Category Archives: technology

Hipsters, the fake left, and misguided youth

It’s never been easy to make sense of the world, but in 2016, the Powers-That-Be (PTB) have turned reality upside down and inside out so that forming a coherent picture of our situation  has become a herculean task. It’s a particularly arduous chore for those under the age of 35, as they are the most susceptible to brainwashing, propaganda, peer pressure, social engineering, and the various effects of the media to which they are constantly exposed. It’s not easy being a youth in today’s world.

For those in their 20s who want to fit in, be cool, and make lots of friends, they must of necessity ‘toe the line’ when it comes to their beliefs and attitudes. Youth today are under more pressure than ever to engage in groupthink in large part due to the effects of social media such as facebook.

Social media is a good place to begin. Even though 80-year-old grandmothers have facebook accounts, it’s the youth who spend the most time online networking on social media. You are simply not allowed to disengage from this MATRIX as doing so would cost you most of your friends and brand you as an ‘eccentric’ at best and ‘fucking weirdo’ at worst. And the higher up you are in the social hierarchy (think hipsters and djs), the more time you must devote to your online presence.

The slavish devotion to social media is a corollary of our unquestioning acceptance and  devotion to technology in general. Anything that is branded, marketed and sold as ‘new’, ‘improved’ or  ‘modern’, especially in the arena of technology, will be gobbled up by the masses in copious quantities. Again, the youth, with their desire to be on the cutting age and be with the hip crowd, will be easy game for the corporations selling their addictive techno toys.

Facebook and Instagram have transformed the notion of narcissism from a negative quality to a positive one. In the past, to be labeled a narcissist was a put-down. It was an insult. To be a narcissist signified that you were only concerned with yourself, that you had little to no concern for your family, your community, or your country.  But the unholy combination of Facebook and the camera phone has birthed the phenomenon known as the ‘selfie’ which has brought narcissism and narcissistic behavior to hitherto unknown levels. We see girls, particularly those from the 13-29 age group, walking around all day taking selfies, for no reason at all. They do it just….to do it. Taking selfies has now become an almost unconscious, reflexive behavior. ‘My friends are doing it, so I guess I need to do it too’. Middle-aged and elderly people engage in this abominable behavior as well, sending a clear message to the youth that ‘it’s ok and acceptable.’

The LGBT agenda, marketed most aggressively by those on the fake left, has snared today’s youth brilliantly. I used to support gay rights, gay marriage, the rainbow flag and the rest of that garbage until I wised up, so I know firsthand how easily one can be duped. When I first came upon information about the  ‘agenda’ behind the gay rights movement, I dismissed it outright. I thought the idea of an agenda or hidden hand was just a made-up story from a bunch of disgruntled Christians and ultra-conservatives. But, by and by, I noticed how the gay rights issue was getting an inordinate amount of media coverage; I noticed that politicians, including Barack Obama  were spending a lot of time giving their opinions on it (mostly in supporting it) ; I noticed that entertainers, especially young pop stars, were singing about their homosexual desires and experiences ; I noticed Hollywood coming out with movies about gay lovers. Gradually, I began to see that the idea of an agenda wasn’t so farfetched after all. Sadly, most 20-somethings haven’t grasped this yet. They march proudly in gay pride parades, waving their rainbow flags and cheering, completely oblivious to the fact that they are being played like a fiddle by a hidden hand that has an agenda to destroy the family and religion.

I have here in front of me the most recent copy of slick magazine marketed to rich, urban, English-speaking expats and tourists in Southeast Asia. The picture on the cover is a young transgender. When I  open to the article, I read his ‘heartwarming’ story and his struggle for acceptance in a traditional, family-based society. See how this goes? This type of story in the mass media is not an uncommon occurrence. Moreover, nightclubs here often have benefit shows dedicated to ‘LGBT’ rights. We’re all supposed to come and cheer our queer brothers and sisters.

I could write much more about this topic. I could talk about how the youth have been told to love modern ‘art,’ which is a complete creation of the CIA, how they’ve been manipulated into supporting multi-culturalism, how they’ve been cleverly suckered into supporting a corporate tool like Obama,  and how they’ve been dumbed down to such an extent that being intelligent is not cool and being ignorant and stupid is seen as hip. Even the corporatocracy  itself is no longer questioned, let along rebelled against. Wearing t-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with corporate logos is acceptable and trendy.

What can we do? As a teacher, I try my best to decondition my students from the programming as best as I can. I try to put books in their hands. I talk to them. For those of us who are 50 and over, the best we can do is model sane behavior. Youth today increasingly have no one to look to see how to act in a proper manner in a sane society. If you are 50-year-old father of four, and you are taking selfies and checking your smartphone while you are sitting at a restaurant with your family, you are failing. It’s time to look in the mirror.

 

 

 

 

The decline and fall of conversation:The smartphone’s effect on our ability to meet, greet, and speak

People are quickly losing the ability to talk to one another. A residual  capacity still exists, but it is evaporating so fast that I may witness its extinction in my lifetime. The roots of this problem can be traced back as far as the invention of the telegraph more than 180 years ago but the advent of the smartphone has now vastly accelerated the decline of face to face speaking skills. Oratory, rhetoric, public speaking, and clarity of speech have likewise suffered greatly.

