Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Utopia as a horror show

 Thomas More wrote Utopia as a satire, a critique of the political and economic ills of Europe in the early 16th century. It's a satire in the vein of Juvenal and Aristophanes, which, I'm sorry, aren't funny at all. Unless you think bears forced to fight dogs kind of funny is funny.

The modern version of utopia would be Star Trek war socialism, elimination of poverty and strife (at least at a local level), which is not the same as More's utopia but fuck him. A great many people in North America, people of a certain strata, check all the boxes for the modern Utopia.

Freedom from Want? Check. Freedom from Violence and Strife? Check. Freedom from Disease? Mostly Check.  Compared to 99.999% of the history of humanity, life in 21st century North America is paradise. 

So why all the angst? I mean, besides working a soul-killing bullshit job in the standard BDSM deadly-serious-game of hierarchical killer apes whose only safe word for a bottom is "I quit"? (In which case you play the deadly-serious-game of homeless and possibly starving).

Is it the same feeling of dread that a cow might feel upon entering the slaughterhouse? Could be. We could find all these themes over at TVtropes, with the website itself ironically a link in the Food Chain of Evil

I watched two horror films that I think nudged me to write this essay. The first, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, is your standard vampire fare with a really nice black and white atmosphere to it. It is billed as the first spaghetti western vampire movie in Farsi. It explores a theme of vampires as useful scavengers, eliminating the dross and dreck that would otherwise clog up society. A somewhat similar movie would be Innocent Blood, where the vampire protagonist preys upon criminals until that gig goes south when she accidentally turns a mob boss that starts a vampire crime family.

So, the Girl is your standard modern vampire, has superhuman strength, retractable sharp teeth, can't go out in the sun, etc. Doesn't turn into a bat whihc honestly is stupid. Funny thing is the original vampire of Balkan folklore had no problem being in the sun. That aspect got started in the late 19th century. Also, the folk vampire has no bones or teeth. Weird.

Anyway the mood I picked up is she is knows everything goiing on in her neighborhood, knows who is who and what's what. Perhaps some psychic ability involved to peer into souls. So, she leaves the good people alone and goes for the baddies. Which, given that we are all shits from time to time, would require a certain amount of mercy. I'll get back to this theme of culls in a minute.

The other movie was Train to Busan, a Korean fast zombie plague flick. Again, your standard zombie  movie but with some great action sequences and a little character development. The real villains (naturally) are the business executives who unleash this synthetic biotech toxin, and also a COO train passenger who fucks anyone over to avoid becoming a zombie.Which takes us back to vampires.

Most business executives wish they were vampires, but nah, just don't have what it takes. However, it makes sense that a moral, merciful vampire would prey upon business executives. From a business standpoint it makes no sense as a much larger criminal prey population is available. Still, business executives are crooks and if you do it right, taking them out would make the world a much less angst-sy place.

(As an aside, I never understood the blood sucking thing except as quick means of dispatch. Blood has little nutritive value and I, as a vampire, would prefer sucking on marrow, or just eat the tasty bits of the carcass. Better still, instead of stashing dead bodies like a wolf or a leopard, I'd prefer to keep my meal alive as long as possible. So, maybe I would be a surgeon, or better still a hospital administrator. Which makes me a business executive. How much more of a scumbag would a vampire be as a member of the upper crust, and the answer is quite a lot more of a scumbag).

Okay I lost the thread there. The common theme I get from modern horror, from (as much as I can recollect) Invasion of the Body Snatchers to the Blob and the Borg, is not just fighting monsters, but fighting monsters to avoid becoming the same sort of monsters. Which is, of course, lack of free will.

But then there are monsters and there are monsters. Zombies? Nobody wants to be a zombie. Okay, some weirdos want to be zombies, or at least want a zombie apocalypse. Me? Pass.

Werewolves. That would be cool, but again you lose control, you lose your ego, your conscious self (I think) when you go full wolf. So again, pass.

Vampires? Sure. But it could be you lose your soul and will be eternally damned although none of this is certain. In which case, if you lose your soul, you end up being a howling cognitive void encased in skin, which gets us back to the boneless vampire of Balkan folklore, or the eventual all-powerful AI that people worry about. (Needlessly, I think worry about. You don't get from the banal magic of statistical inference to a conscouis being AFAICT).

