g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
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Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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Saturday, January 28, 2006
17:41 - High places
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pixar27jan27,1,7868852.story?coll=la-mininav-b

(top)
This qualifies as a "hot damn":

When Walt Disney Co.'s $7.4-billion acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios closes this summer as expected, Pixar's creative chief, John Lasseter, would be empowered to "greenlight" all feature animated movies at both studios, it was disclosed Thursday in a regulatory filing.

As is common in Hollywood, the ability to give a film the go-ahead comes with a caveat: Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger still would have final approval over anything set in motion by Lasseter, who would be chief creative officer at Pixar and Disney Animation, as well as at Walt Disney Imagineering.

In announcing the deal this week, Iger and Pixar Chief Executive Steve Jobs said Lasseter and Pixar President Ed Catmull would take the reins of Disney Animation from its leader, David Stainton. Catmull would report to Iger and Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook, and Lasseter would report solely to Iger.

Steve's already cleaning house.

And for those UNIX-minded conspiracy theorists in the house: this move represents the culmination of the long and invisible rise to power of the BSD tradition. Steve Jobs, champion of BSD-based Mac OS X, itself an evolution of BSD-derived NeXTSTEP, takes the wheel of Disney—and guess who created the original art of the BSD Daemon?



It all means something deeply significant, I tells ya. I feels it in me bones.

UPDATE: Hotter damn: no more Toy Story 3.

Now if only Lasseter can make this "no more unnecessary sequels" thing stick as general policy...


10:53 - iTunes Moment of Zen

(top)
Search the iTunes Music Store for "moby". You get this among the results:



I guess it's obvious what's "abridged' about the first one, huh?

(Spotted by Chris.)

Friday, January 27, 2006
17:20 - Dude!

(top)
Beavis & Butt-head, South Park, Drawn Together, and Wonder Showzen—all newly added to the iTunes Music Store. Complete seasons.

This thing's gettin' good!

UPDATE: Lots more on the ongoing additions to the Store at Tunevision, Radical Bender's new blog dedicated to tracking iTunes' TV offerings.

I note, by the way, that I already have a lot of these shows on DVD. Why on earth would I pay for another copy of them through the iTMS?

I dunno, maybe because I'm sitting at my computer more often than slumped in front of the TV, and I like getting access to media by moving my mouse rather than digging out a DVD and wrestling with menus and previews?

And that's all aside from the potential video iPod-related benefits. Even though I got one of those this morning.

For the book, see. For research.

I'm gonna try to expense it. Just you watch.

UPDATE: USB 2.0 is noticeably slower than FireWire.

And video downloads eat a lot of disk space.


14:46 - F'ing The F'ing F
http://arstechnica.com/staff/fatbits.ars/2006/1/27/2673#fnr2

(top)
There goes Siracusa again, harping on his stupid Finder issues. Give it up! The Finder is fine now.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. "There goes Siracusa again, harping on his stupid Finder issues. Give it up! The Finder is fine now." Yes, the Mac OS X Finder has gotten better over the years. But (to paraphrase a recent Mac Ach post) while I'd much rather be stabbed in the eye than shot in the head, they both still suck.

Yeah, I'm being facetious; I don't think the Finder is great. And I have nothing but respect for John Siracusa, as he's one of the prime examples of how Apple has fostered a culture of vision not just within its own walls, but among the users of its products (some would argue, more so outside than inside, these days). But that doesn't mean I'm all that completely gung-ho about his Spatial Finder ideas, which he outlined back in the Jaguar era.

It's interesting reading, in retrospect. Apple has in fact implemented a lot of the stuff that Siracusa spent significant time stumping for. Spotlight provides exactly the "saved queries"-driven folder views that he asked for, even if its implementation is on the clumsy side in Tiger's 1.0 iteration. The Sidebar (introduced in Panther) is what he wanted in a Shelf, though it too gets only a lukewarm endorsement in its current implementation.

I'd be on board with his complaints about the Finder as far as fixing those things goes. I'd be interested to see what new kinds of directions they might be willing to take the Finder's interface under the guidance of the new hire they're soliciting (whether it ends up looking like Aperture, as Siracusa suggests, or what). But where my eyelid starts twitching is when I start trying to make myself believe that the Spatial Finder, and the functionally separate Finder Browser he proposes, are crucial elements to a well-thought-out user experience.

