Here Thar Be Monsters!

From the other side of the argument to the other side of the planet, read in over 149 countries and 17 languages. We bring you news and opinion with an IndoTex® flavor. Be sure to check out Radio Far Side. Send thoughts and comments to luap.jkt at gmail, and tell all your friends. Sampai jumpa, y'all.

29.9.16

When I Was A Kid...

When I consider the most meaningful learning experiences in my life, a TeeVee or computer do not figure into them at all.

The most meaningful experiences I had, and which still strongly affect my thinking, were the times I spent wandering around with my dog on the farm.  Chasing critters, watching ant piles, following the cows, fishing, looking through my telescope...all those things kids don't do anymore...taught me all sorts of life lessons, not to mention just plain old observation of the world around me.

In the old days, teachers would take us outside on pleasant spring or fall days and we would identify trees and plants, insects and clouds.  How did ants carry loads many times their size?  What kinds of clouds signaled what kinds of weather?  What times of the year did you see butterflies, cicadas and woolly boogers?  Where did squirrels bury their nuts and why?

Anymore, you can drop a kid off a block from home and they couldn't navigate back, because they've never been further than a few feet from a screen that gives them everything they are supposed to know, and even that screen is getting dumber.  I think George Carlin put it best when he said if you drop your kid off on a street corner and he's still there the next day, you got a dumb kid.

My folks hardly ever let us watch TeeVee.  My dad called it a "goddam commie conspiracy," while my more circumspect mom preferred that we read books for entertainment, and bless her for that.  It really didn't matter, though, because three miles outside Moulton, Texas, with no cable, we were rather limited on what signals we could pull down out of the atmosphere.

I grew up with the entire Life Cycle around me.  By the tender age of 8 or 9, I had already seen a dozen different animals mate, give birth and die.  We butchered some for food and had to kill some for medial reasons.  I had fun shaping freshly laid eggs (the shells are still soft), hunting and tracking, and learning how to field dress (gut and skin) an animal if I bagged one.

Every year I knew the joy of tilling soil, planting seeds and eating the results of my hard work.  In fact, nothing tastes better than fruits and vegetables you grow and harvest yourself.  Tomatoes still warm from the Sun with a dash of salt are still one of my favorite snacks.

I learned how to hunt edible mushrooms and pick wild berries - in Texas, wild dewberries, blackberries and Mustang grapes are everywhere in season.

An 8- or 9-year-old child today would likely starve to death in a field of food, never having seen edibles in their natural state.  He has never seen anything born or die, and even when the Boots the family cat passed on, he was too engrossed in Warcraft to notice, never having developed a bond with anything other than the game console.

Parents now plunk their kids down in front of a screen and they hardly stir for the next 18 years.  If the kids get a little antsy and want to blow off some energy, the folks shove pills down their throats to prevent them from interrupting Mom and Dad's stupor.

Animal breeders will tell you that animals kept penned up get stupid.  In humans, we call this "institutionalized."  They are unable to function in the real world, because they have no experience outside the confines of their walls.

There is plenty of blame to go around.  City living, corporate shilling and lazy parents come to mind.  Am major problem is that the parents of school-aged children are themselves the products of TeeVee and gaming consoles.  They don't know how to live in the real world, and thus are incapable of teaching their children how to do it.  Furthermore, they are unmotivated to change the situation, either for themselves or their children.

I suppose I'm kind of a weird one.  When I wanted to learn about cars, I bought some old junkers and tore them apart to rebuild them.  I can't imagine being a teen now and having no clue how to change the oil, much less re-shoe the brakes or tear down the block.  It probably helped that I had to use a tractor as a kid that would break down a mile from the house, so I either had to fix it on the spot, or walk two miles (round trip).

I took my kids out to West Texas, or to the mountains in New Mexico at least twice a year (summer and winter).  We would hike for hours, learn how to find water in the desert, how to get directions from lichen, or read animal tracks to know which ones we didn't want to encounter.  We would pick fossils out of the road cuts and see that below the K-T boundary, there were piles of fossils, but above it were none.  We learned what kinds of trees and plants grew at which altitudes, and the differences between conifer and deciduous trees, and which birds preferred to nest in which trees.

I don't know how many of the details they retained, but I know from watching them as adults that they learned to observe, analyze and act on information from the world around them.  That's more than I can say for many of their peers.

It would terrify me to raise kids now.  Everything comes through a screen, and then parents wring their hands because their kids find the real world boring and uninteresting.  This leads the parents to panic and shove pills down the poor children's throats, thus exacerbating the problem.

I have to think that if I were raising kids now, I would be like my dad and curse the "goddam commie" boob tube.  I'd at least take away the remote so they would have to stir once in a while to change the channel.

The Sounds Of Our Lives

Today's soundtrack can be found by clicking here.

OK, I've figured out all the world's problems.  See?  You knew if you stuck around long enough, that I, your faithful correspondent, would eventually figure it all out.

The Problem Is (are you ready?)...

MUSIC

That's right...music.  Go ahead, turn on your radio to something other than talk shows.  See what I mean?

I don't know about your side of the world, but here on the Far Side, K-Pop is all the rage.  If you haven't been subjected this somewhat harmonized caterwauling, it's a bunch of Korean whatevers wearing make-up and flashy costumes sync-dancing to songs that remind me of the innards of a good-sized pimple.  In fact, I've had some pimple guts that were far more creative.

Over on the Near Side, the music scene took a belly-flop at the beginning of the Noughties and the demise of the Grunge Movement.  Lyrics became mantric repetitions of inane "hey babies" and the instrumentation bowed out and let the rhythm sections take over while the rest of the band went out in the alley to smoke a joint and talk about where to go from here.

Think about it...in the 40s, sweet pipes like Sinatra and Cosby crooned us into a stupor with grammatically understandable lyrics.  In the 50s, talents like Chuck, Elvis, Jerry Lee and Buddy brought R&B out of the smoky dens of dark inner cities and into the Rock & Roll revolution.  That movement blended with the wild explosion of creativity of the 60s, where folk met rock met gospel and they had an ecstatic orgy of sound and meaning.

In the 70s, we briefly saw the Disco Monster rear its horrible head, but it was eventually conquered by the Pettys and Springsteens of the world, and their harmonies inspired the Grunge Movement of the late 80s and 90s.

But, then a terrible thing happened.  Little did we realize that the Disco Monster, just before expiring, had thrown out an egg sac that fertilized with with another inner-city movement called "rap."  The offspring that emerged were horrific in their countenance.  The Pop Movement was born, and like any good bowel movement, it landed on the world with a resounding thud and immediately drew flies.

Lyrics have devolved into endlessly repeated catch-phrases - like diamonds in the sky - and the performers are all of the same pasty, limp noodle variety with little more than a well-placed sequin to distinguish them.  In fact, the most interesting product of this insipid movement are the videos, which are anathema to music, since music is intended to be (ahem) heard, not seen.

You can see the effect in the eyes of the Millennial Generation.  Their hollow haunted looks reflect that complete lack of creativity in their shared culture.  Like some warped Zen koan, they are forced to draw meaning from meaninglessness, and the result is a vacuous mentality that seeks nothing, because that is always the point of a good koan.

While pondering this article, I went and checked my own library.  My collection begins with the Dawn of Time and runs right up to the early 2000s, then abruptly stops.  The collection encompasses nearly every form of music ever recorded, even the sounds of planets and stars (oddly melodic by the way), but from the last 16 years, almost nothing, not even movie soundtracks or show tunes.  Creativity in music just died.

Music is one of those things we all take for granted, but is very important to humans.  Hearing is pretty much the strongest human sense. Our eyes aren't worth a damn, compared to the rest of the animal kingdom.  Our sense of smell is only a fraction of other beasts.  However, nearly half or more of our experience in the Universe comes through our hearing.

Music is vital to culture, can excite vivid memories and can unite radically diverse groups across physical distance and across generations.  Creating music is one of humanity's most primal instincts.  It is a language that all people understand instinctively.  Music, in fact, is embedded in the very nature of all we perceive, and that is not hyperbole.

