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Topics - V3X

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Beyond the wall / Our dreams have failed us
« on: January 07, 2017, 07:47:43 am »
Winter grows like a glacier on the lengthening evenings, night after night depositing a fresh layer of cold onto what was there yesterday. It fits, this season of hibernating nature where everything looks, and feels, like a corpse. The flashing and buzzing of our synthetic society does what it can, but no matter what advances we make in quantum dot color technology, no matter how vivid the reds get, the cheap veneer of civilization peels away upon any close inspection. We scurry, we frantically, urgently distract ourselves with everything we can get a hold of. We build bigger buildings, we buy bigger TVs, we drive faster cars, we blast more rockets into space. We demand progress, because progress is how we define ourselves. Without it, we ... trail off, unable to complete a thought. Nothing.

In a way, it could be said we are the last lucky generation. The ruins of civilization are in such good repair, for now. At least the lights are still on. We know the ride has ended, but if we just hold out a little longer, maybe we -- maybe our children -- will live and die before the whole thing collapses in on itself entirely. No one talks seriously about rebuilding. No one talks seriously at all. No one talks at all. Well, we are all talk, just not to each other.

I am a pessimist. My pessimism runs deep, practically spiritual. I have an unshakable faith in the thorough rottenness of nature's ill-fated experiment in sentience. We have no idea what we are doing, who we are, or who we want to be. And yet, after having my pessimism vindicated so abruptly, I find myself wishing for optimism to show up somewhere. The 1960s were awful for a lot of people, but they gave rise to Star Trek, a show that is universally described as "optimistic" but which, it occurs to my cynical mind, managed to place the universal goodness and godwill of humanity exactly where it belongs: in some lofty, distant future that we will never achieve. At the time, and even now, Star Trek is lauded as describing humans at our best. And, here and there, its optimism inspired real people in real places to do truly good things. But mostly it comforted the already comfortable by telling us that someday, we would rise above it all and become our best selves. So we convinced ourselves that eventually, everything would work itself out. That we were on the right track. That "the arc of history bends toward justice".

Not today, though. Equality is inevitable; it just isn't yet realized. In the meantime, we need more prisons. We need tougher laws for those thugs. In the meantime, we need to cut back on these entitlements, and push people to be responsible for themselves. Someday, someday we will get there; but today, we are here, and let's just do this right now.

I am not educated to know if any of this makes sense in any sort of context. Did we ever value today what we believed we would value tomorrow? Or has our vision of the future always been so divorced from our plan for this afternoon? Our dreams so useless while we are awake? It turns out that history does not move itself. That the arrow of time does not attract the "arc of history". That what goes up does, in fact, come back down.

Beyond the wall / sappy election blog #14
« on: November 11, 2016, 10:41:03 pm »
The last few days have sent me knocking all over the place. My headspace resembles a pinball machine, complete with shards of sharp, tinny music and incessant ringing bell noises. The election results put a pit in my stomach what has not budged since, no matter what levers I pull or what I try to wash the taste of the last 72 hours out of my brain with. I have browsed all of the idea outlets that have earned my attention and my time over the past 18 months, digital, physical, and personal. The sharp pangs of piercing disgust have multiplied at every turn, but at least they have dulled a bit and grown into a constant, droning melancholy eating at the edges of my consciousness. Hope has been reported missing. I have slept restlessly, and I not dreamed for what seems like a very, very long time.

I have tried the normal, human reaction, which is to attempt to wrap my mind around the events of the past week. But the standard issue "Facebook Leftist" repertoire of communal wisdom is impotent in explaining these. The extended set of explanations offered by various emotional wrecks, all of them scrambling over one another to arrive at the first sound conclusion, yields little better results other than a vague suggestion that "Liberals are too mean", which in my estimation is dangerously close to saying "Nazis are not too mean", and is thus suspicious brain food. I must admit that to whatever extent I still care to find a unifying theory as to why we as a culture have chosen this path, I am not much farther along in that investigation today than I was at midnight Tuesday night. Although, to my horror, it would seem that the most correct statement that can be made in relation to "why" this has happened, is simply to state the obvious: America has chosen Fascism.

We can all, I think, agree that the American Left failed in this election. But contrary to the maniacs who are doing whatever they can to convince us that the failure rests solely with the American Left, I find the sheer mass of this decision to outweigh anything the American Left is capable of, even in its heyday, which this certainly is not. I do not know exactly how to express this eloquently, so forgive me if I devolve into grunts and shrieks here, but America has chosen Fascism.

