Here Thar Be Monsters!

From the other side of the argument to the other side of the planet, read in over 149 countries and 17 languages. We bring you news and opinion with an IndoTex® flavor. Be sure to check out Radio Far Side. Send thoughts and comments to luap.jkt at gmail, and tell all your friends. Sampai jumpa, y'all.

26.11.13

600

It's been a while since we gave a shareholders' report.  After all, it is you, dear reader, that make Life on the
Far Side a going concern and keep it growing with your great ideas and donations to the cause.

We chose the event of the 600th published article as an appropriate time to catch everyone up and what's been going down.

First of all, the hit counter is spinning madly.  We get about 300 visitors a day, less on weekends and more when our scribblings are actually coherent, or cross-published, whichever comes first.  The audience is split almost in half, with about 52% from the US/Canada (but I repeat myself), and 48% from Asia, Russia and Brazil, with a healthy mix of Eurospace in there.  The top 2 countries continue to be the US and Indonesia, both of which indicate promising signs of intelligence out there.

We are rapidly approaching a quarter-million pages served, which is likely the morning shift on some sites, but for a one-man show coming from deep in the jungles of Borneo, we think it's pretty damn stunning and we intend to use it as an excuse to drink brandy and smoke cigars.

As for the donations to pay for all the high-tech equipment that brings the Far Side to you each and every...well, OK, once every 3 days on average, we haven't received squat since installing the new Bitcoin system.  You may recall that PayPal wanted a whole ream of personal data and copies of IDs and all that.  WE told them which part of Elon Musk's alpha-male anatomy would be suitable to filing all that personal data and promptly established a Bitcoin account (for all the freakin' good it's done).  It could very well be that the lack of donations is a function of the declining quality of work around here, but we prefer to blame it all on Bitcoin and PayPal.

Radio Far Side is doing considerably better on YouTube than Vimeo, while the Yuku channel is langishing in anonymity.  We're about to peak over 4,000 hits on YouTube in the past five months.  Yeah, yeah, we know...fardly viral that, but hey, how many does your channel get?  Neener neener.

The Wordpress mirror site has suddenly and inexplicably taken off.  We're not complaining, you see, we just want to know how we did it co we can repeat the process elsewhere.  The Twitter account might actually do best if we gave a damn about it, which we don't.  Same with Farcebook.  But we still put a little effort into keeping them up to date anyway.

Meantime, back at the ranch...er, jungle, we're preparing for our annual Far Side Thanksgiving report, which is one of the perennial favorites out there in reader-land.  We're also fixin' to start a Big New Job, which is taking a lot of time and focus away from our regular musings here, but hey, we're keeping up with the average post count.  One of these days, we may even go in an clear out the 173 unfinished articles, too.

Our Big Goal for the Coming Year (OBGCY) is to get more regular readers than Far Side staff.  For some damn reason, our payroll seems to be expanding far beyond what would seem reasonable and proprietary for an effort like this.

At the end of the day, we want to thank all the regulars out there and welcome the newbies.  We'll try not to scare your right off.  It's been a long strange trip (thanks Grateful Dead!) getting to 600.  We just can't imagine what things will look like around here when we get to 1,200.  Hopefully by then, someone will have figured out how to use Bitcoin.  :D

Keep the faith and keep coming back.  We'll keep trying to education and inform, not necessarily in that order.  Special thanks to the good folks who write in and scold us for trashing up the 'net.  We really appreciate your efforts and look forward to more tongue-lashings in the near future.

Once more unto the breech!

25.11.13

Rage Against The Machine

Just guessing from the hit counts, about half of the audience here doesn't keep up with Southeast Asian politics, but sometimes it's really worth the extra effort.  Take now, for instance.

To get you up to speed, Indonesia "discovered" that Australia was spying on it, recording the President's and First Lady's cell phone calls.  Now, like Germany's response to NSA revelations, I can't believe this is a Really Big Aha! moment.  Due to long-simmering territorial disputes between Jakarta and Canberry, I'm very sure both sides have been keeping tabs on each other for decades.

At any rate, Indonesia threw a hissy-snit over the revelation.  Makes for good theater, ya know.  Indo President Bambang (referred to indelicately in Oz press as BangBang), immediately demanded an apology and cease-and-desist.  When they weren't forthcoming, the Prez began ordering Ozzies expelled and firmly suggested that all Indo citizen in Oz return home - including scads of students, domestic help and tourists.

The fear of losing his maid apparently spurred Oz PM Abbott to mumble a couple of vaguely conciliatory words, which served to exacerbate the problem.