At its core, music is just harmonious vibrations.  We are sensitive to the harmony, finding some vibrations pleasing, while others irritate or excite us in a wide variety of ways.  Music is the expression of time and mathematics, as music cannot exist without time and its very nature is wavelengths - sine waves of various lengths.

Who among us can listen to Wagner without feeling our pulse quicken?  Is not Beethoven the embodiment of joy?  Even the sounds of the gamelan evokes the endless and serene world of tropical Earth.  From humanity's earliest awakenings, music has been a vital and uniting force behind our civilizations.

Yet, here we are.  We have arrived at the empty and meaningless Age of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, the vacuous noises of Psy and Lee Ji-Eun, and the violet arrhythmia of Dead Kennedys or Sex Pistols.

We have entered an era where art has devolved into something called "self-expression."  It has affected all media and forms, and it has laid waste to the very fabric of society.  It is hard to separate the devolution of music from the increasing courseness of society.  Whether art has followed the increasing destruction of harmonious culture, or led it, is of little consequence, but it is certain that a major change in music - a burst of creative force - would give great power to the restoration of peaceful and harmonious life.

If all life and existence is based on vibrations, then it stands to reason that the most powerful force we can unleash - for good or bad - is vibrations.  Meaningful and harmonious vibrations fill our lives with peace, while empty and vacuous ones cause strife.

We call upon the musicians of the world to return us to peace with your music!


28.9.16

Arise Fellow LSSGWWD!

Eureka!

I believe I have hit on the secret to a long and happy life!  And...I am willing to share that secret with you - absolutely free of charge.  But, you are going to have to read on a bit before I share the recipe.

First of all, you must think about what the following list have in common:

  • Winston Churchill
  • Fidel Castro
  • Groucho Marx
  • George Burns
  • Mel Brooks
And just to throw you off a bit, the case that proves the rule is George Carlin.  And the exception that proves the rule is Samuel Clemments, otherwise known as Mark Twain.

Have you figured it out yet?  OK, I know Fidel Castro throws you off, but we'll get to him in a minute.  You may have noticed, though, that all these men are famous for three things: laughing, women and smoking cigars.  Amazing, isn't it?  I almost fell out of my chair when it hit me.

I know what you are thinking.  Churchill?  Think about it.  He was obviously famous for his massive cigars.  In fact, there is an entire line of cigars called "Churchills," which have a large ring size and ponderous length.  His sense of humor was notorious.  His quips and witticisms are well known to humor aficionados.  He was also known for his eye for the ladies, though rarely discussed in polite company.  He died at the grand old age of 91.

You will, of course, notice the number of professional comedians on the list.  The three listed are all famous for their senses of humor and their life-long devotion to cigars.  They are also quite famous for their dalliances with the ladies.  

Groucho was a self-confessed lecher and was often seen in the company of attractive young women in his later years.  One cannot deny that laughter and cigars were an integral part of Groucho's persona.  He is reported in his last moments to have released his mistress' hand, taken the cigar from his lips and said, "This is no way to live."  He expired at 87.

But what of the exceptions?

Well, George Carlin was obviously one of the greatest wits of all time, but he was not known for womanizing and made fun of cigar smokers.  His punishment for defying the gods of long and happy lives was to leave us crying at the tender age of 71.

As for Mark Twain, well...like Groucho, the cigar was as much a part of Twain's image as his Einstein haircut and the white wooley mammoth that lived on his upper lip.  Twain was famous for sticking a hat pin in his cigars when he spoke, so that by the end, the audience would be completely hypnotized by the length of the ash, reporting that Twain's speech was amazing, though they couldn't remember anything he said.  Twain died at 75, despite his devotion to women, laughter and cigars, because he had already determined that he would follow Halley's Comet out, the way he had followed it in.  We would have gotten another 20 years out of him if he hadn't been so damn hard-headed.

At last we come to Fidel Castro.  Now you might be thinking to yourself, "Hey, this guy has only got one part of the recipe."  I beg to differ.

Obviously, Fidel has the cigar part of the recipe down pat, but what about the laughter and womanizing?  Well, Fidel and Mel Brooks were born two months apart, so we can assume that Fidel is a big fan of Brooks and likes to laugh, since the two men have so much in common already.  In addition, you just know that Fidel has spent many hours laughing about the number of US presidents he has outlived, having stared down eight of them and so far outlasted five of them, and he's still going at 90.

When it comes to womanizing, we know little of Fidel's proclivities, but we can make some valid assumptions.  If you were the beloved dictator of an entire nation, having served now well over 50 years, and your nation was world famous for cigars, wouldn't you have a private hareem of lovely young virgins rolling your cigars on their silky smooth thighs?  I know I would, and as soon as I become dictator, that will be my first order of business.

Thus we can infer from Fidel's 90 years and counting of cigar smoking is matched by a somewhat more private habit of laughing and chasing women.

I don't know about you, but having discovered this magical brew of eternal life, I immediately ran out and bought all the Cuban cigars I could find and put them in my newly rented Sugar Shack, wherein I will keep my bevy of beauties.  The Sugar Shack is also in the process of receiving my world-record collection of comedy movies and albums, with a modest stage for private shows with top stand-up talent currently touring Southeast Asia.

I shall, in fact, live to realize that everyone who was born before or at the same time as me has died!  I have determined to laugh, smoke and...well, you know - my way to extreme long life!

I shall hereafter be known as the Laughing Smoking Screwing Guy Who Won't Die (LSSGWWD)!  HAHAHAHA (coff coff) Honey - I forget your name - be a good girl and grab my oxygen tank would ya?  That's my girl.  The rest of you rub my funny bone.

27.9.16

Slap Happy Pappy

When I read this article in Sputnik about the Pope cautioning the media that using rumors and fear is a form of terrorism, I almost literally had to pick myself up off the floor.

Considering the man represents an organization that has used rumor and fear for centuries to terrify and control masses of people, it seems a bit disingenuous for him to wag a bony finger at the media.  Here's the first paragraph:
"VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Journalism based on gossip or rumors is a form of "terrorism" and media that stereotype entire populations or foment fear of migrants are acting destructively, Pope Francis said on Thursday."

I just can't get my mind around this one.  The sheer depth and vastness of the hypocrisy in those few short sentences is just astounding.  The sheer scope of cognitive dissonance it must take to listen to these comments and take them seriously makes my jaw go slack.

Let's take a moment to examine these comments.

Fear.  The Roman Church knows nothing of using fear to control and terrorize masses of people.  Certainly, the constant use of eternal roasting and torture in Hell doesn't count as terrorism.  Neither does the use of Hell as a weapon to subjugate humans and force them to believe that your organization offers the only possible way out of Hell count as terrorism.

Most certainly the Holy Inquisition could not be considered by any rational human to be terrorism.  In fact, the Inquisition not only terrorized people with torture and horrific deaths, but most of it was based on rumors.  Shall we ask Giordano Bruno about the use of rumors by the Roman Church?

As for stereotyping, well...sheesh.  Where do we begin?

Maybe for this point we should check with the Jews, or Africans, or the aboriginal peoples of the Americas and the South Pacific?  In fact, the stereotyping and demonizing of vast numbers of people in order to justify mass slaughter, colonization and all manner of prejudices is a forte of the Roman Church.

I have little truck with the Roman Church (or any religion) as it is, but when I see blatant and utter hypocrisy, such as displayed in the Pope's recent comments, I get just a little riled up over it.

How many men, women and, dare we say it, children have been terrorized by the Church over the millennia?  How many rumors were seized upon by the Inquisition as justification for brutal torture and death?  How many races and peoples have been conquered and shunned by the Church in its quest to dominate the Earth?

And how many children even now go to sleep every night, haunted and terrorized by that wonderful little Roman bedtime prayer:
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should DIE before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Sweet dreams!

26.9.16

Deception At Every Level

After 40+ years in showbiz and marketing, I think I can say with all humility that I am an expert on making things look like what they are not.  Conversely, I have become equally suspicious that everything around me is not what it seems, and I am rarely wrong on that score - though the details can sometimes get muddled.

In both my career and my private life, I have seldom been caught off guard when I assume that someone is trying to deceive me.  I have gotten to the point where I generally think, "How would I pull that off if I were trying to fool someone?"  The truth generally falls within the scope of the options I come up with.

