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The real species behind the Matrix

The real species behind the Matrix

The concept behind the Matrix

If you’ve watched any films in the past 20 years, you’ve probably seen at least one of the Matrix trilogy. Essentially, to mis-appropriate a Jurassic Park quote, ‘God created man, man created A.I., A.I. enslaved man’.

The A.I. in the film created a convincingly imperfect human society in virtual reality, which humans are plugged into at birth and thereafter are kept as biological batteries, producing heat (power) for the A.I., and most are blissfully ignorant of it all due to being immersed in the Matrix. 

The first Matrix is a very good film, and at the time it was pretty ground-breaking. Unfortunately the second and third in the series are an exercise in ‘wow, the first one made us way more money than we thought, let’s cash in… plot? Who needs a plot?’, but the first one explores A.I., offers some excellent and disturbing metaphors for society, prods you to think about fate versus free will, etc., etc.

It’s not necessarily as original as it looks

My brain is fond of waking me up at oh-my-god in the morning and presenting me with things to think about rather than letting me go back to sleep, and one of the things it presented me with early one morning, as I lay immobilised under two cats, was that someone who participated in the writing of the Matrix was a genius, but not an original one. 

Humanity has yet to achieve A.I., being more than slightly hindered by its own lack of I.

However, lacking A.I., which always makes a convenient villain for anything sci-fi, there is nonetheless a species on the planet that’s been successfully cultivating humans for food and heat for millennia – felis silvestris catus, or the domesticating cat. Pardon me, my mistake – domestic cat.

Most of the population has either lived with a cat at some point in their lives, or knows someone who does. There’s a hairy old joke about dogs being pets for people who need to be worshipped as gods, whereas cats are more for those who can deal with their gods turning up on their chests at 0500 and demanding a sacrifice.

It is however interesting to note that where humanity domesticated wolves way back in the days when they were still hunting wild animals for food and sport and engaging in bloody conflicts (oh, hey, hang on…) as companions and burglar alarms, and dogs today have been bred into so many different directions that in some cases the common ancestor is hard to believe, cats moved in with humans pretty much as soon as human habitations were much better than caves. Domestic cats today, although a little gentler than their fully wild cousins, and in slightly more varied colours and coats, are completely recognisable at a glance as close relatives of the smaller wildcats. 

Essentially, cats moved in, and in exchange for warmth and a little care, handled the small and mid-size pest problems that plagued humanity’s moderately filthy communities. When the Catholic church declared them witches’ familiars, and thousands of cats were killed across Europe, the Black Plague followed.

The deal is still pretty much on today, except with better sanitation the workload is less, and cats can spend more of their time training their human heat sources. In fact, one of mine has just turned up on my desk to explain that this habit of staring at lit screens, when one could be making a fuss of a cat, is something that should be addressed.

Ancestry again

Ancestry again

Ancestry – again

About a year ago, I wrote a post about finally taking the plunge on an Ancestry DNA test, and my intermittent interest in unearthing my likely unholy family history.

Sadly, the family myth about Peruvian ancestry was emphatically debunked – I appear to be a Northern European achievement, largely Anglo-Scots with some Irish and Germanic-Central European mixed in. Oh, and 2% Norwegian, which I can only assume equates to ‘Viking plus slowest woman in her village’.

This past few weeks, owing to a dry spell in my ability to convince myself to get stuck into the editing for Book 5 in the Cortii series, I’ve found myself back in Ancestry, knocking around and tidying up loose ends. Among other things, my direct paternal line appears to have sprung, fully-formed, from the nearest public house sometime in the mid-1700s somewhere along the much-disputed line marking the England-Scotland border. (Still haven’t cracked that one.)

What I did turn up, much to my entertainment, was a bunch of job ads from the New Scientist magazine archives, from when my father founded Servomex Controls Limited in 1952. As I didn’t meet my father until several years after his retirement, the only thing I really knew about his company was that a. it existed, and b. his secretary was so bad at typing that Dad, at the time the Managing Director, used to type up all his own letters. I have that typewriter in my cupboard – it still works.