Some people want us to believe that this is due to the fact that "Progressives" are "too condescending". Which basically amounts to an argument that Liberals are bullying white people. It almost sounds reasonable, too, until you remember that the Fascists who won this election by being outright hostile to everyone who is not a white Christian male. So to accept the blame on behalf of "mean Liberals" is to first dismiss the humanity of the Right's targets out of hand, because if we can lose an election by being indifferent to the plight of whites but win an election by being openly hostile to people of color, the disabled, the elderly, and the queer, I really do not understand why I am supposed to feel guilty about the former, and appease those practicing the latter.

My initial reaction (which can be gleaned from my prolific shit-posting on Facebook throughout the event) was to place the blame squarely on so-called "Progressives" who managed to justify to themselves a complete lack of action on behalf of people who were in the sights -- and continue to be in the sights -- of the incoming Trump administration. And although I have learned that such initial reactions are often valueless, in this case I must conclude my instincts were fairly accurate. At its heart, whatever your belief about absolutely anything in this year and a half long endurance test, the most fundamental fact borne out on election day was that when it really counted, the "allies" -- WE "Allies" -- turned high tail and fled the field.

So in the coming days, months, and years, when every manner of horror visits the people of this country, one marginalized group at a time, I lack any faith that there is any coherent resistance at all. While we are busy worrying about sounding "condescending", whole neighborhoods will disappear. While we are wringing our hands about being "too uncooperative", our neighbors will disappear. While we sing the praise of a peaceful transition of power, the lights will go out, and the we won't know who to call. And someday, in a future that might as well be a century from today for many of us, when the lights come back on, and someone dares to hope again, where will we have been?

Beyond the wall / So, I think I'm about to be fired.
« on: January 27, 2016, 06:10:09 am »
Jobs, like every kind of interpersonal relationship, are terrible and unrewarding. I have been dating my current employer for almost 4 years now, and the shine has worn off a bit. It's difficult to ignore the toxic political atmosphere, and I can see that my work - although it's as good as it's ever been - is motivated more by the flailing reflexes of a drowning spirit than by anything like a desire to succeed or make progress. My department, aside from being a pile of similarly flailing, dysfunctional Aspies, is currently being ground into mush beneath the wheels of a particularly large bus. We have "struggled to meet key metrics" and "become somewhat lax in our duties". That's "we" the department, not the royal we, mind you.

I have no very specific evidence that I am about to be canned. On paper, everything is great. Performance review for 2015 was a solid 4/5 (5/5 is considered impossible except for people in Sales), no write-ups, no coaching. But the last couple of weeks there has been a whole lot of "make sure you write down what you do and how to do it so others can cover you," a lot of emails not being replied to, projects going unreviewed, and general gruffness from Teh Mgmt. Markedly lower levels of eye contact. Responsibilities that were mine according to paper, given to other people.

Also, last week there was a Particularly Bad Fuckup, which could reasonably be considered at least partly my fault, and it came a time of great hawkish watching that arose from the previous week's Particularly Bad Fuckup during which I inadvertently exposed the complete ineptitude of my superiors to their superiors.

Now, I am a paranoid person by nature. And it is true that the prospect of job hunting has been on my mind for some time now, to the point of submitting my resume to a few places. I can't really discern whether my cabin fever is bleeding into my "what the fuck is happening" cortex, or if I'm picking up something serious. If it does turn out to be all in my head, I should probably start taking Xanax. If it isn't, something stronger may be in order. Either way, if you happen to be a billionaire with nothing better to do than pay me large sums of cash in return for computer and network services (or, to be honest, any kind of service), I will not summarily dismiss any offers.

Beyond the wall / free stuff for you
« on: November 19, 2015, 12:05:30 am »
i run a server that has features similar to dropbox (file sync/share etc). if you are a person who would like a way to share/host files without some lame ass ad-driven bullshit and/or care about privacy (all the files are encrypted and as the server admin even i do not have access without your keys, and it has been some time since the last NSA raid. also the server is behind a valid SSL certificate), i will make an account for you if you ask. might be ok for hosting propaganda and assorted nonsense.

truth in advertising: this is really so i can get some experience managing this particular platform. there's no cost to you. the only caveat is i'm not claiming to be some mega corporation with 100% uptime and i'm not responsible for backing up your data. if my hard drives crash your shit goes with them.

just don't spam up my drive space with anything illegal, immoral, or stupid like Nickelback mp3s.

oh and the domain is which is awesomer than dropbox.

