Blog Archive

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Eject


I will be taking a few days off from work as my residual leave from last year and there are few constructive things I have on my to-do-list. Instead, I was planning to try Cyanogenmod on my tiny phone because there are no regular Android updates for it and I want to get rid of the bloatware like the Facebook app, and GTA V is scheduled for the 14th. Other than that and some chores, I have nothing scheduled.

It was suggested I use this time to go on holiday, i.e. travel. While I've had some business-related trips, I've never travelled as a recreational undertaking. We were never able to afford a big vacation and that might have something to do with my attitude towards it today. I just don't see the point in going. While I should be able to afford one trip abroad, it would set me back considerably. More importantly however, I wouldn't know what to do once arrived. I am interested in foreign places, but I don't feel that I need to have been there myself.

I was recently clicking through Google Maps and looked at Cabo da Roca, the most western point of continental Europe in Portugal. It seems a beautiful coast once you get away from the tourists. I imagined being there myself: I would probably stare at the ocean for an hour and then leave. Would it be worth the effort to get there? Probably not. Same goes for the Treriksröset, tripoint of the Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish borders. There's a big stone there that you can walk around. I would probably do that once - but then what? On a more urban note, visiting New York or Paris seems exciting at first but what would I do there that I wouldn't do otherwise? The answer is nothing. You're supposed to experience a city you're visiting, but what is there to experience other than people in buildings going about their daily business? I don't think visiting foreign places, regardless of their historical significance or scenic beauty, would really enrich me as a person and make the trip seem a good idea for me individually. All my visions of it end with regret.
Maybe travel is more about being able to say you've been there to boost your social status, which is also why people keep these absurd amounts of holiday pictures. I don't have a "bucketlist" or peers to impress, so that factor completely eludes me. Maybe that's why I don't see a point in traveling. It's nice to get away from work for a while to clear up your head and get some stuff done, but I'd rather spend a day in bed than in Tokio.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tiamat and Marduk


I've written about this issue before. This month, the "Islamic State" militia has been in the press again not only because of their use of chemical weapons, their recruitment of Europeans and ongoing battles. Recently a video was made public in which members of IS destroyed ancient statues, stating that all worship other than Allah's is blasphemy and that the idols of false gods must be destroyed.

The statues were Lamassu, winged bulls with human heads, who were protective spirits in Mesopotamian mythology. They "guarded" a gate in Ninevah, one of the major cities of the Akkadian empire, founded at least 5000 years ago. Consider that these statues survived the Akkadian empire, the Assyrian Empire, the Medes, the Persians, the almost occupation by Romans, the occupation by the Ottomans, the Kingdom and Republic of Iraq, the Ba'athist state of Saddam Hussein and the Iraq invasion of the US. Consider all the destruction and war and generations of human life that went by and yet those protectors of home and empire stood. And here come a bunch of fanatic barbarians with sledge- and jack-hammers and tear them down intentionally. This is not an exception, IS has been known to destroy many ancient artefacts in their occupied territories.

Now here is the question that has been bugging me. What more does this obscene subhuman scum have to do before real action is taken? Sure, there is some military support for the local forces with the eventual squad from overseas and a bunch of equipment is shipped to the Kurds for example, but compared to the military capabilities of NATO, the US and others, a bare minimum is invested in this conflict. There are thousands of tanks, bombers, troops, helicopters and all that disgusting war machinery that Hollywood always glorifies sitting around, being used only for manoeuvres or trying to impress the Russians, that could be used for a maximum force attack on IS. But it isn't. What do they have to do so that "the west" decided to end the IS threat with their full capabilities permanently? Do they have to capture the capital city of a state? Do they have to publicly execute more westerners? Do they have to use nuclear weapons? What more does it take?

