Saturday, July 29, 2023

Memory Schmemory

Anyone who's been through near trauma understands how retrospect magnifies fear. In the event, one does what one does using a kind of high-speed trouble shooting. I don't actually remember fear. In my case, most of the near trauma is on or in the water.

So I go out yesterday, begging my brother to join me, in an attempt to raise the new mainsail which just arrived. And the wind is blowing some 15-20 knots, just about stopping my one-lunger with a tiny propellor even without waves, behind the breakwater, while heading upwind to raise the sail. My mind a running catalog of what could go wrong, and I haven't quite succeeded in rigging the main for reefing. So, there was only boiling along past hull speed on a partially unfurled jib. Which wasn't a good way to head out into the famously steep chop of Lake Erie beyond the breakwall. 

I am sorely disappointed in myself. Where did my pluck go? Time I broke the bowsprit in dead of night, or motored into Block Island with sails furled and so much wind the rails were in the water as though I were beating upwind oversailed. How did I trust that ancient engine? Or drowning. Or midnight hit by Thunderstorm and its windshear forces, self-saved by donning scuba goggles, and having a forward-facing light/porthole. Or capsizing into frigid water.

It's a kind of confusing motor memory. I mean my body remains hobbled by all the time I spent on bended knees crouched over whatever I was trying to repair with this boat. That kind of body memory still does whatever it was that one used to do, and the body lags in the warning. My memory of being able to do this stuff wasn't helping me. There is no present danger and so I hurt myself. 

But on the boat in a blow, the body seems to anticipate the pain of action and so the mind avoids it. As many moderated elders claim, 'I know too much now about what could happen.' But don't I also know more about what to do about it? My guts tell me no. I rationalize that I have yet to become used to the boat. My brother misses the old one too, which seemed stout enough to navigate all our shortcomings. 

The new old boat is rigged to make it easier and far less embodied to manage. And still my body moderates me. It's not exactly push-button, and there seems to be more that could go wrong. My learning curve on the old boat was but a day.

And now I listen to CNN and learn that on a county by county basis we are plagued by overwhelming binary majorities. But isn't it obvious that everything now practices coordinated community thinking? Like politics is and has always been all local. 

In an environment of click-bait news, none of us knows what to believe among personal memory and the click AI of "global warming" in whatever dogwhistle mass-murder format. We have to trust what we know locally to be true, and there are no more local newspapers that aren't written by AI anymore. Everything has become alien and scary. News today, gone tomorrow and yet I am wracked by anxiety about what I might not know.

Only God knows what can break through our collective idiocy, no matter how smart we may be locally. 

And I remain perfectly poised between the extravagant optimism of the futurists who catalog the ways in which life has never been better and the doomsayers who absolutely know that massive and painful transformation is just around the corner from our anglocene dominance. 

The hinge is at what we mean by human. If what we mean is to live without fear of trauma, or debilitating and often fatal disease, or the constant bloodshed of strong overtaking weak, then things have never, indeed, been better. Putin and Trump notwithstanding. Trumputin almost rhymes with Rasputin for the rest of us. Give me someone, please, to believe in. Main qualification: they must be self-promoting because that's almost all that the media ever shows us.

I don't yet know what I mean by humanity, except that it has yet to be accomplished. In my personal acquaintance I do know people who can only comprehend things verbally. I was unique among grad students in being able to do things with my hands. And I therefore got taken advantage of by professors. But at least not that way, though there was that one professor. . .  

They have proven so intelligent that they feel comfortable demanding an explanation for someone else's actions. Mine, for instance. And in the very questioning prove themselves incapable of understanding. That, my friends, is the AI that we should fear. And reason enough not to fear the clickbait kind.


Let's reduce it to some basics. First of all, it is arrogant to think that you can talk or even ask questions with any authority if you have no body memory of doing that kind of work. This will forever be a limitation of clickbait AI.

