Kumbayaware: smell the disappointment

After the 2016 elections, there seems to be a desire by tech-savvy entrepreneurs to write software to “bring the country together.”

For instance, in the latest Built in Colorado newsletter, there is an article about using apps to bridge the gap between what has become two very distinct political and social philosophies. I have seen or heard of a number of similar apps in the last month and now feel I must address all the silly that is going on.

I hate to rain on the parade of Ms’s Nina Sharma and Maribeth Romslo (the founders of The Whole Truth Booth), but attempting to write an app to fill this very deep divide is not only naive but is akin to continuing to dig to get one’s way out of a hole.

I call such software Kumbayaware, and I expect it to do nothing more than calm the jittery nerves of people who think they are on the left end of the spectrum. I say such people are on the left in name only largely because they are more interested in quelling words and feelings they don’t like and avoiding confrontation (ew, ick!) than addressing real issues. For instance, they never address how the so-called left has failed just about everyone, because it is different from the right in name only.

The idea behind their site (and, of course, app– because everything needs an app, right?) is that if we all just sit down an talk, we can resolve all our differences. If we all just post our viewpoint and air our grievances, we can all resolve our differences like adults and make a better world.

This approach fails on two points:

First, it’s time to face the music that there are people out there who can’t be reasoned with. They cannot now and never will sit down around the campfire and sing kumbaya. For the most part, such people will never hear of the app, let alone calmly discuss their viewpoint in such a forum. Should they make an appearance in The Whole Truth Booth or any other forum for discussion, expect a largely flame-oriented rant and fake-news driven hate fest.

Welcome to the bubble, and welcome to software that is written inside the bubble to approach problems that don’t exist anywhere but in the bubble– like that we all need to talk to one another more. Most of the people who will use Kumbayaware will talk and listen to people of a like mind only.

Second, technology applied in such a manner is what got us into this mess in the first place. Facebook and Twitter have divided us because they allow the creation of “channels”– echo chambers where people can spout and listen to crazed rantings that reflect their limited viewpoint. Everybody promulgates and consumes their fair share of fake news and generated outrage. Not only is such talk echoed, it is amplified.

I’m talking about both the faux-left and the alt-right here. Just as only alt-righters only watch Fox News, read The Drudge Report and Newsmax, and listen to Alex Jones, faux-lefties only watch MSNBC, read Salon and Daily Kos and since they are “hip” don’t even listen to that archaic radio thing. But does either of these two channels address real issues or do they merely provide a calming assurance that we are not alone?

It’s all boiling down to brand-loyalty and insulation. Both sides think that their “brand” (whether R or D) will bring about real change for ordinary people and shield them from uncomfortable outside influences that disturb their “reality”. And both realities are false. On the right the reality is a conspiracy-based worldview in which white people are surrounded in a Fort Apache last-ditch defense against all that is corrupt and evil (read: black, latino, LGBT, etc.). On the “left” is the delusion that rationality and calm discussion will bring back a status-quo normalcy of goodishness.

A friend of mine on the right does not give a flying rat’s ass about Trump’s policies, but that now he will be able to say any old thing he wants any time he wants to. That’s all that matters to him: the appearance of change.

Furthermore, if you think that there is really a shift in policy that would have substantially changed america in more than a superficial way had Hillary Clinton been elected, you need to read a book: “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. Go get a copy and read it right now– I’ll wait. She would have been in the back pocket of Wallstreet and had to prove that she was “tough”, so more money would have been dumped on the Pentagon and into prisons. She just would have been less of an asshole about it.

But back to the app: it’s this sort of self-congratulatory, substance-free pap that has gotten the left into the position it now holds today: nowhere. It allows its adherents to cling to the cottony-comfortable assurance that talk without action will draw us all together: an echo chamber indeed. Can we go back to ignoring our real problems now so I can catch up on my Facebook posts?

Let me just add one more thing about our current dilemma and the silliness with which I see people on the “left” approaching it, a little analogy if you will:

When you put your head in the sand, it leaves your ass sticking way up in the air where the mean-spirited (read: people) are likely come along and either kick it or fuck it.

