Monday, April 7, 2014

Is the Big O really a Big Zero?

As usual, I have to bury an embarrassing post - with another embarrassing post!

But like a lot of us out here among the  populist reality fringe, I've lost enthusiasm for our president. It's the extrajudicial killings. It's the huge and increasing numbers of Americans - just as authentically so as you and me - who have been exiled to parts South just because they lack papers. It's the fracking orgy, and the loss of net neutrality and the campaign finance limit dams all broken. Obama administration policies on education are nightmarish from an educator's perspective. But mainly it's because I've had cause to examine Obamacare up close and personal, and there's almost nothing there to like unless you're an insurance company.

In simple terms, the "markets" do nothing for someone who's not a corporate person. It could be that there's no price transparency in medicine, it could be that just like Chinese restaurants, there's a kind of sliding scale according to how well initiated you are, or it could be just plain rot at the neoliberal core.

I remain confident that President Obama is a nicer fellow than GWB, and I hear his lament that without pressure from the electorate there's very little he can do. But I have removed myself a few times over now from all the incessant mailing lists trying to get me riled up about this or that atrocity committed by the far right. It's certainly not that I don't agree with most or even all of the positions. It's just that the money seems to make everything worse. And I agree a lot of the time with the far right wingers that I know and love.

So, let's say that the moneyed right wing really does have a strangle-hold on our political system, which of course it does. We then have this awfully perverse situation where a bespoke President like GWB can actually be milder in his policies and especially in their implementation than an honest to goodness person like Barack Obama.

It seems that this is because of the compromises which must be made just to be in his position, and a kind of honorable logic which says that we must actually attempt to do whatever it is that we set out to do. So that if we say that we will enforce the borders, then that's exactly what we will do and without all the small time wheeling and dealing which must have gone on under various Republican administrations to preserve the difference between what they say they want and what they actually want. In the case of immigrant labor, they want it abundant and cheap while still needing to maintain the quasi-populist outrage at the illegal entrance.

But in the case of anything at all - education for instance - there simply isn't time and space to get down to anything like real research-based knowledge, and so we get the foul sausage which results from politicking the solution. Bullshit by any other name.

For so long as the electorate is divided, money wins. That's true if you're getting the big money now let loose by SCOTUS, or if you're Organizing for America making your appeals for micro-cash through Twitter.

As anyone knows who's been shopping lately, there's very little difference among ticket-size for items as they get bigger. We buy cars "below invoice" and cheaper than they were a decade ago, and it's apparently worth chasing all over town for pennies on the dollar for whatever tech device du jour we crave.

But when we're buying dongles and breakage insurance and cables and stuff from the drugstore, we hardly notice that the markup may be several hundred percent. It's beneath our notice, even though the same amount of money would have sent us scurrying across town or to the Internet to get a better deal if it were, say, $10 discount on a tablet computer, versus the $20 markup for a USB charger.

As anyone knows who's watched the Wolf of Wallstreet, or has been paying attention however slightly to the news for the past few decades, it's the junk bonds where the real money is to be made and the manipulations to be amplified. It's the velocity of transaction which leaves the rest of us out of the game.

The big stuff which we actually spend time to research comes cheap! As in I sure do wish they had Chinese-made power tools for carpentry when I was rehabbing my old sailboat. But in just the way that our trade deficit gets filled in by Chinese investments in our economy, the "cost of living" (by which I mean how about rent and gasoline and insurance and food) fills in any and all gaps created by the incredible dropping prices for goodies. Mind the income gap, please!

But along with paying for the privilege now of letting banks use our money (if we're not filthy rich) comes the ultimate insult that somehow Twitter can actually make an amazing amount of money on each of our tweets which we think we get for free! Ariana Huffington did the same thing with bloggers. We provide content and market share and someone else owns the title to it because of some language we thoughtlessly clicked our assent to.

When did we go through that looking glass? At what point did each of us stop being responsible for what gets carried out in our names?

These days I can still barely reconstruct myself, though I’m old enough that I can’t remember what I wrote down when. Does that mean absolution? Like on that DVD they granted me of my CAT-scan once because it would be more likely to show up where it’s needed in my hands than if they tried to keep it and file it, I still mostly recognize myself in that ghostly picture inside my head. Like who wouldn't know their own signature?

(But I have no device that can read that DVD anymore, so I left it behind somewhere like DNA on a doorknob. Uh, fingerprints.)

Who knows how many narratives I've cast out, but I can see they’re me. It’s not just the shape of the skull, but even maybe the vague weight of the flesh which surrounds it, the vessels in their squiggles, bloodshot through with tracer fluid. It just looks like me is all. But you wouldn't recognize your own fingerprints, would you? 

There must be some peccadillo there somewhere I’m not thinking about now, though it’s hard to shake the vague certainty of guilt, even when it might only be a dream. 

The normal wear and tear out along the peripheral capillaries that the Doc told me about isn’t where the flaws will be; you don't even need those for recognizance. Just ordinary memory loss.

