XVIII-The Future

It’s 2015. If that’s news to you please get in touch because I’d be very interested to learn how you’ve spent the last two weeks. I’d like to take a second and declare that is officially ‘The Future’. I’m probably not qualified to make that call but seeing as no-one bothered to work out what the criteria for reaching ‘The Future’ should be, I’m calling it (seems like a bit of an oversight there guys). It is now officially possible to print a car. That’s not a joke.

If you don’t feel like following that link this is a direct quote from the page; “Be the first on your block to own your own electric powered 3d-printed car from the factory of the future” That kind of sums up the whole situation for me right there, we are discussing a car that came out of a printer that can reach 50mph and they’re selling it using exactly the same rhetoric that they used for colour TV’s sixty bloody years ago! Do people even still live in blocks? I’ve never been too clear on what a ‘block’ is to be honest, I’m not fluent in 90’s hip-hop and I’ve never been that clued up on American 20th century town planning but I am aware that people seem to spend less time talking about blocks these days. I’m not even sure that Jenny’s that bothered about them anymore and yet the people in charge of selling a CAR THAT CAME FROM A PRINTER seem to think that neighbourly jealousy is still the driving force in marketing. Although I do find it quite refreshing that they didn’t just cover it in boobs, I feel like they’re kind of missing the point of what they’re selling.

I grew up, much the same as everyone else, trying to dissect films and television programs that I didn’t really understand in order to fuel a career as a font of poorly researched and half formed opinions about the world we live in (thank you, television) and so I’ve had a fairly set idea about what ‘The Future’ would look like and I genuinely think we’ve kind of sleepwalked into it. Go and and find me a dystopian movie future that isn’t rife with social and international tensions, strange and unpredictable diseases, state surveillance and bitchin gadgets. Now, cross reference one of those Year 20** montages with the news on pretty much any day of the week…look familiar? Now there is probably an excellent debate to be had about the extent to which mass-media has sculpted the international perspective on contemporary society and culture. Were the sci-fi writers and producers just much, much more intelligent than we gave them credit for, successfully forecasting the direction of the developed world or have we unintentionally been striving towards some kind of Hollywood misrepresentation of a Philip K. Dick story because we didn’t know what else to look for? However the bit that makes me curious is the unconsciousness of it all. I never saw anything in pop culture to prepare me for a world in which some guys are running round with internet powered eyeglasses complete with ‘augmented reality apps’ (whatever the hell that means) and some people can’t work out how to put a lock on their phone screen to stop their arse from calling you on the bus. That’s the situation we’re in though, for every fully working synthetic limb there’s still some guy accidentally putting an intended private Facebook message to his daughter about her special prescription (complete with at least four inappropriately positioned LOL’s) as a picture comment on someone else’s profile. If they released flying cars tomorrow, most of us would spend most of our time looking for the keys instead of impersonating Bruce Willis’ sky-cabby from The Fifth Element. True there’s generally at least one character in these films who doesn’t have a very good haircut and who don’t have no truck with them fancy gadgets and all this book learnin’, but they’re generally played for laughs and usually end up a bit dead. The thing is, if we accept that the world is a late 20th century action/sci-fi movie then most of us aren’t quite pre-Neo Keanu Reeves in the Matrix using a crap laptop to pull at the threads of reality, we’re certainly not 007 Pierce Brosnan, quite happy to use technology to kill things he can’t have sex with. No, we’re closer to Randy Quaid in Independence Day and not at the end when he redeems himself in the eyes his kids and wipes out the aliens (and got me and quite a lot of my friends in quite a lot of trouble for saying ‘up yours’ all the time) we’re Randy Quaid at the start when he’s all drunk and falling over his crop duster and pissing everyone off and getting abducted. That’s it folks, in the extended and rather muddled metaphor that I’m driving towards here, I’m Randy fucking Quaid, and so are most people I know. Welcome to the future, bring on the uprising.

XVII-Mars

Greetings!

I’m aware that it’s been a while since I’ve updated my humble section of the web but in the meantime I’ve been flirting with real writing jobs. However jumbled, self serving ramblings tinged with paranoia have always been a passion of mine and so I’ve returned to my roots.