So it is when I look at Donald Trump.  I will ignore Hillary Clinton, since I think it is rather painfully clear that she is a walking deception, but Trump has swayed a great number of people to support him, so it is appropriate to examine him a bit closer.

Being the cynical and suspicious person I am, I begin by looking at his public persona.  He is a multi-billionaire real estate developer, business magnate and "reality" TeeVee star.  He is well practiced in the art of deception, since marketing is nothing more than the art of deception and misdirection.  He is media savvy and moves in circles that most of us can only imagine.  There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that he is capable of deceiving large numbers of people, since he has clearly done it for many years and been very successful at it.

The first question that comes to my mind is, how does he get away with claiming to be an outsider when he has clearly built a career on his relationships with Banksters, Politicians and other nefarious characters?

One does not build an empire without conspiring with the bureaucracy.  All the years he has spent getting permits and licenses, dealing with inspectors, lobbying for tax abatement, and crafting a public image of quality and luxury means, if nothing else, that he is a deep insider.  Politicians grovel for his handouts.  Celebrities attend his weddings.  Even nations come to him to develop attractions for their tourist trade.  This is not an outsider.  You and I are outsiders, and none of these things are part of our daily lives.

The second question I have is, why has the media given him so much free air when they have shown their ability to shut out people they don't support, such as Ron Paul?

Trump has been a media darling for decades.  He has appeared with every softball interviewer of note.  He has been cover art for every major magazine on the market.  He has published soe books.  He has had a successful TeeVee show for several years.  In fact, his affinity with media has been the prime factor in his success as a businessman.  Even his abortive 2012 campaign did not generate the bile and hate that he has gotten of late.  There is no way the media would turn on him after decades of fostering him.  This is a planned reaction, one carefully crafted in the Board Room of Trump Tower.

The media are perfectly aware of how much free attention they have given him.  He could not get such attention, even for all his histrionics if the media were not part of some game.  Ron Paul's campaign in 2012 is a perfect example.  If the media don't like you, you become an invisible man.  Full stop.

The third questions is, why has Hillary's campaign so suddenly and vividly collapsed right on cue?

Hillary is the darling of the unhinged left (which is to say most of the political left anymore).  She has moved in rarefied circles for most of the 40 years of her professional life.  Her major donors and supporters would be well aware of any health or other problems that might prevent her from fulfilling her "destiny" as president.  So why would they try to hide it?

I think this is a carefully planned meltdown, whether real or not, designed to throw critical support to Trump at just the right moment.  There is a reason that Hillary has not been tried and convicted for crimes against humanity and the State:she is fulfilling a vital role in getting the ultimate outside insider elected and release some of the pressure building towards outright revolution.

Don't worry, Hillary is being well compensated for taking one for the team, since at her level, there are no Republicans or Democrats, just power and no power.  Both she and Trump were planted long ago to do exactly what they are doing now - one taking the dive and throwing the election to the other, who will dissipate the growing angry mob rising against the PTB.

I thus conclude that there is a massive effort to deceive not just the American people, but the global population into thinking Trump is an outside reformer and populist.  I think that a masterful and subtle operation of reverse psychology is being used to channel the anger and disgust of the electorate into a harmless figure who can dissipate it while letting everyone think they have finally won the reformist battle.

It is clear to the Powers That Be from years past and constant polling that the American people are fed up with business as usual, and true reformers like Ron Paul keep getting closer and closer to the switches and levers of power.  The only way they can safely maintain their power is to put up a candidate carefully groomed to fill the roll of reformer and then use the feigned horror and revulsion of the media and gatekeepers to foster the image of insider fear, thus feeding the image and channeling support.

If the tactic fails, then the obvious insider - Hillary - wins and its business as usual.  If, however, the populist movement is strong enough to get Trump elected, the PTB are still protected, while at the same time appearing to have taken a deep blow.  Either way, they win, we lose.

Many readers here will disagree with me and defend the Trump phenomenon, and they are certainly welcome to do so, but I caution them to walk in with their eyes open.  Consider the possibility and see what your gut says when you apply your normal critical thinking to this situation.  It is at least better to know you are walking into a trap before it snares you.

One must, I think, allow the possibility that we are all the targets of a massive deception.  There are plenty of past examples of operations this size and complexity in the past 50 years.  And we know the system itself is more than capable of defending itself against true reform, so from the start we must assume that the system never allow a true revolutionary inside.  The only way to defeat the system is to tear it down from the outside.

Remember Oliver Stone's chilling film Wall Street, and the main character Gordon Gekko.  Imagine casting Gekko as an outsider in order to run him for president.  That's what I see when I look at Trump.

The point here is, vote for whomever you like, but do so being fully aware that you are likely being deceived.

23.9.16

Dude, Lighten Up

Alright, alright already!  Message received!

Readership took a nose-dive this week as I took a decidedly brooding and intellectual tone.  Sorry guys I just write what I think about, and sometimes my thoughts just aren't funny, or even vaguely humorous, or even darkly ironic.  Just happens, you know.

So on this Friday, as we stare down the end down the end of the ninth month, third fiscal quarter and history as we know it, let's try to lighten up a bit.

Back in the day, when I was a lowly acting student in the clutches of the legendary Cecil Pickett, I was taught that people are more or less a combination of dichotomies.  Some walk on their heels, while others walk on the balls of their feet.  Some are pelvic, while others are chest.  Some are head, others are heart.  And now, to these basic dichotomies, we can add Clintonite and Trumpian.

It seems the entire world has calcified itself into one of these two trenches, and like a WW1 re-enactment, the two sides are determined to take pot-shots at each other for the next six weeks with little forward progress.

The Clintonites believe that no amount of criminality, email scandal or nose-dives should deter the world from pursuing the status quo with complete abandon.  In fact, the globalist status quo has worked so well that the world needs at least three other Clinton look-alikes to ensure the agenda progresses unabated.  This is the "damn the supersonic Russian torpedoes, full speed ahead" school of thought.

The Trumpians, on the other hand, believe that the current course is Ultimate Evil incarnate and we need to do anything else, no matter how screwball, non-sensical or ad hoc it is.  This school of thought has adopted the Crazy Ivan tactic of unpredictable and erratic maneuvers in order to vex the enemy.

Like matter and anti-matter, these two worldviews cannot come in contact for fear the resulting implosion would annihilate Life, the Universe and Everything!

The whole world appears to be holding its collective breath waiting for the outcome of the US election.  Why, even the three other candidates have ordered a pitcher of margaritas and kicked up their heels to watch the show.

The world has decided there's no point in trying to get anything done right now, since a Clintonite win would almost assure WW3, pitting East versus West, while a Trumpian win would unleash a global chorus of economic Kumbaya.  Talk about your proverbial forks in the road, that's a lot of pressure to put on a geriatric basket case and whirling Dervish.

For those of us trying to make meaningful progress with our lives, this election season couldn't end fast enough, one way or the other.  If the Clintonites win, we need to quickly finish out the bomb shelter and get the quadraphonic shound system installed.  If the Trumpians win, we need to position ourselves to cash in on the entrepreneurial boom-bust certain to follow.  Either way, there's still a lot of work to do, and this constant rise and fall of a clear leader is wearing us out.  It's got us running back and forth between feverish digging and polishing up the five-year projections on investments.

In this global year of course-setting, the Brits decided they wanted to reverse course, the Germans decided Merkel wasn't doing it for them, and the Russians rather firmly decided they liked what Putin is doing.  One thing is rather glaringly clear: the world has decided globalism ain't giving the common man any warm, fuzzy feelings about the future.

Among the major global powers, the US is the last wild card still remaining, and the American people aren't making it easy on those trying to read the goat entrails.  In fact, the folks using "Islamic terror" to try and sway the public discourse are increasinly finding the tide turning the wrong direction.  Folks just aren't buying the official narrative, no matter who spins the tale.

If I had to call the US election and short-term aftermath, I would have to say the Trumpians by a landslide, followed immediately by a revenge market crash orchestrated by the Soros/Bankster/Military/Industrial/Religion/Freemason complex who, like spoiled children that don't get their way at Toys 'R' Us, hold their breath, throw a tantrum and stamp their feet in protest.

