Saturday, May 30, 2020

Please don't tell me how the story ends.

 I don't know, man. I just don't know. It's going to be a long summer, I think.

 So, the protests that started in Minneapolis over the murder by police of George Floyd for spending a possibly fake $20 bill in a grocery store have spread across the country. Atlanta, Los Angeles, Memphis, Seattle, Louisville, Houston, hell, even Tupelo. They've gone as far and wide as Toronto, London and Berlin. That's right, our embarrassment of a law enforcement system is a world-wide shame.

 Before we get too deep into it, links from the News of the week:

 Monday is basically catching up after a rough personal weekend, and Wednesday's talking about how Bill Barr's Department of Justice is letting insider trader and Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler off the hook. Turns out having your husband - CEO of the New York Stock Exchange - make a million dollar contribution to the President's Super PAC goes a long, long way in the interest of justice. Imagine that.

 Friday, well... I don't want to say I'm proud of it, but I do think it's a good piece. It's about the details of the Floyd murder and how the protests are becoming what they are. I didn't like having to write it, but here we are. Still, whatever it is I do, it's a primo example of it.

 That all being said, the protests have definitely changed. I don't know if it's a natural evolution or if they've been hijacked by people and groups (organized or otherwise) who're taking advantage of the confusion and anger of Black America at yet another murder of another black person by the police to advance different agendas.

 All of that sounds bad. Maybe it is, I don't know. Anti-rent groups, anti-government groups, anarchist black bloc folks, those "Boogaloo" goobers, Proud Boys, soi-disant socialists, radicals of every stripe, and people who just like to see the things burned have been accused - credibly in some cases, others not so much - of escalating the protests into riots by giving the cops a reason to turn violent. And then there are credible accusations of the police meeting peaceful protests with pepper spray and batons right out of the gate. There's been plenty of accusations of cops doing some "agent provocateur" business, and in some cases, the cops' attempts to deny it have come off... well, let's just say they're not due the benefit of the doubt and leave it at that.

 Me, I don't know. Here on my hill in Peaceful Valley, 15 miles from the nearest gas station, it's hard to tell. I am a little surprised Tupelo held a rally, but the Lee County police's reputation with the Lee County African American population is spotty to say the least. This is Mississippi, after all, and old times here are not forgotten at all. I don't really do protests anymore, mainly because my social anxiety doesn't want to be around a large group of people having a good time, much less one telling the Man to eat shit and daring him to do something about it.

 I'm not proud of it, but there you go. I do what I can, even if it's just acting as a chronicler of the times. Something is in the air, though. I mentioned the "Boogaloo" thing earlier. From what I understood, it was an outgrowth of the whole Pepe/groyper/kekistan balderdash of disaffected right-wing white kids from the suburbs who think not getting laid because they have a lot of guns is enough to wage another Civil War.

 However, according to this elucidating thread by J.J. MacNab of George Washington University, it isn't that black and white. McNab studies anti-government extremism and has shown herself to not only be a reliable source of information but also one of the more insightful chroniclers of the world of sovereign citizens, anti-tax protesters and other assorted pissed off white dudes. Some Boogaloos support the police, some detest them. Some support the military, some detest it. Some support Trump, some loathe him. Some are explicitly white supremacist, some are explicitly racist. Age, economic status, race, all of that is secondary to an anger and resentment that's looking for an outlet. It's as varied and lacking in coherent ideology as anarchism is. Some explicitly call for violence, while some merely warn that it's inevitable.

 Me, I don't know. I will never understand why we all can't just be nice to each other and have a good time. Corporate America doesn't have to be a soulless, empty hole of mendacity and greed, and the government doesn't have to be crooked, small and greedy. The masters of the internet don't have to be craven bootlickers to power who sell their soul for 30 pieces of silver and stock options. The cops don't have to be violent and thuggish, and the military doesn't have to bully the rest of the world at the behest of business interests. We don't have to screw each other over and horde all we can just to survive or, if not that, feel worthy of respect and admiration.

 I've said before that as much interest as I have in anarchism, I've never really felt welcome by any of the various strains of thought. Being a weird old writer on a hill suits me more, in that if no one wants me around, I'm fine by myself. Maybe it isn't that drastic, but I'm too tired to care and have too much fun doing what I do to risk screwing it up. Part of me wishes I could be in the thick of things, as I wonder if this is how the air smelled in the late '60s in places like Chicago and Berkeley. Only now, you don't have to actually be in those cities to be a part of the ride. The wonders of modern technology have put us all on the front lines if we want to be there.

 Again, I don't know, man. It's all too big for me. And on top of that, we're still seeing an unchecked, raging epidemic that's killed 100,000 people and shows no signs of slowing down. Be nice to each other. Have a good time but not if it comes at the expense of someone else's enjoyment of life. Don't trust the government, the cops or even the media. Trust yourself and be able to make decisions.

