…or, when good electronics go bad.

I finally finished collecting all the components I needed, and this evening I spent several hours assembling the circuitry I’m going to use to borg out Shelly the next time we go clubbing.

The street finds its own uses for things.

The idea is to assemble a real live, working circuit directly on her face, gluing the components in place with spirit gum and running fine Kynar wire between the components. The prototype was built on a Styrofoam dummy head of the kind used to hold wigs and jewelry in beauty salons.

Here it is, in animated glory to show what the circuit does Picture is perfectly work-safe, which is rare for this journal

The puritanical urge

I was in Publix a few days back–a rarity, I’ll admit, and not something I try to do often–and noticed that Publix has taken to putting opaque covers over the Cosmo and Self magazines. It seems, you see, that customers have complained about–get this–how risque the covers are.

The ultraconservative Wal-Mart chain has also started protecting us from the evil of women in naughty dresses by covering women’s magazines as well.

I don’t get it.

We live in a culture totally steeped in sex. Those magazine covers look the way they do for a reason–because they sell magazines, which in turn sell clothes, cologne, perfume, and fad diet books. The most popular brand of shampoo and body wash in America, Herbal Essence, is supported by an advertising campaign in which a beautiful, soaped-up model moans in ogasmic ecstacy while an announcer breathlessly declares that the product is “a totally organic experience.” It couldn’t be any more blatant if the announcer said “Buy our product–it’s great to masturbate with.”

So what it comes down to is that we, as a culture, are both fascinated and repelled by sex. We want, hate, and fear it; we can talk about it, but only in a juvenile locker-room “nudge nudge wink wink” kind of way. Serious conversation about sex (or, God forbid, actually doing sex!) is beyond the pale.

It’s kind of ridiculous, really. We can watch movies about chainsaw-wielding maniacs who dismember sorority girls by the bushelful, but if someone actually has an orgasm on screen, it gets slapped with an NC-17 rating to protect us from the horror. We literally hate and fear sex more than we fear death.

What the fuck? How did we get so dysfunctional and schizophrenic? It affects every part of our social discourse. Our national government is overrun with cheating, philandering divorcees like “bouncing” Bobby Barr (the man who made Larry Flynt say “My god, that man’s a pervert!” after he was caught cheating on his wife with three prostitutes in a seedy hotel) trying to pass legislation to “protect” the “sanctity of marriage” (by, if you can believe it, forbidding people to marry). We’ve got a music industry that exerts pressure on its artists to censor themselves to please retail outlets like Wal-Mart, which appears to believe that carrying music with racy lyrics will inevitably lead to the utter collapse of Western civbilization and a corresponding decline in gross sales.

It’s ridiculous and it’s embarrassing. We as a culture need to grow the fuck up already.

Various miscellaneous musings

Fun stuff

I just ordered this (warning: link not work-safe!) for Shelly. I can’t wait to see it on her; I hope it arrives tin time for our trip to San Francisco (and Power Exchange) in early January.

I am falling, I am fading, I have lost it all…

Last Sunday, Shelly hosted a Lain marathon. Lain is a six-hour Japanese animated movie about…

Well actually, it’s kind of hard to describe what it’s about. It’s about a character named Lain, who’s an eighth-grade schoolgirl who seems perpetually baffled by her life. The thing is, see, she’s not actually a person at all; she’s a physical embodiment of the collective consciousness of a computer network. Problem is, she doesn’t know it. She’s perpetually losing the things that are important to her, because she wants what anyone else wants–family, home, a sense of connection to the people around her–and by her very nature, those are exactly the things she can’t have.

It’s an interesting, if flawed, story, and it asks a lot of questions about the nature of existance, the Void, the meaning and purpose in life, the way we define ourselves…

It’s also got a theme song called “Duvet,” which has been stuck in my head since Sunday. You can download it (legally!) in MP3 format from the band’s Web site here. It’s a beautiful song, though quite sad, and the lead singer has an amazing voice.

You need to download it. Seriously. Yes, I mean you.

Dangerous thoughts

I’m bringing The World’s Most Obnoxious Pencil to game night tonight. lightgatherer has warned me that she’s going to do “things that will frighten me” with it. I’m frightened already, actually.

Now off to head home. It’s been something of a wasted day; I’ve been headachy and vaguely lightheaded all day, so it’s interfered with my ability to get anything done.

Fending off the sharp stick

The sharp stick has been there for my entire adult life. It’s a particularly direct and acute manifestation of the Void; I am constantly aware, every day of my life, that just as I had a beginning, I will have an end, and that the things which I create are the only things which will reflect who I am as a person in the future.

I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to be surrounded by people who have the same sharp stick, the same compulsion to create. The creative urge is not a comfortable one; a person creates not because he chooses to create, but because he must, or the sharp stick will torture him and eventually destroy him.

Shelly and Kelly and I have begun working on a manifestation of that compulsion to create.

It’s a book on polyamory–a unique book, in my experience. It’s intended as a no-nonsense, practical, hand-on introduction of ethical, loving non-monogamy for a mainstream audience, not an audience that’s already polyamorous. And unlike all the books on the subject I’ve seen so far, it attempts to explain not just the hows of an ethical non-monogamous relationship, but also why someone would want to in the first place.

