Archived entries for times are a changin

Now that we’ve been over the “What” of Hatsune Miku, let’s go over the “Why”. As in, why she’s important.

Pat commented yesterday that on stage Hatsune’s not that different from The Gorillaz live shows, and that her voice is still based on a real person’s voice. And he’s right about both of those things. The Gorillaz project animated performers onto a screen that masks human musicians, and Hatsune’s voice is built up from the phoneme recordings of a real person.

But her key difference from previous, similar things is that her plasticity, her artificiality, is COMPLETE. Absolutely nothing about her is real.

First, let’s think about her as an animated character.

Animated characters are tied to visuals and to voices. It can be argued that Mel Blanc was more key to popularizing most of the Warner Bros characters than their visual representations. The problem here is that Mel Blanc is a human, and humans, well not to spoil the end of your life for you, die. And when Blanc finally did expire, Warner had several years where they had to convince people that Bugs Bunny really sounded like this new guy, and not at all like that old, dead guy. Same thing with Kermit the Frog, or Tony the Tiger, or any character that’s deeply engrained in the social consciousness and voiced by a real human with an expiration date. Hatsune Miko has no expiration dates. Because her voice is created in a computer by the clever application of a few billions ones and zeroes, she’ll never get die. She’ll never get old, go through puberty, or ruin her voice with smoking and whiskey. A thousand years from now, she’ll sound the exact same as she does right now. She is the first voice of the future, because in the future she’ll sound exactly the same.

Now, let’s think about her as a commercial character.

Ultimately, Hatsune Miko was created as a bit of stunt by Crypton Future Media. They’re sound technology people. So, they made the apex of current sound technology. She was meant to raise awareness of the company that created her, and I’m sure her records sales are a nice bonus. Like Pandora and her box, Crypton’s unwittingly unleashed something on the world. There is no question that most Disney pop stars are trained and groomed from a young age to become billion dollar industries. There is also no question that Disney would probably love to not have said pop stars taking a chunk of their revenue and then spend it on things that get them plastered all over the front of grocery store tabloids. Making a pop star out of ray tracing and vocal synthesizers is one way to do that. And it doesn’t have to be Disney doing it, either. If a relatively small company like Crypton can do it, anyone can. Every new product or initiative could have a fake pop star attached to it, filling the air waves and fiber optic cables. And speaking as a guy in advertising who could pitch that to a client, this is fantastic and frightening

Lastly, let’s think about her as a musical character.

Touched on this a bit in the first one, but Hatsune and the future things like her, are fixed point in space. The point can be fixed as a 16 year old pop idol, or a 60 year old torch singer, or a 20 something folk-rocker. And since they are artificial, and built up by a team of people, they’ll never go off on some bizarre introspective tangent and make a record like Pet Sounds. Their music will be consistent, uniform across all of their releases. And if the people behind them ever get bored or want to try something different? They’ll just whip up a new vocaloid and create a new artist.

Hatsune Miko is important because of the simplicity of what she represents: The idea of an unchanging, easily replaceable commercial entity that you owe nothing to and will never do anything to embarrass or betray you.

While I could put money on their never being an indie-rock vocaloid success (ONLY because the hipsters won’t allow it, not because it couldn’t be good), I can’t put that same money on idorus like Hatsune Miko carving out a niche for themselves in pop music.

I give you Hatsune Miku.

A teal-green haired Japanese school girl that’s apparently holding a leek or onion or something in this picture.

She’s fake. Completely not real. She’s the intellectual property of Japan’s Crypton Future Media. And probably the most crystal clear vision of the future that I’ve ever seen.

Crypton Future Media makes sound…things. Mainly digital libraries of sounds or programs to generate those libraries. They’ve sold their products to video game companies, software developers, and even Japanese government agencies. After looking over the list of companies they’ve done work for, I’d be willing to put money that everyone with a toe in the digital world has probably heard their stuff.

So what is a glorified MIDI card of a company doing whipping up an anime character with an apparent obsession with vegetables of the Alliaceae family?

The answer lies in a translation of her name.

Hatsune Miku can be loosely translated to mean “First Sound of the Future”.

And that’s exactly what Hatsune Miku is. She’s a completely artificial anime-esque pop sensation. In a world where pop stars are more often than not manufactured people with equally fake personalities and musical talents, Crypton Future Media has taken a visionary step and gone ahead and cut out the fleshy animal medium entirely.

Here’s the result, performing live in concert:

Hatsune Miku’s voice is created through the use of Yamaha’s Vocaloid voice synthesizer technology. Crypton took the vocal patterns of a young female anime voice actor, Saki Fujita, and through some technical wizardry and the Vocaloid synthesizer, created their most important product yet – a pop star.

