8.31.2001

LUDDPOEM BY WENDELL BERRY

This is a great old (1973) luddpoem by Wendell Berry, who you should
read if you haven't. His essays, poems, and novels comprise one
of the greatest written lives of our time. If the Nobel Prize
for literature ever was to celebrate the fine roundness of a life
written, Berry would get it (and likely give it away).

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry

      Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
      vacation with pay. Want more
      of everything ready-made. Be afraid
      to know your neighbors and to die.

      And you will have a window in your head.
      Not even your future will be a mystery
      any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
      and shut away in a little drawer.

      When they want you to buy something
      they will call you. When they want you
      to die for profit they will let you know.
      So, friends, every day do something
      that won't compute. Love the Lord.
      Love the world. Work for nothing.
      Take all that you have and be poor.
      Love someone who does not deserve it...


"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"
from The Country of Marriage, copyright ® 1973
by Wendell Berry

Also, Wendell Berry's Yoknapatawpha and this.

MONKEYING WITH AI

We've seen it before. Movie concepts become blended in successive years...
Our suggestion for blending Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" remake with
Spielbrick's "AI"? Look to John Gribbon's out-of-print novel, "Father To
The Man" (London; Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1989) It's Pinocchio as a manchimp...

   What I've done...is to reconstruct the genotype of the ancestor we share
   with the chimps. I turned pygmy chimp DNA back into ape-man DNA and tricked
   a fertilized chimp egg into accepting it as the blueprint for its own
   development...

   Darwin got into trouble for suggesting that we were descended from the apes;
   what I am suggesting is that the apes are descended from us...


For all our genetic fiddling we may find that we are just the monkey's uncle and
not his great-great-a-thousand-times-great nephew.

Find the book at abebooks.com.
BRADBURY TECHNOPHOBE

Ray Bradbury Salon interview:

Ray Bradbury is on fire!
At 81, the veteran author of sci-fi classics "Fahrenheit 451" and "The
Martian Chronicles" is suddenly very hot in Hollywood.
By James Hibberd (Aug. 29, 2001)

   Today Bradbury continues to criticize modern innovations, putting him in the
   seemingly contradictory position of being a sci-fi writer who's also a technophobe.
   He famously claims to have never driven a car (Bradbury finds accident statistics
   appallingly unacceptable; he witnessed a deadly car accident as a teen). He is
   scornful of the Internet (telling one reporter it's "a big scam" by computer
   companies) and ATMs (asking, "Why go to a machine when you can go to a human
   being?") and computers ("A computer is a typewriter," he says, "I have two
   typewriters, I don't need another one").


And, yes, there is a remake of Fahrenheit 451 in the works...

8.24.2001

COMMON SMARTIES NEWS

Life's a batch...

This guy has been teaching a one common-sense fact at a time to a program called
Cyc since 1984 (!) In our opinion he deserves the MacArthur Foundation Hunger
Artistry Award:

The Know-It-All Machine
An audacious quest to teach a computer common sense -- one fact at a time
by Clive Thompson

   ...Cyc's Austin, Texas, headquarters and writing down the platitudes of our "consensus
   reality" -- all the basic facts that we humans know about the world around us:
   "Water is wet"; "Everyone has a mother"; "When you let go of things they usually
   fall." Cyc currently has a database of about 1.5 million of these key assertions.
   Taken together, they are helping Lenat create what he calls the first true artificial
   intelligence (AI) -- a computer that will be able to speak in English, reason about
   the world, and, most unnerving, learn on its own. Cyc is easily the biggest and most
   ambitious AI project on the planet, and by the time it's completed, it will probably
   have consumed Lenat's entire career...


Repeat after me: You can pick your nose, you can pick your friends, but you can't
pick your friend's nose...

Link via Guardian Weblog.
VEGETARIAN MORLOCKS?

It seems that a remake of H.G. Wells classic "Time Machine" will drop the
anthropophagic Morlocks and offer vegetarian, PG-13 Morlocks instead...

