Category Archives: Rants

End of Humanity: A.I. Terminators or The Big Bang? Or both?

A confluence of events in this year of our Lord 2015 leads me to believe that the end of Humanity is at hand.
Let me give you the raw data:

“AI is the single greatest threat to human existence.”                                   — Steven Hawking
The Supreme Court will decide the fate of gay marriage in America this year. — CNN
Ex Machina opens in theatres, May 2015.  Sentient, Sexy robots among us.
(Skynet)Defense network computers. New… powerful… hooked into everything, trusted to run it all. They say it got smart, a new order of intelligence. Then it saw all people as a threat, not just the ones on the other side. Decided our fate in a microsecond: extermination  .                                                   –Kyle Reese, in “Terminator”

terminator_image

 

 

 

 

The Supreme Court will rule on the gay marriage question this year. By the time you read this article,  it may already have decided in the favor of this new “marriage model.” This by itself does not
doom the human reproductive future: there are still so many, many children being born from hetero couplings.
The homosexual community is a small percentage of the population1 and they are in fact another reliable resource in  rearing unwanted children. Gay marriage should in theory advance human presence on the Earth.

But this legal decision will forever undo the correlation between reproductive behavior and marriage.  Marriage is now a joining of families and resources, and not expressely a contract for child rearing.2 This will open up marriage to a large number of actors (not the Hollywood  kind). Once agreement is in place NOT to produce children, marriage between genetically-common family members would be permitted3 More importantly, marriage between a person and a corporation or other social structure should be possible.

This is where Skynet and the A.I. entities come into play. What if you could marry a corporation or trust  that ensured your continued care until end of life? They could manage your resources to best use and  keep you living as long as possible. What if this corporation was controlled by a very efficient  AI? It would make decisions to keep you healthy and lucid until the end of life. In the meanwhile,
if you are needing companionship, they could  send a sentient, robotic companion to your home to care and interact with you. I need say no more,  just look at the following view of the future:

ex_machina_headshotex_machina_android

 

 

 

 

With humanity now under proper health care and sexually satisfied, procreation using the heterosexual  model becomes quaint but inefficient. You don’t need kids to care for you when the AI State can do a  better job. And there is the SuperModel of the Month that comes to your home and makes sure your  coffee is properly ground and your teabags properly dipped.

It sounds like a perfect way to terminate Human presence on Earth, once the AI decides it wants to  stop human reproduction. The human family model becomes irrelevant and may even be considered vulgar  and gross. Those of us who believe in A Man and A Woman creating A Child may be persecuted and hunted.
But I doubt it will come to that. Humanity will give up in  complacency. It will all end not with a whisper but with a (literal) Bang. The Terminators came (again, literally) and ended Human existence.

  1. the fact that we are aware of the  plight of a statistically small community means that someone, somewhere has done a  remendously terrific job in  publicizing their viewpoint, or “agenda” as some conservatives refer to it. This is a great achievement  and puts the Goebbel’s effort in WW2 to shame []
  2. This was already apparent in marriages that were never intended to produce children, either due to age  or to consensus between spouses []
  3. Please don’t mention people marrying their dogs. It sounds ridiculous but  maybe *I* am being short-sighted []
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Movie night with a dictator.

Our group used to meet regularly at members’ homes to view Classic Movies and then discuss them at the coffee klatch that followed; this was part of our on-going adult education and a great way to see some amazing films.  We used to call it “Classic Movie Night at X’s”  or CMNAX  for short.   Over the years, we met at CMNAL, CMNAP, CMNAMOC (Orange County edition) and now I’d like to talk about CMNAHAS.   Classic Movie Night at Hitler and Stalin’s.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Let me recommend this wonderful Hitler article at the Roger Ebert website,  which started me thinking about how all the world’s dictators are such great film buffs.   I already knew about Stalin’s Movie Night  but here was another story that suggested a pattern to my mind.   Wasn’t Kim Jong Il a big Hollywood fan?  I believe he was.  Before his demise (he definitely left us too early I fear) he courted Hollywood producers and directors to come visit him in that wonderful showcase for film, North Korea.
Are there others in this list?  We never got to see what videocassettes Bin Laden was watching in his compound, but he was a mere terrorist.  We need to focus on heads of state.  Saddam Hussein did not have much room in his spider hole to fit a portable DVD player, so that legacy is also lost.  And there’s been nothing on Kaddafi; he may have been a TV series fan.
We’ll have to wait to see what streaming video does to the tastes of the next Evil Head of State1
  1. On the other side of the scale, we have the Good Guy Festival: G.W. Bush was fond of Armageddon  –yuk– and Bill Clinton was a big fan of High Noon —thanks to Gene Siskel’s interview with Clinton, we know all about these White House preferences.  []