Sure, there's merit to the idea (key to the Spatial Finder) of having each folder open a single window, and each window apply to a single folder, and each folder window appear exactly where and how you last saw it. There's merit to the idea of ensuring that the user can't find himself in the confusing situation of having two identical windows side-by-side on the screen that both show the same contents, the same location.

But is that really the end of the world?

As best I can tell, the Mac OS X Finder is still the old spatial Mac OS 8/9 Finder—except with a couple of features added to it that broke the spatial metaphor. These features are:

1) The ability to keep drilling down within the same window in Icon View without opening separate windows; and

2) Column View.

Are we trying to convince ourselves that these features are bad things? That the utility they give us isn't worth the compromises they cause in the Finder's spatiality?

Yes, it's true that in the Mac OS X Finder, you can double-click an icon for, say, your Pictures folder; double-click on the Yosemite folder inside it, so that window now shows the contents of Yosemite; and then double-click the original Pictures folder to open a second window for Pictures, cascaded down from the first window by a little bit (because as soon as the first window changes to showing a different folder, the original folder is no longer open, and the Finder is free to create a new window for it when you go to open it again). You can even then use the Back arrow in the first window to arrive at the result where you have two windows on your screen that both show the contents of the Pictures folder. And now you have to think in terms of "a window representing the contents of the folder" rather than simply "the folder", as he says. But are people really left that far out in the cold by the concept of two identical windows showing the same folder contents? Does it really cause that big a hit to people's workflow efficiency? It takes a fairly convoluted set of steps to even reach this use case; and even when you're there, changes you make in one window show up immediately in the other window. Yeah, it's unclear which one's position on the screen will dominate the next time you open the Pictures folder, but—really, who cares? Is it really that big a deal? And what's the alternative? I only see two choices: 1) make it so you can't use the Back/Forward buttons or any other method to make a window show the contents of a folder that already happens to be open in any other window; or 2) remove the navigate-within-a-single-window feature. Which of those sounds reasonable? I don't like either one, do you?

The same thing goes for Column View. Adding Column View as a third view mode along with Icon View and List View breaks the metaphor in which the existing two views were consistent (in Icon or List View, each window represented a folder, and List View merely gave you the ability to see into the contents of the contents). When you switch to Column View, your Finder window no longer shows you a single folder, but shows you a fluid visual path through your folders, and the more you scroll left and right the less attachment the window has to any single folder in the system. It's the "browser" view that Siracusa aims to address by moving it out into a dedicated view mode, the Finder Browser, which (alone among the Finder views) would feature things like Back/Forward buttons, bookmarks, and other "browser"-type features. Because Column View behaves so fundamentally differently from Icon and List Views, he contends, it deserves to be made an entirely different metaphor with an entirely different interface within the Finder. Doing so would allow the regular Finder windows to go back to the good old days of Icon and List Views, where a window represented a folder and all was right with the world.

But I'm afraid I don't buy it. I don't see that it's a help to the user to try to separate out "file browsing" from "folder viewing", or to force him to go to a whole different kind of Finder interface if he wants to browse into the folder tree in Column View. I happen to like the fact that I can switch at any time from Icon View to Column View and shift immediately from the spatial metaphors to the navigating/browsing metaphors, no matter where I am in the filesystem. I like the fact that I can barely tell the difference between those metaphors anyway. I like the fact that the browser-style buttons (Back/Forward, etc.) are available in all three view modes, even if it doesn't make sense in the Spatial Finder's worldview, especially when it comes to List View folders. If you want to talk about efficiency of workflow, I'd find it far less efficient to have to think about whether I'm "opening folders" or "browsing files" when I go into the Finder to grab a file I need. I think there's great fundamental utility in being able to pop open a window in Icon View, realize that I want to dig down into it several levels without opening up a window for every level, flip over to Column View, click a few times to reach the file I want, preview it, and open it. And then when I want to go back to that last folder I was in, I find it suits my efficiency just fine to be able to have that folder retain the fact that I prefer to view it in Column View, rather than to have it stick with some default Icon or List View parameters that would never have been overridden by anything in the Finder Browser if I'd decided to use that instead.

Icon View, List View, and Column View are three different ways of looking at your folders, and each has its merits and its drawbacks:

Icon View is great for spatial presentation of icons, with custom backgrounds and labels and layouts, such as in an installation folder or disk image; but it's miserable for navigation or for viewing details about files.

List View is great for showing you the details on files, and adequate for navigation, but it's very limited in presentation options (except for customizing which columns to see and how to sort the items).