There are only two things wrong with this scenario: 1) Americans are the most controlled people on Earth, and 2) the Trumpster could open his mouth at any moment and completely ruin the festivities.

No matter what the outcome, can we just put this mess behind us and get on with the End of the World as We Know It?  I'm worried my bomb shelter will cave in while I'm seeing to my investments in the future.

22.9.16

Welcome To The Machine

Why would anyone in their right mind place their lives, or the lives of anyone they even remotely care about, in the hands of a computer?

I have never met, nor do I ever expect to meet, a piece of technology that functions perfectly at all times and in all places.  Oh sure, I have a number of decidedly low-tech machines, like A/C units, a refrigerator, a microwave, a washing machine, etc. - that do reasonably well, given regular cleaning and maintenance.  But I bought my first piece of major electronic gear - an IBM 8086 computer - back in 1986, and I have been pulling my hair out over every successive purchase ever since.

The fact of the matter is that electronics, and the software that controls them, are susceptible to all sorts of problems.  Random electrical spikes, buggy code and the notorious "ghost in the machine" that plagues complex networks mean that putting one's life in the hands of a computer is tantamount to suicide.

Of late, self-driving cars and robots have all been the rage.  Uber in Singapore has fielded a fleet of driverless taxis.  Robotic and robot-assisted surgery is coming online.  Autonomous aircraft and boats are quickly becoming the military toys of choice.  In fact, artificial intelligence is being built into nearly every kind of device and appliance you can think of.

I love technology.  It can be very entertaining and certainly I have had a long career using some of the most cutting-edge communications technology available.  I am by no means a Luddite.  I regularly use tablets, laptops, cell phones, work stations, and very complex networks for lighting and sound.

But if you ask me to put my life, or anyone else's, in the hands of a machine that doesn't have a trained human operator controlling it, then I politely but firmly decline.

Not only are machines subject to all sorts of subtle and random quirks, there is also the matter of government and corporate back doors, and the ever-enthusiastic hackers who find breaking and entering electronic locks an irresistible challenge.  It's bad enough that organizations can build eerily detailed profiles of individuals based on their internet activity, but to put one's physical self and well-being in the hands of those organizations is deeply disturbing.

There are two things we can say with a great degree of certainty: machines do not always work perfectly, and lust for power will always lead some people to try and control other people.

Not only have driverless car deaths started to rise in the very short period this technology has been in the wild, but there is even discussion of programming these vehicles to sacrifice the lives on-board if the vehicles programming determines it will save other lives.  I don't know about you, but the latter is one decision that only I want to make for myself and those in the car with me.  As for the former, one of the creepiest scenes in Minority Report is when the "authorities" take over Tom Cruise's car and attempt to bring him in.

It appears that the individual is increasingly being asked to forfeit not only the right and responsibility of making one's own decisions, but to hand that right over to machines whose only capacity for making those decisions is based entirely on algorithms designed by someone else.  Furthermore, those algorithms are in the control of organizations that historically cannot be trusted, or even worse, individuals who have hacked the system for either random or targeted malfeasance.

It seems to me that this trend represents a massive stride backward in the development of humanity.  While the technology is certainly amazing in itself, it represents a complete surrender of humans from the social, political and philosophical battle for free will and independence.  Our most basic rights of self-determination and liberty are being laid at the altar of our creations, so that we are no longer the masters of our creativity, but are becoming slaves to it.

Europe has probably the most sophisticated train system in the world.  It is run by massive automated hubs across well over a dozen countries, and has been developed over the past 50 years.  For the most part, it runs rather efficiently, moving thousands of people daily through multiple countries.  However, when a glitch occurs, it results in the deaths of dozens, even hundreds of people, and even more horrific injuries.  These glitches result from a simple error in any one of hundreds of sensors and variables that affect everything from track switches to acceleration and braking timing.  The computers have no way to check the validity of their choices and feel no weight of responsibility for the lives they control.

No matter how advanced the intelligence of the machines, they cannot feel or empathize, and at best can only simulate these things to a living observer, who might be fooled into interpreting them as genuine.  In reality, though, the machines are only running complex algorithms that project what the authors intend, and not what the machine actually experiences.

At the moment, large numbers of people are experiencing excitement and curiosity over the novelty of these technologies.  What is deeply concerning is that, through government regulation and corporate lobbying, there may be no choice once the novelty has worn off.  Once the technologies are ubiquitous and the systems of modern life are completely dependent on them, it will be very difficult to turn back, to say the least.  Even more disturbing is the possibility of being compelled to accept this surrender to the machine to satisfy the lust for power on the parts of a very few people, whether for the financial benefit of building the infrastructure, or the more nefarious need to enslave.

We must decide immediately, both individually and collectively, to resist the novelty and shun the technology.  Not only does it represent a significant threat to life and limb, but an even more grave long-term threat to the rights and dignity of the individual.  It is bad enough that we should lose our right to self-determination to other humans, but to the cold and insensitive calculations of a machine represents a wholly new and unique development in human history.  Should the machines prove capable enough, it may require the utter destruction of civilization to free ourselves, if it is at all possible.  I don't think it overstates the case to say that once installed, there may be no way to uninstall it.  The machines may well prove better capable of repairing and replicating, than humans are at tearing down and destroying, and certainly the machines could determine that we are enough of a bother to exterminate our species.

It would be ironic that humanity's long effort to get someone else to do the dirty work and take the blame may ultimately be the end of our brief and fragile existence.

21.9.16

Removing The Blinders

To start off today's rant, let us first define "government."  Government is a human institution designed to erect barriers to creativity that protect favored entities (regulation), be a parasite that leeches off of the productive parts of society (taxation) and provide life-long employment for those members of society who are unwilling or incapable of being creative or productive (bureaucrats).  Like bacteria, government will grow until it consumes all of the resources available within its jurisdiction.  In other words, there is no such thing as a "good" or "benign" government, and this is true in every form, in all places and at all times throughout history.

What prompts today's tirade is the annual repeating of the Indonesian government mantra, "We are incapable of managing within our limits."  Last year, it was this whining article, this year it's (naturally) even more dire.  In keeping with the character of all governments everywhere at all times, there is no discussion of laying off apparatchiks or scaling back government programs, there is only talk of how to steal more money from the productive parts of society to feed the parasite.

Let's begin with the vaunted government "tax amnesty" program.  This was conceived as a way to get people to fess up and pay in all those taxes they hadn't reported in the past, with the carrot being a 'promise' not to cause grievous bodily harm to those who 'voluntarily' threw themselves on their swords.  Everything was all optonistic at first, as the government crowed that folks would happily deal the government in on their personal wealth if they just weren't afraid of retribution.  In the old days, this was called a "protection scheme" used by mafia and gangs to extract money from local shop owners.

Turns out people really are as broke as they kept telling the apparatchiks.  The program has so far brought in less than 25% of the expected windfall the government originally represented to investors and bankers.  Stocks and foreign investment have duly registered their disappointment with this situation, as the market deflates like a farting balloon.

All of that would be bad enough, but wait!  There's more!

The next example of government beneficence recently in the news is the Natuna Gas Project.  Here we have a case of one of the largest estimated gas reserves in the world sitting under the Natuna Sea, and the Natuna island chain.  Let's forget just for a moment that this rich gas field is sitting right next to the South China Sea, and is surrounded by Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Brunei, in addition to Indonesia.  If this sounds like a recipe for disaster, it gets better.

The Natuna people have lived in these islands since before records were kept, and certainly longer than the 70-year history of Indonesian independence.  They dwell in relative obscurity, being at the very frontier of national boundaries and receiving attention only because they sit on top of a veritable gold mine.  Can we have a show of hands, how many folks think these people will directly benefit from the wealth under their feet for the past millennium or two?

Let's begin with government regulations, shall we?

Under current Indonesian resource laws (updated during the 2009 coal boom), the government wants to "partner" with a producer to drill and extract the gas.  The government wants the producer to take all the risk and expense, bringing all the necessary equipment to do the job.  The result is that the government will then own all the production and take ownership of all the machinery and infrastructure that was imported to produce the field.  Furthermore, under Indonesian cabotage law, all vessels used to import the equipment and cart off the gas much be Indonesian flagged in national waters.