Prez Bambang then began recalling diplomatic staff and gearing up to expel Oz tourists and businesses here in Indonesia.

Abbott almost sat up at that point, fearing not only the loss of his domestic help, but the cancellation of his Bali vacation, as well.  He made noises that some interpreted as sounding like, "I'll draft up an apology and get back to you."

Well, that wasn't good enough, so Bambang stopped detaining refugee boats that lay over on their way to Oz.  This caused an immediate 4% jump in illegal immigration down south of here.

Well, Abbott nearly stopped eating at that point.

Which brings us up to events over this past weekend.  Looks like someone got up a rent-a-mob in Jakarta and they trotted down to the Oz consulate there and promptly burned...wait for it...an American flag.

Now this is either a gaff on the part of the rent-a-mob organizers, or a very profound statement about Oz's position as avatar to the Anglo-sphere in SEAsia.  Given that a great number of Indonesians can't deal in deep abstracts such as irony, sarcasm and metaphor, one assumes it was a gaff.  But, still...

There is little doubt that Oz acts as lap-dog to London and Washington, and as such, would be deeply involved in espionage here in SEAsia.  After all, they've got that great listening station at Canberra that was built with NASA money back at the dawn of the space age.  There's little doubt that Oz shares anything they happen to catch with those ears with the NSA - which is catching heat of late for, yup, spying on friends and family.

The Anglo-sphere continues to be shunned by the rest of the world, which has become emboldened by the weakening dollar and the ongoing disgrace known as Barrack Obama.  Ignorance, indifference and just plain arrogance on the part of London and Washington in their head-long race to global domination (or is it oblivion) is alienating the world.  Emerging powers in Asia, Africa and South America are no long content to wait for crumbs to fall from the Anglo-sphere table.  Their growing power and burgeoning middle-classes, plus the omnipresent decline of Western hegemony and financial might.

The Western powers are so corrupt and disconnected from the world that are both unwilling and incapable of seeing the current trends.  Instead of fostering more amenable ties to these emerging powers, they have chosen instead to take square aim at their own feet and blast away with heavy munitions.

As with Germany in WW2, and other examples, eventually the rest of the world tires of being shat on and begins pecking at every sign of weakness until all out war ensues.  If the Anglo-sphere continues to be hauty and dismissive, as Abbott has been, then Indonesia and other long-suffering nations of the world will consider flexing their new muscles to get things done.

It's not a very good time to be the neighborhood bully.

21.11.13

The End Is Nigh!

Among the scads of reasons for the collapse of the USSR, the lack of incentive for working stiffs like us was a major one.

You work your ass off all your life for a dingy little apartment in a drab and depressing concrete ant hill.  No matter how much you put into your job, you can't move up till someone at the top dies, and even if you got to move up, you still had to stand in line all day for toilet paper and a spud or two on holidays.  When you were too old to work, you were sent to the collective to twaddle around until you croaked and made room for the next stiff.

The only way to really get something out of life was to become an inner party member, but to do that, you had to be the childhood blood brother of an inner party member, which meant that one in a million or two was going to go that route.

American capitalism, it seems, is not far from the now collapsed socialist system.  The primary difference is that the inner party members carry titles such as CEO, CFO, COO, etc., rather than something more drab and functional.

Suppose you work your tail off and the best you can do is a bland, gray concrete box on the 14th floor of a bland, gray concrete box that looks like dozens of other bland, gray concrete boxes?  Suppose all your labor and effort means that you still can't afford to fill the pantry or your family's bellies, and you still have to stand in line to get your basic necessities?

Now suppose that welfare checks and food stamps offer you as good or even slightly better?  Where's the incentive to work?  If you can never get ahead, never improve your lot, and not working is pretty much the same lifestyle as working, then why roll out of bed in the morning?

Yup, better to just sit and stare at the TeeVee and sign the registry once a month down at the welfare/employment office, than to buy a work wardrobe, pay for transportation, maintain a bank account (all fees included) and pay rent on a drab, gray concrete box that looks exactly like the neighbor's who's getting his for free from Uncle Sugar.

Why have an idea that no one will act on?  Why put up with daily dressing-downs from the boss (whose drab, gray box is slightly larger than yours)?  Why go through the hassle of doing anything more than just breathing when it makes absolutely no difference at all?

 The USSA is riding the coat tails of the USSR.  Folks are giving up.  There's no point to the rat race if no one wins - except the inner party members to whom you are most certainly not related.