Screenplay: Mars Attacks the Team America World Police! (the script just writes itself)

Scene 1: A flying saucer lands somewhere in a middle eastern desert, and a delegation of martians emerges. A group of local inhabitants who were nearby as the ship landed approaches cautiously.

Martian 1: (To the group of locals) Ack, ack ack ack!

Arabic Marionette 1: Durka durka durka?

Martian 2: Ack ack ack ack. Ack (gestures broadly at the surrounding dunes) ack ack ack ack.

Arabic Marionette 2: Durka durka (offers a skin of water to the first martian) durka. Durka durka.

Martian 1: Ack  (Takes skin of water, looks around in a confused manner and returns it).

Arabic Marionette 1: Durka!Durka durka durka durka durka. Durka durka durka.

Martian 2: Ack ack ack ack ack ack. Ack! Ack ack ack ack.

Martian 1: Ack ack ack.

Martian 3: Ack.

Arabic Marionette 1: Durka durka durka (wipes brow with sleeve) durka durka, durka durka durka.

Martian 2: Ack ack ack ack (raises a sidearm gesturing threateningly at Arabic Marionette 1).

Arabic Marionette 2: Durka durka, durka durka (makes gagging motions with hand) durka. Durka durka durka durka. Durka durka (raises right hand high above his head and pointing skyward) durka durka. Durka (lowers his hand to his side and spins in a complete circle) durka! Durka durka durka. DURKA! Durka durka.

Martian: Ack. Ack ack ack ack.

(The martian delegation turns to the ship and enters, the ship ascends to the sky, the locals watch in amazement).

Arabic Marionette 3: Durka!

Scene 2 (Aboard the martian ship)

Martian 1 (watching view screen of Earth as it falls into the distance): Ack ack ack.

Martian 4 (seated at control panel): Ack ack ack ack. Ack ack ack ack ack.

Martian 2 (looks askance at Marian 4 but says nothing).

(Fade).

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

I’ve been watching a lot of silent films lately… ‘Nosferatu’, ‘Faust’ and the tile of this blog. Most of what I’ve been watching is silent film from the Weimar Republic– that little country that Germany was before the Nazi’s took over.

Silent film is very strange. At the same time it feels both ancient and new. In some ways, if the graininess is removed and the file is properly restored it can seem fresher than a film made even 10 to 20 years ago. The people are much more expressive, especially in the German films, where camp poses and extreme actions were less used than in American films of that era.

One thing that particularly strikes me in ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ and “Faust’ is the set design. Comparing it to the sets of, say, the TV production of Cinderella from the 1960s is how similar they are. The windows are not square. They frame awkward scenes of tilted chimneys and abstracted skies. The flashbacks are cartoon renderings of canted buildings, imperfect in form as is the memory of the person who recalls them.

It’s like one can wonder what the artistic endeavors of Germany might have been if the National Socialists had not tried to throw the country back to a pre-medieval way of thinking. What if that openness that we attempted to capture in the 1960s had taken root then instead of a nightmare world of hate?

And then I think of what we as a country are throwing away now.

We are turning our back on progress. We are ignoring fact in favor of doctrine. We are embracing fear over acceptance. The future is dead, long live the past!

On film, in the 1920s, Germany was experimenting with what the meaning of progress might be; but then turned its back on the future in a suicidal attempt to recapture a glorified past that never really was.

Are we becoming that kind of nation? What have we imagined that we are willing to sacrifice for our hate and anger?

Black Lives Don’t Matter

…and that’s the point.

I have a lot of white conservative friends who love to insist “ALL LIVES MATTER!” To which I can only say:

Dur!

The fact that all lives matter goes without saying really, unless you’re not keen to the idea that murder is a crime and morally incomprehensible.

But I think it’s become obvious that some lives matter more than others.

Let me explain. Statistically speaking, there are an inordinate number of deaths by police action of black people than white. If the percentage of the black people in our country is 12.3%, then one would expect only 12.3% of the victims involving the death of citizens by police officers to be black.

