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The weblog description is a misquotation from Steve Aylett's Indicted to a Party: What to Do, Who to Blame.
 
The weblog title links to the "No Country Redirect" version, for whatever that might be worth.
December 30, 2004
Ways to Give

The Command Post has a comprehensive list of ways to contribute to relief efforts in the aftermath of Sunday's earthquake. Personally, I think you can't go wrong with Medecins Sans Frontieres, Oxfam and Red Cross / Red Crescent.

Sorry if this post seems terse and uninteresting, but the alternative was some wank about Voltaire and the Lisbon Disaster of 1755, so direct your gratitude at being spared that to the organisations listed above.


December 24, 2004
Speaking of Snark

It is again that time of year which a more honest society would label Annual Get-Us-Out-of-the-Red Month, and consequently time again to dust off the relevant ornaments and rituals. As chatter in the blogosphere confirms, lately a new observance has been added to the tired old collection: a yearly season of bellicose gripe from the Right, gleefully facilitated by the Yellow Press, that "political correctness is killing Christmas". This has pretty much supplanted the regular Church-sourced plaints that the holiday is becoming too commercialised, too indulgent and definitely too much about all the stuff they stole from the pagans in the first place. Swamped by a well-orchestrated campaign designed to help an ascendant Right cling grimly to the security blanket of imagined underdog status while working to further traduce dissenters and nonconformists, the yearly whinges from the pulpit about the true meaning of Christmas didn't really stand a chance.

Like many of the wrong-headed fixations of our media, the "Christmas Must Be Saved!" pageant is another product of the United States' tiresome and apparently unending Culture Wars, and you'd think would be pretty irrelevant to anybody in a country not founded by disagreeable religious fanatics. That said, while Fox commentators, the London Sun and others in the Murdoch empire all sang pretty much the same unimaginative tune, it was nice to see Rupert's loyal minions at the Sydney Daily Telegraph manage to find a local angle to the beat-up, turning the Christmas backlash fiction into another chapter in their campaign to knobble Clover Moore, our new mayor and, not being the preferred candidate of the corporate sector and lacking endorsement of any major party (which these days amounts to the same thing), a favourite quarry of the tabloid; whether on basic Tory principles or because of an actual memo from head office, I couldn't say.

After complaining that the Sydney City Council had failed to bedeck the streets with sufficient holly, trees and tinsel to rival London, Paris or New York, all world metropolises with ten times our population, the campaign drummed up some opportunistic soundbites from Moore's political enemies, mendacious columns from the commentariat and the usual barnyard noises from talkback radio, before fizzling out when it was discovered the quotes attributed to Moore, endorsing a Yuletide approach less offensive to the sensibilities of non-Christians, were never said by her and the Council had in fact spent more on decorations this year than last.

The necessary change of tack involved an absurd jeremiad against the Council's plan to use a techno remix of the Australian national anthem as background music for upcoming New Year's Eve celebrations. Though any claim that such a rendition of Advance Australia Fair would somehow cheapen it misses the obvious point that the song is a trite dirge that would be significantly improved by being entirely replaced with twenty minutes of ear-piercing white noise, nevertheless this tuneless doggerel drew stout protectors to the letters pages of the Tele from the wide-ranging species of cretin who identify their patriotism most strongly with empty symbols like anthems and flags, presumably on the grounds that attempting some real demonstration of love of country involving, perhaps, public service or defence of important institutions of freedom and democracy, might require thought, effort or some other chore. Ah well, at the least, these invented scandals allow the Tele to avoid cluttering their front pages with reports from the debacle that has become of that war they so courageously cheered for, such as today's story of the attack in Mosul, buried on page twenty-two.

Unsurprisingly, the paper uses the same technique in their project of maligning the new mayor that forms the cornerstone of the current political methodology of the Right: in pursuit of an agenda chiefly concerned with servicing a rich business elite, strive mightily to portray yourself a champion of the ordinary yeoman in desperate struggle against an army of gay-marrying Muslim-hugging latte-sippers. As Rove above, so Ailes, and thence Campbell Reid, below.