God, I can’t tell you how surreal typing that line was. Anyway.

When she…err…it preforms, it’s a pre-rendered holographic projects done against a semi-permeable screen that lets you see the band behind her (featuring some of the crew from Crypton Future Media) and gives an illusion of depth.

Check out this longer video:

William Gibson, the Father of Cyberpunk, was speculating about creatures like Hatsune over a decade ago in his novel Idoru. But some how, I don’t think this is what he had in mind. While she’s not the first, she’s the biggest and most popular digital synthetic artificial whatever pop idol created yet. Hatsune Miku really is the first voice of the future.

Albeit a very, annoying, grating, saccharine future.

More on this tomorrow.

A Mexican street religion born from a crucible of violence and desperation. The guy at the end sums it all up perfectly.

“The way I see it is…no one’s eternal in this life. I don’t ask her for eternal life, I ask her for a happy death. Because I don’t think anyone wants to die in a bad way. And we’re all on the list and the day that she decides to come for me I’m going to receive her. I’m going to welcome her.”

After all, why would you want eternal life when all your life has been is struggle and suffering?

And today, appropriately enough, is Santa Muerte’s holiday. I offer my last FastFiction as a gift to her.

From the always incredible Coilhouse.net.

Back in April 2009, just before Tax Day, I wrote a rather hasty one-off tirade about the Tea Party. Called, rather uncreatively on my part, “Fuck you stupid idiots and your fucking #teaparty“.

Ahem. Needless to say, I wasn’t going for the subtle. I thought then, and I still think now, that the Tea Party is a hodgepodge of bad ideas with no direction and no mandate. The only reason it’s managed to reach this point is because certain media outlets have been using their considerable influence to give them legitimacy.

(The same media outlet that’s been recently outed as spying on private citizens and government officials in England to generate news leads. Personal freedoms? Pfft!)

On the whole, I think the whole thing reeks of “I’m taking my ball and going home” now that Washington is trying to play a different game than they were for the first 8 years of the 21st century.

(Which in, full disclosure, I’m not thrilled about. Obama really hasn’t hit anything out of the park and has proven his inexperience time and time again. I refer to him as President Pussy now.)

The last time that I wrote about the Tea Party, I pointed out that one of their main support groups in that nascent stage was the American Family Association. Which I called then, and still call now “One of the great moralist cesspools in America.”

And what should I hear this morning on NPR as I’m getting ready for work? This:

Tea Party Supporters Debate Movement’s Direction

Morning Edition is taking a closer look at the groups that make up the Tea Party. Steve Inskeep talks to Toby Marie Walker, lead facilitator for the Waco Tea Party, and Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association. Walker says the Tea Party’s issues need to remain strictly fiscal. Fischer says that if the Tea Party doesn’t incorporate social issues into its agenda, it runs the risk of dividing the conservative movement.

Listen to that. Listen to the AMA open its maw, put the Tea Party between its teeth and growl “If you fuck with us we will KILL YOU. We made you, we can end you just as easily.”

It almost makes you sad for the Tea Party. This lady, who I’m sure has some legitimate, if misguided and probably far-fetched, complaints with the government is basically being beaten with an inch of her political life by a crazy man who thinks that homosexuality is criminal, all Muslims are dangerous and that you should have to be of a certain kind of Christianity to hold office.

And you know the saddest part? He’s right. All the Christian Right has to do to kill the Tea Party is say that they are trying to erode the morality of the country and the Tea Party is done. Just like that.

That NPR bit? It wasn’t a conversation about the Tea Party, or a friendly debate. It was a knife to a throat, it was a threat to play along or else.

So, not only do I say Fuck the Tea Party, but I say Fuck the American Family Association doubly so.

You’re hate mongers that are scared of change and sex and the rest of the world. And I’m not.

Hope Larson has been asking young women about the comic consumption habits, and what appeals to them in the medium. Here are the results:

What can authors, publishers, retailers do to better serve teen/tween girls?
1) More and better female characters, especially protagonists. Girls want to see strong, in-control, kick-ass women calling the shots.

2) A welcoming atmosphere in local comic stores is key. Many respondents reported feeling uncomfortable in comic stores. They were stared at, talked down to, and generally treated without respect.

3) Pink, sparkly cutesy comics about boyfriends, ponies, cupcakes and shopping are widely reviled. Condescend to female readers at your peril, writers and comic publishers.

4) The hypersexualization/objectification of female superheroines makes female readers uncomfortable, and sexual violence as a plot point has got to stop.

5) Girls need good stories in a variety of genres.

6) Most girls don’t even know comics exist, or that they would enjoy them. Publishers need to advertise in mainstream media and comic shops need to reach out to girls.

