The Highwaymen Are Now Boarding

high·way·man 

/ˈhīˌwāmən/

noun historical

noun: highwayman; plural noun: highwaymen
a man, typically on horseback, who held up travelers at gunpoint in order to rob them.

 

When you get back on a sub-par metropolitan public transit system, especially after a brief respite, there’s sometimes new nuances and customs to learn. I’ve detailed the bad taste in my mouth Colorado’s Regional Transportation District has left after thirteen years of residency and service before, but my most recent return to this town’s buses and trains during arguably the hottest summer this city has ever seen has left me shaking my head in a puzzled, Kafkaesque bewilderment. As the city pushes more and more poor and working class people out, forcing longer commutes, RTD is pushing another fare hike and aggressively pursuing so-called “fare dodgers” on the light rail lines. I don’t know why I even let myself be surprised anymore.

meta-chart

I’ve prepared a graph.

Anecdotally speaking, the vast majority of people I’ve seen ticketed are either underage kids with expired transfers who would be riding on economically negligible fares anyhow, commuters who chanced it instead of missing a train because of slow ticket kiosks and validation processes, and regular, every day people who paid for the “wrong fare.” Armed men, sometimes uniformed security contractors and sometimes plainclothes city police, will board the trains from “random” stops and like hall monitors checking to make sure you’re allowed to be going to the bathroom, pace the aisles checking tickets. If you’re not squared away, they take your identification, take your picture, and put you in a database with a warning. If you’re already in there, you’ll get a ticket for more than $100.

Of course this happened to me.

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Fooled By the Robot Men

In my early twenties, when I was Very Involved in politics, some of the fiercest disagreements I had with close friends was in regards to space exploration and the objectivity of technology and civilization divorced from a capitalist context. I’ve surmised a lot of my steadfastness, even in the face of what I’d conceded as good arguments I also agreed with, came from a profound appreciation for perceived left-wing science fiction from writers like Ursula K. Le Guin and Kim Stanley Robinson. Marx’s premise of “technology liberating the worker” as laid out in Capital also resonated with me; as did an understanding that Earth seems to be fresh out of frontier and I had a theory that even if it was a business or state enterprise getting us apes off the rock, that could open up space for horizontal social and economic experimentation as well as the hopeful opportunity of marginally more bloodless pushes for autonomy by becoming pioneers on dead worlds.

Colonization without displacement, subjugation, or genocide but with all the possibilities of homesteading in intentional communities. Literal distance creating freedom by simply being ungovernable far enough away from authority. Sowing arguably, at this moment in human history, the rarest resource in the known universe: life, in an effort to back up consciousness and continue observing where time, space, and entropy take existence.

Anarchists on the Moon

It’s some real Stephen Hawking stoner bullshit, perhaps, having a desire to existentially preserve the species by ensuring nuclear war, global warming, disease, or some other cosmic calamity on Earth doesn’t wipe out the only confirmed sentience so far. The most common counterpoint I heard was usually about how the money and resources invested in even the present nascent space programs could be spent fixing problems we have on Earth. While I don’t disagree, there’s something to be said about return on investment. Scientific and technological breakthroughs made through that research have helped revolutionize a variety of fields that could help mitigate a myriad of issues, particularly in the Global South, in regards to things like water sanitation and food cultivation in harsh environments.

Medical marvels like modern prosthetics and the CAT scan were developed largely in part because of technological advances made in the Space Race. It’s easy to reduce launching giant missiles into orbit as basically a weapons test dick waving contest between geopolitical rivals, but you’re discounting the scientific progress that has genuinely helped millions of impoverished and/or sick people by utilizing the harsh laboratory of space. These ballistics can sometimes have ulterior motives.

Why couldn’t the same be true for social sciences? There’s a powerlessness, lack of space, and opportunity to do just about anything as an alternative to capitalism associated with living on a planet which has already had it’s land carved up and parceled out by a dominant economic and political culture. Time after time, revolutionary movements are crushed or co-opted by a stagnant status quo that has seemed to engineer its soft power in a way that makes even small rips in an oppressive social fabric colossally difficult to pull off. What if voluntary association, a central tenant to most anarchist philosophy, was actually an option and people could just… leave?

The capitalist will tell you that because the system is designed to promote competition, the best ideas and solution rise to the top in the marketplace of ideas. Observing western civilization since the fall of the Soviet Union, however, certainly makes the case that capitalism festers into a min/max game of widening inequality and nepotistic cronyism becomes the dominant social force once there isn’t a “sufficient” rival. Continue reading →

Bill Burr’s Brainwashing: The Incessant Podcast Advertising is Starting to Work

If you’re everyone, you listen to podcasts. If you’re Caucasian, you HAVE a podcast. I’ve got a lot of favorites, Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast is one of my favorite things to listen to, Chapo Trap House is lovely, Streefight Radio tells me listening to Orchid is “good praxis”, Doug Stanhope makes me want to drink and also quit drinking, and the Crooked Media guys keep me informed about the inner workings of American government while simultaneously reminding me why I’m not a centrist Democrat politically.

What most podcasts have in common is the same smallish pool of advertisers. While I understand how toxic advertising is to the human mind, its constant barrage warping and controlling your desires, I understand it as a necessary evil in the present day and am generally not opposed to it if it’s done in good taste. MeUndies, Trunk Club, Blue Apron, TommyJohns, Sheri’s Berries, Stamps.com… You know them all. The live reads might be easy to skip, but some people, particularly comedians, understand that if the read can be content, rather than a sterile recital of copy, I as the listener am more likely to listen to it. For instance, Bill Burr’s MeUndies jingles, almost never the same thing twice, are absolutely hysterical:

If that doesn’t have you puttering around the house going “owwwwwhhhhh boo doop boop boop” you’re dead inside. I’ve gotten used to them, and I don’t skip through even if the hosts aren’t “enhancing” the read. I want to support the shows. After years of pirating radio shows with the commercials and reads edited out, I’ve let the podcasts just sell me their shit or ask me for money on Patreon. I’ll buy the book, follow on Twitter, whatever.

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