So ran our little part of the War On Kwanzaa.

A Merry Saturnalia to all my reader(s).


December 22, 2004
Blogroll FAQ

That's a hella long blogroll you've got there, isn't it?

Actually, no. Oh wait, you probably mean the old one to the right. Yeah, it's long, what of it? This way anyone disappointed with the local content has a diverse selection of other places to go. Or they would have been able to before I changed it because it was, as you say, too freakin' long.

I notice it's only in alphabetical order. Why's that?

This way I avoid the pitfalls of egregious taxonomy.

Right. So it's not just because you're a lazy bastard?

Not just that. This way I also get to use the phrase "egregious taxonomy".

Oh, wait a second. It isn't in alphabetical order after all.

Hah ha! I foiled you again. That's what you get for being an imaginary conversant. Yes, I made an attempt to divide the list up into sensible and useful categories - an attempt which failed, you'll notice. The original alphabetical list is here.

Do these divisions make any kind of sense?

Not really - I'm damned if I know what really distinguishes a snarky commentator from a non-snarky one other than certain nebulous differences of style, nor why it's of any use to the casual browser to split off those people with a mediated persona separate to the one they have on their weblog - those sort of paying gigs will mean nothing in a few years when the blogosphere CONQUERS ALL THOUGHT.

Unless you were referring to the cutesy subheadings, in which case I can't help you. Or myself, it seems.

So anyway: a number of the weblogs listed aren't really weblogs at all. I Love Everything and the WilliamGibsonBoard are discussion boards, as is Air America Place while also where you can find archived sound files of the Air America broadcasts. The Alien Online, The Black Commentator, The Black Table, Counterpunch, Cursor, Global Alternative, In These Times, The New Standard, NY Press, The Progressive and Rabble.ca are all magazine style sites; all but The Alien Online, NY Press and The Black Table are political, and NY Press is really only there for Matt Taibbi. (In fact, now that neither Taibbi nor Mark Ames, his former colleague from the Exile, write for the Press, there's nothing to recommend the rag, unless you think you might be a fan of tedious right-wing drivel. You'd be better off trying the Buffalo Beast.) At Global Alternative, you can find reprints of the columns of Boris Kagarlitsky, a contributor to the Moscow Times and one of my favourite columnists. Viridian Design is the futurist project championed by SF writer Bruce Sterling, whose essays appear on the site. No Logo hosts the essays of Naomi Klein among other things.

Some are weblogs belonging to professional writers, academics and so on. John Shirley, William Gibson and Neil Gaiman are SF writers. Other SF writers represented in the roll are Bruce Sterling (Beyond the Beyond), Ken MacLeod (The Early Days of a Better Nation), Charlie Stross (Charlie's Diary) and Gwyneth Jones (Bold as Love). Bob Harris and Richard Herring are comedians. Cartoonists Ted Rall and Tom Tomorrow write on Search And Destroy and This Modern World respectively. The Morning Improv is the site of comix artist Scott McCloud; Die Puny Humans! that of graphic novelist Warren Ellis. John L. Hess, George Monbiot and James Wolcott are journalists, although, sadly, Mr Hess passed away in January 2005. MaxSpeak, You Listen! is the blog of economist Max Sawicky. Brad DeLong and John Quiggin are also economists; so is the guy who writes Angry Bear. Deltoid belongs to computer scientist Tim Lambert. Informed Comment belongs to Middle East expert Juan Cole; Rahul Mahajan writes Empire Notes. Michael Bérubé is a cultural studies theorist, as is Amardeep Singh. Noam Chomsky is Noam Chomsky.

Al Qaebong, BAGnewsnotes, The Blog Dish, Fafblog!, John Howard PM, Not Nick Nolte's Diary, Opinions You Should Have and Haypenny are all humorous, as is Obey Big Brother in its way. Matt Tobey (The City of Floating Blogs) was a Haypenny editor; Chris Monks (Utter Wonder) contributed, just like a bunch of other hardworking and talented folk I can't be bothered adding to the blogroll.