 Above all, get a helmet and buckle in, neighbors. It's going to be a bumpy ride in this long, hot summer.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

I don't need no proof, 'cause that's the truth, and I'll drink to that.

 Man, it has been a day, hasn't it? Protests and riots across the country, the president trying to bring the government hammer down on a private company because his feelings are hurt, and the sneaking suspicion that "reopening the country" this soon wasn't a great idea. One upside is the forces of old and evil are sounding dumber than shit in trying to defend what obviously isn't going to work anymore.

 I really don't know where to start. Momma and I had a rather heavy discussion about the George Floyd murder and the resulting chaos that's popped up as a result. Make no mistake, Momma is Mississippi through and through, and one thing about Mississippi is this state digs on some authority. Look at that walking thumb that's the mayor of Petal for another example. Regardless, she's heartsick over this man's murder and understands the rage and anger behind the rioters. She doesn't understand why they would destroy businesses that employ them, but she also doesn't grok that most of those businesses don't pay them enough to live on anyway.

 What she had problems with, however, was my stance that the cops in general don't deserve the benefit of the doubt, and I won't budge on that. They do not. They've spent the last 20 years militarizing and deciding we were the enemy, telling us their safety is more important than our lives, and claiming that they don't even need to know the law. All body cameras and social media has done up until now is show how guilty they are and how little they care about how their actions affect the communities they're supposed to "protect and serve," especially when those communities are black.

 For me, it's like that old Chris Rock bit. I ain't saying people burning down a Target is right. I'm just saying I understand where that anger and frustration is coming from. If nothing else - nothing else - the recent COVID-19 business should have shown us that, without any sort of doubt, the Powers That Be do not care if the people that make their wealth live or die, nor do they care how healthy or happy those folks are. Target pays starvation wages and the owners are billionaires many times over. If the people in that community thought it was worth something, maybe they wouldn't have pulled it down.

 I do think there's something different about this one, especially coming so soon after the egregious subverting of the law we're supposed to follow in the Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor situations. In both cases, the murders were ignored by the legal establishment of the respective areas, almost to the point where they condoned it. Both took months of screaming in the faces of authority to make anyone even look ashamed. This one, well... the guy having his hands in his pockets while kneeling on Floyd's neck as someone filmed him, he had to know that wouldn't go well.

 Protests are popping up all over the country. Someone in Denver actively tried to run some dude over, and people on Twitter are trying to defend it. I do wonder, however, if we're not seeing how the whole "Twitter isn't real life" thing plays out. The mayor of Petal got his ass nailed to the wall by his townsfolk and trying to claim they're all AntiFa. Y'all, there is no AntiFa in a Mississippi town of 10,000. There just isn't.

 Maybe a little more ambiguous is this bit about Trump trying to use government muscle to censor Twitter because they had the audacity to add a link to one of his wacky claims. They didn't even fact check him, much less censor him. They added a link that said "for more information". It was the very least they could do, and he throws the biggest fit we've seen yet. A hundred thousand dead, 40 million on unemployment, and he doesn't budge. Twitter doesn't kiss his ass and he's ready to rain down hell.

 The conservative argument is, apparently, that Twitter shouldn't be considered a publisher rather than a platform and what they did was censorship. The latter argument is obviously stupid and silly, nothing more than another example of Trump's persecution complex and the reason conservatives worship the ground he walks on. The former, though, I wonder.

 I really don't see Twitter as a publisher any more than the telephone line is. It is true, however, that technology has moved too fast for the law to keep up on this note and there are serious questions to be asked. That being said, since the death of Net Neutrality - another thing conservatives have a boner for - it was probably inevitable that things were headed this way. Above all else, Twitter is a profit-oriented business, and anyone who's trying to assign noble intentions to it is whistling Dixie writ large.

 One of the running tropes of cyberpunk is that in a world where corporations control all government, official press and whatall, there's always an underground sort of internet that's For The People. What a lot of science fiction writers never assumed, though, was that the Harvard-educated trust fund squirts who have the cash to develop this sort of technology would be interested in anything but getting their hands on more filthy lucre.

 You'd think after watching Bill Gates for the past 40 years, we'd learn. But no, that's not how it works. Here we are.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

I'll come up with something clever later. Maybe.

  I really need to get my sleeping schedule back on track, whatever that happens to be. I stayed up most of the night getting my Actual Paying Work done and in good shape, followed by a quick round of XCOM 2, and went to be at what was a normal hour for me, around 4 a.m.

 It was almost noon before I rolled out of bed, and then I went back down for another four hours by 2:30 p.m. Granted, it rained all day and there wasn't much to do beyond that. Wasn't even a hard, driving rain, just more of an all-day shower, one of those types of days that almost demands you play Charles Mingus or Dave Brubeck.