When I was growing up in the time before cellphones, I recall the numerous opportunities I had to meet and converse with strangers. Luckily, my parents never discouraged me from interacting with strangers unlike today’s parents who are told by well-meaning but misguided ‘authorities’ that they should inform their kids to ‘never talk to strangers.’

Indeed, the chances to meet new people, chat, make small talk, and possibly make a new friend or acquaintance  were endless. However, all of those situations where formerly we were encouraged or at least allowed to chat up a stranger are now gone, thanks to the smartphone.

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If you found yourself in an elevator with someone and you were both riding up to a high floor, you may not have had a lot of time, but perhaps it was just enough to offer a “It’s going to be a hot day, that’s for sure,” to the person standing next to you. And that may have led to a reply of “Oh, you got that right. And my air conditioner broke last night and I was miserable because my room was so hot.”  And then you could commiserate with this person. The next time you ran into him you might continue the conversation by asking about the air conditioner. See? It was so simple. Now, I notice that everyone, once they have boarded the elevator, immediately takes out their phone to text to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of standing next to a stranger for a few seconds.

The introduction of televisions into airplanes guaranteed that people would no longer speak to one another on long plane rides though they were a few hold-outs who stubbornly insisted on having conversations with the person sitting next to them. Nowadays, with everyone carrying a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, even those hold-outs have disappeared. Most people don’t even wait for take-off to get plugged into their cyber-world. They cast nary a glance at the person who they will be sitting mere inches from for the next 10 hours. You, the person sitting next to this new species of cyborg, are irrelevant; actually, you don’t even exist.

Buses, too, have now installed televisions and wi-fi, and predictably people now no longer talk there either. I recall riding the Greyhound Bus on long trips up and down the West Coast and making some wonderful friends in the pre-television and pre wi-fi days.

Coffeeshops, bars, and restaurants used to be places where one could meet a stranger and start up a conversation, especially if one of you was reading a book. A glance at the front cover of a book was always an easy introduction into a chat. “That book looks interesting. I’ve heard of that author but have never read anything by her. Is it good?” Your interest in the book, and literature in general, was usually sufficient to show that you were not a creep and could hold a reasonably decent intellectual conversation. These days, nobody brings books into cafes or restaurants. It’s all about the smartphone now and no one is going  to ask you what you are looking at on your phone. Furthermore, when people read books, although they were concentrating, they were still present in the here-and-now world. Not so with the smartphone. The iphone and its ilk draw people deep into a cyberworld, an alternate reality. People lose all awareness of the real world. They don’t know who is sitting in front of, next to, or behind them, and don’t care.

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Because of the addictive nature of the smartphone, people, especially the young, have an extremely difficult time putting it down for even a few minutes. Hence, even if you are able to punch through their psychic wall and begin a conversation, it will inevitably peter out in a short time. The phone being held tightly in the palm of the hand begs to be used. It is insistent. If the conversation lulls for any reason, the one holding the smartphone will start texting or browsing the web and the talk is done. Finished.

Look at people today waiting at a bus stop for the bus to arrive. Look at the poor, lonely souls waiting in the queue at the supermarket or at the bank. Are they talking? No. They are checking their facebook or instagram. Look at the friends and families sitting in cars at traffic lights. Talking to each other? No- all looking at their phones. I used to work at an office where everyone would take their lunch tray back to their desk to  eat while watching youtube. Nobody was interested in sitting at a table and eating with friends and engaging in that age-old ritual called ‘conversation.’

 

 

Dissecting more techno cheerleaders in the media. Case study: the iPad in classrooms

For writers, bloggers  and so-called journalists working in the media today, playing to the prejudices of their readers is part of their job. This is especially true for journalists and columnists who write about technology. When your readership consists of people who own a smartphone (or two), a tablet, and a laptop, reminding them that they are ‘cool,’  and ‘cutting edge’ will earn you a loyal following.

Let’s examine a recent article from the same glossy magazine which we looked at in my previous article. The author is a grade 2 homeroom teacher at a well-known international school in Ho Chi Minh City. The article is only six paragraphs long. The editors could have made it longer but chose to use one third of the page to post a color photo of a seven-year-old girl with a huge smile on her face holding an Ipad. We haven’t even gotten to the first sentence and already we know what direction the article is going to take. The upper right hand corner of the page has a professional photo of the author, an attractive woman in her 20s with perfect teeth who is smiling broadly. We, the readers, have been set up nicely to drink the  kool-aid which is being served.

The title of the article is “Techie Students- How tablets have enhanced learning.” The author wastes no time establishing her thesis which she posits clearly in the first sentence, stating…”using iPads in the classroom has been ideal for promoting new ways of learning.” Hmm,’promoting new ways of learning.’ That’s a big statement. She claims that the iPad is not just a tool which can be used in addition to books, but that it helps us learn in new ways.  If she means that all the lessons can now be given on the computer with bright flashing graphics, cartoon characters, and games, than I guess that qualifies.