The Maelstrom is Neal Pollack's blog. You should read it.

Go on - guess what A Family in Baghdad, Back to Iraq 3.0, Baghdad Burning, Healing Iraq, The Iraqi Agora, Raed in the Middle and Shlonkom Bakazay are all about.

Weblog digests and weblogs compiling news and interesting links are All Night Surfing, Arts & Letters Daily, Aussie Blogs, Blog Bites, Boing Boing, BuzzFlash, The Domain (Aussie Politics), Eatonweb Portal, Fimoculous, Futurismic, GromBlog, Kikuchiyo News, Kuro5hin, Link Machine Go, London Bloggers, Metafilter, Mindjack, Monoki and We Make Money Not Art.

Under "Other" we place various blogs including Call Centre Confidential (a blogger who works in - ahem - a call centre), Giornale Nuovo (an absolutely super art-related weblog), Malevole (for the bizarre design alone), Mind Hacks (a psycho-neurology weblog), Nature is Profligate (biology), The Panda's Thumb (evolution), Preposterous Universe (physics) and Random Acts Of Reality (a great weblog by an emergency services officer in the UK). Other specialities (e.g. Prairie Sociology) will hopefully be obvious from the titles. Included in the blogroll are the sites of some mates from the WilliamGibsonBoard: Aisha's Pattern Recognition, Bravus, Digitalprimate, EditEngine, Koriburoggu, Reverend Tim McIntyre, Remote Voices, Reptile Rants, The Reality Studio, Scorpion's Nest, Shockingly Provincial and Terminates Here. Check 'em out.

The rest are pretty much political or current affairs blogs: serious, snarky or both; except for the ones which aren't and I failed to mention in another group. It doesn't matter - they're all worth a read, even the ones that are defunct. I won't pick favourites.

So you read all these blogs regularly?

Good God, no. Have you seen how many of them there are?

You seem to be amending this FAQ post as you go along. Doesn't this break the First Law of the Blog?

Yes. Yes, it does.


100 Monkeys Typing
A Family in Baghdad
A Fistful of Euros
A Perfectly Cromulent Blog
A Tiny Revolution
A Yank in Oz
Abu Aardvark
Abused by the News
The Agonist
Roger Ailes
Air America Place
Air America Radio
Aisha's Pattern Recognition
Al Qaebong
Alas, a Blog
Alicublog
The Alien Online
All Night Surfing
Alternate Brain
Alternative Hippopotamus
Amblongus
American Leftist
The American Street
Angry Bear
Antipixel
Antiwar
Apostropher
Are You Effin' Kidding Me
Arran's Alley
Arts & Letters Daily
Aussie Blogs
Back Pages
Back to Iraq 3.0
Baghdad Burning
BAGnewsNotes
BeatBushBlog
Beautiful Horizons
Belly of the Beast
Michael Bérubé
Beyond the Beyond
Big, Left, Outside
Biroco Detective Agency
The Bitter Shack of Resentment
The Black Commentator
The Black Table
BlogBites
The Blog Dish
Bloggerheads
The Blogging of the President
Blogjam
Boing Boing
Bold As Love
BradBlog 3000
Bravus
Bull Moose
Bunsen
BuzzFlash
By the Bayou
Call Centre Confidential
Charlie's Diary
Chase Me Ladies, I'm In The Cavalry
Noam Chomsky
The City of Floating Blogs
Cleek
Counterpunch
Crooked Timber
Cursor
Daily Beast
Daily Howler
Daily Kos
The Dark Window
Brad DeLong
Deltoid
Democratic Veteran
Detroitblog
Die Puny Humans
Digital Primate
Dispatches from the Culture Wars
The Domain
Don't Ask Me!
The Early Days of a Better Nation
Eatonweb Portal
Edit Engine
Elementropy

