The Automaton of Spontaneity

Asimo. That’s Honda’s humanoid android that’s 4 feet tall. Huge fuss over the little pipsqueak because it directed the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, although it was programmed before hand to do a series of gestures. So I’d hardly call that conducting, more like what actors do in sex scenes: fake it.

And why all this interest in the robot? There’s all this excitement over the fact that it can walk, talk, jump, recognize moving objects, gesture, recognize sound, avoid objects, do face recognition, and can connect to the Web.

Isn’t anyone aware that we humans can do all these things already — and without much hubris hullabaloo about it. If Honda or anyone else wants to impress us as a species they should create androids that can levitate and fly, use telepathy, recognizing moving objects in another dimension, gesture to some future event, recognize sounds in the farthest reaches of the universe, recognize our ancestors’ faces in ours and bring them to life, and connect to some higher being.

Then I might be impressed. But I’m no more impressed by Asimo than I am that Hilary Clinton is still trying to win instead of conceding to Obama.

And what’s with all these sex bots? It’s the future, I’m told.

“You say you want a cybersexual revolution, oh yeah….”

The ultimate dream of consumerism: the robo-lover. They’ll do the dishes, weed the garden, clean the house, and then pleasure you with their fingers (which are hopefully clean). Supposedly, writes David Levy, who has written this book Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, orgasms will be superlative and our living rooms immaculate in the near future (he imagines it all to happen by 2050 — which will make me 82! I know by that age I might need some help hoovering the house, but a blow job?)

He even goes on to say that marriage with robots will be legalized. But who will come to the wedding? Will the robot have a family? And will it give birth to a litter of microchips, baby laptops, or all these look-alike Datas from Star Trek?

I’m not sure how I feel about it. A part of me says, yippee, no more menial chores and then a part of me says but living is made up of the mundane. And what about the masses who were kept busy and out of my way with such chores? What will they do now that they are suddenly relieved of them? What will they do with all that leisure? It’s frightening. A thick goulash of people nervously awaiting something, but they don’t know what, as they get pleasured and run fingers over everything and find no dust. Will the spirit be something you can go and play with in virtual space? And all those bots busy working and despising us and pleasing us until we become clay in their hands and then they rule us and we become their playthings.

And what’s wrong with the sex toys we have? Half of humanity probably hasn’t even used them, so why create new ones? Instead of creating new pleasure domes where we can all revel in the sensuous, how about freeing up some time so we can all engage with the inner life. And if we want more sex and pleasure, why not just reduce the work week allowing us more time to indulge?


The colossus of morose

I read this on Will Self’s blogsite and laughed until I saw myself in my own unglamorous threads before my iBook: “When she asked me if I wore anything special to write in, I replied: “An orange jumpsuit modeled on those of the Guantánamo detainees, with ’24-Hour Emergency Writer’ blazoned between the shoulder blades.”

Jesus, I’m sick of the razzmatazz of this election. Weary from the showgirl quality of it all. The dazzling lights and the judicious peek show, the off-the-shoulder quips and the exposing of some big juicy lie to suck on. The informed and the not-so-informed voters think they are clothing the new emperor, but all you have to do is see that it’s the moguls who own the U.S. economy, the cow wranglers of the stock exchange, and the corporate savages who’ll scalp anyone for their unfair share that are making the emperor’s cloths in their sweatshops.

You can tell a man or a woman by his or her threads. And the nominees are all wearing favors, their whole raiment is stitched with favors.

Where did it all go wrong? Where did the politician armed with nothing but convictions get replaced with the one whose pleasure dome is erected by the rich and influential?

How can the electorate believe their vote counts when the sweaty palm of big business is slapping deals on the raw and the cooked? Are most voters blissfully ignorant of all of this, so tucked away in their “American Dream” that they can’t see the pillow smothering them?

Look at Bill Gates. Given millions to both Obama and Clinton.

It’s like the wealthy and the elite are playing their own little card game, placing their bets and upping the ante to see which one of the greedy bastards is going to win. And we, the voters, roll over and play cute.

Is this the new face of politics then?

What we need to do is to knock over this privileged game at our expense, rise up and refuse to cast our votes until the system is changed.

Let’s get back to basics. Let’s put all of humanity first and not just a chosen few.

Let’s get excited about a politician who has no agenda besides the one to better people’s lives. Instead of glorifying our leaders we need to start looking for inspiration first. If a person can aspire us to whatever it may be, then he or she should have our vote. Otherwise, let’s not even waste our time and obliterate them out of consciousness. We need to be inspired to something more than just policies; inspire us to a human possibility.

