bad move

Watching environmentalism wrong-foot itself to this degree is sad. Now they’re just rolling about on the floor with all the other “narratives”. When everything’s a clash of fantasies, nothing ever gets done. Will postmodernism ever end ? Probably not–too useful to the legal, political & religious professions. But on a more optimistic note, at least string theory (“postmodern physics”) seems to have given up on itself. The universe can go back to being inelegant.

Reading: Irene Nemirovsky, All Our Wordly Goods. Life doesn’t get much better than that. Looking forward to: a nice Indian lunch with Mic Cheetham. As for this, it’s as clear & beautiful as Nemirovsky, & as long as we all use our intelligence to understand what’s going on, it’s the upside of making narratives. It goes well with this, & with Municipal Archive’s whole project.

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19 responses to “bad move

  1. MikeM

    I have ambiguous feelings about the Green Man in that story; the recognition of the stance may be useful in nimby struggles to rescue the odd bit of heathland but the thing has gone from possibly being a hard-wired, necessary reaction to global loss of habitat, to becoming a set of personal colonizations of legal and philosophical spaces. If there was ever any part of the language of especially academic post-modern thought that got my goat, it was always these words: ‘mapping’ and ‘space’. We are apes – we still scent territory, we don’t ‘map’ it. Nobody sees this coming until they get beaten to death for a witch’s hat.

  2. Duke of Sussex

    rhetoric indeed. There is a war on paper in my office.
    “Think about your colleagues” plead guilt inducing emails with graphic and unsettling images of medium sized stacks of paper that have been unmasked as dangerous fire hazards.

    As a journalist I can tell you the concept of the paperless office remains a myth. A deforestation of paper arrives every day.

    Strangely the health and safety nazis omit to mention the sizeable wooden desk the offending paper pile sits on – that should burn nicely.

  3. uzwi

    It’s just rhetorically stupid to visibly & publicly “admit” that your fact-based concerns are a “belief”. It’s just a crap play, & you will fall instantly & deservedly into the obvious counter-move (which the opposition have been working for some years anyway, & are good at, so it will seem like the most utter gift to them).

    But I’m sick of the “it’s my belief so you have to let me win” schtick anyway. Crap when it’s insincere, as in Bliar, & insane when it’s sincere. Religion & ideology dragging everything else down to their own level. I’m so pissed off with all of this I’m beginning to think that no one should have “justice” unless their argument is based on known physics, demonstrable in a logical positivist way. Anything else should receive some sort of bizarre judgement of Solomon handcrafted on the spot by the Court Surrealist. “I cannot find with the plaintiff in this case, but he may stand on his head & eat this bun, while the defendant beats his feet with a Victorian toy.” “Thank you your honour.” There would be no appeal. It would be illustrated by Ian Miller.

  4. Mike A

    Paperless offices certainly are a myth. A large part of my job is developing web tools and other software. Being primarily a visual thinker, extensive doodling, diagramming and general jotting – on paper – are a big part of my process. It just doesn’t work on screen. Fortunately, as I work for a printing company, there’s never a shortage of old laser proofs to scribble on the back of.

    Mike (JH), I agree with your point about the dangers of relativising green arguments to the status of “just another discourse”. It puts me in mind of the creationists who say evolution is “just a theory”, as though all theories are equal. Quantum mechanics is “just a theory”, but it’s also the reason computers work. If the fundies could produce a computer powered by the Holy Spirit I might have a bit more time for their preferred “theories”.

  5. Martin M

    I like neither the whinging, Fotherington-Thomas aspect (“Leave off, you rotters – those are my *beliefs*!) – nor the yolking of “fact” to conviction. Through negative induction, you can justify almost anything by referencing “the unknown”: just from this list, worship of Cthulhu or ignoring climate change (because “that’s how it used to be”) get the thumbs up:

    And Court Surrealist? Let it loose on politicians. Yo, Prez! Wassa precipitation probability today, y’all?

  6. Dave

    >>When everything’s a clash of fantasies, nothing ever gets done. Will postmodernism ever end ? Probably not–too useful to the legal, political & religious professions.

