oh, no

I’ve connected through Houston Bush before, but that was years ago.  So I deplane and as soon as I get out the gate I notice there’s a bunch of small screens everywhere.  The normal waiting areas with rows of chairs were apparently replaced with tables.  Each individual seat had a tablet in front of it.

I didn’t think much of it at first.  I had a quick hour to grab food before the next flight.  I ended up at a place called Bam Bam for Vietnamese.  I sit down at the bar, and I’m face-to-face with another tablet.

Oh, no.

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It’s the future.  Today!

It took me about five minutes to realize no bartender was coming to see me.  I figured out on my own that to get a beer or order food I had to use the tablet.  Then I had to swipe my credit card right on the spot.

Even after you’re done ordering, there’s this still that evil screen right in front of you.  They continuously bombard you with ads, proposed money games, and whatever else.  You can’t turn the damn thing off, at least not that I could figure out.

The beer was local Texas good, they had a great banh-mi, and a so-so salad.  But I couldn’t get over the darn screen.  I want a quiet beer and meal.  And maybe to watch sports behind the bar.  Not get ads shoved in my face.  Note the company logos on the shot above from the many, many usual suspects of the Giant Octopi.  I should have put a napkin over the thing.

I’m an introvert.  So you better believe it’s a legit problem when I say I actually genuinely missed ordering my food and drink from a real live person.  To actually engage in conversation with a fellow human.

I eventually figured out the screen thing, but almost nobody else did.  Other folks coming in were exasperated with trying to work it out.  And they got frustrated as the one poor waiter had to walk them through it.

Business consultants told Bam Bam and Houston Bush that there would be friction during the “initiation period”.  But that eventually customers will get used to using this technology on a regular basis to order.  Then they can save 47% on restaurant personnel costs once all orders are handled in this electronic manner.

This is the future.  Every single moment of your time is one giant opportunity for somebody to shove ads in your face.  Everyone notice the new gas pumps?  Where they throw ads at you in the 49 seconds it takes to pump your gas?

Machines probably won’t totally take over every job.  You won’t see a full blown robot bartender.  Instead you’ll see various aspects of humanity removed from the equation.  Technology will destroy jobs on the margins.  Instead of six waiters a restaurant will have two.  What are the other four newly unemployed humans supposed to do?

If you believe the wizards of the future, technology will free those four people to go become artists, or learn a new trade like plumbing, or whatever.  What I suspect will happen instead is that society will generally continue to become poorer and more unequal.

When traveling, I don’t think I’ll do this again.  If I see a screen like this again, I’m walking away.  I’ll take my cash to a business that employs humans.  And if every bar stool on the planet has a screen one day?  I don’t know what I’ll do, but that’ll be a sad, sad day.

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The future can kiss my ass.

why is it only now that folks think Uber is evil?

I’ve always been fascinated by the selective enforcement of opinion some folks display. This is because, in general, I try to be somewhat consistent in what I say and do. Like all humans, I fail at this all the time, but I do try.

For example, for half-a-decade Uber has been the cool little thing for folks to use. It’s been the trendy, young, urban way to get around oh so many metropolitan areas. But now, all of a sudden, Uber is evil. Why?

Well, first off the impression was (incorrectly) that Uber had sided with Trump (that guy folks don’t like) against airport taxi drivers striking against the immigration plan. Then, Uber’s Overlord Travis Kalanick had flamed one of his own drivers with the oh so memorable line, “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit.”

So now, folks want to delete Uber. There’s a hashtag or a messenger pigeon that says so, or something like that. Why?

A few things here:

1) Uber has always been evil

Since its beginning, Kalanick has always had a reputation (even within the Silicon Valley lifelines, which is saying something) of being a dirty asshole. For instance, once upon a time Uber got caught creating fake Lyft profiles which called for Lyft rides when nobody was actually there. Generally speaking, you would think one would like to purchase a product from a company that at least tries to conduct itself in a moral manner. But I specifically remember this incident getting largely ignored. I doubt anybody gave it even a second thought before they opened the app those few years back. Why was there not a delete Uber campaign back then?

Sure, Uber taxis were cleaner and their drivers polite and usually well dressed, but did folks realize that in most cases those same drivers were making substantially less money than a normal taxi driver? Or that Uber basically railroads them on costs and percentages? I have in my mind, a bunch of cool, hip youngsters. They go protest for a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers. They get back and forth from the protest, by taking Uber.