 So this is the second day hand-running that I really haven't paid attention to the news. There were protests a-plenty over the murder of George Floyd by some cops in Minneapolis. Perhaps reading the room, the local PD shit-canned the four officers in question and it looks like the FBI's getting ready to stick their nose into this one, a la the cover-up by the local law of the Ahmaud Arbery murder. Of course, the cops still sprayed chemical irritants at protesters to break them up, unlike the kid gloves they use when heavily armed nutjobs storm the capital and demand the Olive Garden reopen for lunch.

 It's important to remember that in cases like this, the police aren't our friends. They work to protect property. I don't know about what individual cops think. I've known enough that there is a variety of thought among the men and women in blue, and not everyone is happy with how things work out. That being said, their set up is like the set up with the Corporate Media; that is, the reporters do all the work and getting all the hate, but if you think the owners and publishers aren't the ones pulling the strings and calling the tune, well, you've been drinking some bad buttermilk, neighbor.

 Like saw during the WTO protests in Seattle or the Occupy Main Street or anytime Native Tribes protests the ongoing despoiling of the land we stole from them, we see just who they work for and what they're really supposed to protect. In short, it ain't us and the lower down on the totem pole your "property" is, the less important it is. You can dispute this all you want, but history bears this out. It's where police come from, where the Pinkertons come from, and on and on.

This is why I think the Fourth Amendment is maybe the most important one of the Bill of Rights. Definitely more so than the Second and maybe the First, if the Fourth falls all the following amendments are rendered meaningless when the authorities can kick down your door whenever they wish and convict you with whatever you want just because.

 Thing is, the "protesters" who were actively threatening cops in Michigan and elsewhere are doing more or less what the people who actually run things want the plebes to do. Look at it this way, a bunch of people protesting an unnecessary oil pipeline running across tribal land run the risk of costing someone some profit. The people acting like complete saps screaming that work is the only thing that makes their existence worthwhile or, more specifically, hair salons and restaurants are the only things that make their existence worthwhile? They're doing exactly what the Powers That Be want us to be: good, loyal little consumers. Die for your boss, in other words. You're just capital stock, barely worth considering as human. You should consider yourself blessed for having a job.

 Okay. That's word count and my head's still fuzzy. Funny, I never felt this out of it this often when I was staying at Cheech Marin-levels of stoned. Yesterday's News was sort of light, as well, and I have some APW due come Friday. So, yeah. Anyhow, really digging the Leviathan Wakes book and XCOM is still great, so roll with that, y'all.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Nobody understood it when the great Joe Bob went bad.

 I woke up in a foulish mood today and haven't really been able to shake it. Granted, I haven't tried much but what are you gonna do. Anyhow, before we get started, let's see what kind of foolishness I got into with the News this week.

 Nothing particularly spectacular but a nevertheless solid week of work. Good blogger journalism, old school style, no Deep Dives but a good whack of information on how the week was going. Frankly, between the Actual Paying work and internet connectivity issues earlier in the week, it went better than I'd figured it would.

 I've come to accept that this, whatever it is, is What I Do, even if I'm not happy the fiction isn't going anywhere. I've always had a problem focusing on one thing. It's one of the reasons I got into journalism, specifically, in the first place.

 I guess the problem is when I read all these books on writing and actual writers giving advice on how writers act, see the world, etc., it doesn't ring true to me. I have no doubt that's how it works for most writers - they can't help but write, they pay attention more, what have you - but it's not my reality. This is just the only thing I've ever been good at and one of the few things I really enjoy beyond passively watching the world go by and waiting around to die. I promise it's not as drastic as it sounds, but you must remember I spend most of my time fighting off the worst nihilistic thoughts.

 It's sort of like how I feel about relationships, particularly marriage. I know plenty of people who do it right and get a lot out of it. I ain't the one, though, and I really don't understand it. And while I'm fine with my monastic existence, particularly since I'm so bad at romantic relationships of any stripe beyond just the physical, I can't lie and say it doesn't sit well with me that I cannot wrap my head around what apparently everyone else on the planet seems to have figured out.

 Or at the very least why I'm not filled with bitter resentment and misogynistic rage most single dudes my age seem to be, whether they were ever hooked to someone or not. I really don't understand that, either. I mean, I've had spotty luck with women all my life, but I know what's been my fault and what's just not meant to be. Some dickhead shot up a mall in Arizona because he's an "incel" and for some reason that gives him the right to decide who lives and who dies painfully.

 I confess, I do not get that a'tall. For one, the whole concept of "involuntary celibacy" was thought up by a queer sociology student and meant to describe people who were unable to have sex because of physical or mental disabilities. That shit's sad. Whether it's due to depression (which I have experience with) or just being physically inadvisable for whatever reason, sex is as much a part of the Human Condition as eating or taking a dump. I haven't had sex in going on five years now, but that's voluntary celibacy, or at least "not being interested in sex enough to try to get laid" celibacy.

