Archive for the 'Opinions' Category
So, my tv is pretty much always on, or music’s playing, whatever. I don’t like quiet. If it’s tv, I’m only maybe, thirty-percent paying attention, but it’s there. One of my channels of choice is ID, or as people who frequent my room call it, “the murder channel.” It’s all True Crime shows, female serial killers, American mass murders and so on. I often hear, “How can you watch all these sick murders? It’s all so disturbing!” I just don’t find it so. It’s bad actors doing re-enactments, it’s akin to watching horror movies. I know it’s about real people, factual events, but I can’t help only seeing B-actors wielding fake weapons spilling fake blood. It’s too easy to see it all as grim fiction. It’s almost completely divorced from “True Crime,” though I hadn’t really thought of it so clearly until I read a True Crime book, Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule.
Being into things macabre, I’ve known of Ann Rule forever. Rule was a close friend to a fellow who turned out to be one of America’s most devious serial killers, Ted Bundy. They worked side by side at a suicide prevention hotline, as co-workers and friends. Ted Bundy came across as kind, charismatic, a real charmer. He was good with his callers, people grasping for any tiny foothold in their lives, any reason to keep going. To Ann Rule, he seemed like an ideal suitor for her daughter. Years later, she’d thank God that her daughter wasn’t Bundy’s “type,” a young blonde that was his target of choice. Being so close to a perfect killing machine without even the slightest notice, being so absolutely fooled would totally change her life. She’d join law-enforcement. She’d become a foremost expert on serial murder, giving lectures about her personal experiences. She’d also go on to write True Crime books, several books about serial killers, from their be beginnings until their ends, about their victims who are all too often forgotten, and about the investigators who often spend years of their lives in pursuit of such monsters. Earlier I used the term “killing machine,” I think, after reading some of Ann Rule’s work, machine is the most apt term for describing a serial killer, it’s a term she uses in Green River, Running Red. They’re machines pretending to be human beings. Any display of kindness, compassion, is just calculated mimicry. They know what kindness looks like, they know that a well orchestrated smile can be just enough to draw a victim in for the kill. They know that fixing bikes for neighborhood kids is the wholesome sort of activity that makes people overlook odd or eccentric or even flat out suspicious behaviors. Serial killers blend in, they evade capture longer than anybody would hope.
Green River, Running Red is a book that was some twenty years in the making, as it’s Ann Rule’s policy to never start a book until the killer is caught AND convicted. In the summer of 1982 she clipped an unfortunate, but seemingly innocuos article from a local newspaper in Kent, Washington, totally unaware that it would be the start of a twenty year-long nightmare, and a book. The clipping was about the body of a young girl found snagged in some pilings under a bridge that crosses the Green River. Three more bodies would be found, again, young girls, two weighted and in the river, one on the bank, near the river’s edge, as if her killer hadn’t had the energy, or more likely, the time to dump her. Four bodies of four girls under the age of twenty found near each other in a short amount of time gave cops that feeling, a really bad feeling that the end of four lives was just the start of something dark that would only grow darker. The cops weren’t wrong, girls would keep disappearing, young prostitutes who worked the SeaTAC Strip, a stretch of road between Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. Between the summer of 1982 and late 1983 girls would continually go missing, sometimes two a night. He would continue to kill, albeit less frequently. He’d come to feel safe, even proud of himself for supposedly outsmarting people who were supposed to be much smarter than him. He thought “they” gave up, and many did, but not the core investigators. The few men and women who were there from the beginning, they never forgot, never gave up. It took twenty-years for science to unlock the truth hidden in the evidence that was collected and preserved for decades, but it happened. This particular killing machine would be dubbed The Green River Killer, though, aside from those first four girls, he’d never use the Green River as a “dump site” again. He’d use lots of dump sites, he’d go on to confess to killing at least 71 victims, but the world will probably never know just how many he really took. He, the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, may not even remember himself.
The sick irony is that while Gary Ridgway totally enjoyed killing people, troubled young girls, he himself was terrified of dying. Rather than face a trial that would absolutely end with a conviction that would probably carry the death penalty, Ridgway agreed to life in prison so long as he led detectives to the girls he confessed to killing who remained unfound. After being told of the stacks of physical evidence against him, DNA left on the girls he didn’t hide well enough, he willingly, almost eagerly, confessed to everything. He didn’t want to be caught, but seeing as that was out, he simply didn’t want to die. He wanted something he didn’t think twice about taking from others.