The following sentence reads like an advertisement from Apple: “The iPad is a perfect digital tool for our young learners because it’s small, portable, visual, and hands-on..” Hey, this woman could be a sales rep. The author goes on to say that she avoids using it as a form of entertainment but rather as a way to empower her students to channel their interests and for ‘discovery, creation and collaborative learning.’ That’s wonderful, but can’t all of those things be done just as well without iPads or computers? Can’t you ‘discover’ things in books? Do you need a computer to create something beautiful and meaningful? All you need to create is a pencil and piece of paper. Or a canvas and paintbrushes. Or an instrument.

It gets worse. The author claims that ‘the tablets are excellent for developing research skills.’ No, they aren’t. Tablets do not develop research skills. I also work with ‘young learners’ and I can tell you that their research skills are generally very deficient, in spite of the fact that they spend hours per day on computers. Punching in a search term on google does not qualify as ‘research skills.’ Here’s how most students today do ‘research’ : They enter a term on google. They quickly choose either the first or second entry that appears on the screen, rarely even scrolling to the bottom of the page and practically never going beyond page one of search results. They don’t know how to distinguish between different sources and none of them understand that wikipedia is  fallible and biased.

Checking their Facebook in lecture hall:

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I’m only on the third paragraph but the writer’s insipid line of reasoning and her ‘rah-rah’ cheerleading for the the techno-school has left me somewhere between complete boredom and frustration. Check out this line: “Less cumbersome and more effective than dictionaries, we often use google translate or google images when coming across unknown words or concepts.” Is she kidding? A dictionary is ‘cumbersome?’ Actually, looking up words in dictionaries utilizes ancillary skills and often will lead students to other unfamiliar words as they are flipping through the pages. Punching in a word on google requires you to use far less of your brain  than looking it up in a dictionary, but this clueless teacher is so caught up in her flashing lights of her screens that she can’t see that. And Google Translate? If this teacher has really  used it, then she must know that the translations between languages are often horribly wrong. She’s teaching her students that google is God. She claims that she is ’empowering’ them, when what she is really doing is making them into little robotic consumers of digital garbage.

The author claims her grade 2 students are becoming ‘independent in their learning.’ Wow. I’ve read somewhere that Mozart was independent in his learning when he was seven years old, but that’s the only example I can think of. What does this woman think her students are going to do when teacher is not around? Do research on the causes of the French Revolution? No. They will play computer games or go into Facebook. Surely she knows that and we the readers know that, but she thinks her audience is so stupid that she can throw out this drivel and nobody will call her on it.

Who needs books?

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Techno teacher then tells us that she has her students make movies during class time using iMovie. The students even made a zombie movie! Yippee! After hyping iMovie, she then goes on to hype another app, this one called ‘Comic Life.’ You can guess where this is all leading.

This article is about as one-sided as you can get. It, and so many similar articles in the media, pitch the argument that ‘technology is great.’ Also, ‘technology enhances learning.’ And most of all, ‘technology empowers people.’

Since most parents today buy their young children smart phones and tablets by the time they are able to walk, the author is simply cozying up to them and telling them that they are doing the right thing. Furthermore, the school is staying at the cutting edge by ‘utilizing the latest technology in the classroom.’  Digital content and techno learning has not made us any smarter and never will. I suggest the author obtain a copy of “The Dumbest Generation” by  Mark Bauerlein and carefully read it before she writes any more articles.

 

 

Dissecting the techno cheerleaders in the media

Humanity is on an inexorable march towards transhumanism. Led by the likes of ‘futurist’ Ray Kurzweil, the transhumanist propaganda machine utilizes the media to its full potential  and employs a small army of writers, bloggers, and media personalities. A big part of this propaganda push is to continually hammer home a number of themes, such as technological progress is always positive (or at least that the benefits always outweigh the negative consequences). In close tandem with this notion is the idea that anyone who opposes the new is better paradigm is an old-fashioned, out-of-touch fuddy-duddy.

The relentlessly upbeat cheerleading that accompanies articles about technology, especially stories discussing the release of updated smartphones and related gadgets, can be seen in all mass market magazines and newspapers. There is no subtlety or nuance in most of these articles, no shades of grey.

Let’s examine a recent article in the mass media to see how this brainwashing works. The article is titled, oddly enough, “The Idiot Box,” and I found it in a glossy magazine marketed to wealthy expatriates in Southeast Asia. The author, some guy named Michael Arnold, opines that modern technological gadgets such as the Ipad are great for kids because they give them unlimited knowledge at their fingertips. Arnold tries, quite awkwardly and unconvincingly, to knit the history of  television into his argument and even manages to throw out the epithet ‘luddite’ to discredit people who question the transhumanist juggernaut.

The author begins by stating that he finds arguments against humanity’s overreliance on technology to be not ‘particularly compelling.’ He then goes on to say that arguments against the Ipad are the same arguments used against the personal computer, the world wide web and the television. The inference here is that since all those inventions have turned out so wonderfully for humanity, why worry about putting Ipads into the hands of five-year-olds?