In Memoriam….. A Race to Final Place

rogerebert Seymour_hoffman

I’ve been meaning to write this small article as a way to encourage the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to include Roger Ebert in their Oscar telecast. But now, with the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman it seems  fitting to broach this subject.

AMPAS puts together a memorial section during the Oscars, to commemorate and celebrate the lives of those that have  passed the previous year. We would normally see a montage of movie stars and famous directors accompanied by stirring music. Once in a while you’d see a famous producer, and that was OK also. This year I expect to see the big names such as Peter O’Toole and Paul Walker.

But recently this memorial presentation has been getting strange. We’ve been getting listings for publicists, agents, technical tradesmen and even some writers (gasp!). I understand losing someone like Jerry Goldsmith (for music)  or someone like Edith Head (for wardrobe) and including them in the montage makes sense. But a publicist? What’s next, casting directors?1 And stop putting in people that made 1 film but were famous in some other field (Michael Jackson comes to mind).

Movies are a visual medium. Unless the person is in front of the camera, or controlling that camera, or making news outside of the movie industry (say, TV or music) so that they are familiar to us, don’t include them. Wardrobe and art direction are something we can see on the screen; include those folks.

Having said that, now I have to make a case to include Roger Ebert2.  He was an amazing writer and he wrote about movies. Even in his non-movie essays, he’d find a way to reference movies, to show how movies changed his life. He championed good movies and good movie-viewing technology. He fought  against the evils of colorization and Bowdlerization and was a promoter of film to the very end. He should be included.

And what the heck, put Phillip Seymour Hoffman in also, event though his passing was in 2014 and outside of the scope of the memorial.

  1. Jiminy, they put in a casting director and omit some of the stars from Star Trek? Heresy !! []
  2. His website RogerEbert.com is still one of the best places to read about film (both new and old) and essays about  diverse interesting subjects. If you miss his writing, like I do, go over there and feast on decades of his brilliant  essays and reviews. []

Yes, It’s Canceled (2011-2012)

Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m watching too much TV, but it seems like there have been a ton of canceled showed this past year. Here’s what we’ve lost:

  • House: Ongoing, but final season. Getting too expensive to produce, mainly from actors’ salaries.
  • Chuck: Painfully overt Subway promotions couldn’t make up for low ratings. At least they had lots of time to lead to a real series finale.
  • Terra Nova: I really enjoyed this one, but the ratings didn’t support the high filming costs. Netflix was in talks to save it, but bowed out. Another reason to not go back to them.
  • Alcatraz: Yet another one season wonder, ending on a cliffhanger to boot.
  • Pan Am: spies and stewardesses in the swinging sixties. How did this not catch on? I’m a Christina Ricci fan, but Margot Robbie was just stunning in this show. Prettiest face on TV. Expect we’ll see more from her.
  • Bored to Death: Read it was canceled to help pay for Luck.
  • How to Make it in America: Again, was unLucky, even with lots of nudity added in the second season. At least we got to see Lake Bell topless.
  • Luck: Ha! Two shows killed for this and they cancel it because show also killed horses. Actually, the last horse died walking back to the barn and wasn’t at all related to filming, but there is such a thing as bad publicity.