Second, it was indeed quite different when there were at least two newspapers to choose from, and the ads were attractive according to what you might need or want, and otherwise pretty unobtrusive. As I understand if from an old-timer news publisher, the cost of the paper supported the cost of paper, and the ads paid all the bills. Firewalls between editorial and advertising were probably permeable, but the ads also supported a much larger editorial and reporting staff. Underwritten by lucrative want ads. 

There truly is no comprehension that is not embodied, is my claim. If you don't know something to be true in your very bones, then it can't be true. Local newspapers talked to local people and could only drift so far. And now, the more rural you are, the more you know in your bones. Darn rheumatiz!

I know in my very bones that evolution moves in the direction of love in the very same way that my boat shall be moved by the wind. By the waves. And sure, I am moved by the idiot winds of humanity. But what I know in my bones is mediated more by science than by religion. I tell you what der trouble is: I can't get anyone to understand what I'm talking (writing) about. 

We now exist in a sea of hatred fueled by the abstracted processes of money. Although it doesn't look as though we shall ever move beyond that, I assure you, my friends, that we shall. And humanity, like an adolescent boy, shall find itself. Which is something that I absolutely abhor for myself, protestations that this is the only thing I've ever worked on aside. Those are the disclaimers of ignorance, for I know that there is no self to find. There is only a self to be rescued. And it doesn't always want rescuing.

Now, again, to sea!

But first a word from our commercial sponsor. 

Poetry doesn't sell. Poetry is the artistic makings of a language-mediated mind showing off in rules-conscious continuous virtuosity. Otherwise it can't be worth publishing. 

And then there is philosophy, which makes from language-mediated mind a set of rules for living. As if that can make a difference, but amazingly it does. It also doesn't sell. 

There are other things like math (which AI has always and will always do better) and visual art, and sublime music, which virtual reality pro Jeron Lanier indicates is the consummate embodied art.

Bottom line; you fail the humanity test if you like the AI imitation art better than the real. I love music when I can hear it live.

Now, hi ho hi ho, it's off to my 50th high-school reunion I go. It scares the shit out of wallflower me, but here I go! I hope I don't drown.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

A Sophomoric Philosopher's Dream

Undoubtedly like many untrained and unreconstructed thinkers, I have pondered for all of my life about how humans could achieve the glory of unselfconscious aliveness in the continuum of nature. I 'naturally' had in mind the life of a bird, or of a dolphin. It was about healing the rift that aspartame-fed mankind craves away from blood in tooth and nail.

Now and quite belatedly and accompanied by mild shock I realize that American capitalism has accomplished my dream. We are indeed wild predators now, feasting on the corpses of those we defeat, where Disney metaphor proves as bloody as a grizzly's mindless attack.

I had thought that this accomplishment would be accompanied by moral uplift and mental flight. Now I return to my roots; that it is civilization, cultivation and proper philosophy and mostly art which make up our proper living.

There is nothing on earth more beastly than a corporate low-level hourly spokesperson screwing fellow human out of the contractual obligations of, oh I don't know, say health insurance? Internet service? Honest news reporting? Our souls are now so cheapened that mere pennies, in inflation justified terms, are all that is required to purchase a soul.

My own return feels almost Christian, except that most Christianity as it is practiced now has died on the vine by an unholy identification of the individual soul to distinguish us from other animals; especially in our connection to a personal God. The vine connecting us to all of existence has been fully uprooted. It has proven less durable than the Deleuzian invasive rhizome I try to remove from what would be my garden; if I did garden.

We forget that moral uplift requires remaining connected to life as we aspire - to whatever god means. Just now, we do holy battle against all life. And like good bacteria everywhere, we sully our own soup. This moral law the only godly remedy to exponential math.

We meanwhile remain mechanically connected to the joys of soaring, in air and in the/a bathysphere. But mostly on the road, where we blithely bypass the mayhem of our creation, metaphorically and physically elevated from those who have no choice but to walk. Those we allow to sink to the bottom, while all effort is directed to recovering the remains of bathyspheric Everest climbers. Our earthly joys projected onto our betters. 