However, according to the incidents reported by police themselves, 26% of all deaths at the hands of officers are black. That is double the amount one would expect, well outside any reasonable margin of error (which could be generously expected to be no more than 2%, yielding around 15% of incidents at most). Put simply, one in four people killed by police are black when only 1 in 8 people in the general population are black.

Strictly numerically speaking, there are more white deaths at the hands of police officers than black people, but that’s because there are more white people. 50% of all police incidents involving death of citizens are of white people, but this too is outside what one would expect when the latest census measures the white population at 62%. Again, the 50% rate is well outside the reasonable margin of error– one would reasonably expect 62 percent of all people killed by law enforcement officers to be 62%.

There are one of two possible explanations for this discrepancy:

  1. Black people are more likely to be involved in criminal activity by nature.
  2. There is an inherent, systematic racism at work in the actions of law enforcement officers.

The first of these two explanations is inherently racist itself. That one racial or ethnic group is naturally more inclined to crime and therefore more deserving of potentially lethal treatment under the law is at the very heart beliefs held by the KKK and the Nazi Party.

So, which is it?  You can only stand behind one of these arguments. If you are reasonably enough to accept the second explanation– that there is an asymmetric treatment of black and white lives in any situation faced by police, then you can understand why it becomes necessary to remind law enforcement officers in particular that Black Lives should Matter, when they obviously do not as much as white lives do.

15 things to do after the Trumpocalypse

  1. As an endearment, we must refer to Mr. Trump as Il Douche (pronounced “ill do-shay”).
  2. The motto on the Statue of Liberty must be changed to “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” (Abandon all hope, ye that enter). That or “Arbeit Macht Frei”.
  3. We have to make sure that Mr. Trump stays alive to keep Vice President Palin from becoming POTUS. (Wait–we’ve been here before, haven’t we?)
  4. Start praying for the zombie apocalypse, or some kind of apocalypse– any apocalypse will do.
  5. Get used to saying “I told you so” a lot to your conservative friends as the country slides steadily into the shitter.
  6. Learn to envy the Russians for how good they have it (comparatively speaking).
  7. Get used to the equivalent of 24-hour “The Apprentice” only you won’t be able to change the channel and, unfortunately, it won’t be scripted. Talk about “reality TV”… It doesn’t get more real than “supreme leader of the western world.”
  8. Come up with really good slogans to graffiti the wall the Canadians will build to keep us out.
  9. Prepare to be reviled world-wide even more than we are already. America will become the moral equivalent of a fart joke.
  10. Constantly fight the urge to vomit a little bit in your mouth.
  11. Take deep breaths (especially if you are locked in your garage with your car running).
  12. Prepare to enjoy ever-increasing heights of ridiculousness flowing from the mouth of our highest elected official.
  13. Laugh! As the douche-baggery ensues, try to keep a sense of humor. Provide your own laugh-track, you might make it through the first term with your sanity. Your are, however, fucked if he’s reelected.
  14. Start a drinking game based on how often Mr. Trump says “Yuuuuuge”.
  15. Suffer with dignity.

OK, so the Afib is under control; but…

I’m having a drug reaction  that itches like sin.  I have a rash from the knees down on  both legs. It’s on my elbows, chest and stomach.

I can hardly wait until it spreads to someplace that is not so sociably acceptable to scratch.

On the bright side, I’m still alive. That’s a plus.

I can ride my bike again because I can breathe. I need to build my way back up to 30 mile rides; but I can get in 10 around town.

Enough of that. I need to write again.

Well, maybe not.

I’m back in AFib again.  Made it about 3 weeks before I went back into an irregular rhythm, so they are putting me on new drugs and talking about cardioversion (the big jolt) again.

So, whoever had me for 3 weeks before I went back into AFib and had to get more treatment can collect their winnings.

Symptoms suck– it feels like I’ve been punched in the stomach all the time because the edema is causing my abdomen to retain water–weirdest thing, just my abdomen (but at least I’m not getting “Fred Flintstone feet”). The nurse asked me if I felt bloated the other day, and I had to remind her that men don’t get bloated.

