The Internet Of No Things

In Michael Mann’s excellent caper movie Heat (Pacino, De Niro), there’s a scene in which mastermind criminal Nate (Jon Voight) is talking to De Niro’s character McCauley, and shows him architect’s blueprints of a bank’s electrical system which McCauley will need to rob it. McCauley asks (and I’m paraphrasing this exchange from memory), “Where do you get all this stuff?” and Nate answers vaguely, waving his hand, “It’s all out there, in the air… you just have to reach out and take it.”

Note that Heat was released in 1995, when the Internet was still in its relative infancy.

Now we have this so-called “Internet of Things” whereby (heretofore stand-alone) technology can be controlled remotely via the Internet — and it’s not just “autonomous” cars (about which I have ranted before), but the most mundane stuff like stoves, refrigerators and similar kitchen appliances. Insty has been on a tear about this phenomenon recently, linking to articles about smart TVs being compromised, wi-fi in refrigerators and expectations of privacy in cars’ black box data-collection devices, to name just those in recent memory.

I hate all this shit. I understand that there are going to be times when controlling your oven from outside the home (like, when you forgot to turn it off) can be helpful, even life-saving. I understand why your home security system should be remotely deactivated when the maid service comes to clean your house — and no, I’m not going to deride these situations as “First World Problems” either. I don’t even like that annoying little beep that “reminds” you that you haven’t put your seatbelt on — and just try to disable the little bastard: you void you car’s warranty. (See how this works?)

What I’m really concerned about is that your remote control of things is, in Nate’s words, “in the air” — and if you can turn off your gas oven from your hotel room in Bali, who’s to say that some asshole can’t turn it on from his mom’s basement in Poughkeepsie? Having this ability to control your stuff remotely is fine, provided that you are absolutely, 100%  certain that you, and only you, can do the controlling. Me, I don’t believe that, and I do not trust this situation because for fuck’s sake, every single system in the known world, from Target’s customer file to the IRS taxpayer database to Iran’s nuclear development program has been hacked. I don’t care who did the hacking (Mossad, NSA, Russia’s FSB, or Gregory The Geek), the fact that these systems can be hacked at all makes me leery of ever adopting them and the appliances they control.

I know, these systems make your life easier. “Convenience” has sold a ton of ideas and stuff, just not always with benevolent consequences. Remote garage door openers, for example, have been a blessing to lazy drivers, and also to burglars, who now use handheld decoders which can open any garage door inside fifteen seconds — and these decoders are sold quite legally at any serious electronics store. I bet everyone here can think of others — I can’t be bothered — which only makes this a much bigger deal than we think.

And no, I’m not one of these conspiracy loons who think that all this is an international conspiracy of Bilderburgers, Battenburgers, Double-Cheese Hamburgers or the perennial favorite, the Jooooz. (I’m going to say it now: conspiracy nuts are paranoid fucking morons.)

But I am intensely suspicious of any system which takes away my control of my own life, and of the things in my life, simply by telling me that it makes it all more convenient for me.

Here’s a simple question: if the Internet of Things allowed for the remote control of, say, handguns, how would you feel about it then? Why are you against it? Don’t you want to render your gun completely safe and inert so that your child can’t hurt himself if he plays with it? Or wouldn’t you like the police to have the ability to disable guns in the hands of criminals? Or wouldn’t you like the government to be able to render all guns inert in the case of a national emergency, so people couldn’t be robbed or killed?

Do you see how reasonable and how convenient all the above questions sound? [And let us pause here while Chuck Schumer shares a post-orgasmic cigarette with Dianne Feinstein.]

Oh, and please don’t tell me that guns are different because they aren’t the same as microwave ovens or refrigerators. It’s the Internet of Things, not the Internet of Some Things. What is added to one can be added to others; as we all know, airliners have long had “black boxes” to record their movements and data — now try to buy a car which isn’t fitted with an EDR (and rulings like this are rearguard actions, which will eventually fail).

And as the title of this post suggests, I’m supporting the Internet of No Things. A pox on all of it, and on the people who are trying to foist this shit on us, even though their reasons are oh-so reasonable and altruistic. Never mind, as Megan McArdle points out in her article above, that this added technology adds considerable cost to products, to the manufacturers’ benefit. (It’s the same with cars: you could lose 50% of all the new technology from cars, and while things might be a little “inconvenient” for the driver, the car could still perform its most elemental function without skipping a beat. Just for thousands of dollars per car less.)

People who are opposed to technology are generally called Luddites (after their apocryphal English founder Ned Lud) or saboteurs (after the French textile workers who threw their wooden clogs — sabots — into mechanical looms). I am neither of the above, nor do I fear technology. What I fear is that one day soon we’re going to find out that while all this technology has freed us (from what?), we’ll be shackled into immobility like Gulliver by the Lilliputians — not by just one device, of course, but by all our possessions which are no longer under our control.

Cue George Orwell: “Freedom Is Slavery” — only in our case, it will be “Convenience Is Slavery.”

Go ahead and laugh, call me crazy or sneer at my apparent Luddism. We’ll see how all this shakes out; but I’m not wrong, and it will give me no pleasure at all to say “I told you so” (while I’m firing up a home-made flamethrower to use on my microwave, which won’t let me nuke a pork sausage because I’ve exceeded my government-mandated weekly hot dog allowance).

If this is to be the future, I want no part of it, and I will actively resist it. I won’t be standing athwart the tide of Convenience shouting “Enough!”; I’ll be behind a barricade with a loaded AK-47 which, I need hardly tell you, will not be remotely-controlled.


20 comments already!

Cover Art, Journeyman Artist

Normally, when I do a profile like this, I do a short biography and some background of the subject… but there are times when I just want to shut up and let the man’s work do the talking.

