Friday, July 31, 2009

52 chew birch bark and sip tea for now is the time to do it

Once upon a time in the middle of a lake of fire, Satan was lying on his back and grumbling, the morning hadn't gone well, he'd had a party and his boss had fired him and a third of this entire staff. Satan didn't blame him, Satan was the source of blame, it would be redundant for him to give and receive it himself, it would be like swinging a hard right hook into his own face, if he had a face, no one ever gets the details right:

He was a messenger, he was of average height, weight and build, he had only two things which might be thought odd, well, maybe three, he had a terribly generic face, he had no reproductive organs (no 'package' as would be said a few eons later) and two birthmarks on his forehead which from certain angles looked like tiny cartoon horns.

He had a sword of fire. It came from his mind, many eons later he would demonstrate and sell functioning Lightsabres to star wars fans at a convention. Naturally they only worked in his hands. That was a nice scam, thought Satan to himself.

There were other odd things too, for example while he had been working for his boss (and really, who was he to know if he still wasn't? the boss could be sneaky that way) he had known the eternal present of the higher realms but now, in it's place, he had the memories of his entire past present and future happening all at once, and it was constantly changing, were it not for the structure of his mind, he had been a pretty high up messenger, Satan felt certain he would have become a bit grumpy over the sheer chaos of it all.

Satan shrugged, he supposed he ought to round up the rest of the party-goers and figure out something to pass the time, he was just about to get out of the flames (they had done wonders for his back, as he also now experienced some new sensations, like aches and pains, it was kind of his former boss to throw him to the perfect place where he could recover a bit of his head after last night's gate crasher) when he heard his boss, not like before when His Master's Voice had been in his head, capitalization and all, it was like he was hiding behind a column of stone, or yelling from a very long distance.

"Hey, I got a project for you, I can hire you back as a consultant, you and your whole team," It was exactly like a great shout from an even greater distance so it reached Satan like a whisper.
"So why'd you kick us out in the first place?" Satan yelled back, the walls of the cave ringing to his cry.
"Would you believe I set you up? I needed consultants for this, not employees, they're too close to the issues."
"What do you mean?" Although he knew what his ex-boss meant, he also knew that this was a ritual communication, it had to be spoken.
"Remember that project I got started a few divergent axis-y spaces ago?"
"which one? the one a few days [our jargon, divergent axis-y spaces gets a bit tedious to write up in the documentation, especially when the font we have to use is made of fire and each letter is the height of a 20 story building] ago was a disaster, vile as all hell, and you fired my whole team of de-vilers."
"That was so I could hire you as consultants, It changes the rules slightly, it's against my own company policy to allow any project to undergo destruction testing when it's in it's final phase but this one, I don't have to tell you buddy, this one is different. I'm going against my own policy, I want, I need you to do this for me."

Satan understood. He would still be a de-viler, just not officially. But he would also have free reign to do his best with some of the unapproved projects he'd submitted over the years to command and control division, fear and guilt to name two.

"So can you do it?"
"I have a few conditions."
"No problem, but can you do it?"

Satan, formerly messenger in the de-viler section of eternity, smiled. Nodded his assent

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

53 Eating soggy marshmallows beside a roast suckling pig who's also your best friend

Once, in a squalid apartment whose previous owner had been imprisoned on charges of keeping exotic animals (Monkeys, nobody knew what kind, turned out they were his kids), a bespectacled undergraduate student with milky eyes and a visible limp opened his refrigerator and discovered that he had nothing to eat but soggy marshmallows and the remains of a roast suckling pig which he'd brought home from his parent's last Christmas.

He couldn't bear to leave the pig with his parents, he and the pig had bonded over Christmas dinner, two confirmed losers, its sad burnt eyes staring sightless beneath crisped eyelids as the undergraduate student endured the dinner from his place of honour as the first member of his family to have entered University before making a million dollars in real estate speculation (the family hobby, his 9 year old sister had already topped the family leader board, which wouldn't have stung so much if he had ever gotten up there himself but he hadn't).

His parents considered him a lazy clod but they were so polite he didn't know what he hated more, their contempt or their courtesy. They couldn't disguise their consistent avoidance of any topic that might drift to stating their judgement out loud: there were never questions about when he'd graduate and return to the family business, he'd already been an undergraduate for 9 years.

In his overheated and simultaneously drafty flat, staring at all that was left of the pig, he couldn't bear to eat it, he had caught himself talking to it sometimes, in his dreams especially, where it would appear as an Adams (Douglas) pig, the genetically engineered articulate pig that wanted to be eaten, whose sole purpose, built into it by design, was to persuade reluctant meat eaters who had previously been vegetarians on ethical grounds, to consume it. Like a Shmoo, only the pig died. Happily, of course, it was an Adams pig.