America today is little different from the London of the Industrial Revolution.  Work is hardy more than indentured servitude, slaving away 12 hours a day for nothing at the end of a lifetime of drudgery.  It will most certainly hit that point in the near future when all retirement accounts are swept clean to pay off the gambling debts of the inner party members.

True capitalism means that the harder you work, or the better your ideas, the higher you social status and quality of living.

My great uncle Pat was from a family of Welsh coal miners who relocated to Butte, Montana.  By luck and good looks, he got a job as a house servant instead of in the mines, where his brothers worked.  The brothers died of black lung...to a man.  Pat was able to save his two coins of pay per month by eating scraps from the master's table.  Eventually, he got out and was able to build a good life in California, where his family eventually became quite successful.

Chances of that happening at Wal-Mart are slim to none.  So why get up in the morning?  Welfare and food stamps are free, require no effort and the lifestyle is the same.

Besides, what an insult it must be to work in a store full of products you'll never be able to buy...


20.11.13

Reader Rites

Our post the other day (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression...) struck a chord with a number of readers, and the hit rate hit the ceiling.  I think I screwed up and said something profound, for which I sincerely apologize.  One regular reader and correspondent on the Far Side was moved to write an excellent note that got me to thinking (I know - stand back).  It was well worth sharing with the general audience and a little alliteration, I thought:
 
Bernard --
 
... Yet again, I am interrupting my comfortable daily routine to write out compliments for your latest blog post.
I need an automatic program that sends out emails saying, "Bernard -- Well done, again."
 
... But Ayn Rand instructed me to "reward the good for being good", so here is another email to you.
 
... The concepts of "suicide" and "insanity" in connection with America have been on my mind, also.
Not just connected to America, but all countries that are connected to America.
The farther away, the less the connection, the less the insanity.
You and I have escaped in the only way possible, to "the far side".
 
... Alas, here in Thailand, there is still some connection to the insanity machine of American media.
You understand that better than I do.
Here, I am seeing steady degeneration of the culture.
The Thais are exceeding good at imitating others, but they have no idea what or why:  a "cargo cult" on a national scale.
Examples:  women trying to act masculine, graffiti destruction of property, boom-boom cars and similar intentional annoyance of public peace, worship of Negros in advertising signs, movies, television, and massive adulation of homosexuals.
I call it inversion of values, all values.
There is not one that is right side up any more.
 
... I selected Thailand because this insanity was developing about 20 years behind the USA.
You probably chose Indonesia for a similar reason.
But no place I can see is immune.
 
... This is not going to end well, is it?
 
Cordially, A Faithful Reader
 
To which, in my customarily terse manner, I responded:
Dear Faithful Reader,
As always, I get excited when I see your name pop up in the email, since I know something juicy follows - and I don't refer to the kudos, though I deeply appreciate your time and effort to follow Rand's admonishment.
I think Thailand is somewhat more susceptible to the insipid cultural invasion from America because the Buddhist mentality is significantly more permissive than the Islamic.  If there is one saving grace here, it is that the muslims are fighting tooth and nail to resist the onslaught.  It is and ultimately will fail, but it may be a bit slower than the take-over of Thailand.
I do have a chance to put my money where my mouth is, though.  I recently accepted the position of General Manager of the Ciputra Arts Center here in Jakarta.  As such, I am in a position to filter the influence of degenerate Western culture in favor of more civilized fare from a by-gone era.  However, the ever increasing wealth and expansion of the middle class here means that millions are clamoring for the lifestyles that previously they could only lust after watching movies and TeeVee.  If I can do anything about it, I intend to foster a uniquely Indonesian solution.
It is a terrible shame.  Americans are so paranoid and xenophobic that they can only survive in areas where "home" has been cookie-cut for them.  Endlessly repeatable experiences like Holiday Inn and McDonald's are all the fragile American psyche can handle.  Until now, they have been able to demand and receive it because of their money, but that is rapidly changing.
I believe that the collapse of the US will be tragic for a great many people worldwide, but that Asia may have both an economic and physical buffer from the worst of it, which is the prime reason I moved here.  Furthermore, folks in these parts are still able to survive without modern amenities much more ably than Americans and Europeans.  Back home, I would be hard-pressed to find 10 people in a hundred that could build a decent shelter, whereas I think easily 75 out of a hundred here could...but that is quickly changing with the spoiled and overly-indulged generation coming up.  The rising epidemic of hyperactivity, spreading waistbands and hollow looks on young folks' faces around here tells me that soon, all will be lost.
The one thing I am counting on is the rapid and soon collapse of the Western hemisphere.  I am convinced that is all that will save humanity at this point.  Painful as it will be, the long term survival of the species demands it.  I see plenty of healthy saplings down in the forest floor that need only a good forest fire to release them to the sun's rays.
I don't look forward to the coming mess either way - West wins or West loses - but I honestly think the only viable solution is to encourage the suicide and be done with the family loony.  I think of it as a merciful act, both for the loony and for the rest of the family.
Sorry for the ramble, but you always encourage thought with your notes, for which I am deeply grateful.  Thanks for reading and continue to keep in touch.  While you're at it, check out the website http://ciputraartpreneur.com.  It's a very exciting project and one-of-a-kind in Indonesia at the moment.  If you make it this way at some point, of course I'll drag you to a show.
All the best!
B