   Aside from their breed specific differences, the updated version of the Morlocks
   differfrom their predecessors in terms of diet as well. If you remember, the H.G.
   Wells versions of the creatures were cannibals that fed off the planet’s aboveground
   human inhabitants. However, Winston paints a picture of a kinder, more
   vegetarian-kind of Morlock...


This is important because the cannabalistic Morlocks were Wells' vision of the
ultimate evolution of the working class (a race that would tend and eat the
grazing bourgeoisie, much as we do cattle).

Eat the rich. Just desserts.
RECESSION CAMP

Recession Camp--the cure for dot-bomb blues
By Rachel Konrad (CNET News)

   The mood at Recession Camp on Tuesday was surprisingly upbeat. A favorite
   topic of conversation was members' feelings of "liberation" from the working
   world. Many campers said they felt extreme anxiety in the weeks or months
   leading up to their layoff, but they've since discovered a happy life away from
   60-hour workweeks and round-the-clock connectivity...


What's next? The Web Progress Administration?

Link via plastic.com by netslaves.com.

8.13.2001

WORD 2021

A look forward, to the 40th anniversary of the IBM PC...

Windows, Windows Everywhere

   In some places, the power is on for only a couple of hours a day now. It's not
   safe to drive because the traffic lights can't be trusted. Torch-bearing mobs
   occasionally break into the homes of known technologists and . . . well, let's
   just say we're starting to run low on people who can fix things.

   We're on the brink of disaster, akin to the great corn blight of 2012. Then,
   all commercially planted corn had been made genetically identical, which
   produced spectacular yields. But when a new disease infected a crop in a small
   field in Iowa, it ripped through all the corn around the world because none of
   the plants had any resistance to the blight. God, what I wouldn't give to taste
   Frosted Flakes again...


Link via Boing-Boing.
ROBOTS OF ILL REPUTE, ETC.

In perhaps the best book that explains what is wrong with virtual worlds and
other future dreams, Stanislaw Lem's "The Futurological Congress" also decries
the hollow promises of robotics...

   Spent the whole afternoon ingesting a most remarkable work, The History of
   Intellitronics
. Who'd ever have guessed, in my day, that digital machines,
   reaching a certain level of intelligence, whould become unreliable, deceitful,
   that with wisdom they would also acquire cunning? ...If the machine is not too
   bright and incapable of reflection, it does whatever you tell it to do. but a
   smart machine will first consider which is more worth its while: to perform the
   given task or, instead, to figure out some way out of it. Whichever is easier.
   And why indeed should it behave otherwise, being truly intelligent?
   ...Contraputers are loners, individualists, unable to work with others... Some
   get completely out of hand -- the dynamoks, locomotors, and cyberserkers. And
   then you have the electrolechers, succubutts, and incubators -- robots all of
   ill repute -- and the polypanderoids, multiple android procurers... Old robots
   discarded by their owners, cast out into the street are called throwaways...
   This is, unfortunately, a fairly common practice. Apparently they used to cart
   them off to game preserves and there hunt them down for sport, but the S.P.C.A.
   (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Automata) intervened and had this
   declared unconstitutional. Yet the problem of robot obsolescence-senescence
   has not been solved, and one still comes across an occasional selfabort or
   autocide sprawling in the gutter... All things considered, the world is in
   excellent shape. Children learn their reading and writing from orthographic
   sodas; all commodities, including works of art, are readily available and
   cheap; in restaurants the customer is surrounded and serviced by a multitude of
   automated waiters, each so very specialized in fuction that there is a separate
   machine for the rolls, another for the butter, another for the juice, the
   salad, the stewed fruit -- a compoter -- and so on. ...the comforts of life
   are truly beyond belief...


A key fiction work for the Luddite five-foot shelf.
DISCOVERED

The Determined Luddites, a band:

   Couch spuds beware! The Determined Luddites are committed to getting you away from your
   computer screen and into a pub with beer, human interaction, and a heady mix of folk,
   jazz standards, blues, Caribbean, Celtic, and punk, Luddite style...


Apparently an offshoot of the Big Galoots, no less.