Column View is all about navigation, but extremely sparse on file information (except in the preview pane for a single selected file) and even more austere than List View in presentation (the files are listed alphabetically only).

Just because two of these view modes, Icon and List View, can be classified as "spatial" doesn't mean there's anything particularly magical about them as far as the user is concerned. I think the average user really does see the Finder as a means of, well, finding files—and adding Column View to the family, even if it breaks the spatiality of the other two views, adds so much functionality when it comes to ease of navigation through the filesystem that a user isn't going to miss the ideological purity of the two spatial views. He doesn't have to think about "file browsing" or "folder viewing" or any of that stuff; the very fact that these concepts have to be explained by Siracusa before they make sense tells us right there that the distinction is not that central a concept to the casual or even expert user. When we open a folder, we just have to think about which of the three views makes the most sense for our needs right now, switch to it, and go. That's as far as our head-scratching and bandying about of of terminology goes.

I don't know if this would mortify Siracusa or what, but what he's really asking for is the "Explore" view in Windows. Isn't he? A dedicated "browser" view for drilling down through hierarchical paths, independent from the view mode that's attached to an individual folder? Personally, I don't think this would be much of an improvement; on Windows, I never use the Explore view because I never remember it's there, and it's a pain to get to when I do. I always find myself flicking dolefully between Icon, List, Details, and the various other one-folder-per-window views, trundling up and down the folder tree and wishing I could just have my damn Column View.

I'm totally on board with F'ing the F'ing F; you won't hear any disagreement from me over whether the Finder could stand to be made faster, especially when browsing network shares, and the whole Network subtree makes my eyes bug out just trying to figure out what the hell it's trying to communicate to me. But banishing Column View for daring to breach the walls of the Spatial Finder's golden city doesn't seem like it would do users any favors. It'd certainly piss me off.

As an exercise: go find a Mac OS 9 computer and play around with its Finder for a bit. After realizing just how much you miss Column View, ask yourself: would you like to have a separate Finder function called "Finder Browser" (or hey, maybe "Mac Explorer"), hidden away as an option in some menu, that let you browse your disks, while keeping your Finder windows conceptually unsullied in their spatiality? Or would you rather just have Column View back?

Thursday, January 26, 2006
17:28 - It Came from Planet Earth
http://www.transtopia.org/quiz.html

(top)
Wow. The things SomethingAwful finds. Here's a quiz to find out if you're a Transhumanist.

Doesn't this read like something a college freshman would come up with some late night, the moment he realizes that his financial aid is secure and he doesn't have to bother with getting along with his parents anymore?

It's mildly fascinating, from a sociological point of view. This stuff isn't your typical Leftist utopianism, though it certainly shares some of the same hooks for appealing to young "intellectuals"; it's more like a big rationalization for the kind of people who read too much sci-fi as kids and now would like to see nothing more fervently than a robot-driven future planet where people stroll around matte-painting-like city squares clothed in tunics. It appeals to people who have discovered that it's cool to be cynically misanthropic, and are convinced that "morals" are stupid, hedonism and drugs are awesome, religion is revolting, eugenics is great, Hitler deserves to be quoted (and referred to as "a famous German statesman"), and "loved ones" is a term that should be put in quote marks. It's like a weird kind of Zen that applies to society as a whole: salvation of the species through extinction of the soul.

This page takes the form of a "quiz" that's really just a list of statements of purpose, and you're invited to submit whether you agree with them or not. There's no mixing-up of answers or anything—the more you agree, the more of a Transhumanist you are (and, of course, the more "Enlightened"). For consensus with statements that can barely conceal their rage at concepts like "wage slavery" and "the masses" is a crucial part of human evolution, you see.

I. Reason (rational thinking) is good because it leads to practical, useful results. If applied systematically, it can significantly improve the quality of one's life. Irrationality is (potentially) dangerous and inefficient, and should therefore be avoided as much as possible.

I dunno, man, you lost me there! Geez. They start it out with such a patronizing softball, you feel like a moron for not agreeing with every word of the thing. I'm sure that's by design.

II. Most "traditional" morals and ethics should be rejected as they, instead of being useful tools for personal growth and empowerment, only make life more difficult than it already is. From a rational individual's perspective, the "good" is that which serves his enlightened self-interest (open-ended existence under the best possible conditions), and the "bad" that which is detrimental to this goal.