19.11.13

Trimurti And Me

Remember being a kid and playing out in the back 40 building roads and dams and other major engineering projects?  If you had a long Saturday afternoon, these projects could get rather elaborate.  I once dammed off an entire stream and made a decent swimming hole with an island in the middle, complete with port for my toy sailboat.  It was a very LONG afternoon, you see.

If you watch kids doing this kind of thing, there is an inevitable point when they seem to reach a maximum point of development and then smash the whole thing to bits and start over.  The smashing up usually involves lots of explosion noises and probably conversations between imaginary world leaders as they plot the systematic destruction of the 'world'.

It seems humanity is like that.  We have plugged into our brains at some level the desire to destroy everything we've built up and start over.  Hell, even computers come with elaborate ctr+alt+del codes to reset the system and start over.  Every gaming system has a reset button.  Nations have thermonuclear devices.  Holy books have end-of-world scenarios and signs to look for that clue the faithful into the coming reset.

The reason I mention kids first is that the urge to destroy shows up very young, even before religious or social programming.  If you stack up a bunch of blocks in front of a baby, it will eventually knock them down and even make a game of it, laughing and giggling every time the 'world' crashes down.

It's hardwired into us, this desire to destroy.  It is the yang to our creative yin.  It is the evil that offsets the good.  In order to take part in the creative process, there seems to be a built-in reset button that drives us to destroy.

We humans are both Brahma and Shiva balanced on the lap of Vishnu waiting to totter off in one direction or the other.

It's like a Kubrick film, with phallic probes from a tanker aircraft seeking union with the receiving craft, and ending with an atomic explosion of a climax complete with Slim Pickens riding the Big One all the way in coital eruptions of "Yeehaw!"

We are a strange breed.  I am not familiar with any other creature on Earth that burns with the desire to destroy all it has created to begin the whole process again.  Beavers never tear down their dens.  Rabbits never cave in their warrens.  Birds may abandon a nest, but they don't rip it to shreds before doing so.  It seems to be a characteristic unique to human beings.

Perhaps in the millennia that humanity has been asking the question, "Why are we here?", the answer all along has been, "Learn how to create without destroying."  But with something so seemingly intractable from the human psyche, are we even capable of reaching that ultimate enlightenment?

But what do I know?  I believe that 'global warming' is a cover story for weather wars.

18.11.13

Denial Anger Bargaining Depression...

It's not easy watching a country commit suicide.  It's kind of like a car wreck: everyone slows down to look at the carnage before speeding off happy to still be breathing.

Usually, when folks kill themselves, they seek a little privacy and try to do things as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Occasionally though, you get the jumpers.  They get out on the ledge and wait for big crowds to gather and media to show up.  These big public shows are rarely serious, though.  What they are looking for is some attention - someone to save them.

The United States of America seems to be one of those exceptions.  Not only has it crawled out on a particularly precarious ledge, but it is absolutely defying anyone to help it.  Convinced of its own immortality and what David Byrne called "special-NESS",  Not only has it edged itself out in a very public space, it is tap-dancing on the ledge singing the Star-Spangled Banner and yelling to the gaping mobs below about how privileged it is.

It's a special kind of insanity, really.

There's an additional problem.  This gross display of self-delusion is compounded by the fact that the nation has crawled out on the ledge carrying a lot of weapons and seems hell-bent on taking out a few million folks before swan-diving to a spectacular end.

A lot of countries and individuals around the world are trying to distance themselves from the coming carnage.  The number of people giving up their citizenship or permanent resident status has reached record highsLegislation has been introduced in Russia to ban possession and trade in dollars.  A dozen countries have demanded their gold back from the Federal Researve (good luck - getting smack off a junkie is easier).  Many other countries are establishing trade agreements in their own currencies to by-pass the dollar.

