parents lied to you. Get over it and open your eyes, there's room for actual mystery and apprehension in a sane world of math and biology and physics.

For that matter, look into trivalent logic. The universe isn't all comprised of yesses and nos. If I had to give my opinion about whether nature had a divine dimension I'd probably be able to answer both "yes, of course it does" and "no, of course it doesn't", and mean what I said either way. Great truths are beyond yes and no, and once you free yourself of the cognitive dissonance you create by imprisoning your sense of what's possible, you may find yourself surprised by what you start noticing.

People with both feet rooted firmly in the ground are rarely worth talking to.

The Lucky Christ

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The people vs. George Lucas

Do people not get that modern movies wouldn't exist without this guy and his companies? He reinvented Hollywood, was asked to do it again, so he did, and people complain because his second outing, aimed squarely at 8 year olds, was less sophisticated. Well, ok. It seems to me that the top 20% of the IQ scale have spent much more effort and time analyzing Lucas' fuck-ups than say, George Bush's. Maybe that's why THE EARTH IS DOOMED.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Study: Chimps Wage War Over Territory like Humans Do - TIME

"Invariably, some will take this as evidence that the roots of
aggression run very deep," he says, and therefore conclude that war is
our evolutionary destiny. "Even if that were true," says Mitani, "we
operate by a moral code chimps don't have."

Uh, do we now?

Study: Chimps Wage War Over Territory like Humans Do - TIME


"These people, these demi-humans, were completely harmless so long as they were tucked away in the armpit of reality. But then the Internet was shut off, and they began crawling out of their foul nests and into the light. All of them. At once. And do you know what they did next?”

I considered that for a moment. “They started calling people fags?”

Xavier nodded. “They started calling people fags. Everyone."

Read more:

Monday, June 21, 2010

What's with all this doomsday bullshit anyways?

I don't think that anyone who understands science, reads about science, or has any kind of ability to think rationally really needs to be convinced that things aren't going well right now.

That said, climate change is one thing, yet maybe the doomsday trip is a bit harsh. Life goes on, right? So the farmland turns into desert, so the ocean loses some biodiversity, so a bunch of non-white people on some shitty little island somewhere sink into the water... we'll get over it.

Let's just focus on this: animal populations in a state of ecological escape usually have a hard time ahead of them.

The rabbits eat the grass, make more rabbits, more rabbits eat more grass and make more rabbits. Then there's no grass and a bunch of rabbits die. It's not the hardest math I've ever done.

About 3 billion of the 7 billion people alive right now depend on the aforementioned soon-to-be-desert farmland for food. Nevermind the fish.

The distribution network that allows that food to feed all those people uses a lot of oil. There's enough oil to last forever, yah? Oil will never go up in price, right?

A lot of people are gonna die. We can see it coming, but we it's like telling a pack-a-day smoker with a cough about lung cancer, he just tunes you out and hears blah blah blah.

You know this hoopla over the oil spill down south is going to die down as soon as some dumbshit kid shoots up a school or falls down a well. Attention spans are short.

Did you know the biggest oil spill in history actually was in 1991 in the Persian Gulf? The one down south doesn't even touch it. (*warning: I offer no guarantees that the facts I mention here aren't bullshit. I acknowledge that I am a dilettante.) Mind you, we have no guarantee this one won't persist for a few years. I hear we're also sort of worried about a cataclysmic methane belch blasting the continental shelf with a big greasy shitsmear oil tsunami.

You know who I feel for? You just know that somewhere in the world is some poor sad sack that closed the deal on a Louisiana beachfront home two days before the rig blew. Must suck to be that guy.

The good news is I live in Canada, and I figure we'll continue to have a pretty good life until the water wars and the Chinese invasion of the Americas. Sorry, Bahamas.

I don't know if the actual oil spill sickens me as much as it sickens me to think that there are a bunch of douchebags out there who aren't sickened by it.

Obama seems a bit stressed

Obama had some interesting things to say today.

Check that shit out.

So is it just me or did he sort of admit that democracy is failing?

It's just me, right?

What we have here, then, is essentially a system that autocorrects against any attempt at long-term planning. While it persists, a comprehensive strategy for dealing with climate change will never emerge.

Acting out.

On the one hand, I think that love is fine. I support empathy and compassion and social welfare. I was taught by hippie women to cry when I had to, to be soft and gentle. I am a big, cuddly pussy, and happy to be one, by and large.