Beyond the wall / I found a bunch of crap on my computer
« on: November 16, 2015, 07:33:51 pm »
mostly half-finished pamphlets and rants. Very low quality guaranteed. I have no idea who authored most of it.

Here's a link:

Beyond the wall / Excuse me while I complain about getting old.
« on: May 14, 2015, 04:03:30 am »
Fuck the following things:

- Hair that migrates to new locations for no reason at all. I always looked forward to having a distinguished gray color in my hair, but now all the places that should be gray are bald. Fuck you, genes.

- The fact that I can't even tell what being hungry feels like anymore. Used to be the simplest thing in the world: stomach growls, eat food. Now? It's like a new Indiana Jones adventure tracking down the source of some new ache or pain or twitch, and always finding out it's just that I need food.

- Being slow to do things that should be instantaneous, like peeing or realizing how dumb John McCain is.

- Wishing the whole neighborhood would just shut up and go inside. Including myself, after about 7PM.

- Yelling at people who can't hear me for things I'm not even sure about, and yelling at people who CAN hear me, for things I'm pretty sure I'm wrong about.

- Resenting young people for doing the same stupid shit I used to do, and don't want to do anymore anyway.

- Realizing that idiots are forever, and almost being OK with that.

- Saying "you damn kids and your toys" and only kidding about 90% of it.

- Preferring a book and a nap over a romp in the sack.

- Seeing all of this happening and being unable to hold it back.

It's a good thing I don't believe in conspiracy theories, because if I did I'd be tempted to think the entire subprime mortgage crash and the following "Great Recession" were engineered from the beginning as a long troll on private home ownership in America. Of course, I am sophisticated and smart enough to know that nobody would do that -- not because they are above doing it, but because nobody can think that far ahead anymore.

Still, according to this link, the results are about the same as they'd be if it were some devious master plan.

There are three narratives to this story. One, the Conservative narrative, begins in the 1990s with President Clinton's push to drive up home ownership among Americans as a way to boost economies national and local, increase civic participation, and decrease crime, among other things (maybe some shadowy organization of goddamn HOAs bought Clinton, who knows). Of course, this was all a terrible and Socialist™ thing to do, because something something poor people with nice things something something, and the Conservatives were right because ten years later, a housing crash happened which proves poor people don't deserve nice things.

The "liberal" story starts around 2001 or so with the Banksters inventing a number of insidious financial instruments based on imaginary money that could only be realized through various legal and semi-legal forms of consumer financial fraud, the largest of these being the "Sub-Prime Mortgage," which if they were made out of anything physical would be confiscated at any airport for their tendency to blow up and break things. Eventually this game of American Roulette had to end in tears, and so it did in 2007 and 2008 with the collapse of the housing market. The Banksters knew it would happen, and they did it anyway, and that's why in 2009 the Democrats had them all arrested and put them in prison for a very long time. Or something.

But the third narrative, the one the lizard people and those aliens from Planet X don't want you to know about -- the real story here -- is far worse than either one of those two tales of political and financial incompetence and botched altruism. This one starts all the way back in January 1977, the last days of Gerald Ford's presidency. See, Gerald Ford was an asshole. We know he was an asshole because he was a Republican. And he was feeling especially dickish in January 1977 because he was about to be replaced by that wimp, Jimmy Carter. A president named Jimmy? What was the world coming to? Anyway, Soon-to-be-Ex-President Ford was intent on showing the ungrateful Americans who kicked his sorry ass out of the White House a thing or two. So he set in motion a series of bad decisions that eventually ruptured thirty years later like a disgusting time bomb made out of infected appendixes.

There are people who will tell you that the great engine of American prosperity and social stability has always been our "work ethic" or our "religion" or our "patriotism." These people are wrong. Actually, they're not only wrong, they are lying, on purpose, and are most likely being paid by the Koch Brothers or the estate of Ronnie James Dio to keep those awful lies in circulation. In actual point of fact, the thing that keeps America from becoming some terrible third-world nation is our fierce belief in private property. It is our fierce belief in "I got mine, you got yours, and never the twain shall meet" that keeps us milling about our daily lives contentedly, producing and consuming and voting and donating. It is the idea that all of us having some "skin in the game" keeps us happy and committed to society that was the basis for Clinton's push for expanded home ownership, and that idea was right. It just so happens that Clinton's not-terrible idea fit into Ford's plan like a cigar.