 But the guys who can't get laid because they can't talk about anything but video games they think women shouldn't play and smell funny because of their diet and lack of hygiene? Half of them can't get their heads around girls who don't like anime characters and the other half think porn is how human sexuality actually works. I got sympathy at all, especially when they started talking mass shootings. I may not do much now, but I got laid plenty in my 20s, and, frankly, whenever I put my mind to it. Clean up, dress a little sharper, find something other than cartoons to discuss, and actually pay attention to women when they talk. You'll make out like a bandit, I promise.

 All right, I've wandered too deep into this. Let's back it up and claw our way back out. In short, like I don't understand why my brother and my friends got married and stayed married, I don't get writing as an artistic endeavor. I can enjoy it, but what I do is journeyman's work. It's like when I was a cook. I wasn't crazy about food like most cooks are, I just wanted to feed hungry people something that was worth eating. I just want to write something worth reading to people who want to know.

 Okay. I think that's plenty. I was going to delve a little more into the thoughts that spurred this Twitter thread, but I think I'll wait. American's love for authoritarianism isn't going anywhere anytime soon. So, I'll save it for later and tie this one off.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Back at the funny farm.

 Just a quick bit of housekeeping before Otis and I take our afternoon constitutional. I have some Actual Paying Work due tomorrow, so this may be it. As always, I'm putting this down just for continuity's sake so I don't forget.

 I might come back after I finish the APW. All depends. I'm still a bit drained and thick brained from the last couple days, and I'm not sure it's just residual exhaustion from The Dispossessed. I stayed up late last night playing the original XCOM after finishing the APW due today. I'm sure that didn't help.

 Speaking of books, I started Leviathan Wakes, the first novel of James S.A. Corey's "Expanse" series. I forget who recommended it to me, but thanks whoever you are. I've just really started but I'm digging what I'm reading so far. Hard science fiction, a space opera that hasn't left the Solar System, and a gang of slightly roguish, blue-collar types as protagonists. Plus, there's a space cop operating from corporate-owned Ceres. All very nice, and definitely kicks Something From Darkside to the curb for a bit.

 Well, I guess I'd better look into taking that walk. I was hoping to wait a little while longer so it'd cool off some. However, Otis has started his "poor, pitiful me" whining and I am a weak man. So, maybe we'll swing back around before the night's over. It's just shy of 5  p.m., signing off.

UPDATE: It's 8:40 p.m. and I'm done with writing and the first read-through edit of the APW. I'm not quite ready to jump into playing any games. Probably one of the XCOM games tonight, though I might give Sid Meier's Civilization VI, this week's free game from Epic, a spin. I got it yonks ago via Humble Bundle, I think, but I think I just played the tutorial. We'll see. I do want to get back to Leviathan Wakes, as well, and I can't think of anything I want to watch.

 I'm finally digging into the last couple AC/DC and Motörhead records. They're pretty good if you like AC/DC and Motörhead, and I do. There's more of the latter than the former, though, as Lemmy and the boys churned out a slab of rock & roll every couple of years while Angus and Malcolm and the lads take a little more time. I imagine it has something to do with the size of the crowds they play. I know Motörhead play bigger venues outside of the states, but I've never seen them in anything but a large-ish music club or, to be more specific, the Tabernacle in Atlanta. I don't think AC/DC has played anything smaller than a stadium since Back In Black.

 And let's be honest, the new stuff from AC/DC's 2008 Black Ice could've come from any album from the last almost 40 years. It's the original Brian Johnson line-up with Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams, and Brendan O'Brian's production is sharp and meaty as always. I haven't gotten into Rock Or Bust, the first AC/DC album ever without the late Malcolm Young, because that just depresses me.

 The Motörhead stuff is much the same. Since settling down with Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee in the mid '90s, the band's stomped out generally satisfying, fun records that may not surprise, but they never disappoint. With a couple missteps here and there - like Snake Bite Love or maybe, maybe Sacrifice - it's been a solid run of kick-ass, well, Motörhead. You know what you're getting.

 I interviewed Lemmy back when dinosaurs walked the Earth, and he was nothing but class. They played a show in Atlanta with The Supersuckers and Nashville Pussy, and after the show I went backstage to say howdy to some folks I knew. Lemmy walks past me, stops and says, "You're coming to the after party, right?" So I did. Talked with Phil and Mikkey for a bit, too, and they were some sweet cats. Again, it makes me a little sad that Lemmy's passed on, but I know he had a helluva run for someone who lived with let's say gusto he had and had a better time than most of humanity.