According to Arnold, we humans have not become too reliant on machines and technology and in fact we need more!  Perhaps he missed the story last week of the guy who drove his car off a cliff because he was using his GPS instead of his eyes, a map, and common sense. Or maybe he missed the story of the three men who have died recently in Taiwan after gaming for  days in internet cafes without food, drink, or water. He hasn’t  noticed stories  of kids around the world who literally go into severe withdrawal when their digital toys are taken from them? Perhaps he hasn’t  seen, as I have, people who cannot sleep at night unless the television screen is playing in front of their bed. Did he not catch the recent story from China  which stated that the Chinese government has recognized internet addiction as one of the most serious crises facing the youth of China and has taken measures to combat it, including setting up treatment centers for hooked teenagers?

Arnold says that those of us who question the technological juggernaut have a ‘fear of change’ and since change is the defining characteristic of our age, we need to get over it. Indeed, change does define the 20th century, but this change didn’t just happen by accident. It was planned, and the results of that change have been the destruction of the family and the disintegration of society.

The next paragraph is where Mr. Arnold really outs himself. He writes that parents who ban television in the home are ‘extreme’ and that television was ‘the greatest medium of communication’ of our parents’ age. Television, according to Arnold, gave us ‘unprecedented exposure to human drama, stories with actual morals, and information about the outside world.’ What’s more, those silly cartoons taught him ‘how to have the strength to forgive.’ Now, I don’t know if  he really believes all this or if he is just reading from a template, but this is naive and absurd beyond belief. Does Mr. Arnold know who really invented television, and for what purposes? Does he know anything about Walt Disney and his shady background, including his links to Intelligence and occult societies?  Has he not read Aldous Huxley, Neil Postman, or Jerry Mander? Does he know who Edward Bernays was?

Arnold then blithely states that ‘rather less credence is given to the demonization of television nowadays.’ Oh, really? And from where did he pull that fact? Actually, the evidence demonstrating the destructive influence of television is far greater and more compelling than it was 50 years ago when intellectuals and concerned parents were complaining about it.

Now that his mask is off, Arnold cannot help himself and starts to really lay it on thick, gleefully stating that we (the television generation) are ‘eager for our kids to enjoy the kind of quality entertainment we remember having back then.’ Wow. Quality entertainment?? What is this guy talking about?

He doesn’t wish for his kids to spend their time reading the classics, or going to museums, or playing outside, or doing sports, or hiking in nature. Instead, he wants them inside watching reruns of ‘quality’ entertainment, such as Happy Days and Starsky and Hutch. 

 

No, they’re not doing math or reading biology. They’re playing games. Sorry, parents.

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I would love to send the author a copy of Mark Bauerlein’s 2009 book titled The Dumbest Generation, in which he thoroughly demolishes the argument put forward by techno enthusiasts that Ipads, computers, and smart phones make kids smarter and improve their academic performance.

Finally, Arnold relates the story of Steve Jobs not allowing his kids to play with the Ipad. To mention this story is a risky move , as it might blow a hole in his ‘tech gadgets are cool’ argument. He spins it my calling Jobs a ‘notorious hippie,’ and then, in a bizarre turn of logic, casts himself as risk taker by allowing his kids to use these devices. Come again? Let’s see if we can wrap our brains around that one. Arnold says that he is not following the example set by Jobs, and is therefore going his own way. He’s a conformist, but kind of a rebel at the same time. Get it?

In fact, this guy is doing what 99.99 percent of all parents are doing nowadays: letting their kids run loose with tech gadgets from  infancy onwards and hoping for the best. Arnold and people like him are the worst kind of spineless conformists, cloaking their naivete, ignorance  and cowardice in a thin veneer of pseudo-intellectualism.

 

The zombie mainstream media

Like many writers and bloggers who reside in the ‘new’ or ‘alternative’ media universe, I regularly glance at a variety of mainstream websites, sometimes just for laughs and sometimes to see what sort of pablum they are feeding the gullible masses. In the past few months, almost every mainstream media (MSM) site that I look at has undergone a design update.  Perhaps not coincidentally, all of them now look exactly the same. Actually, we know it’s not a coincidence, since all of the dinosaur media are owned by a small handful of corporations.

Websites such as business insider, the weather channel, CNN, sfgate, and many more have adopted a design template that can only be described as bizarre and schizophrenic.  Ever since the old news organizations, i.e. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox etc.   belatedly and grudgingly started websites and started putting energy and resources into their online presence, they have struggled to find an identity. The old newspaper design, with a front page, a business section, sports section, weather, and comics didn’t translate well onto a webpage. What to do?  The dinosaur newsrooms weren’t exactly bursting with creative types and savvy web designers, and they still aren’t. Basically, most of these organizations just tried to keep as much of the old format as possible. Instead of using this changeover to digital media as an opportunity to rethink the entire model, which in fact was long overdue, they simply made their websites to look as similar as possible to a newspaper.

 

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In recent months, word must have come down from high above to shake things up a bit. The dinosaur media are continually losing viewership and readers and they will try to do anything to be relevant. Sadly, this is yet another case of putting lipstick on a pig. These organizations are so woefully out of touch, so removed from relevance and even reality itself, that no design change is going to save them.