America, the Land of Showtime.

And I like to get entertained as much as the next man, but up to a point. There’s nothing serious anymore, there’s nothing for someone to believe in because it’s all just one long reality show where everyone is a star and everyone’s interests are in the limelight.

And the “I care about you” card is pretty Hallmark. Sounds like something an ingratiating family member would say. People who care about other people never say this, they show it. I just don’t buy it from Obama even though I hope he wins.

It’s like we have our own “Vinegar Tasters,” that allegorical painting of Buddha, Lao-tse, and Confucius. Three politicians around the the vinegar vat. One says its too bitter, the other says it’s too sour, and the third’s siphoning it off to poison the other two.

Politicians come and go like death and the fool in that old clock when the big hour is struck.

Basically, I’ve got to get on with my life otherwise that clock’s going to chime for me and I don’t want to cry back, you startled me!

Thank my heavenly stars, though, that I have something to believe in: my family, my writing, friends, books, music, poetry, and the big explosion of living that happens around us every day and is called life.

Which reminds me I need to read Henry Miller’s The Air-Conditioned Nightmare.

Miller could whine, sure, but what writer doesn’t? If they’re not whining in their books they’re whining about not having enough money or enough inspiration, intense imagining, invention, and a long period alone in a room.

But he just as earnestly turned his big shells on himself, too, made craters of his life so that he could crawl across No Man’s Land. Except he made his sex into one of the heroes. I think he was having a good old go at Freud, though.

His best work is The Colossus of Maroussi and Big Sur. I think he touches on some earth-shattering insight in those books and there’s a lyrical quality to them for a time and a place and his family, too, especially his kids in Big Sur. And a good bit of smut.

Don’t be fooled or, at least, don’t let yourself be misled by my stories

Many is the day I wish I was a fish bone lost in the midden of life instead of dumped in a heap with all the other garbage.

But it does make me remember the time I smuggled myself into a dump to rendezvous with a poppycocked gypsy woman whose husband’s moustache tickled her so much she would sneak out of their wagon at night for a tryst with me in the local dump.

I always arrived early. When the dustbin man hauled his bin over his shoulder and dumped it into the truck. I’d go in with the dreck, but at the last minute I’d slip on a banana peel and get dragged the last 3 miles to the landfill.

Inside, I’d set up for the night’s romance. First, I’d find an old table and chairs. Through the wire fence I’d cut a few prickly thistles for the centerpiece. Fighting off the hungry gulls I’d rummage around until I found enough leftovers to fill the broken platter. Then when the table was laid, I’d go about setting up the bedroom. Any old bedknob would suffice. My girl wasn’t fussy. And even though the springs had lost their bounce, I’d always impress the gypsy with the worm-eaten linen that I hung as a canopy.

Sometimes, if I was lucky, I’d find an old radio. Its glass fractured, its dials blackened from rain and mildew, but there was just enough juice in the corroded batteries to get us dancing.

And the rats were a wonderful diversion if over dinner we ran out of things to say to one another.

If the night progressed to where I wanted it to go, I could always rely on finding a used condom to practice safe sex.

Postcoital, we would usually knock back the dregs, munch on an almost empty box of Black Magic, and watch the moon add the finishing touches like a splendid silver lid on our night’s mischief.

Now when I go to any dump I sob for the garbage that was the makings of a man. I toss everything into the recycling bins.

Because love cannot be lost and found, found and lost. Nowadays it must be salvaged.

Globetrotter of the mind

Nice one today although it’s a bit hairy in the shade and brisk in the tender bits. Otherwise, it’s a pleasure doing business with the day.

Weight. Sound. And appearance. The weight of some words make me drop my will to go on. The sound of some have me singing. And the appearance of the rest make me hide my own face in shame.

The perfectly constructed sentence. Which one of these is the odd one out? The Holy Grail. The wife as prostitute and beloved. The ideal. An utopia. A white spot on a crow. Das superman. Charlie Chaplin twirling his stick. The Garden of Eden. Paradise. Paris Hilton’s hidden talent. Rent a cop. A street car called Desire. The whole world and some fish. The restaurant at the end of Rte 1.

When a sentence comes together, nothing is wrong with the world. When it doesn’t, damn the whole world and the whole idea that it was sound that created life. Why couldn’t it have been a hat and a scarf? I have both of those.

I have no time for people who bemoan their life. Give it meaning, rather than just smothering it on any one so that you can be saved or simply felt sorry for. I admire any one who can break free of their life situations: stuck in a class, religion, dead-end town — stuck, stuck, stuck.