Typical boilerplate for capturing the libertine college-student demographic, full of kids on state education grants lining up for prepaid dinners between mind-expansion sessions in the carven-oak library. Quick! The kid reading this is probably newly horrified at his religious family back in Iowa. He's weak! Hit him again!

III. Religion is a crutch for the weak & ignorant, and a handy tool for the manipulative. Or, in the words of Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger: "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful."

Ooooo! A Roman philosopher quote! Now the reader thinks he's part of an elite club of intellectuals as well as being smarter than the average dope in flyover country. You've got him eating out of the palm of your hand! One more dig and you'll have him for sure:

IV. There is absolutely nothing wrong with hedonism, as long as it doesn't get you killed or into serious trouble. Indeed, one could say that pleasure and happiness are the most logical (interim?) "meaning of life" -- the only things in this universe that are intrinsically good and valuable.

"Don't harsh me, maaan! I'll have sex with who I want to and take whatever drugs I want to!" He's all yours! Now start laying on the thick stuff....

V. The human condition (the way our bodies and minds currently work) needs to be improved, if only to eliminate the terminal degenerative process called "aging". But why stop there -- we should strive for nothing less than "godhood", or to become "persons of unprecedented physical, intellectual, and psychological capacity. Self-programming, self-constituting, potentially immortal, unlimited individuals'' -- Posthumans. This philosophy is called Transhumanism, by the way.

Yeah, it's also called things like Naziism and Marxism. One thing that's common to just about all dictators—whether you're talking about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, or whoever, from whichever side of the spectrum—is that they all believe that humanity needs to be "perfected". Hitler thought he could do it by weeding out the inferior specimens; the Marxists thought they could do it by engineering the hell out of human interactions. Which way does Transhumanism plan to do it?

A reader with some perspective should be seeing this as a big red flag, but after all that stroking leading up to this point, it's unlikely that anyone will see any of this coming, or want to look for any holes in it. But just in case: better shore up the sympathetic ear with another one of those inarguable axioms he'd be a fool to doubt:

VI. Reason, science, and technology are the best tools for improving the human condition.

Well, duh, says the college student. All's right with the world. Okay, what's next? Maybe something that puts this "reason" thing to the test?

VII. Survival should always be a major point on one's agenda, as being alive is a basic prerequisite for everything else [that you want to do or experience]. Death means the definitive end of freedom of choice; it is the ultimate oppressor. Consequently, nothing is worth dying for. Any ideal, no matter how lofty it may seem, which requires your death -or involves extreme and unnecessary risk taking- is by definition irrational. Only your subjective experience (consciousness) matters; what happens after you die (real, permanent death, not cryopreservation, for example) is of no importance to you.

Ahh, here we go. How logical! What an unassailable thesis! Only your subjective experience (consciousness) matters. Well, sure! Who wants to die? And because the universe revolves around me, why should I care about anything that happens outside my own frame of observation?

By this point, the sympathetic reader is far too eagerly gobbling this up to care about such concepts as "dying so that others might live", or "dying so that others might be free", or any of those other reasons why hopeless dupes have kept throwing themselves before the train wheels of history in the interest of defending some concept larger than themselves, or people they love more than they love safety and comfort. But such things as the pillboxes of Normandy and the village greens of Massachusetts are far away from the mind of a college kid on his own away from home for the first time. But just in case:

VIII. Some might mistakenly interpret the above as a glorification -or at least tacit approval- of cowardice and "spinelessness". Nothing could be further from the truth. One should never actively seek martyrdom, but when an enemy threatens one's possessions, "loved ones", freedom, way of life, or very existence, he should be fought with courage and tenacity -- "to the last bullet and beyond", if necessary. Caution is good, but cowardice is rather uncool and ultimately counter-productive. To quote a famous German statesman: "Whoever wishes to live, he will fight. And whoever, in this world of eternal strife, refuses to defend himself is not deserving of life."

A one-two punch. First it reassures the kid that hey, if your so-called "loved ones" are important enough to you that you find it worth your while to defend them, the Transhumanists won't judge you poorly for it. Just as we don't judge poorly a quotable "German statesman" just because he killed a bunch of people. See how enlightened we are? See how free from the intellectual shackles of your "traditional" history?

It goes on and on from here; the author really goes to town. Let's find a few of the juicier bits:

XI. The true (and arguably only practical) purpose of philosophy is to ensure that reason, science, and technology get the respect and support they deserve. Everything else is essentially mental masturbation, for only science and technology can give us the means to fundamentally understand and improve ourselves and the world around us.