They are now all using a white background and attaching large, color  rectangular photos to most stories. As you scroll down the site, anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the screen is taken up with photos. Stories are rarely introduced without an accompanying photo. Headline writing has undergone a dramatic change in the last two years. Whereas in the old days, headlines were used to give the reader a basic summary of the article’s contents, nowadays they are used as ‘teasers,’ and are often phrased not as statements, but as questions. Common headlines now begin with phrases such as “You won’t believe..” and “Can you guess…”

 

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Taking their cues from travel sites, the MSM throw around words like ‘amazing,’ ‘incredible,’ ‘stunning,’ and ‘awesome,’ with careless abandon. They are trying their best to debase these words completely, and in many respects already have.

Stories are juxtaposed without rhyme or reason. So-called hard news, soft news, trivia, sports, weather, gossip, advice, restaurant reviews, real estate tips and much , much more are assembled in a mishmash fashion. The reader can scroll endlessly through hundreds of stories before coming to the bottom of the page. The MSM is trying to be all things to all people by throwing putty against the wall and hoping that something sticks. Lots and lots of photos, catchy but inane headlines, a wide variety of stories written at a third grade level and and a hip facade are just some of their tactics.

Want to find out what’s happening in the business world and get some ‘insider’ tips? Well, don’t go to www.businessinsider.com. Here are the top stories today: ‘Solar eclipse 2015- the best photos from across Europe…’ The 30 most eligible men and women in San Francisco’….’48 tips on becoming more powerful’…and ‘The best pizza in every state.’  That’s just a sampling from the first page. What the hell does this site have to do with business? What a joke. It’s all fluff, inanity, and distraction, filled with lots of celebrity name-dropping. Nutrition-less mind candy. But hey, the site looks really cool!

The mainstream media, aka the dinosaur media, aka the zombie, living-dead media are an embarrassment. They have no shame, no scruples,  and no integrity. They continue to insist on their relevance, long after they have been thoroughly discredited.

 

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Marching toward transhumanism- talking ATMs and computers

Recently the ATM which I use most frequently has started talking to me. As each new direction appears on the screen, a disembodied, robotic voice vocalizes the words simultaneously. In this  particular ATM, the voice is feminine. “Please enter your PIN,” she firmly instructs me. “Please enter the desired amount,” she continues in her creepy monotone.

The voice startled me the first time I heard it. ‘What the hell?’ I thought. ‘The freakin’ machine is talking to me!’ I’m no longer startled,  though I’m not in any way comfortable with it yet. I don’t need or want the ATM talking to me. I can read just fine. And this new innovation begs the question: should I reply? When the cool, detached voice tells me ‘thank you,’ should I answer back, “Your welcome”?

This is not as silly or far-fetched as it may seem. Clearly, the global zionist oligarchy which is steering humanity in the direction of transhumanism wishes for us to get  used to the idea of interacting  and communicating with computers and robots. Soon enough, we will be expected to take orders from robots and eventually merge with the machines.

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Right around the time the local ATM started talking to me, the computers at my office started to say, ‘Welcome to your computer’ after booting up. I wonder who in the IT department thought it would be a good idea to add this little feature to all the computers? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if in the near future, other phrases are added to that simple beginning. Perhaps I will start hearing ‘good morning,’ ‘have a nice day,’ and maybe even ‘you look well today!’

Ostensibly, the first talking ATMs were developed by banks to make it easier for blind  people to use the machines. Isn’t that so thoughtful of the ‘too big to fail’ banks? They’re always looking out for us.

 

 

Taiwanese man dies after 3 days of gaming

A  story appeared on mainstream news outlets last week regarding a young man in Taiwan who died of cardiac arrest at an internet cafe:

Hong Kong (CNN)A 32-year-old man was found dead in an Internet cafe in Taiwan after a marathon three-day gaming binge, the island’s second death of an online gamer this year.The man, surnamed Hsieh, entered the cafe in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, on January 6, Jennifer Wu, a police spokesperson from the Hunei district precint told CNN.

An employee found him motionless and sprawled on a table at 10 a.m. on January 8 and he was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead from cardiac failure, she added.”He has been unemployed for a long time, and internet cafes were the only place he could go to,” she said.”His family said he would disappear for two to three days on end.”

It is not known exactly how long the man lay dead in the Internet cafe but police said his corpse had begun to stiffen so he must have been dead for several hours before they arrived on the scene.Police said gamers in the café continued as if nothing happened even when the police and paramedics arrived.

According to the Taipei Times, the man was a “regular customer” who often played for consecutive days. “When tired, he would sleep face down on the table or doze off slumped in his chair,” the staff member was quoted as saying. “That is why we were not aware of his condition in the beginning. 

Taiwan is no stranger to deaths from marathon sessions of online gaming.Hsieh’s death came after 38-year-old man was found dead at an Internet cafe in Taipei on January 1 after playing video games for five days straight. And in 2012, the corpse of man who died playing online games went unnoticed for 10 hours by other gamers and staff.  CNN

Who was this man?  Unemployed, directionless, lonely, and single, he seemed to find his only happiness in life at the internet cafe, playing ultra-violent, and highly addictive online games. Did his family and friends not see any danger in his video gaming habits? Or did they nonchalantly brush any concerns aside and view it as a harmless activity? In  the bigger picture, what are these games doing to our boys and young men, not just in Taiwan, but all over the world? What are the effects of gaming on their bodies, minds, and spirits? These internet cafes filled with young men playing games can be found in cities all over Asia. Harried and stressed parents are usually relieved  to have the boys out of the house and busy doing something, and at least not getting in trouble. The cafe owners are happy to take their money. Nobody pays them any mind, and they spend countless hours of their life sitting in one position, tense, motionless, and oblivious to their surroundings. Neglecting to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom, they easily lose sense of time and of reality itself.

