Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wired Future

I was wondering about people in the near future …with human knowledge electronically and steadily accumulating, would they, as heirs to the ages, be like well-rounded ancient Greeks appreciating the True and the Good? … I learned the answer when I time-traveled from my native 1980s into a coffee shop, in 2014 A.D.

There I found an October edition of a brainy Wired magazine.

Back home in the ’80’s I was occasionally reading Omni, the mainstream science magazine with the awful science fiction stories, (one per issue) a magazine I judged to have a tone of gleeful snobbishness. Not to my taste. But Wired, from what I can see, has a neutral tone: It’s all about the future being revealed now.

Aimed at computer lovers, the October issue featured an interview with Terry Gilliam. When I left the ’80’s, Gilliam was known to me for his subversive movie Brazil. I see that since then he’s made a terrific movie with Bruce Willis, that young Die Hard hero, and some guy named Brad Pitt, called Twelve Monkeys. I better see it—it sounds way too good for Hollywood. Gilliam, of course, is also known for his splendid work in Monty Python’s Traveling Circus—and in 2014 they are doing a reunion tour. And here’s where Gilliam is unhappy.

It seems the critics who praise Monty Python have no idea of Monty’s roots in, say, Buster Keaton (I’ve enjoyed Buster’s movies) Notes Gilliam, “…It’s like it’s all been forgotten. That’s the part of the modern world that I really despise. There’s no history—everything exists only in nanoseconds.”

Maybe being old gives Gilliam at last permission to openly sound grumpy, but surely his age is not why he is grumpy. Even as a peach fuzzed artist, surely, he was ferreting out classic truths. I would hope every young artist and young computer enthusiast discerns the truth of people using technology, and the how and the why of their using. This awareness would tend to make anyone grumpy.

It sounds like a man named Qohen is disenchanted, the man in a new movie that Gilliam is working on. In the Wired interview, on page 52 Gilliam notes, “Everybody lives for their selfies and their tweets—to actually exist, somebody has to be talking to you or listening to you.  Qohen just wants to be disconnected, wants to escape from the world that’s out there, full of people just filling the Internet with pictures of the food they’re eating.”

As I see it, with my sweeping judgment including brainy computer programmers, no one in 2014 tweets about the web, “Hey everybody, I’ve just found a classic oil painting, and an English literature story.” But no doubt they gleefully refer each other to photographs of cats wearing funny hats.

I have learned that in the future, the human song remains the same: Boring. Familiar. No jazz. As computer genius Stevey Yegge could say (I like his essays) ‘Many people don’t want to be “on the upward curve” of personal growth.’ He means they want to be living their lives, if you were to graph their progress, on a flat line… and, while they are at it, flat lining their brains, too.

Eh? Well of course I accept people as they are! Of course I know they are entitled to enjoy flat lining; we can’t all be silicon nerds who read Wired… But then again, nerds ain’t so special to me anymore, not when I’ve seen the consumerist advertising in Wired.

In my day, people would let themselves be suckered into buying a machine where you stand with a vibrating canvas belt around your middle—Vrrrrrrrr—that “caused” you to “lose” weight. In Wired I see an advertisement for an electric band you put around your head: “Give your brain a workout in as little as 3 minutes a day with our guided, no-sweat mental exercise. Your brain fitness journey starts at choosemuse.”

I wonder how many folks in this brave new wired-in world, in October, know that, as I discovered in a rumpled Oprah magazine, March the seventh was a day for “24 hours of tuning in to the world around you” promoted at I suppose the philosophy behind the day might be phrased as, “However much you plug in, plug less.”

… … So there I was, having time-traveled into a coffee shop. The first thing I noticed was a distinguished lady, her dyed grey hair superbly coiffed, wearing a futuristic mono blue jacked with horizontal tubes or something: maybe it had spacegoose feathers. I was looking at her back, thinking: Maybe here in the future age 80 is the new 60, while some older-than-me ladies have vanity and don’t settle into plain tired hair.

Next I noticed a man with leather jacket that was brown, not black, which matched his British cap that was black, not tweed. Note to self: Classic clothes remain down the decades. He was fiddling, typing, with a little cloth tent thingy, which I realized was a mini word processor. Small! And he slipped something into his inner jacket pocket, a little box faced with wonderful little colored thingys—I liked this future. That is, until I looked at a corner of the ceiling.

Now, I don’t mind seeing a television for watching wrestling hung in a noisy bar, but—in a secluded coffee shop? And why in the name of Huxley would the silly screen keep rapidly changing, as if to imply no one in the future had any attention span? I can see myself giving a lady a seat facing the windows, “so you can see nature” only to have her ask me to switch seats because the stupid screen is too distracting.

So much for the 21st century.

I can, after some sorrow, accept the facts: Human nature will always reflect the lowest common denominator...Yes, and I can still get to know those few whom Confucius would call “true persons,” folks like Terry Gilliam who put some effort into discerning, and living by, classic values.