Ford's plan was brilliant in its subterfuge. He met quietly with a number of his fellow anti-taxers and pro-poverty douchebags in the GOP and Big Business™, and they set to work sewing the seeds of the biggest land grab and legal shakedown in American history. Details of the plan at this stage are few, but we do know that by the mid 90's, someone had gotten Clinton to push for this "Partners in the American Dream" program that virtually eliminated traditional barriers to home ownership like, um, being able to afford a house. And in the decade or so the plan was in effect, banks fell all over themselves to mop up the veritable chemical spill of easy money being pumped out of government loan guarantees like sweet crude from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.

That, of course, is where most coverage stops, more or less. Bad government encourages bad business, and all that. But the story is continuing today and nobody is really paying attention anymore. In the wake of the housing crash, newly vacated shards of the American Dream were, and continue to be, snatched up by multi-billion-dollar corporations. Now, this is probably just business on their part, but consider the implications for this new reality where Americans rarely live in anything even remotely resembling real private property. Compare the legal rights of a home owner to the legal rights of a renter. All the same liabilities and responsibilities exist, with none of the privileges.

America is now a nation of serfs and peasants, living in tenements and shacks put up by corporate lords and provided for civil use so long as we agree to 100 pages of demands in the form of a rental or lease agreement, including an agreement to forego things like your 4th Amendment rights while occupying your assigned domicile. Add to that the currently in-vogue practice of Civil Forfeiture and what you have is a government which, at all levels, has built a hyperspace bypass right through the space formerly occupied by your rights as an individual.

And it's all thanks to Gerald Ford. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why Richard Nixon should still be the President, and this is why I am writing his name in for every available office this year and every election year, until the day I die.

And be creative! No points for just posting silly pictures from an image search.

Beyond the wall / transformed by the corporation
« on: September 26, 2014, 05:58:05 pm »
Over the course of the past several business cycles, I have inherited a large pool of experience in transforming direct language into a more polished and deliverable format. In fact, at this juncture, my ability to communicate without the use of approved wording has been critically compromised. Rather than view this development as a hindrance, I'd like to use this to generate an opportunity for production-positive knowledge transfer. To that end, I am offering to take submissions and modify their language to align with company communications policy. You are invited to participate in this exchange by offering the roughest, least polished terms and phrases you can think of.

To help, here are a few recent examples at my workplace that turned unacceptably blunt language into conversation-conducive remarks:

Transformed: I seek to enhance my productivity output despite any obstacles presented by operational realities.

T: Technological hardware considerations can have a tangible impact on audio traffic.

T: Your admirable dedication to company security practices has inspired me to synthesize a solution to this task while remaining aligned with company processes.

Beyond the wall / I really hate to bring this up, but
« on: September 26, 2014, 05:02:01 am »
our government really is falling down on the job. We are under constant siege by dimfucks and fuckbrains and other shady persons qualifying for fuck-related slurs. We have had a long recent history of awful attempts at violence and the public news stream is full of cock, repost, and assorted bullshit. What have we gotten for our votes? Nothing. What have we gotten for our taxes? Nothing. What has our government given us? Nothing. Not even basic services like completed punchlines. It is for these reasons that I submit to you this petition.

-----------PETITION FOLLOWS-------------


__(signature or pee stain)__

« on: September 18, 2014, 02:03:01 am »

It's a safe bet that the term "Great Filter" is already known to most of the people on this board, but because typing is fun, I'll give a brief explanation here anyway. Statistically speaking, based on a few safe assumptions dealing with the size and age of our galaxy, the prevalence of certain elements in the cosmos, and various things we know from the history of biological life on Earth, the universe should be teeming with alien life. Life should be more common than fat people at Wal-Mart. That there is life "out there" should be a safer bet than guessing that the neckbeard who lives across your street in his parents' basement listens to Rush and has at least one imitation Samurai sword. Our galaxy alone should be home to something like seventy quadrillion metric fuckshits of advanced civilizations. All the math that goes into this assumption is as sound as we can make it, and even Republican scientists are more or less certain of its truth.

