Monday, May 22, 2017

U2 Joshua Tree tour proves the world is a better place.


In 1987, when I was fifteen, my friends and I took the train from Salmon Arm to Vancouver to see U2 in concert at BC Place. 

This last weekend my friends and I did it again, except we drove ourselves. That wasn't the only difference in the experience. 
 
In 1987 we had to get our tickets the old fashioned way, standing in line at the ticket kiosk at the Village Green Mall. Some, more adventurous types had even camped out, we didn't but we were still able to get tickets, because ticket resellers didn't exist yet except in the form of scalpers, who had to stand in line as well. Today, companies like Stub Hub buy up tickets online so they can resell them to you at ridiculous markup. Often, modern would-be concert goers can't get a tickets. Luckily, my friend is a big U2 fan and was able to get a bunch of great tickets via his U2 fan club membership. 

In 1987 we were seated way up on the second tier, but every time the lights went down, before the Bodeans, before Los Lobos and finally before U2, waves of hundreds, if not thousands of people jumped over walls and barricades to get onto the floor. My friends and I were part of those waves. In the process I cut my hand on a barricade, I didn't even notice until someone pointed out the blood. A sweaty teen, freshly freed from the front of the crowd, handed me a dirty tissue to stop the blood. "Don't go up there. It's crazy," he said. I still can see the scar on my hand, I call it my U2 scar. My friends and I, after being separated in the waves, were reunited on the floor (somehow) and we enjoyed U2 together. Aside from the great show, which was ultimately captured in the concert film Rattle & Hum, we also shared some memorable events: the men in suits smoking marijuana, (hadn't seen that before,) security wrenching teenager's arms out of sockets in an effort to remove them from the premises, the crowd part because a naked man was swirling around dancing. (Security was less willing to grab him.) The performance itself was made of iconic gestures and sounds that would come to define U2. 

Last weekend, we had floor tickets, so no blood was let. Thank goodness, I'm too old now. So was everyone else. Where BC Place was filled with teenagers in 1987, it was now filled with those same teenagers, middle aged. I didn't see security hurt anyone, only help people in distress. No naked people swirling, just polite, happy Canadians sharing an amazing experience with some professional entertainers. U2, although obviously older and less energetic was still able to captivate. Bono can win anyone over with a wave of his hand. The Edge still looked and played the same. Adam Clayton still just stood there doing the funky chicken with an ambiguous grin on his face and Larry, well Larry never changes. 

To be honest, I didn't want to go when I first heard that U2 was doing a thirty year anniversary tour of the Joshua Tree. I thought, "How is that going to be anything but worse than it was originally?" I was particularly worried about Bono's voice. He does a lot of yelling and he gets tired. I'm really glad that I did go, because Bono was fine, everything was impressive and the concert was more than just fun, it was an experience. Music is something that can well up inside you and explode out, both as creator and creation. It's as close to spiritual as I've ever come, I think. Time, technology and prevailing social attitudes have put us all in a situation that is better than it was in the past (as hard as that is to believe.) Whenever you collect over fifty thousand people in one space and have them emote, be happy we are Canadian, be proud of our ability to get along swimmingly, celebrate our ability to do amazing things together, even if it is just to be part of an audience. Thank you U2 and thank you to my friend Ryan for insisting we go. 

The world is a different place because all things change, even the things that we call unchanging. This continued change will go on unabated. It might seem like the world in 2017 is rife with ignorant and dangerous people, full of fear and/or hate. This, I suppose is true, but there has been and there likely will continue to be these people, always. It's not anything newer, it's just louder. Not because they are louder, (although this is usually the case,) but because we are better listeners. Furthermore, it doesn't change the fact that there are also decent, reasonable people, full of love and joy, there always has been, also always will be. I'm not saying everything is sunshine and lollipops, I'm saying we are better off than we were thirty years ago, because we are thirty years smarter than we were. They haven't changed at all. Kudos to us for becoming enlightened, shame on us for not sharing our enlightenment with the reluctant. 

