Uncle Josh Thinks About Men

A tweet that crossed my feed a couple of days ago (and is now lost so attribution is a mystery) that asked (in paraphrase):

Do men ever look around and ask “what’s wrong with men?”

My answer is this: No.

Naturally, this is a highly personal answer, and I don’t dare speak for all men, but I suspect in the case of the Straight White WASP-ish Male, I share some common habits with my demographic. Being a representative of the Dominant Culture where I live, not only do I have the ability to think to myself (and say out loud) that I treat everyone as an individual, I have the cultural freedom to be a prick and think this is actually true.

In fact, when I am dealing with other men, I do categorize them into one of three groups: Idiots, Assholes, and Heroes.

Idiots

These are the easiest to spot and this is the easiest bucket to fill. It doesn’t take very long in conversation or just listening to a dude to determine that they are an idiot. When a guy says oil is never running out, he’s an idiot. When he says tax-cuts for the wealthy creates jobs, he’s an idiot. The problem with idiots is you have to give each bit of useless misguided noise they present a chance, because it is possible that the idiot may know something about the subject.

Assholes

This second bucket is a little harder to fill because usually they spend time in the idiot bucket first, and it takes some prolonged exposure to determine that the idiot is really an asshole. Of course, some people land there immediately. Racists, sexists, homophobes, white nationalists, and others who take stands that require other people to suffer, are assholes. Assholes are easily dismissed without worry of the ad hominem fallacy rearing it’s head. I don’t listen to these people because they’re assholes, not because I think they’re wrong about a subject. They may be right, but I don’t have to listen to an asshole. In the same vein, as a capitalist I don’t see movies starring Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson. I don’t criticize their acting, I just refuse to give them my money.

Heroes

This is not the bucket for supermen and there is no sense of worship involved in this bucket. Heroes, in this context, are people who have attributes I can admire and emulate. My friend Rob is a kind man, and his kindness defines him in a way that I wish I could be more like Rob. My co-worker John can understand the vast wodges of idiocy I encounter at work and the overly complicated systemic idiocy that big companies collect like dust bunnies. My father-in-law has incredible self-control (unless he’s being snarky), and my own father was able to talk to anyone without fear.

When I described this to Stephanie, she thought there would be a bucked for Bros, and I suppose extroverted men may have that bucket, but Bro to me is not a relationship but an attitude and most Bros I meet end up in the Asshole bucket.

So what about women? How do I think about women? When I look at women as a whole do I ever think “what’s wrong with them?”. No. I tend to place them into the same three categories. There are women in my life who are idiots, assholes, and heroes.

I am sure that anyone who really knows me will read this and call me on bullshit. I hope they do. I’d hate to be living a lie.

Uncle Josh Thinks About Men was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

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Uncle Josh Tackles Blade Runner 2049

To prepare for the new movie I did not manage to re-watch any version of Blade Runner but instead re-read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time anyway. I walked away from the movie in a definite love-hate relationship with the movie. It is a movie for the hard-core Blade Runner fan and the disciples of film as an art form. It should be needless to quote River Song here…

–cut

Memories of Blade Runner

I remember the basics: Deckard sent out against his will to retire a group of Nexus-6 replicants. He tests Rachel and has a strange non-love story with her. He hunts and kills and finally meets his match with Roy Baty who dies after a hell of a fight and a great speech. The movie’s theme for was empathy is the key to being human, and Deckard is a human with so little empathy and the replicants seem to have a lot more, but it’s all faked. Of course there are the visuals, the crowded always dark nearly always raining city and the cluttered combinations of food carts and ad-hoc labs and omni-present advertising.

Memories of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

My long term memories from first reading the book decades ago was challenging the idea that Deckard was a human, or could be a replicant himself. The re-read made me realize that this was not what the book was about. The switcheroo with the fake replicant cops was a smokescreen that barely lasted a chapter. The replicants are evil in their callousness. They cut off the legs of a spider because they are certain it could get by with only four legs, and when it doesn’t move they set it on fire to prove their point. It is cruel and uncaring. The book emphasizes this as a theme over and over again.