Sean Crawford

In a little room in the Vancouver Art Gallery I was privileged to see a half hour movie, Le Jetee, with narration over still black and white frames, a show that inspired 12 Monkeys—wow. Speaking of art, despite the famous cast, I think 12 Monkeys is an art movie, one that readers of sf would like, not a mainstream sci-fi movie.

I trust readers with an attention-span to Web-search on their own. …As for me making links for losers, forget it—I’m too grumpy: to Hades with search engine optimization. (SEO) …


  1. I tried to comment on your post and it didn't work, so I'll try a new spot.

    You've been busy! I'm not going to tell you what page I'm on, but I'm not finished yet. My plan is to "get er' done" tonight!

    I've put the coffee away and I've cracked open a cold one. Don't worry though! I'm supporting Canada because my brewski is from the Yukon. Yeah Canada!

    The last movie that I saw at the IMAX was Batman-Rise and it was totally awesome! I love the music in that movie and the piece "Rise - by Hans Zimmer" is motivating to listen to. It's one of the tunes that I listen to when I'm working out and once the song is over, I'm powered up to take on anything.

    I want to see the movie that you saw, so I need to get to the theatre!

    Okay, back to my book. Stop distracting me Sean Crawford. ;-)

  2. Done!

    I don't smoke, but after reading that book, I feel like I could smoke a cigarette because I'm feeling SATISFIED. Hee hee!

    So, one good thing is that is that it's not going to be awkward on here. You and me? We're fine. Phew!

    More thoughts tomorrow on The War of Art. I jotted down some notes and I need the night to think about the powerful message in the book.

    What am I reading next???

  3. Some of my favourite quotes from the book:
    Page 18 “the danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight”
    Page 22 “….we have the power to alter our destiny”
    Page 38 “Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement”
    Page 40 “fear tells us what we have to do”
    Page 63 “resistance hates it when we turn pro”
    Page 82 “…..Take what the day gives him……the field alters every day”
    Page 90 “The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut and not on the hole”
    Page 134 “….discern what is really important”

    The statement that really stood out to me and resonated with me was on page 146 “Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we are already”

    I enjoyed the humour as well. Thanks for recommending it!
    So seriously, what should should I read next?

  4. Seriously? Another self-help book at this point might be resistance to doing your work. Better to take a different tack as "change is as good as a rest."

    There is a book, not a novel, exactly, where there are lots of short chapters, each a different scene often with different people. The human comedy, by William Saroyan, written by a member of an ethnic minority during a world war, was probably given the title comedy to remind readers not to be too grim. I liked it for the sensibility of the author, very kind.
    There is an illustration at the start of every chapter.

    When I had to read aloud to a group of handicapped folks I read the chapters where the hero is in a funny class and then goes to a track meet. These were the same chapters I heard in the old radio play version. It has been a movie with Andy Rooney, and now it is in production with Tom Hanks where the PR teasers in the cinema magazine don't reveal the name of the main character. Think of a famous blind poet, and you'll know why.

    Yes, I realize you are a non-fiction gal, but this one is accessible. (But hard to find: I had to go to signal hill to grab the only chapters/indigo one in the city) Another possibliity for you is the book I mentioned in my happiness essay by Bertrand Russell.

    1. It doesn't have to be a self-help book per se. I remember reading a self-help book in the past. Topic: relationships. Half-way through the book, I thought "Why am I the only one reading this book? What about this man that I'm with? He should be reading it as well." He wasn't interested, he didn't even glance at the title and needless to say, I didn't finish the books.

      I looked up the book by William Saroyan and here's the problem-o. Mike from Mississauga is going to see the package, link it to your blog, read it and deliver it late. Should I let him read it first??

      This is the only blog that I read and it's the only blog that makes me have homework. Good homework! Valuable! If I don't look something up or investigate further, I'm not satisfied.

      The blind poet? John Milton.

      Bertrand Russell? I'll have to reread that post.
      Night night.

  5. I suppose if Mike reads it first you can compare notes. I read practically no blogs myself, only Berkun and Pressfield.
    As for the poet, close but you're off by a couple millennium. Think of the oldest western literature, not Gilgamesh.
    Now I must head off.

    1. Mike isn't going to do it for me. He didn't make any notes in the book that took forever to get here. Just a couple of scribbles from Mike. Smiley faces, question marks, circles and squares. That is as deep as he got. I couldn't decode what he was trying to tell me.

      So.......I just checked your blog. I read it and now I can't sleep until I find out the answer. Maybe I should "grrrrr"? Hee hee!

      Drum roll please! Is the answer: Homer?

    2. I've been on other blogs and I distinctively remember in 2010 thinking "What is a blog?". I came across yours and a few others, but I quickly became disinterested in the others. The other bloggers had so many ads etc and I liked yours the best because it didn't have any bells or whistles, it was simply the text.

      What's the saying? Keep it simple?

