In college I wrote a document called the "Warez Manifesto" which laid out the principles by which the use of unlicensed software becomes moral. In a recent email exchange with a friend relating to someone else who was talking about their own software piracy I had occasion to revisit the topic and briefly (and crudely) summarize my feelings...
My basic argument regarding the rights of property which can duplicated without a further resource required of the producer (i.e., duplicating a song) is that if the individual is making or receiving the duplicate for their own use and they would have otherwise not have used that property legally, then in my eyes they are doing nothing immoral. Obviously the part that must be factored in, to some degree, is the collateral damage done by someone's passive (or mildly active) support of piracy which serves a large audience of people who would be behaving immorally because this illegal use is an alteration of their behavior (they would have otherwise paid for the product).
But there is a stronger, though more peculiar, argument which says that such piracy is not only not immoral but is in fact a moral imperative. I started to write this argument to my friend before running out of time and leaving it somewhat incomplete... But I think it still has some merit in this form.
Our little society is hurtling its way somewhere... We're racing towards the cliff and whether we'll fly off the edge and ascend into the heavens or plummet into the abyss I'm not sure... Immortality, elimination of suffering, ubiquitous joy, technology can usher all those things in (or kill us all quite dead)... I am not sure to what degree we can protect ourselves from the downside. For though we evolve our society by leaps and bounds, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bushel, and we've got a big bushel, and the bad apples are getting more infectiously rotten. Our killing capacity is growing by leaps and bounds as well, and we're approaching an age where someone with modest resources and modest knowledge will be able to kill nearly everyone in one go through biotechnology, nanotechnology, etc. and I don't think we can do much to modify that threat. We might be able to delay it 50 or 500 years by limiting access to information, restricting some technologies, but the information and the technologies will eventually be available to all. So I figure, oh well, might as well roll the dice sooner rather than later (why put off the inevitable?). Progress begets progress. Advances in curling iron technology is just as vital as advances in defense technologies, -ish. Obviously not really, but the idea is that technology and society are never elevated in only one sector. A society which has fabulous fashion design abilities will be directly and indirectly raised up by those mad skills. Maybe the fashion produces the GDP which lets the society buy other people's technology, which feeds the development of that other technology, or perhaps the fashion sense literally invites new ways of thinking about problems in general, about society in general, and the society and technology are elevated. Of course it can go the other way, too. But rarely does it, really... I mean, inexorably we move forward, accepting the odd dark ages here and there. Our darkest hours in recent years may kill tens of millions (see WWII) but boy do we rapidly advance in times of trouble! So, my logic has it that if advancement is inevitable, if we might as well race towards it as meander towards it, and if even unrelated progress is progress, then I think we are improved if as many people have access to as many "advanced" tools as possible. So, if little college Johnny can't afford to buy a copy of $1600 Photoshop, I think his purloining one helps us progress. His access to the tools will give him access to the knowledge which will give him the opportunity to contribute, and our society moves one step closer to our fate one day sooner. And I think, given our peculiar circumstances, that's the right thing to do.
Nothing I said or feel on this subject conflicts in any way with the notion that everyone deserves to be compensated for their work, as they are currently. My argument that theft (as currently defined) can be moral requires that the individual act of theft engenders no loss (of any significance) to the producer/creator. I'm all for cracking down brutally hard on "immoral" piracy while legally codifying "moral" piracy. Essentially I'm just arguing in favor of an updated and digital version of squatter's rights/adverse possession protection. Instead law seems to be going the opposite way, extending copyrights and patents ridiculously beyond their original intended runs, and granting patents to the first in line with utterly unremarkable and obvious nonsense ("one click" shopping). And that hurts everyone by enriching only the already enriched, and not encouraging continued ingenuity.
I'm sitting outside at the cafe the other day and I strike up a conversation with this normal looking guy next to me. He had a netbook similar to mine, and we got to talking about them. The conversation expanded a bit and he was asking me for advice about jailbreaking an iPhone to do tethering. All of a sudden he stops me and says, "Did you see her?" I reply, "No, who?" "Oh man, you missed out! The woman who just walked by, wow!"
