Thursday, July 30, 2015

Panoptic Society and the Eye of Sauron

I'll bet you that dentist wishes he never killed that lion now. What with him baking under the microscope. Pinned under the baleful Eye of Sauron.

Michel Foucault wrote a lot about the panoptic society, how with the mere knowledge that individuals were under observation, they would be more likely to behave.

Not a new concept when you consider the threat of the invisible sky fairy watching everything you do. Certainly doesn't work all the time, but you have to admit the tactic is pretty brilliant. Rather than having to display through grisly ceremonies the power of the state, you suggest that  individuals self-regulate because their every unseemly act is observed. More importantly, unobtrusively observed.

Government: We was kind of hoping you wouldn't notice.

However, and again this is not a new phenomenon, there's also disapproval, shaming, shunning, ostracizing, vigilantism with a wink and a nod. With the internet, this can be taken to new levels. How many have had been put under the global magnifying glass? One must have avery, very thick skin indeed to handle the neutron beam of public scrutiny.

Which means the selection criterion is biased towards the sociopathic elements. Not a particularly good thing, but that's just the way the arms race goes. If you want to be a public figure, you've either got to deform your psyche by shutting down most of your humanity, or be born that way.

Makes you want to travel back in time and shoot people in the face.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Board Gaming Fortunes

This past weekend I visited a former student. She and her friends are board gamers, as in fantasy/Sf role paying games. We went out to dinner and right next to the restaurant was a game supply store.

Now, I think you should be aware that in high school and college, I used to play Risk. I wish - now- had pretty much every minute back from dong that, but I must have had fun at the time otherwise I wouldn't have done it.

Youth is there to wasted.

I was once invited to play Dungeons and Dragons in college, and I declined. Too dorky for me. Just as well.

But! Had I known that some people make a living as game masters, perhaps I shouldn't have dismissed it all so readily.

Then again, I could have been, by the standards of Comic Book Guy, Worst Game Master Ever!

"You have entered a cave leading to a vast cavern. A dragon guards the entrance".
"I challenge the dragon with a dark elf immobilation spell of 50 points!"
"The dragon is on his lunch break. You will have to wait 15 minutes for his return."
"No, I mean it. Literally fifteen minutes."


"A dark elf accountant has entered the cave entrance of your cavern. He is here to do your taxes".

I understand that a well chosen card collection from Magic the Gathering can be worth a small fortune.

In any case, walking through the store, I was amazed at the amount of game token miniatures available. Not only the quantity, but the quality. Some of these miniatures, upon inspection, were really tiny and of exquisite detail and craftsmanship. I mean, inch high, and figuratively accurate right down to eye brows and dimples. For me to do something like that would drive me insane after about fifteen minutes.

But when I saw the prices? Holy shit! I've been in the wrong business all along!

Interestingly, they do not use 3D printing for this stuff yet. It's still all done with injection molding.

I'm told that the miniatures have only recently gotten to be good quality, like within the past ten years or so.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Eastland Disaster

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the S.S. Eastland disaster. I was told that more people died in the Eastland's capsizing in the Chicago River than died on the Titanic.

That's not true. 1517 people lost their lives on the Titanic. 844 people died on the Eastland.

The Titanic ruined, or at least started the downfall, of J. Pierpont Morgan.

SS Eastland, courtesy wikipedia

The SS Eastland, on the other hand, ruined no one's life except for those that drowned... and their friends and loved ones.

As it happens, members of the group outing were employees of Western Electric. Supposedly, my grandfather, then aged 11, was to be on the trip with his family, in which case, dear reader, you would not be reading this.

That's not true either. In fact, none of my family who worked for Western Electric was able to go. They were all up at Long Lake escaping the city heat.

Western Electric was one of the most progressive companies of its time. They partially owned Bell Labs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jade Helm 15!!!!!11!eleventy!

Oh, it's ON!

Iranian troops have done invaded West Texas. Pretty sure about that.

The just look like US Army or maybe Special OPs. But you cain't fool me. Obama done just signed a deal with Iran. That deal, and him stomping' all over the Constitution, pushin' his powers to the max. It's just totally anti-US! Infowars Alex Jones said so!

And him being a black feller? That don't help. And I'm not being racist. Je's saying' is all!

So, I'm a gonna bury ever gun I own, jes in case they try to take 'em away!


Okay, I'm ready for 'em! I done buried 'em all my firearms about 40 feet down, along with 20,000 rounds of ammo. Can't tell you where in the yard. But it's not under that fresh pile of dirt!

Hopefully I won't need them when the gun grabbers git rough.

Funny thing about that phrase gun grabber. It sounds like it's just really easy to take that gun away.

Really easy.

They just grab it right out of your hand. It's like, what the hells the point of having the gun if they just grab it right out of your hand?

I mean, maybe they hire magicians. The close-up artist magicians. Like Penn and Teller.

They go "Is this your card?", and next thing you know, that gun that was safely nestled in my palm? It's gone!

How'd you do that?

Anyways, all this fear is working out for me. I got a lot of room in my skull now what with this constant fear shrinking my brain some. I got room for maybe another brain now. That'll help.

From Christoval, TX.

Yours in the Loving Heart of Christ,

Tate "C" Bigelow

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tomorrow, Pluto

New Horizons zooms past Pluto tomorrow. It's a big fucking deal.

Why is it a big fucking deal? We've never seen it before, that's why. Pluto, King of the Kuiper belt, as far as we know, has been a dot or, at best, a smudge. And tomorrow, we get to see it as a world.

Earth? Meet Pluto. Pluto? Earth. Courtesy of the United States of America.

It's already a world, courtesy of NASA
When I was born, in 1957, there were no satellites in orbit around Earth. The best images we had of the planets were murky smudges. Really, our knowledge of the planets bordered on cargo cult fantasies and superstition. People actually thought there might be other beings on the planets. People actually thought life would be commonplace.