2) This is how Silicon Valley thinks

“Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit,” should now become the motto of Silicon Valley. I’ve got some news for all you cool earnest young people with your cool trendy apps and expensive phones: everybody in Silicon Valley thinks this way. They just don’t foolishly admit it like Kalanick did. These are ultra-Type A people who believe that success or failure in Silicon Valley (aka Life) is almost entirely dependent upon raw skill. In other words, Kalanick is rich because he is awesome. Those who are poor or fail are not awesome. And it’s their own fault.

Generally I tend to believe in the idea that we each can make our own life. Success or failure is in our own hands. But I also acknowledge that there are various intangible factors that can shape how hard it is for folks to make it in life. Kalanick is the son or a marketer and an engineer and went to a private high school. Does he make Uber happen if he was born in say West Baltimore? Or how about if Kalanick was a recent immigrant who drives for Uber? But in Kalanick’s brain, it’s not like that. People who drive for Uber are losers. If they were winners, they’d take responsibility for their own shit and get a better job.

3) The cool factor

Again, it’s always been like this, but only now has Uber crossed over and is thus evil. Why? The cool factor. If you are cool, you can (mostly) get away with anything. Steve Jobs is basically considered a demigod. Apple is the cool of cool. But Jobs (in true Silicon Valley style) was also an asshole. At one point Apple got caught colluding with book publishers to cheat the price offered to consumers. Ostensibly it was to undercut Amazon’s growing market dominance, but it’s still basically a Monopoly Man moment. Apple cheated its customers. Jobs got caught sending e-mails to The Mini Monopoly Man himself in James Murdoch trying to boost prices. Guess what? Nobody cared.

People still think Apple is the coolest thing on the planet. Your average Apple junkie either never heard of this incident, or mentally just wrote it off. Oh, Jobs tried to cheat me? Eh, but Apple is so cool. My iPhone is the coolest!

I think it was the same way with Uber. But I guess, even cool can only take you so far. So now Uber is less cool, and perhaps even evil.

Hmm, Apple, take note!

we reaffirm our commitment to “giving it a hard time just for the sake of it”

The goons of humanity who try and remote control other people’s lives are shockingly transparent. So when the Communist Party backed a movie they placed supreme faith in, gee, who would have figured they’d lose their minds when it turned out to be the terrible, mindless, bad action flick everybody expected?

Beyond my original thoughts on all this, I’ll simply put down the international failure of this movie to two concepts:

1) Zhang got himself trapped (as many a good filmmaker has) by the power of special effects. Since computers allow him to do anything he wants, he lets his mind go insane. Simple decent scenes become a mesh of digital action nonsense so disconnected from reality that the audience can’t connect with the movie. It’s like watching a bad video game or seizure inducing Japanese anime. You don’t feel anything. See the Star Wars prequels or the Transformers films for similar forays into the awfulness.

2) Despite (1), a whole bunch of movies succeed in this format and make a ton of money, see Fast & Furious. I think the Red goons wanted The Great Wall to make an insane amount of money. If it did, it would have been a critical first step of an organic Chinese blockbuster. The problem is nobody cared. Folks probably saw the terrible trailers for this movie and were like, “eh, whatever”.

The movie debuts in America tomorrow. So I guess we’re about to find out just how dumb the American theatergoer is. If this movie makes $300M in the States, I’m moving to the Moon. But the Chinese theatergoer already figured this out, and they weren’t happy.

But hey, even though the movie sucks, it’s not the movie’s fault. But rather you, the viewer, who is wrong. Per The Economist, Xinhua (the Party mouthpiece) called the film “innovative” and accused online detractors of “giving it a hard time just for the sake of it”.

I’ll wear that appellation with pride. As I hope every Chinese citizen who rightly criticized this movie online will. We can’t let the goons control human lives. To the point that the bad, is made to be good. Just because they say so.

The question again, is can you make good art, a good movie when the Party is pulling the creative levers? I don’t think so. Zhang used to make great movies, when he was a rebel and against the Party. Now he’s a team player and the art is over.

I hope he learns from this, dumps the handlers, and goes back to making great films.

The Great Wall

Human actor plays medieval part in movie about aliens who got to Earth on an asteroid and attack once every 60 years. Eh, wait, what? Well, what could go wrong?

the bizarreness of modern work communication

You need something from somebody who sits 18 feet from you. How do you go about interacting with them? Normally you’d just go talk to them face-to-face, right? After all, a family member who is 18 feet from you inside your home is just a normal random conversation. Not so, apparently, within the dreaded confines of cubicle hell.

