Homo Deus (a review)

I just finished reading Homo Deus, by Yuval Harari, and I imagine it’s the last of his books I’ll read. I enjoyed Sapiens, and this one started off quite well, when he was talking about the change of consciousness between our hunter-gatherer ancestors and ourselves, but then he got into the modern world, and he said some things that seriously rubbed me the wrong way.
First of all, his use of the word ‘liberal’ to define all human thought post 1789, more or less. He actually wrote “There are three types of liberals. Classic liberals, communist liberals, and Nazi liberals.’ I get that, as a philosopher, he was defining the word liberal differently from anybody living in the real world and interested in politics, and you must admit that in the field of politics it doesn’t mean shit any more, with war mongers like Hillary Clinton and corrupt oligarchs like Nancy Pelosi calling themselves liberals, but it was a step too far for me. Words have meanings, and if we can’t agree on them, we should use other words.
He also used ‘liberalism’ as a synonym for ‘humanism.’ Maybe he should have just said humanism from the start and saved his readers a whole lot of confusion.
Then there was a bit, a bit further on in the book, when he said that human beings don’t have free will, because although we can do and say what we want, we can’t choose what we want, we can’t want what we want, we can’t choose to want what we want, or something like that, because the decision is made by hormones, or signals between the neurons in our brains, and that’s not really ‘us.’ But, it is. What does it matter if our awareness of the choice is a millisecond behind the choice itself, which was made within the complex computer we call our brain? Who does he think is responsible for that? Only if you believe that there is some outside agency making the choices and jerking us around like puppets on a string does that make any sense at all. And I don’t believe that, although Yuval Harari might.
Then, there was one other word he made up which I found linguistically weird and kind of stupid. The word was W.E.I.R.D., which stands for Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, Democratic and he used it very much in the same way NTERFs (non trans-exclusionary radical feminists, to coin a term of my own) use ‘cishet white males.’ I fall into both groups, I suppose, but I am about as far from the levers of power as a person can be. If anybody feels powerless compared to me, they are grasping at straws, and the wrong straws at that.
The last couple of chapters redeemed him a bit, as he talked about how the flood of data which is just beginning now, and which will rise and rise and rise, might lead to AI rendering humanity obsolete. While I must admit that’s a real possibility, it’s already been hashed over in about a million science fiction movies and TV episodes. Not terribly original.
I wouldn’t mind hearing other people’s opinions on this, it’s all a good starting point for discussion, but overall I’d give it two out of five stars, maximum.

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C’mon, C’mon (no, don’t)

The cinema experience is over-rated. Sure, it is a grand and celebrated tradition, gathering in a darkened room, hundreds of silent strangers, to watch a bit of magic unfold on the silver screen and eat overpriced popcorn. It has been a part of our lives since the 1920s which, for almost all of us, means all of our lives. Many a first date has happened in the cinema, and many of those led to permanent relationships, families and children. But, it’s a relic of the past.
Now that we can watch any number of films we like, in the comfort of our living rooms, with snacks of our own choosing, there is really no point in paying a ridiculous price just for an evening out. There are other things out there which we can spend our money on when we want an evening out, and all of them more inter-active.
Still, my wife suggested yesterday that we go out to the cinema. The piece she suggested was a black and white thing (a red flag for me – it’s not likely to be an action adventure or a gut busting comedy) starring Joaquin Phoenix (also not a big draw for me – he’s all right, he’s been in some good films and some bad films) but I checked Rotten Tomatoes and the film (C’mon, C’mon) got a 95% rating.
Critics are stupid. I mean, I pay attention to them, that was enough that I agreed to the outing. But, damn, 95% of them thought this was a good, even a great film?
I was bored after 10 minutes and suffered through the rest. A neurotic kid, sort of ADHD/Aspergersish, a sad uncle with no life, a father who was certifiably insane, and a mother in the middle, all get in touch with their feelings and cry and hug a lot and tell each other it’s going to be O.K. Not a one of them had a real world problem, i.e. one that wasn’t inside their own head. Nobody got shot, kidnapped, evicted, or discriminated against through the whole film.
It was apparently filmed in black and white just to add to the boredom. Really, I don’t recommend seeing this film even after it finds its way to a streaming platform, it sucked so bad.
What is wrong with the critics? Are we even watching the same films?