But you know, when my government does extrajudicial killing in ways secret not just from the people, but from our representatives and when the intelligence committee members are themselves sworn to secrecy about it, what are we out in the capillaries supposed to do?

I feel complicit to any extent that I want some new gadget when the rest of world wants food. What would I do if only God were watching?

What if everyone in the country had the courage not to work for anyone who wasn't interested in their opinion? That would surely break the regime of terror, except that we're all too terrified to try it. Union!

I am winding back to where I must have started. Zero. Mom calls each day now to worry that it’s been a long time since we caught up, and she understands that she must no longer drive. Too sad really that I have no place to house her, though she spends more in a year to be maintained in style sufficient to her expectations than I have or ever will earn. So it must be just desserts.

OK, so turning outward where will I go, and not to end up that way. When will there be a zero at my center? And can I buy some kind of insurance to be certain that some simulacrum of me won't persist after the responsible me is no longer? Who will be making use of me after I'm not?

Doubtful about the insurance. The increments are too small. The progression not smooth. The very moment when Zeno passes my Zenith is harder to track than the price of the latest gizmo. Somebody will have made an awful lot more money on my soul than I was ever willing to sell it for, that much I know for certain.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Newsflash! iFixit Sells Out

Not exactly news, unless you think it's news that, hello, blond babes driving expensive leather upholstered SUVs with snorkels for underwater driving didn't marry for love. But it's still a heart breaker. At least the guy cashing out told it like it is; "everyone has his number." He didn't think anyone could go that high, but Apple did. Apple has no limit, and iFixit was spit in their iPhone.

The story is so purely Orwellian though, and if it's a wink out to those of us who still read actual books, I still wanna puke.
Apple made a commitment to produce the most replaceable electronic devices and personal computers on the market. This is a clear win for the whole iFixit community.
Sure, well they've got a point, right? I kept my workplace iPhone for three full years almost, though the upgrades made it feel older than that. My little bit for the environment, like driving cars into the ground - my specialty.

Work phone. Funny, when my computer shut down at the very moment that I thought I was going to have a discussion about some difference of opinion, that exactly how I felt when I read this news. Thank goodness for the Apple find-your-phone remote wipe feature. When the end comes, there's no dignity to it.

Not too long ago, at the inception of this Catalytic Narrative name-space, I thought it would be a good idea to lose my inhibition for a while. That can be a bracing experience, mostly because if you don't make it to the ranks of people whose voice is heard, you must endure the stultifying experience of being quietly ignored. Hey, what's your number, babe?

It's not that you're standing naked in public, which you are of course though who should be embarrassed by that, Adam? We all look the same underneath except for Noah who didn't want even his sons to see him naked. That was before locker rooms, though somehow there was already steel and brawn, according to Aronofsky. Anyhow, it's more like you're busking on some streetcorner and you're trying to stay secure in your sense that you have anything to share at all. Do I have on the wrong clothes?

But along comes the Oculus Rift (really?!), more news of quantum computing, following on the heels of gravitons detected while waiting for the next round of God Particle higher energy precision. Autism spikes and we don't know whether that's a measurement effect either.

Epigenetics messes with our Bell Curve certainty that you can't inherit earned enhancements; that only reproductive sexual proficiency gets passed along. And just what do you think will be the first real money-making with those VR Goggles? Holy criminy, and the global warming announcements proliferate!

The reality which grandma likes inside the CGI world is clean and pure and airbrushed beyond, um, actual reality. Here in SoCal, we get a reasonable facsimile, so long as we stay higher than the valleys and don't require public transportation.

Plus we get all the cool movies first, and now that it's all digital everywhere, it doesn't even matter where you go to get them! Stay home, stay put, and bask! You could die on the highways, especially if it ever rains! (It's raining!!!) They say the big one is coming.

David Brooks now confidently asserts that people getting filthy rich has nothing to do with the masses dropping ever lower into abject poverty within our very own boundaries, and so I suppose this VR world into which we'd all apparently like to crawl has nothing to do with the devastation we impose on our actual planet, right???

And we thought Brooks was the good guy conservative, just like Bill Gates looks relatively OK now after the new boys took over town. I mean, who is Jaron Lanier working for now, huh?? How many dollars equals a soul exactly?

Yes, OK, I'm unemployed again, which makes it a lot easier to stand on street corners and croon since it's all relative, man, it's all relative. My daughter shortly (that's not her name, stupid! Pay attention to the caps.) will graduate from the world's best law school, and I have to find some words to stand in for the gift I suddenly can't afford. That's hard!!

Yeah yeah, I know get a job asshole! I owe on the premise of what I should be making. I'm free, white and twenty one or more, so what's my excuse?

Well, I'm a stickler - three finger salute and no reading between the lines - and there are limits to what I'll pledge or do for money. Circle Jerk.

Lately, since we can now understand that Animal Farm (which I just re-read, not incidentally), is not about Chairman Mao's China, nor Stalin's Russia, nor even Putin's New Russia, but is a rather precise recitation of the terms in place in the New American Workplace place, I count being out of work as a kind of badge of honor. Well, I mean I'd like to.