We live in the 21st century and religions that preach mindless obedience, suffering, hatred and the believe in an almighty ghost in the sky need to go. All of them, forever, as soon as possible. If under the guise of such a religion atrocities such as genocide and the destruction of human history are committed, there is no need for negotiations and discussions, the ultimate goal must be obvious. Some news formats write that IS is "good at social media", as if that were an excuse, as if that made it more difficult. The benefit of their supposed global media presence is that anyone whose mind is so unfit to exist in the world we should live in voluntarily identifies himself as such and joins the ranks of the barbarians. There will be no more "Islamic State" tweets if all of the IS members are dead. I'm disgusted with myself that I promote a military solution to a conflict of ideology and values, but everything that IS (and Boko Haram for that matter) stand for is entirely against everything that holds any hope for a future of peace, progress and prosperity.

Tiamat versus Marduk is a more than three thousand year old Babylonian myth. Tiamat was one of the first entities of the cosmos, a monster in command of an army of monsters, and agent of the Chaos of the Universe prior to the creation of life. She would sabotage the work of the younger gods. After so many failed efforts, a hero emerged from the young gods. Marduk wielded a magic net, had at his command the Four Winds and defeated Tiamat after a long and terrible battle. He subsequently used her carcass to form Heaven and Earth. Marduk was made King of the Gods. He created Babylon and human beings to dwell there and toil for the gods. He created Language and established Order amongst the ranks of beings.
We know of this myth because we value knowledge, keep records, have the technology to pass it onto the next generation and across the world with precision. If the world were dominated by the sickening ideals of the IS chaos monstrosity, this ancient story would be long lost. When do our elected leaders finally decide to defeat this scourge with all their might and create a world without fear of having your head chopped off because the wretched scrum decides that the sky ghost wants everybody else to suffer?
What more does it take?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tweety Digest


I've been on Twitter since May of 2009 and tweeted (as of now) slightly less than 2000 times which isn't that much actually. It's still easier though that writing something semi-coherent in here, which is why aworldtocome is present on these two equal platforms. I link to almost all new blog contributions and whatever I find around the web I find worth sharing, plus the usual idiotic comments. I sometimes use Twitter as a feedreader in that I follow some accounts that just link to new articles on their respective websites (like @newscientist), but mostly I follow a mix of tech and world news (like @TheEconomist), parts of the so-called "weird twitter" (like @dril), some account that just post pretty pictures (like @ObservingSpace) a lot of surreal pseudo-occult/spooky stuff (like @SeventhArrival or the forever unrivaled @UtilityLimb) and only very few famous people (like @elonmusk). Here is some of the stuff I tweeted in the last twelve months.










































Friday, February 20, 2015

Tomorrow's Standards


I would argue that we are living at a time that will be referred to as "the age of globalization" rather than post-modernism, because the distinction from the modern age is not as significant as the changes to our respective societies through globalization. It should not be called globalism though, because it is still an ongoing process. International trade and travel have been one stepping stone, future steps will include internationally dispersed workforces and enterprises such as the global accessibility of the Internet through satellite networks as proposed by companies like SpaceX. All this favours the development of former third world countries like for example Nigera into a standard long common for "the old world". The digital revolution (that in my opinion is still far from it's peak in terms of automation and workforce replacement) certainly is the major aspect of this era.


One thing that hinders this process are differences between societies that hold little value in themselves and should, I think, be unified on a global scale. I am in no way talking about bulldozing away cultural identity. However there are peculiarities that stem from more nationalized, non-connected times that contribute little to the identity and richness of a society. Those might as well be replaced by a global standard to engage the realities of today's connectivity.

