Thursday, March 03, 2011

Philip K. Dick's Dystopian World Taking Over?

"Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups...So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind."

It should not be surprising - but it is - that we seem to be truly inhabiting the dystopian world envisioned by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. His works explored perception, reality, paranoia, corporate worship, identity, computer technologies, constant surveillance, the mass marketing of tragedy, an emerging global polyglot society and so much more which seems to resonate so strongly with generation after generation. And today his ideas serve as a rich and fertile field for cultural exploration.

Reports are flying today of the rights being secured to create sequels and prequels a TV series and maybe a remake of the movie "Blade Runner" - which already exists as a 5-disc movie collection on DVD with all variant versions and documentaries. Producers seem to be aiming at creating movies within the world created in Ridley Scott's movie -- and already there are 3 novels based in the BR world from writer K.W. Jeter. And the Total Recall 2010 TV series also blended that movie and Total Recall (based on another PKD story) into a short-lived and rather awful TV show.

Really what they are aiming at is franchising writer Philip K Dick, whose works constitute nearly an industry unto themselves - witness this weekend's arrival of "The Adjustment Bureau" based on PKD's short story. an independent film of his novel "Radio Free Albemuth" is seeking a distributor, Disney has an animated feature in production based on "The King of the Elves", and apparently two films called "The Owl In Daylight", one a documentary, are being created as well. A look at 9 of the movies made based on his work so far is here.

Largely regarded as one of his best works, the alternate history of the world wherein the Allies lost World War 2, "The Man In The High Castle", is in production as a mini-series on BBC, spearheaded by Ridley Scott.

The number of new books, festivals, new films, music, and new collections of his work is so large it's more than impossible to list.

I've always enjoyed reading his work (and some of the movies) but I was always left with the great hope that little of his perceived futures would come to pass. He wrote of society endlessly deceived and deluded and controlled by great wealth and nefarious leaders, a hopeless and helpless humanity, yet one in which he searched for hope.

Some years back, a project was launched to create a functioning android with artificial intelligence was created using a model of Dick's face and speech patterns. It was beyond spooky and got stranger still when the head of this android was accidentally lost and went traveling via airplane to California.

The creators were adamant however and now are presenting their creation again, though work is still to be completed for creating an artificial intelligence for the android. A video sample of the PKD2 is quite surreal.

Dick's fiction calls up our basic cultural assumptions, requires us to reexamine them, and points out the destructive destinations to which they are carrying us. The American Dream may have succeeded as a means of survival in the wilderness of early America; it allowed us to subdue that wilderness and build our holy cities of materialism. But now, the images in Dick's fiction declare, we live in a new kind of wilderness, a wasteland wilderness, because those cities and the culture that built them are in decay. We need a new American dream to overcome this wasteland."
  • Patricia S. Warrick, Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick (1987)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Cutting $40 Billion in Tax Subsidies Gets a Big No From Rep. Roe

My Congressman, Republican Phil Roe, wants to cut spending - just not when it comes to tax subsidies to giant oil companies. He's marching in step with every Republican in Washington who just voted against a measure to end those subsidies.

He'll support cuts in education, job training, community block grants, health care -- but giant oil companies will continue to get our tax dollars.

So while Rep. Roe echoes the claims that the U.S. government is "broke" - we're giving away billions.

Also note, ending the subsidies would save the federal government tens of billions of dollars, making a significant dent in the deficit-reduction campaign that Republicans pretend to care about. It's a reminder that the GOP's commitment to fiscal responsibility is shaped in large part by who'll suffer as a result of the cuts -- working families can feel the brunt of the budget ax, under the GOP vision, but ExxonMobil can't." (via Steve Benen)

Cutting $40 billion in tax subsidies gets a big No from Rep. Roe - even though the biggest 5 oil companies made $1 trillion in profits over the last decade.

Just last week, Rep. Roe said:

Now as part of our focus on job growth, committees in the House are working to remove unnecessary regulations, and we’re aggressively looking at new ways to cut spending."

I guess education, job training, the elderly, the sick, and those most in need must be sacrificed to insure the profits of giant corporations.

Phil Roe has not created even one job in this state though he’s now in his second term as TN-1 Rep. Not one job. I challenge anyone to prove otherwise including Roe himself." (via Ablogination)


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

City Fires All 1,926 Teachers In Budget Battle

Is it education reform or is it just a slash and burn policy aimed at cutting teacher pay and union representation?

