Mimsy Were the Borogoves

In a subjugated nation we should not even have the liberty of continuing to insult each other. — Albert Camus (Resistance, Rebellion, and Death)

Apple’s FiVe Minute Crush—Wednesday, May 15th, 2024
Apple’s industrial press: The industrial press in Apple’s Crush! ad after crushing the life out of the arts and artists.; artists; Apple; advertisement

How out-of-touch do you need to be to see this as an uplifting, inspiring end to an ad featuring the destruction of human-like dolls and faces?

I didn’t mean to do two AI-related posts practically back-to-back like this, but Apple’s very dystopian iPad Pro ad brought up some other thoughts partly due to my having almost finished posting my series on Alan Moore’s dystopian V stories.

Now, I’d recommend not reading too much into this “interesting” choice of visuals. Part of the problem with the ad is nothing more than the age-old development of silence culture in any large and entrenched business. Apple is far from the brotherhood of pirates portrayed in Andy Hertzfeld’s Revolution in the Valley. I suspect a lot of people saw how painfully bad the ad was and simply chose not to stick their necks out.

My first encounter with this culture, in a very similar situation, was tangentially, by way of a Radio Shack toy called “Galactic Man”. I could have sworn I’ve mentioned this on the site before but I can’t find it now. When I was a young guitarist in Hollywood, I worked part-time at a Radio Shack near Hollywood and Vine. It was a fascinating view of the Hollywood industry from the borderline: desperate property masters would occasionally come in searching for some thing they suddenly realized they needed, like a giant gold-plated telephone or a boxful of D-cell batteries they’d run out of on set.

The store’s manager kept a box of unsaleable items in the back room. As an employee, you were free to take anything you wanted out of it. That’s where I found Galactic Man. Galactic Man was a transformer knock-off. He was a laser gun that transformed into a robot. It was actually kind of cool, except for one possibly insurmountable problem: where does the laser gun’s trigger go when the toy transforms into a robot?

The Fifth Face of V: I Have Saved You—Wednesday, May 8th, 2024
The darkness in humanity’s heart: Adrian Veidt explains the bloody birth of his new utopia. Watchmen, Chapter 12, pages 17 and 20.; Alan Moore; Watchmen; utopianism; Dave Gibbons

Veidt may believe mankind will reject the “darkness in its heart” and that his destruction of “half of New York” is a forgettable step to his new utopia…

While From Hell and Promethea are V-adjacent, Miracleman isn’t a V tale at all. Miracleman isn’t devious. He doesn’t scheme to supplant humanity; rather, the responsibility is thrust upon him, and he is equal to the task. Miracleman and From Hell are two extreme ends of the graph of perfection. Miracleman is perfect; William Withey Gull is seriously damaged.

Where a stroke left Gull unable to reason and prone to illusions of ascendancy, Michael Moran has successfully ascended, in an origin similar to V’s. Like V, Miracleman escaped and destroyed the medical experimentation camp that created him.1 Unlike V, however, Miracleman really is perfect.2 His tyranny is as perfect a tyranny as man or god could hope to devise. It’s rule by the strong, but the strong provide for the weak, far more than Norsefire in V for Vendetta did. It’s a return to barbarism—to rule by force and whim rather than democracy and law—but it’s a barbarism of plentiful food, plentiful energy, plentiful freedom, and good health.

They have defeated space, and are on the verge of defeating time. And yet:

In all the history of Earth, there’s never been a heaven; never been a house of gods, that was not built on human bones.3

We could easily see Evey or Veidt cradling the dismembered corpse of humanity, crying “I have saved you” as Gull does to Marie Kelly at the end of From Hell4 or as Miracleman does, wordlessly, to young Johnny Bates after crushing the boy’s head.

“I have saved you. Do you understand that? I have made you safe from time.”

Artificial Intelligence Meets Tex Avery—Wednesday, May 1st, 2024

Late last year I had something called “ChatGPt2001” comment on a YouTube post of mine. It reads exactly like ChatGPt, so I’m assuming it was in fact an AI and not a parody of it.

The post the AI commented on is a seventeen-second clip from Tex Avery’s 1949 House of the Future cartoon. I joked that Avery was making fun of social media—long before social media existed. Alone among my handful of obscure YouTube postings, that clip probably attracted the attention of SkyNet because it is by far the most popular video I’ve put up. As I write this it has garnered 1,753 comments and “1M views” where my nearest runner up—a ten-second Lord of the Rings clip1—has 26 comments and “66K views”. Both are small potatoes in the video world, but the Tex Avery clip’s advantage is a literal order-of-magnitude difference in my subset of that world.

I titled the clip “The Internet predicted in 1949 by Tex Avery”, with the description:

From the Tex Avery cartoon, “The Home of Tomorrow”, the television not only answers questions, it tells questioners to shut up already, and bullies them to stop asking such questions.

The comment from “ChatGPt2001” was fascinating for its ability to completely miss the point:

There is no evidence to suggest that Tex Avery, the famous animator and cartoonist, predicted the internet in 1949. Tex Avery was primarily known for his work in the animation industry, creating iconic characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Droopy.