One example is right- and left-hand traffic. 35% of world traffic is left handed traffic and I understand that British people take pride in it, but really there is no benefit of one over the other. They work exactly as well, but the coexistence of both means that travelling to a country of different handedness is a difficult transition and more importantly, vehicles need to be produced for both standards, which they quite often aren't, excluding either 35% or 65% or the global market. There is absolutely no point in keeping up both systems and simply because the right-hand traffic standard is more common, the British and their former colonies should get over their stubbornness, make the difficult change and teach the next generation of drivers only the new standard. 
The same goes for units of measurement. Fahrenheit and especially those idiotic imperial units they use in Burgerstan make no sense at all and should have long since been replaced by Celsius and the metric system. There is no point in having different units, so pick the one the civilized parts of the world have chosen because it makes sense and go with it. It makes live easier for everyone.
Another example is power plugs - our lives depend heavily on electric machinery and there are still loads of different power plugs, even in the heavily standardized EU. France and Germany still have different ones, although the "Europlug" CEE 7/16 is a start. Standardizing these would mean no worry if your devices will work one country over, there is less hassle with deploying the correct cabling for international shipments, etc. Again, it is difficult and costly to unify this on a global scale, but once it is done it greatly improves how we get the power we need. 
A final example, to be more extreme, would be alphabets. Take Cyrillic script - it is of course optimized for the sounds of Slavic languages, but I think it is a large hindrance in communication (especially from an IT standpoint, Unicode can only be applied so far). The only benefit I see in different scripture is that heavily used sounds that would take multiple letters in a foreign alphabet are consolidated into one, to accommodate the language that utilizes this alphabet. But wouldn't a unified global alphabet (similar to the International Phonetic Alphabet) of around 40 letters contain everything to write any language with sufficient accuracy?

Personally, I would argue that there are too many languages in the world and there is no point in having most of them (at least consolidate similar ones), but most people see their language as part of their identity, so that's not worth discussing in our lifetime.

Diverse cultural traditions, cuisine, styles of clothing, ways of living in communities, even differences in ethics and values are important for the long-term well-being of the human species and enrich our individual personalities. However, artificial and abstract things, especially when it comes to standards in technology and science, in transportation and communication, need common fundamental elements for the whole globalization thing to work. 
Keep the Gho and the Lederhosen, the Lutefisk and the Enchilada, the families of two and the families of twohundred, the sonnet and the rap song, but throw away the imperial units and left-handed traffic because it has no meaning.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hornblower


I was looking for films similar to "Master and Commander", one of my favourite movies, when the Hornblower series was recommended, which I had never heard about. This Emmy-Winning series of eight TV films was made between 1998 and 2003, stars Ioan Gruffudd and is based on the novels by C. S. Forester first published in 1937, whose fanbase includes Hemingway and Churchill.

The series focuses on the career or Horatio Hornblower, an officer of the British Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and later the Napoleonic Wars. Hornblower starts out as a midshipsman on his first assignment but quickly rises through the ranks because of his daring, inventiveness and courage. Much time is spend aboard several ships with landfall in at least every other episode. The production value of the series is amazing and was probably the reason it was cancelled, because of the high cost. Some battle scenes and long-distance shots use models, but much takes place aboard real sailing-ships. The eventual fake explosion looks a bit cheap, but the practical sets and costumes make more than up for that.
The biggest downside of it all might be how classically ham-fisted some of the stories are. The story arcs are fairly predictable, some characters are walking cliches, which is probably due to the nature of the source material. But that's ok. There is a certain romance in these stories about young men going to war at sea, visiting foreign places, withstanding the hardships of sailing through camaraderie and all that. The series doesn't neglect to show the cruelties of war, but especially in the later episodes it glorifies the nobility that was be associated with fighting then, at a time when there were no longrange-missiles or submarines, nukes or tanks.

Hornblower is a predictable show with outdated morals and one-dimensional characters and yet I must urgently recommend it, not only because I am interested in the historical aspects, but more so because it embodies an experience and a genre seemingly forgotten by today's entertainment and that is adventure. That is what the show feels like. It works on a crafty level: there's a protagonist easy to admire, comedic relief, likeable sidekicks, hateable villains, an easy to follow story and all that stuff. More than anything though it connects with the old-fashioned thrills of travelling the world, fighting bad guys, making friends, earning respect through daring and integrity and all that. Adventure.