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It doesn’t surprise me to read that the owners of the cafe neglected to notice the dead man for many hours. Why would they? It’s not their job to check up on the patrons. ‘The guy’s slumped in his chair; I guess he’s taking a snooze.’  They couldn’t care less. Nor am I surprised that the other patrons of the cafe didn’t even bother looking up when the corpse was carried out and the paramedics and police arrived. Why let reality intrude upon their fantasy world? Nothing- and I mean NOTHING- can disturb a gamer’s concentration when he is in the midst of his game.

We are losing ourselves to the tyranny of the screen and seem not to  care. It’s easy to read a story like this and morbidly laugh, and think, ‘what a loser.’ What happened to this poor man is an extreme case and his tragic ending made news headlines. But the slower death afflicting the tens of millions of other boys in the cafes won’t make the headlines. The cafe where Mr. Hsieh died continued operating even during the police investigation, with the patrons going on as before. It will change nothing and carry on, as will all the other internet cafes in Taipei. What did they say in ‘The Godfather’?  “It’s just business.”

 

All cars now look alike- the move toward a generic style

What has happened to car design? Just a few years ago, one could easily and instantly recognize all the different car models on the road. Is there any mistaking a Porsche 911 zooming by? Everyone know the Honda Civic, for many years one of the best-selling cars around the world. The iconic shapes of the Cadillac coupe deville and the Lincoln Town car are a part of modern American culture.  Even BMW had a memorable silhouette, its somewhat boxy but still stylish outline a favorite of yuppies for many years. Mercedes, Audi  and Subaru had their unmistakable design features. The auto makers worked to give their models a distinctive shape and personality. 

One of the original pimpmobiles: 

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No more. Something quite strange has happened. The origins of this strange phenomenon can be traced back to the mid 1990s with the explosion of SUVs. For reasons still not completely understood, an enormous block of American consumers had the overpowering urge to go out and buy gargantuan, gas-guzzling behemoths which appeared closer in style to military armored personnel carriers than traditional automobiles.

Classic BMW styling:

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For the first decade or so of SUV sales, the market was dominated by  a handful of Japanese and American car makers. Lincoln, Cadillac, Porsche, BMW and other auto makers kept their distance and maintained their individualistic design mottos. Finally, perhaps inevitably, ALL of the major car manufacturers jumped on the SUV bandwagon and produced their own models to grab a piece of the lucrative market. Imagine the reaction of the engineers and designers at BMW and Porsche when the owners came to them and said, “You guys need to design an SUV to sell to the fat Americans. And also, let’s jettison the design that’s worked so well for us for 50 years and start making our cars look generic.”

I don’t need to look closely at the company icon on the hood to know what this is:

porsche-911-131-6-40

So, not only did all the companies start building SUVs, they also made their original models conform to the design aesthetics of SUVs. Now here we are in 2015, and most brands on the road are unrecognizable. Everything looks like a miniature tank. Every day I find myself looking at a car and wondering, “What is that?” I then peer closely at the front grill to see that its a Cadillac. Or perhaps a BMW. They bear no resemblance whatsoever to their forebears. Big, flat front grills with rectangular angled headlights swooping in from the side dominate the ‘fascia.’ The headlights all bear a striking and downright eerie resemblance to serpent eyes, so not only are the cars bulky and ugly, they also are sinister.

17xdeknhazgzmjpg

Back ends are now higher off the ground, tires are fatter and windows have shrunk, again emphasizing the militaristic, excuse me ‘sporty’ look of modern cars. They all look quite ridiculous, but no matter. The consumeristic, wannabe middle class types will go out and buy them, as the concept of aesthetics is one that escapes them.

serpent eyes:

2009-bmw-z4-roadster-8_600x0w

 

 

Exploited construction workers and the headlong rush to globalization

The term ‘third world’ has been disappearing gradually from the academic and political lexicon. The term used to denote those countries around the world which were in the bottom tier of GDP, per capita income, infrastructure, and development. Nowadays, the term has been replaced with ‘developing country.’  It’s an interesting choice of words. It implies, of course, that every country in the world now is developing, or wants to develop, in the model of the modern, industrialized countries. It’s either ‘industrialize quickly and catch up’ or perish into obscurity and irrelevance. Or so the thinking goes amongst the elected leaders of such countries.

This desire to develop and rapidly industrialize among former third-world countries has numerous effects and repercussions, almost of them negative. Sure, numbers such as the GDP, which economists and politicians always love to point to, show a spike, though this is usually short term. Overly expensive mega projects often spring up, putting struggling governments into debt. Skyscrapers and office buildings sprout  in the big cities and new highways and dams are constructed as well.