The concept of the internet as we know it today started to take shape in the 1960s with the development of ARPANET, the precursor to the modern internet. It wasn't until the 1990s that the internet became widely accessible to the public.

While science fiction writers and futurists like Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov made some accurate predictions about technology, there is no indication that Tex Avery made specific predictions about the internet in 1949. It's essential to be cautious about attributing future technological developments to individuals without proper evidence.

The Fourth Face of V: Science ascends, Man gives way—Wednesday, April 24th, 2024
Promethea and Fire: Promethea is not unfamiliar with fire. From Promethea, Book 2, Issue 11.; Alan Moore; fire; Promethea; J. H. Williams III; Prometheus

Promethea directly invokes a connection with Prometheus and stealing fire from the gods. While the Five Swell Guys muck about ineffectually with technology.

If there’s one commonality between Moore’s variant worlds, it is a moral foundation weakened to nonexistence. And if there’s any commonality as to why, it is because technological progress has enervated us. If his appendix to From Hell can be trusted, Moore’s vision of technological progress is a terrifying one. From Hell was set in a squalid pre-technological Eden more alive than the modern world it preceded.

Scientific advances that moved away from the human—such as using dogs to solve crimes—were ridiculed. Gull’s vision of the future showed him a technological Olympus that had reduced mankind to emotional amputees.

In V for Vendetta, as in Orwell’s 1984, technology exists only for the government to stifle the masses. Promethea gives us a near-future where our marvelous utopia is even more heavenly—and even more enervating and stifling—than what Gull foresaw in From Hell. The Internet exists but has little effect on people’s lives except as a barely mobile telephone/post office. Promethea’s only nods to modernity are the meme-like Weeping Gorilla billboards, a corporate top-down messaging system more like Wells’s Babble Machines in The Sleeper Awakes than modern viral memes. In the world of Promethea Sophie doesn’t even consider using the Internet for research. She goes to the library to find out where Promethea came from.

Superheroes in Promethea are Science Heroes. The main science heroes are the very impotent Five Swell Guys. They have no idea how to classify Promethea, because they can only see her as “some kind of science heroine”.1 They are blind to the mysticism inherent in her.

Promethea highlights both the best and worst of Moore. It’s a sprawling epic filled with emotive personal moments, interspersed with interminable lectures about the nature of illusion and reality, and why a world that most people find perfectly acceptable requires revolution.

Why does the Institutional Left hate Israel so much?—Wednesday, April 17th, 2024
There is only one offence: George Orwell: There is only one offense, over image of Winston’s torture from the movie 1984.; George Orwell

If anything in modern life could be worse than the October 7 atrocities against Israelis, it would be the unalloyed support those atrocities have received from the institutional Left in America. Everywhere you turn in academia and even so-called “mainstream” news sites, there are people in power attempting to justify not just the invasion but the kidnappings, rape, and torture that was its entire point.

Why does the left hate Israel so much? While the institutional Left seems to hate just about everyone, here you have a nation of peoples who in other countries reliably vote far left, and whose country began explicitly communist and remains a very left-leaning country.

In my opinion that’s an explanation for the hate, not a contradiction. Israel may have a demonstrably left government, but it began even further left than it is now. Israelis quickly discovered that communes and kibbutzes do not work on a countrywide level. Rather than put up with famine and corruption, they changed. They learned from their mistakes.

This is anathema to the leftist elite. The institutional left deliberately never learns from that kind of mistake and especially never allows its constituents to learn from that kind of mistake. Instead, they blame an imaginary far right for their own failure and double down on failure.

That’s the whole point of creating crises, to use them to gain more power. Looking at a crisis and saying, hey, maybe we did something wrong to get here, is missing the entire point of their policies.

It is power and domination.

You’re a Black woman who turns against the left? You’re neither “a true Black” nor “a true woman”. They actually say this. If you’re a Hispanic who argues for individual liberty? You’re a race traitor. That’s not a phrase I made up. It’s a phrase of the left to describe people who are non-white and yet do not submit to the left.

The institutional Left see everything in terms of race, so it isn’t surprising that when an entire country of Jews turns against socialism even slightly, the Left doubles down on antisemitism.

The Third Face of V: The Freedom to Starve—Wednesday, April 10th, 2024
Adam Susan: The Freedom to Starve: Adam Susan in V for Vendetta: “The only freedom left to my people is the freedom to starve. The freedom to die, the freedom to live in a world of chaos. Should I allow them that freedom? I think not.”; freedom; liberty; Alan Moore; V for Vendetta; David Lloyd

“The only freedom left to my people is the freedom to get sick. Should I allow them that freedom?”

Is V in V for Vendetta good or evil? Do his ends justify his means? Are his ends even desirable? What Norsefire did to bring peace to England and to bring food to the people was horrific. But what V does to Evey is also horrific, on a personal level, and what V does to the people of England is horrific on a mass level. V, Veidt, and Constantine have a vision, but their methods are as much Jack the Ripper as William Withey Gull’s was in the pursuit of his own vision, and may well share nearly as much of Gull’s madness.