I might also have to add that I bingewatched King of the Hill before this so for a time, whenever they call Hornblower's name I would hear Hank's voice in my head go "Mr. Lawnmower!". Dang ol' French corvettes mang tell you hwhat.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Voyage of Excellox

Ceephax - Cro Magnox [2013] []
I must admit that I have no clue about electronic music. I sometimes listen to streams of it, but except for the occasional retrowave I don't take notice of details. Thus, I lack articulation for that genre and it is difficult for me to express why I think this is the best electronic music record I've heard in many years. What I can say is that this album sounds like a clash between thick pseudo-80s retrowave synth, chiptunish bleeps and bloops, spread on top of late 90s acid house, all of it seemingly done on analogue tech. It's not complex, it's not coherent, it's sometimes minimal ambient. The soundscapes are too narrow to feel vast, yet this album is absolutely amazing. Maybe I'm easily impressed because I'm an electropleb, but Cro Magnox sounds rich, tangible, functional and aesthetic to me. Clear recommendation out of the blue.


Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat [2015] []
After 2012's fantastic Utilitarian, expectations were high. Napalm Death has become the kind of institution that doesn't do bad albums anymore and this is no exception, but its predecessor triumphed because it held surprises, like the John Zorn bit or the clean vocals of "The Wolf I Feed". Apex Predator is the flawless sonic violence that the chaps from Birmingham command like few others and the production sounds identical to the last albums, but it's less experimental. After the almost four minute long intro, the biggest surprise you'll find is how a 34 year old band can manage to never stop kicking your ass with such intensity and still put meaning and conviction into their songs. Napalm Death in 2015 are agile, sharp, to the point, true to what they stand for and most importantly relevant.


Hannes Grossmann - The Radial Covenant [2014] []
After drumming for tech death greats Necrophagist, Obscura and Blotted Science, this is Grossmann's first solo album on which he plays the guitar and the drums, featuring lots of guest stars like Jeff Loomis and many others. True to his prior style, most of the record is technical death metal shredding with jazzy bits organically strewn inbetween. Thankfully, unlike the uber-tech solo albums of some other artists, it's not a 60 minute jerkoff but rather feels like a "normal" band album, in a positive way. If you're a genre fan and enjoy Grossmann's bands, you're going to like this record as well. Personally, while I see this as a really good record with nice variety, I am not yet fully invested in it because it's not as tight and focused as other very similar albums in this niche, so I'd rather recommend Perdition Of The Sublime by Sophicide.


Old Man Gloom - The Ape Of God [2014] []
I used to be all over anything that Aaron Turner and his colleagues are involved in, but the big days of ISIS, Zozobra and OMG are gone, so  I didn't even learn about this new album until recently. Compared to 2012's NO, this has more tight and noisily aggressive parts, like the Christmas album had, but there's still lots of the post-metal stuff. Ape of God feels more accessible than NO and even though it doesn't fully connect with me yet, it puts OMG back on the map for me. All the weird and silly buzz about the fake leak of the album aside, this might be the best post-sludge-whatever-metal record of the last five years and it makes me happy to see that this style is still alive when other bands like Mastodon and Baroness have completely thrown out the difficult, dissonant, challenging bits and only do radio-friendly material anymore. OMG is keeping it real on this.


Horrendous - The Chills [2012] []
In their 2014 best-of-lists, everybody and their moms included the Ecdysis album. Don't ask me why, I don't see the appeal. Horrendous' previous and first full-length record The Chills however is a joyous trip across 90s Swedish death metal history, and that from a US band. If you've ever heard early Entombed and Dismember, you know exactly what these nine songs sound like, yet it doesn't feel like an uninspired imitation. I just works. It's logical that it needs to sound like that because that's what the songs were written for. "The Chills" is not a work of art, it is the high-quality product of craftsmanship, and that is fine. Between all the ultra-dissonant, anti-rhythmic and destructive death metal of recent months, it's fun listening to something as charming and well-done as this. It doesn't get the same spotlight as their second record, but it should.



Further listening:
Macintosh Plus - Floral Shoppe: MUH SLOWED SAMPLING works for two songs, then the interest in glitchpop evapor-wave-ates.
Teitanblood - Death: Bredy gud, but others do it better (Diocletian).
Acheron - Lex Talionis: More than anything, it feels obsolete.
NehruvianDOOM - NehruvianDOOM: 10% amazing, 90% forgettable.
Sacrilege - Within The Prophecy: Not as worldshaking as Realms of Madness, but still good
Charles Mingus - Mingus Moves: Aww yizz.