At one point, near the beginning of U2's set, Bono was talking to the audience, having us sing to Pride in the name of love, explaining: "Sing loud so others may hear you, where others close their doors yours remain open." It's a simple statement, expressing a broad liberal stance on the treatment of other humans being, or sometimes not being. It suggests we have a duty to do something in the service of one another rather than in punishment of one another. It's not lost on a U2 audience, be it here or in America, or anywhere else. But then again, we are not the problem, are we?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Trump and Putin in Syria


Putin is a Neo-czar, or psuedo Czar. He basically changed the rules so he could remain in power and the fact that he's now voted in is almost gestural. Our distrust of Russian elections, politics and business in general, while not unfounded, shouldn't excuse our own institutions for being proven to act similarly. Putin is a businessman/gangster who was powerful before he came into power, before he was a spook. From the start Putin has been a person of designs. Therefore we can safely assume these designs, whatever they might be, continue.

Trump is not dissimilar, except that his designs are not about political power as much as they are about making money. Trump's political career is a desperate last grasp at greatness. Trump used the money he made to get into office, Putin used the office he kept to get the money he made. Trump is not nearly as intelligent as Putin, however intelligence is not necessarily prerequisite to political success. I think both men earnestly have, as part of their design, a desire to do right by their citizens while cashing in themselves. The difference is Putin is playing chess where Trump is playing checkers.

The game will take place in Syria, where ultimately boys and girls will be sent to die as two businessmen cash in on the commerce of making war, two governments spin their wheels to justify their actions and two societies suffer the consequences. War is good business and it must not only continue, but it must expand and grow, like any other business. The soldiers being sent to kill and die are commodified, turned into currency, won or lost, red or black, numbers in a ledger. The fact that they do so willingly excuses them from being heroes or villains, as part of the machine, they are not what matters. They do, however, hold a lot of power. If every soldier put down his arms, or didn't soldier in the first place, they would have to come up with a different solution. However, we live in a world where people believe terrible things are good and proper, where those beliefs can be acted upon justly. We don't think about how it is we define all these things, how are wounds are self-inflicted, how truth is arbitrary. We simply feel, programmed to feel that way, then we act, programmed to act that way believing it was our own, good idea. It's social engineering.

If it comes to pass that there are American and Russian boots on the ground in Syria, they had better be marching in the same direction, together. If Americans are fighting a despotic terrorist regime in the name of its own failed political ideology, while Russians are fighting another despotic terrorist regime in the name of its different but also failed political ideology, it is very likely that in the heat of many moments, somebody will kill the wrong person, starting World War 3, if only by accident. If it comes to pass that American and Russian youngsters are sent to fight each other in Syria, it will only prove that the social engineering continues and we continue to succumb to it.

It's not really fair to the rest of us, the non-murderous. We're going to spend our last gasping breaths thinking about how humanity wasted a lot of time and energy on such enterprises, rather than something productive. If there is to be a war of any kind it should be a war against warring. Imagine where we'd be now if only half of all military spending went to helping humanity live well.

Трамп и Путин в Сирии:

Путин - нео-царь, или псевдо-царь. Он принципиально изменил правила, чтобы остаться у власти, и тот факт, что он сейчас проголосовал, почти жесток. Наше недоверие к российским выборам, политике и бизнесу в целом, хотя и не является необоснованным, не должно оправдывать наши собственные институты за то, что они доказали, что они действуют аналогичным образом. Путин - бизнесмен / гангстер, который был силен еще до прихода к власти, пока он не был призраком. С самого начала Путин был человеком проектов. Поэтому мы можем смело предположить, что эти проекты, какими бы они ни были, продолжаются.

Трамп не отличается, за исключением того, что его проекты не о политической власти, как они зарабатывают деньги. Политическая карьера Трампа - последнее отчаянное стремление к величию. Трамп использовал деньги, которые он сделал, чтобы войти в офис, Путин использовал офис, который он держал, чтобы получить деньги, которые он сделал. Трамп не так умен, как Путин, однако интеллект не обязательно является предпосылкой политического успеха. Я думаю, что оба мужчины искренне имеют, как часть их дизайна, желание поступать правильно со стороны своих граждан, в то время как они получают деньги сами по себе. Разница в том, что Путин играет в шахматы, где Трамп играет в шашки.