A guy three cubicles over has called me on the phone this week. Twice. I can hear him talking to me in one ear through the phone. In the other ear I hear him talking in the same room. It makes no sense. But other people do this too. They call each other in our bank of cubicles. I can hear them both phone talk like they’re standing next to each other.

This stuff has also occurred recently:

– The boss e-mails an employee who works 30 feet from him saying “come see me”

– The boss shouts from his office at somebody who works 50 feet from him asking if they’re in the office

– The other boss talks to somebody over a cubicle wall, and then says they’ll just instant message the work task instead of telling them

– People say they will respond to an e-mail, but then call somebody instead

– People will call you and make decent shit happen, but then ask you to send an e-mail to work out all the details again

– Folks will e-mail somebody who works 10 feet away asking a simple question

I think all this text messaging, Snapchat, mind meld, e-mail, Internets, etc, etc has destroyed normal human communication. Any one of the above scenarios is best handled by two people talking face-to-face. Instead, this easy straightforward method of interaction is devolved into a whole plethora of ineffective means. This ineffective nature increases stress and otherwise further harms an already unhappy place to work.

Just talk to people face-to-face. It’s better for all of us.

Or, just go off the rails. Whatever.

– E-mail your boss when you arrive at work saying “I’m now at my desk”

– Call the person who works in the cubicle next to you to say “Good morning”, then immediately hang up

– Instead of handing your boss a printed 53 page report with a face-to-face explanation, scan each page individually, then e-mail your boss the document as 53 attachments

– Instant message somebody 17 feet away and ask them their lunch plans, then regardless of their actual response, tell them to send you an e-mail calendar invite for lunch

– Put up a sign with skull and crossbones icons all over it that says, “today I can only be reached via e-mail”, and when people try and engage you in face-to-face conversation you just tap the sign without saying a word

– Bring a small bird into the office and inform coworkers you’ll communicate via carrier bird only, but never ever actually do this, you just have the bird in the office for months without ever using it

– Shout over the cubicle walls, “what day is today?”, “what’s the deadline for that bullshit product we owe to the boss?”, “where are my keys?”, “is the concept of anti-matter an oxymoron?”

– E-mail your boss, “I’m coming to see you”, before leaving your cubicle to go speak with her

– Write “I went to lunch” in your own blood on a single white sheet of paper, leave it on your desk, then dump a 28 ounce can of tomato sauce all over your cubicle floor and walls, then go hit the pub for about three hours before nonchalantly returning to work

the true valentine loves not the vampire

This whole Valentine’s Day story is quite baffling because there’s a whole bunch of weird history behind it. It turns out the Giant Octopus of the Vatican doesn’t even really know who Saint Valentine was. This is an organization that professes it has a hotline to God via the Pope guy who happens to be in the chair at the time. Or something like that. So if they say they don’t have any solid info on Valentine’s connection to Valentine’s Day or love? Then you’d better believe they don’t have anything at all in the archives where they also keep the plans for the fusion device. But it’s okay, because we at TAP already know the true answer.

We heard tell at the Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant located in San Diego International Airport Terminal 1 from a man wearing a Tony Romo jersey and drinking red zinfandel. He swears on his soul that he was vacationing in Bucharest in 1985 at the height of Ceaușescu’s brutal power. He spied a dark cloaked man giving chocolates and flowers to random women at the hotel bar. Thinking this man a dangerous threat and rather drunk, he armed himself with a rolled up Leninist newspaper and followed the cloaked man into the grim night. He made it twelve feet from the hotel door before being accidently knocked unconscious by a nine year old girl on a bicycle. He awoke weeks later deep in the Transylvanian Hills.

There, he proceeded to conduct a hasty forced interview with a vampire. The vampire stated that in fact Valentine’s Day originated as an excuse for vampires to drink more blood then during the other 364 days of the year. The seduction, the lust, the red color, the focus upon bleeding somebody dry, was all an excuse for vampires to consume their extra fill. The man, petrified, demanded meekly to know if he too would die that day. The vampire chuckled, and said no. For the original Valentine’s Day traditions were long gone. Instead, vampires had transformed into vicious corporate shills. They made such a killing on cocoa and flower farms that they were able to bankroll the invention of synthetic blood to sate their appetite. In particular, this one vampire confessed to working for Goldman Sachs Business Development Branch and had a supposed “killer” idea on this thing he kept calling “see, dee, oohs.”