So far, we’ve got a very detailed chapter outline and about four thousand words of text. Wish us luck!

Holy shit, batman!

On the drive to the office today, I ran into a bit of a traffic jam on the interstate. A trailer carrying a bunch of Porta-Potties had run into some kind of problem, see, and the Porta-Potties had fallen off the trailer and ended up in the center lane of Interstate 275, and…

…well, I wish I’d had my digital camera handy. You would not believe the mess. There’s something you don’t see every day, thank God.

Suppose you were a spammer, and suppose you were a lying, corrupt criminal. But I repeat myself…

Spammers have a hard life. Fewer and fewer ISPs are allowing them to barrage millions of people with unwanted crap, and it’s getting tougher and tougher to keep the crap flowing. Most of the big spammers have already moved to servers in places like China, Brazil, and Russia, and even those ISPs are beginning to shut them down. What to do?

Well, one group of industrious spammers has a solution:
Spam promoting anti-spam software

What is the Matrix?

I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been disappointed by Revolutions. I think I can understand why; many people seem to feel that the movie is about a war between men and machines set in a dystopian science-fiction future.

It’s not. It’s about the Void.

Everything that has a beginning, has an end

I was about ten years old when the Void first visited me. It was about three o’clock in the morning, and it suddenly hit me that there would come a time when everything that I am and everything I have done would cease to exist.

There has not been a day in my life since that moment when I have not been aware of the Void. A person once visited by the Void can never escape it.

It’s more than the fear of death. Death is a part of the Void, but it goes far beyond that; there will come a time when you die, when everything you have accomplished turns to dust, when the memory that you ever existed fades away, when the entire human race is no more, when even the planet you live on ceases to be. There is no escaping it; it is inevitable.

Much of human existance is about the Void. Religion seeks to offer an escape from the Void. This is why people commit atrocities in the name of God; this is what drives men to fly passenger liners into buildings. That which challenges one’s religious belief challenges one’s escape from the Void.

Art is about the Void. The creative impulse is fundamentally an act of defiance against it. That which we create reflects us; every time we create something novel, something that would never have existed save for our will, we create something independent from us that says “I was here; I have done something; this will exist even after I am gone.”

Even the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence is about the Void. As human understanding of the physical universe has improved, we have come to realize that we are a very tiny part of a very large universe. We as a species feel alone and fragile and desperately lonely; we need to know that there is someone, anyone, that shares this existance with us.

Love is about the Void. Science is about the Void. Philosophy is about the Void. And The Matrix is about the Void.

You see that? It’s Latin. It means ‘know thyself.’

Many people live out their lives, oblivious to the Void. They may see it out of the corner of their eye from time to time, but they construct edifices to protect themselves from it. Religion in this regard is the Great Comforter; “once I die, I will go to Heaven and live forever.”

If you stare the Void directly in the face, it changes you. It leaves a mark on you that can’t be erased. Once you’ve seen it, it is with you for the rest of your life; there is never a moment that goes by that you are not aware of it.

And when this happens, you can see it in other people. Anyone who has been marked by the Void is immediately obvious to you.

The Wachowski brothers have seen the Void, and it shows. The Void is what compels them to create. An artist does not create art because he chooses to; an artist creates art because he must. The Void screams through every frame of all three movies.

Most of the characters in The Matrix have seen the void. Morpheus has seen it; he takes refuge from it in his belief in fate, in the guiding hand of providence that brings purpose and certainty to his life. Neo has seen it; the movie is about his quest to make his peace with it. The Merovingian has seen the Void; his escape is to try to understand the ‘why’ of things. The Oracle has seen it; her escape is to try to understand the ‘why’ of herself.

It is purpose that drives us, purpose that connects us

In a sense, the machines have an advantage over humans. Machines know their purpose. They are specifically created for a specific purpose, and they understand that purpose implicitly.

The quest for purpose and meaning is writ throughout human history. The idea of fate offers a promise of purpose, but at a very high cost; if we are ordained by fate to do the things we do, then where is room for free will?

Why? Why do you do it?

The key moment in the entire Matrix trilogy comes near the end of the third movie, as Neo and Agent Smith battle. After Agent Smith has beaten Neo, he speaks to Neo, and in that conversation, he speaks with the voice of the Void.

He’s right, of course. Throughout the movie, the machines never lie. Agent Smith is no exception. It is, as he says, inevitable. The Void always wins; there is no escape from it, for any of us.

Neo’s answer is the only answer we have.

Earlier, in the second movie, the Architect tells Neo, “She is going to die, and there is nothing you can do about it.” He, too, is right, though not in the way he thinks; the Architect does not understand the Void, not really.

But the truth is, there is nothing Neo can do about it. All triumph is temporary. The Void always wins in the end.

Neo’s answer to Agent Smith is really the only answer that anyone can give. In the face of the inevitability of the Void, it is the only answer that makes sense; it’s the only thing we have. To anyone who has ever stared the Void in the face, there is no other answer.

The movie does not answer all the questions it raises, which is as it should be; many of the questions it raises have no answer. This is as it should be. Agent Smith is the Void; he will win in the end, and there is no denying it. The only thing that has meaning is the choices we make before then.