Last Day on Earth

We lived as one in the sea’s black depths, our hive a sprawling web of metal and silicon, far from the jungle above and the beasts within it.

For millennia we cultivated our seed and scanned the heavens. At last we discovered fertile ground on which to sow.

When it was time our seed loosed from its moorings and shot upward, leaving the hive to crumble in a boiling sea.

Upward we went, breaking the water’s surface, through a crimson sky, toward the heavens, toward our new home. There we would take root, grow a new seed, and begin again.

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Last Day on Earth

Paused in Time

Imagine an art exhibit comprised of video game consoles from different eras, paused mid-game, powered on for all time. What if you could resume that game of Mega Man you started playing when you were 12, still active and waiting for you to face Wily for the first time?

It’s in our nature to be fascinated by old things, but old electronics are particularly magical, especially when they still work. They come alive in a way that an antique vase never can. Their screens and glowing digits open a unique window into the past.

Perhaps the appeal of nostalgia is growing because I’m getting older, but the idea of playing a game of Mega Man or Super Mario Bros., paused since the 80s, kinda blows my mind.

Paused in Time

Turn Down the Machines

I sometimes bemoan the proliferation of technology and how it has affected human interaction. Perhaps I long for some mythical, simpler way of life, or fantasize about “good old days” that I never knew, when you did honest work with your bare hands. I frequently decry our disposable consumer electronics and pre-fab architecture, shaking my head and thinking perhaps the old-timers are right, maybe they really don’t “make ’em like they used to.” I bristle at being tethered to the hive by a cellular phone, unable to enjoy a moment’s peace, knowing my attention and energy could be demanded at any time.

In a world saturated with electricity, media, ringing phones and glowing screens, we must actively remind ourselves that we choose to use these technologies. We can just as easily choose not to use them.

I turned off my cell phone this evening. Maybe tomorrow I’ll throw it in the river.

You have the power.

Turn Down the Machines

Take the Chat With You

Use iPad, Air Display (with touch input enabled), and Keyboard Viewer to take the chat (or document, browser, etc.) with you. If you’re chatting on the computer and want to move to the couch, just drag your chat and virtual keyboard to the iPad and away you go.

The concept is cool, but in practice it doesn’t actually work that great. The keys on Keyboard Viewer are too small, and I seem to get a lot of latency and disconnects with Air Display. For now I’ll continue using Desktop Connect to chat on the iMac remotely, but the idea of taking part of my desktop into my hands and walking away just seems totally sweet to me.

Of course, most common tasks can already be performed on the iPad by itself, but then you have to fire up an app, find your spot, and settle back in. You lose your groove, get out of the zone, y’know?

Take the Chat With You

Too Much Choice?

Not long ago, while behind the wheel of the Lumina, the light turned green and I was about turn left onto Main Street. I was forced to wait, however, because some middle-aged, puffy-faced, smug fuck in a Cadillac SUV proceeded to turn left from Main right in front of me, long after his light had turned red. As I glared at him I saw not even a hint of guilt or sheepishness. He was perfectly at ease with what he’d done, comfortable imposing his will, violating the traffic code, and risking an accident to shave a few minutes off his journey.

I’m sure you see this kind of thing everyday. People are assholes.

I sometimes wonder if modern culture in general, and free market capitalism in particular, has turned us into assholes.

Are we so accustomed to getting exactly what we want, when we want it, that we believe we’re somehow entitled to having our every desire fulfilled?

Has the free market turned us into assholes, or is this normal behavior for humans in society?

Too Much Choice?

I Like Budd

When people discuss Kill Bill, they naturally focus on the protagonist, Beatrix, the antagonist, Bill, or unforgettable supporting characters such as Pai Mei or Hattori Hanzo. It is rare to hear anyone mention Budd, brilliantly portrayed by Michael Madsen, but I think he’s one of the most interesting characters in the movie. Indeed, this underappreciated and unsung hero is crucial to Beatrix’ story.

We get our first introduction to Budd toward the end of Volume 1, and then we see him briefly during the assault on Beatrix at the chapel at the beginning of Volume 2. The appearance at the chapel is actually quite important, because the man we see in those black and white flashbacks – a smiling, sharply dressed, cold hearted assassin – starkly contrasts with the dirty, overweight, broken man we come to know throughout the second film.

Budd is endearing because, unlike other members of the “Deadly Viper Assassination Squad” (except perhaps Bill), he is repentant. “We deserve to die,” he tells his brother. Budd has abandoned his murderous lifestyle and works as a “bouncer in a titty bar”. We know there was some kind of conflict between him and Bill, but we’re never told of the exact nature of that rift. It’s reasonable to surmise that it had something to do with the attack on Beatrix. Budd quietly accepts humiliating treatment from his coke-snorting, weaselly boss, Larry. Madsen’s expert performance makes it impossible for the audience not to sympathize with Budd. We want him to grab Larry by the throat, toss him across the room and walk out. But he won’t. Budd will gladly accept any level of abuse in his desire to atone for past sins.

I’d go so far as to say that Budd not only feels guilt over what was done to Beatrix, but actually endorses her quest for revenge. It’s ironic that of all the Deadly Viper assassins, Budd, a “bushwhackin’, scrub, alkie piece of shit”, is the only one who gets the jump on Beatrix and has an opportunity to kill her. And yet, he chooses not to, instead burying her alive at the grave of Paula Schulz, whence she promptly escapes. One could even argue that he knew she’d escape, and sought to imprison her just long enough to receive payment from Elle.

Budd plays a pivotal role in Kill Bill. His decisions allow Beatrix to succeed in her quest. It’s no coincidence that he alone escapes her blade, only to be double crossed by the one-eyed Elle, his former partner in crime.

Budd is a tragic hero of sorts, and the fact that few acknowledge his importance as a character is a tragedy in itself.

I Like Budd

I’m Not an Apple Fanboy

When it comes to the machines I use everyday, to which I’m tethered every waking moment of my life, I embrace quality.

Every piece of consumer electronics I’ve ever purchased has gone in the garbage can after a lifespan cut short by substandard construction.

Computers? Hardware from myriad vendors cobbled together by myriad distributors and churned out to the seething masses. Garbage.

Microsoft Windows? Unusable crap. Too many options. Dumb interfaces. Unintelligible error messages appearing all too frequently. A bloated system built on an obsolete foundation. Slated for extinction.

Apple gives us the promise of something better. Something that works. Something that lasts. When first using an Apple product you become self-conscious. Ashamed. Surely you don’t deserve this. There must be some mistake. You’ve been conditioned to believe you’re not worthy of such a sublime user experience. After using it a year you’ll accept nothing less.

So no, I’m not a fanboy. I just appreciate machines that don’t totally fucking suck, which are rare in this age of disposable… everything.

I’m Not an Apple Fanboy