 I really ought to buy a new Motörhead t-shirt. The iconic one with Snaggletooth on it, nothing fancy. I wore the last one to pieces. Perhaps when I lose a little weight. They don't make t-shirts for Doug Sahm or Booker T. & The MG's, I reckon. Ah, well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

I can't do what ten people tell me.

 Okay, well. It seems we've got the internet fixed up. Guy came by today and did some rewiring. Of course, the dad-blame internet stayed connected all day today. Typical.

 Anyhow, we're back in business, such as it is. Took Otis and Fuzzy to the vet today so Fuzzy could get his haircut and Otis his check-up. The result is quite satisfying. Fuzzy's half the dog he was and is probably much more comfortable without all that hair. As for Otis, he's got hookworms but otherwise is still healthy as a horse, if a horse was a Jack Russell Terrier. He is getting older, bless his little heart, turns out his hearing and eyesight is going. He's changed a lot over the past year. I still can't wrap my head around him completely ignoring the cats rather than trying to tear them to shreds.

 All right, then, what else is there? Yesterday's News didn't get posted until this morning. I need to re-write one of last week's Actual Paying Work. Little things, just getting into the groove of how it's done. Hell, I don't know what else. I finished The Dispossessed, and I don't think I'd read it before. Regardless, I do like how it presented an anarchistic society as possible but still flawed. Way too many writers would and do take the easy way out and present their utopias as flawless and perfect. This one actually feels more real, and sort of rung true to me with my own problems with the overall "anarchism cultural," whatever the hell that is.

 Like the cyberpunk thing, I really don't feel like I belong there despite my affection for and interest in it. Granted, the nice thing, the appealing thing, about anarchist thought and theory is that there's no real set rules apart from a general dislike of unearned authority and rules for the sake of having rules. Working within the system to change it or even just be able survive without betraying your conscience. Working with what works and discarding what doesn't, with the dual purpose of surviving with your values intact while maybe making the world a slightly less shitty place.

 Man, that book took a lot out of me. That hasn't happened in quite a while, so consider The Dispossessed highly recommended. I admit to being a man of habit and any deviation from my routine gets up my nose. So not being able to use the internet like I prefer - to write, to blog, to research, to listen to music, to work - made me a bit distracted. So I haven't done much the last couple of days besides read that book.

 Beyond that, I don't know. It's been a pretty active day and I'm a bit worn out. I'm half tempted to tie this off here and come back to it after a nap. I'm hitting bottom and can't even come up with a clever folksy colloquialism to describe how slow my brain is right now. I will say I don't care for the new Blogger writing layout, if that means anything.

 Been on a big Otis Redding kick lately. I still think it's one of American Pop Music's biggest tragedies that he didn't get to record more or build on what he started with "(Sittin' On The) Dock of the Bay". I would've liked to think he stuck with Booker T. & The MG's as his band for recording. His touring band was solid enough, but nothing compares. Also, in case it's ever asked, I think he'd have done a killer bee cover of "Highway To Hell".

 Okay, that's word count and my head's killing me. I am tying it off right here. Might come back after a little lie down or if anything clever comes up. Otherwise, we're back to normal business tomorrow. I do have some Actual Paying Work due Thursday, but things are a bit squirrelly there because a client's being a pain. And let me take this opportunity to offer my services to anyone who needs something written or edited. Cheaper than you'll find elsewhere, if nothing else.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

All is not lost, it is only mistaken. That's small consolation, but I know just how you feel.

 The internet's dropping in and out again. Hasn't done this all week after Momma got the new modem from the telephone company. She thinks it's due to the heat, and hell, I don't know, it might be. It's in the high 80s outside and fairly humid.

 Anyhow, I got the screen open, so we can do what we do. I can always add links or look up stuff later. Since I'm remembering it this weekend, let's take a lot at what we saw with the News this week.

 I'm particularly proud of Friday's offering, a fairly deep dive into the Breeona Taylor execution. Another black person murdered because white shooters had to kill someone, another cover-up by local law, and another killing that went unknown for months until social media raised hell about it. This time, however, the killing was done by the local police in the most murderously Barney Fife way possible. They thought they were hitting a drug den which was actually 10 miles away, searching for a suspect who was already in custody.

 Check out the piece and keep your eye on this one. Wingnuts may raise Cain about how their First Amendment rights are being trampled because they can't post Nazi propaganda on Facebook or gun losers think it's perfectly natural and sane to go to Starbucks loaded for bear, but if the Fourth Amendment gets anymore tattered, none of that will matter. There is definitely a racist element, sure, and the American people as a whole are far too generous to cops who kill the wrong black person when killing anyone wasn't necessary. But if we as a culture keep giving authoritarians more and more leeway, we're going to wake one day wondering how that boot got on our neck.