Empire Notes
Encyclopaedia Erratica
Eschaton
The Expat
Eyeteeth
Fafblog!
Fimoculous
Foreign Dispatches
Al Franken
Futurismic
Neil Gaiman
William Gibson
Gilded Age Notes
Steve Gilliard
Giornale Nuovo
Global Alternative
Grammar.police
GromBlog
Bob Harris
Hairy Fish Nuts
Haypenny
Healing Iraq
Here's What's Left
Richard Herring
John L. Hess
Hoffmania!
Hullabaloo
I Love Everything
Informed Comment
Interconnected
In These Times
The Iraqi Agora
Jesus' General
John Howard P.M.
Just World News
Kikuchiyo News
Koriburoggu
Kuro5hin
Lawyers, Guns and Money
Ken Layne
The Left Coaster
Legal Fiction
Left Pedal
Leiter Reports
Lawrence Lessig
LiberalOasis
William S. Lind
LinkMachineGo
The Liquid List
London Bloggers
Londonist
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
Low Culture
Lying Media Bastards
The Maelstrom
Majority Report Radio
Malevole
MaxSpeak, You Listen!
Metafilter
Mind Hacks
Mind Jack - Daily Relay
Mixing Memory
George Monbiot
Monoki
The Morning Improv
Mouse Words
Moviegeek Memo
MyDD
Nature is Profligate
Nathan Newman
The New Standard
News Hounds
News Dissector
The "Next Blog" Blog
No Logo
No More Mister Nice Blog
Norbizness
Not Nick Nolte's Diary
Nothing New Under The Sun
NY Press
Obey Big Brother
Opinions You Should Have
Orcinus
Outside the Tent
Greg Palast
The Panda's Thumb
Pandagon
Quin Parker
Pepys' Diary
Pharyngula
August J. Pollak
The Poor Man
Positive Liberty
Pound
The Pragmatic Progressive
Prairie Sociology
Preposterous Universe
The Progressive
Public Opinion
John Quiggin
Quotidian Hell
Rabble.ca
Raed in the Middle
Random Acts Of Reality
The Reality Studio
Red Pepper
Red State Son
Remote Voices
Reptile Rants
Respectful of Otters
Reverend Tim McIntire
Rising Hegemon
Road To Surfdom
Robust McManlyPants
Rox Populi
Rude Pundit
Sadly, No!
Scorpion's Nest
Screenhead
Search and Destroy
Seeing The Forest
Sensory Overload
John Shirley
Shlonkom Bakazay
The Shrill Blog
Shockingly Provincial
Amardeep Singh
Sirotablog
Sisyphus Shrugged
Slacktivist
The Smirking Chimp
South Knox Bubba
Southern Cross Words
Spinsanity
Steam-Operated World of Yesteryear
Suburban Guerrilla
Super Happy Fun Blog
The Talent Show
Talking Points Memo
TalkLeft
TAPPED
TBogg
Terminates Here
That Colored Fella
Things Fall Apart
This Modern World
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Tiddly-Pom
TomDispatch
TOMPAINE
Total Information Awareness
Troppo Armadillo
Trout Fishing in South-Central Wisconsin
Tug Boat Potemkin
Uggabugga
Uncle Horn Head
UnFairWitness
Utter Wonder
Jeff Vail
Vegas Blog
Viridian Design
War and Piece
WarForever
The Weblog
We Make Money Not Art
What is the War?
Whiskey Bar
WilliamGibsonBoard
James Wolcott
Wonkette
World O'Crap
WorldChanging
Yankee Fog
Yo, Ivanhoe!
Mickey Z.
Zellar Open All Night
ZNet Blogs
ELSEWHERE
The Happening Thang
A Fistful of Euros
Abu Aardvark
The Agonist
Beautiful Horizons
Crooked Timber
Daily Howler
Daily Kos
The Domain
Eschaton
Foreign Dispatches
Leiter Reports
LiberalOasis
The Liquid List
NewsDissector
Positive Liberty
Respectful of Otters
Spinsanity
TalkLeft
TomDispatch
Total Information Awareness
Troppo Armadillo
Tug Boat Potemkin
Whiskey Bar
WorldChanging
ZNet Blogs
The Hunting of the Snark
100 Monkeys Typing
A Perfectly Cromulent Blog
A Tiny Revolution
Abused by the News
Roger Ailes
Alas, a Blog
Alicublog
Alternate Brain
Alternative Hippopotamus
Amblongus
American Leftist
The American Street
Apostropher
Are You Effin' Kidding Me?
Arran's Alley
Back Pages
BAGnewsNotes
BeatBushBlog
Belly of the Beast
Big, Left, Outside
The Bitter Shack of Resentment
The Blogging of the President
Bull Moose
Chase Me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry
Daily Beast
The Dark Window
Democratic Veteran
Dispatches from the Culture Wars
Don't Ask Me!
Elementropy
Gilded Age Notes