This is especially true of Robert McGinnis, whose work is as popular with ordinary people as with book editors and publishing houses. I have to tell you, this is an artist of exceptional talent — yeah, he doesn’t do “fine” art, but I have to tell you, his art is just fine by me.

If like me you’ve read many paperback novels, McGinniss’s work will probably be familiar to you; and even if you haven’t, his style will be instantly recognizable. If you look for “journeyman artist” in a dictionary, it will be his face right there under the entry title.  Here are a few examples:

   

…and I know, I’m going to hear mutters of “graphic art, not fine art”. Yeah, I know: he’s no Boldini (whom we will be examining later this month). But just because McGinniss has earned his living with the above kind of work, it doesn’t mean that he’s incapable of a different class of art — like this one:

And then there’s this one, in which you can almost taste the dust:

…and this one, full of menace (can you spot it?):

I can hear the cries now: “Oh, Kim! Cowboy art? My smelling salts!”

Honestly, I think McGinnis’s work transcends style and trend: they are simply pictures which tell a story; sometimes you have to look for it, and sometimes it’s quite obvious. One more, for luck:

Yeah, it’s James Bond. Why not James Bond?

McGinnis is still alive, and he’s still painting, I think.  Go ahead and google his name if you want to see more of his work. It will take you a while to get through it all, but hey: it’s Sunday.


6 comments already!

Train Smash Women Convention

Foreword: I’ve reposted this piece with fresh updates (see below), because Aintree is still a Train Smash in progress. I am LOVING this…

I have spoken before of my fatal attraction towards Train Smash Women (an explanation of which can be found here) but honestly, one can have too much of a Good Thing.

In April, you see, ’tis time for the Grand National race at Aintree outside Liverpool (the latter being, without question, Train Smash Capital of the world), which means it’s time for you, O my Gentle Readers, to nominate the most likely, and worst possible Train Smash Woman out of the ones who appear in this year’s report of Day 1 at Aintree. It’s quite simple: just go down the page, and select the picture which represents to you a Train Smash Extraordinaire (count down from the top, and from left to right if there is more than one pic across the column. Here’s pic #1, for instance, followed by pics #2 and #3:

In comments, therefore, all you have to say is “I nominate #12” or “The girl in the red dress in #3”, (for instance), and I’ll be the final vote-counter and judge. (I have to say, #32 certainly caught my attention, but there is a plethora of good choices.

Have fun.


Update #1: The fun continues… and I apologize to all my Readers if I’ve caused them to puke up their breakfast. As Mr. Free Market has said in the past, “There’s good reason never to head north of the M4.”

Update #2: It’s Ladies Day! I use the appellation in its loosest [sic] possible form, of course. One can only imagine what today (Saturday) will bring…

But even before seeing the Saturday story, my favorite for Train Smash Woman Of Aintree goes to this priceless creature:

There it is: the dreadful dye job, the horrendous eye make-up, the tits falling out, the too-short skirt revealing flabby thighs: it’s the whole enchilada… and we didn’t even get to see her shoes. I’ll bet 2-1 (seeing as we’re at a horse race) that her entire life consists only of regrettable decisions.

Fabulous.

Still to come: Epsom and Ascot.

Note: I won’t be repeating this report for Melbourne’s Gold Cup celebrations because Australians.

 

 


18 comments already!

Birthday Greetings

The Son&Heir turns 28 today. It is customary for a proud father to brag about his son, but in my case, I am truly blessed. (And those of you who have met him, please feel free to weigh in with your opinions.)

Eagle Scout, champion shooter, college graduate; he’s popular with everyone who meets him, works with him or has anything to do with him. He’s witty, polite, well-mannered, intelligent, astonishingly well-read, and the best dinner companion anyone could wish for.

He never reads my blog — not one of my kids has ever read anything I’ve written, blog, novels, whatever — so he might not read this, but I don’t care. I bless the day he came into my life, and every day since. He is my son, I love him dearly, and he is a fine, fine man.

Happy birthday, boy.

— Dad


2 comments already!

More Inclusive

I see that the Black Livers Matter protesters have banned Whitey from their planned riot in Philadelphia on April 15, to nobody’s surprise except perhaps the New York Sodding Times. Oh, did I say “riot”? I meant “meeting”, of course. (Anyone have a line on the over/under on a riot happening anyway? Or is nobody taking that bet?)

Now, I have heard rumblings from certain quarters that not having any White people at this “meeting” will be a Good Thing, because then when the BLU-82 “daisy-cutter” is dropped, there’s less chance of collateral casualties.

I have to say, I think that’s short-sighted thinking, and might even be rayciss. Perhaps. But here’s why I think that idea is flawed: considering the kind of White people who would attend such a “meeting” to show their solidarity with the BLT Movement, would you not want their molecules to be part of that daisy-cutter’s smoke cloud as well?

 

To ask the question is to answer it. Because inclusivity.


8 comments already!

“Dear Dr. Kim”

“Dear Dr. Kim,
I recently discovered that when we were still married, my ex-husband was having sex with our child’s nanny. He got her pregnant and paid her a huge sum of money after she had an abortion. What can I do to feel better?”

Mel B, Los Angeles

Dear Mel:
I’m a little confused: are you upset because your husband fucked the nanny, or that he paid her 300 grand that he should have spent on you?
As for feeling better about the whole shambles, there’s not a lot I can say which will help you. However, I can make it easier for this situation not to reoccur in the future, by offering you this advice:

1. don’t let your next husband hire the nanny, and
2. when you hire a nanny in the future, try to hire one who looks like this:

…rather than one who looks like this:

You blithering idiot.

— Dr. Kim


5 comments already!