For the population of developing countries, outside of a tiny percentage at the top of the political and social hierarchy who work the system to their benefit, this process of rapid development is a disaster. Rivers, canals, lakes, waterways, coastline, water tables, topsoil, forests, and the air are sacrificed in the rush to build factories and power stations. This damage is often irreparable. Humans who are enticed to work in the new industries of factory work and construction are treated like slaves, as disposable as tissue paper.

Viet Nam is a perfect example. Its cities are booming, particularly Ho  Chi Minh City in the south. Office and apartment buildings are going up everywhere. Construction cranes are a ubiquitous sight. Almost every street within the city limits has at least one building being constructed, renovated or demolished to make way for a new one.

If there’s one word that I associate with development, it’s ‘concrete.’ Construction sites everywhere have either the  portable concrete mixing machines or the large trucks at the bigger sites. And to make concrete you must have cement. And to make cement you must havoc cement factories. For those unfortunate villagers who live on the fringes of cities where most cement factories are located, life is hell. For 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they must put up with choking dust and pollution being emitted from these factories, which must continually make cement to feed the voracious appetite of the booming economy.

Hundreds of thousands of young men work in the construction industry here, the vast majority of them first generation city dwellers who grew up poor farmers. They are ruthlessly exploited by the construction contractors and sub-contractors. Outside of a few large foreign firms which actually enforce some basic safety regulations, most workers work and live day to day with no safety net whatsoever. Hardhats are nowhere to be seen.  Workers spend their days toiling in the hot sun with cheap plastic flip-flops or bare feet. They are often shirtless and wear shorts. When they work indoors where dust, chemicals and paint are omnipresent, they wear a cheap throwaway mask, if anything.

I pass by dozens of construction sites daily, and I see workers doing backbreaking work with no thought given to their welfare. They are often splattered from head to toe with paint and dust. Most have nowhere to live and throw a hammock up on the site to sleep overnight. Their wage of $5 USD a day affords them nothing more than a couple bowels of noodles and pork. If an accident happens onsite, they are on their own. Their employer is not responsible for injury.

Most have received no training  for their jobs, and just learn by watching others and practicing each day. Hence, shoddy work is the norm, not the exception. I have seen a number of paint jobs where workers left the house or building with numerous globs and specks of paint on the furniture and appliances. Substandard work is accepted.

Dirt poor farmers fleeing their miserable existence in the countryside to move to the city in hopes of finding a better life is not a new story. Nevertheless, I still marvel at the pull that cities, and ideas like ‘progress’ and ‘modernity’ exert on the human mind. To merely trade in one form of backbreaking toil for another hardly seems like a step up to me. Furthermore, these itinerant workers are cut off from their families and communities, the very social networks that are so crucial for human happiness and fulfillment.

These young men will work in construction for perhaps ten or twenty years at most. Working past 40 simply will not be physically possible for most. They will likely have a lifetime of back problems to look forward to after they quit. Many will die of cancer before they hit 60, due to the enormous amounts of dust and chemicals which they inhale daily, poor diets and the two packs of cigarettes per day which they all smoke.

A local glossy magazine which is marketed to tourists and expatriates is sitting on my desk. It features  a profile of a 40-year-old construction worker. ‘Quang’ shares some information and thoughts about his life working construction jobs around Hanoi. After stating that he earns 100,000 VND (US $5) a day, he says matter-of-factly, “That kind of money just isn’t enough.” No kidding. What’s interesting to me is how that quotation just sort of hangs there, with no follow up question and no elaboration. If it’s not enough, why does he continue? Does he have any thoughts about who, or what, is exploiting him? Has he ever thought of complaining , or asking for a raise? Going on strike is unknown in Viet Nam and workers here have no ‘worker consciousness’ whatsoever. People accept their lot without question.

It’s a tragedy and it doesn’t have to happen. Yet it does, and not just here in Ho Chi Minh City, but also in Lima, Sao Paulo, Phnom Penh, Dubai, Quito, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, and dozens of other developing cities all around the world.

cement factory:

 

cementplant

Humanity has drunk the kool-aid of ‘progress’ and the headlong rush into the future ensues. The few remaining hunter and gatherer tribes are being uprooted along with nomadic and traditionally pastoral peoples. We’re all going to be yuppies now, living in high-rises with beautiful children and driving brand new shiny cars. Except that we’re not, of course. The split between marketing and reality is as stark as ever.  Every time a new apartment high rise is completed, giant billboards show a plastic looking couple sitting in their spotless (and soulless) living room with their oh-so-happy  children.

Earth used to be comprised of thousands and thousands of ethnic groups, each living in its own unique style, with their own dress, customs, religions, social structures and habits. Now, ‘globalization’ is the meme that is shoved down our throats, and everyone wears the same clothes bought from the same multinational corporations, talks the same, looks the same, and acts the same.  People willingly give up their traditional lives to move to cities and join the madness, thinking that they can purchase some toys, and with them, some happiness. It doesn’t happen and they end up sick and disillusioned.