Steve Gilliard
Hairy Fish Nuts
Here's What's Left
Hoffmania!
Hullabaloo
Lawyers, Guns and Money
The Left Coaster
Left Pedal
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
Lying Media Bastards
Mouse Words
MyDD
News Hounds
No More Mister Nice Blog
Nothing New Under The Sun
Obey Big Brother
Orcinus
Outside the Tent
Pandagon
Pharyngula
August J. Pollak
The Poor Man
Red State Son
Rising Hegemon
Robust McManlyPants
Rox Populi
Rude Pundit
Sadly, No!
Seeing The Forest
The Shrill Blog
Sisyphus Shrugged
Slacktivist
The Smirking Chimp
Suburban Guerrilla
Super Happy Fun Blog
The Talent Show
TBogg
That Colored Fella's Weblog
Things Fall Apart
Uggabugga
UnFairWitness
The Weblog
What is the War?
Wonkette
World O'Crap
Mickey Z.
Dead Tree / Ivory Tower
Air America Place
Air America Radio
Angry Bear
Michael Bérubé
The Black Commentator
Noam Chomsky
Counterpunch
Cursor
Brad DeLong
Empire Notes
Al Franken
Global Alternative
Bob Harris
John L. Hess Dissents
In These Times
Informed Comment
Lawrence Lessig
William S. Lind
Majority Report Radio
MaxSpeak, You Listen!
George Monbiot
The New Standard
Nathan Newman
No Logo
NY Press
Greg Palast
The Progressive
Public Opinion
John Quiggin
Rabble.ca
Red Pepper
Road To Surfdom
Search and Destroy
Amardeep Singh
Sirotablog
Talking Points Memo
TAPPED
This Modern World
TOMPAINE
Jeff Vail
War and Piece
James Wolcott
The Pottery Barn
A Family in Baghdad
Antiwar
Back to Iraq 3.0
Baghdad Burning
Healing Iraq
The Iraqi Agora
Just World News
Raed in the Middle
Shlonkom Bakazay
Very Like A Whale
The Alien Online
Arts & Letters Daily
Beyond the Beyond
The Black Table
Bold As Love
Charlie's Diary
Deltoid
Die Puny Humans
The Early Days of a Better Nation
Neil Gaiman
William Gibson
Richard Herring
Ken Layne
The Maelstrom
Mind Hacks
Mixing Memory
The Morning Improv
Nature is Profligate
The Panda's Thumb
Pepys' Diary
Prairie Sociology
Preposterous Universe
John Shirley
Viridian Design
None of the Above
A Yank in Oz
Aisha's Pattern Recognition
Antipixel
Biroco Detective Agency
Blogjam
Bravus
By the Bayou
Call Centre Confidential
Cleek
Codpiece Hagiography
Detroitblog
DigitalPrimate
Edit Engine
The Expat
Giornale Nuovo
Grammar.police
I Love Everything
Interconnected
Koriburoggu
Legal Fiction
Malevole
Moviegeek Memo
Quotidian Hell
Quin Parker
Random Acts Of Reality
The Reality Studio
Remote Voices
Reptile Rants
Screenhead
Scorpion's Nest
Sensory Overload
Shockingly Provincial
South Knox Bubba
Southern Cross Words
Steam-Operated World of Yesteryear
Terminates Here
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Tiddly-Pom
Trout Fishing in South-Central Wisconsin
Uncle Horn Head
Vegas Blog
WarForever
WilliamGibsonBoard
Yankee Fog
Yo, Ivanhoe!
Zellar Open All Night
Laugh While You Can, Monkeyboy
Al Qaebong
The Blog Dish
Bob the Angry Flower
The Brains Trust
The Brunching Shuttlecocks
Bunsen
The Chaser
The City of Floating Blogs
CNNNN Chaser Non-Stop News Network
Dear Aunt Nettie...
Doh! Canada
Encyclopaedia Erratica
The Establishment
Fafblog!
The Framley Examiner
Get Your War On
Haypenny
Bill Hicks
Jesus' General
John Howard P.M.
Low Culture
Reverend Tim McIntire
Norbizness
Not Nick Nolte's Diary
Objective: Christian Ministries
The Onion
Opinions You Should Have
Parenthetical Note
Bill Plympton
Pound
Professional Cartoonists Index
Red Meat
RinkWorks
Rocket
Ruthless Reviews
Too Stupid To Be President
Utter Wonder
What People Were Saying On the London Underground
Whitehouse.org
Yankee Pot Roast
If You Know A Better Hole, Go To It
All Night Surfing
Aussie Blogs
BlogBites
Bloggerheads
Boing Boing
BuzzFlash
Eatonweb Portal
Eyeteeth
Fimoculous
Futurismic
GromBlog
Kikuchiyo News
Kuro5hin
Londonist
LinkMachineGo
London Bloggers
Metafilter
Mind Jack - Daily Relay
Monoki
The "Next Blog" Blog
We Make Money Not Art