Now, until I read Green River, Running Red, I didn’t really see how far from True Crime channels like ID really are, how fictional they feel. Reading about each victim’s life, then reading Gary Ridgway’s confessions, his almost gleeful descriptions of killing, I felt… appalled. Disgusted. Disturbed. Scared. I actually felt scared, scared because the girls were surely scared, scared that someone could take pleasure from ending life. The way he so casually described how he would pick a girl up, then let her go safely, knowing that he’d find her again the next night to finish what he started, it was chilling. The girls were scared, being cautious about their “dates.” He liked fooling them, making them trust him, laughing that they felt safe right up until he strangled the life out of them. You don’t realize how vile people like Gary Ridgway are through re-enactments.
I think it’s important to know that true evil exists. It’s not that getting into cars with strangers was safer fifty years ago, it’s that we didn’t have people studying crime patterns, publishing case studies. We need such knowledge, but it’s far less valuable when it’s diluted and sensationalized under the guise of “True Crime” tv. It’s important to know the difference between “True Crime” and True Crime, as the former is more akin to morbid entertainment, while the latter gives us true knowledge. Writers like Ann Rule give us the stories of monsters and those lost to these monsters, so that we might not be lost in the same way. Being wary of that stranger offering a ride just down the block, being wary of meeting someone charming offering a ride on their boat, these don’t mean a loss of innocence. Such innocence never existed. That “innocence” was a lack of awareness. Now we have the tools to be aware, the tools to be safe.No comments
No, this isn’t now The Apple Watch Blog, I’m just not done being amused by and experimenting with its myriad of faces. They’re all so stylish, yet functional. Though, I do tend to lean toward the faces that are just straight-up pretty, rather than those that show current stock prices, the current time in London, the current moon phase, and so on. I’ve always been a sensualist.
Also, I wanted to test the camera on my new iPod touch. The new touch is really spectacular, it’s what I’ve wanted from the beginning; an elegantly portable iPod that shoots 1080p video and gorgeous still pictures, oh and it runs apps, does everything internet-related, and brews a good cup of coffee. We’re talking gourmet French-roast, not Sanka.
Anyway, enough rambling.1 comment
So, before Father’s Day Dinner my brother and I went to the Apple Store to pick up a new band for my Apple Watch. If I had any actual gripe with my Watch it was with the included Sport Band. See, I have very sensitive, new-born infant-esque skin, earned through thirty-four years of no manual labor, and exposure to the sun only when absolutely necessary. Personally, I prefer to describe my skin as “vampiric.” At any rate, yes, I have very sensitive skin that did not get along with the Sport Band.
First off, the Sport Band’s rubbery material, especially in black, made my wrist very hot, and itchy. I always had little blotchy spots of heat rash.
Second, the metal clasp left a cut on my arm after wearing it for only a few days. I’m not above suffering for fashion, but this was a bit much, and a rubbery watchband isn’t exactly high-fashion.
Fortunately, in true Apple-style, changing bands is elegantly simple, no jeweler with tiny tools required. I chose the Classic Buckle type of band, and left the store wearing it. Though I have the low-end Sport body, it certainly doesn’t look “low end,” everything Apple sells is art that happens to be technology. No matter the watch body, all the bands look well-suited. My leather band, Dutch leather band with a swanky stainless-steel buckle, looks like it belonged with my Aluminum Space Gray Sport body all along. The leather itself feels so decadent, so soft I hardly feel like I’m wearing anything at all.
If you got a Sport Band and don’t like it, or maybe just want something a bit more sophisticated, the Classic Buckle is a fine fashion upgrade for your Apple Watch.
While we were out, we also got the Watch paired to the car audio-system via Bluetooth. It took some tinkering, but after that, it worked beautifully. My music sounded spectacular, it just seemed so cool to have Aimee Mann, Nirvana, Elliott Smith, Alanis Morissette, all my favorite artists playing in my car through my WATCH. It’s so BADASS! Also, it’s really neat that when leaving the vehicle the music stops, then picks up right where it left off when the vehicle is started again.
I enjoy my Watch a little more every day, and I only see that like growing stronger as watchOS and its ecosystem of apps continue to evolve.
Oh, and I’m so not done writing about the Watch and wi-fi… At least, not until I’ve made one more post, or three, or twelve…1 comment
Part of it doesn’t make sense to me… The article I linked says, next year Apple will release a 2nd generation Watch with its own wi-fi chip, thus eliminating the iPhone go-between… Doesn’t the Watch have a wi-fi chip RIGHT NOW? It can join previously used wi-fi networks WITHOUT the iPhone being present.