(Don't look up carhead, which is apparently a form of pornography. The Atlantic wisely chose "car brain." My lookup is what I hate about Google search. I'll return to that rant later.)

Walking migrants, huddled desperate free-floating masses deserve their fate. Who are the actual untethered? Not I! says the kite to the kestrel!

Well anyhow, we achieve our fancy flights by melding with machines, in a not-quite-Haraway-cyborgy connection. Hers was never predation. It would seem that the machinery needs to be more visible and tangible to make the real transition; digital machinery certainly screws the pooch. Ask Zuck. Nobodaddy cares to fly virtually, except as practice. Now he wants his physicality to be way more beastly than I could ever crave. He's not so very removed from ren-fair armored battling. Is this a way forward?

Now I read this fellow all the time, though I won't give him money to do so since I don't have any. My measure being that I have far less than he does, even though I live on the inside of empire. And the thing that bugs me about him is that he implicitly believes that humanity pulling itself from the muck is still a logic problem. He works to convince his readers of his point of view. You can lead a horse to water kind of problem.

I mean let me tell you he's way smarter than the rest of us, except that he still seems to think that he can talk (or write) us into doing the right thing. It reminds me of all my friends and relatives who, for a while, couldn't stop speculating about what's wrong with Trumpers' brains. Without ever talking to a Trumper. Back off! You look as scary as a tiger in the wild. 

We won't ever and never have changed by deciding to do so. Conscious evolution anyone? I have a bridge to sell you! Nope, nature is working on us as we speak. And we will relinquish the glories of rampant capitalism or perish as a species. Which leads one to wonder what the surviving species will look like. Or is humanity permanently identical with hubris?

Where is the dividing line between aspiring heavenly and flying too close to the sun? Well, for one thing, global community is only ever in the mind. Trusting and enjoying and cavorting with our fellow humans requires real community, which isn't exactly the sort which social media mediates. 

Sure, maybe academics in a certain field can from a kind of academic community, but it doesn't begin to approach the more intimate sort with which you share meals, music and boat rides.

I've always thought I wanted to be an academic, and maybe many of my teachers assumed I would be. The trouble for me was always that my reach exceeded my grasp. Like, I can't remember what my advisor called it, but whatever the term was I took it to mean something way over my head. I'd wanted to extend capitalist theory to cover educational credentials, which I thought constituted some sort of ownership of ascribed merit.

It's no mystery that our schools are also deeply embedded in capitalism.

We all know that the real value of attendance at the Ivies, for instance, has more to do with networks and social skills than it does with anything like knowledge. So human capital has always been a strange fiction, referring at least to the productivity of owned = credentialed, minds. A recent editorial even argues that legacy admissions are good becuase they give the diversity admits what they want; to rub shoulders with the landed elite.

What I am good at, if there's anything that I'm good at, is to assess the pieces of a built reality that I'm trying to make my own, and then to make it my own. I do this and have done it with boats and cars and houses and bicycles (the best!), and I come up with reasonable facsimiles of professional work, or in the case of bicycles, actual professional work. It's mostly about solving the money problem, which I can't seem to want to solve any more than I wanted to join the ranks for credentialed academia.

All those various commitments - academia and career - felt and feel life-ending, except for bicycles, which were, once upon a time, pretty easily comprehended without advanced anything. Next closest was the journeyman work I've done with computer networks. I lost interest when the cloud became the game.

Do I want to make the claim that my kind of work is closer to human than the kind that capitalism rewards? Maybe. In a way, I do undermine the system. But if I want to claim that capitalism dehumanizes - and I do! - then I guess that I believe that the system requires undermining for humanity to thrive. Like I'm pulling off a veil or something.

So yeah, it's still capitalism when profit/loss based on actual sales of actual stuff becomes subsumed in mindshare surveillance capitalism. It isn't exactly the theft of private habits which constitutes the crime, as Shoshana Zuboff might urge us to believe. I believe she remains firmly in the capitalist tent, if only there were better rules. Like Liz Warren - aren't they really coming from the same place?