While I am staunchly heterosexual and enjoy a reasonable and quasi-artistic appreciation of the women who might happen by me in any given moment, I can't help but be a little confused by these sort of reactions I see from men. How exactly was that interaction supposed to go?
Was I supposed to say, "Yes, I did see her, thanks for checking to make sure I did. Damn, she sure was beautiful. Would you like to talk about what specifically you liked about her physically?" Or perhaps I was supposed to say, "Oh, thank you, yes, I see her now, phew, let me go ask her out!" Or perhaps, "Oh, yes, I bet she's just your type, would you like me to fetch her and introduce you?" I don't know, it just seems like there's nowhere you can reasonably go with that conversation. How do I benefit from having seen her? How do we benefit by talking about her?
But I also don't understand strip clubs. I don't understand why someone would go somewhere to pay a lot of money to get "all worked up". I mean, it seems more logical to me to either make peace with being a "John" and find yourself a suitably affordable woman, or pursue a disease free evening at home with yourself, your little gentleman and his five friends, and a "bad" movie.
I suppose next time someone says something like this to me I'll just try to roll with it and see where it does go...
I must breathe, and drink water, and sup, and excrete, and Society (the grand They) seem to expect small talk. And that's fine. I think for me it's when it lingers over the small and you realize the small is all there will be that I feel a bit frustrated. Which isn't to say I don't care about the small stuff. I ask my friends how was their day because I care and even their minor incidents are pieces of their larger puzzle. But it's also the depth of my awareness of them that makes those small things important to me.
What is awfully hard for me to suffer through is when you get dragged to a bar by a friend... And you spend the next three hours briefly conversing with slightly drunk people about the most superficial aspects of themselves. I come away knowing a human named Cindy exists and she is an account rep at a pharmaceutical company, that she went to Northwestern, that she has a thing for Gucci bags, she likes Hawaii, and she thinks Robert Downey, Jr.T is super sexy. Ugh. I want to know what Cindy feels when she first sits at her desk in the morning. Excitement? Dread? Why does she seem to have this palpable sadness about her? Is this really who she thought she'd become five years ago? What secrets is she keeping from her friend, Jen, who's sitting right next to her. Does she secretly lust after Jen's husband?
That's what I want to ask, what I want to know. Anyone can ask me anything any time any place. I may choose not to answer but I won't be offended. I don't have rules about you can't ask me this or that until some whenever. Obviously if you ask me and also seem odd I'll assume you're a few bricks shy of a load, and may keep myself to myself. But that's just sensible. To the mostly sane I would bare my soul at the drop of hat.
Peanuts (the comic) is the perfect storm of all my core hatreds. I detest things which get grossly disproportionate attention. I detest things which have no characters I can relate to. I detest swishy jazz music (love dixie land, love Satchmo, like Ellington, hate those free form make-it-up-as-we-go stoned-out-of-our-gourd-but-our-audience-won't-notice). Peanuts has wasted god knows how much printed page space for god knows how many years and elicited in its entire run sixteen and one half chuckles, four of those were from drunk people who were reading it upside down. Charles Schultz made millions upon millions. Newspapers paid millions upon millions. And have you seen that "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" play? I was forced to see it twice as a kid. You know what happens in it? Nothing. You know what costumes they are wearing? None! Snoopy is just a dude, wearing a white shirt. No dog mask. No tail. No barking. And Charlie Brown is just a dude with that stupid yellow shirt with the zig zag. Oh my god. Make an effort, people. That's what that sort of jazz does to you, that's who goes to see it! And everyone on Peanuts sucks. I love dogs. But if Snoopy was a real dog I'd euthanize him with extreme prejudice. I hate him worse than Scrappy Doo, and thinking about Scrappy Doo churns bile in my belly. And who else is on that show? Bunch of little shits. You've got smelly guy, piano guy, psychiatrist girl, pull the football bitch. I mean Linus was the only major character I didn't absolutely hate, but he was still pretty god damn smug about his smarts. And all it is is swishy jazz, swishy jazz, swishy jazz. When adults talk, when stuff happens, etc. And what the fuck is with the WWI Snoopy cousin flashbacks with the flying doghouse? Mother of god, get the damn dog some PTSD medication and treatment, he's been suffering for 90 freaking years now. Anyway, that's the gist of why I hate it. I could go on for hours, especially if I got drunk at a Peanuts-themed bar. Ohhh.. And WTF is the name Peanuts for? Name it Snoopy for god sake. The good people of Hanna-Barbara didn't name their show Cashews when it was really about Scooby Doo. What a pretensious asshole Charles Schultz was. He and Hitler are the only good reasons I can think of for not curing mortality. To think of an infinitude of time and space stuck with those two... Ugh.