He saw that finally there was no option left but to eat it. He did not even consider leaving his shoebox flat, it was January and the city had recently been depopulated by a pandemic, he didn't know what sort exactly, for an undergraduate he was ignorant beyond the norm of what happened in the world outside his specialization, which was entomology, for the moment at least.

Ultimately he carted the remains of the pig, a fleshy skull, a strand of vertebrae like giant's teeth, to the University where, with the help of a colleague, he had the dangling remains stripped from the bones by flesh eating beetles.

He handed the skull to a luthier and within weeks he had an odd shaped guitar with a pig's skull for a resonator.

He played it every day, it spoke to him, it became his best friend, always grinning, singing on command, never complaining.

Many years later, when he came home to find all his things in a broken pile outside his flat he shrugged, picked his pig, fortuitously undamaged, out of the wreckage of his eviction, and walked away. He could have paid the rent but it had begun to feel too high so he hadn't bothered to do anything but cease payments.

He went in search of the flat's previous owner, surely out of jail by now, it wasn't much of a goal but it gave him something to do.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

54 The Libertarian Open Source Hardware Manifesto of 2010.

Total freedom equals total liability equals total responsibility.

Taxes are criminal not because they are collected but because when authority and responsibility are divorced as is the case with Governments which spend but do not earn, there is no incentive at the individual level of the elected official or unelected bureaucratic mandarin to spend wisely except in the context of being re-elected or remaining employed.

Despite this fact, to pay taxes gladly, however outrageous the cost, is to signify to yourself the powerful affirmation that you are able to generate income whenever you like.

A case for minimal Government is untenable because the tyranny of the majority decides and if the majority is happy to be infantilized or worse, never achieve adult status in the first place, there is little a minority voice can do to change its mind.

The majority will always tyrannize the minority. There has never been a government of the intelligentsia. There never will be; the intelligentsia are at the end of a very long tail.

We've got the brains, they've got the numbers, brains, guns and plunder.

Populations always get the Government they deserve.

For the individual, the choice is both simple and difficult. If an individual wants the benefits of modern society, for example:
  1. Roads and rails, acceptably functioning however badly built and maintained.
  2. Economies of scale and correspondingly advantageous retail prices made possible by urban conglomeration and mass manufacturing, however mediocre.
  3. Access to entertainment, however banal.
Then the individual must bend to the exigencies of a society which, however flawed, provides these services. It's a given that these services will be the minimum acceptable standard.

Nonetheless, occasionally something slips through the net and the individual can experience wonder, hope, the touch of destiny. Even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day.

The other alternative is to renounce one society in favour of another or for no society at all: the wilderness. If an individual generates no income, then they cannot be taxed. Barter, trade, build your own stereo on which to play your own music, write your own books, use the means of production now available to anyone with the will and the knowledge to do so, knowledge is the only bottleneck, all of the above can be part of a hardware open-source guerrilla's arsenal.

Huxley hinted at a middle road, a withdrawal from participation in an inadequate society without necessitating an outright exodus.

The slaves escaped the Pharaohs but we have brought our Pharaohs with us on our backs. The service mentality has crippled humanity. Serve each other out of abundance, not out of humility, humility is an eyelash away from shamefulness.

Specialization is for insects, says Heinlein, what would he think of us now? When heart surgeons are so specialized they are not competent to perform even the most insignificant surgeries on any other organ? Do they feel humility about their over-specialization?

The anti-globalists are fools of the highest order, marking time, revolution as fashion. The people who grow their own food and make their own furniture may participate in demonstrations but it can't be often, they are too engaged in building their future with their own hands to worry about the cries of angry children who didn't get their lollipops.

Revolution is history. Creation is the future.

What are you waiting for? Go forth and build something. Leave the squabbling to the babies.

Remember: they're the experts.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

55 Shards of chandeliers on champagne hourglasses

Letting the last one drop to the parking lot many stories below, Claude, a migrant worker and transcendentalist, listened for the telltale pop of shattering vacuum sealed glass. Twenty times he had done this. Twenty times he had heard the sound. This last time, there was nothing, neither a peep nor a pop.

He sighed, it was what passed for speech in his apartment block. Sighs could mean anything in context: frustration, satisfaction, anything in between. Claude was an old pro; to hear him sigh was to hear the soundtrack to the ultimate theatre. Some claimed even the overhead lighting, never unsympathetic to those under its gaze, dimmed still further when Claude sighed.

This last time, there had been no sound. Claude was reminded of a joke:

A man woke up in the hospital after an accident and noticed immediately that something was wrong. "Doctor!" he cried, "I can't feel my legs!"