We have little sense of how much of what V says is true, and how much he made up to justify his torture of Evey and England. His motto is By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe. V, however, uses everything but the truth in his relationship with Evey, creating a semi-imaginary prison and fake death sentence to indoctrinate her into his own version of anarchy.

Evey even acknowledges the technique: she can’t know if the toilet paper memoirs she read when confined are real. But by then she’s internalized V’s worldview enough that it doesn’t matter. Moore leaves no ambiguity here for the reader: she has been brainwashed, using standard brainwashing techniques.

The Norsefire of V for Vendetta succeeded because people were dying of starvation and failing infrastructure. Under Norsefire the people of England didn’t have the plenty available to the typical eighties comic book reader, but neither were they dying of starvation. By the end of the book, what has V given the people of England? Starvation and a broken infrastructure. And we don’t even know if England is free from tyranny!

The only freedom left to my people is the freedom to starve. The freedom to die, the freedom to live in a world of chaos. Should I allow them that freedom? I think not.—Adam Susan

As presented in V for Vendetta, this could only be a totalitarian thought. But think of what’s happened over the last four years. Should we have allowed people the freedom to catch COVID? Or should we have let them live in the chaos of freedom of movement, freedom of association, and the choice of how, and whether, to protect themselves against sickness?

If asked in the context of the COVID restrictions of 2020 and the vaccine requirements later, a lot of people today agree with Adam Susan’s conclusion. “I think not.”

Easter Candy-Cane Ice Cream—Wednesday, March 27th, 2024
Peppermint ice cream with peanuts: Peppermint ice cream, from the 1928 Frigidaire Recipes, made with candy canes and sprinkled with peanuts.; peanuts; ice cream; Frigidaire; candy canes; peppermint sticks

Peanuts and peppermints was probably a song in the sixties.

As regular followers of Mimsy Were the Borogoves know, I have a tradition that spans from Christmas to Easter. I keep the candy canes from Christmas and make a dessert from them to help celebrate Easter Sunday.

There is a spiritual meaning to the ubiquitous Christmas candy cane. Whether that meaning was part of their invention or not, we don’t know, but as Catholics often do, we have invested this celebratory food with spiritual meaning. We just don’t know if that meaning was part of the candy cane tradition from the start. Once you see it, however, it’s hard to forget: the candy cane is a shepherd’s staff. The next time you see a nativity painting, take a look at the staffs the shepherds are holding. Very likely, they’re going to have the same shape as a candy cane.

Even today, the curved shepherd’s staff is ubiquitous in Catholic ritual. Every bishop has one. Their crozier is a shepherd’s staff, and it has the candy cane loop.

St. Patrick stained glass window: Stained glass window at Saint Patrick’s church in San Diego, California.; San Diego; Catholicism; stained glass

At St. Patrick’s in San Diego, St. Patrick bears a shepherd’s staff.

Candy canes also—turn one upside down—represent the letter “J”. Of all the symbolism attributed to the candy cane, this, I’ll admit, is most likely to be ex post facto.

The white and the red, much like a barber’s sign where the colors represent blood and bandages1 represent Christ’s blood and purity.

The Second Face of V: The Twilight of Man—Wednesday, March 20th, 2024
Faust: Between you and me, I’m terrified: Faust “I’m a magician. I’m supposed to be prepared for this, and between you and me, lady, I’m not. Between you and me, I’m terrified. Set alone knows how everybody else must be feeling.; Alan Moore; fear; Promethea

Faust quickly loses all control of events in Promethea.

Twilight is difficult to discuss on the same terms as V or Watchmen because it was never written. All we have is Moore’s proposal to DC Comics. We know from Moore’s recounting of the evolutions of both V for Vendetta and Watchmen that his stories change significantly between the idea and the finished product. The proposal is less a story than an attempt to talk a language DC will understand: how much money DC will make if they accept.

It is very clear, however, that Twilight features a manipulative bastard in John Constantine. Constantine is willing to shed any amount of blood to ensure his vision of a better future for humanity. Constantine even chooses to define what it means to be human. He ruthlessly engineers brutal killings of those who he decides are not human, from the metalman Gold to many of the various alien races in the universe.

In a sense, Twilight is what happens after the last page of V for Vendetta, Watchmen, or Miracleman: one decidedly not superior normal human’s attempt to overthrow objectively superior overlords.

By Promethea, Moore may have finally begun to tire of his manipulative Vs, or he may have wanted to capstone these stories with magic as a redemptive power for humanity. Promethea’s closest manipulative analog, Jack Faust, isn’t even a main character. Most of his manipulations of Sophie and Promethea happen off screen, and it’s debatable how much of an effect Faust had on this incarnation of Promethea or on the success of her Promethean task. But Promethea’s new era of human freedom, like that of V for Vendetta, Watchmen, and Twilight, still only comes after a lot of carnage and death.

Between you and me, I’m terrified.1

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