(Together with a Party Executive from China - the actual one in charge of political rectitude among the Chinese athletes during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, no shit! -  together with her fellow elementary school teachers, I did witness fifth graders reading and discussing Orwell's Animal Farm in Rafe Esquith's classroom, so I assure you that there is hope, Pandora! I hope I don't get him fired for that, but I think folks know that his breaking the rules has something to do with his students' incredible accomplishment . . . anyhow, that's my proximate cause for the re-reading, as I recently gave a talk on the topic of US/China classroom comparisons and remarked the wonders of classroom 56, replicated precisely in China as a kind of totem of no reality whatsoevermore since they also ape his teaching and miss its essence  . . .)

I feel your pain, bro, but can you feel mine? I've been struggling across at least 31 years now to tell a simple story, and I ask you how would you feel if you discovered something as Big as the God Particle (see, like that's a really funny line right there) and you can't figure out how to tell anyone about it? I know how those end of the worlders pandering Jesus on some campus must feel, I really do.

Except that when you see earnest scholars now hunched over in conversation, they're much much more likely to be studying the Bible than Sartre, which is pretty sad if you ask me. But that's just me, since I'm not jaded. Which is the most amazing thing in the world if you were really to look at it. OK, so I don't know how they feel, since they are part of a really big success story, which I'm not.

And I, quite apparently, can't tell a story to save my life!

But if you are still mystified about what to believe and what not to believe, have I ever got a tale for you! You don't have to do higher maths, and you don't have to read everything under the sun and you don't have to suspend judgment or relinquish skepticism or (does a "relinquish" belong here??) trust in the machines they use to true the world out there. Honest!! You don't even have to buy in to Jesus, although I've been told as a last ditch pitch that it makes a good insurance policy . . .

Once not so very long ago nor far away, we could actually trust one another, not because we were better people really, but more because there were rules in society which people weren't very likely to break. These rules, like the laws of physics, didn't say anything about how people would have to behave, but they did describe the vast majority of perceived social reality. Like if you were married, and you kept your family secrets secreted you would stay married, for example.

But now, I think, you constantly evaluate your partners in every plane of your existence in case maybe they're not the best or the brightest or the most internally airbrushed for your perpetual satisfaction, and so naturally we want to disappear from time to time into some virtual reality. (Myself, I decided to pick up the latest Pynchon novel, since Amazon refunded me the cost for it upon losing some price-fixing lawsuit I had no time to participate in or even to know about if you want the truth of the matter)

People think it's funny to let you know that the NSA might be snooping the emails they send you if you check out the most popular signature line now, and I don't find it funny at all. It's probably about the only thing we can be certain of!

That and what I'm about to tell you for the trillionth time. Trust, faith, God - these are all things beyond the reach of metric reality. They can't be touched or proven or reliably depended on. In their essence, the words "refer" to emotional reality.

If you've ever tried to read me it's perfectly clear that words confuse as much as they clarify! Most of the time, unless you watch The Cove which I actually did the other night (you won't be surprised to learn), we think of emotion as a purely human quality. Or at least we suppose that it doesn't make its appearance in the cosmos until pretty far down along the evolutionary line after the advent of life.

But apart from the fact that action at a distance without the mediation of time and particles remains an impossibility, I think it's really hard to talk about time's progression, and quantum computing be damned!! (So far as I can tell, the only really useful thing to come from quantum computing is the possibility for eternally secure communications, which is why the NSA funds it I think (but cannot know!).

In every real sense, Goldilocks, we were already present at the Big Bang, and now we have the measurements to prove it. Of course, as with any big explosion, we had to be pretty far away in space-time or, well, um, we'd, yeah . . .

But if emotion is that which isn't mediated by particles nor forced, and if it doesn't even depend so much on time's progression, then it too was already a function of the cosmos at inception. We simply have to define it properly as the virtual-reality observation in mind alone of eventual contact between perceptual objects moving toward one another but not yet in, um, perceptual contact with one another.

Of course the difference from virtual reality is that there is no control; no CGI scripting. Emotion depends on real reality, no matter how much we bawl at the movies.

But mind and emotion are and always have been and always will be part and parcel of reality "out there." Which is to say that there is no ultimate reality "out there," since there's always something which we project and impose and pay attention to specifically. It's that which causes the directionality of history, if history has any such thing, and it's that which defines the shape of fate, which is never accidental in the first place and certainly not in retrospect!

I know the only compelling narrative is a delineation of the first person, from whatever remove. First person shooter narratives being apparently the most compelling! Except that we're about to end all it by virtue simply of our inability to trust. It's our control which will do us in.

Power is not a virtue, to make another nice contradiction in terms.

Well, back to Pynchon. At least he knows how to be clear!!! I wonder if he looks like Aronofsky; if he wears a moustache sometimes??? Nah, I'm probably just being punked. Let's see what the New Yawk Times has for April 1 . . . .