Posts Tagged ‘Philip K. Dick’
* Also from Richard: What do asteroids, MOOCs, and medical records have in common? All are examples, currently in the news, of the way in which public policy in the US is driven not by the common good or professionals or expert knowledge, but by the generation of mediashock in the service of the entrepeneurial desire of cybercapitalism to monetize data.
All of us that use the internet are already practicing Drone Ethnography. Look at the features of drone technology: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Surveillance, Sousveillance. Networks of collected information, over land and in the sky. Now consider the “consumer” side of tech: mapping programs, location-aware pocket tech, public-sourced media databases, and the apps and algorithms by which we navigate these tools. We already study the world the way a drone sees it: from above, with a dozen unblinking eyes, recording everything with the cold indecision of algorithmic commands honed over time, affecting nothing—except, perhaps, a single, momentary touch, the momentary awareness and synchronicity of a piece of information discovered at precisely the right time. An arc connecting two points like the kiss from an air-to-surface missile. Our technological capacity for watching, recording, collecting, and archiving has never been wider, and has never been more automated. The way we look at the world—our basic ethnographic approach—is mimicking the technology of the drone.
* The ACLU on what Rand Paul achieved.
* “Defense attorneys believe the girl, who lived across the river in Weirton, W.Va., made a decision to excessively drink and — against her friends’ wishes — to leave with the boys. They assert that she consented to sex,” reports the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s Rachel Dissell. Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, is getting specific, citing “an abundance of evidence here that she was making decisions, cognitive choices … She didn’t affirmatively say no.” She was unconscious at the time.
* The Herbalife war: Hedge-fund titan Bill Ackman has vowed to bring down Herbalife, the 33-year-old nutritional-supplement company, which he views as a pyramid scheme. With his massive shorting of Herbalife stock, the price plummeted, prompting two fellow billionaires—Ackman’s former friend Dan Loeb and activist investor Carl Icahn—to take the opposing bet on Herbalife. As the public brawl rivets Wall Street, William D. Cohan learns why, this time, it’s personal.
* The most influential songwriter of his time has become the first rock star voted into the elite, century-old American Academy of Arts and Letters, where artists range from Philip Roth to Jasper Johns and categories include music, literature and visual arts.
* This weeks’s denunciation of the dissertation, yours at the Chronicle.
* The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden… Is Screwed. Esquire has been publishing some really interesting journalism lately.
“No one who fights for this country overseas should ever have to fight for a job,” Barack Obama said last Veterans’ Day, “or a roof over their head, or the care that they have earned when they come home.”
But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:
Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.
* Artist claims to create 3D facial renderings based on discarded cigarette butts. I am extremely skeptical!
* An Occurrence at the O.C. Bridge: “Arrested Development” is George Sr.’s death row fantasy.
* And Slate asks the unthinkable: what if not every show premise can sustain itself forever?
Despite being a major fan of Dick’s work, I have to admit that I question whether this manuscript should have seen print at all, given its often embarrassing rambling and autodidactic fanaticism, with Dick latching onto any stray thread to spin out his cosmogonic web. I certainly find it hard to imagine that there is a widespread audience for this strange assemblage of obiter Dick-ta, even among PKD’s more hardcore followers.
What redeems the work for me, finally, is Dick’s abiding skepticism about his own revelations. Seemingly endless passages of portentous nonsense — such as a lengthy attempt to conscript Julian Jaynes’s crackpot bestseller The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mindinto the warp and woof of his own fixations — suddenly give way to agonizing reappraisals and poignant spasms of self-doubt, as when Dick admits that “I was taken over by my own S-F universe”:
The AI voice [i.e., VALIS] is a special kind of hallucination: one of wish-fulfillment and need, due to loneliness: emotional starvation and grief and ill-use. I just can’t endure life without that lonely voice guiding me, so I regress…. The AI voice is my imaginary playmate, my sister, evolved out of childhood…. I was so unhappy and afraid; like R. Crumb, so behind the 8 ball, so filled with anticipatory dread.
Well, damn it — I don’t regret it. It made a barren, fearful life meaningful and bearable….
Crazy people generally don’t know they’re crazy, and Dick’s abiding awareness of the dubious nature of his visions makes him at worst a pathetic figure, struggling heroically in these pages through madness towards sense, like the sadsack, put-upon protagonists of so many of his novels.
‘The Trouble Is, Any Revelatory Messages Are Embedded in More than 900 Pages of Impulsive Theorizing, Much of Which Is Self-Referential’
The New York Times reviews Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis. I worked on this book as a researcher, so my feelings about it, unsurprisingly, are much more positive than the reviewer’s—but I think this may also have something to do with my position as an academic as well as a fan. The book is emphatically not some new, undiscovered PKD novel; it’s something very different, and as Platt warns, that something may just not be for everyone. But for the people that it’s for the Exegesis is a treasure.