Then again, I've got kind of a dark side, and I tend to think of the world, the real world, as one where hard choices face us, change comes with a cost that must be payed in blood, and the universe could just up and drop a big fucking rock on you without giving notice.

I'm a bit of a doomsday nut, I guess. I don't know where humanity went wrong... was it agriculture that was the big mistake? The industrial revolution? The institution of Christian mercy?

Consider the ongoing suffering and misery in Iraq. It's apparently not the easiest thing in the world to conquer a country. While I can't say for sure that it would be a better way to go, it sometimes occurs to me that the tried-and-true method of killing two thirds of the conquered people and putting the rest into chains seems to have a pretty long legacy of solving problems like that. Maybe if we're not willing to do that shit we shouldn't be going to war in the first place... it's a bit like a rapist just getting his dick in there and then looking at his watch for a while... unclear on the concept, perhaps?

Just like the unpleasant truth is that slavery builds pyramids (*warning: at least one reader has called bullshit on this "fact". This obviously invalidates the entire thrust of my argument. Please disregard.) and gets shit done, violence does solve problems.

American democracy owes a lot to a man named Thomas Jefferson who once said something about the tree of liberty needing to be washed from time to time in the blood of patriots and tyrants. To paraphrase, democracy functions well when you kill all the bastards every thirty years or so.

Compare that to today's democracy, wherein we sit around waiting for permission from the IQ 90 crowd before we're allowed to do something about that approaching doomsday asteroid... after all, they need a chance to make sure it's not Jesus coming back.

George Bush steals the election and his car gets egged. His car! Sorry to say this, but in any sane world the fucking White House would have been burnt to the ground.

Someone should film a Zombie flick that's just two hours of people in their undershirts watching CNN.

And so, now we have the BP oil spill, and we haven't tried filling it with the severed heads of BP oil executives... why? Because they're sorry? Because they're trying to fix it? The BP CEO went on a yacht race today. He came in fourth.

If the US government isn't going to send Jason Bourne to put a bullet in his goddamn head, what sort of crime actually merits having black ops assassins on the government payrole in the first place?

Maybe the CIA and the EPA should be merged and just given a shoot-on-sight mandate to clean up the GOP and the energy industry.

Short of advocating general strikes, riots, anarchy, and bedlam, all I can say is that if we don't mobilize as a society the way we did back in WW2... well, that was a different society. They weren't braindead from eating red M&Ms and having their skulls microwaved by television sets.

We're all pussies, I guess.

Quotable Me

"We are in fact hormonally insane monkeys plastered to the side of a whirling big dirtball at the bottom of a gravity well filtering information about the world around us through five senses designed for identifying tasty berries and big cats."

(on the subject of human cognition)

Quotable Me

"Maybe Homeland Fucking Security should worry a little less about how to stop someone from slipping a falafel-bomb into the Lincoln, Nebraska Walmart, and a little more about how to stop fuckheads from spewing foul toxic waste all over thousands of miles of shoreline."


Hello, and welcome.

This blog will be about the world, the future, and your children. From time to time it will be about other things that I find interesting. My goal is to provide new and old material to a wider audience than the seven or eight people for whom I have been writing up until now.

Be warned that I am a bit crass and I don't really like to pull punches when discussing an issue I care deeply about.

Here's what I believe today:

1: Reality is binary, yin and yang. Ever notice that the 1 and 0 look like a penis and vagina? That's why when you have sex, it feels like falling through the bottom of the universe.

2: We're all here to help each other through this thing, whatever it is. My sister said that.

3: 45% of Americans don't understand that the sun is a star.

4: I know that I know nothing. Everything I say is a lie. Nothing is true. All things should be practiced in moderation, especially moderation!

5: Humankind is doomed. I mean, maybe we'll become enlightened zen gardeners and embrace a new way of living, and maybe our space masters will come down to reveal that it's all a big experiment, and maybe Jesus will beam us all up to the heavenly mothership, but otherwise I'd have to say you're just wasting your time raising children in a world this fucked up.

6: Advertising is a big electronic dick forcefully jammed into the asshole of our minds repeatedly and violently. We should try to conceal or squeals of pleasure while being violated in such a manner.

7: The 9/11 attacks on the WTC: Two airplanes destroyed three buildings. Two airplanes destroyed three buildings. Two airplanes destroyed three buildings. See? Repetition works.

More to come.