7) Make comics for boys and girls. Comics with dual male and female protagonists. Comics with large casts that offer something for everyone.

8) Use licensed properties to lure new readers into comics.

9) Availability is a problem. Get more comics into schools. Get more comics into libraries—especially school libraries. Get more comics into bookstores, especially large chains.

10) There need to be more women creating comics and working in the industry as editors and publishers.

She’s got more details on her LiveJournal, and the list has pretty much become a must read for anyone who is making comics.

I agree with all of her conclusions. No hemming or hawing, no qualifying of my statements. She’s right.

If comics makers want to appeal to a female audience, moving away from musty shops run by fat slobs and into places that sell Starbucks is the way to go. We need more books like Runaways and fewer Avengers books.

We need less things like this:

And more things like this:

….actually that’s a terrible fucking example. All comic book t-shirts are horrible. We just need less shit like that stuff above.

An odd aside – she interviewed 198 women, which is the same number of mutants left in the Marvel Universe, and X-Men was the most common comic named in her survey. Weird how things line up sometimes.

It is snowing outside, big beautiful flakes that are sticking to everything but the ground. I am inside eating the last of the leftover chili from the Superbowl (#whodat).

2010 has gotten over those awkward first few weeks and is now in full stride. I expect by the time I finish this bowl, I’ll look up and find it is now half way through April, and well into July by the time I leave work today.

Ten years ago at this time I was a senior in high school, just accepted to college. I’d filled out a one page application to Savannah College of Art and Design back when they were desperate for bodies. I was prepping for my final AP exams. Of which said college would only accept credit for one of the dozen or so that I took and passed. I think any day now will be the decade anniversary of when I was dumped, for good, by the girl I’d been dating since freshman year. She would be the first, but sadly not the last, girl that I spent an extended amount of time with who decided they preferred internal genitals to external genitals.

I honestly don’t remember what my dreams were at that point. Something along the lines of running my own gaming company, a thought which now scares the ever-living shit out of me. Mainly because I now know that the actual act of running a game studio has next to nothing to do with creativity, and nearly everything with being able to sell out your best friend if it gets you another two points on your quarterly earnings sheet. I’m sure living in some place that I’d never been to was part of the deal, probably out in the blasted hellscape of Los Angeles.

But that was all ten years ago. Things are different now. You couldn’t pay me to live anywhere near LA, and I got out of the video game racket before it claimed my life. But not before it had already taken large parts of my liver and sanity. I’m working for a quirky little design shop in this bizarre small/big town that is more real than any other place I’ve lived. Any dreams of giving interviews to reporters who are confused about my new video game have long since been boxed up and put away with my comic book collection. They aren’t things that I don’t love or won’t fess up to, but simply things that I don’t need on a daily basis. I’ll occasionally drag them out of the closet and flip through them, but for the most part my life doesn’t need them to get by any more. Oddly enough, I’m still using the degree I got from SCAD. Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Interactive and Video Game Design. I got it to make video games, instead I’m building websites and social media networks. The wonderfully talented people I’m around make the pretty, and I make the pretty work. Not a bad deal all in all.

I still have dreams, but they are less obscene and outrageous. Finish my book, self publish it. Complete a collection of ROCK! with my girlfriend. Buy a house with her. Never take her for granted. See Istanbul before I’m thirty. Never stop reading. Always make my friends feel like they have some one they can trust. Always been the person they can trust. Never stop being just desperate enough to do something that seems more than just a little crazy. Never let the world beat me down. To never, ever, ever stop thinking new things and wondering if they could possibly be.

Ten years. Seems like a lifetime. But it is only just one part of it. Lots more ahead than behind.

Here’s to more of everything.

Two things happened yesterday whose synchronicity was inescapable.

Apple released their tablet device, the iPad.

And the White House’s budget proposal for NASA was leaked, showing that they are killing the Ares and Constellation projects, effectively leaving the United States with no spacecraft at the end of September of this year.

Two seemingly unrelated news items, but they tell the story of scientific development over the last half of the 20th century.

Let’s just back to just after World War 2. Ballistics and rocketry were the new, hot sciences. The Americans were willing to let the Russians conquer part of Germany so they could snap up the German rocket scientists who had built the V2 and who were working on a German version of the Manhattan Project.

Back then, science was this big, epic thing. We were envisioning blasting off to the far reaches of space on rockets the size of skyscrapers powered by the safe and near limitless power of the atom.

(Don’t forget, this is the generation where we were irradiating people and spraying them with DDT just to show how safe it all was. The actions of history are relative unto their times.)