My resolution for this year is to be more mischievous, to keep only but absolutely one toe dipped in sinful waters. While I instinctively reject the notion that evil must exist in the world if there is to be good, I concede we are stuck with it. As such, we might as well pay attention to what evil can teach us about being good, and living well, and use at least mildly evil acts as landmarks to plot our path towards goodlier shores. So this year I am trying to better define that line between good and evil by probing that boundary with mischievous acts, getting as near as I dare, never quite stepping over.
The acts will all be harmless pseudo evils, intended (if having any external intention at all) to do no more than confuse, entropize, inspire, and/or incite.
Among my mischievous goals for the year:
- Create intricate large scale public hoaxes. [I've already completed one such hoax, getting the attention of tens of thousands of people!]
- Graffitti meaningful messages / art in non-damaging public places. [Working on the art for this.]
- Lie pointlessly and frequently to strangers.
- Practice and use a British and/or Scottish accent in public.
- Always use random names when placing food, beverage orders.
- Intercept a restaurant delivery order, happening to catch a delivery person on their way to someone's front door, paying for that food, then eating it (or donating it to homeless people if it has meat/fish). [Almost did this the other day.]
- Send mysteriously intriguing packages to strangers around the country.
- Steal silverware from some restaurants, which I'll return later thereby undoing wrong. [One setting borrowed thus far.]
- Create, publish, promote, and win converts to my new religion. [In progress.]
- and more...
I'm pleased with my progress so far... But it's about the journey, not the destination, so whatever I achieve will be a pleasingly good enough.
I'm 84.6% nihilist, but not in the anarchist's co-opted blow-stuff-up sense. Rather, I neither believe nor disbelieve most things I don't directly experience. I used to drive my last ex-girlfriend nuts by doubting her every celebrity sighting claim. Once a week she would say, "I just saw [insert celebrity name here] on 3rd Street." And it just seemed like the frequency was impossible, and that she was mixing in people who just happened to bear resemblances. In fairness, I discovered later I had prosopagnosia, a mild case, and so I really was in no position to deny her claims. I can have difficulty recognizing people I only know (though only those I know slightly). Whatever the excuse, it was slightly obnoxious of me. I meant it in jest, but that doesn't mean it was forever funny.
I'm a vegetarian for reasons of morality, rather than health or the environment; taste seems a poor reason to kill. But there are other reasons to kill living creatures, and I either guilty of or complicit in them. We all are. Any vegan/vegetarian who believes otherwise is not being honest with themselves.
It is so easy to kill. And we do it in so many ways, some direct and many more indirect.
My personal weapons of choice are my shoes and my car. I shudder to think how many little creatures I have tread upon or how many winged miracles I've turned to goo on my windscreen. And much to my sorrow, driving I have killed two birds, and possibly a cat; every day I get in my car I accept that risk as part of the cost of my transportation. And I've also killed insects I couldn't easily or safely escort outside, by hand and chemical attack.
But there are also less direct means of murder.