Now, we've explored every major and minor planet in the Solar System, and are about to embark into the third realm, the hundred-thousand-world ring of icy planetoids beyond Pluto. I expect we'll find some new surprises.

Pretty good for a bunch of feces-throwing apes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The People of the Rail, the Wire, and the Gun VS. the People of the Gun, the Whip, and the Chain

Or maybe, more simply, the People of the Machine VS. The People of the Horse.

Nah, I like the first title, and the order of the descriptives is important. Maybe the former will some day win.

I'm not sure that will be a good thing, but I do know the real test will be when-and/or-if the machines can gain an advantage over the food-powered robots.

Do I need to explain? Give me a sec. ...okay, maybe not.

I'm starting to think, more and more, that Cosma Shalizi is right: The Singularity Already Happened.

It was the Long 19th Century. It came to fruition during the Victorian Era. It perhaps was semi-finalized by the American Civil War. But certainly it was finalized by WWI.

This would explain Steampunk. That technology is the baseline from which the rest of the future will flow. We moved from medieval communications and transport to the modern. From speed of horse to speed of light. From horse and man power to steam and atomic monster power.

Why, I ask, is it necessary to have ultraintelligent computers to realize the vision of the Vingean Singularity? Aren't the aggregate intelligences of the Monkey Hives enough? Did we not see all the requirements fulfilled pretty much by the 1870s? And for certain by the 1920s?

And if so, does it not now boil down to competing visions of the future? Are we not still working our way through the disruptions and dislocations of this event? And are not the disruptions and dislocations increasing in frequency, accelerating over time?

Does this explain the waves of addiction that we monkeys experience. Such as the Gin Craze? The Jazz, Weed, and Heroine Phase? The Amphetamine Craze? The Consumerist Insanity? Seen as adaptations to dislocation, to increasing isolation and stress, all of this drug taking and similar addictive behaviors all starts to make sense. Seen in that light, that our monkey cages - deemed unnecessarily opulent by the Aggregates in Power - are increasingly thread-bare and more bare-wired. Addiction, then, is not a disease, but an adaptation to an increasingly shitty environment.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Words suffixed with -punk: (back formation from cyberpunk) a fictional or aesthetic genre based upon the noun to which it is suffixed

The smell of cut pine makes me nostalgic and reminds me of working in my Dad's garage. So allow me to regress a little bit, literally, and ramble my way through late childhood/early adolescence - prior to the plastic model-making/rocketry/masturbation stage. 

We had a one-car garage, which seeing as it was a one bay situation, had room for a work bench and little else. There was no room for equipment such as a table saw or similar, and so almost every construction project was done with hand tools, or powered hand tools. Seeing as my great-grandfather was a cabinet maker, we had some kick-ass traditional hand tools. 

Anyway, my father would get on these household projects involving 2x4s and plywood, and he preferred screw fasteners over nails. I suppose that comes from being a Navy guy. 

Being a Navy guy, knowing that horizontal surfaces are crap magnets that hold dangerously unsecured sharp and heavy things ready to roll about and drop, my father covered every available vertical surface with pegboard, or hooks and holders. 

(Not that our house experienced much in the way of heavy seas, but still...) 

Clearly the Old Man had imparted his knowledge of tools and tool management (tool usage, fellow babies, is for Homo erectus types) upon us all, seeing as, going with military pragmatism, there was always a chance, slim though it be, that he could get shot in the head or similar such circumstance, and then what good was all that knowledge locked up within that now useless paternal unit skull?

And so we were thoroughly vetted in all the manly arts of both additive and subtractive  manipulations of material instrumentality, making me pretty much ready, willing and able once the building stage of life commenced. Partial credit goes also to my oldest brother, who at about the same time took up the habit of amateur rocketry, and probably the accompanying habit of masturbation.

And suddenly a new material was made available called balsa wood. I fucking loved the stuff as, unlike gummy pine, it was super easy to work with. Better still, the old man purchased a disc/ribbon sander that barely fit one end of the work bench, and a jigsaw. He never use either as far as I know. But I got my fair use out of 'em. (I have a fond winter memory of standing in melted and sloughed off black slush from the station wagon, wedged into the foot of free space between the car and the work bench, fingers slowing going numb as I worked on one goofy after another).

I should point out that none of the things I made had any real or practical value. Even then I was making shit on the fly, whatever accidental shape or arrangement of shapes caught my fancy. 

Shapes. Platonic solids. At the time, the early 70s, I was exposed to Buckminster Fuller, and started making geodesics out of paper and balsa wood. I also found an obscure cut-out book on Pavlita generators, psychotronic twirlers, cone-shaped paper objects that you suspended from strings, and they would rotate when you stared at them. So, I really enjoyed spheres, and ellipsoids, cones, helixes, and the laminated cooling fins on motors and pistons, whatever that's called. I found taping together truncated cones end to end gave me a cylindrical camera bellows, a shape I which I still enjoy. And, once I tired of them, would burn them, or blow them up 

(I would on occasion use the tools for their intended purpose, try to make some weird unconventional rockets, which my father ended up calling 'trench warfare' weapons).

So, the aesthetic involved bore a slight resemblance to things under the steampunk genre, but not. To most people I suppose that's what you would call it, but my tastes tended more towards more primitive technologies. Alembics, retorts, crucibles, the tools of alchemy. You could really throw my stuff under the alchemypunk aesthetic, but with anachronistic modern elements thrown in. Primitive electronics. Frankenstein's lab type of shit. Clockpunk, but some meddling with the forces of nature is implied. Frankenpunk, maybe.

What's the point of this? Mainly to stress the message, I guess, that my stuff is NOT steampunk.

But call it what you want.