All of this is going on fairly quietly so as not to agitate the loony on the ledge, but he's getting wise and starting to get that wild, haunted look in his eyes.  He's spying on everyone, friends included, out of sheer paranoia.  He's got weapons pointed in every which direction.  He's insisting that everyone sign his Trans-Pacific Pact or he'll by-God jump.  In fact, he's showing all the same signs the USSR did a while back before slipping and falling to its death in a rather spectacular way with a vodka-swilling Jew riding a tank into Red Square.

The world is pretty much resigned to the inevitable, and since the loony gets ever more belligerent with every passing moment, it seems a good idea to stand back and let the guy rush head-long to his demise, while making back-up plans for the inevitable time when the rest of us don't have to worry about his destructive behavior.

Americans, being for the most part provincial and self-centered, don't realize how their country squats on top of the world and, in spoiled child fashion, issues demands and decrees that are completely oblivious to the rest of the world or the harm that it does.

Having been so steeped in "exceptionalism", Americans are blind to the destructive tendency of their culture.  Raised on diets of pro-Cowboy/anti-Indian, the US continues the single-minded conquest of the world in the belief that there is no other way but the Anglo way, and the world must conform or die.

Civilization is something that is grown, not pounded.  It also recognizes that there are many paths to the same destination.  Americans, and America, must reform or face extinction.  No man is an island entire to himself.

The decline of the US is now well into the paranoia phase, in which it is lashing out to blame anyone and anything for its misfortunes.  In fact, the whole problem is as simple as a point of view, but one that is extremely hard to take, because it requires seeing the errors of the current situation.

Slowly but inexorably the American people are waking up and realizing what is and has been done in their name.  This is causing increasing dissatisfaction and distancing from government institutions.  Once the people have been lost, governments crumble  Like marital infidelity, it is extremely hard to regain trust, especially that which was built on complete faith in the goodness and morality of the system.

American paranoia says that the rest of the world is plotting against it, but out here on the Far Side, we know the end is near and it is prudent to prepare.

14.11.13

Space A-holes Must Die!

Let's stop calling them the PTB and elites.  After all, they are just low-life, greedy scum in 3-piece Armani suits.  I propose the term "A-holes," with a capital "A" to distinguish them from the run-of-the-mill, street variety of a-hole.

These A-holes have sabotaged yet another nation's space ambitions.  India's Mars probe, like so many before it, has been scuttled by the A-holes to prevent...what?  Well, that's the Big 64-dollar question, ain't it?

You see, ever since WW2 and the incredible technologies unleashed by German and Nazi research, these A-holes, who have squatted on humanity's collective head for centuries, have been pressing the space technology to establish their Empire of the Heavens.  These pernicious dogs actually fancy themselves as akin to the gods of ancient myth and they are determined to capture the sky realms for themselves and 'once again' take their place as gods of the Heavens.

What a load of crap, but the problem is the A-holes believe it, and they are willing to kill, maim and destroy anything to get what they want: a New World Order...only they won't be on the World they intend to Order.

Since the dawn of the Space Age, there seems to be a clear agenda that someone (the A-holes) wants to have complete and unltimate control over who gets there and what they can see and do.  An inordinate number of probes seem to fail that don't come from the A-hole military-industrial-financial complex.  The Russian Fobos-Grunt, the British Beagle and now the Indian Mars craft have failed, while the US rovers and orbiters don't seem to have any problem.

And no, I obviously don't buy a superior tech story, since US tech is all off the shelf in Mumbai, anymore.

We can add to the list all the Moon probes that seem to rile up the A-holes, especially when they get too near certain sensitive areas, like the manned landing sites.  One also gets the sense that there is a high-level (bunch of A-holes) sitting on top of any data that other countries manage to acquire.  Everything is just too well managed.

Heck, the BBC story on the Indian probe problems spends a lot of time quoting "unnamed sources" about what could be going on with the satellite.  Now just a doggone minute.  Why do people commenting on space probes need anonymity?  You mean folks can't speak openly about space exploration?  Unless, of course, it's an A-hole expert showing off his inside knowledge about what's really gone wrong with the machine.

Any more, it seems like good national policy to announce that you are sending a probe to Venus, and then announce your Mars intentions once you're safely inserted into a trans-martian orbit.  Declaring up front just looks like mechanical suicide, at this point.

As researchers such as Hoagland, Farrell and Dolan have pointed out, there is a distinct set of dots to connect that make a picture of a set of A-holes with an iron grasp on all things space.  There's also a strong case to be made by these and others that a secret space program exists that serves only the interests of the A-holes.

