Author: Jonathan Sanderson

Pretty much all stories are about the human condition; they explore the decisions people make, the forces and ideas which drive them, and the impact of those actions on those who follow and fall before them. Epic stories tend towards epic settings, which is why Game of Thrones is set in a quasi-mediaeval land of knights and horses and archers and castles.

Fast-forward 1500 years, and the equivalent setting for future dramatists will be the corporate battlegrounds of the early digital age. There’s no doubt that the story of Apple, for example, is epic in structure: the rise, fall and rise again (following the return of the founding King) is straight out of the Greek playbook.

Not that I expect the stories to be as simplistic and literal as ‘Jobs vs. Gates’. I merely note that we live in epic times.

We saw the hand of destiny, the reassertion of martial and political primacy, in Apple’s newfound confidence at WWDC this week. Pressured by the traditional ruler to the North, harried by the reivers of Wall Street, the supposedly-cowed company growled and bayed its defiance.

Can’t innovate any more, my ass.
Phil Schiller

The sabre-rattling and troop-rousing was framed, however, within bookends of statements of pious faith, a re-expression and return to the qualities enshrined in the Kingdom’s founding:

Designed by Apple in California

We live in epic times.

Re: Google Glass, PRISM, and all that — I forget when I first said it, maybe a decade ago, but:

In the future, we will all have our fifteen minutes of privacy.

It’s an obvious corruption, but that hasn’t stopped us walking straight into the trap. For all of Google’s assertions that they won’t allow facial recognition for Glass, isn’t that exactly what we’ve all wanted ever since somebody first came up with the idea of earrings that whisper the name of the person who’s just started talking to you?

…and of course, your personal electronics will run the search by querying the cloud, and once you’ve uploaded your social connections to make that work you’ve abrogated privacy.

We’ve been preparing for this for more than twenty years. We’ve known about Echelon for almost as long. And more than a billion of us pour our lives into Facebook anyway. We want this future personally and individually, and the collective risk is someone else’ problem.

What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beam. I don’t know, apathetic bloody planet, I’ve no sympathy at all.

If I were to write a science fiction novel right now, I’d probably set it against the background of a US-like state which had gone through the right-wing equivalent of China’s Cultural Revolution. It’d be like the McCarthy era, only with actual evidence.

I may not think that’s going to happen, but I’ll make a spread bet and rejoin ORG anyway. In the meantime I find it hard to get in a lather about PRISM precisely because I’d pretty much assumed any halfway competent intelligence agency would be trying to pull that off anyway.

The failure is ours for electing policy-makers who make the same mistakes with countries as we do as individuals. And I’m not sure how we get around that, short of evolving as a species. Fast.

Screw television. I mean, really: why do we need self-appointed ‘opinion leaders’ deciding what we the proletariat should see when we can cater to every last niche via our own labours?
Take, for example, the corner of YouTube I’m going to label “Amateur
choral arrangements of Bear McCreary’s version of Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower.”

Example #1, Sac State Jazz singers:

Awesome. Example #2, Fife High School Jazz Choir:

Shame the audio recording is ropey, it’s a spectacular rendition.

Example #3, Vocal Velocity AKA Folsom High School Jazz Choir:

A bit heavy on the beatboxing and emoting for me, but there is room in this brave new world for all perspectives.

If you wonder what all this is referencing… well, you’d pretty much have to watch three seasons of Battlestar Galactica to experience the complete hairs-on-back-of-neck nature of its use at the end of season 3. Then you’d have to watch season 4 to find out how the song isn’t just in the frakkin’ ship, it’s woven through the whole damn series.

But for a taste, here’s actor Katee Sackhoff trying to remember how to play it with McCreary. That she almost can’t is pretty much what the story was about:

Great post by Genevieve Valentine over at io9, on the Jonny Lee Miller/Lucy Liu Sherlock Holmes update ‘Elementary’ for CBS. It’s very different to the BBC’s Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman update, and it would be wrong to regard it as a cheap knock-off. While I still don’t warm to Liu, Miller is outstanding and the show’s scripts, while patchy, had moments of brilliance. Long moments. Even entire shows.

I particularly liked the late-series episodes which were allowed to find their own languid pace. This isn’t an action-procedural show where everything has to happen quickly to squeeze in the next plot reversal before the ad break: it’s (mostly) more thoughtful.

Also check io9’s previous piece lamenting recent portrayals of Irene Adler. It predates Elementary’s unorthodox take on the character, but is worth a read for those of us who liked, you know, the book version.

Where Tumblr Came From – Anil Dash

many of us who were familiar with blogs already saw tumblelogs as “just a simple blogging template”, similar to what we were already doing on Movable Type or WordPress at the time, rather than a fundamentally different medium.

Despite that myopia, there was a lot of momentum around simplified, media-rich blogging at that moment in history.

Just read the whole thing. Blogging: it’s not as simple as it seems, and history is littered with the corpses not just of dead blogs, but of dead blogging systems.

(– via everyone)

High time I noted here: I’m also blogging (again) in a few other places, notably:

  • StoryCog, mostly work/video/scicomms/public engagement stuff, and

  • ScienceDemo.org, a revival of an old failed wiki site by a small group (yet to be fully revealed, and maaaaaybe taking applications) who really care about demonstrating science: the demos themselves, and the issues around them.

Meanwhile, I’ve cobbled together a hub of sorts at jjsanderson.com.

Terrifc article reproduced from Revolver circa 2000, interviewing The Police:

Copeland: You are absolutely correct. I remember when we did our first album, I only wrote these punk songs so we’d have something to play, then I realised, ‘Ah… lyrics…’

Summers: Stewart and I were jumping on the bandwagon. Totally insincere! But I wrote all of ‘Omegaman’. Can we talk about ‘Behind My Camel’ some more?

Revolver: Oh shut up. One World is the most ‘old-school’ Police song on the album.

Copeland: And it was my favourite song at the time because it did have that early Police vibe, where we jammed on one chord for hours.

Summers: Unfortunately, I never did find out what that one chord was.

Hilarious, fiery, oddly moving — the interview both traces and mirrors the arc of the band’s career. Also:

Sting: No, no, I’m a simple man. A simple man in my huge Tuscan villa, so piss off.

See also the thread at MeFi trying to work out whether it’s an April Fool or not. Consensus: it’s good enough that everyone’s going to claim it’s real anyway.