One of the worst ways is that I buy meat products for my dog. My dog is a rescue, so I didn't create her, or her need to eat, but out of concern for her health (which is already poor) I choose to feed her the meat diet her biology expects. My money pays for her food which pays the farmers and fishermen to do their dirty deeds. I've also supported various dog charities and their saving of dogs which will over the course of their years eat many an animal.
But even my own food is indirectly complicit. When I purchase a vegetable from the store I accept that the farmer in his planting and harvesting killed many a pest in order to get this to me; insects and animals are killed by pesticides, by traps, by farm machinery, by the vehicles delivering the produce, etc.
Of course there are also plenty of other often discussed sources of animal suffering and death I am indirectly responsible for, such as the research done for medications and surgery procedures I have been or will be prescribed, as well as products I have or will buy that I may not realize involved animal testing.
But to my mind, my greatest contribution to the suffering and slaughter of animals comes from the most indirect and least avoidable source, my every daily dollar spent. I buy the goods that meat eaters make, I pay for the services meat eaters render. My rent goes to meat eaters, my health insurance payment goes to meat eaters, my car payment goes to meat eaters, my tax supports the infrastructure of a meat eating nation, and I've employed and will employ meat eaters. And with every dollar that ends up in the pockets of a meat eater, some meat/fish/fowl is purchased, and I increase the likelihood that they will create and raise meat eating families, and that they will buy those children meat, and that...
Anyone who sees their vegetarianism or veganism as the absolute end of their complicity in the slaughter and suffering of animals is a fool. But it's ok. It's a start, and a very good start. And it's likely the only way change will come. Vegetarians/vegans would win no converts to their way of thinking by isolating themselves, converts are won by being perfectly normal people who just happen not to eat animals.
My vegetarianism is my attempt to do the best I can to create a future I want, while living in a reasonable present where I feel ok with my actions; and I think it's important not to fool myself into thinking my life or actions are any purer than they are.
I've always wanted to learn how to draw, but never actually gave it much of a try. I've always had lots of ideas (for inventions, alternate realities, etc.) that I wanted to express, but had no means to express them. So, I recently set about trying to learn to draw. And this is my first ever attempt at drawing something meant to look real, with shading. The power went out today, and I couldn't work, so I sat by my kitchen window and sketched the candle stick on the table.
I am descended from a very long line of wandering fortune telling gypsies. My dad used to make 200,000 Leus a day in his summers off from school in Bucharest. He used to tell me about his single greatest act of clairvoyance. This old British couple approached him in the main square and asked him not for spiritual guidance, but the more practical kind, the location of the nearest post office so they could mail some postcards. As my dad was about to tell them he had a sudden, wrenching foreboding. Instead of sending them to the main postal branch which was just one block away, he sent them to one of the auxiliary branches six blocks away. Within thirty minutes he saw smoke rising from behind a line of shops, just where the main post office stood. A boiler exploded, setting fire to the building and killing 58 people, all but three from the stampede to escape. The elderly couple came back the next day, having learned of the explosion, and realizing their misdirection. They gave him 1,000,000 Leu (about $20 US), and their address in case he was ever in England and needed a place to stay. As it happened he did go to England about four months later as part of a school trip. He called at their address only to find one of their daughters at home. The couple had died, tragically, just a week after their return from Romania, apparently from eating some bad shellfish in Brighton. My dad ended up dating the daughter (long distance) for 6 months. He learned that had the couple died in Romania their insurance policy which had a travel clause would have paid the equivalent of $1 million US to the surviving family, not to mention what the Romanian government was paying in compensation, but as they died at home of causes which were never adequately proved, the family had to settle for little more than burial expenses. Seeing the financial (and resultant emotional) suffering of the surviving children, my dad stopped telling fortunes. He felt he had no right to alter the destiny of others, feeling on some level that destinies were fairly inescapable, and already as "ideal" as an unideal thing could be; and that his efforts only muddied the stream of life.
A coffee shop mixed with boredom means an opportunity for creating peculiar statistics about yourself. I just calculated that I've been in the company of a woman roughly 164.52 months (13.71 years), which is 36.08% of my life. Not bad.?!