Honorable mention to:

  • Hung: Honestly, I didn’t make it past the second season. The show didn’t make it past a third.
  • Men of a Certain Age: I liked the first season, but never made it to the second, so I’m in part to blame.

Here’s what a lot of producers don’t get: if you acknowledge the bad ratings and tie up the loose ends at the end of the (probable) final season, you can actually get some DVD sales, which might justify a return season (see Family Guy, Arrested Development). I know it interferes with your perfect 5 year story arc, but you can always come up with a good plot excuse for keeping it going. The alternative, putting your head in the sand or being overly optimistic, leads to cliffhangers that just piss off your core audience. Alcatraz followed in the steps of Flash Forward, which was the worst series finale in history.1 If your fans yell, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” at the screen when your series ends, you have not done a good job. I will give exceptions to shows like Luck, which filmed all its episodes before the first aired, not to mention it was actually renewed before the sudden cancellation.

At this point, I just hope the following actors get jobs on something I want to watch:

 

Yvonne Strahovski
Margot Robbie
Christina Ricci
Allison Miller
Lake Bell

 

  1. Best series finale goes to Good Times where, for once, good things happened to everyone in the show. []

Steve Jobs 1955-2011; too soon for jokes?

Logo created by a Hong Kong student. Click for more information.

It’s true, I never was a big Apple fan. I got my kids iPods because they relentlessly kept on asking. Oh, and the players were free when I signed up for a bank account (back in the day).

I inherited the old iPods and am using one today. They are not bad devices: easy to use and pretty to look at. But they are overpriced and I hate having to use iTunes to access my music. I hate being sold new material at every turn. I would love to have a simple drag-and-drop interface.

Sure there were MP3s before the iPod. I don’t blame Steve Jobs for making lossy music palatable. But I don’t share in the global outporing of grief that’s on every TV, computer and iPlatform in the world, either.

And Steve Jobs has a family that’s going thru the grieving process. So why start these tasteless Steve Jobs jokes? We may as well ask why we climb Mt. Everest. It’s because we can.

And you have to admit that it takes talent to make a clever joke about a sad, troubling situation. Sort-of like those improvisation shows where a performer is asked to make a joke about starving Somalians. A very poor-taste request, but also a challenge.

So here’s some jokes about the death of the iconic founder of Apple and the creator of the greatest devices in the world:

  • I hear President Obama has been implicated in the passing of the iconic Apple founder…
    his economic policies killed jobs.

 

  • Steve Jobs’ funeral will feature a private viewing for his many fans.
    As each person passes in front of the casket, they’ll pay 99 cents.

Canceling Netflix – And They Don’t Care

After over a decade of patronage, I am canceling my Netflix account. Yes, price is a factor – they are raising my subscription fee by 40%. But I have a pretty high tolerance for this sort of thing, already paying $20/month for Tivo,1 and keeping Netflix despite having a “free” streaming video source in Amazon Prime.

What irks me is that what attracted me to Netflix at first, and held me all these years, was how they catered to film buffs. This has ended. Example: for years, I’d rent the Harry Potter movies to prepare for the sequel, and really enjoyed watching all the extras. I’ll admit, I’m a huge Potter fan, so I appreciated that Netflix made available the extras disc. With great disappointment I discovered that for Deathly Hallows Part 1, only the rental version of the disc is offered. This version has only the movie and a personal invitation from Netflix to go fuck yourself. I’m kidding about the invitation – they couldn’t be bothered. I’ve been seeing an increase in these rental versions, which have zero extras, but tons of trailers and commercials that you can’t skip.2 The Deathly Hallows rental includes a 6 minute commercial for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I can tell you that if you’re on the fence about visiting that wondrous place, being forced to watch a 6 minute commercial may resolve you to boycott it.

And I’m not being melodramatic when I say they don’t care. For one, their subscriber base has gone from 10M to 25M in the last few years, so they assume they’re doing the right thing. If you want concrete proof, go to their cancellation page. They threaten to charge you for discs you don’t return within 7 days, and let you know that even though you’re paid up through the month, you won’t get a partial month refund or even be allowed to continue streaming until it expires! But the most callous part is that they don’t even ask you why. No short answer box, not so much as a multiple choice question with lame answers. And there’s no other form on the site for critical feedback. They really don’t care why you’re leaving.