  6. Yes, Homer.
    Back in January I was moved to do an essay on the people of his war, an essay that, come to think of it, I could re-post some year for Remembrance Day.

  7. We all need to take some time today to......remember. I'm also going to "thank you" for being a soldier.

    I'm sure that you have some fascinating stories.


  8. Strange. I don't think any non relative has ever thanked me. You're welcome.

    Today we had a day of staff training, not because it was important, but to legally have an extra day off, a Friday over Christmas. Maybe it was for the best, as we got some discussion going, after a short 4 minute CBC Flanders documentary. The bozos in the doc said the "torch be yours to hold it high" was angry war mongering.

    My grade five teacher, Mr. Thompson, said "The torch is not a gun, it is peace." He is right.

    I told my peers that the purpose of fighting is not to win a battle, or a war, but to produce a better peace. So they fight for peace. If a war breaks out again a year later then we've screwed up.

    The classic "not better" peace is the punitive treaty after WWI, a madness that resulted in Germans taking their inflated pay home in their wheelbarrows, resulting in fertile ground for Nazism.

    Also today we talked about client rights and our rights in a free country.

    So I pointed out that the issue in the middle east in NOT training of the Iraq army by the U.S. A soldier's role is not to slay but to be slain.Forget this talk of more training as the answer. If the government is corrupt and uncaring, meaning the generals and captains are corrupt and uncaring, then the army is like a low morale corporation, except instead of saying, "I only work here" they are saying, "I only live here" and "I don't want to die for a corrupt government or headquarters." And so the bad guys, untrained, can fight equally well as the regular Iraq army. As I was explaining all this a middle-aged man from Africa kept nodding his head.

    It occurs to me now that the U.S. people would easily understand this if they were not in denial, mentally blocked from facing up to the Vietnam war.

    1. "the purpose of fighting is not to win a battle, or a war, but to produce a better peace" --- I think that this statement of yours says it all.

      Have a good rest of the week, sleep well and be proud of your contribution to peace in Canada.

  9. In answer to your comment five places up, Nov 12, my main reason for keeping it simple was reading that a surprising percentage of U.S. computer users (compared to Canada) were not using anything more fancy than a telephone connection. No slow band/wide band/fast band cable. I didn't want to discriminate against poor people.

    Besides, my own sister is in a rural area where folks can't get cable—it's either peasant vision or satellite dish.

    I have to chuckle. My sister kept her girls from being cathode tube zombies by unplugging the box and claiming the set was broken. This worked until she got a live-in boyfriend (now legally married) "What happened?" I asked. She answered in frustration, "He plugged it in!"

    Maybe this helped her youngest, who failed to become literate three years in a row because her school was rigidly into "whole word" not phonetics. So she repeated grade three in a new school and became literate that year. And no, my sister was not told until grade three that her girl couldn't read.

    I can remember when the computer terminals at the university had, I presume, telephone cable, while the stupid university home page was in super-detailed colour. When you logged on, you wouldn't believe how long it took to load! And I was in a class on adaptive technology!

    But yes, simple. I believe dazzle-dazzle is only good for children. I used to tell people, "My site has no blinking lights and no fish swimming across the page." When I bought my first computer I told the salesman, "No space invaders! (no games) I only want to do manuscripts."

    I relish reading essays so that's what I write. My ordinary life is too easy to write about: Even if the readers weren't bored, I sure would be.

    Essays are challenging. I am touched that you like my site. Thank you for saying so.

  10. The story with your sister is very funny. What a brilliant idea! I can imagine when the tv was turned on and the look on her girls faces.

    My laptop at home has the basics. No fancy anything for me either. I'm sure that I'm many years behind "real" technology and I'm okay with that.

    I hope that your day is going well. Cheers!

  11. As for my laptop, back when I asked the Mount Royal College English department head which computer do people use, mac or IBM? He said it depends on your religion: which ever you start with is what you keep using. As for the English department, everybody uses Mac. So I do too.

    Right now my story is that as a middle aged man I need to fork out for the lightest laptop I can get, so I have a Macbook Air, worth every penny.
    I spent my formative years dressing in layers, walking downtown and using the bus, so to this day my pack goes with me everywhere.
    Also I can hide my books when I first walk in somewhere, having grown up when being a reader/nerd was considered a bad thing.
    Also as a writer I need my working papers with me.
    Also, besides all that, Mac is my religion.

  12. And I hope your day is going well too, evening now. And I hope you have some excitement for the approaching weekend.
    For me it's a chance to get done that which I have left undone.

  13. I had an excellent day and I'm lucky that I have a profession in which most days are.....well.....awesome.

    No plans for the weekend yet. I can't believe that it's Friday tomorrow. What a short week! I'm not a big planner for the weekends. I just kind of "do".

    I need to "do some work".
    Have a good weekend!

    1. Here's a funny fact with my computer.

      I have an ASUS or as my older brother would say "As Is". Ha ha!