The school board in Providence, Rhode Island voted 4-3 last week that to reduce a budget shortfall, all 1,926 teachers would be fired ... and then re-hired later this year. Or at least, some would be re-hired. However, termination instead of layoffs means an end to seniority and an end to benefits. In essence, rehires would all be starting at the base rate of pay.

Given where we are in the budget process, we needed to retain the maximum flexibility we could to manage what inevitably will be significant cuts to the school budget,’’ said Melissa Withers, a spokeswoman for Mayor Angel Taveras. ‘We could not afford any situation where we would have more teachers on the payroll than we could pay.’’

"When you terminate someone, your financial obligations to them end. With a layoff, depending on the kind of layoff, there are all kinds of provisions that you still may have financial obligations to that teacher.’’

More here.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Week In Review, Feb. 20-27 2001

Tenacious protests challenging Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's plan to eliminate collective bargaining by teachers continued to grow and to spread across the nation as other states, like Tennessee, ponder similar plans. Despite Gov. Walker's claims, the teachers benefit package is actually the result of deferred compensation rather than extra taxpayer burdens.

The AP reported WI state workers have not had a pay increase in 2 years, and under Gov Walker's predecessor, Gov. Doyle, state workers were forced to take furlough days that amounted to a 3% pay cut; also, despite claims of excess earnings and benefits for state workers, studies show that nationwide they earned 11 percent less and local workers earned 12 percent less than private workers with comparable education levels.

Republican legislators in Tennessee continue their efforts to eliminate collective bargaining for teachers as protesters statewide begin their efforts to halt such legislation, from Nashville to Johnson City. One Tea Party protester in Johnson City says "
We don’t need intellectual freedom in public schools.

Protests turned violent in Libya as failing dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi sent privately funded mercenaries to attack rebels, though cities and government officials continue to abandon the dictator in the face of mass killings. and a video mash-up of Gaddafi and dancing girls storms the internet. The NYTimes reports that the widespread failures of Arab dictators has been fueled by popular protests and the violent terrorists of Al Qaeda have played no role whatsoever.

Carl Gibson, of Kentucky, successfully mounts nationwide protests through a group called US Uncut to challenge US tax policies which offer immense rewards to corporations. He tells In These Tiimes that "
I have one dollar in my wallet. That's more than the combined income tax liability of GE, Exxon Mobil, Citibank and the Bank of America. That means somebody's gaming the system."

US Army officers in Afghanistan reportedly used "Jedi mind tricks" to convince visiting Senators to increase and continue funding of the war effort.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld releases his book "Known and Unknown" about his career and his role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming on CSPAN that the run-up to the war was really Secretary of State Colin Powell's idea and he is questioned on radio as to whether or not he is a "flesh-eating space lizard".

Tennessee legislators Ketron and Womick introduced a bill demanding all presidential candidates prove they are US citizens. Sen. Ketron says he does not think President Obama is a US citizen.

Also introduced, a bill from Sen. Ketron to criminalize following "sharia law", though some doubt he understands what that law is and how US courts already supersede it:

"Other than the fact that such bans are unconstitutional -- a federal court recently held that a ban would likely violate the Supremacy Clause and the First Amendment -- they are a monumental waste of time. Our judges are equipped with the constitutional framework to refuse to recognize a foreign law. In the end, our Constitution is the law of the land."

Republican Knoxville legislator Bill Dunn filed a bill identifying scientific topics such as evolution, cloning, and global warming as controversial therefore must be presented as such by public school teachers.

Rep. Dunn also filed a lengthy bill describing how sex education should be defined and taught, relying on "abstinence" and warnings of "gateway sexual activity".

Actor Charlie Sheen claimed in a radio interview that he was a "Vatican assassin warlock" and that he has "fire-breathing fists", and CBS promptly shut down production of his TV show.

Suze Rotolo died at age 67. She was an artist and most famously appeared arm-in-arm with singer Bob Dylan on the cover of his first album, "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" and was the inspiration for his songs "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right", "Boots of Spanish Leather" and others.


(Libyan protesters take a tank, via The Big Picture)

The city of Christchurch, New Zealand just after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck; click to enlarge (via The Telegraph)