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Social Media Dump 2021: Feb 1-Feb 14

See also: Jan 15-31, 2021 Feb 15-28, 2021

A longish profile of author Water Tevis who wrote Queen’s Gambit. I have all his books, but have only read Man who Fell to Earth which Michael Dirda described as a “brilliant tale of loneliness, alcohol dependency and despair.” I’m sure his other books were excellent. Curiously, the main author I publish — Jack Matthews taught at the same creative writing program along with author Daniel Keyes. (I talked briefly with Matthews about that fact, but didn’t mention anything else because I felt that both were less interesting authors than Matthews.

Here’s a fun game to guess the language. I got 3 out of 4 right on this one. They include subtitles — but don’t reveal the language spoken until the end… The next three videos are a LOT harder (and more interesting), and all the guessers are language teachers or multilingual. For these three I only averaged 1 per video (if I were lucky!) 

Here’s a fascinating video essay by Vox about the history of the peacock wicker chair.

AMAZON PRIME TV Recommendation: UPLOAD (trailer) is a futuristic TV comedy series about a young man who dies and whose uploaded consciousness is uploaded to a massively multiplayer HEAVEN which (for a hefty fee) he is allowed to keep playing and keep in touch with people in meatspace (who may or may not want to keep in touch). As it happens, the avatar falls in love with his “angel” (actually a young overworked & underpaid woman in the real world assigned to resolve customer service issues with avatar inhabitants). The story is great fun (in the spirit of THE GOOD PLACE), loaded with special effects and fun interactions between the living one and virtual one. A few years ago, the San Junipero episode in Black Mirror used this basic plot as a profound meditation about the afterlife and the preservation of loved ones in virtual worlds. Eventually this plot will grow tiresome, but UPLOAD provides ample opportunity to bathe the story in semi-realistic computer special effects while confronting social issues (there are several tiers of heaven, depending on ability of survivors to pay). What is revolutionary here is that a Non-player character (NPC) is allowed to have feelings and goals, providing to viewers a pleasant deception of free will. Contrary to a metaphysical fairy tale like the GOOD PLACE, this theoretical world is both plausible and cynical. Philosophers have argued about whether the universe is actually a gigantic simulation. What no one seems to have thought about is whether the “real” universe could eventually turn into a simulation once the population of videogame avatars outnumber the world of the living. UPLOAD is just a smart silly show, but it’s all the more disturbing because it tries to imagine a virtual world which disappears once the survivors stop paying or an upgrade fails and no one knows how to reboot it.

Dem Impeachment manager Jamie Raskin:

FIRE DAMAGE: “The incitement to violence is of course not protected by the First Amendment. That’s why most Americans have dismissed Donald Trump’s First Amendment rhetoric simply by referring to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ handy phrase, “You can’t shout fire in a crowded theater.” But even that time honored principle doesn’t begin to capture how off base the argument is. This case is much worse than someone who falsely shouts fire in a crowded theater. It’s more like a case where the town fire chief who’s paid to put out fires sends a mob. Not to yell fire in a crowded theater, but to actually set the theater on fire. And who then, when the fire alarms go off and the calls start flooding into the fire department asking for help, does nothing, but sit back, encourage the mob to continue its rampage, and watch the fire spread on TV with glee and delight. So then we say this fire chief should never be allowed to hold this public job again. And you’re fired and you’re permanently disqualified. And he objects. And he says we’re violating his free speech rights just because he’s pro-mob or pro-fire or whatever it might be. Come on. I mean, you really don’t need to go to law school to figure out what’s wrong with that argument. Here’s the key. Undoubtedly, a private person can run around on the street expressing his or her support for the enemies of the United States and advocating the overthrow of the United States government. You’ve got a right to do that under the First Amendment. But if the president spent all of his days doing that, uttering the exact same words, expressing support for the enemies of the United States and for overthrowing the government, is there anyone here who doubts that this would be a violation of his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and that he or she could be impeached for doing that? Look, if you’re President of the United States, you’ve chosen a side with your oath of office. And if you break it, we can impeach, convict, remove, and disqualify you permanently from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States. As Justice Scalia once said, memorably, “You can’t ride with the cops and root for the robbers.” And if you become inciter in chief to the insurrection, you can’t expect to be on the payroll as commander chief for the union.”

MY TAKE: Probably the most interesting and revealing about this impeachment is that despite the overwhelming evidence of guilt, Republican senators seem unlikely to vote for impeachment. This failure will sound a LOUD and CLEAR message to Americans and the rest of the world that Republicans lack political courage to stand up to demagogues.

“Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” (Voltaire, quoted during the impeachment trial).

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