Life through “Windows”

Microsoft founder Bill Gates might never have expected that within 40 years of founding Microsoft and its groundbreaking interface, Windows, that the entire world would be partitioned behind “windows” both virtual and real.

Today, as never before, something stands between us and reality, whether it is the screens of our various devices; tablets, laptops, desktops, phones, or the windshields of cars for curb-side pick up, or the barriers found everywhere in stores, libraries and banks, or simply the windows behind which we remain indoors, inside, cut off from the world.

Bill Gates might have hoped that software would serve as a window where otherwise there was a wall, opening up the world to us. Arguably, it has come to have the opposite effect, becoming a barrier to real experience.

Windows are everywhere and one must ask what effect they are having.

There are a lot of reasons why we might be feeling shaky; our sense of groundedness, reality, truth even, is based on direct experience. Second hand news, things seen online through so-called “social” media, are a poor substitute. In a doubtful world, self-doubt runs rampant.

One is reminded of the phrase, “though a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12), which has inspired so much creative work, including a rather dark film by Igmar Berman.

It isn’t as if we haven’t been wrestling with the idea of mediated experience since Plato’s cave, whose chained dwellers know only what they can infer from the shadows cast on the cave walls. The windowless room and prison cell have long been condemned for their inhumane sensory deprivation. Today, the confines of prisons are no better than long-term care homes, both acting like petri-dishes for growing deadly virus. Windows, which promise relief by way of visual access to “the outside,” are in fact no solution at all.

If today feels worse than yesterday, which felt worse than the day before, and that day also worse than the day before it, one has to ask what accounts for that, including whether the tools we are leaning on to help us see and and better understand what is going on around us are not part of the problem.

What we need are doors not windows.

2020, a remarkable year?

2020 was shit is almost every way.

And yet, we learned some things and did some things. E.g. I discovered the Oxford University Press blog, which will happily send you a daily email with the day’s blog post. Short, interesting articles. Always referring to a book OUP has published, and my my, but they publish a lot of books! They better; according to Wikipedia they have 6000 employees. That is a lot of mouths to feed.

A Christmassy example of their posts: The Qur’an on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the Nativity | OUPblog
blog.oup.com/2020/12/the-quran-on-mary-the-mother-of-jesus-and-the-nativity/

Two brothers ( cont.)

Or is it that the younger was spoiled, protected and pampered by others (including the elder one), so that he failed to learn to try, to apply himself except in the attention-seeking, ephemeral, undisciplined way artists so often have, often mistaken for Narcissism but usually a symptom of fitful imagination coming and going unpredictably, accounting to no one and impossible to hold to account?
Sent from a phone.

Two brothers

Two brothers. Why would the more talented be less accomplished? Is it because he was bullied by the elder of the two, who was always ahead, stronger and knowing, and also a little jealous of the younger brother’s favour as the baby? Or is it because talent is fickle and difficult to harness, so few with real gifts managing to reign them in and spur them on or make anything of themselves?
November 28, 2020

This Thanksgiving I’m thanking Mr. Trump.

We have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Despite it being the worst year in recorded history for news media scaring everyone to death, ridiculous political shenanigans and economic disaster the scale of which is truly unfathomable, we’re still here, still standing, laughing even.

Donald Trump certainly made a lot of us guffaw and shake our heads, and no doubt will continue to do so now that he has the world’s attention. I’m afraid we’re doomed to be media subjects of Donald the Oneth ‘til his dying day.

Be that as it may, I think Mr. Trump’s reign brought a lot of issues to the surface, issues that need to be addressed.

Mr. Trump certainly taught us something about narcissism. Christpher Lasch called it right how long ago? 1962? (He still has currency.) We’ve learned that the spoiled child with an unchecked ego can, in the media saturated world of today, push his way to the front of every line. It’s the atomic blast of ego that scorches the earth all around leaving nothing but etched shadows.

Good to know. Hard to imagine how to reverse the trend.

Another important contribution Mr. Trump made was to point out the enormous and tragic rift between the educated liberal establishment and the… What shall we call them? Everybody else? Us?

His attacks on truth and those who claim a privileged grasp on it have been outrageous, terribly undermining, but I blame both sides. The professions time and again have shown themselves to be mercenary, serving the highest bidder; scientists and experts of all stripes have become so convinced of their correctness, they have altogether tied up intellectual thought; the liberal arts have dragged truth far into the impenetrable deeps of cultural relativism.

Where “truth” becomes “truths” always only belonging to this party or that party, a gap suddenly opens up though which anyone can slip anything, claiming it to be a truth as good as any other, better even because it is original, entirely made up. No one saw that coming.

It is very complicated how information is legitimated and becomes reliable, but the struggle right now is comic: a medieval  farce in which knowledge knights wielding razor sharp science slash blindly in the general direction of  stumbling, bumbling, mind-numbing ignorance.

