Kick the Ballistics

The other day a gun lobby spokesperson said that the media love mass shootings. This predictably caused some controversy, but the main point is true: if it bleeds, it leads. Stories of tragedy draw attention, and attention is monetized in advertising. What interested me about the statement was that it is exactly what I often think of the gun lobby. Mass shootings are followed by spike in firearm sales, because some people worry that this time there will be legislation. Mass shootings are like xmas for gun sales.
…the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10)
But the truth is no one loves it when children get murdered. Owners and investors love profits. That doesn’t mean they are particularly happy about the circumstances. The profit motive impacts how they respond. The way news media reports on these tragedies sensationalizes them. It inspires copycats. A more moral course would be to downplay the sensationalism, like they do with reporting on suicides, but that raises the spectre of a loss of market share, and lower profits. Similarly, the firearm industry response to these tragedies is that people should buy more guns. That won’t make people more safe or less tense, and it makes weapons more available to those who would misuse them. Making weapons less easily available would have a negative impact on profits though. For the love of money… I’m no scholar, but even I knew that was a quote from scripture. The context is interesting. Prior to the verse is an instruction to stay away from snark and polarization, and those who would profit from them. Later in the chapter is a commandment to the rich to share their wealth – a highly polarizing proposition in the US today.
Give me a nickel, brother can you spare a dime Money can drive some people out of their minds (O’Jays)
Going back to the start, my main takeaway is that I am just as inclined to contribute to polarization as anyone else, apparently. Something I should watch out for. If we want to be healing and unifying, we shouldn’t try to be united against others, but rather united for something. Us, rather than us vs. them. Easier said than done. Anyway, here’s Troop and Levert to kick the ballistics:

Random thoughts on Polarization and Iron

I’m thinking about Chris Gilliard’s provocation for EngageMOOC in the context of The Iron Heel, which I’m currently reading courtesy of the Internet Archive. Unfortunately I’ve never read A People’s History, so I’m just now getting the terminological connection to people’s republics, which ties to London’s vector of history. His novel sees the mass of people, the workers, divided, polarized and conquered by the Oligarchy (or plutocracy or 1%). They suffer for centuries following the events of the novel, until the purgatory of the Oligarchy gives way to the utopian Brotherhood of Man. Which also seems to bear a distinct mark of polarization – perhaps London wasn’t as egalitarian as he thought himself. In The Iron Heel, workers’ unions are pitted against each other. Some are favored and given privileges in exchange for not standing in solidarity with their brethren. I see something similar today in public discourse, where unions, outside of the FOP, are considered lazy, corrupt and parasitic. In my own place of work, we expect administration soon to pit adjuncts against full-timers in order to decertify and break the union. All of which benefits the few over the many. Gilliard mentions cyberlibertarianism. Will the computer set you free, or does the computer reinforce power structures an hierarchy? Bernes-Lee built the web to connect people to people – potentially unifying and liberating. Zuckerberg blocked off a chunk of the web and made it easy for people to connect with each other, but under his terms and conditions. We can have domains of our own, but it is marginally easier to set up shop in Zuck’s lobster trap.

Lobster trap, CC-BY 2013 by Blondinrikard Fröberg

The view of Silicon Valley as the seat of the technological power, built on the ground of segregation, relates as well, since The Iron Heel treads the very same locale. Maybe London picked the setting because it was his stomping grounds. He wrote this book right after the great earthquake, so I can imagine why dystopia might have been on his mind. The issue of Citizens United also has a parallel in the novel:
The Plutocracy has all power in its hands to-day. It to-day makes the laws, for it owns the Senate, Congress, the courts, and the state legislatures. And not only that. Behind law must be force to execute the law. To-day the Plutocracy makes the law, and to enforce the law it has at its beck and call the, police, the army, the navy, and, lastly, the militia, which is you, and me, and all of us.
That last reference, to the militia, refers to the Militia Act of 1903, which gave the government the power to draft all able-bodied men aged 17-45. The sort of vulgar display of power suits the unsubtlety of the book. Today, “you, and me, and all of us” are part of surveillance capitalism, a crowd sourced panopticon working in conjunction with mobilized armies of trolls, bots and sockpuppets to manage the people. We’ve had no shortage of vulgar displays, especially over past year, but that’s not where power exercises control.

Rock Pockets

“It’s Hot Pockets Day on the Daily Create!”
“Didn’t we already talk about this?”
“I’m making Rock Pockets.”
“What – you’re going to put Aerosmith inside a Hot Pocket?”
That wouldn’t be a bad idea, and could be a whole ‘nother meme. But I thought the Hot Pocket picture reminded me of a geode, so that gave me a different direction in which to take the meme.

I had to manipulate the type as well as the image, but luckily I had everything I needed for the “Rock” already – just copy the beginning of “Pockets” and copy the diagonal leg of the K onto the P. For the image, I found a stock photo of a green agate geode rock with crystals.

In hindsight, I should have used something with a CC license – I really should make it a habit to start looking with CC Search, because I know better – but old habits die hard apparently. I was the angle of the shot and the white background that grabbed me, so I impulsively grabbed it. For the text, I just called it what it is, but I felt it needed something more so I googled geode and found the page from and borrowed their subheading. So, there – credit where credit is due.

The dance card

I’ve heard the expression, “My dance card is full,” and knew from context that it meant someone was busy. I never really thought about the etymology of the phrase though. But today I was listening to a Librivox recording of Richard Marsh’s 1897 horror novel The Beetle and I recognized the source of the expression.

In olden times, at formal parties, people would schedule dances with each other. A person would have a card or booklet listing all the tunes that were to be played, in order, with a space to write in the names of dance partners. The Wikipedia entry has images of some cards.

Programme du Bal, from

This fascinates me because it is so alien to my experience, yet the expression is something I have known for a long time.

Rockwell had the idea…

Yesterday’s Daily Create involved using an online application to stylize an image. I had seen something like this before and thought it was pretty cool, so I gave it a shot.

I used an image from the Church of San Lorenzo which I first saw heading an article on The Twenty Days of Turin. No special reason – it just popped into my head. None of the apps default styles really grabbed me, but I thought the printed circuit board one had potential. I liked the output. It’s hard for me to tell how well the Dr. Doom-like visage comes through. I see it because I know it’s there, but it also seems buried in the circuitry. As I thought more about it this morning, it occurred to me that it makes an apt visual metaphor for the current interpretation of de Maria’s novel and the idea of surveillance capitalism. I wasn’t thinking of any of that intentionally when I did it. It was more of a subconscious inspiration, I suppose.

A day in the life of a night prowler

Our Daily Create today was End Sounds. For whatever reason, the first thing I thought of was the voice at the end of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell album, saying “Shazbot! Nanu nanu.” Someone actually made a supercut of the endings of all the AC/DC songs, but if I recall correctly, they left that part out. There’s a little chord just after, so maybe that’s why.

I couldn’t just use that though. It would be too much like googling for an image rather than making one. I also thought of the iconic closing chord to A Day in a Life from the Sgt. Pepper album as an end sound, so I grafted the two together. Would that get past the copyright police? I wasn’t sure. But since that closing chord runs the better part of a minute, I figured it needed some manipulation. I used the Change Tempo function in Audacity to speed it up, and I stuck the AC/DC part in the middle of the long fadeout. I left AC/DC’s little chord in there, so I clipped the Beatles at that point. I don’t know. It’s something.