In other words, you do all the work, cover all the costs, and we get all the benefits.  Such a deal!  Anyone who finds this a fair and equitable arrangement please contact me right away so I can manage your investment for you.

Naturally, the locals will be promised the sun, moon and stars in exchange for their cooperation.  They will be offered government indoctrination centers (schools) and government resource management centers (hospitals) that, if they are worth a damn in the first place, will soon devolved into deteriorating skeletons of empty promises.

Finally, once (if) the money starts rolling in, there will suddenly be layers upon layers of government apparatchiks, brokers and corruptors of all stripes with ladles in hand, ready to siphon off as much of the wealth as possible.  The locals will be forced to join in the festival of slime, or find themselves completely out of the loop, watching as tar balls and trash wash up on their once-pristine beaches.  And all this assumes the government can find a competent sucker to come in under its terms in the first place.

Meanwhile, those companies who were stupid enough to hang a shingle under the government's oh-so-equitable rules are finding themselves under attack with few options for relief or response.  GOOGLE has been hit with a US$400 million tax bill for 2015 alone, with the past five years under the microscope, and its only options for appeal are the Indonesian tax office (good luck) and/or the Indonesian courts (hahaha!).  In other words, their only option is to ask the very leeches who live off GOOGLE blood to stem the flow just a bit.

Don't get me wrong.  I really don't like or trust GOOGLE, but this makes for a great case study of government greed and desperation.  After years of corruption, bloated hierarchy, mismanagement, convoluted and overlapping ministries, waste, sleaze and slime, the government finds itself running out of options to perpetuated itself, with the one obvious option of cleaning up its act being quite far off the table.

Under Indonesian tax laws, GOOGLE has two options: pay the government's tax claim, or face years of audits and court hearings to determine if this money is actually owed.  Given the government's track record, GOOGLE will end up being liable for the money AND being out all the lawyer and court fees, as well as penalties and interest.  Great options, ne l'est pas?

Notice that the article mentions the one tool to which all governments always resort - force (read guns property confiscation and grievous bodily harm).

What all this boils down to, and Indonesia is by far not the only or best example, is that governments are destructive.  They stand in the way of real people making real profits and creating real things.  They are protection rackets that take money for the promise of protection from phantoms, while failing to protect people from the real threat - government itself.  The reason that governments appear to dance so well is their habit of constantly shooting themselves in the foot.

The reason that all governments are corrupt in all places and at all times is that they are collections of people who have been granted exclusive use of force to collect money that pays themselves.  If this is not a classic recipe for disaster, then nothing is.  Corruption and waste are natural by-products of organizations that produce nothing and get paid for it at the point of a gun.

Humans have yet to devise a system of governance on a large scale that does not eventually become its own worst enemy.  It is a parasitic institution that is utterly dependent on its ability to suck the life out of everyone who submits to it.

The only viable option is to have the smallest possible scale so that the 'leaders' are as close to the people being governed as possible.  In this way, 'leaders' can only be as corrupt as the communities they 'serve,' and the ability to escape corruption is as easy as a short move away to a neighboring community.

What we, the real people, must disabuse ourselves of is the notion that there is any such thing as benign government.  It does not, nor cannot exist.  At some point, the parasite always turns on the host in order to promote its interests over all others.  It is always a negative force that produces nothing and offers no rewards.  It simply takes, and when threatened, it takes more, until the host expires and rids itself of the infestation.

It is thus that we part with our new mantra, "All governments are always destructive at all times and in all places."

20.9.16

Revolutionary Culture

It is probably safe to say that most people reading this article have never seen Citizen Kane, nor remember Orson Welles for more than his regular stints on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or Dean Martin's Celebrity Roasts.  In fact, few may remember him other than his still-famous though rarely heard Halloween broadcast of War of the Worlds on CBS radio in 1940.

In fact, it was the radio broadcast that got him noticed in Hollywood.  Welles and his Mercury Players, already well known on the New York theater scene, had taken a classic novel and dramatized it as a news broadcast, regularly 'interrupting' pre-scheduled shows with updates from reporters and interviews with 'experts.'  Listeners who did not hear the disclaimer at the beginning and end of the broadcast were, in many cases, genuinely terrified, with extreme cases of mass murder/suicides in some parts of the country, though the validity of the reports has been questioned.

Welles was given a three-film deal with RKO Pictures based on the phenomenal success of the radio broadcast.  Welles, being all of 26 years old and never having produced a feature film in his life, received copious amounts of scorn from Hollywood insiders, because he had been given complete creative control over his films, a deal all but unheard of in the studio-dominated industry of the period.

Welles set about co-writing, producing, directing and starring in his first film, Citizen Kane.  The script alone was a marvel of innovation.  Until that point, nearly every film ever released by Hollywood followed a standard narrative style of a beginning, middle and end, with the story progressing in a straightforward timeline of events.

Citizen Kane turned the standard narrative on its head.  The story began with the eponymous character's death and went on to tell the story as a series of news reels and interviews with various supporting characters.  The narrative was held together by a reporter, whom we never meet or see clearly, on the trail trying to discover the meaning of Kane's last word, "Rosebud."  In fact, none of the characters in the story ever understand the significance of the word, but we the audience are clued in by the final shot of the film.  The story jumps back and forth in time, though it loosely progresses chronologically  through Kane's life.

What was even more radical than the story itself was the visual execution.  Even today, some of the visual effects and transitions can draw awed attention, for example the camera flying through a neon sign and then down through a skylight in a virtually seamless transition.

In fact, one of the most remarkable innovations of this film is the camera movements and positions.  Up until Citizen Kane, the camera was primarily a passive recorder of events in front of it.  It stood roughly eye-level and other than a pan or tilt, never moved.  In this film, the camera becomes a character itself, no longer passive, but imparting information and emotion by the choice of angles and movements.  Welles went as far as to jack-hammer holes in the studio floor and design new rigs in order to get never-before-seen angles and movements through scenes.  Greg Toland's cinematography, including lighting, was nothing less that astounding for his choice of lenses for deep depth of field and the shadowy scenes of newsmen gathered to assign the reporter.

But these innovations were still not all.  The film editing by the now-famous Robert Wise (Run Silent Run Deep, Sound of Music and much more) cut the film to reflect the radical change in style that Welles and Toland had delivered.  The pacing is brisk, lingering only enough on wide shots to establish the settings, but in many cases staying in medium and close-up, when the story did not require much in the way of establishing shots.  There's hardly a moment when the viewer feels bored, as the pace is unrelenting, much like the central character.

Part of the editing are the transitions between scenes, and Wise cannot take credit for many of the ones in Citizen Kane, they were obviously pre-planned by Welles.  One famous transition has the camera dolly in on a photo of a rival newspaper's editorial staff, which then seamlessly become a live shot as Kane walks into it.

Mel Berns' make-up effects almost single-handedly launched the prosthetic craze in Hollywood.  The subtle and realistic aging of the characters over time, especially making a 26-year-old Welles into an 80-year-old man with flesh-like texture and movement was major departure from the grease-paint effects that had preceded it.

There was, in fact, a creative fire-storm raging around this film.  From the art direction to the acting, everyone seemed determined to out-do everyone else in their creative efforts.  Even the settings reflected the characters and the narrative, telling entire stories of their own.

One of the most famous scenes in the film is the legendary "breakfast table," where Mr. and Mrs. Kane progress through an entire lifetime of their relationship with as much of the story being told by the actors and make-up, as by the props.  One gloriously subtle detail near the end of the scene is Mrs. Kane reading the newspaper of Kane's largest rival.

The list of firsts in Citizen Kane is a long one and touches on nearly every aspect of film-making.  There is hardly a director today who is not influenced in some way by Welles and his ground-breaking work.  Every time you see a camera fly through a window, you can thank Welles.  From Raiders of the Lost Ark to The Player to the long travelling shots or worm's-eye/fly-on-the-wall views in Kubrick's remarkable filmography (Welles notably called Kubrick the greatest film-maker of all time), the greatest Hollywood directors have all stood on Welles giant shoulders.