Anyways, who or what, precisely, is the dreaded Giant Octopus establishment? To those who voted for Hilary it’s Trump’s business buddies in NYC, the 1887 KKK, etc, etc. To those who voted for Trump it’s the people in the media, DC, etc, etc. If you voted for neither of them the establishment is one of sixteen different Giant Octopi that occupy your darkest dreams. Like vampires. Or employees of Citibank. Or celebrity award shows.

Did you know the Grammy’s and the BAFTA’s were both on last Sunday? They’ve got so many award shows they have to cram two major ones into one night on different continents. How many awards can celebrities give to themselves? Don’t they know that celebrity awards are the pinnacle of the Giant Octopus’ many magical apples!? Don’t eat it, dear God, don’t eat it! The apple causes the downfall of us all! It laced with haughtiness.

Hey speaking of apples, and love, and whatever else, what does it say about humanity that the original Valentine’s Day love story ends with the downfall of all humanity for an eternity?

Anyways, but if you’re me, the Giant Octopus establishment is everything that tries to remove coherent thought from your brain for any particular purpose that benefits anybody not you. Whether it be an attempt to get your vote, your support, your time, your eyes, or more often than not, your straight cash.

America will spend $20B on Valentine’s Day this year. Or twice what the NFL makes in an entire league year. Or three times the national cancer budget. Why? There are 365 days in a year. Yet this is apparently the day that if you don’t get your mate candy, flowers, or whatever, it means you’re apparently cheating on them, or are possessed by the devil. Which is a mean thing to say, because even the devil is all about this day. It’s why he always dresses in red velvet. Go watch the Japanese anime cartoon.

Anyways, there’s certainly no connection between the Valentine’s guy and love. And yet there are references as far back as Chaucer and Shakespeare associating Valentine’s Day and love. So somehow this thing happened. Somehow humanity has a centuries long tradition of picking this one day over the other 364 for the purposes of affection.

I don’t get it, but I’ll accept it as reality. And that, as always, there just might be something wrong with me in that I wish this day didn’t exist. But even if you accept this as cultural reality, what I cannot wrap my mind around is the Giant Octopus having it’s claws in the 2/3 of Americans that probably shell out substantial gold for this event.

Folks who won’t eat genetically modified crops and recycle their used pencils are all of a sudden all too comfortable paying a 600% markup to Mars Brand Incorporated, or some faceless hedge fund LLC that owns a series of flower mills in Columbia and Kenya paying 3 cents an hour minimum wage. Nobody has a gun to anybody’s head making them buy candy this one single day. Why not buy candy on April 17th? Or cut some fresh wild flowers from a field on June 3rd?

Don’t give in into the Giant Octopi! Don’t give into the vampire! Do something different for your special person. Don’t let the vampire be your valentine instead. I don’t know what that different thing would be, you know your mate, you just find a way to make it happen. But I’m guessing, a good starting point is to try and do something that doesn’t involve spending any cash. That’d be a good start.

we unbox the planet

Yet again humanity has generated a trend that its apparently taken me forever to hear of.  Hey friends, don’t judge, it’s hard to be in touch with things when your life is dominated by dogs, beer, and calculation of the metric weight of liquid calcium when used for espionage purposes.

There is a growing trend where you subscribe to a monthly service, and they ship you a box of random secret goodies.  You open said box and enjoy all this random stuff you didn’t choose in advance.  Here’s an example of one where the theme is nerd stuff:

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But I saw one ad on the subway this morning where the theme is foods of the planet:

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I first heard of this trend during RedLetterMedia’s recent satire broadcast of the nerd box category:

Oh boy!  Where do I begin?

Don’t get me wrong, I sure do love food, and certain categories of nerd stuff, but what precisely is the point of all this?  If you love food, or Spiderman, then go buy food and Spiderman stuff online.  It’s never been easier to get that one unique item within the online marketplace.

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Here you go!  Have you ever coveted those friends and family who had an ancient Incan kero drinking cup when you didn’t?  Great news!  You too can be that awesome.  They’re for sale on Amazon.

Whatever you want in life today, you can get.  No matter how rare or bizarre.  Provided you have the coin.  This is both an awesome and incredibly frightening proposition.

And I know the nerd box and food box company aren’t in this for the goodness of their hearts.  They need to make coin of their own.  So it’s natural of me to assume that it’d be cheaper to buy each individual item separately rather than pay a monthly subscription service.

So what’s this all about?  Of course, naturally, it’s the joy of unboxing something in a category you like.  It’s like getting a present, or a journey into the unknown.  You are paying a fee to add some enjoyment and excitement to your life.