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A Little Lie

The makers of Yesterday, a quirky little (no big name actors, probably not much of a budget) are being sued by a couple of viewers because they included an actress in the trailers who did not actually appear in the film (I found out in the comments that she actually was in the Netflix version, which I saw, but I still didn’t know who she was)
My initial reaction was “This is a silly lawsuit. They shouldn’t get so wound up. It’s only a movie.” but the more I thought about it, the more I began to appreciate the plaintiffs’ point.
If they had said “This is the greatest film ever!” and, after watching, people had realized that no, it’s not, it’s not even in the top hundred, maybe even the top thousand, there still wouldn’t have been a case because ‘best’ is subjective, and a wee bit of hyperbole is protected under free speech and pretty much taken for granted in advertising. (btw, I liked the film, and would recommend it to anybody) On the other hand, if they had said “Starring Matt Damon and Patrick Stewart” or if they had said “sexy lesbian scenes with Gal Godot and Jennifer Lawrence,” of course they would have been sued, and rightly so.
You could say it’s the size of the lie that is the difference, but then you wind up in a never ending legal quagmire and the courts shouldn’t be wasting time deciding who is a great actor and what the public wants to see. The point has to be the lie.
A demonstrably provable non-fact. This should not be allowed, or accepted. Not in movies. Not in consumer goods. Not in politics.

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Looking for Answers to the Wrong Question

The Ghislaine Maxwell trial is over, and the chance that we will ever find out more than we already know about the Maxwell-Epstein honeypot is fading by the day.
I see, regularly, calls for investigation into their clients, and I, too, would like to see a full list of names, but that would not be enough. That is not even the point. The big question is not who, but why.
We know the list includes some major and powerful figures. Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and Prince Andrew are names which come up repeatedly but there were many,many more…billionaires, board members, publishers, politicians, movie stars and royalty.
They were transported to a paradise island by private jet where they could have sex with underage women, and the only word in that sentence which makes the whole thing illegal is underage. Why was that even a part of it? If their goal was to ingratiate themselves with the rich and powerful, or to make money, or just to give their friends a rollicking good time, they could have employed women over the age of 18. Neither Bill, nor Don, nor Andy ever had any objection to having sex with women over 18.
So, it seems obvious that using women who were underage had a purpose. I would like to point out at this point, although feminists and other woke types will hate me for it (if any of them even read this blog) that the women in question were 16 or 17, and probably knew they were engaging in prostitution. They were not 12 and 13 year olds. They were not kidnapped and thrown into the back of a van with a black bag over their heads. They were just young enough for the operation to be criminal.
I submit that that was deliberate. You couldn’t blackmail Donald Trump just by saying he’d had sex with a prostitute. Nor Prince Andrew, nor many of the others. Not even a surprising thing. But add in the underage factor and once those people had been to the island, Maxwell and Epstein had them by the balls. They would vote as they were told, they would exert influence as they were told.
Exactly what Maxwell and Epstein’s agenda was is one of those great mysteries which is still under wraps because nobody’s even asking questions about it.
Perhaps it was just to make them ever increasingly wealthy and powerful. Wealthy and powerful people do that a lot. Also, Ghislaine Maxwell (daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell), is extremely pro-Israel. We will never know for sure. It’s fairly certain, though, that she wasn’t doing it for women’s rights.

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Slaves to the Algorithm

We are slaves to the algorithm but we really can’t complain. We get what we want, we get what we ask for. I’ve watched quite a few rock and roll biopics and documentaries recently, so I get offered more of them. About a week or so ago, casting around for anything to watch that wasn’t some fucking cop show, at least, I watched The Cruel Sea, an old black and white Ealing Studios war movie from 1953, real hokey stuff but that’s the kind of WWII film I like, all filled with average guys sweating, and swearing, and smoking cigarettes while they save the world from fascism, except this was made in 1953, so the tough British sailors never swore and had a Disney-esque way of talking about women.
Anyway, after that I was getting bombarded with British war movies of that era, and I’ve watched a couple. Anyway, today the algorithms crossed paths and I was offered a British rock documentary named Pop Gear from 1965, which is way closer to the 1950s than the present, in some ways that it was kind of depressing to see.
They opened with a scene of the Beatles. Cool, so far. Then, I saw who was narrating the show. Jimmy Savile. Now, at the time this show was produced, his incredibly prolific pedophilia was not publicly known. However, it was happening, and so it’s kind of in the back of your head when you see him. The first song he introduced was a little number by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas called “Little Children.” An innocent little song, really, about a guy trying to have a bit of sexy time with his girlfriend but her little brothers and sisters are in the room, but after that introduction, and some of the opening lyrics (you must keep this secret, I’ll give you some candy), the creep factor was off the charts.
They showed lots of other bands that were popular in ’64/’65, most of whom I did not remember, a couple I did, and I wouldn’t say they were all lame musically, there were a couple of tunes in there which I still like today, but all the bands were guys with short hair, wearing suit jackets and ties, and looking grim as fuck. Zero energy. Barely a pulse. It was like they’d been told “You’re job is to stand on stage and play your instrument. Don’t do any funny stuff.”
It’s no surprise that the Beatles were such an instant hit. In that era, they must have stood out not just for their music, but for the fact that they actually seemed to enjoy what they were doing.

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