 Governmental authoritarianism is nothing new. Once nations started actually becoming nations rather than kingdoms, their governments felt the need to keep a close eye on the populace, for good or ill. It is what it is. Read your Roman history. Read about John Dee. Read about the development of the Chinese Empire. I don't know how much we'd fight it, either, as we all carry locator beacons in our pockets as a part of the super computers and Hitchhiker's Guides. Hell, I'm using Google to look up some of this stuff, and they've long since given up on the whole "don't be evil" thing.

 As an aside, I don't fret too much about the "surveillance state", either from the government or Corporate America. I don't like it and know it can be abused, and it is, but I don't have to worry about it. I'm a straight white male, I'm good. I hope the System comes crashing down, but figure since it will do it to itself anyway, there's nothing I can really do to help. But the main reason is I don't think I should have to hide what I say or think from anyone. There's nothing I do that needs to be hidden, I feel. Not my love of mind-altering substances or flirtations with anarchism, I don't see any of that as anything to be ashamed of. The law changes, as the Good Doctor said, but I don't feel I have to.

 Well. I've reached word count. During my constitutional, I thought about writing about the corporate press, the mainstream media, and why most people who complain about it really don't know what they're talking about. I don't really feel like doing a deep dive now, but in a nutshell, the mainstream, big corporate press - CNN, the networks, The New York Times, even the big-time websites like Slate or Politico - are all owned by rich people or groups of rich people who incorporate themselves. Most of them are worth ridiculous amounts of money themselves. CNN is worth about five billion dollars, and Fox recently sold assets to Disney for $71 billion.

 These companies and people have a vested interest in keeping the Status Quo. That is, whatever societal changes (you think) they promote, the cold, hard economics of things aren't meant to change. That's how they got rich and how they get richer; they're not going to change that. If you honestly think CNN or the Times wants to destroy capitalism, you are a goddamn moron. Ted Turner might have wanted to change the world for (what he thinks is) the better, but he doesn't own CNN anymore.

 This is reality, but people don't want to acknowledge it and that's where the problem comes. Everything about it makes much more sense if you can recognize that little bit of wisdom and keep it in mind when using the media. It's easy to rage at Maggie Haberman and her limp approach to the Trump Administration, but her job and The New York Times' mission isn't shaking up the Status Quo. They are the Status Quo, just as Trump is, and both of them have a vested interest in keeping the gravy train going. The mainstream press is still useful, just keep that in mind.

 So, one of these days I'll get deeper into it. I keep saying that about a number of things but I haven't yet. That being said, I would totally do it if someone wants to pay me. I'm getting pretty good at deep dives to explain things, especially when I'm getting paid. Just something to think about. Just putting it out there.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Keep my nose to the grindstone, work hard everyday.

 So, a little housekeeping. I have some Actual Paying Work due tomorrow. Two pieces of it, as a matter of fact. Since one takes about two-and-a-half hours at 1,000-some-odd words, I don't know if I'll be up for spreading any wisdom here. I hear hearts breaking across the internet, I know.

 I might, might, come back to it after I'm done. I managed to knock out some News last night, and that generally takes much more time. I have some thoughts on the Narrative and how it plays into human misery, but I might want to let that simmer for a bit. I've spent too much time in the past 24 hours playing Phantom Doctrine. It's rapidly becoming a favorite. Finally, got on an Ursula K. Le Guin kick and a Paul Butterfield kick, but who knows where that'll go.

 Anyhow. I may be back and I may not. We'll just see how the night goes. Take it easy.

UPDATE: 9:20 p.m.

 Okay, that's two knocked out and, yeah, it took about three-four hours. It gets easier and, frankly, apart from differing cities, law firms and phone numbers, it's pretty ranch-standard stuff. Like I've said, it's sort of like writing about high school baseball. One isn't much different from the other, the key is keeping them slightly different enough to stay interesting. More or less. This shit is never going to be riveting.

 On the down side, pounding out around 2,500 words has fried my brain and I don't know how to fill this up. I am going to mess around with it for a while, anyway, until I feel like playing Phantom Doctrine in an hour or so. I am going to keep the bit about the Narrative in the simmer for a while, but in short, it goes like this.

 I think far too much of human nature and human history, especially when it goes south in an awful way, is because of our search and desperate need for a Narrative. That is, we want life to be life a story. We want to be the protagonist. We want a beginning, middle and satisfying end. We want our present state to be the inevitable result of human development. In a nutshell, we want life to make sense like a story does because everything we do is based on or taken from something that could be considered a story.

 And life and the universe is under no obligation to make logical sense and, indeed, rarely does. Religions and myths are all stories to tell us how to live, as are philosophical concepts and outlines, but none of us come quite close. Political ideologies and economic theories never quite work in action like they do on paper, but we consider them something to be failed instead of failures themselves.