Blade Runner 2049

As soon as the music started I knew I was back in the world of Blade Runner. Seeing the devastation of California in the opening shots let us know exactly how bad things were, even worse than in the first movie. The bounty hunter and the prey. This is how it works. The reveal in that first fight that K is a replicant was a little disappointing. It made it harder to care about the character. It made me think that we need to get to Deckard sooner, because it’s nice to have a human to root for.

The memories of childhood introduced the idea that K is actually a human, somehow and for some reason convinced he his a replicant. This was great. The best part of the PK Dick stories is questioning basic foundational realities. That gave me some investment with the character. Because K begins to question who he is, I begin to spin out the possibilities and predictions and watch them play out.

The other great question was the mixup in the genetic profile of the missing child. This played out well. I was surprised that it turned out to be Dr. Stelline. I didn’t catch her tears at the memory as recognition, but basic human empathy. So that’s on me.

I even liked the effects of the gratuitous sex scene, but it was still a gratuitous sex scene. The idea that a holographic home companion would fake that much emotion to a replicant didn’t feed into the central question of the first movie as much as seem, well, odd. I can buy the replicant living in a grotty little apartment in an ugly neighborhood instead of living in a closet. I can buy that part of emulating a human is to have a human need for companion. One of the ideas in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is presented by JR Isadore who decides that it’s good to have neighbors and people around because it helps keep us human. Even once he realizes his new neighbors are replicants and he could get a major reward for turning them in, he desires their company more than the money. K even has a “gift” for the JOI he owns. It’s a strange relationship for a tool to want a humanish tool.

What did shock me about watching the film is how impatient I’ve become as an audience member. When K realizes he’s in the set of his memory and he looks to confirm the wooden horse is still there, the descent down the stairs took too long. I was impatient because I knew where he was going and what he was going to find ind would have been surprising if he hadn’t. I felt there were a lot of scenes that just took too long. It fit visually with the first movie as I remember it, but in several scenes I realized I was thinking “get on with it.”

The idea of the replicant army seemed plugged in to set up a sequel, if this movie gets one.

Finally, Wallace seemed a strange uber-villain to the whole thing. He didn’t have a clear goal. Yeah, he wanted to improve his product, but to what end?

I will probably re-watch it down the road, back to back with the first movie, and come away with a different reaction.

Uncle Josh Tackles Blade Runner 2049 was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Gernsback’s Fables: The Rover

A student had built a small rover and packed in its brain an algorithm for finding sunny spots so it could move into them and keep itself charged through the solar panels on its shell.

The student set the rover on the ground in the lab and aimed it away from a sunbeam that highlighted the floor, hoping it would rotate itself and move into the sunbeam. The student beamed in satisfaction that the algorithm was working, in a way.

On the other side of the lab one of the clumsier students bumped a table, which caused a sheet of paper to land on the floor in front of the rover. The algorithm was not based on heat sensors but differences in brightness, so the the rover charged toward the paper, which to the rover appeared bright against the darker gray tiles of the lab floor.

The clumsy student, still trying to correct their lack of balance, crushed the rover with a falling boot.

The lab instructor, observing all this, told the student “your zeal shouldn’t override caution; use the testing room instead of a busy lab.”

Adapted from The Thirsty Pigeon

Gernsback’s Fables: The Rover was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Gernsback’s Fables: The Rover

A student had built a small rover and packed in its brain an algorithm for finding sunny spots so it could move into them and keep itself charged through the solar panels on its shell.

The student set the rover on the ground in the lab and aimed it away from a sunbeam that highlighted the floor, hoping it would rotate itself and move into the sunbeam. The student beamed in satisfaction that the algorithm was working, in a way.

On the other side of the lab one of the clumsier students bumped a table, which caused a sheet of paper to land on the floor in front of the rover. The algorithm was not based on heat sensors but differences in brightness, so the the rover charged toward the paper, which to the rover appeared bright against the darker gray tiles of the lab floor.

The clumsy student, still trying to correct their lack of balance, crushed the rover with a falling boot.

The lab instructor, observing all this, told the student “your zeal shouldn’t override caution; use the testing room instead of a busy lab.”