The problem is, if our galaxy is so full of people, WHERE THE FUCK ARE THEY? We have no evidence of alien life anywhere, unless you listen to that asshole Georgio Tsoukalos or various hillbillies who can't tell the difference between a girlfriend and a cousin. Even considering the vastness of space, the relatively slow speed of electromagnetic wave-based communication, and our recently developed ability to eavesdrop on said communication, we should be receiving so many god damn artificially generated signals that talking to our own satellites should be like trying to tell the guy in the fishnet turtleneck whether you want X or acid at a Skrillex gig. But space is silent. Why?

There are a number of competing theories as to why this might be the case, from "your math is just wrong" to "they are there, they're just using some kind of communication we don't understand." But the funnest theory is the Great Filter, which basically says that life is common -- even intelligent life similar to ourselves -- but that some Awful Thing prevents it from achieving interstellar travel or communication. So there could be billions of worlds like earth, each of them infested with horrible little worms like us, but they are all quarantined by the Great Filter. Usually it is assumed that they end up blowing themselves up with nuclear weapons or something before achieving anything like what we dream about in Star Trek.

While nuclear or biological or chemical warfare is a perfectly plausible explanation, I don't think it is the right one. Humans, for example, have had a good 75 years with access to nukes, and we haven't killed ourselves off yet. And, what's worse, all signs point to our collective lack of being serious about playing with our best toys continuing indefinitely. No, we will not be sterilizing the planet, at least not on purpose. I think the Great Filter is much more sinister than just an innocent collective autocidal incident.

It comes down to what makes a society a society. In order to achieve what we call civilization, our species relies both on collective intelligence and individual ingenuity. We must be able to function cognitively at a high level as distinct members of the whole, as well as to communicate with each other and our progeny efficiently in order to maintain the systems and infrastructure we construct. The problem is that at a certain point in every successful civilization, the relative comfort and convenience afforded individuals leads to a breakdown of the "social instinct." It becomes acceptable and even prudent to put oneself before one's community, because the individual loses sight of the fact that a society, like any kind of team, only works when it works together as a unit.

Such breakdowns are apparent throughout history as the causes of all kinds of social decay and collapse. But the real Great Filter comes in when we consider what kind of sacrifices would be required from individuals if their civilization attempted to colonize the stars. It is a task of such magnitude and scale, economically and temporally, that it holds no real interest for the individuals who would need to contribute to it. Those who began the process would have no hope of seeing it even halfway through. Biological life does not allow for lifespans that would make it worthwhile to travel from our star system to another one, for colonization or any other purpose. In order to accomplish that task, we would have to completely eliminate the entire concept of "I" and become a new sort of life form, multi-multicelled organism. Not in a figurative sense, but a real, literal sense. An actual colony organism where the individual cells are completely disposable and expendable, where intelligence resides in an organ or a process that cannot be comprehended by any of the individual units.

And we are unwilling to even take small steps in that direction. We are all about ME ME ME and MY MY MY. MY stuff. MY money. MY taxes. MY rights. Humanity is horrible at cooperating for anything other than fighting off an existential threat, and even then that threat must be immediate enough to directly threaten individuals (see: climate change). We just don't do things on a scale large enough to leap from our star system to any other. I think it is because everything we have achieved is because we are wired for individualism, and that wiring prevents us from achieving anything of any magnitude larger than maybe a planetary government (which will of course be a government of self-interested assholes that exists to facilitate the marginally interesting lives of other self-interested assholes).

So that is the Great Filter. That we are constitutionally prevented from shedding our egos to accomplish a task we can only dream of because we have egos.

Or something.

Beyond the wall / classical music: more metal than metal
« on: January 07, 2014, 05:45:43 pm »
So, in my old age, I have discovered that classical music doesn't suck. But I have a problem. Most of it does suck. Especially every single scrap of malauditory shit written by pretentious assholes who wish they were good enough to die at Mozart's feet in the past 150 years.

The purpose of this thread is to see if any of you irreverent bums know of any DECENT classical music that I should listen to, because I'm really lazy and the Google machine hasn't been very helpful. Everyone who says something is good is wrong. Beethoven is excellent, but wears thin after a while. Mozart is alright. I am liking Brahms so far. But surely there are less prominent composers who are as good as or even better than these overblown baroque-era Miley Cyruses. Who are they?