This inability to match the desperately desired logical narrative and the chaotic nature of our existence drives us crazy. For some people, they cling to whatever their Story is to the point of thinking they should wipe out any other Stories, whether they're in competition or not. Some of us get into absurdism or nihilism and some of us just trudge through life, happy in our ignorance or miserable because the Story's not working out like we're told it should.

 But more on that later, if I ever get around to it. I've hit 500-plus words and my head's starting to throb. I may lie down for an hour before I start playing Phantom Doctrine, because I will be playing Phantom Doctrine before the night's though.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Take your pleasure where you find it.

 Before we get too deep into it, I have some Actual Paying Work this week. One piece is due Thursday and another is due Friday. How this will affect everything, we don't know. Either way, we'll persevere. Anyhow.

 It appears the President's attempts to make us all forget 80,000 people have died from COVID-19 under his watch and in large thanks to his utter incompetence hasn't really taken hold. Nobody is really buying this whole "Obamagate" business besides his faithful, and they think he's the Second Coming of Christ. They are, to put it as nice as possible, untroubled by reality outside of what they're told to believe by the White House. It's getting a bit of play from the ding dongs on Fox News, but they do what they're told. Ironically, the best shutdown of that whole business was on Fox News from National Security lawyer Brad Moss on anchor Shannon Bream's watch. Still, I'm sure we'll hear more and more of it in weeks to come. No one's ever accused Trump or his followers of knowing when to quit while they're ahead.

 Been sleeping too much lately. Granted, I've been staying up too late playing Invisible Inc., Phantom Doctrine and Satellite Reign. That last one is a booger. I'm not sure how to get ahead because every time I try to do one of the side quests, I get stomped in the dirt by the cops. I'm sure there's something key I'm just missing. I do like the aesthetic, though. Both it and Invisible Inc. take place in the future, one where corporations rule the world and you control a team of corporate saboteurs. Invisible Inc. is a turn-based thing like XCOM while Satellite Reign is real-time strategy like the Desperado games.

 I say I like the aesthetic, but I've never been able to completely warm to the cyberpunk thing. I think I've said it before, but I don't know where my world would be in that setting. Small-town or rural South, maybe New Orleans or one of the college towns, what does that look like when corporations rule the world, governments are paper tigers if they exist at all, and people can physically "jack" into cyberspace. I fully believe that's where American culture is going, socially and politically, but it's always set in grimy, rainy mega-cities with a slight Japanese flavor. Where do Merle Haggard fans fit in that world, is my question.

 I suppose if I want to know, I should write that story. I forget who said that as writing advice, "write the story you want to read if no one else has". It's like Neuromancer. Neat concept, interesting themes, but not my world so I have trouble connecting. I don't know why it's so for cyberpunk, though it could be that it just doesn't feel that "far out" as opposed to a fantasy setting or space-faring setting. Maybe I just don't dig on William Gibson's writing, which is true. Transmetropolitan works a little better for me, but that's probably more because Spider Jerusalem is so shamelessly based on Hunter Thompson.

 Okay, what else. I'll leave any news for tomorrow. I'm not going to want to do a bunch of research since one of the APW's is going to involve a fair bit of that. Nothing I've read or watched lately has been anything of note. I think I've finally worked the whole "re-stocking iTunes" thing out of my system. Momma went and got a brand-new modem from the phone company, so it seems our internet woes are taken care of. For the time being, anyway. I guess I'm not really in the mood to write tonight, so I'll tie this off here and maybe come back to it if something pops up later.


Saturday, May 9, 2020

The meek, they ain't inherited nothing. Their leaders are falling behind.

 Before we get too deep in the big muddy, as always, some links from this week's News.


Wednesday - This actually turned out to be a big mouthful, so I broke it up into two parts.


 I'm pretty proud of Wednesday's big monster, as well as the two shorter pieces from it. I'm also glad both topics are getting the national press. Even The New York Times has written about the mess going on in Mississippi, so that's something. And the Arbery killing and resulting cover-up by the local law is just too egregious to pretend it's business as usual.

 Other than that, I've been ignoring a white screen for the past 45 minutes. Let's just start typing and see if we can't knock the word count out sooner than later. This sentence is just to satisfy the "a paragraph must have three sentences" rule that I quite possibly made up.

 The internet's been less spotty today. Matter of fact, it's run pretty good all day. Far as I know, anyway, I spent most of the day napping. Just one of those days I didn't feel like engaging with the rest of the world. The whole COVID-19 business continues to get stupider as more and more people have decided, "Fuck it, YOLO" and since they've never needed a helmet riding a motorcycle or a seat belt when they were driving, this "killer pandemic" is all a bunch of hoo-hah. Probably the entire world secretly plotting together solely to make Father Trump look like a pea-brained jackass.