I myself, through psychedelic experiences and observation, am convinced I have no soul. I am a howling cognitive void encased in a meat brain. Which suggests I can be platformed on a mineral brain. But I cannot use inference to suggest that everyone is like me. There may be others that do have souls. In which case I am morally obligated to treat them accordingly and not be mean or vicious or cynical or cruel or suck their blood and stash their living carcasses in a IV suite in a subbasement or warehouse out in Hicksville. Anyway I think that movie has been done. 

Okay, definitely lost the thread now.

Monday, March 22, 2021

VR Anecdotes

I have an Oculus Rift-S. I sit in the middle of the couch when I use it with the coffee table pushed forward so I don't bang into anything. My only purpose in getting this rig was for artistic expression. For that, there are a lot free things. Gravity Sketch, good solid industrial design program. The Facebook/Oculus in-house Quill, which makes me nauseous. Clay analog voxel software Medium. Medium has been sold off to Adobe. 

There are I'm sure much better systems, but I am comfortable in Medium's saddle and froze and walled it off from the wilder yonder, if that's possible. If you haven't experienced VR, the good stuff is almost too immersive. There should be a dial to get back to the outside. 

My rig has really nice sounds for my music. Sometimes, ambient background noise makes me feel someone is in the room with me. I will tear off my visor to an empty room.

A Black Mirror/Twilight Zone episode: My rig has a B&W camera used for setup of floor and safety zone. Ambient noise makes me feel someone is in the room. I turn the dial on the camera and a looming figure stands over me. After a brief heart attack, I rip the visor off to an empty room.

After I'd played with immersive sculpture and animation, I thought so we are back to the stolen dreams of the 80s. Ready Player One. But there has to be more. I thought of ideas, but the good ideas are good for a reason and a lot of people think of them. Then there are the people with more money who fuck up your good idea. 

VRChat, and before that Altspace, the WoW of VR social. Although the avatars were fun, the kiddies were annoying. Pass. Although VRchat had full body trolling with sensors wrapped around the ankles. Hands, ankles, visor is all you need. A cheap Mocap suit for what? $450? $700? 

I thought of sports bar avatar karaoke on the big screen. Slip on wrist and ankle sensors, a head band, tied into a VJ station, and you get the Masked Singer Dancer on the big TV screens. Psychedelic, (This was 2014 idea of mine, and 57 million other bright lads). You get a Mp4 of your performance and maybe a highlight on our karaoke popular.

Better still. Dance groups. With groups you head into kinect territory. Easier to track one hundred with a kinect. Can still do sensors, no prob. If  4 sensors gets you a human, two dancers with 8 sensors gets you a spider or an octopus. Well, no. Octopus is hard. Maybe 100 dancers for one octopus.

Point beyond performance art? It's not going to stop at body sensors, The visors will pick up stuff from the brain. READ ONLY is bad enough but if a visor can write to a brain... it can write to a brain from a distance. You don't have to be wearing a visor as writeware.

We are entering a dangerous age/ (As if we haven't always been). 

The past has been crises of scarcity. The future crises of plenty. The danger of utopia far surpass what we have experienced.

Back to the dance troupe. It could be a company of soldiers, spread over hundreds of miles. Better still, commanders along for the ride, watching, guarding, and ordering from first sight facts, over thousands of miles. The Borg Trap. The drug of omniscience.

Everyone a soaring eagle loses the burrow.

Anyway, an Xsens suit costs the tens of thousands, the Danish Rokoko is in the thousands. You can do DYI. I won't. I'll build (ha!) or wait for the market. I still need a hamster cage. No one has done a good job on the hamster cage. You would think by now they would have parks where you have 200 feet vertical/horizontal hamster cages and are simulating space war. Or maybe that''s what the UFOs are, the US Navy seeing 25th century thrill rides.  

Well, that's reassuring.

Anyway, the logical choice is to go all e-brain passing cloud so you ain't thrashing around, and I say, yeah sounds fun but Nope,

I'm a stupid old donkey, and kind of want to stay that way.

That picture of the Penguin from 1960's TV show Batman and Rocky Balboa from the movie Rocky is a Nested Celebrity Mashup. Pick an actor, put in the role from on show or movie, and put in another. Burgess Meredith as the Penguin as Mickey Goldmill.  