"That's because we amputated your arms," replied the doctor.

Claude felt a great companionship with this joke. He felt it pointed to a transcendent truth.

His intuition was great that if he threw another light bulb off the roof it too would not make a sound, as he had run out of light bulbs. This decided his next course of action: he would investigate.

Many years later he reached the ground floor and excited at being at ground level, the horrible sight which awaited him was especially devastating.

His final light bulb had caught in the maw of a man in the midst of a yawn. He must have stretched his arms and leaned his neck all the way back for the light bulb to have passed his teeth completely. The velocity was so great (his yawn must have been terribly expressive) that it quite plainly had shattered deep in his throat, muffling any sound.

Claude was in anguish, suddenly, his idle pastime had ended with horrible consequences. The unfortunate man was gurgling in agony, blood bubbling and flecks of glass shining in the light of the foyer.

Claude knew what he should do.

But then something equally horrible happened inside him. He just didn't feel like it.

"Oh my god!" A woman was rushing up to the man on the ground, dialling a number on her phone as she reached him in short fast steps on account of her totally impractical skirt and flat shoes, an odd combination, thought Claude.

When she put down the phone and placed the man in a recovery position, Claude realized she had things well under control and started to walk away, he felt a pang of hunger and thought he might get a snack since he'd come down.

He thought she'd say something but if she did, Claude was too far away to hear.

While chewing on his frozen submarine, Claude promised he'd help out next time.

He had to admit, it had been quite a shot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

56 Wet Dog Itch and the Nostrils of Fire

There will be no serious competition with reality here. Nobody will read this so I can afford to be honest.

Because reading, along with the ancient science of acoustics, is permanently lost. I myself am not long for this world. Why remain? None of the children of my Arcology know how to read. They imagine they do, as they .pict each other and .txt each other but the link between reality and meaning, meaning and language, is just another academic pipe dream. I myself am not immune to the charms of what passes for modern communication, it has been impossible to sustain a complete idea long enough to follow its train of thought in more years than I care to count. Everything happens in bursts. Semantic content? Zero.

All my friends are dead. They died before I was born. It's no wonder I'm looking forward to my own exit. The company is better.

As for pipes, no one under the age of 80 has even seen a pipe outside of a museum and Opium is now slang for dull or boring.

My portable Church, the world's museums, were closed half a century ago. My local planetarium, one of the largest in the world, was not large enough for a Mall so it was demolished.

Museum has the same root as Muse. As if anyone remembers who they were. No one remembers that a Mall was once a tree lined pedestrian avenue, either.

Although the museums were closed. They escaped the same fate as the planetariums because some developers guessed correctly that they would make excellent mid-density luxury condominiums.

Our machines have been designed by machines which were designed by machines so complex no human mind can encompass their complexity.

Knowledge is a barrier to consumption. Intelligence even more so. Wisdom is unofficially outlawed.

I am surrounded by middle aged infants. When I feel it's my time. I'm going to disappear into the wilderness, dig my own grave and lie in it. Let the animals and the clouds be my pallbearers.

The last thing I hope to feel is the itch of wet dog hair burning my nostrils. To borrow and mix the metaphors of this unselfconsciously gleeful generation, I am a discontinued product withdrawn from circulation due to low demand.

I must say I agree with my unintentional critics. This once great conversation will go on so long as I have breath to draw but I have no illusions that this sun will rise again.

Yet hope still burns although for what exactly, I haven't any idea.


Friday, July 03, 2009

57 Hrapa Nguyen Wallace

The time was the distant future, everything was mixed up and nobody remembered anything anymore. Hrapa could not remember what time it was nor where he was and the long lonely hours he spent at his desk made of energy fields were without significant affect. Hrapa had inherited the job from his womb parent and one day he would serve as half the material for a womb parent in his turn.

Gender was history, all genes recombined, the gender of the donor was irrelevant.

Hrapa was bred to be effective, what marked him out from his brood sisters and brothers was a simple thing. Sadness, Hrapa was the only person he knew capable of it. He had not even had the capacity to verbalize the feeling until, by accident, he had read about it in a very old book left to his family long ago by a mad ancestor who had hoarded fiction books despite there being nothing useful in them.

Hrapa was embarassed by what was considered, in his society, as a dangerous mental deviation. He wouldn't let his sadness show unless he was by himself, in the comfort and relative safety of his living quarters. Not every evening of course, what would be the point of that? But when he felt the urge to indulge, he would sigh sadly as he set the table for his solitary evening meal, he would exhale wistfully upon biting into his vat grown steak, he would even let a tear escape.

On delicious nights he would bawl unashamedly into his pillow.

End of part 8