Welles' fatal mistake, other than his notorious penchant for not finishing projects, was that Citizen Kane was widely interpreted as an indictment of William Randolf Hearst, the Rupert Murdoch of his day.  One certainly cannot deny the superficial resemblances of Kane to Hearst, even to the extent that "rosebud" was widely rumored to be Hearst's pet name for his mistress' private parts.  However, those who know Welles' life story can easily pick out the autobiographical elements, and even the eerie way Kane's life mirrored Welles' in later years, especially the character's motivations and flaws.

I highly recommend that even the casual film-goer watch, or re-watch, Citizen Kane.  It is instructive to see the seeds of modern cinema being planted and edifying to know that one man could have such an influence on an art form, in a way that is more readily apparent than, say Claude Monet's impressionist revolution.

It is important to note that it is not just technical developments and technique that set Citizen Kane apart, but the narrative style itself.  Reverse exposition and the use of retrospective storytelling in film can all be traced directly to this landmark film.

It is also noteworthy that Welles' achievements throughout his filmography have often been copied, but rarely equaled.  In many ways, even the modern achievements with CGI and other technologies are little more than perfecting the innovations brought to film by Welles.  Citizen Kane was not a fluke - a one-off burst of creativity - but rather the first shot in an amazing volley of revolutionary visual and narrative techniques.  Even a cursory study of Welles' work will bring one to a much greater appreciation of the value and power of the creative mind is advancing the cultural milieu.

Though we are not all destined to have such public or examined effects on our world, it is nevertheless a worthwhile effort to push our creativity as far as we can in the service of culture.

Who could have predicted that Monet's failing eyesight or Welles' brash and youthful ignorance would have had such profound effects on our world?

19.9.16

The Law And Occam's Razor

The most difficult moral lines to toe are those that have no clear "right or wrong" answer.

In these cases, I tend to default to traditional views as a means of applying the dreaded Occam's Razor to a moral dilemma.  If you are not familiar with the Razor, it says simply that given a set of problems, the answer with the fewest assumptions is likely the correct one.

Before moving along, we should also define de facto law and de jure law.  In the case of de facto law (also known as the "color of law"),  a legal precedent exists because it is allowed to exist and to propagate, regardless of the letter of the law.  In a de jure system, institutions follow the "letter and spirit" of the law, and can be judged objectively as doing so when the law is read and interpreted by a "reasonable man."  Thus, someone who seizes power and is followed out of fear or compulsion would be a de facto leader, while someone who follows the lawful means of taking office would be a de jure leader.

So it is that we come to the headline du jour: a Belgian teen (17 years old and a legal minor) was euthanized to provide a 'dignified death' to a child suffering from a terminal illness.  The linked article states:
"Since 2014, when its euthanasia legislation was amended, Belgium has been the only country in the world that allows terminally-ill children of any age to choose to end their suffering -- as long as they are conscious and capable of making rational decisions."

As far as I know, most legal definitions recognize the fact that a minor child is incapable of making "rational decisions," and is therefore under the guidance of majority-age adults, like parents or legal guardians.  The article tells us:
"Any request for euthanasia must be made by the minor, be studied by a team of doctors and an independent psychiatrist or psychologist, and have parental consent."

The only part of that statement I find acceptable is the "parental consent," but we will leave that for now.

The article goes on to talk about paralympian  Marieke Vervoort, who has been "granted" the right to kill herself due to 'unbearable physical pain,' yet is not ready at this time because she wants to enjoy 'every little bit of life she can.'

Here's my problem with all this: the State has taken upon itself the de facto power of life and death.  Note that the athlete has her 'permission slip' to die when she is ready, and that the minor in the article's subject line had to be evaluated by teams of doctors and phsychiatrists, as well as a Euthanasia Board, all of whom are selected by some process as having more knowledge of the subject than the minor child his/her self, and even that the parental consent is listed last on a list of barriers to taking one's own life.

All of this is predicated on the de facto right of the State to declare who may and may not die.  Furthermore, this case is noted to establish 'precedent' in law, meaning that the interpretation of a law in one jurisdiction may be applied in another, despite differing sensibilities and cultural mores.  In this way, un-elected and unaccountable bureaucrats have been granted the power of life and death.

In my mind, this and similar cases establish a form of "mission creep," in which the original intent of law is slowly increased in scope until it encompasses vast numbers of people who may or may not agree with its practice or establishing arguments.  This leads to de facto law, through the use of broad definitions and precedence, to apply the sensibilities of one group on the society as a whole.

Once upon a time, the words "community" and "peer" meant people with whom one had daily physical contact.  Over time, those concepts have been expanded to mean 'anyone of similar outlook,' regardless of physical proximity.  In other words, 'associations' surplanted the idea of 'community' and a peer became anyone with similar characteristics in any part of the world, regardless of other philosophical or moral differences.

In effect, these sorts of de facto decrees force widely differing communities to accept "laws" which they find abhorrent to their moral and ethical sensibilities, and thus transfer guilt to an entire jurisdiction regardless of whether a majority of those people accept it or not.  By the State assuming the legal power to decide the life or death of the minor child in question, the State has effectively distributed the guilt and consequences of that decision upon every human being within its jurisdiction without regard to their sensibilities.

Under the precepts of 'precedent' and the expanded definitions of 'community' and 'peer,' government has become increasingly centralized and the law has become increasingly distant from the social and physical communities which must abide by them.  This is done under the guise of 'diversity,' where every community must accept the dictates of a distant bureaucracy over the moral and ethical objections of the physical groups, who naturally decide what is best for themselves and their living conditions.  This, in fact, is not diversity, but tyranny.  It defies the natural right of people to associate and decide what is best for their community, which is why most nations have national, regional, county, and municipal governments.  These divisions imply that there is a de jure system of governance that begins at the local/community level, with certain powers being delegated up the chain.  At each level, government has been given certain powers that larger and larger numbers of people agree belong at those levels, but the most immediate rights and powers are reserved for those in physical communities, and under de jure forms of law cannot have moral and ethical decisions dictated to them by broader levels of government.

Thus, 'diversity' is defined as the right of local physical communities to decide for themselves what is permissible or not within their jurisdictions.  It is not defined as national governments declaring that certain behaviors must be allowed against the will and desire of the community.

In the end, laws which require communities to accept euthanasia, abortion, non-gendered toilets, gay marriage, or any other behavior that the peers within the community find offensive are by definition de facto law and tyrannical.  They are the dictates of a system which has assumed upon itself powers not naturally granted to it by peers in communities, and which are enforced at the point of a gun or incarceration, or other grievous bodily harm and usurpation of Natural rights.  They are certainly NOT enforced by the sensibilities and mores of those living in communities of peers.

Returning to the issue of the euthanized minor, the decision to kill the child is one that should have rightly rested on the community of peers of the parents, not Boards and teams of un-elected 'experts.'  If the child's parents, family and friends decided together that allowing the child to die was the best possible decision, then the perceived guilt and/or responsibility would have fallen on those who knew the child and the family best and could defend the decision.  However, the bureaucrats are immune from the consequences of their decision and cannot possibly know the mind of the child or his parents in the way that their peers do.  Further, by making the decision at the State level, the system has placed the moral and ethical consequences on every member of that nation, regardless of what the individual's sensibilities are.

It is vital that we, the people, take back these moral and ethical decisions.  The accelerating trend towards greater centralization of government places each of us in greater moral and ethical hazard, as we are asked to assume more and more guilt for the actions of fewer and fewer 'leaders.'

Despite what we are told, this is not diversity, this is tyranny, and the philosophical advancements that have been made since the Enlightenment are being grossly undermined.  No longer is the individual empowered to make his or her own moral choices, they are now being made my nameless, faceless Boards of bureaucrats in our names.

In a de jure system of law, the most powerful entity is the household, which then delegates certain of its powers to larger organizations, based on the community's sensibilities, with national governments holding only those powers on which all can agree.  And there should never be anything higher than a national government that has any power over the household.

This is a recipe for harmony and peace, in which every individual lives according to his or her conscience within a community of peers.  When we apply Occam's Razor, we see that this concept has the fewest number of assumptions for the greatest number of people, and thus we should default to self-rule above all else.

