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Planned Obsolescence Update

Everything has moved on from my previous computing issue. As it turns out, putting 16gigs of RAM when you previously had 4 improves things nicely (Also, getting the dust out from inside of there… yeesh.) So I’ve upgraded my Scrivener and started on the short pieces for the next issue of UJ. Also, I’m planning on doing some recording and practicing with the new version of GarageBand, as I’m pretty sure it let’s you make your own drum loops and fills. That will be fun.

The difficulty always lies in using the computer as a tool rather than a distraction. To sit down with a goal in mind, even if that goal is “write 500 words” focuses the mind nicely, I’ve found. Scott Adams may disagree, but small, doable goals are a way to build to “systems”

Stick a Time-Traveling Fork In the Terminator Franchise

The problem with Corporate Art, as Andy Warhol foresaw, is that quantity eventually smashes quality. They keep repeating the same gestures, catch-phrases, plotlines, until whatever narrative existed logically has been spread out into meaninglessness. If you keep making enough seasons of a show, you will make it boring and tired. If you keep making enough films in a series, you will make it nonsensical. Everyone knows this. But they cannot stop.

The new Terminator movie that nobody asked for is tanking so hard, it’s probably gonna lose the studio $120 million. Many have said it’s the latest and greatest incarnation of “Get Woke, Go Broke”, and it could be so. But I think this franchise had become a joke, and this film would have failed even if it wasn’t an ideological zombie.

This isn’t merely the absurdity of time-travel premises. I, and better men than me, written on that before. This is what happens when you take the story and treat the previous chapters like a tabula rasa you can retcon to do whatever you want. You lose continuity, you lose clarity, you lose viewers.

Now I’m gonna pat myself on the back here. I haven’t seen a single Terminator movie since I was 14. Terminator 2: Judgement Day came out in 1991, seven years after the original. It built off the plot of the first movie; it did not retcon it. It amped up the stakes: not merely saving the future leader of the human resistance; but preventing nuclear armageddon itself is the goal. It was, in short, a perfect sequel to a good film. If they had left it alone, we would only thing of the series fondly.

Instead, they destroyed everything they had built. Because they had to. T2 left everything final; it had to be undone in order to even have more story. That this did not give the writers and producers pause about doing it tells you everything you need to know about the film industry and what it thinks of its product and its customers.

So when Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines came out, twelve years later, I skipped it. “The story is done, they’re just gonna ruin it,” I said. And of course, they did. Nuclear Armageddon arrives anyway, because it has to. And then in Terminator: Salvation, we’re in the future shattered world, in which a bunch of stuff happens that is sort of related, but not decisive or meaningful outside of its immediate context.

Because none of this is. Terminator: Genisys retcons this entire thing, with more time-travel jumps than Back to the Future Part II. Everything that happens previously is thrown out the window, and although this film did decent box office, critical reception was negative and very few people liked it all that much. So even though Terminator: Dark Fate was supposed to throw out everything that happened after T2 and be more of a direct sequel to that, no one cared and enough whiffs of Woke reached the core audience that they all finally decided to join me in the Camp of Wisdom.

Stop seeing these bastardizations; and they’ll stop making them.

Pompey’s Counter-Insurgency

Quintus Curtius has a fine article on his web site about Pompey’s most impressive victory:

Every victory seems easy in retrospect, of course.  But the campaign against the pirates was successful for very specific reasons.  They are as follows:  (1) deployment of sufficient forces to deal with the threat; (2) assignment of specific sectors of operation to local commanders, with each one made responsible for what happened in his area; (3) relentless pursuit of fleeing pirates so that they could not rest or hide; (4) a policy of “paroling” captured pirates and allowing them to return to their homes provided that they swore to abandon crime; (5) execution of the worst offenders; and (6) the capture of the main pirate strongholds in Cilicia.

These principles translate well to the modern age:

  • Overwhelming Force – The insurgent must respect your strength, and eventually learn to fear attacking you.
  • Divide, Clear, and Hold – pick the areas where they are weakest. Secure these first. Then painstakingly expand into areas where they are stronger, and drive them out of these. Pompey didn’t try to do it all at once; he ground them slowly down. This is the only thing that has ever worked.
  • Mercy to the Masses, Punishment to the Criminals – As Sun Tzu reminds us, men with no possibility of escape will fight to the death. The impulse to treat all insurgents the same must be avoided. During the Chinese Civil War, the Communists made it a policy to release Nationalist enlisted men who surrendered, and only imprison or kill their officers. This made it hard for the Nationalists armies to maintain fighting morale. The United States Army used a similar policy to great effect against Aguinaldo and the Phillipine insurgents at the turn of the 20th century. Any rebel could surrender and be paroled; only those accused of specific crimes would be punished.
  • Co-ordination. The disadvantage of government forces is that they lack the complete freedom of movement the guerrilla has, being weight down by the need to defend territory and the weight of institutional impedimenta. But with shared responsibility and independent action, they can bring their strength to bear.
  • Attack Their Sanctuary. None of the above matters if the insurgents can constantly regroup safely. Successful insurgents almost always have safe areas where their enemies cannot or will not go (North Vietnam and Cambodia, Tribal Areas of Pakistan, etc.). All effort must be made not to allow this.  When insurgents have no sanctuary, and their supplies are cut off, their institutional weaknesses become fatal.