 I live in the boonies, work from home and am self-employed. I rarely leave the house for any reason besides going to the gym, seeing doctors I have to see, or the odd bit of shopping for stuff I can't buy online. The only time I'm around large groups of people is when we have family gatherings four or five times a year, and I only stay as long as I can handle it after getting a plate.

 So, knock yourself out. Maybe it'll be a big bunch of nothing. Maybe it'll thin the herd. Maybe it will be what finally shows the irreparable cracks and flaws in the American capitalistic system. I don't have to worry about it, you're not interested in what I have to say, so I'm not bothering. I will keep writing about it, sure. Partly because that's how I earn my salt and partly because I enjoy writing the News as much as I enjoy this gibberish.

 But as I get older I find myself less inclined to be a part of society and this is just another excuse/example of why I shouldn't bother. I don't want to insinuate that I suggest this as a proper lifestyle for anybody else. But with nothing invested in the future and just waiting around to die, I don't see any reason to fight to save people who don't want to be saved. Same thing with getting leftists to understand that they don't have to vote for Joe Biden, but they really ought to vote against Donald Trump. People all across the political spectrum have a fantastic, naive perception of what politics is, how it's designed to work and just what all can be done. Stop waiting on people to come save you, neighbors.

 One of today's Twitter ruffles is a column tradcath fenderhead Elizabeth Bruening - the interesting one of the couple; that husband of hers is as dull as dry white toast - wrote a column saying there's no such thing as a "Religious left". She was rightfully dragged, which isn't anything special. Every time she puts pen to paper, she says something dumb enough to deserve a dragging. She claims to be socialist but once Republicans managed to get someone who isn't a moral sinkhole in the White House, I'm sure she'll say the Democratic Party/Democratic Socialist changed, not her.

 Anyhow, while she's catching hell from liberal Jews, Liberation Theory Latino Catholics, the Black Protestant churches where the Civil Rights battled gestated, Unitarians, Sikhs, and just all the groups apart from White Protestants or Catholics, which was all she was going to count anyway, I had a thought. Now, I am neither religious nor spiritual. I've been agnostic since my teen years and pretty much since my twenties, I've considered myself a hardcore philosophical materialism.

 There's no difference in the inanimate atoms that make up my body, the chair I'm sitting in, the air that I breathe or whatever makes up Böotes Void. Consciousness is a result of a quirk of biology that arises from how the brain is structured and, at best, nothing more than an illusion. Morality is all made up and has always been made up by human beings, and generally reflects more the zeitgeist of the times rather than anything axiomatic.

 I'm fine with all that. The universe is amazing enough that I can nevertheless manage to find wonder in it, fairly easily to, without having to have some unseen, unquantifiable force behind it. Math, initiative, imagination, and elbow grease can achieve some amazing things. In other words, when it comes to how religion or spirituality should inform one's politics, I really don't have a dog in this hunt. Momma goes to church because it provides her with a sense of community and comfort. Belief in redemption and heaven help my grandmother and father pass on easier. Some people find comfort and strength in their faith. All fine. Anyone who uses religion as a weapon would be a rotten bastard as an atheist anyway, and we've seen plenty of examples of that.

 But I can't help but wonder why non-religious leftist/liberals/what have you should worry too much about the religious leftists/liberals/what have you. My question is why isn't incumbent on the religious left to put a little effort into mending any bridges to the rest of the left-wing amorphous beast. The hard right co-opted much of American Christianity and it was an established goal since at least the '60s. Again, read The Family or watch the Netflix documentary. This is just anecdotal, but left-wing religious people rarely take any responsibility for it.

 It's like "reasonable gun owners" who don't seem to think they have a responsibility to maybe worry about the dingbats bringing bazookas to Subway instead of complaining that everyone thinks they're just as nutty as the average ammosexual. It's part of the reason I'm so unforgiving when it comes to racism in the South and neo-Confederate ding dongs. I see that as partly my responsibility. Anyhow, it's not my problem, either of it. I reserve the right to treat everyone who has a gun on their hip one mockery of their dick away from unloading on a school bus. Plus, I continue to reserve the right to not really give a damn about your faith unless it breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.

 Okay. Enough of that. I've been playing a lot of Phantom Doctrine. It's pretty decent, sort of like Sid Meier's Covert Action, an old favorite, in that it takes the Len Deighton take on spies and that world. Most intelligence work, like most private investigation work or, for that matter, investigative journalism, is pretty damn dull. It requires a lot of patience and a lot of digging through bland documents and seemingly unrelated bits of information to find that nugget of gold. Phantom Doctrine does a good job replicating that without making it too boring. Plus the turn-based strategy part of the gameplay is a lot of fun. It's made by the same people who made Hard West, and that is definitely a favorite. Looks like they've got an XCOM game based on 1930s bank heists coming, so we'll keep an eye on that.

 Take it easy.