Now, I'll be frank. I am not looking for "edgy" or "innovative" classical composers. Invariably, in the context of the symphony, those two adjectives are euphemisms for "likes to use a lot of that god-awful dissonance shit" and "lacks the decency to present an audible rhythm." I do not want to wade through unfathomable seas of notes and instruments that disagree with each other, or try to wrap my aged and shuttered mind around "ambient" pieces that sound like someone delicately vomiting at the other end of a very long rubber tube. I want clear melody, harmony, and rhythm in the traditional sense: pleasing to the ear, but also complex and able to bear multiple extended listens. I am not looking for the kind of shit that BBC marches out every year at the Proms, which is only pleasing to self-satisfied schmucks in tuxedos who probably go to the symphony so they can go home to bitch about it over expensive wine that they are also bitching about. I would prefer only music written prior to 1860, because apparently after that year everyone in the classical scene got completely fucktarded and started "innovating" by deleting everything in their compositions that could be defined as "music." There may be newer compositions done in the Baroque or Classical styles, but I have not heard of them. That's what you are for !

The real problem I'm trying to solve with this music is that I live in Phoenix, which has less culture than cheese manufactured in the vacuum of outer space. I need to feel like there is a point to humanity, that we can paint mind-altering soundscapes, but in a format that is tied to history. Anyway, do you have any ideas?

Beyond the wall / Things to Do in Mississippi
« on: November 06, 2013, 03:21:22 am »
Being a white guy who grew up in a town where there were exactly four black people, of whom one spent most of his life in and out of mental hospitals (He was crazy, you see. He kept showing up at town hall meetings and demanding to be heard in public.) and the other three were never seen in public, I can say with a good deal of certainty that I know probably next to nothing about racism. Oh, I learned all about it in school, of course, especially the part where it's all in the past so we should all just move on already. Still, even in my highly sheltered state, there have always been a few things that stood out to me as being odd about the Utopian post-racial paradise we white people are so graciously -- and generously -- affording colored folk these days.

At the top of this list, for some reason, is the way that in every city there is a street running through the ghetto named after Dr. Martin Luther King. Again, I am hardly the authority on these matters, but it seems like the act of naming a street after a hero -- for many people THE hero -- of the Civil Rights movement, while casually neglecting the part of town where that street is located, is a little disingenuous. Like millions of people beaten down by centuries of the most heinous abuse and violence and oppression are going to break out into spontaneous song and dance because some asshole at City Hall renamed a road.

Now, take that sentiment and multiply it about a hundred thousand times, and you will be an honorary citizen of Jackson, Mississippi. There are two things I noticed right away upon arriving in that place. First, there is the fact that the state flag of Mississippi still contains the Confederate flag (because the state has a proud history, and don't you go thinking it's for any other reason at all). The second is that Jackson's airport is named "Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport," and it flies that Confederate flag right over the top of the name banner like there just ain't no such thing as horrible, wretched irony in the world.

Honestly, I am not all that well traveled, but I know a shit hole when I see one, and I am here to tell you that Jackson, Mississippi, is a shit hole. That it is the largest, most sophisticated and most modern city in Mississippi portends many things about the state, none of them good. The airport is the first and last sign of actual civilization a person is likely to see there, for outside its pretentiously white-painted walls there lies a slimy serpent of a little town that has only joined the 21st century because they finally ran out of calendars for 1947 and had to order a new batch for the handful of people living there who can read.

The road snakes away from the rental car garage into woods so thick you'll think you've surely taken a wrong turn. The woods themselves are beautiful; it's too bad someone had to go and mess them up by filling them with the most god-awful third-rate "city" you may ever have the misfortune of witnessing. It's all broken down pickup trucks and "IMPEACH THE MUSLIM USURPER" signs, and nary a person skilled in the art of picking up wayward trash from the side of the roads. Eventually, you top a hill and can see the city's entire breadth stretch out humbly before you. It has all the hallmarks of a normal town, by which I mean it has some paved roads (full of pot holes) and a few buildings taller than the trees next to them, but there's something missing. The city has never really had any economic boom to speak of, it has instead expanded slowly in fits, beleaguered and thwarted by backward social and economic policy borne of widespread terror at the prospect of the future ever arriving.

I spend exactly 36 hours in this place, and my soul screams for escape from the first minute my boots hit the ground here. I do not see one black person the whole time I'm in town, other than the kitchen staff in a restaurant. All the customers were, of course, white. Next time I go to Jackson, I'm going to make it a point to eat on the wrong side of town, because any city this far South that looks this lily white has got to be hiding something. My suspicion is that it's hiding something pleasant that the natives don't want anyone to find out about because it might encourage outsiders to come more often.