If the watch has a wi-fi chip, and it DOES, isn’t it capable of independent use if the OS allows?
Really, if I’m wrong, comment.
Am I stupid?2 comments
So, when Apple Watch was announced, I kept hearing, “I’m not going to buy a first-generation gadget for $350, let alone $17,000, I’ll wait until the second version comes out next year.” I didn’t buy into that sentiment. The simple fact that a $17,000 iteration would be available told me that we almost certainly wouldn’t see new Watch hardware next year, or the next, or the next. If people paid $17,000 for a watch, only to have even a somewhat better version ship a year later, it would hurt Apple’s most valuable asset, our trust in their brand. When you buy something with the Apple logo on it, you know you’re getting quality, and you know it’ll be plenty useful for many years to come. Generally, you also know that your $400 device, or even $1200 device still won’t be the best of the best for very long. The Watch, however, felt like a totally different proposition. It struck me that, whether you buy the lowest-end $350 Apple Watch Sport, or decide to go all-in with the $17,000 Apple Watch Edition, the Watch’s internal specs are EXACTLY the same. The Edition isn’t the fastest, it doesn’t do anything the sport can’t do. If you buy the top end Apple Watch Edition, you’re getting an 18k gold case, a sapphire glass face, a sexy leather band… you’re paying for the epitome of style, sophistication, and elegance. I also believed from the moment the Watch was announced, up until right now, and including many tomorrows, that you’re paying for an unspoken promise, the promise that your solid-gold, sapphire glass, sexy leather masterpiece is going to be the best of the best for awhile.
All that said, at first glance the Watch does seem kind of underpowered, How could Apple NOT ship an upgrade, like, yesterday? Why buy any model if it’s hobbled? It requires an iPhone to set up the Watch, the iPhone has to be near the Watch to do anything internet or telephone related, most of the Watch’s apps run on the iPhone while the Watch displays the processed results, the Watch can only hold 2 GB of music, and so on. According to plenty of “professorial reviewers” the Apple Watch is a DOOMED device. At least, it was until last week, when Apple confirmed everything I’ve been thinking all along. At Apple’s annual World-Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple CEO, Tim Cook, took the stage to announce that watchOS 2 would ship this Fall, the Watch’s first major software update. Suddenly, all those “professional reviewers” are walking back their cries of DOOM.
See, hardware-wise Apple Watch is plenty powerful, absolutely powerful enough for everything needed of a Smart Watch. Its supposed short-comings are all in software, a fact that became clear to me after spending five minutes with my Sport model. Yes, I had to sync with an iPhone to set up my Watch, but the iPhone I used didn’t have cell service. An iPhone without cell service is basically an iPod Touch, meaning the Watch could be opened up to sync with ANY iOS device and run as a pure internet device without cell service…. like a Touch. I synced my 2 GB of music, yet the watch has a remaining 6 GB of storage. Another “short-coming” easily adjusted via a software update. These changes may be in watchOS 2, but if not, I won’t flip out, these tweaks are only a matter of when. We do know watchOS 2 will address one giant roadblock in the way of making Apple Watch self-sufficient, the lack of native apps. watchOS 2 will fix that lack. Apps will no longer require an iPhone to do the heavy lifting, they’ll run entirely on the Watch, AND they’ll be able to connect directly to the internet. Much less iPhone go-between. Were native apps the only feature introduced in watchOS 2, it’d be a big deal, but it’s really just part of a long list of features. watch OS 2 is just a first step toward Apple Watch realizing its true potential. I see Apple Watch becoming self-sufficient, only requiring a nearby iPhone for phone calls, as it is with Macs, and iPads.
Unlike other Apple devices, I see Apple Watch evolving through incremental software updates rather than hardware upgrades. The base hardware is already strong enough for some time to come, innovative software will make it shine. Apple won’t break its $17,000 unspoken promise.
Of course, I could end up totally wrong about everything, but I feel right enough.2 comments
So, I got my Apple Watch, and it’s spectacular. As far as time-pieces go, it’s like owning a dozen watches in one. A watch’s personality, smart or analog, is its face. No matter a watch’s bells and whistles, its face gives it character, and the functionality that sets it apart from a sun-dial. Apple Watch comes with a variety of different faces, everything from a 3D model of the solar system that plots planetary allignment, as well as date & time, to the iconic Mickey Mouse face, with Mickey pointing out the hours and minutes. I tried them all, but settled on something of simple elegance, a face called, Motion. Whenever my watch awakes from sleeping, a gorgeously rendered flower opens from shy bud to full-bloom, with a crisp digital display of the time and date. Clean, sophisticated, beautiful, my ideal time-piece. To keep things interesting, a different flower comes alive whenever the Watch wakes. Now, some may be questioning my masculinity at this point, which is not a problem for me. A fellow can enjoy flowers!