8.10.2001

NEXT BEST THING

Perhaps the next new fad might be called "Live It Yourself":

Danger, pain and fear are the only antidotes to modern life,
writes James Delingpole (August 5, 2001)

Anything to escape the tyranny of comfort

   One of the best dinners I ever ate was chicken stew washed down with
   stagnant water in a drought-ridden village in western Sudan. The
   chicken was stringy and the water stank of putrid animal and tasted of
   purification tablets.

   But what made it good was that I had done it all myself. I had drawn
   the yellow water from the bottom of the near-empty well. And I had
   personally killed the chicken, wrapping my hands around its scrawny
   head, whirling it round so that its body weight broke its neck and then
   watching its corpse scurry off into the dust, as chickens tend to do
   before they realise they're dead. I felt slightly nauseous and primitive,
   but most of all I felt alive...


From www.sunday-times.co.uk via Arts & Letters Daily.

8.09.2001

POORHOUSE FAIR

People forget that a house is, first of all, an idea. Every now and then,
someone comes along who remembers this...

From Salon.com, Brian Libby interviews...

Samuel Mockbee
Amid architecture's increasing
irrelevance, one man decided that poor
people can have great houses.

   Often dubbed "Redneck Taliesin South" (after Frank Lloyd Wright's Wisconsin and
   Arizona homes and architectural studios), the Rural Studio not only fulfills an
   overwhelming need for decent housing but gives architecture students the kind of
   hands-on experience virtually all other educational institutions in the field
   lack. The houses are built for about $30,000 each using a variety of recycled
   and discarded materials (tires, bottles) and funded mostly with grants from a
   local power company. Designed through a collaborative process involving students
   and local residents, the homes boast an unconventional modern flair that
   incorporates the cultural vernacular of the region. They may be cheap, but these
   are nice houses.


Meanwhile, President Shrub picks up a hammer for a Habitat for Humanity photo-op.
Can't american journalism kill this hoary and insincere housing-concern cliche?
CAPITAL IDEAS

The Top 10 anti-capitalist books

Saturday August 4, 2001
The Guardian

   No street protester wants to be caught on the train without something to read...

Link via NewPages.

8.08.2001

WHERE YOU'LL FIND 'EM

At Ronnie Cramer's Cult Film Site:

Creation of the Humanoids (1962)
Color sci-fi concerning a scientists attempt to fuse man and
machine after WWIII. Acted with deadly seriousness, this film
features the last motion picture appearance of Dudley Manlove,
who will be forever remembered as the inept, indignant alien
'conqueror' in 'Plan Nine From Outer Space.' Also starring Erica
Elliot. $14.95

And a genuinely excellent classic Anti-Nuclear War documentary:

The War Game (1965)
The aftermath of a devastating nuclear attack, as seen through the
eyes of a group of small town residents who live through it. A
chilling UK production with Michael Aspel and Peter Graham. $14.95

Along with many others too awful to list...
STINKTHINK

Funny commentary from flutterby:

   Reports of a smart toilet do nothing to ease my concerns over
   privacy.

      Introducing a model that automatically performs urine and
      fecal analysis for users and could then transmit the results
      to the family doctor via the Internet in the event the
      readings are out of line.

   While there are positive attributes for such a device in the home I'm
   wondering how long it will be before someone suggests installing
   these toilets in the workplace to help control insurance costs. I also
   wonder what else I never thought would require an IP address will
   in the future...


Just another shitty idea?

8.03.2001

NEWS FOR THE MUSTBEGOING

It's Payback Time - Recession, Bad Bosses and the Art of Sabotage
by Ted Rall

   Like the Diggers and Luddites before them, these heroic figures understand
   that government is no longer in the business of protecting workers from
   rapacious bosses. In a world where CEOs aren't stoned to death for collecting
   raises at the same time they're letting the people who do the real work go,
   justice is something you get for yourself...


For a great, out-of-print book on this topic, see:

Sabotage in the American Workplace
Anecdotes of Dissatisfaction, Mischief and Revenge

Edited by Martin Sprouse
Pressure Drop Press, 1992 (San Francisco)

You might find it through Powells.com or
abebooks.com (which listed 5 copies as of 8/2/01).