Welcome to the Deep, Deep South.

Beyond the wall / Incident at Rector Street
« on: November 05, 2013, 03:48:13 am »
There I was, minding my own business, sitting on a subway car waiting for service to start again after some poor bastard got himself smeared all over the Rector Street station a few stops ahead, quietly thumbing through Facebook posts on my phone. As usual, it was an uninterrupted stream of "I ate a salad" and George Takei being funny and "Fuck that Obama guy" and "The Tea Party makes me feel like shitting myself on purpose." Being a self-centered asshole who fancies himself somehow superior to most of the other apes on this rock -- especially now, watching these hilariously petty New Yorkers get all puffed up and indignant about their pointless lives being put on hold for ten minutes so someone can scrape what's left of a fellow human being off the tracks -- I am naturally drawn to political discussions.

But it occurs to me that I've been looking at this whole "Government" thing all wrong. It has been my understanding that people hate politicians they disagree with (or think they disagree with) because they wish to have more like-minded people running things. This, supposedly, would inspire them to vote for people with whom they DO agree, and thus the whole system would have no choice but to -- eventually -- go the way of popular sentiment.

It turns out that is all hogwash. See, the thing about hating politicians is, it's a drug. It gets you high like a drug, you form social groups around the consumption of that drug, you start talking about it in inappropriate situations, and eventually you have nothing left but that hate. And, like any drug, hating politicians leads to hating politicians even more. You start out hating Obama and cheering the day the House is given to the Republicans. But then, it isn't enough just to hate Obama anymore. You have to start hating Boehner and a whole smattering of RINOs. And it doesn't just work for the conservatives. I know a lot of Democrats who started out being super happy about Obama -- an apparently thoughtful, symbolically and substantially powerful force for moderation -- and now they're huddled in the bathroom snorting Marx off the far end of the counter and snarling about Ted Kennedy selling out.

The speaker on the ceiling coughs out a DING! and the doors whoosh shut. Finally, the car lurches forward, and I look up to see 100 sarcastic rolling eyeballs snap out of the "Ug no like to be inconvenienced" position and rotate robotically back down to the natural, no-eye-contact-allowed, glazed and locked at fifteen degrees below the horizon position of the New Yorker in its native habitat. Not the city, but that comfortable and somewhat sickly state of being an island in an ocean so full of other islands that there's no room for any water between them. It's too quiet, given how many people are crowded together here. Everyone just wants to move on. No use for small talk.

I go back to my phone, and review some of the political posts (the wireless signal is gone now, all I have is the cache -- although I only know that because the signal indicator has no bars). Hate hate hate, piss, piss, moan, moan. And it occurs to me that the real purpose of the Government has nothing to do with working together. Gridlock is the point. It exists so that people have something other than each other to lash out at when shit doesn't go their way.

Beyond the wall / something NEW* to fight about
« on: October 30, 2013, 08:26:20 pm »
* not actually new.

On matters of environment, sustainability, renewable resources, and energy production I usually fall decidedly on the side of the Eco-Spags. However, on the specific issue of GMOs, I find little reason to back the violently anti-progress activists. Not because I am a great big fan of the assholes at Monsanto whose business model seems to be the genetically-engineered lovechild of Microsoft and Count Dracula, but because Monsanto's loudest opponents only use the economic and political evils of the company as a footnote to their squealing about the inherent evils of genetic engineering.

Now, I am probably largely uninformed on the topic of genetic engineering. I am neither a botanist nor an engineer, let alone both. But I have read some stuff and, like any random person on the Internet with more opinions than time, I don't see a compelling reason to shun all GMOs. Are they really bad for humans? Eh, probably not. They may be bad for bees, but that isn't conclusively proven either. I do know that GMOs present a viable short- to mid-term solution to *SOME OF* the problems we have with starvation related to overpopulation, economic instability and war. Whether the ultimate damage done by GMOs to the ecosystem (if any) outweighs the potential good GMOs might do for the people who live in that ecosystem is what I'm trying to figure out.

You won't find me arguing that the way Monsanto conducts itself in the market is excusable. It's a terrible organization filled with terrible people who have terrible priorities. But that's an economic and political problem, not necessarily a scientific or ecological problem.

What do you think?

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