Of course, the Watch does a zillion other things… I’m experimenting still.2 comments
Dear Chuck Palahniuk,
Could you please, please for the love of the tiny infant Christ, stop writing stories in faux broken English. It’s jus not funny, it’s boring, and annoying to read.
“The reality agent, she persist on promenading Randy through the futility room, the pouter room, a walled-in closet, the reckless nook, the tedium room, and the nifty home offense, when Randy already be sold.”
Like, we get it. The “reality” agent rather than “realty” agent, selling commercial plastic reality to the masses, the sheep. Mass media is for the proles, it’s dull, empty, too low-brow for intellectuals, anarchists, anarchist intellectuals, hence the “media room” becomes the “tedium room.” Shocking. Shocking satire. I’m just bl- Oh, wait, these ideas are in almost everything you’ve ever written, faux broken English doesn’t change these ideas, doesn’t make them exciting again.
I know you can use our craft, I’ve seen you do it. If your use of craft is strong enough, recurring ideas, recurring themes can work. Look at Franz Kafka, Michael Cisco. Kafka could always write bureaucracy turned personal Hell, Cisco can always write fever dreams, abstract nightmare translated into words, because of a strong, commanding use of craft. Faux broken English isn’t the way to go, it’s not a use of craft, it’s a waste. You realize we can only write so many words before we quit breathing, that the number is finite, not limitless? That being so, and it is so, why waste so many?
So, I saw CHAPPiE, the story of a robot given something akin to life, true Artificial Intelligence. Overall, it’s a fount of missed potential. It really could have been something great, the potential was so right there, but in the end, it was all just a sad waste. I don’t want to get into a full review, it’s not worth the writing. I’d rather write about the essence of an idea that I found interesting.
In the late 1940s or early 1950s, Alan Turing was sort of waxing romantic about “machine intelligence,” and how you might teach an “electronic brain.” He wasn’t being absolutely serious, but he talked about giving a machine wheels for locomotion, video cameras and servo-arms for input, speakers for output, and allowing it to “roam the countryside.” He was just thinking about the fact that learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum, that we’re the sum of our experiences. We have things done to us, do things to others, and we learn. He spent a lot of time thinking about how one would educate a machine.
In CHAPPiE, some gangsters get ahold of CHAPPiE when he’s basically a child, and that doesn’t suit them. They want to use him for crime, particularly one very large robbery a few days hence. They need CHAPPiE to “grow up,” fast. So, they trick him into a car ride and dump him off to, well, “roam the countryside.”
It’s an interesting parallel.2 comments
Okay, I don’t generally post spoilers, however, I feel like I have to make an exception. Alan M. Turing’s good memory is involved. See, I worry that The Imitation Game is going to be how pop-culture is going to remember him. I mean, it’s a fucking “biopic,” right? If you saw a critically acclaimed film about Alan Turing, that’s pretty much the same as reading his biography, isn’t it? No, it’s not. Not in this case. I figure, if at least one person who saw The Imitation Game and thought it was the last word on Alan M. Turing stumbles onto this post, I did one good thing in my stupid life.
Now, all that said, if you haven’t seen The Imitation Game and you want to be shocked by its shocking ending, okay, STOP READING RIGHT NOW. REALLY, NOW, RIGHT NOW. I’M NOT FUCKING KIDDING, STOP FUCKING READING FUCKING NOW. Also, if you’re going to read his biography, do stop reading.
Alan M. Turing was a genius… That’s pretty much the only aspect of The Imitation Game that’s 200% dead on accurate. Most of the film is fiction, mostly harmless. Mostly. The end is not harmless. The end is an astonishing disservice to his memory, so that’s where I’m going to focus.
