Ma in Spagna son gia mille e tre

The monster in office will never repent
The news may be damning but all of it’s FAKE
The rights of others he’ll give up for lent
He’ll sacrifice all – that he cannot take

See how the monster craves to be adored!
Millions hang on his every word!
Not a woman he thinks he cannot afford
Their protestations just so absurd…

His footprints are monstrous! Such chaos you’ll see
He may talk of peace, but terror he brings
Nothing and nobody matters but he
Who entertains presidents, princes and kings

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Who educates the educators?

Children as young as ten are being asked … whether they feel “comfortable in their gender.” The survey, distributed to schools by the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, asks (amongst a number of questions on other serious issues) children to confirm which gender they identify with: boy, girl, or other. (Here’s a report by the Trust from 2013: Trans Health across the North West.)

Parents, teachers and MPs (and, inevitably, Britain’s transphobic news media) are upset and very concerned. “Forcing children to question whether they are the right gender so early on can be deeply destabilising,” they cry. One mother complained said her ten-year-old daughter had been in ‘a state’. (Presumably not a good one, but who knows. Maybe it was a triumphant, “Mummy, see, I told you there were more than two genders!”)

The thing is, if you insist to your children from the moment they pop from the womb that there are only two genders and they must be the one you think they are, then of course they’ll get confused when it’s pointed out to them that you’ve been lying (I’ll be kind and say out of ignorance) to them for years. After all, it’s not like there are many (if any) positive role models on the television to illustrate the concept. Cool role models are important. Lesbians, for example, are cool, thanks to Supergirl’s Alex Danvers.

I’ve been corrupting my daughter for years with the idea that gender isn’t the binary that people like to believe. She doesn’t really understand – does anyone who isn’t trans or non-binary? – but I haven’t magically changed her gender by doing so. “If she were a boy, I’m sure she’d have told us by now,” I said to my wife recently. My daughter just laughed.

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More fun with fractals

It’s been a while since I last posted fractal images

In retrospect, it was obvious the Mandelbrot set would rotate into a circle. After all, I knew from the start that there was no point rotating it about the real axis, so why I didn’t make that tiny logical leap to axial symmetry I have no idea. Still, it was fun finding out the hard way.

Mandelbrot set

Click for animation – Warning! 18MB file size

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Rise of the Robots

Today is the fifth and final haiku on the theme of monsters: such efficiency. Freya says, “I don’t know if Frank’s intention was to write about war, but this is what this haiku made me think.” Which is interesting, because in a way she’s right. I have in mind the war on the human soul.

Last week on Radio 4 they’ve been discussing the impact on society of robots, and I’ve caught a few moments of the discussion. There were some familiar arguments, including:

  • Robots will take over jobs! The (often tedious and unwanted) jobs that require little imagination and less empathy – routine manual labour, driving taxis, [sex work,] and so on – leaving us free to pursue a more fulfilling life.
  • Robots will take over jobs! Well, okay, the work force will need to be trained and retrained to be more ‘agile’. And there will always be jobs that robots can’t do, such as caring for the elderly, or raising children, or being a politician or an artist or an academic.
  • Robots will take over jobs! How will we survive if we don’t have regular incomes? How about a universal basic income (or ‘national living wage’)? – although, the U.K.’s half-assed implementation of this leaves a lot to be desired.

All of which boils down to the idea that robots can be tremendously useful but society desperately needs to adapt – and right now, society is desperately broken.

The modern ‘free’ world is in the midst of an epic struggle over increasingly scarce resources. Corporations and the ultra-rich, in their thirst for wealth and power, search for more and more ways to extract money from the general population – and store it in secret stronghouses where it does no one any good. In an increasingly cut-throat world, they strive for efficiency and predictability…

We humans, or most of us, are not naturally efficient and predictable, at least not in the pursuit of others’ dreams. So we are forced to work in cubicles and are subject to tyrannical workplace rules and made to work with faceless administrative systems, all so that compassion and humanity and other disruptive elements can be stamped out.

The more powerless we are, the more easily controlled, until we are nothing but organic automata. The fleshy component of a monstrous machine.

Let the robots rise. What difference will it make.

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The Feather of Alt-Truth

In these enlightened days of alt-facts, the feather of alt-truth weighs heavy indeed. The scales of justice are wonkier than willy and the gate to the alt-erlife is flung wide and guarded by the ultra-rich. Like the Catholic church of old, the presidents of the not-so-free world offer tantalising glimpses of alt-heaven in exchange for a lifetime of wretched misery.

Why search the shadows for monsters? They’re there, centre-stage, laughing at you…

’tis easier for a camel to click this link: the balance is all

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These words

The third of my five monstrous haiku is no voice but these words. Freya says, “I enjoyed this one because it made me think – is this the vampire speaking? or the victim?”

I suppose it’s inevitable that a haiku by me about bloodloss should be interpreted in light of my vampiric obsession – and there’s no reason it can’t be read that way – but really I had something far more sinister in mind. Imagine being imprisoned by a malevolent, with no one to help or even to listen to your words. All you have are scraps of paper and something sharp…

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till it misses

How the blood lingers as it runs
Following a tickling trickling trail
Laid by impatient kisses

How her heart hammers –
Even as it weakens it fights
With passion! till it misses…

Such beauty in death, a rose
Beyond the pale, and pale indeed
Eyes bright with youthful bliss

Interrupted

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