But, there was a catch with this titanic science: it was hard to control. There was a lot of math involved in the calculations necessary to put a several ton piece of metal in the sky. Government money was dumped into college campuses to develop computers that could plot a rocket trajectory from the heart of America to all those places where naughty people live.

The Russians beat us to a successful ICBM program by two years, you know. Those crazy frost bitten bastards were ahead of us, and we even had von Braun, the man who’d invented the science of modern rocketry. But the Russians didn’t need him. They just gave bits of a broken V2 rocket to an unknown man named Sergey Korolyov, who’d just barely managed to escape a purge of intellectuals by showing a flair for making rocket engines do things they weren’t supposed to be able to do. Korolyov was probably the most unknown genius of the 20th century, without him, God only knows when or how we’d have gone to space.

I’m getting sidetracked.

So we were building these amazing metal arrows to shoot into the heavens, but we needed computers to tell us where to point them and just how much of a kick to give them. Computers were basically vacuum-tube driven difference engines up until the advent of the microprocessor, when something interesting happened.

For the most part, the development of computers and rockets were tied together. The development of either came from military research and funding. You’d build a bigger rocket, so you’d need a new computer. You’d figure out something else you could do with a computer and that would let you build a new rocket. But with the release of the microprocessor in 1971, the commercial applications of computing exploded. No longer was a computer a huge investment that required whole rooms to house, but it was something that could be owned in an everyday home for day to day uses.

Those giant cylinders of metal that went up into the stars…well…they had less of a commercial application. Luckily, the Cold War was still raging, and the US’s dominance of space was a point of pride over those filthy Commies (who’d beaten us out of the gravity well in the first place). So we were able to justify the development of the the space shuttle program, which we’re still using today. But after that, things sort of stalled out for massive space science. The International Space Station was the last big project, and that took over a decade to full construct with no clear reason for existing in the first place.

While the space program was faltering, computing was booming. Moore’s Law was in full effect, with the processing power of a chip doubling every 18 months. Technology was obsolete within days of hitting the streets. Smaller, more powerful processors meant that you could put them in more and more things. By the 90s, they were in toys, in radios, in toasters; by the turn of the century, computers were in shoes, clothes, even inside of us in medical implants.

At some point, some small impossibly insignificant moment, we abandoned macro science for micro science. Rocketry, super-engineering and atomic energy gave way to digital devices, genetic engineering and sustainable, low-impact energy sources.

You might be curious why the two things I mentioned at the start had synchronicity for me. It is the trading of big, real, important science and engineering for frivolous and consumeristic pursuits. I can almost guarantee you that Apple spent more money on the iPad than the Russians spent to put Sputnik or Yuri Gagarin into space. The element of profit has changed everything with technological development.

I think I’ve said all of this before, but I’ll keep saying it for as long as I live.

We traded in our jetpack and rocket cars for an iPhone and Avatar in IMAX 3-D. And there’s no right or wrong to this, just simply a nagging doubt in the back of my head about what could have been.

Just a quick run down of why the Supreme Court’s decision today will change, oh, everything about American politics.

First, the news:

Read this article from the LA Times.

Now what it means:

Corporations can spend their own money on advertisements of any fashion for political campaigns. An unlimited amount of their money, at that.

Before there was a prohibition on direct advertisement, and a limit on the amount that could be donated to campaigns. Now that’s all gone.

And it’s all gone ten months before the 2010 Congressional midterm elections.

Here’s what will happen:

Corporations will saturate all forms of media with endorsements or indoctrinations of political candidates. The smart money is on most of the corporations lining up behind Republicans, and burying the Democrats under a tsunami of negative advertisements.

Theoretical example (probably not, honestly):

John McCain is the single largest recipient of money from the telecom industry. They broke it up between dozens of companies, and donated to dozens of PACs. But, still, he got more money from them than anyone’s ever gotten from them before, and I think more money from a single interest group than anyone’s every gotten before. But they could have given more, lots, lots more. And he’s up for re-election this year, so they’ll be able to. Expect them to dump millions upon millions into advertising against net neutrality. But it won’t look like advertising against net neutrality. It will look like advertisements talking about how John McCain is defending the stability of the technical and telecom sectors of the American economy, and how everyone else is a dirty digital pirate with no morals.

Corporations will be able to flood the airwaves with so much crap that candidates on the receiving end will spend all of their time trying to answer the attack ads. They’ll never be able to get out from under it to craft their own message, which means their opponent will get to define them, and there won’t be a damn thing they can do about it.

Welcome to Corporate America, where corporation are king makers.

The Bizarre Silver Lining:

Television will probably see a huge boom in advertising because of this, which means that the broadcast stations will actually be able to afford new dramas instead a billion hours of reality TV. Plus, people who work in advertising, like me, will see an increase in business. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that some grumpy old me in bathrooms decided to sell America to the corporation, give you all the finger, and my industry a blank check to slander people for political gain.