Swine before Pearls

If we get the leader we deserve, we can start calling him “President Trump” right now.

We are a world entirely plagued by form over substance: there is nothing more worthless than a marketing campaign. Why? Because it’s all about sizzle and not steak. We are dedicating more and more energy to being less and less– soon we will disappear up our own asses.

We can’t go to the moon or Mars, or even build a decent bridge; but boy, can we build a pretty “app”. And we can get people to “get” it for the latest iShit(tm) device, too!

All last night during the Broncos game (my one and only sports vice), I kept hearing about the “NBC app”. For Christsake, now we not only have a hollow shit-fer-brains TV network, we have an app to “follow” it.

I hope someone comes up with an “it’s time to wipe your ass” app, or there are going to be a lot of people out there who will forget to.

As you may know, I love Frank Zappa. He has a song that takes up a whole album side (remember album sides? No? Embryo!), it’s called “Gregory Peckary”. The (anti-)hero of the tune (G.P.) works for “Big Swifty and Associates, Trend Mongers”.  “…and what might you ask, is a Trend Monger? A Trend Monger is someone who dreams up a trend. Like ‘The Twist’ or ‘Flower Power’…” and then uses clever devices to make people identify with it.

We are stuck in Trend high gear, folks. There’s no there there, or here here or anywhere. Everywhere is nowhere. Everything is nothing. Nothing is everything. And substance is a bore.

Zen has won and we are the prize. Our nothingness has become the pinnacle of our society.

Which brings us back to election 2016.

It’s either about nothing at all or something entirely imaginary. Donald Trump believes that immigrants (or muslaimiacs!) are our biggest problem, while Ben Carson believes that our biggest problem is that we need to get ready for the apocalypse. Ted Cruz thinks our biggest problem is liberals. Rand Paul thinks our biggest problem is that not enough people identify with a book of fiction he masturbates to (Atlas Shrugged, if you don’t follow Mr. Paul). Jeb Bush believes that it’s his turn.

So, let’s sum up the fantasies:

  • Illegal immigrants who do the shit jobs Americans are too good to do and send all the cash home to their families are coming here just to have anchor babies so they can take over America!
  • No wait! Jebus is coming back and we need to be ready for his divine judgment!
  • No wait! Liberals just want to make us all homosexuals and take away our gunz!
  • No wait! The free market as described by this really bad writer of fiction is under attack by “takers”!
  • No wait! My dickhead brother was president, which means I’m next!
  • No wait! <insert made-up fantasy here>

After all, believing in nothing or something non-existent is easy while believing in something, in anything, that is real is the hardest thing there is. And half our voting population believes this shit.

We are doomed.

I (obviously) made it.

The Cardioversion therapy I underwent was a success. It looks like I will be around for a while to continue to pump out more (largely ignored and pointless) drivel.

Whoever picked “he makes it” in the pool can collect their winnings. Those who picked “strokes out” do not have to pay out yet, I still need to climb on a bicycle and try to get back in shape; but anyone who had money on “kicks the bucket” need to admit defeat and cough up their bets. Goons will be dispatched to collect on welchers.

I believe you believe that

I say that a lot when someone stridently believes something to be true, but has not convinced me of the fact. It is an affirmation of their belief to end the argument insofar as their conviction is obvious; but that does not mean what they say is true.

The statement is by no means meant to construe that I give any credence whatsoever to what they are saying; but that I am tired of listening to the person’s assertion of fact without proof. Essentially, it also means that I don’t (yet) completely discount what you are saying, but require more proof.

I am a programmer, so I get to say it a lot when someone says “this is why that code is broken” or “that code you wrote does not work.”

I also get to use it with my conservative friends and other people, like climate-change-deniers, who make wild assertions with no proof, like “global warming is just a conspiracy by the communist Chinese to get us to slow our economic development.” If that was their plan, all I can say is: too late– we lost economic supremacy when Walmart, the outlet for all unnecessary junk made in China became the one place to shop for rednecks.