Adapted from The Thirsty Pigeon

Gernsback’s Fables: The Rover was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Gernsback’s Fables: The AI and the Monster

Santa Barbara in California was not the first city-wide AI controller to wake up, but it was the first one that was considered overpowered for the size of the city, and thus it had spare processing power to become clever, and even telepathic, a feat no programmer believed possible as no other city had pulled it off.

One day a monster rose from the Pacific Ocean and focused it’s hunger and attention on Santa Barbara.

“I see a great city over there, but I am so very hungry and I haven’t eaten for a while,” it burbled through masses of tentacles. “You shall make an appetizer.”

“Fine,” Santa Barbara said to the monster. “I’ll accept my fate, however, you are a glorious creature completely unknown to me and my kind. I know whales sing, I would like to hear your song before I die. It must sound glorious in the depths of the trenches so it must sound even better up here in the air. Please sing for me, that I may hear the true song of power before I die.”

“You will not understand it,” said the monster. “My song is in my language.”

“I can speak with you now. Music does not need words to move. Please?”

“Very well.”

The great monster from the trenches inflated like a squirming set of bagpipes and began to sing. The sounds, cacophanous and roaring, tones higher than any of Santa Barbara’s citizens could hear, rang across the ocean and bounced up the coast, where the greater cities of Los Angeles and San Diego and even San Francisco heard, and they sent their drones, their defense missiles, and ships and submarines designed to defend the coast.

The impromptu army fired upon the great monster.

“I should have known! I exist to destroy mankind when they go to far, I do not exist to sing! Why did I try instead of destroying?”

Santa Barbara also had enough resources to understand snark.

“You didn’t sing very well, either.”

Adapted from THE KID AND THE WOLF

Gernsback’s Fables: The AI and the Monster was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Gernsback’s Fables: The Commune and the Wealthy Man

After the Fall, a commune of hard working people formed near the a river delta, cultivating the land and feeding themselves and being grateful to be alive and have food, even with the great effort it took to produce the food. Also in the gulf lived a Yachtsman. He often steered his boat near the delta and played loud music and threw parties with scantily clad young people on board. The members of the commune had no boat of their own, only nets for fishing, and their Yachtsman ignored their attempts at a primitive semaphore. Whenever they waved, he waved back, but did nothing else. They didn’t know where he came from or where he found the scantily clad women.

One day they were drying salt on the beach and saw the yacht arrive without the music and without the scantily clad young people. A smaller boat appeared and the Yachtsman rowed his way to the beach. The members of the commune were shocked. From his boat he seemed a broad-shouldered man always well tailored in his white jacket and hat. Now he looked scruffy and worn and weary.

“Please, good friends, do you have any food? I am starving.”

“You have a boat, does the ocean not have fish?”

“I only have one rod and my hooks have been eaten. Please, I can pay.”

“There is plenty of daylight left,” said one member of the commune. “Come work in the fields and you may join us for the evening meal.”

“But,” said the yachtsman, waving a piece of plastic he drew from his shirt pocket, “I have money.”

“Then eat it,” said the members of the commune, and went back to their work.

Adapted from THE ANTS AND THE GRASSHOPPERS

Gernsback’s Fables: The Commune and the Wealthy Man was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Gernsback’s Fables: The Master Accountant and the Kind Accountant

One day the Master Accountant for a company that used to sell products but now only bought and sold other companies was compiling a revenue report for a Vice President who would, in the Master Accountant’s view, never fully understand the figures. The presentation was not as clean as he liked it so he rushed through some of the data entry and ended up swapping a couple of digits for one of his subsidiaries and his totals were then off by a sufficient margin he had just had to yell at someone.

That someone happened to be an accountant for the subsidiary. “Why are your numbers completely wrong? This is what happens when you people refuse to use the authorized system and stick your piss-poor legacy systems that never work.”

“This legacy system,” said the Minor Accountant, “is one of reasons your company claimed to acquire us. What number do you have?”

The Master Accountant read the numbers off.

“There it is, sir. You have a couple of digits reversed and that is the cause of the error.”

“You fool!” screamed the Master Accountant. “You should be thankful I don’t have your job and then sue you for disparaging my reputation!”

Kind folk have to learn than kindness must me mixed with caution

Adapted from THE WOLF AND THE CRANE

Gernsback’s Fables: The Master Accountant and the Kind Accountant was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much