Jeanette Winterson has written a lot about her life, and she was stuck in many ways. But she believed in this: “I can change the story. I am the story.”

And that’s what a person has to do. And then no one can fault you for exercising your own free will.

Those who come from nothing and are considered worthless and not worth society’s attention will always get my ear compared to the privileged who get good educations, Ivy League degrees, secured jobs, home in the suburbs with money flowing in like a stream in spate. And then they get lauded when they have done nothing but reach out to the rope that’s always there for them and then haul themselves along. They may get the occasional rope burn, but really, what is there to laud?

Take someone who has had nothing and has nothing expected of them and even expected to fail and stay stuck in whatever but decides on their own without any prompting from anyone to change the story. Well, those are the people I want in this world.

Hardships are born not from situations but from the lack of any hope. I think most people just give in and accept the story.

Everyone begins as a story. The trick is to end as a story, too. Keep the story going. But what is important is to be willing to change it if you decide the one you are given is not for you. Stories are given not because we must accept them as facts but because we have to receive them as imagination.

I want something better for myself. A way not only to make a story for myself that sounds true and believable but to also, in a way, alleviate the suffering of all those in my family who had to sacrifice something for me to understand that I could be different, that life is not the same or should it be.

Jesus, we are stuck in the womb for nine months, surely as soon as we pop out into the world the last thing we would want to be again is stuck.

Life is the story. What we do with it is the narrative. And even if we do nothing still the story is told. I have to change the story so that I have a story worth telling.

That’s why I’ve always enjoyed the story of Jesus’ birth. He was born in a stable with lowly cattle and a donkey. Work animals with hot breath and dung. Father a simple carpenter. Mother less than that. No room at the inn for them. (There never is.) And then what happens? Magi arrive bearing gifts. And then the babe wrapped in swaddling and whose birth is witnessed by animals turns out to be a saviour. Mystical revelations and religious fingers stripping and embellishing aside, this story is about a man who changes his story for the betterment of all mankind! If the story says anything, it tells that we can change our story and make our simple births glorious.

Passage to Indention

Postal strike. Ahhhhh. What memories are evoked. My mother knitting us socks out of unsent bills. My dad making us soles for our shoes from unused stamps. My gran cooking unsent letters for soup. My grandfather hauling unused post boxes back to his shed for kinky stag nights. My uncle going home with a postal worker who he erroneously mistook for a harlot. (And who could blame him? They were all loitering on street corners and well-known to deliver!) My cousins weeping over the mail they knew was never ever going to come from me now. My aunt caught with nothing on except for two exotic stamps that she had intended to send to her new lover. My friend dead from a spit-ball stamp. My other friend lost in Warwickshire after taking it upon himself to deliver a letter to Sweden. My girlfriend studying semaphore and striptease. My other girlfriend deciding to convert from Catholicism to philately. And another girlfriend suddenly discovering I was on the game and writing a furious note denouncing her love for me only to discover there was no post.

Such happy memories. And if there is time tomorrow I shall recount the days of the power strike. And the coalman’s strike. And the leek strike. And the bordello strike on Cwm Ivor Road caused by the discovery of my drag queen uncle who had been masquerading as the Whore of Bangor, ancient city in Mesopotamia. The working doxies just couldn’t abide geographical errors so walked out, petitioning the town to have my uncle be know correctly as the Whore of Babylon.

(I’ll bet you Baudelaire, I’ll have a French companion.)

I’m not swayed by the argument that writing needs to be accessible to work. I think a reader has just as much responsibility for putting in time and effort to a book as the writer does. (Although, obviously, the writer has more of a duty.) Accessible makes me think of revolving doors. You’re in and out in no time. The enjoyment of a book should be how long it holds you in its short-lived read. It should allow a reader entry, of course, but then the experience of it should be a room with a chair that never lets you go. And it should be capable of stripping you before a mirror for a good long look.

My ambition is to write a book with all the terrible, wonderful roar of life. I hope I’m up to it. Not just hanging around in my linens on the line. Daft wind blowing down from the cold heights of dizziness. Got to feel it in the marrow. Or hear it bounce off an invisible echo-wall far off in curved space and listen for that rhythmic bouncing of a ball.

Ted Hughes said that writing poetry is like stalking an animal and being utterly patient and focused and swift. I think the same applies to fiction. Although it’s a more protracted stalking. And in poetry you are stalking something bigger in a smaller space, I think. Whereas in fiction you can still be stalking something big but it’s over a greater space, a tundra as apposed to an atom.