Игра будет проходить в Сирии, где, в конечном счете, мальчики и девочки будут отправлены умирать, поскольку два бизнесмена зарабатывают на торговле, ведущей к войне, два правительства крутят свои колеса, чтобы оправдать свои действия, и два общества страдают от последствий. Война - хороший бизнес, и она должна не просто продолжаться, но должна расширяться и расти, как и любой другой бизнес. Солдаты, которых посылают убивать и умирать, превращаются в валюту, выиграли или проиграли, красные или черные, цифры в книге. Тот факт, что они так охотно оправдывает их из героев или злодеев, как часть машины, не имеет значения. Однако они обладают большой властью. Если каждый солдат сложит оружие или, во-первых, не станет солдатом, ему придется придумать другое решение. Тем не менее, мы живем в мире, где люди верят, что ужасные вещи хороши и правильны, где на эти убеждения можно справедливо влиять. Мы не думаем о том, как мы определяем все эти вещи, как раны подвергаются самому себе, как истина произвольна. Мы просто чувствуем, запрограммированы так себя чувствовать, тогда мы действуем, запрограммированы действовать таким образом, полагая, что это была наша собственная, хорошая идея. Это социальная инженерия.

Если дело дойдет до того, что в Сирии на земле будут американские и российские сапоги, им лучше идти вместе в том же направлении. Если американцы борются с деспотическим террористическим режимом во имя собственной провалившейся политической идеологии, а русские борются с другим деспотическим террористическим режимом во имя своей иной, но и неэффективной политической идеологии, то весьма вероятно, что в разгар многих моментов, Кто-то убьет не того человека, начиная Третью мировую войну, хотя бы случайно. Если дело дойдет до того, что американская и русская молодежь будут отправлены сражаться друг с другом в Сирии, это только докажет, что социальная инженерия продолжается, и мы продолжаем поддаваться ей.

Это не очень справедливо по отношению к остальным, не убийственным. Мы собираемся провести последние дыхание, думая о том, как человечество тратит много времени и энергии на такие предприятия, а не на что-то производительное. Если будет война любого рода, это должна быть война против воюющих. Представьте себе, где мы были бы сейчас, если бы только половина всех военных расходов пошла на то, чтобы помочь человечеству жить хорошо
.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Where are my Russian friends?

For years now, I've been writing philosophical social criticism on this blog and in my books.
For years now my writing has proven most popular in Russia. Also, the Ukraine, Poland, Germany.
But by a large margin, Russians are seeing, perhaps not reading, my work.

So my question is: Where are my Russian friends?
Is there not one of you that can understand my words, appreciate what is being said and make a comment upon it?

I would very much like to open a dialogue with a like minded Russian counterpart.
Any ordinary Russian will do, provided you can speak and write English.
I would like to have an open discussion with you, on this blog.

We can write back and forth like pen pals. You could publish my thoughts on your blog, if you like.

Mostly, I just want to get to know a Russian, in Russian, dealing with Russian life, who has something to say in the way of philosophical social criticism.

I think that Russians are no less effected by the decisions of the west than Canadians, or anyone else for that matter. I think that Russians are no more or less victims of unnatural governance in the same way as Americans. The problems are global, systemic and serious.

Are there people in Russia who want to make the world a better place via reason?

Please write me at brian_taylor@live.com or comment below.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Life in the Balance

In the Universe, there are things that exist, things that "are" or "be." There are also things that are not, but we needn't worry about them, at least today. There is also an argument against there actually being proof of existence, of anything at all, but I think you and I can properly assume that some things exist, merely because we exist. Perhaps Rene Descartes would agree with us. This we must just shove in the background and forget about for now. We need to talk about actual reality, as we understand it, in as much as you and I can agree upon. 
 
There are "things" in the Universe and at least some of these things "do" something, by which we mean alter the Universe in some way that wouldn't have happened without energy being expended. It might be a comet gassing off, it might be the process of photosynthesis, it might be a politician speaking into a microphone. Most things are "doing" something. Trees, cells, suns, galaxies, even your coffee table, chock full of "coffee table information" is decaying. So are you, look in the mirror. Action happens. 

For the most part, the things that are and do are living systems. This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with life or being alive. So a galaxy is a living system and so are you. So is your liver, so are your red blood cells, so is your DNA, and so on. You may explore this dynamism as far into the micro and macro as you wish, it doesn't change much. Most living systems in the Universe also follow a time line of existence. To our knowledge, there is nothing that always was nor is there something that will always be. All things "come into existence" via various means. All things "exist" in that they are around for a time, call it a "life time" if you like. All things decay and "cease to exist" in that they no longer "are" what ever it was that made them "them." For instance, you were born, you are now alive and someday you will be dead. These presumptions too we much agree upon. 

