Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Computer unspeak

In most cases, the phrase "computer speak" (sometimes as a single word) means technical jargon related to computers.  But as more websites use databases to generate their content, we're getting to the point where computers are trying to speak to us, and we see just how dumb they can be.

Here's a classic piece of computer-interpreted data:
"Burclover is not viable as a Christmas Tree."
or ...
"In the wintertime, Burclover has a Porous foliage porosity."

These came from TheGrowSpot, which is actually a good site.  But they could do without the huge clumsy paragraphs trying to describe their otherwise well-organized data in sentences.

Meanwhile, scammers have nearly invented their own worthless language to try and fool us into responding to their crap.  I just got a spam email titled: "Dynamite instead of wiener."  How's that supposed to work?  You have sex and the whole house explodes.  Unnatural deselection ... shades of porous porosity ... hell in a handbasket?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Plow of Progress

"Life, it seemed to him, was a great search for -- he knew not what; and in the process of the ages one by one the true marks upon the ways had been shattered, or buried, or the meaning of the words had been slowly forgotten; one by one the signs had been turned awry, the true entrances had been thickly overgrown, the very way itself had been diverted from the heights to the depths, till at last the race of pilgrims had become hereditary stone-breakers and ditch-scourers on a track that led to destruction ... if it led anywhere at all."

- from Arthur Machen, "The House of Souls" (1922)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Mere Sight of Land

"The effect which the sight of the smallest spot of land, or even a bare uninhabited rock, has in breaking the tedious monotony of a long sea voyage, is easier felt than described. After passing a long succession of weary hours, with no other objects of contemplation than a world of waters, bounded only by the extent of vision, where it unites with the world of clouds, the sight of land acts like a talisman, and instantaneously transports us into the fairy regions of imagination. We compare the spot we are viewing with one rendered inestimably dear to us, by the remembrance of its beloved objects, and the tender recollection of past happiness. We pass over, as points in time or space, the years or seas that separate us; and by a cherished delusion, find ourselves arrived at the moment of re-union, cheered by the embrace of friendship, or locked in the arms of love and beauty."

- from An account of a voyage [...] in His Majesty's Ship Calcutta, in the years 1802-3-4, by James Hingston Tuckey - Chapter 4

Monday, May 14, 2012

What is the Unfuture?

I know I've wrestled with that a bit over the years of doing (and not-doing) this blog.  My creative output is not about just one thing.  I can't write "just horror" or "nothing but sci-fi".  It sounds like life would be so much simpler if I could do that.  But I enjoy the outrageous diversity of the world.  I think everyone has multiple talents, and our society commits a crime of omission by making people think they can do only one thing, or even nothing at all. 

So, this blog is "what I'm into".  I ran an email newsletter a few years back called "Dark Windows" which I think captured it best: an outrageous medley of fiction, poetry, bits from dream journals, and memorable clips from old sources, both fiction and nonfiction.  Why the old sources?  I think it's important to recall that there's more to life than Today.  More than just Now.  Who we are, and our quest for knowledge, is a result of centuries of questions and attempts to answer, and centuries of entertainment and diversion.  Sometimes the clearest philosophical quotes come from fictional villains; and the wackiest fantasies come from bad science.  The lines between fact and fiction are worth exploring, and the lines between reality and delusion should be examined.  Now, I am a strong advocate of facts, and sorting out sense from nonsense.  But I also know we need places to escape to at the end of the day.

That is my mission statement for my Unfuture Chronicle, moving forward.  Why the name?  Because here we are, living in the future (the 21st century), but it seems like nothing has changed ... whenever I watch the news or drop in on a forum, I just hear the same bad arguments you would find in the Middle Ages.  We're in the future, but it's nothing like it was supposed to be.  All those giants of science fiction were right about the gadgets but wrong about humans as a whole.  It's the Unfuture.

I hope you enjoy the thoughts and diversions to come.


We went out to see Cirque du Soleil show "Totem" today.  A spectacular bit of fun, very colorful, one amazing acrobatics act after another.  For each prop or apparatus, they start simple and get more and more daring, until the acts of dexterity reach levels that don't even seem humanly possible.  Some fine misdirection, some great visual gags.  Amusing (and non-scary) clown bits in between.  The trapeze act was breathtaking: like the rest, you think you've seen some playful trapeze work before but no, this goes over the top; risky, wild and playful.  They could take hula hoops or glowing balls or a couple of sticks and make an act you can't believe you're seeing.  Wonderful costumes and makeup.  The stage itself was like a character, with an endless stream of images beamed down onto it, sometimes perfectly in sync with the motions of the people on it, plus movable parts and all kinds of trapdoors and openings. 

There was a live band performing the music -- at least at the end of the show (I didn't see them in the first act, maybe they lowered the reed barrier for act two?).  I admire the simplicity of just paying to get a top-notch performance, as opposed to something like the olympics where some of the same skills require millions of $$ in endorsements, product placement, and other baloney, just to be nitpicked and eliminated in the end.  There were no losers here, just performance, and that overall sense of circus wonder and thrills that reminded me of being a kid.  No real story, just lots of cross-cultural, multilingual and culturally abstract color and life.