Because we were forced to spend a miserable 60 hours in an airport this afternoon, I have acquired a ton of links:
* The Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 was awarded on Friday to three women from Africa and the Arab world in acknowledgment of their nonviolent role in promoting peace, democracy and gender equality. The winners were President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia — the first woman to be elected president in modern Africa — her compatriot, the peace activist Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, a pro-democracy campaigner.
* Ben and Jerry endorse Occupy Wall Street. I’m calling “Occupy Walnut” as the flavor, though “The 99% Moooo-vement” is my dark horse.
* Naomi Klein on the scene: We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite — fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful — the financial resources to build the kind of society we need. The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society – while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.
* Obama and Holder are still messing with marijuana dispensaries. Mayor Curley in the MeFi thread on this has a chilling vision of the future:
I hope that the 2012 presidential contest is between Obama and Mitt Romney. I wouldn’t vote for either of them, but it would be hilarious. Both of them take whatever position their staff believes to be most salable at the moment, even if it’s in direct, obvious conflict with their stated position of a week ago.
By the end of the campaign, their positions would be absolutely indistinguishable, because between the two of them they would have taken every possible mainstream stance on every issue. But partisans would still be bitterly insisting that one was superior to the other purely by nature of the political brand attached. It would be the ultimate “Coke v. Pepsi” political race.
* Speaking of chilling visions of things to come: The Amazon Dieback Scenario.
* Speaking of Coca-Cola: The purpose of this communication is to remind you that the hot weather is here and that Coca Cola is one of the best drinks to fight the Hot Weather with and we Soldiers dislike to admit defeat, but to win our struggles we must have the material to work with, the things to contest our enemy with, must be at hand, and unless we have Coca Cola we will have to admit defeat at the hands of Enemy Heat & Thirst.
* And the headline reads, “DHS Launches ‘Minority Report’ Pre-Crime Detection Program.” Philip K. Dick could not be reached for comment.
* 10 Films You Should See at the Raindance Film Festival 2011. My cousin Chris’s brilliant Afghanistan documentary Where My Heart Beats clocks in at #9.
* And speaking of money: David Graeber vs. the Austrians.
* In these two books, we have two versions of school reform. One is devised by Wall Street financiers and politicians who believe in rigidly defined numerical goals and return on investment; they blame lazy teachers and self-interested unions when test scores are low. The other draws on the deep experience of a compassionate teacher who finds fault not with teachers, unions, or students, but with a society that refuses to take responsibility for the conditions in which its children live and learn—and who has demonstrated through her own efforts how one dedicated teacher has improved the education of poor young people.
* Bringing the number of planets discovered outside our solar system to 645, the 50-planet haul includes 16 super-Earths (planets with a mass between one and ten times that of Earth), including one that orbits at the edge of the habitable zone of its star). Sounds like it’s time to bring freedom to the HD85512bians.
* PKD Watch: The police department in Santa Cruz, California, has begun an experiment that uses a mathematical algorithm to predict when and where certain crimes will be committed, and puts police on the scene before they happen.
State law already bans same-sex marriage, and opponents of a constitutional amendment contend that it is unnecessary. North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without such a provision in its constitution.
We cannot allow a discrimination gap. Rally in Raleigh this afternoon. Unfortunately I have a commitment on campus at noon or I’d go myself.
Ridley Scott will make a totally ill-advised sequel to Blade Runner. No word yet on how many “Final Cuts” he’s contracted for.
The Philip K. Dick short story “Adjustment Team” that inspired The Adjustment Bureau has already passed out of copyright, so you can read it here or here. I was talking about the film a bit on Facebook earlier tonight and was forced to admit that when it comes to PKD film adaptations my aesthetic judgments are simply unreliable: so help me, I like them all, even if they’re all bad.
The film version is essentially a by-the-numbers thriller, in which our heroes are chased by a sinister supernatural conspiracy that hides in plain sight. They are functionally omniscient; they can manipulate chance events; they can travel the city using ordinary doors as wormholes. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before. In this respect the film is a bowdlerization of the paranoid logic of Dick’s original, which (true to its science fictionalization of schizophrenia) has the conspiracy operating through much more oblique means:
The dog studied the house. The shades had been let up. The kitchen light was on. Beyond the lace curtains dim shapes could be seen, stirring around the table. A man and woman. They were drinking coffee.
“There they are,” the dog murmured. “The man, you say? He’s not going to be harmed, is he?”
“Of course not. But he must be at his office early. Usually he doesn’t leave until after nine. Today he must leave at eight-thirty. He must be within Sector T137 before the process begins, or he won’t be altered to coincide with the new adjustment.”
The dog sighed. “That means I have to summon.”
“Correct.” The Clerk checked his instruction sheet. “You’re to summon at precisely eight-fifteen. You’ve got that? Eight-fifteen. No later.”
“What will the eight-fifteen summons bring?”
The Clerk flipped open his instruction book, examining the code columns. “It will bring A Friend with a Car. To drive him to work early.” He closed the book and folded his arms, preparing to wait. “That way he’ll get to his office almost an hour ahead of time. Which is vital.”