No, mindshare capitalism gives us personal surveillance relinquishers from two of the most outrageously capitalized corporate entities in all time; Google, Apple take your pick. Like good organic farm goods, the representations against the reality of privacy protections are dubious at best. 

But now along comes large language modelling AI, and apparently people want to move their monetized by advertising digital production behind paywalls again to prevent the AI from scooping it all.

But really the nice thing is that all the capitalist imitations of human artistic production may also bring us back real news which isn't all a kind of disaster doom scroll of call it global warming and we will read it click bait.

I'm not saying global warming isn't real. I'm just saying I've lost my bearings among all the record breaks. I mean I actually remember 110 degrees in Phoenix in the dead of night. I was with small child. And global warming wasn't in the vocabulary. 

So I attended a sparsely and oldster-attended live music performance last night, which reminded me why I don't care for recorded music anymore. That magic won't be reproduced by AI, ever, because you need the fingers flying precisely over the fretboard and the drummer's athletic moves in synch with the grimacing neck stretches from the base. Not to mention the earth shattering female vocals. 

So yeah, bring on the AI to organize the Internet so that we don't have to waste so much time plowing through opaque and monetized keyterms. Blow the advertising monetization model out of the water. Like I know why housing contractors seem, to a man, to mistrust mainstream media. I lack the certainty of their vaguely Trumpian pronouncements, but I sure do know the frustration of people who actually enjoy diagnosing and fixing things being told what's what by digital authors who couldn't plumb a clogged drain to save their lives.

AI is already what they celebrate in the Academy writ large among the non-legacy admits. Put it in service to the AI of corporate decision-making and get rich. And then hoard the capital - mostly intellectual now - and own the owners. 

But those few of us who care to look through and beyond this veil of money will survive Neo-like beyond the Matrix. The Earth decrees it. 

Rock on I say, and scream the blues.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Memory and Memories

I generally start writing when I feel like I have something to say. I've had something to say for a while now, but I can't remember what it is. I come home frequently, after working on the boat, to find the burner on the lowest setting where I leave it after stewing my prunes. I mean steel-cut oats. I have a washer in my toilet now, weakened peristalsis is my diagnosis, and find myself clicking off my iPhone reader and expecting the flow to stop.

But I did manage my first attempt at single-handing my new old sailboat yesterday. There was so little wind that - but for the looming thunder storm in our weather which exceeds even AI's ability to predict now (again?) - that it seemed not a dangerous thing to attempt. I'm not sure that the wealth of jam cleats and tweaking lines make an improvement to my sailing comfort as compared to my old wooden boat which had only a few bronze cleats and fewer lines. Though I did use to have to tie the tiller and scamper to the mast and then again out to the bowsprit to get the sails up. Hey, let's put on a show!

I remember the inner and outer calm I felt in the midst of Lake Erie's famously steep chop in the heaviest blows. I wonder if I'll ever get that back.

Most of the day was spent rationalizing the mast electrics. As expensive as they are, all marine gizmos seem to embody endless fussiness and fussing. But - and there are other things as well - the wiring on this boat was all pretty much molded in between the fiberglass ceiling and the fiberglass deck, but for the pigtails sticking up through the deck. Nearly 50 years of weather had taken its toll, marine certified though they were. And there is utterly no space for the wires to be gathered or even accessed, as below their exit point is the main structural component - a beam to support the pressure of the mast. 

So, OK, I built a tiny space on deck to coil and protect the wires hereonforward, and installed a marine-grade plug connector and spent oodles of time attaching a "steaming light" just beyond my reach up the mast. You can still, sort of, buy the current production of legacy lights, so ubiquitous were they once upon a time. But they changed the underneath in ways which would cause a short in my legacy aluminum mount.

The old ones had pigtails, which I cut at the wrong moment from inside the transom after having removed all other attachments. It made a very nice sounding plunk as it disappeared into the weeds below the transom. Not to be deterred, I got a new old one on eBay which was dead on arrival, and then found an actual new one for half the price wanted by the local West Marine outlet which has broken my little piggy bank. That's the one which wouldn't work on my legacy mount up the mast. 

