Did Elon inhale?

One of the most absurd things I’ve seen recently is the newsmedia reaction to Elon Musk’s appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast. I watched the whole thing and my thoughts specifically about the moment at which Musk appears to hit a joint/spliff/blunt are below.

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Crackpot theory: Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves” is inspired by a Devin Townsend song

In 1997 Devin Townsend released the concept album “Ocean Machine: Biomech”, which opens with a pretty cool song called “Seventh Wave“. Here are the lyrics.

In 2015 Neal Stephenson wrote a sci-fi novel called “Seveneves”. The third act climaxes with an epic battle between various human subspecies that have diverged thousands of years from now.

Here are themes/imagery/details the two works share in common:

  • The number 7 featured in the title
  • Planet Earth changed beyond recognition, and made waterier
  • A female protagonist “returning home”
  • Being greeted at an appointed time by something coming up out of the ocean

Also: Stephenson’s future world, in which swarms of micro-robots play an active role in everyday life as well as warfare, recalls Townsend’s lyrics about being “never alone even when you’re alone”.

Stephenson’s writing contains evidence that he likes heavy rock music, so it’s entirely plausible that he listened to Townsend’s album and some of the imagery in “Seventh Wave” made it into “Seveneves”, possibly on purpose. Of course the only way to confirm this hairbrained theory of mine would be to ask Stephenson directly.

Until then I recommend enjoying “Ocean Machine” and “Seveneves” close together in time, because they pair extremely well.

On Hitler comparisons, Alex Jones, and the evil of social media

The problem with saying “So-and-so is the next Hitler” is that because killing Nazis (and especially Hitler himself) was clearly in American interests, if So-and-so is basically Hitler reincarnated, then it must also be in America’s interest to kill So-and-so and his followers. In that way, a Hitler comparison constitutes a threat of violence.

Apparently Alex Jones was simultaneously banned from several major social media websites recently, on the grounds that his speech advocated hatred and violence. A survey of Jones’s speech will likely not turn up any hatred or violence, but rather a lot of kooky conspiracy theories about covered-up attempts by the government to turn everyone gay with chemicals in the drinking water, to create a protected race of superhuman transsexuals, or interdemensional portals through which child molesters travel, or some such thing.

Being charitable, what I think these social media websites meant but failed to say is that if Jones’s claims are to believed, then violence (against the government, transsexuals, etc.) is in order. Since Jones’s claims are not to be believed, but some people believe them, Jones’s claims constitute a threat of violence. But again, that’s if I’m being charitable. I don’t think reality is as charitable.

I don’t care about Alex Jones being singled out by the admins who work for social media websites. I’d be just as happy in an alternative reality with no Alex Jones in it. But it is menacing that these websites, used by so many people in the developed world, are administered so opaquely. The official terms of conduct are just there as theatre; your ability to use the website really depends on whether they decide they feel like silencing you for whatever reason. When your livelihood depends on using those websites (as I assume Alex Jones’s does to a significant degree), that gives them a lot of unconditional power over your life.

The N-word

On the one hand, I wish people would act like grown-ups and stop blocking their natural abilities to figure out from context how a word is being used and what is likely the real intent of the person using it. On the other hand, there sure are a lot of non-grown-ups out there, and a writer’s/speaker’s intent isn’t always as clear as he assumes it is.

Should I get a Twitter account?

If important conversations related to my interests (and especially my work) really are taking place on Twitter.com — and from what I can see, at least some are — it would count as a reason why I should consider getting an account of my own so I can take part.

But there are still a few reasons why I shouldn’t. Here are all the ones I can name off the top of my head right now:

  • I already have an outlet for my thoughts about things I’m interested in: this blog. Granted, that doesn’t get me into the conversations, it’s just a pressure valve for my own thoughts. Nevertheless, a pressure valve for my thoughts is probably 80% of what I need.
  • Even though it seems like serious people use it and have serious discussions there, at the end of the day I can’t shake the sense that Twitter is just another silly social media site where time is ultimately wasted.
  • Many of the people I might like to interact with on Twitter (the not super-famous ones at least) probably would respond if I sent them an email instead; email is much better suited to meaningful text-based dialog anyway.
  • I like being able to think of myself as someone who isn’t on any social media. It’s kind of dumb, I know, but it’s something I feel a little proud of. Other people who learn that I’m not on social media often congratulate me or say admiring things about it too, so I must be doing something right.
  • Knowing myself, there’s a good chance I would just get sucked in and addicted. Even though I don’t have a smartphone, I spend enough time in front of computers throughout the day that I could easily see Twitter becoming a time sink and infesting my brain.

Is the fact that I’m doing this cost-benefit analysis unusual? I wonder how many other people did some kind of mental calculation like this before they signed up for Twitter or decided not to.

Heavy music explained — now with fewer words!

If I had to describe what makes music heavy in the briefest possible way, I would say it’s gotta have aggressiveness without too much emotion, and raw abrasiveness and power without posturing or hyperflexing. There’s a little more to it on the technical side, but the concepts I mentioned get you 85% of the way there.

When I think of emotionless aggression, sincere abrasiveness, and effortless power, I think of a great white shark as it attacks. That’s why the Deftones video for “My Own Summer” might be the greatest music video ever made for a heavy rock song.