 

The empty promises of technology

Driving home recently, I observed that  big, sleek new techno-gadget stores have been opening throughout the city almost weekly. The market for smart phones, tablets, phablets, and  laptops along with  all of their accessories is red- hot and shows no signs of slowing down. People just can’t get enough! Businessmen, housewives, teachers, students, teenagers, and parents with young  children in tow browse the stores, looking for the latest, hottest, hippest, and trendiest new device. No child is too young now to start playing on smart phones. “If they are old enough to walk and talk, they are old enough to have a smart phone,” is the new thinking among parents. Microwave radiation? Decreased attention spans? Addiction to games?  Diminished interest in books? Squashed imaginations?  Who cares!

What will be the outcome of this multi-media saturation, particularly on the young? A couple of weeks ago, I started reading “The Dumbest Generation,” by Mark Bauerlein (2008) . With meticulous research and citing  hundreds of studies, Mr. Bauerlein demolishes the arguments put forth by technocrats that  Millennials, who have abandoned reading as a leisure activity, are doing well academically and can learn everything they need to know through computers and video games. The academic and governmental studies  do not support the pollyannish claims by the technocracy that book reading is overrated as a foundation of education and that we (the adults) need not be concerned with the lack of interest shown in books  by teens and twentysomethings.

“The Dumbest Generation” is full of eye-popping statistics and charts. It resoundingly reaffirms what I have been observing for many years: that kids no longer want to read and are cut off from nature.

Bauerlein says, “The 10-year-old’s bedroom has become, as Kaiser puts it, a ‘multi-media center.’ Children leave the dinner table, which is often accompanied by network news, reruns of Seinfeld ,and other 6 P.M. fare, and head off to their rooms to turn on their own shows or crank up iTunes while poring over some homework. Bored with that, they can check a MySpace forum, or play Mortal Kombat, or look at school pictures. The long division exercises await while the computer dings a new email coming through, the cell phone buzzes with a new message, and Toomani comes on in half an hour. They never need exit their bedrooms doors, and in most households, parents won’t interrupt them. For 55 percent of the eight-to 10-year olds , parents don’t lay down any rules for TV. For older teens, only 5 percent have parents who set limits on the video games they can play. The private access continues outside the home too, with 55 percent of eight- to 18-year olds taking a handheld video game player with them, and 65 percent carrying a portable music player.”

The author goes on to analyze how school districts around the country (and around the world) have jumped on the ‘technology is more important than books’ bandwagon. Schools have borrowed money from wherever they can and siphoned money from other areas of their budgets to hard-wire the schools for the latest in technology, including computer labs, wi-fi and even laptops for the students. Administrators, principals and bureaucrats do all this in the name of education, in the naive hope that this technology will make students more ‘excited’ about learning and improve their literacy skills and test scores. The results show otherwise, but nevertheless the technocracy presses on.

In my school, we have a small library and a computer lab next to it. Which do you think students gravitate to? When class finishes and the student needs to wait 30 minutes for the parent to pick him up, does he grab a book from the library and sit down to read, or does he go to the computer lab to play video games? The answer is obvious. The books look pretty on the shelf, but they are unread and unappreciated. The school administrators allow the students to play games as long as they want, with no supervision. Nobody takes responsibility for the student who has time to kill, and the young ones especially get hypnotized for hours.

Ever since I was a young boy, I have been suspicious of machines and technology. Perhaps it’s some ancient Druidic blood running through my Norwegian/Viking veins, but my greatest pleasures growing up were always found in nature and in books. My fondest memories of childhood are the simple, direct, and intimate connections I had with the natural world- swimming in my neighbors pond, exploring the local creeks, catching frogs, climbing trees, lying on my back and counting stars, rolling on the grass, collecting wild berries in the woods, scrambling over giant boulders on the Potomac River, jumping into piles of leaves, sledding down hillsides, bodysurfing in the Atlantic on a hot summer day, making snowballs, and exploring caves. None of these activities requires a machine or gadget.

When computers started appearing in the 80s and became widespread in the 90s, I felt a palpable and growing unease. “I don’t like where all this is headed,” I said to my girlfriend at the time. When I read some of the breathless and hyperbolic rantings of the techno geeks in zines like Mondo 2000 and Wired in the mid to late 90s, I became VERY worried. These pasty-faced, pale-skinned and flabby-muscled computer geeks were telling me that the transhuman world was arriving quickly and that I had better get used to the idea. Their ideas and arguments sounded, and continue to sound, absurd to me, and yet a forceful response to the transhuman agenda was lacking. Only a few lonely voices raised objections, mostly found in obscure journals and periodicals.

I began to wonder if I was the only one feeling this unease, but fortunately I eventually found writers and intellectuals such as Kirkpatrick Sale (Rebels against the future) , Daniel Quinn (Ishmael) , Jerry Mander (In the Absence of the Sacred),  John Zerzan (Running on Emptiness) , Derrick Jensen ( A Language older than words) , Neil Postman (Technopoly) , and of course Thoreau. These writers are often described with many different terms, including but not limited to ‘anti-technology’ , ‘neo-luddite’, and ‘neo-primitve.’ But despite their differences, they all share a common distrust in the current pro-technology paradigm and the covert  trans-human agenda.