Where was it I kept reading about a social system wherein any activity that wasn't directly beneficial to the State, or the Revolution, or whatever, was to be avoided as a criminal waste of resources and effort? I keep forgetting whether these things happened in 1984 or in one of the socialist nightmare states that it so accurately predicted. This statement, with just a few words altered, could have come straight from the pen of O'Brien.

XV. There is no reason to remain forever stuck on Earth; space exploration and colonization are the wave of the future. In fact, off-planet colonies could be our only hope if some future (nano-)accident or conflict makes the Earth uninhabitable, or if the global socio-political climate becomes too oppressive.

You mean if society doesn't appreciate the efforts of well-meaning tall pasty guys with wild eyes who go around to nursing homes trying to saw off people's heads so they can freeze them? To do otherwise is "barbaric", says Point XII.

Besides, off-world colonization is the only way to achieve those matte-painting cities, isn't it? Too much ugliness here on Earth. Too many poor people. Too much religion. Too many people who'd never score high enough on this enlightenment quiz to come along on the colony ships. Right?

XVII. Unless we destroy ourselves first (or get wiped out by a natural disaster), the pace of technological progress is likely to accelerate enormously during (the first half of) this century, culminating in the birth of superhuman intelligence, which in turn will trigger a period of even faster and more profound social and technological change, after which nothing can be reliably conceived; the Singularity. It will effectively mean the end of life as we know it, and perhaps of (biological) life period.

XVIII. The best way to survive and benefit from the Singularity is by personally becoming (part of) the (group of) Superintelligence(s) that will trigger it. One should realize the original Transhumanist ideal by pro-actively bootstrapping oneself towards ascension rather than placing one's fate in the hands of "Friendly" AIs or "benevolent" uploads.

So, wait, hang on—you're saying Microsoft will bring about the downfall of humanity?

XX. The state (society) shouldn't outlaw activities like drug use/sale, prostitution, pornography, gambling, euthanasia, and abortion (the traditional "victimless crimes") -- or indeed even old-skool duelling, killer game shows, and consensual cannibalism. No matter how stupid, dangerous, "shocking", or "perverted", as long as it doesn't actually harm anyone against his will, it shouldn't be illegal, period. One has every (moral) right to ignore any law that violates the above-mentioned principle (at one's own risk, of course). Or, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: "Lex malla, lex nulla"; a bad law is no law.

More nihilistic hedonism, justified by quotes from more Latin-speaking philosophers. Does it completely fail to occur to these people that sometimes certain practices are made illegal by society not because of some vile and deliberately counterproductive medieval superstition, but because it makes society work better that way? I'm not saying things like porn and euthanasia should be abolished, but to suggest that prostitution and gambling and drugs aren't things you want to bother trying to keep out of a pleasant civil society—or that abortion is a "victimless crime"—strikes me as an effort by the author to shoehorn a lot of personal grudges into a philosophical framework that works only if you don't question it, and then only tenuously.

And what's this "old-skool" spelling all about? Is this like saying cowardice is "uncool" up in Point VIII?

XXI. Enlightened, individualistic people choose to remain childfree as they don't (strongly) feel the selfish gene-driven urge to procreate, don't bow to pressure from family/friends/society, and don't see the point of taking on this additional socio-biological burden. Especially for women, the refusal to have children is a very empowering act, as society's pressures to start a family are usually greater on women than on men, and the (negative) impact of procreation on their health and personal lives is generally greater as well.

If this guy were writing this in the Seventies, he'd be talking about Population Bomb, wouldn't he? Too bad the consensus that the Earth is hopelessly overpopulated seems to be coming under fire, and the declining birth rates all over Europe and first-world countries all over the world (and their negative impact on those countries' economies and standards of living) tells us something about how "enlightened" someone is who decides, because he's just such an evolved Transhuman, not to bother having any kids. These days, choosing to have a baby is looking like a downright empowering decision, at least in the First World, where it goes without saying that readers of a quiz like this are coming from.

XXII. Love really is (just) a (highly addictive) drug, sex a rather cumbersome way of getting off, and marriage an archaic pseudo-religious bonding ritual. They tend to cause (a lot) more trouble than they're worth, which is why smart people will generally (try to) avoid them. Better use your imagination and lend yourself a hand.

Cute. This is apparently way better than the "mental" version of the same thing (Point XI).