Escaping from Planned Obsolescence

I bought my current home desktop computer, a Mac Mini, in 2012. I bought it on Father’s Day, and I sprung extra for the newly released version. It has reliably served my needs. I write, blog, pay my taxes, record podcasts and music, and play copious amounts of Crusader Kings 2 on this machine. It has been a solid investment.

This past week, I nearly destroyed it.

The new iOS on my phone is now sufficiently advanced that I cannot upload photos to my machine from it (I don’t use the cloud. I don’t trust the cloud. The cloud is a lie). In order to fix this, I needed to install the new MacOS, Catalina. Which I did.

I immediately regretted this decision.

In the first place, a bunch of apps that I regularly use won’t work with Catalina. Like Scrivener, which I use for writing. Like Microsoft Word. Like Garageband, which I use to record podcasts.

So Scrivener I can upgrade at a discouted rate by sending the developer an email with my receipt from the Mac App store I bought it from. Annoying, but doable. Microsoft word I can download for free, but they want $70 a year for an Office subscription. I feel like I can do better.

Garageband took some figuring out, but by deleting the old app I was able to download the new app, for free, and used it to record a podcast on Saturday. So far, so good.

But

the

computer

is

now

so

slow.

are-you-fucking-kidding-me-cle

Now, a new MacMini costs $800. And my wife’s computer is older, so she gets dibs on a replacement. Me shelling out that kind of cash because I let Apple shove me down the obsolescence treadmill is… well, it’s just dumb.

But, that generation of Mac Minis was designed to be user-upgradable (I know, is it even an Apple product?). So upgrading the memory will be really easy. I can do it myself for the price of some new RAM, which is currently on its way via Amazon.

And if that doesn’t work? I can try installing a new hard drive, which would actually be even cheaper. I didn’t go with it because there’s plenty of disc space on my existing hard drive, so I figured RAM was the problem.

The point is, I have options. I can gain expertise and understanding. I can do for myself instead of just chorfing the next part of the product cycle. I can, in short, act like an actual rational human.

And be silently thankful that Apple actually made choosing that option easy.

Dan Simmons Demonstrates There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Apparently he committed thoughtcrime by criticizing Little Angry Climate Girl, whereupon the usual gang of Two-Minute-Haters jumped up and down, whereupon his most well-known book shot up to #1 on Amazon. Larry Correia has the details.

Now, logically speaking, we must stipulate that Correlation is not Causality, so it’s entirely possible that the Legions of Woke were not the cause of Dan Simmons’ thirty-year-old book getting purchased by everyone who wearies of the Legions of Woke.

But if something else were the cause, then that might be even worse for the Neo-Puritans. Because that means their *INTERNET RAGE* had no power to derail … whatever that cause was. Incompetence or irrelevance, take your pick.

This reminds us that, absent a real armed struggle, the perpetually angry only have the power that you grant them. And once people realize that, realize that there are plenty of people who are sick as they are of the endless noise, then the noise retreats accordingly. As Rotten Chestnuts has it:

once the revolutionary fervor passed away with the first generation of fanatics, Puritanism was unsustainable.  In Massachusetts, for example, they were hanging witches in 1693; by 1698 Cotton Mather was being openly mocked, and by 1700 everyone was pretending that the whole sordid business never happened.

Stand Your Ground seems to be the operant principle.

 

New Pumpkin Spice Unnamed Journal!

It’s obligatory to do Seasonal-themed issues of a lit mag, and as much as I enjoy bucking trends, I also enjoy bucking the need to buck trends, because contrarianism knows no bounds.

UJ_20

This is one of our longer issues, as one of the four pieces is a radio script, and the other is almost 7,000 words. The other two come in at about 2,000 words, which is pretty standard for a piece of short fiction.

Click here to read.

 

Considering John O’Brien

The author of Leaving Las Vegas pretty well fit the cliche of the alcoholic writer. He embodied it so well, in fact, that it killed him.

O’Brien had been a hardcore alcoholic for much of his life. His sister, Erin O’Brien, said of his drinking: “John’s drinking problem started as soon as his drinking started. By the time he was 20, he was taking a clandestine flask to work. By the time he was 26, he was chugging vodka directly from the bottle at morning’s first light in order to stave off the shakes.”

In popular culture, it is often written that Leaving Las Vegas was the author’s suicide note, perhaps to try and make something ugly a tad bit prettier. His sister takes exception to that. “That story was the fantasy version of John’s exit,” says Erin, “The man who goes to Vegas and fades away in his sleep with a beautiful woman at his side? John’s death was nothing like that.”

Erin O’Brien has spent many years being the keeper of her brother legacy. “John was profoundly misunderstood by most people,” she told me. “There has been very little intelligent commentary out there on him and his work.”

This is relevant not just because Leaving Las Vegas is a masterpiece of prose style, albeit one that has drifted off the cultural radar in the last 20 years (virtually everything does, and if I can discover the novel 20 years later, there’s no reason anyone else can’t), but because of the promise destroyed. O’Brien had the talent to become a major American author, perhaps the best of his generation. Instead, he became the embodiment of what became his magnum opus by default. The true artist should always be larger than his work, not bound by it.