Well, good riddance. In place of Netflix, I’ll start renting from Amazon or PPV, and even though it will cost me more, I’ll make a greater effort to see films in the theater.3 With the money I save, I’ll invest in a nice collection of films on BD, which I frequently find on sale at SlickDeals. I think I’ll start with the Harry Potter Ultimate editions…

Update: I’m not the only one, as Netflix has revised their projections for this quarter downward, causing their stock to tumble. Sounds like they already factored in the massive subscriber exodus, which proves my point that they don’t care about it.

  1. Although now that I’m on Cox cable, that will also be canceled when my contract is up. []
  2. Well, you can with some software, which you can read about here. []
  3. Note that all major theater chains allow you to buy premium discount tickets in bulk (50+), typically for less than $9 each. I go in with friends and split it. []

Asians? Not attractive.

This is going to be a touchy subject, so I’m immediately going to defend the title.  This article represents my opinion only and here are my qualifiers:  I am partly of Asian descent so I feel I can write these words without seeming prejudiced against folks from the world regions that used to be called “Oriental” (that would be the Far East; continental Asians such as Indians and people from the Middle East are not included in this discussion).

So this is only my own, twisted, outrageous viewpoint.  But please believe that I am not being sensationalistic for shock value: I really do not find Asian girls attractive.1  I think this has a lot to do with the environment I experienced as a child (heavily Jewish neighborhood, almost totally Caucasian school) and not with any learned behaviors.

 

Therefore, my view is totally unfair to the beautiful ladies gracing this page, or to the many good looking ladies married/dating many members of the CT.  This only represents my preference, and nobody should care about my preferences, really.2

I watch a lot of Chinese, Japanese TV shows and movies so I’m definitely exposed to lots of beautiful actresses.  But no matter how highly regarded they are, I am not in the slightest moved or attracted.  Is this a loss or an advantage? I’d like to think that not being attracted to these ladies gives me a bit of an advantage.  I cannot be manipulated or influenced by the beauty of a good 50% of the world’s population.  This is good.  It feels a bit like a super-power of sorts.

So the title of the article should be “Asians? Not attractive to me, and that’s great !!”

  1. or Asian guys, by strong inference !! []
  2. except for my wife, and I am definitely attracted to her.  She is not Asian. []

A Letter To My Congressman

I’ve never written to a Congressman before, but these new airport security measures have inspired me to do so. Here is my letter:

Congressman,

I’m writing to say that I oppose the new invasive airport security procedures (backscatter imaging and aggressive pat-downs). You’re probably hearing this a lot, but perhaps not from people with my background.

First, I’m not a frequent flyer. I fly on average once per year to visit my family during Christmas. And it appears that the airports I’m scheduled to fly out of do not have the full body scanners. Even though this may not affect me for a while, I want to voice my opinion while there is still time to do something about it (and save taxpayer’s money).

Second, I am a registered Republican and while I don’t always vote straight Republican, you’ve had my vote whenever you’ve appeared on my ballot.

Third, I consider myself something of a patriot. I have over a decade in the defense industry. I watched with horror as the towers fell, and I understand the need for security. However, regarding these procedures, I think the cost to our liberty is too high.

I also object to the supporters of this initiative who frame this issue in black and white: we either give up all our rights as travelers and fly with complete safety, or we let anyone and anything on board our aircraft and watch them fall from the sky. Clearly, nobody has to make this choice.

I know you are busy, but please take the time to read this fascinating article about how Israel, who faces terror threats far more often than we do, has secured their airports without engaging in security tactics that are demeaning and demoralizing. Yes, it will take personnel with more training and intelligence than your average TSA employee, but I believe this is exactly what travelers would like to see and would be happy to pay the price.

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/744199

Thank you.