And does anyone else hear "I'm a loser who can't get laid" squeaking from behind the author's keys here?

XXIV. Work, (aka wage slavery), can and should be reduced to a bare minimum -and ultimately even abolished altogether- by means of thorough streamlining and advanced automation of both the public and private sectors. Indeed, if we take the USA as an example, "merely" getting rid of all superfluous government employees (i.e. up to 90% or so), cutting the absolutely monstrous military budget down to size, and ending the immoral, insanely expensive War on Drugs would free up more than enough funding to lay down the foundations for a sustainable "work-free paradise" (as opposed to the Socialists' "workers' paradise") where everyone who genuinely can't or doesn't want to work is entitled to a decent basic income and essentials like quality healthcare, housing, and broadband internet access. Of course, in order to prevent "systemic overload", foreign freeloaders would have to be kept out, and the domestic ones actively discouraged from (over)breeding. Incidentally, the guaranteed basic income / freeloader management combo would also take a big, and probably permanent, bite out of crime and other poverty and low IQ-related unpleasantness. In other words, a win-win solution!

XXV. Since the above-mentioned model probably won't be put into practice anytime soon (at least not in any "major" country), one must fight against wage slavery on a personal level by looking for relatively easy, preferably automated sources of income, and by protecting one's earnings by means of offshore accounts, multiple citizenships, and/or (other) legal loopholes. In most "civilized" countries, taxes have become absurdly high and complex anyway, so avoiding them whenever possible is almost something of a "moral" (not to mention rational) imperative.

I hardly know where to begin with this stuff; it really just fisks itself. This is presumably the core of the philosophy: the idea that if we just kill off the government and the military, we'll suddenly have enough wealth that everyone can put on those tunics and swish around the spotless concrete squares like in Romance paintings of Plato and Aristotle. Sustainably, somehow. I'd love to know how that works.

Marx had his "labor theory of value"; it's laughable on its face, not that it doesn't have its adherent nations. But that's not what this guy has in mind, apparently. He's got some vision of wealth that just sort of comes from magic-land; presumably he's one of those who wonders why the government can't just print cash and fly to Mars. Otherwise I don't get how he thinks cutting expenses will somehow free up all of humanity to enjoy free health care and broadband Internet access, forever. Unless... unless he only means for the Enlightened. Yyyyyeah. That would have to be it. Keep out those "freeloading foreigners", first of all, see. And keep the "low-IQ" contingent hidden away underground, presumably turning a giant vertical shaft that powers a generator, grunting and yelling under the whips of the overseers. Hey, as long as life on the offworld colonies is idyllic, who cares about the people doing actual work and creating actual value for society, right?

It's always interested me to see how at every point in history, no matter how "wealthy" a nation was, whether measured in terms of gold or beaver pelts or fishing waters or tributary lands, there was always enough daily drudgery to go around. Sure, a "wealthy" country could afford to make technological advances, and Rome and England and America and Japan have all had their part in that. But in those countries even the most indolent of the independently wealthy upper class depended on wealth to get where they were, and they were still constrained by the realities of daily life. There's never been enough of a surplus of wealth just lying around for a country's king to just decree, "All right, everybody—free vacation for a year!" Funny, that. You'd think it might have happened once or twice in history, wouldn't you?

XXVI. Generally speaking, people get the kind of society and government they deserve. As Havelock Ellis once put it: "It is the masses; the ignorant, emotional, volatile, superstitious masses; who rule the world. It is they who choose the few supreme persons who manage or mismanage the world's affairs." If truly rational people were a majority rather than a (small) minority, many of today's problems, such as those caused by warped political and religious ideologies, simply wouldn't exist. This is direct proof that the masses are indeed "stupid" (incapable of effectively pursuing their enlightened self-interest).

Yeah, the abject failure of democracy in America, Canada, England, and most of the rest of the Western world is direct proof that people are too stupid to rule themselves. As everyone knows, the entropy of society increases way faster in democratic countries than in totalitarian ones, and democracies invariably fall apart, while only countries with a strong centralized government dictating all aspects of life have shown any hope of spurring human advancement.

Sheesh.

XXIX. Both lefty PC, postmodernist, tax-happy, minority-worshipping, tree-hugging, 1st and 2nd Amendment-hating, envious Liberalism and right-wing, gung-ho-patriotic, bible-thumpin', environment-destroying, blindly xeno and homophobic, sexist Conservatism are ridiculous extremes, and basically just two sides of the same old rotten coin called "primitivism". These undead, walking fossils are an affront to 21st century civilization, and the sooner we bury them, the better. May the Singularity cast them into Hades, where they belong!