But not to be deterred, I went home to fashion a spacer, and now I have a steamer light. And then, toward dusk I did my single-handing test. I'll get there. I'm persistent if nothing else. Even though my knees are shot from working on them to repair the decks. 

And that, my friends, is my extended metaphor for what we all face just now. As in what shall replace petroleum-based plastics? How shall we find enough of the rare metals required for batteries without destroying the planet still further than we already have? And really, how shall we grow beyond the idiotic resolution to electrify our current planet-killing automobile fleet?

I'm not saying that we should all take up sailing. That shall always be an extravagant pleasure.

But do we really need any further evidence than the recent Titanic submarine adventure about how we value individual life (or don't?)? How many desperate migrants have drowned from indifference? And what minuscule fraction of them were ever rescued by megayachts?

The connections among us, for which Artificial Intelligence may be a goad toward reckoning, have been evidently destroyed when whole armies are deployed to rescue the hopeless cause of billionaires, and those same armies turn tail at obstreperous migrants. 

Our addiction to selfish and alone pleasures has been as carefully curated as those opiate recusals still killing so many of us. And I am far more alone than most. I live in a stunningly large space which I could never have earned. I own a car and a sailboat and just sold my solo travel trailer. 

Who am I to preach connectedness? 

Well, let's just say I'm not comfortable interacting socially in the world we live in. I've never wanted to spend my life competing for income so that I could join the ranks whose lives I imitate. Going out to eat makes my exceedingly uncomfortable just simply because I can't afford it. I do still manage to have a good time though, when I do go out with friends. 

And I live my life in troubleshooting and repair service to friends and family. So they return me favors. 

I want to open my house, but I don't really know how. Soon, we shall all be forced to open our houses. So few will there be that survive the climate swings. My trailer was my lifeboat. If only I could have planted it in my driveway, I wouldn't have had to brave our Buffalo Christmas-cancelling hurricane with snow this past winter to rescue myself at my daughter's condo with generator. But the preservation codes won't allow it.


The reactionary half of us nurses a not-unreasonable grievance that the comforts of their lives have been robbed by callow rationalists who believe in strange futures of digital frolic. The rest of us vaguely hope that human intelligence will rescue us by cleverness, if not perseverance. 

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? That's what we mean by cleverness. To gain the world. To rationalize the whole shebang. We think AI will help us in the endeavor, even as many of us - not just the reactionary fringe - worry that it will be our end. Which of course it has shown itself already to be. 

Or not to be, if you ask me. AI exposes the makeup of what Christians call the soul. The soul is plainly made up of all and everything and not just friends and family. There is no soul but for connection to all life, present and past, as embodied in our makeup now as it ever shall be. World without end. Amen.

Our rational brain, loosed upon life, is as locusts. Or, more aptly, as cancer. The goal only to promote that soulless part of each of us which wants only pleasure. Which doesn't much care for our fellows. Our rational brain is sociopathic. 

So my writing suffers the brief interruption of a windshear across the border in Canada. There also sits a large family house on the beach which survived the border closing of Covid. I scurry across to find trees down and massive destruction from what was described by neighbors as a massive black wall of sheer power which hit like an explosion. 

Mom's beloved little gazebo was blown apart, but the house stood.

Back from sailing, working on the boat, I overhear my pumped up neighbors talking crudely about who they're fucking and how. The whole thing practically screamed narcissistic homophobia. I mean these guys were all about how sexy they looked, and there sure weren't any hookups on board.

This too is among the wages of capitalism, which needs us to make ourselves the product. That's what individualism means. 

You can't have American-style capitalism without the prairie-bred go-it-aloneness of rugged Americanism.

But we shall soon awaken to what we're missing and what our pumped up military-industrial complex is selling us in return. I have faith in humanity to the extent that humanity partakes of life. That's the part which will thrive, lonely though we all may be.

Off to yet another solo adventure! Hi Ho.