robot pathos

There’s something almost unbearably sad for me about the video embedded below (especially when listening with the sound off). Of course it’s funny too, but really sad-funny, I think. Somehow it reminds me just a little of a scene in Clive Barker’s original Hellraiser, which I saw ages ago and remember poorly. But there is a moment in it when some hideous creature or other is crawling on the floor struggling for its very life, and despite the horror we feel and the danger that this being poses for others in the film, still the pathos arises: this is universal, this is the yearning to be alive and to stay alive, and it’s achingly painful to watch.

My reaction to this video snippet here isn’t quite the same, as the robot playing the starring role is obviously not sentient or self-aware. The union of funny and tenderly sad here arises for me more out of a contemplation of our magnificently unquenchable desire for ever greater knowledge — and also from a reminder of our hubris. I imagine educators of another civilization somewhere playing this to their students, who merely find it silly. But the prof has something to say about it:

“The dear earthlings, so clever, and so proud of their intellects, became enamored of a concept they called ‘transhumanism’ or ‘post-humanism.’ Somehow the challenges of self-cultivation in all their fascinating profundity and brilliance weren’t interesting enough for them. They seem to have found them, in the end, not very dramatic or exciting, maybe too difficult. So, more and more, they spent their energies inventing increasingly powerful machines. They never stopped doing so, never felt the need to justify any invention whatsoever, never pulled back to ask the larger questions about life and value, sanity and balance. ‘In the scheme of things, what will this bring about? Where will it take us? Why do we want it? Do we even know?'”

“Eventually their machines destroyed their world. As we will see over the course of this semester, this is the most common pattern…”


“world citizen” — sakamoto / sylvian

what happened here?
the butterly has lost its wings
the air’s too thick to breathe
and there’s something in the drinking water

the sun comes up
the sun comes up and you’re alone
your sense of purpose come undone
the traffic tails back to the maze on 101

and the news from the sky
is looking better for today
in every single way but not for you
world citizen

world citizen

Sade — “Immigrant”

Earlier today I had a conversation, with an apologist, about our so-called president’s recent remarks on Haiti and Africa. The depth of sophistry, the mindless shuffling around of words, the unthinking pure reactivity and inability to acknowledge straightforward facts, left me actually shaking in despair. It really has felt like the very death of civilization over the past year and a half. Without at least some level of good faith and commitment to truth, nothing works, nothing is possible. There only remains a bottomless fall into barbarism.

More specifically, this subject can render me a bit ballistic. I keep trying to imagine what it must be like arriving in an alien country with, typically, very minimal proficiency in the native language to start with, where every day contains all kinds of logistical, communicative struggles someone like me never has to think about for a moment. Doing many of the hardest, most unpleasant, most poorly-paid jobs, generally working exceptionally hard, navigating frequent subtle and unsubtle slights — and worse.

These are simply heroes in my book, and this is supposed to be the country that recognizes and welcomes them more than any other on earth. It breaks my heart to see this moronic, astoundingly uneducated, surreally self-obsessed, endlessly foul, utterly lawless man who has never had to materially struggle a day in his life say such things — and be defended, always, by virtually the entire congressional delegation of his party. Really beyond the pale disgusting.

Listening to Sade’s “Immigrant” is helping restore some sanity:

Isn’t it just enough
How hard it is to live
Isn’t it hard enough
Just to make it through a day

The secret of their fear and their suspicion —
Standing there looking like an angel
In his brown shoes
His short suit
His white shirt
And his cuffs a little frayed

Coming from where he did
He was such a dignified child
To even the toughest among us
Don’t you know that would be too much …

He didn’t know what it was to be black
‘Til they gave him his change, but didn’t want to touch his hand
To even the toughest among us
That would be too much


Happy 2018 (gulp) to everyone and to our deeply ailing, unspeakably precious world. May we do much better this year. May we really, really do much better!