    Oh, stuff gets done. A lot of backwards stuff.

    Last night in Maine, regressisve voters came out to repeal the law allowing gay marriage. A news story reports that Rev. Bob Emrich, who organized the anti-gay campaign, had this to say:

    “God has given us this victory and it is very important for us to recognize that he is the one who put the energy into this campaign. So let’s not be so arrogant to forget this. It’s very appropriate to pause for a moment of prayer.”

    I wonder if he thinks God is putting his energy into melting the ice at the poles.

    Bob better learn to swim. Only then will postmodernism be over.

  7. Martin M

    It’s too late anyway, Dave – Revd. Bob (why does that sound like a leather bar pick-up name ..?) has backed the wrong pony. This is a definite portent of The End.

  8. matrixless

    “Quantum mechanics is … the reason computers work.”

    No, hardware and software are the reason computers work.

    I used to say that playing with ones and zeros was an inefficient way of using plastic, copper, and glass. Apparently, someone needed to get excited about QM to do something more than talk about it.

    I doubt anyone ever claimed that the deepest layer of reality consisted of Boolean logic.

    (Theory, and a poor one, is precisely what QM is. The long sought-after “God particle” at the center of it has proven to be exactly as elusive as the Christian God, which is a multi-billion-dollar irony I personally don’t find all that amusing. Man is not a learning animal, etc etc.)

  9. Mike A

    Well I’ll concede we could have computers consisting of vast rooms full of unreliable valves; however modern computers and technology like the internet are possible because people applied QM theory to invent semiconductors. It’s hard to imagine how they would have come about without QM.

    I don’t know why anyone would consider QM a poor theory – it’s one of the most exhaustively-tested (and so far not contradicted) scientific theories we have, and has been highly useful in terms of the technology it has made possible. It may not fit our prejudices about the way the universe ought to work, but surely that’s our problem and not a fault with the theory.

  10. Thanks for the Vivian Maier link. Kio Stark’s Municipal Archive has become a regular stop (also thanks to your link).

    You mentioned a short story collection awhile ago; how’s that progressing?

  11. uzwi

    Hi Mark, my pleasure.

    You mentioned a short story collection awhile ago; how’s that progressing?

    I’d be lying if I said, “Quick.”

  12. matrixless

    Wouldn’t it be simpler and more amusing, for the both of us, Mike A, if you told me that light bulbs prove QM?

    Still, if you persist in confusing theory with description, and description with fact, I should point out that astronomy used to be much more sophisticated and ideologically satisfying before Copernicus came along with his offensive simplification while adding nothing to the applicative power of the prominent scientific religion. It might be though, that instead of taking charming pics of galaxies we’d still be drawing endless epicycles to complicate our theories and keep us in business, so to speak, if it hadn’t been for Copernicus and his persistent arrogance in defying the prominent memes and mores of his time and trying to use his own powers of thought instead of relying on vague if beautiful rhetoric with the ring of authority to it but otherwise hollow for his ideas about the world.

    Still, epicycles weren’t completely imaginary, and so the popular annoyance was understandable. However, I must say, when you have to postulate ad hoc Gods crawling out of the woodwork of your imagination to save your theory when it’s making predictions that are the exact opposite of what you observe to be true it might be time to look up the words ‘science’ and ‘falsification’ and then retreat from the world for a few months for intense meditation and self-criticism.

    I can just imagine the puzzling creativity of our best postmodern intellectually liberated physicists approaching the wonders and mysteries of the universe as they see them. What? (they ask in unison with one voice) There shouldn’t be mass in the world? Well, we’ll just invent this God boson thing. What, another complication? Everything in the universe moves stubbornly opposite to the predictions of our dearest theory. Well, we’ll just invent this “dark matter” thing that no one can observe but which elegantly explains those strange observations we’ve been making ever since the Hubble Space Telescope reached the orbit and started sending us real-world data. The thoughts we’ve thought and the things we’ve seen you will never know (they chant to the press). Yeah, the final truth is just around the corner, one of them says. Trust me.