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Motion Capture

Since getting a VR rig 2 years ago, I found a program in beta called Tvori. Easy animation with either real-time hand waving or frame-by-frame. I think they are heading in a Enterprise direction so they really should put out a kid version. 

I've also been invited to beta test Animotive.

Sans VR rig, Blender would be the one to try.

I honestly don't know how to convert their XYZ dxdydz into a Eshkol Wachman notation like stickman in hamster cage, but that's what programmers are for, of which I aren't for a long time. 

But it also raises the idea if all you want is motion capture data, of which there is a shit-ton and a lot is fight stuff for games, that is an easier route than homespun karaoke.

Twilight of the Gods by Ian W. Toll

 The Final Volume of the Pacific War Trilogy

War in the Western Pacific 1944-1945

I'll not give a review of this book. I've read perhaps a dozen accounts of this conflict and watched half as many documentaries. I'll tell you how it turns out. Japan loses.

Many, including a former President with a strange smeared-shit-on-toilet-paper pallor and tiny hands, consider this America's greatest moment. Which is hilarious. A savage gump of a hick nation from the 1930s, with a laughable science program, kicks the crap out of a guy ten times smaller, and then somehow creates a physics-powered Long Boom economy.

The irony is the so-called greatness was done with a command economy and the help of a refugee population that gave us nuclear power and TV sitcoms.

WWII itself is not the glory we see in the movies and in our retarded popular culture. It will be remembered by our hopefully more advanced descendants as a burst open stinking carcass that best be buried in a cornfield someplace.

Regardless, each historical account provides another excerpt worth remembering, and here is the excerpt I culled from this book, 10/25/1944 at the Battle off Cape Engano, Bill Davis flying a Hellcat from the Lexington:

"At 10,000 feet there was a thick black cloud of bursting shells from the 40mm and 5 inch guns... a second deadly cloud forming at 4,000 feet from the exploding 20mm* shells". Knowing that velocity was his friend, Davis firewalled the throttle. Pulling out of the dive, he estimated he was flying more than 500 miles an hour, significantly faster than Grumman's recommended maximum. He was low over the sea, and a Japanese heavy cruiser loomed ahead. Rapidly it grew larger in his windshield; he did not have time to turn away. Davis pulled up and banked hard adn to the right, passing between the superstructure and the forward gun turret. "I was perhaps three feet from the windows on the bridge and could see the Japanese officers and enlisted men commanding the ship," he said. "There was an admiral in dress whites, complete with sword. The other officers and men were also in dress whites. I was going 530 miles an hour, and I only got a glimpse, but that image is impressed on my mind forever."

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Agisoft Metashape

Agisoft Metashape is a stand-alone software package that processes digital images into a 3D spatial data. 

Improved from their earlier quite popular Photoscan, this photogrammetry program uses a Structure From Motion (SFM) technique to build a "mesh" structure of the object's surface. Briefly, SFM uses overlapping digital images combined with the camera's location data (metadata) to perform complex geometric calculations to determine a "point cloud" of surface dots. The dots are then connected to produce a polygon mesh of the object. Metashape can also extract images from video.

Metashape has a large support structure - tutorials, user manuals, blogs to rely upon. It has an educational license for significant cost savings. The Educational license ($59) is available in both Floating (installed on multiple work stations), or Node-locked (a single rehostable work station). 

Metashape has a straightforward UI for loading and processing photos.The number of photos is under no restriction (unlike other packages both free and commerical). Once photos are added, a mask function can be used to reduce irrelevant elements (background, accidental foreground, etc.) to reduce noise and prevent "merging" of the object with other surfaces. The mask function has nice feature where you only need to mask a few images, select points based on the masks, and clean up the other images automatically. It has intuitive masking tools (Magic Wand and Intelligent Selection tools) that make an otherwise tedious task less tedious,

Next the photos are aligned to refine the camera locations and then a dense point cloud is produced. A number of tools exist to refine the point cloud. For example a manual bounding box can be created to orient and refine the point cloud (this is can also be done automatically). The dense point cloud is calculated using depth information from the camera location data. Once the point cloud is built, the mesh is built and ready for export. Each step has a number of parameters that can be used to further refine the 3D model. 

