Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   smart movie about idiots
Wednesday, February 3 2010
It wasn't the first time I listened to Terry Gross interviewing someone on Fresh Air and then downloaded a movie that was discussed. Yesterday I'd heard her interview Mike Judge, and so I was reminded of the existence of a movie called Idiocracy, and by this morning it had downloaded (that is, the latency was less than that of a red Netflix envelope but not as low as that of Roku). So this morning I watched the movie. I thought it was great. As low-budget comic sci-fi goes, it definitely ranks as a classic of the form. But the film works mostly as biting social satire about the morons in our midst, the rise of impersonal sociopathic corporations, and where they're taking the world. I don't actually buy the demographic premise of the movie; while intelligent people might be out-reproduced by idiots in any one particular society, over time such societies will be supplanted by neighboring societies where this is not the case.
There are so many little details hidden away to be explored by freeze-framing the scenes. I particularly enjoyed the fast-food-style icon button board in the hospital, where a poorly-trained cashier could make an initial diagnosis without even being able to read. One of those icons was of a suddenly-headless body spraying blood from the neck stump. In that same scene there were also slot machines where the sick could try to win free health care. In another scene set in a Costco the size of Los Angeles, people bustled about oblivious to a jetliner that has crashed into the upper shelves and now languished there. I loved the panoramic landscapes (which had the look of cheap painted sets but were nevertheless fully animated). In amongst the sea of garbage were various high rises in stages of structural collapse, some of them supported by thick cables wrapping them to neighboring buildings, exactly the kind of engineering to be expected of a nation of morons.
The movie became increasingly campy and absurd in its final third, but there were gems to be found here as well, particularly the scene where the president's cabinet discussed the value of electrolytes to plants. They didn't know what electrolytes were, of course; they were just regurgitating marketing slogans that has been drummed into their heads and which they had mistaken for wisdom or perhaps even common sense.
For me the best scene of all came near the end, a view from a "time machine" of an ignorant future's feeble memory of its own past, perhaps as staged by a five year old from whatever was handy in the toy box.

I spent most of the day working with and testing a series of migration scripts written in PHP that read from an ODBC (evil Microsoft SQL) database, figure out the schema, and then recreate the data in a MySQL (open source) database. This particular set of tools is about as single-purpose as a set of tools can get, but I couldn't keep from writing it all as completely generic. With a slight change of configuration, these tools could be made to recreate any ODBC-accessible database in MySQL.

Ten or twelve years ago when the web was young, my website stood out as a worthy attraction. I'd check my server logs and see people writing about me and linking to me. On occasion I'd even receive coverage in newspapers and other print publications. But now with a web drowning in spam blogs, Turing-Test-failing twitter posts, sprawling social networks, and microniche messageboards, nobody can find my site floating amidst the garbage, glowing videoboxen, and blinking neon tubes. And there's nothing too remarkable about my site anyway, other than the fact that it contains, among other things, a daily record of a third of my life. So when I check my logs, I find most of the hits are coming from Google searches or Facebook pages I cannot access. Facebook has become to most people what the web was for me back in the 1990s, though it doesn't have the same tradition of openness.
So you can imagine my surprise when I came upon a link that led back to a long and interesting description of me as viewed remotely by someone I barely knew. Most of this account concerns the way I was in my college days, before there even was a web. In those days I lived as a kind of proto-celebrity, where acting out whatever absurdity came to mind always seemed like the best course of action, with the view that any resulting notoriety or reputation was for the best, since it would polarize people and scare off those who would never be of any use anyway. This account is strangely honest and wise even as it dips into myth. (For example, I never once put a paper bag over my head as a disguise, though perhaps someone else did and that person was assumed to be me.) It's rare to have this sort of perspective on yourself; the closest I've ever come to this was secretly reading the diary of a girlfriend who was in the process of breaking up with me. So I found myself reading it several times and thinking back to those strangely blue-hued days a half a life ago, when I holed up in a dark basement storage room watching upside-down images of people on the sunny street outside projected through a tiny pinhole in the wall. In those days I actually had trouble figuring out what to do to fill a day.

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