I assume there’s a legion of YouTube videos of folks unboxing this stuff and posting it online.  I dare not watch these videos for fear I’d lose my faith in humanity for the next twelve hours.  But in general, this isn’t something I’m against.

If folks get a kick out of this, if it adds some happiness to their lives?  Okay, that works.  The planet is currently a cynical, desperate, angry wasteland.  Folks all go ahead and add that spice of joy to their day.  Please do so.

Hey, maybe I can make some spare cash too.  I could sell these things, right?  All I need is some hedge fund or venture capital backers.  They’re all about bankrolling lunatic bloggers I’m sure.

 

– The Australia Box

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Think the main export of Australia is didgeridoos or boomerangs?  Think again.  It’s creepy vegemite.  The sandwich spread for rugby hooligans, your Australian grandmother, and those condemned to death.  I don’t know what this is, but it tastes awful.  If you haven’t yet tried it, don’t.  It’s in your box because it has to be, but that’s about it.

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Dumb American fools who guzzle Natty Ice or Bud Light have no idea what they’re missing when the national-get-wasted-cheap-beer is actually a very good decent beer.  Plus, it’s named after a Queen.  I still can’t reasonably find this beer in the States.  That’s a greater crime to America than Turnbull having the gall to expect America to keep it’s word on previously agreed international agreements.

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The Aussie / Jim Henson co-production that was so simultaneously insane and awesome that it caused Henson to disregard his own health to the point that a 13th Century cold killed him.  If you love this show, you get it.  If you hate this show, it’s all good, it just means you’re a normal person.

 

– The Republican Political Acolyte Box

 

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We got the generic version because brand name was too expensive; and unnecessary.

 

– The Democrat Political Acolyte Box

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It Berns!

 

– The Super Bowl Box

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Only the finest in popped-collar capability is worthy of shirt for that Patriot fan who is so very desperate to cheer on their Tommy.  Gizelle would let Tommy wear it.  So you should too.

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There’s something quite wrong with your city when more people have heard of these women than Matt Ryan.  But whatever, it’s reality television, so you’ll watch it and enjoy it.  Or else.

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For clubbing your television where the plastic does not incur long term damage to the device thus enabling you to continue watching what will hopefully be a great game, but, still necessary after each time you remember how much you hate Joe ‘The Haughty’ Buck and Mike ‘Get the Fuck off the Broadcast’ Pereira.

 

And much, much more!  We’re on it.  Simply provide us your credit card number, a list of your fears, and your desired box category of fun.  We’ll make it happen, each month.  To add to your joy.  Simply provide payment directly to:

 

The Arcturus Project – Unbox the Planet! Program

C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street

Abuja 900001, Nigeria

first the circus, then the zoo

When I was a young lad I looked forward to many things, Christmas cheer, birthday presents, sports games, Sicilian thug poker, and my ability to selfishly find ways to fold space and time. But I only ever kept a calendar checklists for one thing, the circus.

In retrospect I have no idea why. I mean, I love the circus, but it wasn’t like I was going to visit the Moon in a spaceship filled with supermodels. But for whatever reason, I would X off those days until I got to the O and got to go see the elephants and all those lunatic performers.

Well, so much for passing down that tradition. With the circus set to close, millions of children everywhere will have to find some other cool event to count down to on their smartphone’s calendar application powered by Google Android Colossus (your kiddy’s calendar schedule is privacy ad fodder for Google’s maw).

Could Ringling Brothers have survived in our Internets era?  Gee for all our sakes I sure hope so.  I really hope modern entertainment entails something other than freaking VR hooked directly to our brain stems while we foam at the mouth.

But what I do know is the circus’ death was accelerated by the animal rights folks.  Even the elephants were already scheduled to go away, well before Ringling Brothers threw in the whole towel.  What’s a circus without the elephants?

Reading the animal rights folks coo over their victory makes me sad.  Wow, that circus sure was a lot of fun.  No more.  For you see, taking an animal from the wild (where nature is a vicious wheat thresher) and giving an elephant a longer life expectancy and quality of life while brining young children joy and knowledge of nature is barbaric.

I might be (am) a lunatic.  But I’ll just go say this right now: first the circus, then the zoo.  Every animal rights argument that you can apply to the circus, equally applies to the zoo.  Now that the haters have claimed one scalp, why would they stop?  I’ll just say (roughly) that within three decades or so zoos will be severely curtailed and/or closed.

And kids will only get to see a tiger or lion in a book, on their smartphone app, or on a safari for the ultra-rich.  To the activists I would say, think folks don’t care about nature now?  Wait until they close the zoo and kiddies can only see apes in books.