Not Hell, of course, because that would be superstitious and backwards.

XXX. The war on Iraq was the diversionary tactic / personal vendetta of a cowboy president urged on by self-serving, manipulative (foreign and domestic) pressure groups, executed by cynical mercenaries and gullible youths, and supported by knee-jerk "patriotic" simpletons. Incidentally, this latest conflict has once more made it painfully clear that the only true (international) "right" is the right of force, and the only true (international) "law" the law of the jungle.

Color me surprised. <yawn>

XXXII. There is nothing wrong with the idea of eugenics if it means making people stronger, healthier, smarter, better looking, and longer-lived by means of selective breeding, genetic screening, and abortion/postnatal termination of seriously defective specimens. Indeed, had common sense-based selective human breeding been practiced systematically in the past, as has been done with many domesticated animal and plant species, humanity could have been spared a lot of misery, and would now probably be significantly more advanced. Eugenics isn't merely an "acceptable" choice; it is in effect a logical and moral imperative for any (truly) responsible parent and "civilized" society.

XXXIII. The -unfortunately- rather widespread PC belief that just about any mental and/or physical degenerate has a ("God-given" or otherwise) right to breed freely is, if not outright sanctimonious, at least naive in the extreme, and ultimately harms everyone; not just the children who are born into misery, and their idiot parents who are unable (and sometimes outright unwilling) to support them, but society as a whole through overpopulation, crime, poverty & financial parasitism, and a general devaluation of human life. In most countries you need a license to drive a car, shoot a gun, fly a plane, or -even- catch a fish, but any fool can have truckloads of children (who will have their inevitable, often negative impact on society) without taking any test whatsoever. What is wrong with this picture?

Oh, nothing. Just our primitive ideas of basic human freedoms. Nothing. Never mind.

XXXV. Cooperation with like-minded people is highly advisable, especially for someone who agrees with most of the above. To quote Benjamin Franklin: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

This is the only remotely sociable thing the author has said; naturally, it applies only to those people who have filled up the "Y" column on the quiz from top to bottom. It's good old tribalism, just with a new definition of the tribe: those people who loathe their fellow humans so much that they'll try any alternative before making the best of our human world under the rules it has built up for itself over thousands of years. Just when we've got it better than ever in the past, it's now apparently time to concede defeat in the game of natural evolution, and it's time to bring out the winnowing tools. Otherwise the Vulcans will never pick up our warp signature in time and we'll be condemned to life in a primitive meaty backwater forever.

What's that? You say you like certain things about life in a meaty backwater?

Well, phooey on you, then. Go have your phony "sex" and enjoy your sham "love" and eat your pathetic Earth "pizza". When the spaceships descend, you'll be sorry!


10:05 - Fine, be evil; see if I care

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Go ahead, call me a hypocrite if you want.

No, it doesn't thrill me that Google is cozying up with China, like Yahoo! and Microsoft have done lately. But I don't think I can get along without Google Earth.

Seriously. This is a "cold dead hands" kind of thing.

Some people have World of Warcraft; I have Google Earth. And I just won't look at China if that helps...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
20:21 - iMouse
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/24/business/24wire-disney.html?_r=1&hp&ex=1138165200&

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I have no idea what to make of this whole thing.

Except to imagine that if Steve Jobs is to be Disney's biggest stockholder after the merger, then it means Disney is "merging" with Pixar only in the sense that Chrysler "merged" with Daimler-Benz.

If it means John Lasseter will be a chief Disney director, though, it could mean great things. Like, say, maybe the reemergence of a 2D Feature Animation unit. And wouldn't it be funny if buying Pixar was what it took to reawaken Disney's interest in 2D?

UPDATE: Keith H. writes:

I've been hoping for that. Yet I'm also a little bit nervous that this will pervert Pixar's marvelous story apparatus. Being absorbed by the company that produced Treasure Planet? That's rather dangerous.

Yeah... well, that (and Atlantis) were the thrashings of a company terrified by the anime invasion, and laboring under the misguided theory that they could provide what anime fans were looking for just by changing their core competency. They don't seem to grok that people watch anime specifically because it's the "anti-Disney"... it's as much a backlash against the "Western corporate filmmaking" meme as alignment with Japan's writing/animation style. Disney could produce Cowboy Bebop and the anime fans would still shun it... just as the hardcore ones do with the Miyazaki films just because of who's distributing them in the US.