The good thing is that during my brief sojourn into the outside world, I found that it hasn’t become any less ridiculous. Now, as ever, I couldn’t possibly make things up that are more silly than what’s actually happening, I’m just not that good at what I do. Which brings me to Mars One.

Mars One, as detailed here on their fantastically designed website that looks like someone was making a cheap computer game and accidentally submitted the artwork to the wrong people, is an honest to goodness attempt to establish a permanent human colony on Mars. I’ve been looking as hard as I can for the punchline and I really can’t seem to find one which leads me to assume that, shockingly, these people are serious. Using technology that apparently exists already a Dutch non-profit organization is, as I understand it, going to throw innocent nuts and bolts into outer space in the hopes that by the time the first humans arrive in 2024 they have arranged themselves into some kind of easy-assembly jigsaw puzzle. One of the many things that strikes me about this whole plan is that it’s enough of a pain in the arse to drive back to the Ikea in Warrington when your mattress ends up at a jaunty angle because you’re missing a small piece of your Splurgen as indicated in diagram 16.b, I can only imagine the frustration it would cause someone that had just travelled from Doncaster to Mars only to find their SpaceSocks 2.o* had landed on the other side of the planet could trouble the assumptions of the tagline for the first Alien film.

In space no-one can hear you scream, but they might just hear you shout ‘BOLLOCKS!’ at the top of your pioneering lungs.

*And no, I don’t know what kind of equipment gets taken on a space voyage, that’s a limitation I’m happy to admit to.

And that’s before we get to the OPEN CALL FOR APPLICANTS!

This project is apparently open to any healthy adult with either some seriously well developed issues with other humans or some intense pop-culture fuelled delusions which would allow them to happily take a one way ticket into space safe in the knowledge that at some point a very earnest film will be made about them in ‘Murica and the review will use phrases like ‘human-spirit’ and ‘triumph’ and very consciously avoid words like ‘terrible’  and they’ll be cast as Matthew McConaughey and hold on wait a second real life has turned into a low budget Christopher Nolan remake…shit.

Aside from that, I played a little word association game the other day with the phrase ‘volunteer astronaut’ and came up with the following;
-Claustrophobic chef
-Asthmatic fireman
-Vegetarian butcher
-Hungover stunt-driver

You can probably see where I’m driving that particular point, the fact is I have to think that being an astronaut isn’t something that people just kind of ‘have’. I’m aware that people sent random animals up there using computers about as powerful as those scientific calculators we used to use to spell ‘58008707’ (please don’t turn your computer upside down, it says lolboobs and no, I’m not proud of it) but I have to assume that those things only happened because some people manage to combine just the right amount of being a belligerent dick and having a ridiculous amount of funding to do whatever they want…Taken 3 anyone?

When I was a younger man, before I’d had a chance to get into that whole angsty cynicism thing that made me such an irresistible social force when I was a teenager (nope) I went on a school trip to a Science museum. I can’t remember where it was, but I can remember being distinctly underwhelmed by everything other than the bitchin’ choice of slinkies in the gift shop, I of course went for the metal one, laughed at all the plastic rainbow kids and broke it before we even got home. The only other thing that has stuck with me is a 3D film we watched, back when you still had those cool red and blue plastic lenses and everybody took them off because blinding headaches and motion sickness are absolute gold to a nine year old, the film was essentially about the path the every little boy and girl could take right to the stars. The basic idea was that if you really wanted to be an astronaut, and you had a pure heart and bright eyes and clean teeth you could make it, kid! I think, I’m not sure, I’d taken my glasses off to impress everyone and was feeling distinctly unwell. But I do remember Tom Cruise telling me with that Hollywood hair that I could be an astronaut and I remember thinking, even at the age of nine, that he was talking complete cobblers. That’s one good thing about growing up in ex-industrial England in the 90’s, we knew all that stuff about taking over the world was absolute balls so we didn’t waste any time on it.
But here we are, one of my deep assumptions about humanity and the world we live in having once again been proved completely false. Apparently all you need to do to have a crack at completely changing the course of human history is have a fairly loose grip on the concept of personal safety and have implicit faith in a rich lunatic who clearly isn’t that arsed if you end up dead. Actually that’s not so surprising after all.

