My thoughts on: The War

Going past the blood church

OK, so 2022 started off pretty shitty… I hadn’t even finished a post about what I thought of the pandemic from 2020-2021 (+ still going), and then our neighbour Russia attacked Ukraine which felt pretty unreal. During the beginning of the 21st century I’ve been optimistic that war is something that really doesn’t happen in Europe anymore… but I was wrong and after almost a year now my feelings are a bit of shock mixed with disbelief still.

And now, we’re in 2023 which is soon over so I’ll continue writing this post that began in 2022. Here are some thoughts…

The world is still a dangerous place

Having lived under peaceful conditions all my life (well, there was fighting in Yugoslavia if we’re talking Europe but it felt pretty far away in the 90’s when grunge was just becoming a thing) I couldn’t see that any modern, industrial European-minded countries wanted to go to war anymore. I thought that all countries after WW2 just wanted to put wars behind them and focus on building factories to make and sell shit to people who took jobs in order to buy all that shit and start families and go on vacations, musical concerts and gay parades.

But now that illusion is slightly broken and it isn’t looking better towards the end of 2023. The Middle East is still a fucked up place, and I wonder if climate change isn’t a factor making things dry up and get worse there. If the climate change is accelerated, as has been hinted at in 2023, the fires will surely start at the equator so civil unrest, wars, poverty and refugees will just be more and more common in the center of the world.

Authoritarian regimes are basically toxic masculinity

I don’t really get why Putin & company – let’s not call the gang of criminals that took over Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union a mob, but… yeah, they are gangsters, basically – want to play the abusive, dominant daddy to the former soviet countries instead of trying to become a modern economic powerhouse like Germany or Japan, or even Sweden. Russia is huge, there are workers there and natural resources. Perhaps the guys on top are just too corrupt and selfish (and inept) to really care about creating a flourishing economy that would benefit most people, and in order to stay in power while maintaining an illusion of democracy (really it is just a mobster gang pretending to be a democracy) they need some outer enemy that draws the attention elsewhere from all the injustice happening within the borders.

In order to understand Russians, and why they let things be like that, I think it’s important to understand the culture. Here I found this Finnish ex-military guy’s (RIP in 2023, by the way) lecture on Russian strategic culture quite helpful in comprehending some basics:

Basically, the lecture explains that the Russian people want a strong, authoritarian leader to protect them from chaos and mayhem because Russia has historically been easy to invade and the people have bad (genetic) memories from having been abused by the different invaders. And the leader the Russians choose is always right, having received the power from God, basically.

So, Putin is protecting his people from chaos by framing that NATO and the EU want to invade Russia, which of course is bonkers when you look at the craft beer drinking hipsters walking the streets of modern Europe – no-one wants to invade Russia, or go to war at all, it’s a much comfier life to watch Netflix and create new pasta dishes to get likes on social media than having to risk your life in order to move some borders on a map for no apparent reason.

Of course, the thing I wonder about is if the magicians in Kreml actually on some level believe in the illusions they cook up or if it is just purposeful sleight-of-hand done to keep the people under control. I’m leaning towards the latter, although I do fear that as Putin grows older he actually wants to leave his mark in history and do some great deed because that’s what he dreams about – being someone who did something big because he’s so good. I know I’m getting anxious that I haven’t created anything of historical importance yet (not counting this blog, of course!) and time is running out… maybe reuniting Crimea to Russia is his big dream, his gift to the Russian people and himself. But… why is that so important? Perhaps it is the only thing he knows how to do, if he has no other talents.

At least that unsympathetic-looking assassinated leader of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was able to illustrate a children’s book… if the rumours are true. Now that is a real achievement.

I don’t get it why Putin can’t be satisfied with stealing a shitload of money “legally”, getting laid and having children – what more could you want? Rewrite the Wikipedia? The age and Vladimir’s reactions are just basically his war on the woke agenda because in the modern world guys like Vladimir don’t sit too well in the scheme of things. They get fired from their jobs if they behave like dictators, as being dictator isn’t cool in the modern world anymore.

That’s toxic masculinity among men for you, some men just need to be the best even if they aren’t and have the need to bully the world if need may be.