16.9.16

A Modest Proposal, Part 2

In my previous article, I argued that the Political Correctness movement of the past few decades has resulted in irreparable damage to the culture and especially education.  Given that culture is like a chain that, once broken, cannot be repaired, there is no longer any way to "fix the system" and the aware human must now focus on saving what we can for the day when it can be revived, much as the Renaissance did in Europe at the end of the medieval period.

I used the secret societies as an example of organization designed to both hide and propagate forbidden knowledge - and certainly that is what classical education has become.  I concluded by saying that I would propose a new way of looking at "prepping" and "survival" in this current epoch of history.

The important thing to realize at this point is that survival of the individual is subordinate to the survival of the culture.  Without the culture, survival is nothing more than a loose group of hunter-gatherers foraging for food in a daily struggle to live one more day.  It is the culture that has defined our advancement as a species from mere beasts of the field to homo sapiens - the wise man - and which is the basis for our technology and mastery of our condition.

When I look at the modern "prepping" movement, I see a heavy focus on buying gold and silver, and storing food and water.  This is a non-sensical approach to survival that is doomed to fail.  Gold and silver only have value in a culture capable of abstract concepts, such as storing wealth.  Storing food and water is fine, as long as you think you can stay in one place, which again depends on culture to form self-organized and self-sustaining societies.

The wise "propper" must be flexible and mobile.  One must be ready to go at any time in order to escape natural and man-made disasters.  What good will all your stores be if a tornado scatters it all to the winds, or a fire reduces it all to ash?  And how mobile can you be with several pounds of gold and silver coins in your pocket?  Or how safe would you be with that kind of target on your back?  This default to normalcy is a serious flaw in the thinking of many people who adhere to the "hunker down" theory of survival.

Even if you have stored a year's worth of groceries, or months worth of water, it will run out eventually.  Do you have the skills to can food or purify water or make a fire without all the modern conveniences provided by society?  Even more important, can you read the sky to know the season and location?  After all, planting survival seeds in mid-September will be fruitless in many parts of the world if you can't look at the stars and know that it's mid-September.

Can you calculate height or distance using your position and the Sun angle?  It would help if you are confronted with a mountain range and want to know how far away it is and how high you will have to climb to get over them.

The most critical thing to consider is how will you educate future generations (or yourself for that matter) without books?  How will you teach art, science and math to future generations when the internet is gone and you have no reference materials?  Sure, your stores may last for a while, but what about the long-term collapse of society and the multi-generational effort to rebuild from those ashes?

But even books, for all their low-tech wonders, are vulnerable and must be replaced regularly.  Could you make paper or parchment?  Ink from lampblack?  Find and harvest bee's wax and make candles?  A manual printing press?  No?  Then how can you record weather patterns, growing techniques and other critical information beyond your ability to talk to someone or beyond your lifetime?

The part of survival that few people ever stop to consider is that our entire civilization is predicated on the ability to reason critically and then transmit the results through time and space to other people.  Almost everything I have ever read on prepping and survival forgets that it is dependent on the ability to tell others how to do it.  All most of these folks want to do is sell you boxes of food, seeds and water filters, but neglect the very foundation of finding food, seeding plants and building water filters out of found objects.  Furthermore, they all assume that the infrastructure to pass on knowledge is a given technology that will always be there.

Some readers may think this is a silly and pointless article, that "someone" will always be able to print books or transmit information.  They fail to consider that these technologies were radical in their day, or that civilization and culture are dependent on our ability to transmit information to other locations and beyond our lifetimes.

So what's my solution?

First, a true prepper must learn the necessary skills to make paper, ink and bindings.  The ability to observe and document our environment is the first critical step to understanding.  Knowing how to read the sky (astronomy) and create stores of food anywhere at any time.

Once these skills are learned, you must be able to document and transmit the information to future generations.  It is said that we have built our world on the shoulders of giants, but what happens when those giants stumble and fall?

Once you have the ability to transmit information, you need the information to transmit.  Thus, I propose that groups of like-minded folks get together to create private libraries.  One of the scourges of modern society is the destruction of the public library.  It is vital, therefore, to work together to create a neighborhood library, privately funded and stocked.  Perhaps you or a neighbor have an empty basement.  Build some shelves and start buying bulk used books (very cheap these days).  And by books, I don't mean pop fiction, I mean the classics of art, science and mathematics.  We cannot depend on our ability to transmit or read binary code, so physical books are the only sure means to store and propagate information that cannot be intercepted or edited by outside parties.

And that brings up the whole reason for this line of thought.  As I mentioned in the last article, the system cannot be fixed and it has entered the dangerous realm of protecting itself from change.  It has already infected the minds of generations of people, who are now incapable of critical thinking or even controlling their emotions.  The system is perpetuating itself on its ability to control the flow and content of electronic information.  The hard-won right of free speech is being dismantled, and what's worse, the minds of the next generation are being controlled to the point that they are physically repulsed by open and unfettered discourse.  They literally cannot distinguish a logical fallacy from a condomed phallus.

The control of education, the destruction of the public library and the censoring of electronic discourse has reached a critical phase.  If not the current generation, then certainly the next will - a la Orwell - no longer be able to conceive of natural rights nor defend the reasons for having them.  They are becoming the ultimate slaves, who not only have no desire for freedom, but cannot imagine any other way of living.

It is fast reaching the point that individual survival is subordinate to the need to preserve and transmit information.  Our culture is dying by design, and the system that is doing it cannot be fixed.  It doesn't want to be fixed.  It was never intended to be fixed, as it is doing exactly what it was intended to do.

The time is now to create underground cultures to preserve and disseminate information and knowledge, however one can do that.  We must look to the success and structure of secret societies, which have done just this sort of thing for centuries.  We must accept that in the current epoch real knowledge is becoming a bad thing, and that those of us who want to preserve it are bad people.

To chose another literary example, look to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

Or perhaps my own experience will illuminate the issue.

Back in the 1980s, when I first began studying alternative history and "subversive" knowledge, there was no internet or digital revolution.  The only way to get this information was through hard work and persistence.  If you wanted a copy of Henry Ford's The International Jew, or to see for yourself what mysteries were contained in The Poor Man's James Bond or The Anarchist's Handbook, one really had to go far out of the way to find it.  In fact, in my case, I had to drive out to the remotest parts of West Texas, to a place called the Patriot Gas Station, where the owner sold fill-ups, oil changes, tire repair, military surplus, and underground literature.  It was a minimal two-day round trip just to obtain information that the system had deemed to dangerous - to itself.

Because I have stood on the shoulders of giants, I have concluded from their experience that we are perilously close to a new dark age for free inquiry and thought.  It also seems, from their experience, that the only way to survive this period in history is not by buying K-rations, water filters and gold coins, but by learning basic skills and protecting knowledge from those who would destroy the past to control the future.

Fixing what is, is not possible, and the sooner we acknowledge that fact the quicker we can get about saving our culture for a time when the winds are a bit more friendly to freedom.  We should be prepared for that time to take centuries, as history shows us that breaking the chain of culture means that it must be rebuilt one link at a time.

It is entirely possible that I am a complete nutter and all of this is some apocalyptic fear-mongering.  I freely admit the possiblity, but in the end, what have you lost by following this prescription, and what has been gained should this nutter be right?  A rational cost-benefit analysis says that it is a worthy investment.

Besides, think how cool you would look if you sent out your next batch of Christmas cards on handmade paper with handmade ink using hand-carved wood blocks.  That's something people would save for years.

Post Scriptum: Wouldn't it be handy to learn how to make a camera and photographic plates so you wuldn't have to hand-copy all those books?

15.9.16

A Modest Proposal, Part 1

Back in the day, one of my favorite columnists was William Safire.  His specialty was criticizing the use of language in the public sphere according to the classic skills of the old Trivium of the liberal arts.

To refresh our memories, the Trivium is defined by Wikipedia as:
"...a systematic method of critical thinking used to derive factual certainty from information perceived with the traditional five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell."

The Trivium was made up of three specific skills: grammar, logic and rhetoric.  Mastery of these skills allowed the student to understand ordered information, analyze its content and express an opinion in a coherent manner.  Thus, the foundation of clear and rational thought, and the ability to express it, required the precise use of language.