In this way apparently disparate events are revealed to be intimately connected, once the dots have been connected and the paranoid totality has been grasped: the Clerk requires the dog’s bark at a precise moment to summon the Friend, and when the dog barks a minute late a life insurance salesman is summoned instead. As a result of this misstep Ed misses the Adjustment at his firm, discovering first the Adjustment Team reorganizing the office and later recognizing the subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes:
Ed said nothing. He advanced slowly into the inner office. The office had been gone over. He could tell. Things had been altered. Rearranged. Nothing obvious — nothing he could put his finger on. But he could tell.
Joe Kent greeted him uneasily. “What’s the matter, Ed? You look like a wild dog. Is something — ?”
Ed studied Joe. He was different. Not the same. What was it?
Joe’s face. It was a little fuller. His shirt was blue-striped. Joe never wore blue stripes. Ed examined Joe’s desk. He saw papers and accounts. The desk — it was too far to the right. And it was bigger. It wasn’t the same desk.
The picture on the wall. It wasn’t the same. It was a different picture entirely. And the things on top of the file cabinet — some were new, others were gone.
He looked back through the door. Now that he thought about it, Miss Evans’ hair was different, done a different way. And it was lighter.
In here, Mary, filing her nails, over by the window — she was taller, fuller. Her purse, lying on the desk in front of her — a red purse, red knit.
“You always. . . have that purse?” Ed demanded.
Mary glanced up. “What?”
“That purse. You always have that?”
Mary laughed. She smoothed her skirt coyly around her shapely thighs, her long lashes blinking modestly. “Why, Mr Fletcher. What do you mean?”
Ed turned away. He knew. Even if she didn’t. She had been redone — changed: her purse, her clothes, her figure, everything about her. None of them knew — but him. His mind spun dizzily. They were all changed. All of them were different. They had all been remolded, recast. Subtly — but it was there.
The wastebasket. It was smaller, not the same. The window shades — white, not ivory. The wallpaper was not the same pattern. The lighting fixtures . . .
Endless, subtle changes.
Ed made his way back to the inner office. He lifted his hand and knocked on Douglas’s door.
Ed pushed the door open. Nathan Douglas looked up impatiently. “Mr Douglas –” Ed began. He came into the room unsteadily — and stopped.
Douglas was not the same. Not at all. His whole office was changed: the rugs, the drapes. The desk was oak, not mahogany. And Douglas himself . . .
Douglas was younger, thinner. His hair, brown. His skin not so red. His face smoother. No wrinkles. Chin reshaped. Eyes green, not black. He was a different man. But still Douglas — a different Douglas. A different version!
Nothing in the film captures, or even approaches, the story’s wonderfully hallucinogenic sense that reality itself is slowly but surely breaking down…
Before a hospital admits a person for nonemergency care, a hospital admissions officer must confirm that the person is a citizen of the United States, a legal resident of the United States or lawfully present in the United States.
* Having accomplished its long-term goal of destroying the independent bookstore in the U.S., Borders prepares to close up shop.
* Nothing good happens after 2010: 2011 Will Break The All Time Record For Movie Sequels.
* Okay, one good thing happening after 2010: Ubik will be adapted as a film.
* Comics news today: A comic retelling of the origins of the Comics Code Authority and irrefutable proof that comics, not Twitter, caused this week’s Egyptian uprising. Here’s another link via a friend who turns out to be the grandson of the original author.
Soiling the building blocks and well-known tropes of our treasured modern myths is no different than other artists taking a crucifix and dipping it in urine, covering it in ants, or smearing it with feces. In the end, it’s just another small, pathetic chapter in the decades-long slide of Western civilization into suicidal self-loathing. It’s a well-worn road: bored middle-class creatives (almost all of them college-educated liberals) living lives devoid of any greater purpose inevitably reach out for anything deemed sacred by the conservatives populating any artistic field. They co-opt the language, the plots, the characters, the cliches, the marketing, and proceed to deconstruct it all like a mad doctor performing an autopsy. Then, using cynicism, profanity, scatology, dark humor, and nihilism, they put it back together into a Frankenstein’s monster designed to shock, outrage, offend, and dishearten.
In the case of the fantasy genre, the result is a mockery and defilement of the mythopoeic splendor that true artists like Tolkien and Howard willed into being with their life’s blood. Honor is replaced with debasement, romance with filth, glory with defeat, and hope with despair. Edgy? Nah, just punk kids farting in class and getting some giggles from the other mouth-breathers.
Liberals! Bah! Will their foul treachery never cease?
Q: Do I have to kill the snake?
A: University guidelines state that you have to “defeat” the snake. There are many ways to accomplish this. Lots of students choose to wrestle the snake. Some construct decoys and elaborate traps to confuse and then ensnare the snake. One student brought a flute and played a song to lull the snake to sleep. Then he threw the snake out a window.
* You had me at “Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion incident.” Thanks Dad.
* The New York Times reviews Anne Dick’s PKD biography.
* LOL denialists: An influential 2006 congressional report that raised questions about the validity of global warming research was partly based on material copied from textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report, plagiarism experts say.