Pixar is one of the few companies that understands how to make movies in the "Disney style" that appeal to audiences in the way that the Disney movies did when it was building itself up as a household name. Today a successful Disney-style movie needs to have clever humor and lavish design to appeal to the adults, and engaging characters and dialogue and worldbuilding for the kids. Disney hasn't blended those elements successfully since The Lion King, but Pixar knows how to do both things masterfully.

When Disney was writing Atlantis, the directors' credos were: 1) "Fewer songs, more explosions," and 2) "Not a dry pair of pants in the house." Interesting ideas, and we all looked forward to what it might mean, aside from the obvious ("Quick, stem the anime tide!"). Unfortunately, what it meant was that the faux-anime storytelling was watered-down and formulaic, and the engaging characters were entirely missing, and so the movie appealed to exactly nobody. And in uproariously funny movies like The Emperor's New Groove, they got the adult-level humor spot-on, but they couldn't come up with a franchisable set of characters that anyone under age 15 could appreciate. Brother Bear was a valiant attempt to recapture the magic, but it was too little, too late. And Disney needs to understand that Phil Collins does not help matters.

Buying Pixar is the only way Disney can re-inject some of that DNA back into the company. I think they realize what they've been doing is no good, and they know where they have to look if they want their core market back. Plus they'll get all those animators back that fled to Pixar in the last ten years...


19:17 - That sheep may safely graze

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I'm sure there must be some significance to the fact that the pervasive reaction to things like this so often seems to be that the situation can only be rectified by rebellion.

Because there's no way a majority of intelligent adults made a decision like this of their own informed free will. Not here, not there, not anywhere. Nope—it's obviously a failure of democracy, not a joyous expression of it. So it's to be revolution, to rally the true rulers of the country and lead the poor misguided sheep of the greater populace from their folly—or else accept the death of freedom forever.

It makes me so tired.

I was watching a CSI episode the other day in which Nick Stokes was going through the locker of a teenage kid who had rented a jetski on the lake and subsequently gone missing. Stokes found the kid's wallet, opened it up, looked at various credit cards and pieces of ID, counted the $30 or so in currency, catalogued the wallet's contents, and put it in an evidence bag. It was only a few minutes later that I realized just how remarkable a thing I'd just seen: a TV show in which a character representing the police finds a wallet full of money—and he examined and bagged it, instead of helping himself to its contents. (It would have been so easy! Who'd ever know? It's the prerogative of the police! So many justifications!) And that wasn't even the remarkable part: the remarkable part was that this was presented as a completely unremarkable happenstance. It just passed on by, not as a plot point, just a bit of detail to flesh out the scene. Just another day at the office: pursuing truth, upholding the rule of law, taking home an honest paycheck.

Does anyone even grasp what a marvelous time in human history this is? Or how precarious and fleeting, historically, the situation where we can afford the luxury of living by the rule of law? Where we not only don't see the law itself as a rough set of clumsy guidelines that can and should be skirted by anyone with half a brain, but we fetishize it in hit TV shows?

Or where people routinely elect their government in a process that follows perfectly orderly rules between contestants who are ultimately in it for the same reasons, and where even if it entails a shift in power, it means nothing in the long run but that the names on the news crawl are going to change?

Dean Esmay had similar thoughts the other day. I was about to let it all just pass on by, but it seems that some people are determined not to let this moment in history slip past without layering on some unseemly hyperbole.

If people had even an inkling of what "rebellion" really entailed, especially in a country like the USA or Canada, they wouldn't dream of bandying the word about so freely.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006
13:57 - Hey! Hey!
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1914445,00.asp

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Nielsen/NetRatings is spying on me.

The typical iTunes user is male, which might impact his average choice of television: a typical user is 1.3 times more likely to watch the Cartoon Network, followed closely by BBC America and HBO . . .

On the other hand, some twenty- and thirty-somethings must use the site, since an iTunes user was twice as likely to own a VW as another car, followed closely by Audi and Subaru.

Um.... guilty, and... guilty.

Not so much about the "hard cider" business, but... okay, smart guys, why haven't you put Adult Swim on the iTunes store yet?

Well, not that it won't all just be Boondocks, American Dad, and 12 oz. Mouse.

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© Brian Tiemann