For centuries, Latin was the language of choice for educated people, if for no other reason than because it is a very precise one.  English has more or less supplanted Latin in the past two hundred years owing to its ability to absorb vocabulary and grammar from other languages, which unfortunately for those who teach the language, makes it rather complex and occasionally non-sensical.

The reason this has come up again is that, as George Orwell pointed out in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the control of language imparts control of the mind.  If one can effectively reduce the vocabulary and simplify the grammar of a language, one can control the thoughts - and the actions - of the masses.

Orwell postulated that IngSoc would use Newspeak to control thought over time by eliminating words and concepts that were offensive to the State.  Eventually, he said, the masses would be unable to form a rational thought on certain topics because there simply were no words to do so.  And even if an individual could host an offensive thought, he would be unable to clearly express it due to a lack of structure (grammar) and rhetorical ability.

Ultimately, the masses could not conceive of anything other than a string of slogans approved by the Central Party.  There would be no history, no books other than the Newspeak dictionary, and no reference in the public sphere to anything other than what the State wished the masses to have.

Every year we see this in action, as the general vocabulary and grammar of the mass media devolves to lower and lower levels.  Even now, if one learned everything from the media, one would be unable to express anything above an eighth grade level (being generous here).

When I was a child, my father bought a set of McGuffey Readers, that were the grade school standard of US education in the late 1800s and early 1900s.   Contemporary collage-level students would struggle with much of the sixth grade material in these books.

If you have experienced the language abilities of the average teenager on Facebook or other social media, then you know that IngSoc has triumphed.  The median language abilities of most young Americans and Europeans has devolved to near-incoherence.  Spelling and grammar are virtually non-existent and the relative importance of what these people find noteworthy is inane.  Basic things, such as knowing that data and bacteria are plurals, and being able to match cases and tenses accordingly are nearly gone.  In my own experience with students, even being able to identify subjects, verbs and objects is a skill all but lost.

Most of the problem I lay at the feet of Political Correctness.  This one effort has bombarded modern culture with the message that certain thoughts and vocabulary are off limits.  The arbiters of PC have spent decades modifying language and forbidding public discourse on certain topics, to the point that modern education has been reduced to sloganeering and jingoism in the service of the State's agenda.  Young people can no longer dissociate the message from the messenger, nor critically analyze an argument to glean the facts from opinion and speculation.  In short, they can't think.

In fact, it has finally come to the point where certain topics are so taboo that Ivy League college students are reduced to emotional blobs by the mere encounter with certain words or phrases.  Imagine the depth of the programming required to reduce a human being to sobs over a word.  Millennia of cultural development to produce a generation incapable of reason and slave to emotion.

The situation is well beyond critical.  The amount of remediation required to reverse this kind of indoctrination is staggering.  We must face the fact that our culture may be lost forever, because it is a chain that once broken, cannot be repaired.

The best that we remaining rational people can do at this point is to follow the example of the secret societies and go underground until the eventual complete destruction of the society that has built such a tragedy.  As in medieval Europe, we must protect knowledge and our progeny from this self-destructive society and work towards the New Renaissance in a couple of centuries.

Actions such as homeschooling, tossing out the TeeVee and spending hours teaching our children and grandchildren in the time-tested classical liberal arts.  There is little other choice.  The false culture is so all-pervasive and the techniques used so powerful that any contact with it will cause damage.

Even as I write, I am watching adult friends become consumed with Pokemon Go, to the point that even self-preservation is not enough to overcome the addiction.  I see young adults I have known since childhood become angry and defensive when certain ideas are brought up for debate, unwilling and unable to ideas on their own merit, and choosing instead to simply deny that the concepts exist.

For this reason, I am proposing a complete different take on prepping and survival, focusing not on food and shelter, but on knowledge and information.  Come back tomorrow for Part 2.

13.9.16

The Great Horse Race

US Election 2016 has been a priceless sitcom of galactic proportions!

Who would have thought in May of last year that we'd such classic comedy skits as "Donald Trump's Penis Size," "High-Heeled Boyz," "Cruz Control," "Jeb's Misfire," "Bernie Loves Hillary," "Up In Smoke," and now "Klinton Karma?"  The entire spectacle has been like watching a Seinfeld highlight reel.

Did anyone else notice the scene of Hillary with the little girl outside Chelsea's apartment looked just like that scene from the classic movie Frankenstein, where the little girl offers a flower to the monster?  I can't make this stuff up.  Or has anyone else thought about the whole health thing as being a graceful out for Hillary once she realized that she couldn't beat Trump?  This should lead to hours of entertainment as the alt-left and alt-right square off on whose conspiracy is the correct one!

But now the serious finale is ready to air.  What happens if a candidate is incapacitated or dies at the last minute before election day?  It's a valid question, given that the top two contenders are septuagenarians and one is publicly falling apart.  This has never happened in the 227 years since the first presidential election, though a couple of presidents died shortly after taking office.

William Harrison died of (ahem) pneumonia a month after being sworn in.  Zachary Taylor got a little over a year on the job.  James Garfield barely made three months before being shot, while William McKinley got a year and a half before receiving the same fate.  Warren Harding got a couple of years before being poisoned by his wife for cheating, or was it a heart attack?  Barely a month into his fourth term, FDR died of a cerebral hemorrhage, just before attending the founding of the UN.

After being sworn in, there is a Constitutional process for replacing a president; however, until now no major party candidate this close to the election, nor president-elect has died.  Thus, such an event would set off a lot of hand-wringing and rancorous hysterics.  The US would be thrown into uncharted policy and procedure territory at a time when social and political upheaval are at historic highs.

At this point, less than two months before the general election, and after a rather acrimonious primary season, for one of the major party candidates to be eliminated would throw the nation into a tizzy.  Accusations would fly.  The affected party would panic trying to regain its posture and standing.  The public would split along lines of grief and elation.  The media would be salivating over the anticipated ratings and readership boost.  The sitting president would be sorely tempted to postpone or cancel the general election, which would cause even more anxiety.  In short, such an event would cause complete and utter chaos.

If the sudden loss were of a president-elect, there would still  likely be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but in this case, Congress would likely vote to follow the Constitutional line of replacement, with the new president (former vice president) selecting a new vice.  If the Electoral College has not yet met, it would fall to it to select the new president, fulfilling its original role, and if it couldn't get a majority, then the rules call for a secret vote in Congress.  There would still be howls of protest, but nothing like the sheer madness that would reign in the next few weeks.

In any event, these scenarios have suddenly become a real issue.  The once derided 'conspiracy theory' of Hillary Clinton's health has, like most 'conspiracy theories,' been borne out.  The question is now what the DNC will do about it, if anything, and how the American public will react either way.

From the elite point of view, is does't matter.  They really don't care who gets in the office, because they know that the problem is not who runs the system, but the system itself.  It is designed to perpetuate itself, and as long as people think they can reform it from within, there will never be changed.  The system is designed to take whatever energy and effort the people direct towards it and dissipate it.  That is what it does and that is why the elites always win, no matter who is elected.  Think of the Roman Catholic Church.  It has remained almost unchanged for 2,000 years because it is a self-perpetuating and self-healing system that survives whomever is made pope.

This is why I say Trump supporters are doomed to disappointment.  Clinton understands the system, and at a certain level, so do her supporters.  Trump and his followers, though, actually think they can change things by 'fixing' the system.  You see, no matter who wins, they are constrained by the rules of the system, which ensure that the outcome always perpetuates the system above all else.

There is nothing wrong with the system.  It is doing exactly what it was designed to do, and it will continue to do it as long as it is intact.  The only way to reform the system is to utterly and completely destroy it and replace it with something else.  The problem is that there are likely not enough educated people left who could design a functioning system that would be any better than what already exists.

And so I retreat to my oft-cited position of being a political atheist.  I realize that the system cannot be fixed because it is not broken, insofar as the system is concerned.  I also know that no matter who is elected, the results will always be the same.

Instead, I sit back with a heavily dosed gin and tonic, lots of lime, and watch the antics.  It's a horse race.  Sure, I may win a few bux or lose a few, depending on the winner, but the horses still run in a circle.