We can only conclude that the A-holes intend to (or have already) get off the planet, establish themselves as modern-day gods, and then start lobbing crap at us, like meteors and other fun stuff, for fun.  Oh, and while they're at it, they'll nuke us (Fukushima, Stuxnet), choke us (BP oil spill) and futz with our genes (GMOs) to see what they can do to return humanity to the Stone Age and back to slaves for the A-holes...not to mention the pure entertainment value of being gods and killing off a billion or so just for fun.  Kinda like the Sims.

So, are there really a bunch of A-holes who are trying to recreate the powers of the ancient gods and lord themselves over Mankind at our own expense?  I'd say the facts show yes.  I've just presented a tiny bit of the evidence - haven't mentioned the Norway seed bank, Project Blue Beam, crop circles, and the like.

What can we do?  First of all, acknowledge that they really are shitting on us.  Two, that they really are trying to make themselves gods.  And three, that they need their wings clipped in a Big Way.  If you want to see their wet dream, watch Star Trek into Darkness, only pretend that you are the natives about to be toasted by the volcano, rather than Kirk and McCoy.  That's how they see us and themselves.

What a bunch of A-holes.

13.11.13

A New Superhero - Renaissance Man

Compartmentalization equals death.

Once upon a time, education included the Trivium and Quadrivium.  A student was required to survey the sum total of human experience before being allowed to specialize in a degree.  This is what we call a liberal arts education - liberal being the operative word in that it set one free.

A recent article triggered some deep thinking on the state of the world and the mess that we call education today.

People have gotten so narrowly focused that they not only cannot think outside the box, they can't even define the limits of the box because they can't see that far.  A typical college graduate enters the work force so specialized that he or she is incapable of drawing on multiple points of view in problem-solving.  Inspiration for the really big breakthroughs requires the ability to call on multiple disciplines.  Creativity thrives on the ability to approach any problem from many different angles.

The concept of the "renaissance man" has long since died out.  People who can competently play a muscal instrument, recite poetry, pursue independent investigations into the sciences, be able to speak more than one language fluently, discuss history with some authority, travel extensively, and so on are vanishingly rare anymore.

One key to a well-rounded education is reading.  It seems that most people one encounters these days don't read at all, or if they do, it is only within the field of their career.  Those who still read the news seem to only draw from select sources whose socio-political outlook matches their own.  Few will consciously seek out viewpoints that diverge from their own just to consider the arguments presented.

In observing this state of things, I begin to believe that it is by design.  Having populations that are highly specialized keeps them ignorant of opposing ideas, and thus divided and unable to work together.  This division serves the purpose of preventing large numbers of people from diverse backgrounds from forming alliances that could effectively change political systems.  Without unity, there is no power, and so it serves the Powers That Squat to keep us all ignorant and unable to communicate effectively.

A college graduate that has spent most of his matriculation focused on accounting makes a good wage slave.  They don't question much and are incapable of solving problems in other areas, effectively pidgeon-holing the employee and preventing them from knowing too much about how the rest of the business functions.  If he were too broadly educated, the accountant would be an effective threat to the equally pidgeon-holed executives and their corner offices and juicy paychecks and bonus packages.

Think about black projects in government or corporate worlds.  The most effective way to keep a project a secret is to let as few people in on the Big Picture as possible.  Company A has only enough information to produce their widget, but how that widget fits into the overall scheme is a mystery.

The same is true with populations.  By having an educational system geared towards specialization, people are effectively cut off from seeing the Big Picture, and so never have enough information to challenge the status quo.  This keeps most people nicely compliant, and those who get out of hand never know enough of the Big Picture to ever be a real threat.  If anyone ever causes real damage to the system, it is by sheer dumb luck and even the 'perpetrator' is unaware of what he has done.

The cited article talks about how specialization has stifled creativity, and in that respect, it is absolutely right.  However, it stops short of hitting the problem on the head.  At some level of society, it serves an elites' purpose to stifle free though and keep people pidgeon-holed because it ensures their hegemony.

This brings us to one of the main themes here on the Far Side: the internet is a huge threat to the ruling classes.  That people have free and easy access to so much information endangers the carefully crafted system of specialization.  They must scramble to ensure that we the people never figure out that we don't need their educational system anymore.  If we did, not only would they be unable to maintain their system of putting every college graduate in indentured servitude with student loans, those same graduates would start to become a real threat to the system itself as the Big Picture began to reveal itself.