And I hate to paraphrase a Republican, but Healthcare died on Tuesday, Campaign Finance Reform died today, and we’ve still got one day left in the week.

That’s Newtons formula for acceleration, the converse of his formula for force, F=ma.

The variables are a for acceleration, F for the force applied to the object, and m for the mass of that object.

Of course, there are a lot more equations that can explain acceleration in more detail, and account for its varied forms (dynamic, constant, centripetal, etc), but this is the one I’m going to use for today’s random thought.

The speed of events in the world is increasing. That’s an irrefutable facts. Things are happening faster, everything, anything, what ever you can think of, it happens faster than it did a century ago, a half-century ago, a decade ago, maybe even a year ago. This is the acceleration of modern life.

We’ll refer to it as aml.

That leaves two parts to the equation, the force and the mass.

The force, is, at the root, the advancement of our knowledge. Both in the breadth of what we know, and the depth of what we know about what we know. The rule of thumb for knowledge is that what we know is doubling every ten years. So, linear growth. That’s not to say that we’re going to make twice as many brilliant discoveries as we did in the last last decade, because a lot of what we’re learning is pointless mundane shit. We’re learning tons about how people interact with digital devices right now, but that’s not going to solve the world’s problems or give us limitless clean energy. It will just make the next generation of iPhone more attractive than last year’s model. But, there are some real advancements, and they compound on existing knowledge.

Discovering lighter alloy metals makes airplanes faster and more fuel efficient, so they can travel farther for less money. Discovering new ways to increase the density of batteries increases the usefulness of everything from electric vehicles to laptop computers to vibrators. And I don’t even know where to begin with the Internet. Things are moving so much faster every year that it is only a matter of time before the entire industrialized world is blanketed under a sheet of high-speed wifi. Right now, from my $99 iPhone, I can download an app that lets me call Korea, for FREE, over the Internet. For less than the price of a nice pair of sneakers, I can talk to some one literally on the other side of the planet.

We’ll call our force the force of knowledge.

Fk

That leaves mass.

The average weight of a human being is around 160lbs. That’s taking both men and women into account. All of the force of knowledge built up by the summation of human existence, and it only has to move less than 200lbs.

I’m not meaning that as a piss answer, either. The reason that Gutenberg printing press was such a big deal was because it enabled more people to have copies of a book, in most cases a Bible. Give a missionary a Gutenberg Bible, a direction and send him off to spread the Word. He’s dead? Eaten by cannibalistic Slavs? Oh well! Print another Bible and get another acolyte!

It only takes one person with an idea to tell another person about that idea. From there, you’ve got the magnifying effect of word of mouth. Bloggers are the modern day Gutenberg presses. They are the individual advocates of ideas that spread them to the masses, who in turn spread word about that blog. Professional news sources are turning more and more to individual bloggers for editorial and news content. Just like a missionary wandering into a town, a single blogger, at the right moment in time, with the right thing to say, can change the world for everyone.

So, for our mass, let’s go with the mass of a human.

mh

Making our final formula aml=Fk/mh

The acceleration of modern life is equal to the force of knowledge divided by the mass of a human.

And the point and impetus to all of this?

The Massachusetts senatorial election last night. Where a Republican swept the Democrats out of a seat that had been under their control since World War II. There is potential for this to be the harbinger of a Democratic slaughter come the 2010 midterm elections. I’m not going to go down the political rabbit hole right now, but I do wonder what is going to happen as the political pendulum speeds up. Just this time last year we were all screaming our undying love for Obama (ok, those of us not decrying him as a demon Muslim socialist), and now we’re already predicting his ideology’s imminent doom. If changes in the political wind can happen this fast now, what happens as they get faster and faster? What if the country can go from Red to Blue to Red in a single week? Or day? Or hour?

Think about this economically, too. The economic collapse of the last three years is more or less over, and we’re digging out from under it right now. Three years it lasted, on the outside. The Great Depression? Oh, about a decade. It might have lasted even longer if the war hadn’t happened. This is entirely due to the speed at which financial transactions can happen now. No more waiting for wires from across the Atlantic. You can have real-time satellite connections to any bank in the world from any place in the world. Give me a satellite phone on the top of Mount Everest and I can apply for a Visa card. There’s an entire business model that revolves around banks of supercomputers making billions of stock transactions a day, buying and selling on marginal increases and decreases in the value of the stock, slowly but surely inflating the market with machine trading instead of human trading. Which is only possible because of the speed at which information moves these days.