 

XVI-Rorshach

In the world we currently inhabit it’s very easy to see the Internet as some kind of cross between Mr. T and that weird (definitely intoxicated) purple bong-smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland. By which I of course mean that it encompasses Mr. T’s, completely unexplained, ability to take random bits of scrap metal and turn a Honda Civic into a tank with a rail gun on the roof in the original A-Team series with the caterpillar’s all encompassing knowledge and determination to crowbar sex and/or drug references into everything.

The internet; smashing disparate ideas together like an angry toddler with a shape sorter. Sleek. All-Powerful. Mildly confused. Hugely distracting.

Before I get carried away with waxing lyrical about the powers of the internet, I’d like to highlight that there are certain things that it cannot and should not be trusted with. I could verily regale you with tales of innocent blemishes and heat rashes that Google turned into exciting and unusual medical conditions, evenings spent trying to work out what, really, ‘putrid’ smells like in case my little finger is  about to fall off, or desperately rooting around sofa cushions for 2 pence pieces to measure ‘lesions’ on my arm because I’m displaying symptoms of syphilis or waking people up to tell me whether my eyes have gone yellow because my kidney exploded or I need to clean the bathroom mirror. As for relationship advice, I’d like to to mention something to the writers and editors at Yahoo, MSN et al (because they will of course be avid readers) telling someone who has willingly turned to to Internet columns for advice about how to meet and impress members of their preferred sex to ‘be confident’ is about as useful as ‘advising’ fish to be good at climbing trees.

In an effort to prove my point about the limitations of the internet and do something I’ve always been slightly curious about I took an online Rorshach test and I can safely assure you that DIY psychological evaluations have made the list. Before I publish my own results I’d like to mention a couple of things:

-All of the questions are multiple choice, which I’m fairly sure defeats the whole point but I didn’t make any of these answers up, or the results at the end.
-Whoever put this thing together has a well developed, if slightly warped, sense of humour.
-This is the first result on Google for ‘online rorschach test’, which would lead me to assume that’s it’s quite popular.

Question 1

Question 1

a: I see a mask in the card.

Question 2

Question 2

a: It looks like an elongated horse’s head

Question 3

Question 3

a: It looks like the coast of Italy after an Atom bomb attack, only mirrored

Question 4

Question 4

a: No, you idiot, it looks like a butterfly that’s been crushed by a bootheel

Rorshach 5

Question 5

a: It looks like a Tele-Tubby (maybe Po?) that was run over by a Sherman tank

Question 6

Question 6

a: I see a monster swooping down to eat a helpless puppy dog

Question 7

Question 7

a: It looks like two evil garden gnomes, conspiring with each other

Question 8

Question 8

a: It looks like a Rigelian brain eater from Star Trek

Question 9

Question 9

a: It looks like a toad that tried to cross the highway. At rush hour.

Question 10

Question 10

a: It looks like Indian Shamans, dancing around a fire.

 

 

 

 

Test Results

Sickness Quotient: 83%
Your “Sickness Quotient” of 83% is definitely something to worry about.

Detailed Diagnosis

Interpersonal Insights
Your friends (both of them) think you’re a total clod. As long as you continue to buy the beer, however, they’ll still be your pals. You have difficulty concentrating or keeping on task, probably because you’re an idiot with a short attention-span.

Job Performance & Attitude
You hate your job but will never leave it. That’s because no one else will hire people whose job skills consist of sleeping and surfing the web. You have little empathy for anyone more successful at work than you, which is pretty much everyone.

Personality Insight
Your personal motto is “If you can’t make them think, make them wonder.” Trust us- you’ve succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.

 

~

Now quite apart from the test experience which was excellent-there is an answer to every question that basically amounts to saying ‘it looks like an ink blot’ which begs the question as to who the hell is going to the effort of voluntarily taking an ink blot test to then shrug it off like a 80’s teen movie badass? I’m struck by how close to the mark those results are on almost every count. The fact that a multiple choice test on a badly designed website has actually done a reasonable job of defining my personality has raised far more questions than it has answered. The main one being, what the hell has happened here!?