The stifling of creativity due to specialization is not an unintended consequence, it is the very point of it.  The so-called education system we have is a weapon used to keep us in our assigned stations in life.  Our most effective defense and best weapon is reading and learning everything we can get our hands on.

When we understand how history, art and science work together to form a Big Picture, we will suddenly find why the Trivium and Quadrivium of the ancient world were called a "liberal" education.  Knowledge is freedom - liberation and liberty.  To obtain it requires reading, and not fiction (though it has its place).  It requires reading history, scientific theses, literature, philosophy, religious texts, and law.  It requires us to express ourselves through the arts, and to appreciate how others have done the same.

Only when we can draw on the sum total of human knowledge and experience can we call ourselves free.  It is not an easy task, but it is necessary if we are to survive as a species.  Slavery comes in many subtle forms, and 'education' is one of the most insidious, for it makes us feel intelligent while binding our minds with chains even more effective than physical ones.

If we spent just half the time we devote to TeeVee reading non-fiction from a variety of disciplines, we would see the world change radically and quickly for the better.

10.11.13

Musings On Media

The piece on FarceBook and Twiddle seemed to have hit a nerve, with a number of folks weighing in on both sides, but the one that struck me the most was from long-time reader and contributor Robert, to whit:

Hello Bernard:
Often times reading your blog is like reading my own thoughts, and usually it's during those moments when I am feeling quite alone with them. Timely is your blog because lately my  cognitive dissonance has been about the recent IPO offering of Tweeter TWTR as being a product of a kind of mass hysteria. At an earlier time I felt this way with the release of the Facebook IPO FB. It reminded me of when I was a kid and we had the old crank wall phones. The problem for those phones was that they were on shared lines and people could listen in making it a source of gossip. Mable could spread the word that Sue was in a family way, and such. After watching a Zuckerberger video my suspicions were confirmed that gossip was the very reason Facebook was invented. Facebook legitimized gossip making it a kind of art form. But gossip isn't all, you can stop being a nobody and share your vanities with a million other vain folks.  And Mable has become the NSA gossip queen that gathers it all. But the sequel IPO, TWRT astounding me even more since it has no substance whatsoever. Now everyone can not only be a legitimate gossip monger and vainglorious asshole they can also be Internet imbedded objects of commerce too.

I suspect that the ghost of Edward Bernays visited Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberger and told them, "Hey, I can show you how to get $billions from nothing if you simply kiss my hand and the Wailing Wall. You now have two generations that grew up watching moving pictures on screens, so if you put moving pictures on their cell phones their psyches are already so conditioned you can name the price and they will pay it. And if you rewrite the software and add more memory every few months they will go out and buy the same thing over and over  thinking that its new and improved. You can get the Chinese communist to put their slaves to work manufacturing the Ipods and Iphones and Ipads for pennies on the dollar. Pretty soon you will have more money than General Electric, Halliburton and Exon put together, and the public will have their texting, tweeting, twittering, gossiping, and snitching with moving pictures.

Best wishes


Yep, a lot of folks were mystified by the who IPO hype, which even now I suspect a lot of folks are buring out on, simply because there's no substance to any of it.  Folks don't post insights or poetry or utilize the medium as a tool of exploration and enrichment.  

Rather it is a compendium of people's minutia and public jabs at others who may have offended.  Much of it is vicious and the balance is mindless drivel.

Robert's point about the old phone system was exactly right, and for those who don't have personal memories about those old phone systems, it went like this:

Back in the Stone Age, especially in rural areas where the Great Phone Expansion was just reaching out its nefarious tentacles, there were things called party lines.  Any number of homes were all wired to the same circuit, which was wired to a central switchboard with a real live person physically plugging one circuit into another to complete calls.

Each household on a circuit had its own ring tone.  Yours might be two longs and a short to let you know the call was for you, but you would hear all the ring tones for all the phones on the circuit, and consequently the infernal contraption made a lot of racket during peak hours.

To place a call, you lifted the earpiece and cranked a handle on the side.  This created a series of electical pulses that would ring a bell at the switchboard to get the operator's attention.  To call cross-country, your operator would physically plug the circuit into a central line, which would initiate a series of folks plugging copper wires into other copper wires until it reached the circuit you were calling.  This laborious process led to the ubiquitous idiom, "Hold the phone," as you waited for all the plugs to be set just right.

Each circuit had a name.  The one we had when I was a kid was JACKSON, followed by three or four numbers to cue the operator which ring tone to use to get your attention.