But, that’s all for now. The war goes on and looks like its not ending soon… and my only time in Russia, in 2009, might be the last. Which makes me sad, as it is a neighbouring country and it seemed really nice. Except for the government.

The photographer himself

Runo – a game of Finland, from Finland (and free)

Cool stuff: a colleague from work recently announced that the game project she has been part of making has been completed, and the game released. The theme is extremely interesting and very Finnish, it’s a short but atmospheric experience and it’s a free download. The best part, of course, is that I’m almost celebrity as well here as I know one person who was involved!

Check the game out here:

Rant: Where are the real internet assistants?

OK, Google.
Alexa, help.
Hey, Siri.
Fuck you, Bixby.

There are these so-called assistants that the big internet companies like Google and Amazon are providing us with, that you use by issuing voice commands to smart speakers or mobile phones.

You can use these to, I don’t know (because I don’t use them), order movie tickets or find Uber rides? No fucking clue, because a) I don’t want to issue *voice* commands to an AI that tries to help me, b) I want to give commands in plain writing and c) I don’t trust any assistant to help me until we have a mutual agreement on what we can tell each other to do.

The assistant, in other words, needs to be someone I trust to do the things I want it to do and it needs to be *my* friend, or rather my property, not the ally of the company that supplies it to me.

Complaint #1: No Master and Slave -relationship

Although I denounce slavery completely, when it comes to AI:s I want them to *love me* and stay true to me like a dog. That is one issue with the assistants that big companies push on us “for free”, as I can’t be certain of where their loyalties live.

You need to have complete control of the data the AI uses on your behalf in order to understand why the AI does what it does and how to improve its search results as well.

Problem is, I can’t trust Alexa to do the best thing on my behalf if it is owned by Amazon – the assistant should not be loyal to a company that created it but to *me*, it’s owner.

Complaint #2: Assistants focus on commercial aspects

I want an assistant to fetch me data from all kinds of sources, not just shops and services. Say, I want to know what the COVID-19 situation is in a certain country currently; the assistant should know how to fetch the data from international and local sources and patch me a resume of what I want to know.

An other thing is, if I want an scientific article – or several – on a certain subject, the assistant would need to fetch me the most important ones from all the possible sources and if I have access through work to the services providing full text pdf:s, the assistant should download those into a folder for me as well.

I haven’t found this kind of functionality yet, but that it was internet assistants *should* fucking do… not try to sell me services I don’t need.

Complaint #3: Assistants aren’t platform independent individuals that live on my device

Assistants should be platform independent so you can export your preferences to any platform you want as time changes and the platforms too. My preferences, which the assistant-AI learns from my choices, are crucial and should not be wasted as time goes by. The AI should have a name of my choice and a constantly evolving personality that grows as I do. Starting over from scratch on every different platform is not fruitful. At least there should be a separate, transferable open database file that every new piece of assistant software can assimilate and use when I switch platforms.

I also want the assistant to serve me the same across platforms, and not favour one platform over another. Loyalty is really what I’m talking about. I want my “Alexa” to live on even if Amazon would nix it, so it should be Open Source. It’s my assistant, not the company’s.

So, there are some initial thoughts on what internet assistants should be like… we are pretty far away from that still, aren’t we?

Watching Star Trek: Discovery

OK, so season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery (ST:D from now on) has started, and luckily it’s on Netflix here in Finland.

Ever since Battlestar Galactica in my childhood I have been a sucker for quality space opera -TV-shows, so of course I’m watching this! The 21st century has been so far interesting in that shows have more room to move when it comes to violence and foul language, i.e. shows these days can be as gritty as they like and handle any themes they please. Although sexuality is still somewhat of a taboo, as America is so prudent about nudity… heads may blow up and blood can flow freely but tits and penises swinging on the screen is still a no-no. Strange world we live in, that way.