The nice thing about this batch process is it is relatively quick compared to other photogrammetry packages (seconds to minutes versus minutes to hours or days) and also has a tooling feature that will optimize the batch for a specific GPU on your computer, significantly speeding up processing time. You may also have a low/medium//high feature settings to get a quick and dirty 3D model, and then reprocess with high setting for the final model.

The mesh can also be refined from the depth maps (the camera location data) to create better details as well. 

It's a solid piece of software, rarely freezing or crashing, that produces nicely detailed results in a timely manner.

Monday, March 8, 2021

A Lamentation for Old Japan

Q (the real Q from Star Trek): 

You judge yourselves against the pitiful adversaries you've encountered so far - the British Crown, the Confederacy. Nazis. Soviets. They're nothing compared to what's waiting.

Shall I compare 1930s Japan to a summer's day in the USA? Bad allegory but still so many matches. I wish we were 1930s Japan. That whole 1931 - 1945 arc really needs to happen to the good ol' USA. And it will. And we will deserve it.

Let me back track to watching two Studio Ghibli movies; Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Both are lamentations of a then 60 year old Japanese Boomer how Millennials had given up all the old filthy habits and superstitions (not that Shintoism has gone away), but all those filthy habits and god bothering were good landscape practices.

The movies got me teary-eyed sentimental old man. I watched Spirited Away with both English and Japanese subtitles. The nostalgia of the 6th extinction is permeated throughout this movie. I understand.

Born in 1957, my world is now 2/3rds DEAD. Ten years ago it was halfway dead. now it's 2/3rds.

We are behind schedule for Soylent Green (2022) but it not for lack of trying.

The really alarming thing was helping my brother move down to Missouri. Missouri wasn't alarming. Driving 8 or 9 hours, I had no reason to wipe bugs from my windshield. In the 1970s, you had to clean bug smear all the time. We've had an alarming drop in bugs. This is bad. This explains the lowering sperm counts. 

We are very elegantly getting out of the way not fast enough. If you wonder whose schedule we're on look up and wave at the 1%. The achieved escape velocity in Q2 1972 and happily ever after. The Snakes and Spiders Club is open to all. We recognize talent in both force and fraud.

Which gets us back to Japan of late 1944-45. We USAsians really need to get it hammered in what war does. At the end, they were eating mice and sending killer kyle zombie robots we call kamikaze.

All of this suicidal fanaticism was not Old Japan, it was manufactured in the 1930s by mass media. 

(Writing being the first atomic bomb). (TV the H-bomb). (Internet???)

Point being, I had our chances at 50-50 even-steven in 2020 but now we looking at getting civilization cat-friendly after we are gone. If that's where you want to go. 

There was a SF story about how we were the rats and the dinosaurs left in spaceships (and also bombed Earth with a comet fragment), and we, the rats, are building spaceships now.

The only way we would have continued the space lunar program is if Buzz Aldrin or someone found the entrance to the ancient dinosaur moon base.

To live in that alternate Earth, I think it more likely we die sooner. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Farm Film Report at Boca Chica

 It blowed up real good.

So, is Elon Musk wasting our time? He's selling off his properties to convince us he really is going to Mars. He's invested in companies that can be utitlized for Mars. Tesla: power generation and power storage. Boring Company: tunnels. Spacex: rickety rockets. Neuralink: mind-controlled slave army.

Because no one wants to live on Mars. Mars is a shithole. Mars is Earth after WWVIII or WWIX. You go to Mars after everyone has lost WWX. That's the way it works in the sci-fi movies, white trash move to next trailer park after fucking up last one.

Elon Musk is not going to Mars. He can barely handle Texas. No he wants YOU to go to Mars. He wants YOU to die on Mars. Like all capitalists, he uses other people's money, and other people's bodies.

Anyway, so the SN10 blowed up real good. I read a few articles about it and then made the mistake of reading the comment sections. More often than not, people have just a tiny fifteen minute memory of historical events, and think that Starship has never been done before. 

"How long would it take for the government to do this? Decades, and with the cost of trillions of dollars!"

"Scrap that wasteful government SLS program! Spacex is doing what no one has done before!"

Well, government doesn't do it. Government hands out shit-tons of monies to contractors who do it. Look at any massive public works. Duh.