You might well suggest that the moment any venture involves typing the words Rorschach test into a search engine its probably doomed. Well you’d be right. But damn it I’m going to stick the original point even if I have accidentally shocked myself on the way, there are certain things that you should not trust the Internet with, even if sometimes it’s a little more accurate than you’d reasonably expect or want it to be.

P.S; your life will be forever unfulfilled if you don’t watch this video up until the saloon door malfunction around the ten second mark

XV-Vive La (Slight) Resistance!

Did you ever meet that guy that went through his little revolutionary phase in his teenage years? Do you remember when they started selling the image of Che Guevara profile on t-shirts in Primark?
Was that the point that some of you decided it was about time to cut yourself off from society, to go and live in a cave with a harmonica and that important book that you never really have time to read? Well I’d love to be able to agree with you, but caves are in fairly short supply where I live and unfortunately I quite literally bought that t-shirt. Leaving aside the point that slapping an enduring, iconic image of activism and freedom on tens of thousands of cheap polyester t-shirts (in sweat shops, no less) and then slapping them on annoying spotty kids that don’t necessarily understand what they mean is nothing short of diabolically genius. There is probably no better way to subdue the masses than making one half of them look like complete berks and making the other half painfully aware of it.

Well I think its a shame because, on paper, I quite like revolutions. The fact that, in some people’s heads, there is a limit to the amount of crap they can deal with and they’re just one more Taylor Swift gif, piss poor Jeremy Clarkson excuse or retro throwback vintage old-school gritty 20th century deadly armed conflict reboot before they will just up and start flyering about everything. It comforts me, somehow, that there is in fact an equal and opposition reaction to everything, including to people that are inexplicably given a platform to do really stupid things on a grand scale. Where it falls down, I think, is the sheer saturation of information we have now. Its hard to focus clearly on one thing that pisses us off when there are about a million of them and we hear about all (well most) of them.

So what we have is the same amount of anti-establishment sentiment that turned Che Guevara into the human equivalent of the Ramones logo, increased by an ever expanding amount of injustice and sheer bloody stupidity and outrage to tap into and then averaged out across all of the issues that are brought to our attention. All of them. That little social equation is making some really strange things happen. I’ve lost count of the amount of comparisons I’ve seen made between being doused in cold water to raise awareness and money for various terrible diseases and the awful situation in the Middle East at the minute over the past week or so. I’m not suggesting one issue deserves more weight that another but I do find it strange that people have started reacting to one humanitarian issue by trying to divert attention away from it, whilst being fairly scathing of the initial attempt in some cases. Surely if people have actually managed to band together to address something that is adversely effecting the global community then that should be celebrated, even if it isn’t the disaster du jour that you may be specifically concerned with.

For the most part this moral logical fallacy isn’t actually relevant because all it really does is prove that people still care about the issues and that can only be a good thing. But I am, of course, wrong. This is also a week that national outrage over an incident that happened three months ago during the filming of a television program that focuses on two professional bakers telling other professional bakers that they could be better at baking has gained enough traction that it has forced its way into the news. I refuse to detail what actually happened because, frankly, its irrelevant. Great British Bake Off is the height of inoffensive light entertainment. Its less edgy than soup. However a perceived moral transgression on the show has actually managed to create something of a furore, or whatever comes before a furore, a hubbub, a to-do.

I’ve come to the (admittedly probably wrong) conclusion that what’s happened is that the members of the ‘silent majority’ that used to be such a big part of these groundswells have now, through technology, been granted a voice of their own and, wouldn’t you know it rather than the several generations of barnstorming disaffected youths that we’ve been portrayed as, sometimes people just like nothing better than to sit down with a brew and get royally pissed off about the consistency of someone else’s ice cream.

I apologise for the departure from my usual tone and I sincerely hope that I haven’t said anything overly objectionable but after the week I’ve seen I couldn’t think of a single thing to laugh at.

