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Friday, Apr 18th

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This Computes Just Fine, Thank You

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Enjoy this sight experience while you can.  Before long, robots will also be reading the news that they, themselves, produce.

In fact, give it 10 or 20 years, and half of all jobs in the U.S. will be held by machines.  The Oxford study does not provide details on other ripples through the financial and social strata.  This leaves a lot of room for paranoid imagination, also known as alternately laughing at improbabilities and scaring the bejesus out of yourself.

When it comes to robot workers, perhaps the adage is right:  It's not if you are paranoid, but if you are paranoid enough.  This is not your grandfather's replacement-by-robots fear, not even its reality, as it has already worked out in the world.  Pick your metaphor:  This time it's serious as a heart attack, this program's on steroids,  it's a whole new level of...

As always:  When someone else's job is filled by a robot, it's cost-efficient progress.  When it's your job that goes under, via the cold, articulated hand of robotics, it's an unfair radicalization of the global economy.  Both are probably correct.  Neither treat flesh-based units very well.

Thinking of buying some penny stocks in a robotic future world?  Step this way...

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Would You Like to Eat on a Star?

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... or, you could carry moonbeams home in a jar.  You could go shopping for a snack.  And, you know, nibble on a Pitt?

So much for musical whimsy.  Down to business:  How about some Angelina chops? Some Brad burgers or Pitt pits?  No, we're not talking about acting abilities or World War Z cuisine.  Not really.

We're talking Soylent Sausages here.  Or, as a buddy chimed in,  The Other White Meat.  Yes:  It's what's for barter, if the dollar fails.  Or, as another one emailed:  Is this Soylent Bling?

Yes, it's all of those things. And more.  Too much more.

For the ultimate in a concept that's really hard to swallow, how about snagging some celebrity tissue samples and making artisanal salami out of that lab-grown meat?

(We'll wait here.  Go back and re-read that if you like.  Take your time absorbing that one, and re-spool your mind as needed.  OK -- done?  Good deal.  Onward.)

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Progress Means Siring Satire & Parenting Parody

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Once upon a time, life in America made sense, at least in everyday comings and goings.  There were unspoken bargains of reasonableness in effect.  These were the handshakes and nods of fairness in play.  When it came to some sort of public issue, there were more tipped hats than launched birds-of-a-middle-finger flocking together.

Of course, back then, we were a hat-obsessed nation, with head coverings of all sorts trickling their way into the language.  When we weren't hanging around, hats in hand, we were taking our hats off to this or that person or idea.  We even had feathers that others gave us, to put into our caps, thinking or otherwise.  You could actually wear a Pork Pie, right on your head.

(We could even do something quite crude to fill up a hat, in one hand, and then wish in the other, in order to find out which event might happen first -- a sort of an early barometer of misfortune and an early betting calculator.)

Life here wasn't perfect, not by any means.  But, it was earnest and shared.  Then came the birth on these shores of Satire and Parody, the two hipster kids from the big city, corrupting our farm-hand sensibilities as we kept morphing into a nation of city dwellers, where a couple major corporations would come to own all the food and farms, and our roots, in order to keep competition nonexistent, but always espoused, and to give farm subsidies a place to go when they got tired of hanging around the Treasury.

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Pareidolia

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The saying “There's a sucker born every minute.” has been kicking around since the late nineteenth century. The indomitable American “can do” attitude has made that adage an extremely lowball estimate. I watched a video clip on Crooks & Liars the other day excerpted from Cashin' In, a Fox News program hosted by Eric Bolling. It weirded me out so much I had to click on over to the Fox News website and watch the entire segment. I’ve never done that before. I don’t have the stomach lining for Fox. But this was so compelling I had to.

But first …

We’ve all received the scam email about helping a wealthy Nigerian move his millions out of the country into American banks. If you agree to help the guy out you get to keep a huge percentage of the money. The cost to victims of these advance-fee frauds like the Nigerian bank scam went from $100 million in the U.S. in 1997 to an estimated $6.3 billion in 2008 and $9.3 billion in 2009 worldwide.

Mano Singham writing about the scam in Freethought Blogs said, “I am pretty certain that all the readers of this blog have received similar appeals. I am also certain that all of us have been struck by the sheer crudeness of the messages that make them seem such obvious scams that only an idiot would fall for, and asked ourselves why they don’t try to make it at least a little more sophisticated so that they have a better chance at success? It turns out that a computer scientist at Microsoft … did a cost-benefit analysis and realized that this crudeness is a feature, not a bug.”

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Death: No Longer a Passing Fancy

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The cost of paying attention keeps going up:  Increasing cases of thyroid growths near Fukushima.  Tar sands.  Poisoned water supplies.  Drones.  North Korea.  Corporate welfare.  Tainted and questionable food supplies.  Chemical weapons.  Gun violence.  Man-made gases eating the ozone shield.

There's even a recent report of a dormant virus coming back to life after a nap of 30,000 years.  After a run through the headlines, I'm feeling very much like I could use a nap of a few thousand years myself.

As hazardous to one's sense of calm as is trying to stay abreast of current events, it's even more dangerous to one's head wiring to start connecting the dots between disparate events.  That's where you go from losing peace of mind to shredding, and shedding, pieces of mind.

Show you what I mean:  What do you do with the realization that your country and culture is a death cult?  Taken individually, there are a number of troubling points of concern.  They go deep.  Added up, and you start to feel like an accidental conspiracy theorist, thunderstruck on a sunny day, zapped by a bolt from blue sky, holding the lightning rod high when the Big Paranoias have come out to play.

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The 'Monster Rules'

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Y'know why I often refer to the Universal Studios monsters from the thirties and forties? Because those were the monsters I grew up with. In the fifties, the studio packed up its classic horror films and sold them to television. Every Saturday night I would be in front of our black and white Zenith from 10:30 pm until signoff watching channel 11s Nightmare. That's where I discovered Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man. Thats when I learned The Monster Rules. Everybody had to learn The Monster Rules because if you didn't there was no way in hell you could ever get to sleep after watching Nightmare.

The most important rule was Monsters Could Be Killed. It might take the whole movie to do it, but in the last few minutes of the final reel Dracula was staked, Frankenstein's monster was burned alive in a flaming windmill, the Egyptian goddess Isis reduced the mummy Imhotep to dust, and Larry Talbot, The Wolf Man, was beaten to death with a silver walking stick wielded by his own father. When all the monsters had been dispatched I could climb the darkened stairway up to my room without being too scared. Until I saw Dracula.

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Wake Me When We're Star Trek

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Every once in a while, I want to write a note,  roll it up, and jam it into a old milk bottle.  The scribbling part is easy.  The tough part comes when trying to decide where to deliver it.  There are not many outlets around willing to accept delivery on such a thing, and even fewer staff people able or interested enough to pay much attention to such a note, especially for one beginning this way:

"I see by the clock on the clubhouse wall, and by the full-faced frown on the burly, white-uniformed orderly I can't seem to shake, that it's time for a nice, hot cup of Thorazine and some phosphene therapy, staring off into space, my eyes shut tight..."

Such lightless light shows like this, like life, are sometimes called "prisoner's cinema."  This seems fitting.  I often feel like a prisoner of my era, of this historical cycle in which we are now treading water, waiting for the next chapter to start, the next shoe to drop, the next shot from the starter's pistol, the next tick of the clock...

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