And Musk has, with his as-yet-to-be-reusable rockets, duplicated efforts that go back to 1957. Congrats, Elon, you made it to the Kaputniks of the 1950s. But a lot of people forget about the Delta Clipper.

Funded by the DoD and contracted out to McDonnell-Douglas. The DC-X was developed in just 21 months at a cost of $60 million. First trial was 8/18/93, 20 years before Spacex Grasshopper. The DC-X worked not just the first time. It worked every time. 

NASA reluctantly took over the operation and kind of sabotaged it. NASA had it's own program through Lockheed Martin Venture Star. Honestly Lockheed has been resting on its laurels since the SR-71, though they still had lots of good engineers. The X-33 (Venture Star) was the victim of a lot of bad management decisions, both in design and construction. The big problem was choosing to make the liquid hydrogen tank out of advanced composites, which were just not up to snuff.

The X33 could have flown, but did not, and we have been wasting our time for 20 years. 

And as far as I can tell, Elon Musk continues to waste our time with his (eventual, I'm guessing), very expensive transcontinental cargo ship.


Monday, March 1, 2021

Stuck in the 20s

Canned ape tastes bad. I don't mean bush meat, rather us meat, in space.

Space does not treat apes well. There is the radiation, which is horrendous. Zero G is worse. It just bad. And given the difficulties of procreation in a natural environment, the idea of people breeding in space or lower g worlds does not bode well for the progeny. Not to mention our dropping sperm counts. 

There's accounting for attrition, which happens with all migrations. Colonizers to Virginia had a 2 in 10 chance of surviving. And that's with plentiful air, water, and a really nice radiation shield called the magnetic field.

So, unless trillions of humans can be produced, even the Solar System is out of reach.

Oh sure, there'll be human outposts, but nothing long term. We go to visit, not stay.

So who or what colonizes the Solar System? And how?

Here we run into the popular imagining of space. Of spaceships and moon bubble bases and all the Jetson stuff written by people who grew up in the 1920-30s. but more 20s as that is when all the tech archetypes were established, the aspects and attributes of future modern life.

Think of Star Trek. Written by old fogies with visions of Captain Hornblower in Space, Wagon Train to the Stars, with cultural references from detective stories and true crime novels. A limited vision which the populace of popular culture, bless them, can envision. Same with the Dungeons and Dragons of Star Wars. (Star Wars, and Indiana Jones, copied from 1930s serials).

Popular culture is stupid, the future of a colonized Solar System will look nothing like we see. Bladerunner 2049 cut close, but not weird enough. Nt overwhelming enough. That's the scary part of utopia is TMI.

So robots? No and yes. Modified humans? No and yes (maybe Elon Musk is developing Neuralink solely for his Martian Slave Army). Something else? Definitely. Like giant slime molds. Or, or plasma critters that dive in and out of the Sun, bringing up Helium 3. Or, well, then you get into Singularity realm.

Face it folks, we had our Monkey Singularity, but not the Nerd Rapture we wanted. Next!

So how about this? Somebody somehow convinces Nixon the NERVA program has uses beyond Mars in the defense industry. Star Wars. Nixon says, Ok keep going. That's the premise.

Consequence. So they fit the thermal nuclear rocket engine to a B1 frame and just use it as a reusable booster. At first people are freaked but then they think it is cool to watch the damn thing land. The first time two of them land together, popular imagination finally catches on. Detroit, where Chrysler makes the B1 air frame, becomes Rocket City. 

This is all before Three Mile Island, so once the first crash happens with no radiation leaks, despite pinko commie bleating, everybody shrugs it off. Besides, we can put battleships in orbit and no one else can, yet. The public is like yay Space Force! and then Nixon gets impeached.

Yay Space Force but then the public is like where's the cruise destination bitches. Boo Space Force. But the tevch was there and lots of companies competed to improve it. By the 90s Pan-Am launches the first spaceliner to orbit. Basically, 40 years ahead of ourselves. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Anyway, it can still happen. Not to diminish the engineering talent of companies like Westinghouse and Aerojet but that thermal nuclear rocket almost fell together in development like it wanted to exist. The same as Enrico Fermi's atomic pile.

We should have thermal nuclear rocket boosters as common as container ships. Else canned apes will just keep on pooping in bags in some Buck Rogers soace ship to Mars.