Furthermore, we must agree that most natural systems follow this rough bell curve time line: X is born, X lives, X dies, where X is any living system, in whole or in part. 

This dynamism essentially means that all things are in a constant state of change. As our only concept of time is achieved by moving forward through it from within our existence, the future is the only possible place where change can be recognized. Therefore, as naturally as we don't expect the past to change we must also deal with unavoidable change in the future. (This is an argument unto itself, explaining how conservatism is unnatural, but this doesn't mean that liberalism is the answer either, because we seek balance found only between these opposites.) 

Now, realize that words are things in the Universe too, because you can spit them out and change everything. Organizing those words into things like social movements, political ideologies, religions, companies or even restaurant menus, turns what were mere things into living systems. This is the power we have as these creatures that can create. There are dangers in trying to steer these living systems, rather than letting them live out their life spans. Conservatism was born, it lived a while, let's let it die. Same for Liberalism. For some reason, humans deny the nature of the universe and try to push back against it. In this effort the outside edges of definitions become extreme. Alt-Right and Alt-Left are more reaction than solution. A political living system with only two extremes becomes a palindrome, a snake head eating the head on the opposite side.

I think right now in America there are a bunch of baffled people, peeking out their windows at gathering crowds of the seething duped. The solution is complex, nothing less than an overhaul of what you think it means to govern. The only thing I can presume about the future with any accuracy is that which nature repeats: all systems break down without change, success is found in the mean, between extremes. I happen to believe that because we are creatures able to create, that we a.) do that and b.) do it well, accepting the responsibility to ourselves and each other. 

The majority of Americans are not now running about defacing mosques, harassing Mexicans or grabbing women by the pussy. However, what's going to happen when it's time to build the wall? What's going to happen when it's time to clearly identify those Muslims that have their proper paperwork in order? In terms of political pendulum swinging, I think our grandfather clock is stuck. Of course the only result, the result that happens, usually every eight years, will be that the pendulum will swing equally violently the other way. What is that going to mean? Personally, I'm hoping for the end of money, governmental servitude, labour for gruel and a chicken coop to sleep in. I might be setting my sights a little high, it's my prerogative. The majority of Americans are victims of a living system that has been hijacked to make the rich richer, by defying nature. Unfortunately, it's only the extremists that are aware of this reality. Conspiracy theorists find their fodder in the fringes and as truth will out it's only a question of time before everyone learns that truth. I think everyone accepts this conspiracy as real, they simply shrug and say, "Yeah, but what are ya gonna do about it?"
It's a fair question. The answer is "something."

Consider the following before doing something:

1. Folks don't think about the bell curve nature of existence. Folks don't realize that things like morals, governments, cultures and corporations are living systems, susceptible to the laws of nature. Nature exemplifies the mean by way of cooperation over competition. Living systems must work together to succeed over other living systems. From the micro to the macro, these living systems go on seemingly forever, interconnected. All living systems are subject to the same laws of existence. Read: Conservatism is Unnatural 

2. As beings able to create and change living systems, it can be argued that we have doing so as our purpose, our reason for being. It could even be argued that it would be natural for us to have "birthed" our ability to create and it might remain for a time before disappearing, as it seems, most things do. Wouldn't it make sense for us to make use of our powers while we have them? What would it mean to do so correctly? The only way we can fairly define "correctly" is to find consensus, which would likely rest in the mean. Read: LiveLife Properly: How philosophy can save the world. 

3. Some of the living systems we've designed have flaws the fly in the face of the laws of nature. In the living system of American politics, for example, the semantic deception of dialectical theses lead to extremes continuously pushing away from the middle. This stretches out the mean, thankfully expanding opportunities for finding balance, yet with only two options to choose from, the median is always a short lived fulcrum. The populace don't see it this way, they are either right or left, Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, etc. They don't believe they have been socially engineered, rather they believe that their living system is merely more correctly in tune with what is required, than is your living system. In any dialectical living system, when you are only given two possible things to be, extremes will occur in times of competition and reduce during times of cooperation. The most forward momentum, the most good and the most right will be accomplished during times of cooperation. So why not aim for this mean, rather than one of two exact opposites? Read: The Semantic Deception of Dialectical Theses