But, as TV shows have gotten better and taken over movies in some regards, quality sci-fi is still hard to find as it caters to a smaller – if economically quite wealthy – audience. In recent years, The Expanse is a book series *and* TV-series I’ve been following, and it’s doing a good job. But there isn’t much else in the way of space opera, except the Star Trek spin-offs, and now The Mandalorian on Disney+. Last year Amazon had Picard as a new Star Trek -series, and it was IMO quite mediocre if enjoyable from a nostalgic perspective. But ST:D is still a better series.

When it launched, ST:D felt like a mixture of ST:TOS, ST:TNG and the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies. The production values are consistently high, this is movie level stuff. However, plot wise all the 21st century Star Trek -series have tried to a) ride on nostalgia and b) add Star Wars-y action elements to the proceedings, which has sort of diluted one of the things that made the original Star Trek and the Next Generation so influential: the emphasis on non-violent, diplomatical ways of solving problems. So yeah, ST:D is trying to be more like Star Wars, I get it, but it’s also taking away from what makes Star Trek great.

Season 1 of ST:D started off in a bland and frankly boring way, but at the end of the season there was a twist that rode on old nostalgia and did it successfully. Season 1 really mined all it could from the Mirror, Mirror -episode of ST:TOS. Season 2 was more cohesive and quite interesting – although it also rode the nostalgia wave by having Spock in it. But it also seemed to bring the template that season 3 is following now: the overarching great mystery that the crew of the Discovery tries to solve.

Finally, and hopefully in season 3 – due to events from the end of season 2 – this series is free from the burden of old Star Trek episodes, and can create some original adventures.

So far, the series has again taken the template of presenting a mystery that will probably follow us through the whole season. And, it has shaken up things in a way that makes the Star Trek universe more like the Star Wars universe.

How convenient.

Hopefully there will be more Star Trek-ky ways of solving puzzles than blasting and shooting through doors, but we’ll see if the writers have the chops (and the courage) to write truly intelligent space opera for the 21st century…

The Playlist of 2020

A special year indeed has soon reached its end! And yeah, I made it alive too and most people I know. Safely working from home means that eating too much or slipping on the bathroom floor tiles is your worst danger, but I did also manage to get hospitalized for a few nights because of a tooth infection. That was a first, and certainly a reminder that things can go south pretty quickly.

But as I struggle with writing more stuff to get this blog (among other things) going, I’m going to at least compile some of the songs that helped me through this year here. Because music is power… and an easy way to write some content and link/embed the rest. Phew.

I Break Horses – Neon Lights

Lush, beautiful pop from Sweden that creates cinematic images and sequences in your mind if you just start listening to it. At long last ne stuff from this act, I still listen to a couple of the songs from the previous album. This is a sci-fi blast of happiness.

The Beths – Happy Unhappy

One band I stumbled across during the summer sitting in a cabin somewhere in Finland. This song somehow connected instantly.

Georgia – About Work The Dancefloor

Partying by myself during the summer to this tune was a common sight in 2020.

BT – Wildfire

A new album from master electronic producer Brian Transeau is always a small event. This time he’s gone full-on dad trance – or that’s how I’d best describe the album, but listen to this standout that is slightly derivative of his brilliant dance blast Tomahawk from a previous album, now with lyrics. And dance!

Erasure – No Point in Tripping

Wow! These guys are still around, true to their style… and this is a solid synthpop track that provides poppy energy while having that vintage analogue synth sound to it – Andy still has a great voice and Vince a knack for melodic hooks.

Future Islands – Plastic Beach

End of summer -vibes with enough energy to take you into the next spring. Also, not littering the seas with plastic is important.

Inon Zur – Liberty Lives

I spent some time playing Fallout 4 again in the spring because I was in the mood for some post-apocalyptic stuff for some reason. And wow, it was a lot better than the first time I made an effort of it. The music is really a high point of the game and this theme really makes my eyes moist every time because it’s just so heroic and… well, if you’ve played the game you know what a feeling it is taking back the Castle, what it means. We will take back our world from Covid-19 too, and you can play this theme! And cry!

Dubstar – Hygiene Strip

An early christmas present from one of the best British pop acts ever, and a nigh on perfect song to wrap up this year.

A bit high on energy and dance beats perhaps, but that’s how it is this time. Have a good end of 2020!