The consequence of all this was that each phone on a circuit could hear every other phone on the circuit.  In some cases, housewives would all just pick up the phone at a given time of day and jawbone with each other.  This had the additional result of making the operator (Mabel in Robert's note) the queen of gossip, since she could hear what everyone was saying to everyone else on multiple circuits.  Thus was born the NSA.

Back in the day, you were privy to anything said on your circuit.  If someone had momentous news (a death, birth, etc.), it was only a matter of minutes before word was all over the county.  On party lines, someone was always listening.  Heck, some folks would just sit there and listen for hours at a time, perched on a stool next to the phone box on the wall.

In a vastly more complex way, that person sitting on the stool listening to the party line for hours is what FarceBook and Twiddle are all about.  It's a form of voluntary surveillance where you willingly publish your most intimate details on the party line while others sit and watch for whatever reasons.  It's a kind of sanctioned voyeurism where people post the minutia of their lives for others' entertainment.  We've all become the Town Gossip and the Town Peeping Tom, and our obcession with it is worth US$1.6 billion and change, apparently.

It's sick really that a select few insiders should make so much money off of people's most base proclivities.  But seeing as how they are monetizing just about everything else - air, water, carbon-based lifeforms - I suppose it is only inevitable.  Not that you've probably noticed, but pornography usually leads the way into new communications technology, followed closely by gluttony, greed, envy, and the rest of the seven deadly sins.

And so a core group of greedsters sit back and make a kajillion dollars off of people's baser instincts, while at the same time compiling all the intimate details of ourselves that we freely share with the world into phychological profiles, which themselves can be sold to marketers and spy agencies, bringing in an additional kajillion dollars.  Every twit and status update makes someone incredibly rich.

As P. T. Barnum famously said, "Every crowd has a silver lining."

8.11.13

Fog And Phantoms

In a triumph of bullshit over reality, Twitter (now TWTR) has figured out a way to sell nothing to everyone.

It used to be that major corporations sold tangible, physical products and their success was based on quality and innovation.  Now, it seems, they sell electrons and people's desperate desire to get noticed.  Between FaceBook and Twitter now, billions of dollars have traded hands based on nothing.

Oh sure, there's some server farms, but the two companies don't make them.  There's some intellectual property, but hardly enough to justify the money flowing in.  About the only thing of value these company's produce is demographics and advertising traffic.  Honestly.  They compile vast amounts of voluntary self-exposure and sell it to marketing agencies and security wonks.  The rest is just attracting you to ads.  It is the complete and utter defeat of substance.

It is telling and depressing.  It has come to the point that the two biggest IPOs in the past year were for corporations that are almost completely passive.  All they do is provide a platform for individuals to tell each other what they had for dinner.  TeeVee started it by providing hours of mind-numbing pablum, but at least it was produced by ostensible professionals in the entertainment and infotainment industries.  FarceBook and Twiddle don't even offer that.  They provide wads of generally pointless communications among people who minds have been formed by watching TeeVee.

We are soooooo f*&ked.

If humanity survives this period, this era will likely be looked upon as one of the darkest in human history.  For all our vaunted technology, we have not achieved anything of lasting value in nearly two generations - the Moon landings being the last.  Instead, we have put all our effort into burying ourselves further into the couch seeking that magical moment when we will achieve the Holy Grail of uselessness: doing nothing, receiving everything.

For all the hype and hyperbole, the FarceBook and Twiddle IPOs are some of the saddest commentaries on our society.  They are violent glorification of mediocrity.  They serve no purpose but to provide grist for the Madison Ave Mill.  At some point, though, the party must end because no one will have a producing job that pays enough to buy all the crap being peddled to us using the data we volunteer to FarceBook and Twiddle.

If ever there was a moment to drop to your knees and pray devoutly for the deliverance of Mankind, it was the moment that TWTR hit $50/share.  In that instance, we humans confirmed that we are nothing but mind-control slaves who feverishly run after whatever bright babbles are dangled before us.  We proved that we, as a group, are incapable of thinking any deeper than a bowl of soup and that our collective IQs were teetering on the edge of zero kelvin.

I once worked for company that installed risers and pipelines to bring oil and gas from offshore wells to onshore refineries.  Real hardware that contributed to real energy to run your TeeVee.  That IPO launched at $13 and only once came within striking distance of $50, despite having sea-bases worldwide and a fleet of work vessels. 

What does TWTR have?  A bunch of servers that used to facilitate real work.  Now it's the end product.  It's like having a human resources department with no company to hire for.  It launced at $26 and hit $50 in short order.

Sad, ain't it?

What's worse is imagining buying vapor shares using Bitcoin vapor money.  It's all just fog and phantoms.