Yes, Alan was gay, but aside from his WWII working life, he was openly gay. For the times, he was courageously, or perhaps naievely openly gay, but open nonetheless. This worked out okay during his Cambridge years, a pretty liberal place in the 1930s, 40s, and even 50s, but after Alan left Cambridge for life in “the real world,” 1950s Manchester, it caused problems. Being gay in the 50s was not easy, in fact, it was illegal. Being outted could mean prison, even hard labor… or worse. See, in the post-WWII world, people looked to science to solve society’s every ill, and science answered the call. Homosexuality was gaining favor as a mental illness, not just a moral weakness, something science felt especially equipped to solve. The lobotomy was proving to be an inelegant solution, and the physical castration that was popular in America didn’t actually guarantee an end to sexual activity, but the world of chemistry seemed to offer a world of solutions. One particularly promising solution was chemical castration, the injection of estrogen in males seemed to eliminate the sex drive so long as it was regularly administered. Awesome. Yay junk science!
So, in 1951, Alan, having gained self-confidence in his early 40s, picked up a fellow, and soon enough, took him to bed. The fellow told some friends Alan was a spectacular target for burglary, being fairly wealthy, and gay. Being gay made one very open to blackmail, as being gay was a crime. However, when Alan’s lover said, yeah, I told some people about us and they probably robbed you, Alan went straight to the police and reported the crime. He left out the affair, of course, but didn’t fear the law. Unlike in the film, Alan’s neighbors didn’t report the robbery, while Alan tried to get the police out of the house as quickly as possible. The police also figured out the other “crime” pretty easily, and Alan promptly confessed, writing a five page statement. Alan was an adamant believer in personal honesty. He kept state secrets, but never personal. Of course, his five page statement rendered his defense impossible. His friends stood up for him publicly, and he was ultimately offered a choice between one year in prison or one year of “organotherapy” (hormone therapy/chemical castration). Yes, he had friends. He definitely wasn’t a social-butterfly. He loathed social fakery, and would easily walk away from someone mid-sentence if he found them intellectually lacking. Nobody would ever say he wasn’t really eccentric, but he had several close-friends, he wasn’t the socially incapable, extreme Autism-spectrum loaner as he was in his “biopic.” At any rate, he chose the organotherapy.
See, this is the part of the film that really upsets me. In The Imitation Game, Alan Turing in the midst of his hormone treatment is depicted as a doddering, weepy shut-in, delusionally building a computer named, Christopher, that he was teaching to be “so smart.” He had muscle spasms so severe he could barely hold a pen, and ultimately committed suicide because he just couldn’t stand the pain. The thing is, none of that happened! It’s such a shabby way to remember someone so brilliant. A tireless visionary, a kind and able friend.
Hormone injections had many possible side-effects, but Alan didn’t seem to suffer them. He joked in letters to friends that he grew breasts, but otherwise, he maintained his usual English stiff upper-lip. He survived the year apparently unscathed. He never stopped working, never stopped thinking.
Yes, his first true friend and unrequited-love was a school-mate named, Christopher, but he never built any such computer. Alan designed a theoretical computer, a “universal machine,” later coined the “Turing Machine,” that would ultimately be akin to the computers of today. He talked about computers being governed by “programs,” believed that it would be possible to create a machine that could approximate human behavior. He is the father of Computer Science, he envisioned things that we are only just starting to achieve today. He believed in “thinking machines,” but had no misconceptions about the computers of his day, he knew they weren’t yet capable of what he created on paper. Still, he pushed the technology of his time as far as it could go.
Yes, Alan committed suicide, in 1954, well after his organotherapy. The truth is, nobody knows why he did it. There are theories, but really, none seems more likely than another. I only know it didn’t happen as depicted in The Imitation Game.
Alan Turing was very much the Steve Jobs of his generation, he knew computers would change everything. His vision would eventually became reality. His story isn’t sad because of weakness, because society broke him. It didn’t. It isn’t sad because almost none of his accomplishments were recognized in his lifetime. He didn’t care about recognition, you don’t get into top-secret war work for the accolades. The sadness of Alan Turing’s life is that the Empire he helped save from annihilation treated him as “abhorrent,” labeled him as filth. It’s sad that he couldn’t love and be loved in every sense of the word, freely, without risk of punishment. It’s sad that, unlike Steve Jobs, technology was 50 years behind Alan’s ideas, not ready to explode around them.
Don’t remember Alan Turing weeping over some imaginary computer, think about him smiling from ear to ear knowing that his ideas would be the foundation for entirely new branches of study, knowing that I typed this on what could easily be called a Turing Machine. Maybe he can see such things from where he is, maybe, if he’s anywhere. I hope he is, he thought about such things too. Like I said, his mind was endlessly in motion.3 comments