What makes me wonder what’s going to happen as things keep speeding up, but our biology doesn’t. Eventually things happening so fast are going to have a detrimental affect on us. We’ll be overloaded with information and be completely unable to function because we’re drowning in data. You can’t decide if the choice keeps changing, you know?

Just something to muse about. The math of change. The formula for progression.

aml=Fk/mh

Accelerate.

“There are so many issues we have to solve, and the biggest challenge is that the market in Japan is shrinking — they key is gaining success in the US and Europe,” stated the exec. “At the time of the original PlayStation the Japanese market was one third of the global market, and production costs weren’t that high — so we were able to generate profit from that market alone.

“But now we’re in the era of the PlayStation 3, and the Japanese market is only one fifth of the global market — when it comes to production costs, those are swelling, so it means that unless we gain success in the overseas market our studio will go bankrupt,” said Kobayashi. “It’s a crisis we recognize.”

Found on Kotaku this morning from Yasuhide Kobayashi, the VP of Sony’s Japan Studio.

I know it is the running joke right now in gamer circles to deride the Japanese for lazy game development, and for the most part its earned. The last great Japanese games were early to mid through the PS2 life cycle, which was almost a decade ago at this point. But to see a decline of this magnitude is amazing.

It also makes me wonder about way the numbers are being judged. Titles sold or dollars spent? Japan sells more hand-held units than anywhere in the world, and a DS game costs about half of what a XBOX 360 or PS3 game costs. The numbers could be skewed toward places where people sit on their asses in front of giant flat screen TVs instead of where people play games on commuter trains.

I want you to do something for me. A little in-head social experiment.

Go read something that takes an anti-gay marriage stance. Then, I want you to swap some words as you read it. Everytime you see the word “gay”, I want you to make it “black”. Everytime you see the words “same sex”, I want you to read “interracial”.

Pretty simple, huh? If you want a real kick, go find some place that talks about the “Homosexual Agenda” and swap it with “Civil Rights Movement”.

It’s like you just took a time machine and have found yourself smack in the middle of the 50s again, isn’t it?

What I’m getting at here is that all of this bullshit in regards to same-sex marriage is our modern racism. The resistance to the modification of laws or, hell, in some cases literal reading thereof, is just a suprious as before.

In the 1950s we descriminated because some one had a different color of pigment in their skin and hair that didn’t style like a white person’s.

Now, we do it because some people can’t get beyond some one who is acting as a conduit for their god telling them that their deity disproves of two people getting legal rights together because both of sets of their genitals are on the outside.

I’m gonna take a minute to break down just how batshit this is in the modern era.

Religion started out of stories people told each other across a fire to explain the thing that were happening that they didn’t understand. Myths turned into faiths, and faiths played a central part in the formation of cultures. After a certain size, groups of people with similar cultural beliefs formed nations. And when those culture-based nations didn’t like each other, they went to war.

While all this was going on, certain cultures took a dim look toward same-sex relationships, mainly in the “public health” vein, like keeping kosher or halal. Back then, we needed every person we had to keep ourselves going. People that weren’t going to breed were a drain on society, and we couldn’t have that.

Odd side bar, but the reason that homosexuality becomes open and acceptable in certain ancient societies is because they no longer relied on everyone breeding. Commerce and technology had improved the quality of life enough that people could spend the times on things beyond just surviving.

But, we’re not the people we were a millennia ago. I mean, I bathe at least one a day. I take pills to keep my allergies in check. I run a damn blog. So, why exactly would those antiquated rules apply to us?

We live in a nation that is not built of one culture, but of hundreds. We are the melange of the world. We still have issues, sure, but by and large, I’m not going to get my head hacked off for smiling at a cute girl in a head scarf.

Supposedly, we’ve developed a system of laws that are independent of bias toward any one culture, but representative of the people as a whole. Yes, I do appreciate that our laws refer to a religious sacrament as the point of union between two people, but that’s a hold over to when all the white people in the world were on a mission to kill or convert anyone who wasn’t white. Right now, in most places in America, you are legally married once you get the paperwork from the court. The only thing missing is a “solemnification”. They don’t give a damn who signs on that line. You can call yourself Saint Zippy McPissant from the Holy Church of Popeyes Chicken, and it’ll be legal.

I should know. I marry people. My church is from the Internet.

So, why exactly is there so much debate around the religious aspect of this when the state is trying their damnedest to open it up to anyone?

As for the gay couples being a societal taboo, I direct you back to the ancient societies who were fine with it. Then I want you to look how much more leisurely our lives are than theirs. I can buy something that will wash my butt for me after I take a crap. It doesn’t get much more leisurely than that. It isn’t like we’re fearing over a sudden depopulation of the planet, in fact the opposite is quite true. The less of us that are breeding, the better.