Slightly less difficult to unravel, though no less troubling, was Mr. Trump’s attack on the media. Calling news “fake” was disruptive genius but not entirely  without justification;  our 4th estate is in disarray, needlessly pummeling poor readers with crisis after crisis, shamelessly in tow to undeclared interests and impossibly weak in terms of research and analysis. Repeating over and over and over again Mr. Trump’s blatant lies and vitriol served only him.

I have little sympathy for journalists however under-educated, underpaid and overworked. And less for their employers who have failed to capitalize on the easy money to be made in the digital economy.

You cannot cry “bully” yet give the bully the stage and expect anything except more of the same and worse. How can we as a culture not know this by now? Bullies and con artists must be disarmed.

It was absolutely within the media’s power to refuse to spread obviously false news, to boycott sham press conferences and instead just give the public honest information from reliable sources. I think we would have understood.

Mr. Trump helped us to see these problems. Millions of Americans identified with that, were refreshed by it and supported it. They were not wrong.

Mr. Trump did not create these problems and they won’t disappear when he leaves. We have homework to do:

  • We must valorize humility over hubris, acting smartly to put artifice and ego in their place;
  • We must search out and respect truthfulness, challenging truth claims openly but also respectfully and constructively;
  • We must re-ground our institutions of higher learning and the professions; science, in particular, must come to terms with uncertainty and frankly admit the limits to what it can know;
  • And we must rebuild the media from the ground up, reject sensationalism and demand thorough investigative, self-critical  journalism.

So thank you Mr. Trump.

I, for one, had a feeling but never quite knew how bad things had got until you came along. Now we know. We have no excuses.

To all my American friends, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

November 26, 2020

Trump’s post-Covid re-birth

October 23, 2020, New York – In a surprising 180 degree turnaround US President Donald Trump has completely reversed his position on Covid-19. Better known for mocking the science, pandering to anti-maskers and blaming cities on both coasts for spikes in corona virus cases, Trump has emerged from his own “deathbed experience” of the virus apparently transformed.

In a hastily staged press conference in New York, a city he has not visited since the pandemic was declared in March, Trump stated, “Having experienced it first hand myself, I know, I know, how devastating this illness can be.”

In order to assist with the pandemic, Trump announced he has donated the crown jewel of his real estate empire, Trump International Hotel, to the City of New York, to help in the battle against the COVID-19 virus.

Known for his close yet rarely scrutinized ties to the construction industry, Trump was almost miraculously able to swing the trades into action to renovate; the top 25 floors of the hotel were converted virtually overnight into hospital facilities with state-of-the art ventilators in every suite. Minimal renovation was required to the lower floors which are being used for palliative care patients considered to be terminal.

“I felt I should do what I can,” the President said during the press conference announcing, “I want New Yorkers afflicted by this horrible thing to have the best, up to the end if it comes to that, and we hope it doesn’t, but it can, we know that.”

Accompanied by New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, who had all but given up on any kind of reasonable engagement with the President after Trump referred to New York as “a shithole,” the Mayor remarked on the turn around, “There are many, many people in the 1%, in the .1%, who know they can help but are just not doing it. It is gratifying to see the President leading by example. Who knows, maybe through all this he’s growing as a person.”

“The hotel industry is taking a beating with this thing anyway,” Trump added, “We’re dying. The towers of New York are empty. Nobody’s coming. And we don’t know where this is going. After it’s over, if it’s ever over, the City can give it back. We’ll fumigate and be back in business in no time. It’s a win-win.”

Malware misery

This site and several others I “manage” have been down for a while. My hosting account got hacked and infested with malware. Who are the assholes who do this gratuitous, ignorant shit? All they are doing is hurting people senselessly.

I’d like to thank the good folks at Pair.com, who have been hosting my feeble web ventures since about… 1997? for being so helpful and working out the backend situation. Pair is an awesome company with the best hosting rates anywhere and service standards beyond compare. I was totally surprised when they embraced WordPress, which is mostly what I work with. Weebly maybe, sometimes.

Who remembers when it was decided that the Internet could carry advertising. Before that it was entirely non-commercial, hosted by universities for the benefit of all. I cried that night. And I wasn’t wrong. All the misery that has ensued has arisen out of commercialism, pure and simple.

I’m getting on now and I haven’t much fight left in me.

But you maybe have more in you. I recommend you defect from all social media. Set up your own website, your own networks of friends. There is so much you can do outside of ‘big data.’

It all starts and stops with you.

 

I dreamed I met Donald Trump

Somebody introduced me to him. We were sitting on a bench against a wall. The guy who introduced me was sitting between us. Trump was fat and sweaty, sweat rolling in rivulets over the folds of his face and neck. I extended my hand leaning across the guy between us to shake hands. Trump looked at me nervously.
Oh right, I said, covid. Sorry, and withdrew my hand.
We sat there for a minute looking straight ahead. Then I said, Well, if you need anything, just let me know. … Believe me, nobody is more surprised than me.

#TNYC

I have a new art project underway. Cataloguing New Yorker magazine cartoons. This one makes me laugh every time I look at/read it. Print it out and put it on your fridge to look at whenever you are feeling sorry for yourself.
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