4. Opinions and beliefs are subjective. Information is debatable. Truth and fact are not. Unless you're an American. Then entirely fictitious creations of human imagination become reality to be espoused upon and then defended by the creators when the rest of us say, "Hey, wait a minute! That's not true." This is a recipe for disaster. In the first place it comes only from people for whom the truth doesn't work. If the truth is in the way of an agenda, the agenda is, for lack of a better phrase, "Not conducive to reality." People who spend there creative agendas dreaming up "alternative facts" to substantiate their agendas are one of two things: 1.) Liars, who know they're lying, don't care and will continue to push forward, or 2.) Liars, who don't know they're lying, which makes them mentally ill and not only unfit to make indelible marks upon reality via elected office, but quite likely to be unfit for life at all. Nature has no interest in masturbation. These people are entirely self serving, with or without cognisance. They are entirely competitive, even their cooperation is competitive. Read: Truth and Fact: Youthink, it's rare.

Now, everything I have just said is a valid source of good change. If you believe it isn't, congratulations on being in the minority of people that can understand such complex issues, most Americans can't even see the problem. However, you are incorrect. Please change your mind or do your best to cease making indelible marks upon reality. You are counterproductive. It would be most beneficial to the future if you had never existed in the first place.

If, however, you agree with everything stated above, that's great, especially if you previously had an opposing position, or no position, prior to reading the above article. It's not enough to agree. You have to push back against these counterproductive ideologies. It's going to be difficult, resistance always is. But to sin by silence makes us cowards. Let's not be cowards. Let's be at the forefront of a Reasonable Revolution, a revolution of reason. I can think of no time when it was more needed.

I'll be there with you. I've been talking about this problem for over ten years now, right here on this blog. It took an army of idiots putting an idiot in charge for everyone to realize I was right and this is a good thing, but it's only the start. Good luck...

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why isn't ticket reselling illegal?

It's hardly philosophy, but dammit I'm angry!
I've really wanted to see Radiohead in concert since the seminal album OK Computer.

In early April of 2017, I discovered, Radiohead was coming to Seattle, close enough for me to attend.
I was willing to spend up to $100 per ticket, drive the eight hours with three other family members, wife, son, his girlfriend, cross the border (which is no small feat these days) and stay in a hotel for at least one night.
We were even thinking of staying two nights and catching the Mariners opening day.
But I can't get tickets.
I couldn't get tickets within seven minutes of them going on sale.
I know it was seven minutes until sell out, but it could have been less.
Damned ticketmaster.ca simply didn't work.

The reason is: Ticket Resellers.

In the old days, when I was young (the old days is now the 80s, which is actually pretty funny) if one wanted to go to a concert, for example U2's Joshua Tree tour, one stood in line (or camped overnight) at one's local ticket reseller. This would occur in large and small towns all over and EVEN THE SCALPERS had to stand in line to get their tickets. As the tickets came on sale and everyone bought them, the line would move forward, you'd get your turn and usually you'd get your tickets.

These days, companies like StubHub buy up tickets, sometimes in presale and ordinary internet schlubs like myself can only get tickets when lucky. (I have succeeded in getting tickets in the recent past, to Muse, for instance.)

When StubHub was the only ticket reseller, this wasn't as large a problem, for instance, I think StubHub was only able to procure about one thousand tickets for my Radiohead show.
Tickets were originally $80 + ticketmaster fees. So that's $80 to Radiohead.
StubHub has tickets starting at twice that.
Good seats are at least quadruple that.
If you would like to read about StubHub, ticket reselling and the legalities of such, here is a good article. 

Now here's the philosophical part, that article about ticket reselling, other articles about it and the legal statements of StubHub and other resellers all say the same thing: "StubHub believes it charges a fair market value for its tickets as concert tickets are notoriously undervalued."

This means that everyone has changed their minds about what a concert ticket is and made it a commodity to be traded. I can't have a Radiohead ticket at $80 because that is obviously too low. $300 is much more reasonable. On this point they may be correct, after all I think I paid $50 to see U2 thirty years ago. However this is not my beef.

Imagine I set up a ham reselling shop beside my local butcher's shop. Every day I go into the butcher's shop and buy all his ham. I take that ham to my shop, quadruple the price and resell the ham. If you can get into the Butcher's shop before me, you can maybe buy some ham at a reasonable price that compensates everyone who had any part in bringing you said ham. If you can't and you want ham, you're gonna have to buy mine. Your response to this is, "Well, that ham was too cheap in the first place."