December 21, 2004
Borges' Proof

(From Borgs to Borges - what an unfortunate coincidence.) I just finished reading the Penguin translation of Jorge Luis Borges' The Aleph, including prose works from The Maker. This is from the latter:

Argumentum Ornithologicum

I close my eyes and see a flock of birds. The vision lasts a second, or perhaps less; I am not sure how many birds I saw. Was the number of birds definite or indefinite? The problem involves the existence of God. If God exists, the number is definite, because God knows how many birds I saw. If God does not exist, the number is indefinite, because no one can have counted. In this case I saw fewer than ten birds (let us say) and more than one, but did not see nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, or two birds. I saw a number between ten and one, which was not nine, eight, seven, six, five, etc. That integer--not-nine, not-eight, not-seven, not-six, not-five, etc.--is inconceivable. Ergo, God exists.
For some reason, Borges' proof reminded me of the story of Hippasus of Metapontum, the disciple of Pythagoras who applied his master's famous theorem to a right triangle with legs each one unit long. The length of the resulting hypotenuse is the square root of two, a number that cannot be calculated, like pi. Pythagoras' cult sought to create a perfect philosophical system based on a geometry of whole numbers; so Hippasus' calculation was a dangerous heresy. Legend has it he made the discovery on board ship and was immediately drowned by his colleagues when they realised its implications - the real story may be a little more involved.

Hippasus' hypotenuse exists; pi exists. Are they inconceivable, in the same sense as the number of Borges' birds, for being incalculable? And in order for them to be perceived by the mind of God, would it be necessary for Him to calculate them to the last decimal? Even an infinite being would take an infinite time to calculate an infinite series of decimals, I would assume, unless the universe began with the exact value of pi existing ab initio in the mind of God. In any case, if we can conceive of a line with a length that cannot be precisely calculated, we can surely think of a flock without it containing a precise number of birds.

And it's certainly a good thing I didn't take Borges' little joke as seriously as these guys.

Three Borges stories:
The Aleph (original translation)
The Library of Babel
The Zahir and I
More on Borges


December 19, 2004
The Discreet Charm of the Borg

See below for some trivial context.