XIV-Eureka

It will be a familiar realm of conversation to anyone who grew up in a small town, has worked a menial job, has had limited social engagements and access to satellite television or knows one of those people that thinks that the ‘Del-Boy’ get-rich-quick school of economics has any real world application whatsoever. The Eureka moment. Based on the idea that some Ancient Greek guy spilled some bath water once and turned it into a scientific principle about displacement and, rather than getting some kind of Ancient Greek towel (my guess is that they used live sheep) and cleaning it up, he ran round shouting ‘Eureka!’. I’ve always had a problem with that story, mainly because it sounds like the set up to a terrible tabloid headline pun;

“No, you reeka!”
-Because of course he didn’t actually wash himself in the bath, and so he probably still smells, or reeks. ha.

Also because it suggests that philosophers were irresponsible and lazy and just left puddles all over the place for innocent Ancient bystanders to slip over on. I can’t imagine, for all of the innovations and advancements made by the Greeks, that Ancient sick-pay was one of them. Or Ancient Injury Lawyers 4U. This probably has a lot to do with the diminished reputation that philosophers have in today’s society and that’s left us with scientists. Philosophers may have been smelly and lazy and naked all the bloody time but they certainly didn’t mess around with robots!

The other problem I have with the Eureka story is the whole notion of a Eureka moment. Whoever it was that had the original one, I think without resorting to Google that it was Archimedes, was in possession of a genius unmatched by the vast majority of everyone else, before or since. This is mainly evidenced by the fact that we’re still talking about him around 3,000 years later. People don’t take that away from the story though, what we tend to focus on is the idea that the right answer is right in front of you. That, like a ray of sunshine at the British seaside, every now and again ‘The Big Idea’ will make an appearance, melt our ice cream and blind us with its clarity and directness. Its a beautiful idea, containing as it does some kind of optimism about the human capacity for invention and innovation. That just around the corner is the one thought that will transform our fortunes. But what the romance of the Eureka moment doesn’t make room for, is idiots. I for one am not searching for my big idea because, frankly, I don’t want to know what it might be. But, whether through an ever expanding commercial market, an increase in disposable income as we move away from minimum wage manufacturing jobs to overpaid and under-researched office jobs (looking at you, social media gurus, you’re not fooling anybody) people are finding it easier to push their Eureka moments out there. Don’t believe me? Take a proper look at the next high street you find yourself on. I did it the other day and found, among others, three separate 300-plus page Zombie survival guides in one shop, a rubix cube shaped mug and some BBQ tongs shaped like a lightsaber (and yes, I did want all of them). Every single one of those is a Eureka moment; a really, really crap one.

Dragon’s Den is a whole TV subgenre in and of itself, with attendant villains, heroes, cliches and conventions based entirely on the idea that people are prepared to stake embarrassing national exposure at the very least on their Eurekas. Some of them are of course quite successful but most of them are, inarguably, crap.

Now it was while I was researching this phenomenon that I came across the mother of all bad ideas; an inside out zoo.

More specifically Zootopia, a project put forth by a group of Danish people that I can only assume are acting as a front for a real-life Bond villain, is intending to allow animals to roam around free and put humans in a kind of subterranean network of tunnels with portholes. Like a dry land aquarium I guess.

No amount of daytime television (I hope) could possibly make my brain throw that particular handful of monkey poop at me in protest. Try as I might I can’t think of a single redeeming feature of that; whichever way I look at it, it seems like a bloody mess. Ever seen Jaws 3d? That kind of mess. I don’t necessarily think Zoos in general are a good idea, why anyone would want to go and see a bunch of depressed/asleep/insane/tranquillized animals in cages in a world where David Attenborough, sofas and cups of tea exist is beyond me. None of the dozens of problems I can think of as relating to zoos however, can be in any way solved by turning them inside out.

I guess, in some small way, what I’m trying to say here is that if Archimedes had been paid a decent wage and had a private bath, we wouldn’t be in this mess. In other words, stick to your day jobs because its a short hop from edible paper to inside out zoos and who the hell knows where we’re going from there!?