  13. As to the Boolean nature of the universe:

    This makes me think of the computer simulations being run on the net and how our beliefs somehow get filtered out of words. So if you believe the planet is destroying itself, with our inactions or actions, you are in that position because of what you read somewhere. The corporations do not have an opinion save for the bottom line, which is to make profits. The expense is that the individual’s beliefs, be they true or false, are shuffled away.

    We live in a great information processor anymore and sadly, the individual is nonexistent. Like Kafka’s Castle, the hierarchy has no top or bottom, only middle sections where errands may become mysterious or even surreal. If I were to want to save the planet, I fear it is because of what I refrain from doing, and that is like being non-existent. It is scary to not exist, therefore I try to be some thing in some way. I hope in the future it doesn’t become a bi-polar society where half of us want to use a piece of paper and the other half want to plant a tree. But maybe that’s where were headed.

  14. uzwi

    The most boring aspect of all this is that physics has become so speculative. It has the stale feel of early 80s North London sf about it: to me, that argues a basis in shared generational values, a can of worms I just really don’t want to open. I think we’re in the dead dog end of that generation’s big idea.

    Speculation for sf writers, if they must (because their imagination has be free & unbounded to lunge out beyond the stars etc etc, ie the job description is to talk engaging bollocks, nothing wrong with that as long as we all understand the deal); but for physicists, sorry, just the grind of working with the data. Let’s have some job demarcation here, if only for dignity’s sake.

  15. Duke of Sussex

    It’s not God putting his energy into melting the ice-caps it’s the ghost of Jim Ballard.

    Classic English dystopia must fulfil its promise.

    We’ll soon be living in a Road To Corlay theme park.

    On a different note entirely, I uncovered, in a second hand book shop yesterday, a pile of 70′s and 80′s classics in hyper-real condition.
    Old Mayflower Moorcocks and early M John’s which were shinier than if they had been on the shelves of Waterstones today.

    Turns out the book dealer had cleared a house in Tunbridge Wells where some old guy had bought these at the time of release, never turned a page and sealed them in air-tight plastic bags.

  16. I don’t think you should knock the Green martyr in the story too much. I used to tell myself something similar when I would sign on because I had a well-worked-out set of beliefs and philosophy that prevented me collaborating with the anti-human forces of capitalism. Now that I’m a full-time PAYE employee, perhaps I can take my case to the same tribunal.

  17. MikeM

    Duke of Sussex – “a pile of 70’s and 80’s classics in hyper-real condition. Old Mayflower Moorcocks and early M John’s which were shinier than if they had been on the shelves of Waterstones today.”

    Fortunate man! Then there is something beyond physics propelling the universe – Lady Luck.

  18. uzwi

    Paul McAuley, at Earth & Other Unlikely Worlds, has this, as part of a review of Roland Emmerich’s 2012–

    We’re already in the middle of an apocalypse, and like the frog in the pot on the stove, don’t realise the water is growing fatally warm.

    A brief disturbance starts when some frogs start measuring the temperature of the water. The rest are able to tell them pretty quickly that temperature is only one among a number of equally competitive belief systems, & that because of that the pot is probably not there anyway. When enough of the measuring frogs have committed the quite immortal stupidity of agreeing, the disturbance dies down & not long after that the pot is quiet. This has been just one narrative among many. Thank you & goodnight.

  19. Dave

    Great, great post, Uzwi. A little apocalyptic humor goes a long way I find.

    Still…I wonder how the frogs got in the pot to begin with though. Maybe we need a prequel.

    Speaking of laughable, undignified stuff, have you heard that some of the scuientists searching for the Higgs/God-whatever have speculated that their efforts with the Large Hadron Collider are being sabotaged by some unknown party from the future? I kid you not:

    What the Times neglected to mention is that the proposal entitled “Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider” is actually subtitled “How to Be a Total Fucking Tool and Disguise Your Massive Incompetence by Blaming it On God (While Still Raking In Shit-tons of Grant Money)”.

    Wake me up when the water starts to boil.