All of this, just like the generational racism against non-whites, is a hold over from times we are no long beholden to. All you have to do is stop, blink, look around at the time you live, and accept the fact that not only has change already passed you by, but that it was a change for the better.

I’ll close with this.

If you don’t want to agree with me, that’s fine. If you can go to sleep every night knowing that your opposition to same-sex marriage, or civil unions, or what ever the hell you want to call them, is nothing more than just a different kind of antiquated blind hate, then good for you.

I will warn you, though. Times are changing. People of your way of thinking are dying out. People of my way of thinking are being born. So, right now you have a choice. To either change your mind and accept the change. Or, to be swept away with the rest of the unneeded refuse of history, and end up, at best, a caricatured villain in a Lifetime original movie about equality.

Either way, you’re still a bigot and I still win.

Apparently the mayor of a conservative small town in West Texas has some explaining to do. From the Houston Press:

The mayor of San Angelo, J.W. Lown, abruptly announced his resignation just days before he was to be sworn in for his fourth term as mayor, the San Angelo Standard Times reports.

Surprise Number One: He made the announcement from Mexico, where he had suddenly bolted to.

Surprise Number Two: He was resigning because he is in a relationship with an illegal alien and they’re trying to fix the alien’s status.

Surprise Number Three: Both Lown and the Mexican citizen are guys. As in HE’S GAY. In San Angelo.

Lown is obviously a well-respected public servant: He won the most recent re-election with 89 percent of the vote, and stunned city council members were effusive in their praise for his work.

But it’s also obvious they didn’t know he was in the closet.

Lown told the paper he would come back to the city “if the people of San Angelo will welcome me back.”

Oh, come on. Look at the guy:

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You’re telling me a whole town thought that guy was straight? The guy has feathered hair. No straight man has feathered hair.

(I don’t know if that nice man standing next to the mayor is his lover, but in my mind, he is. Oh, true love.)

I promise to shut up about Nerd Rapture after this. Just finished reading Thought Experiments: When the Singularity is More Than a Literary Device: An Interview with Futurist-Inventor Ray Kurzweil by Cory Doctorow. Which is exactly what it sounds like. And what it sounds like is one of the founders of BoingBoing sitting down with one of the main proponents of the technological singularity. Doctorow is pretty skeptical about the whole thing, and Kurzweil slips into some…uh…weird territory toward the end of the interview. But, he does manage one bit of lucidity that I’ve pulled out for you.

“Progress is exponential–not just a measure of power of computation, number of Internet nodes, and magnetic spots on a hard disk–the rate of paradigm shift is itself accelerating, doubling every decade. Scientists look at a problem and they intuitively conclude that since we’ve solved 1 percent over the last year, it’ll therefore be one hundred years until the problem is exhausted: but the rate of progress doubles every decade, and the power of the information tools (in price-performance, resolution, bandwidth, and so on) doubles every year. People, even scientists, don’t grasp exponential growth. During the first decade of the human genome project, we only solved 2 percent of the problem, but we solved the remaining 98 percent in five years.”

But Kurzweil doesn’t think that the future will arrive in a rush. As William Gibson observed, “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”

“Sure, it’d be interesting to take a human brain, scan it, reinstantiate the brain, and run it on another substrate. That will ultimately happen.”

“But the most salient scenario is that we’ll gradually merge with our technology. We’ll use nanobots to kill pathogens, then to kill cancer cells, and then they’ll go into our brain and do benign things there like augment our memory, and very gradually they’ll get more and more sophisticated. There’s no single great leap, but there is ultimately a great leap comprised of many small steps.

Done now.

Promise.

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The technological Singularity is more akin to the rise of humankind within the animal kingdom, or perhaps to the rise of multicellular life.

-Vernor Vinge

Quote source. Image source.

There’s been this horrible, idiotic thing going around lately. Tea parties. And I don’t mean a bunch of whitehairs getting together and drinking chamomile. I mean a bunch of right wingers/tag-a-long idiots who don’t really know what this about/income tax is illegal people getting together and protesting the current economic policies of the government.

The whole thing is made to coincide with Tax Day today, but it has been going on for the last two months or so. People actually dressed up like Indians and dumped crates of tea into a river in Long Island a few weeks ago. (Most of those attendees make more in a year than I make in 10.) But today, there are literally protests everywhere. There is one in Audubon Park here in Memphis this afternoon, I’m told.

The literature around these things is what pisses me off the most. They are trying to point and scream at some unfair taxation policy and claim that the money that is being spent on stimulus is a terrible, world ending thing. Some pieces actually threaten revolution, and not in the fucking Ron Paul “rEVOLution” way.