My tiny blip of a contribution to world peace this 31 December is to pass along a rediscovery. Was traipsing through YouTube last night trying to cheer myself up and came across a band I haven’t thought about in a long time. But they were the best of the “acid jazz” scene in Britain and I got to see one of their joyous romping gigs once, just before they broke up I think — was it in Leeds? Sheffield? alas those were days when I had THC for blood… (cf. song number three: “skunk funk, in my bo-o-ones…”) I do remember, as here, that at the end there were as many people on stage as in the crowd!

Honestly, if everyone could go to a gig like this even once a month or so, I do believe we might have world peace. Music gets there. Music cuts through all the confusion and nonsense and division and hatred and stupidity. More music!

As the old Tibetan chant goes: “May all beings without exception on this earth enjoy peace, happiness, and complete prosperity.” Cheers!


Impossible to determine on the face of it whether the below is genuine or a parody. But in fact it’s real. Wyatt is the son of one of the four Koch Brothers (Bill). And he’s actually wearing a shirt covered in bags of money! … Entirely appropriate of course as the American people’s supposed representatives in Washington have just seen fit to transfer yet more of it — much, much more of it — to people like him, the super-rich.

Note the one made up entirely of what appear to be pink handcuffs. ?! All in all, good to know someone out there is designing louder than loud pajamas which can be worn in the boardroom and … on the yacht.

Oh, and in the “discotecha” (discothequa? discotekka?) …

We have to take the lightness wherever it comes from these days…

Sarah Slean — “Nothing But the Light”

so this is a schoolyard and no one survives
the terrible beauty of being alive
let it move you, let it come through
the stream is never-ending …

breathe … breathe …
eternity is written into time
there’s nothing but the light

Driving back home this evening I tuned into the excellent q, with Tom Power, a CBC program we get here on Vermont Public Radio, and heard an interview with Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Slean. I’d not come across her before. The interview was a rebroadcast, originally airing in April when her latest album, Metaphysics, had just come out.

She tells an extraordinary story in it of finding herself alone on the train home one day, and deciding to fit in a meditation session. At a certain point the door to the compartment suddenly opened, someone sat down across from her, and she immediately experienced a sense of menace, a distinct chill in the air. She opened her eyes and saw a man who, indeed, seemed hostile, even scary. In part, she thought, because she’d been doing a practice, or perhaps purely instinctively, she didn’t freeze but immediately said hello to him, rather cheerfully. He was quite taken aback at this and she sensed him trying to work her out for awhile. For a time he slouched on the seat in silence. His coat opened slightly and she saw he was carrying a gun.

Eventually they began an intermittent conversation and then … he told her his life story. It was full of pain and a sense of hopelessness — dealing drugs, unable to contact his family, not knowing how to change anything. He cried, in front of this complete stranger. When it came time to part, they hugged and exchanged numbers and email addresses, and as it turned out corresponded for two years. She said his emails were always stream of consciousness, nothing spelled right, but she understood him.

Then one day, when she was in the midst of a great deal of turmoil in her life, doubting her life as a musician which she’d been pursuing at that point for almost two decades and seriously considering giving it up, the phone buzzed. She didn’t recognize the number but picked it up, and heard this fractured voice which turned out to belong to her companion on the train. He’d been gravely ill, nearly lost his life, and had had half his larynx removed. He had phoned to tell her that while he was in the hospital a nurse had brought him books of poetry, and he discovered a love for words. Now, he realized, he had a passion himself to write. Poetry had given him a new strength.

She concludes the story in an online interview this way: ““A guy with a literally broken voice had found his voice, and was excitedly telling a singer (who was at that moment, taking it all for granted) that he wanted to write… It completely blind-sided me – the beauty and power with which the universe can speak to us.” And shortly after that she wrote the song “Every Rhythm Is the Beat,” inspired by the encounter, which appears on the new album.

After getting back home I did some listening and came across this jewel from the same album, which I’ve already listened to half a dozen times. I think it’s one of those songs which can give hope to people in a dark place. Just the way her voice shapes so purely the words “breathe … breathe …” I hope it touches ya!