Anyone want to hear my little theory of why Berman and Braga replaced the Ferengi with the Borg? Well, you're gonna hear it anyway.

First up I'll admit to accepting his claim that leering pint-sized interplanetary "Yankee traders" simply aren't scary. The Borg really are disturbing; what with the zombie plague references mixed in with that whole absolutely-will-not-stop mojo. So we only really need subtext for amusement's sake.

The usual subtextural theory is that while the Ferengi represent an extreme caricature of capitalism the borg are the ne plus ultra of socialist systems, and a corporate media product like ST:TNG would be much more likely to make villains of the latter and likeable rogues of the former. Amusing enough, but rather obvious and shallow...

Here's mine: Star Trek, like most space opera, is a prime example of the trend in SF described by the label "humanist". Although the characters live in a world where Faster Than Light travel, the electromagnetic transmission of matter, the creation of matter from energy at the touch of a button, are all possible, they are people just like us, largely unchanged by the technology around them. The few cybernetic implants around are medical protheses and those who have them do not regard themselves as enhanced by them - in an early episode (the one where everyone is intoxicated by some alien spore... thingy) Jordy bemoans the fact that he can't see "normally" like other people, even though his visor can detect a wider spectrum of light than average eyes.

The classic example of this belief in both the stability and superiority of natural humanity is Data. Despite his immense intellect, he makes naive errors about the simplest features of human social interactions, needs special hardware to feel emotions and yearns constantly to be a Real Live Boy. Is human personality really that hard to emulate? It's an open question but you'd think Data would be up to it. In the episode where he gets romantically involved with another crew member ("I've written a program just for you.") Spiner has a throwaway line on what he's thinking about. He reels off a long list of the various calculations and thoughts that are simultaneously occupying his positronic brain and it struck me that every time you talk to this guy, you're getting about 5% of his attention while the rest of the brain is thinking about other stuff. Data thinks like that all the time. And yet this was the closest the series ever got to exploring what having a mind like that would be like. Otherwise the usual theme was: no person would really want to be just an android, not even Data.

So - Star Trek is the epitomy of humanist SF: people like us in the future with way cooler toys. Enter the Borg. This society recognises no distinction between the machine and the flesh. It has no interest in culture except as a collection of usable technologies, and the technologies define who the Borg are as much as vice versa. The Borg are all cyphers - they have no human characters (or character development.) And they look like urban goths, with their figure hugging leathers, pale skins and subderma implants. Even the interior of a Borg cube looks like some chaotic neonlit multilevel streetscape.

You know where I'm going with this - the Borg represent everything humanist SF hates about cyberpunk. Stung by the spineless vacuity of their star-trekking SoCal commune, TNG's creators lashed out at what the best in SF were doing away from the Hollywood spotlight and took their revenge in encapsulating every caricaturing whine about Neuromancer and other works in the canon by taking the idea of a society changed in body and mind by the technology it uses into the ugliest, scariest, most unpleasant Bad Guys around. That'll show those hacker punks who laugh that the crew of the Enterprize still use keyboards.

I exaggerate for comic effect - but, ... it bears thinking about...

Good night.

Note about the above - I originally posted this as a test while in the process of fixing the template and then discovered that people were actually reading it (Memo to self: next time try gibberish). I had to delete the whole thing to remove some test comments (don't get me started about Blogger's in-built comments facility) but it seemed churlish not to restore it, even if it was some recycled flotsam I originally wrote at 3 in the morning and posted on the William Gibson discussion board as a joke. (To be precise: here.) Or perhaps I just like the new title and can't think of another context in which I could make that awful pun.

While the suggestion that the creators of
ST:TNG devised the Borg as a deliberate caricature of cyberpunk is mere whimsy, it is true that the common depiction of cybernetic organisms - and, for that matter, artificial intelligence - as a repugnant threat to normal humanity demonstrates an uneasiness with the possibility of a post-human future that sits awkwardly with SF's supposed commitment to open-minded futurism. That point, however, is hardly new so I won't belabour it here.


December 01, 2004
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