Oh, and if you actually believed any of this shit, let me direct you to the fucking source of this drek – the American Family Association. One of the great moralist cesspools in America. There is no lofty agenda here. They are just trying to piss off enough mouth breathers to make them go somewhere, hold up a sign for the evening news, then go home and fart on a couch. The Right and the AFA don’t give a fuck about the taxation system. They give a fuck about not having their shiny play toy anymore, and they are going to do everything possible to slow down the gears of government that they can.

You know, between Glenn Beck’s insanity and this shit, I’m really wondering who’s doing to fall over dead from an aneurysm first, the Left or the Right.

Jesus Fuck, Obama’s only been in office three months.

I need to go back to drinking whiskey.

After 22 years, GM is ending their support of documentary film maker Ken Burns.

From the article:

GM spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato calls Burns “the gold standard of documentary filmmaking,” but says the financial crisis “has forced GM to rein in such spending.” A figure for GM’s aid to Burns isn’t known.

But you know what they will be spending their bailout money on? A 1 billion dollar investment in Brazil.

givebootthebush2

Taken by TheoGeo, who is in DC for the Inauguration.

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From the NYTimes:

MOSCOW — Violent protests over political grievances and mounting economic woes shook the Latvian capital, Riga, late Tuesday, leaving around 25 people injured and leading to 106 arrests.

In the wake of the demonstrations, President Valdis Zatlers threatened Wednesday to call for a referendum that would allow voters to dissolve Parliament, saying trust in the government, including in its ability to deal with growing economic problems, had “collapsed catastrophically.”

For years, Latvia boasted of double-digit economic growth rates, but it has been shaken by the global economic downturn. Its central bank has spent a fifth of its reserves to guard against a steep devaluation of its currency, the lat, and experts expect a 5 percent contraction of the country’s gross domestic product in 2009. Salaries are expected to fall substantially, and unemployment to rise.

The violence followed days of clashes in Greece last month, over a number of issues including economic stagnation and rising poverty as well as widespread corruption and a troubled education system. In Bulgaria on Wednesday, separate riots broke out in the capital, Sofia, after more than 2,000 people — including students, farmers and environmental activists — demonstrated in front of Parliament over economic conditions, Reuters reported. Mr. Zatlers has long been aligned with the governing coalition, so his threat to dissolve Parliament came as a surprise — and was testament to nervousness about how economic troubles in the region could intersect with simmering political grievances.

The long and short, while the rioting is indicitive of an economic problem, the rioting that is starting to spark off across Europe is actually indicactive of potentially much more severe social upheaval.

Have some crazy economic theory you want to test? Head to Europe, they’re poised to burn down all walls and rebuild the city.

From a larger internal email, posted in its entirety here.

Today, we are announcing the cancellation of News & Notes and Day to Day, and significant budget reductions across the organization. These cuts include the elimination of 64 filled and 21 unfilled positions, many of which are associated with the two cancelled programs. Positions have also been eliminated across NPR, including reporting, editorial, and production staffs; station services; digital media; research; communications; and administrative support. Overall, this is a 7% reduction in NPR’s current workforce.

My response to this? An unsurprised “Ahhhh, shit.”

Nothing is immune to the constriction of the all-powerful world of unreal money.

Story was stolen from Kerry’s Twitter.

CNN just shit the bed.

They’ve laid off their entire space/science/technology/environment reporting group. This means no more front-page level reporting on new technology and environmental issues. They’re keeping their depressing-as-shit/doom-and-gloom reporting of this stuff as a facet of the PLANET IN PERIL show, which in turn is part of the AC:360 branding.

The biggest hit from this is the loss of Miles O’Brien. From the LA Times story:

His departure, confirmed by CNN today, comes as part of an effort to consolidate the network’s science and technology reporting into its Planet in Peril franchise, produced out of the “Anderson Cooper 360” show. Along with O’Brien, who served as CNN’s chief technology and environment correspondent, six producers who work in the science, environment and technology unit in Atlanta are leaving CNN.

“We want to integrate environmental, science and technology reporting into the general editorial structure rather than have a standalone unit,” said CNN spokeswoman Barbara Levin.

O’Brien, a skilled pilot, was CNN’s point person for coverage of aviation disasters and NASA. He also sought to be the first journalist in space, securing a deal with NASA that would have allowed him to fly on the space shuttle. The plan was scuttled, however, after the 2003 crash of the Columbia shuttle.

With this news, I will officially only be reading non-American news. Which in and of itself is a horribly depressing sign of the times and the state of my country. American news is hanging onto this side of the drain by a whore’s pubic hair. A weak fart from Olbermann would send the whole thing down the tubes.

(I guess a Maddow queef would do it, too.)

Source: BoingBoing via i09.



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