By the time I met my father, he’d sold his stake in Servomex and retired onto a one-off Mudie-built wooden ketch named Gub-Gub. Since I think I’m the first to dig into the family history, he may or may not have known that the family, in the 1800s, had a branch in merchant shipping out of Liverpool, but judging by the generous splash of Irish / Northern European in my genetic heritage from his side of the family, I strongly suspect that if I ever manage to put together the lineage past the 1700s, I’m going to find a few more merchants / soldiers / other stripe of travellers.

Probably this goes some way to explaining why I’m currently based out of Western Canada and my nearest relations are my half-brother, in the Caribbean, and a branch of the family descended from one of my great-uncles who never came back from South America, in Santiago.

You’re a writer? Grow up

You’re a writer? Grow up

You’re a writer? Grow up!

What, you think you’re going to make money doing that?

Oh, wait, you’re indie? Can I actually, you know, buy your stuff anywhere?

Books are boring, I’d rather see a movie.

Spend enough time writing and publishing, and you’ll hear at least one of the above.

I’m lucky enough that I have to respect a person before their opinion is much more than noise to me, so water and ducks’ backs is pretty much the result if someone lays one of these on me. I have fun writing, and based on reviews, at least a few people have fun reading what I publish. Good enough for me.

I was talking to someone the other day, and they asked me what my passion was. I told them it was writing (in point of fact I was speaking with someone on an HR team, which was mildly worrying given the sequel…). They responded that they used to write, but “then they grew up”.

Not invariably, but often, that kind of reaction points to somebody in the past having managed to seriously hurt the feelings of the person having the reaction, which made me wonder what kind of person listens to someone else tell them that creating art is immature, and internalises it to such a degree that they feel they have to repeat it to anyone else who may still be childish enough to be wasting their time in a similar field.

I concluded, after a bit of staring at a ceiling, that I feel sorry for them. It must be tough to take everyone’s opinions so seriously that you give up something harmless, that you enjoy, over them. After all, everyone has opinions. Having one doesn’t make them worthy of being taken into account.

Thank all and any gods, I have highly selective deafness… thanks, Dad, you were in some respects an awesome role model.

In short, I’m working my way around to a theme that’s fairly common to indie authors, which is IDGAF. I have fun, some other people have fun, if you don’t like it don’t read it… I’m pretty sure there are many, many permutations on this one.

Of course, I’m lucky enough to be an introvert, so I care less about what the rest of humanity thinks of me than I do about avoiding having to interact with large numbers of them, and I’m also lucky enough to make enough in my day job that I’m not dependent on some other schmuck; I don’t have to set a single, solitary fuck into flight (yes, my fucks are probably just as lazy as the rest of me).

It came to me, as I contemplated this person’s dismissal of an entire art form, that extroversion, FOMO, etc. must make for a very nervous lifestyle. Extroverts seem to actually need other people’s approval of them and their lifestyles. It may go some way to explain why there are so many people out there looking for someone to copy.

However, me…I’m immature and happy to be so. I’ll be in my room, playing with my words.

What does Eostre have to do with it, anyway?

What does Eostre have to do with it, anyway?

Easter, Eostre, Ostern

Easter. Bunnies in pink waistcoats. Eggs everywhere in a gamut of unlikely colours. It’s part of the season, and very few people stop to ask themselves – what the bunny duck do rabbits, eggs, and chocolate have to do with the death and rebirth of Christ?

…actually, nothing at all. Rabbits and eggs are spring and fertility symbols, and while there’s learned argument over whether Eostre, Ostara, or even Freya was the original spring / dawn goddess who inspired the various traditions, you will note that unlike Christmas, the birth of Christ, which has a fixed date in the calendar (despite the calendar having changed a couple of times in 2,000 years), Easter wanders all over the place. You’d really think that the date of Christ’s death would be at least as fixed as his birth date, right?

In actual fact, reasonably solid rumour indicates that Easter was originally a pagan spring festival (take your pick), and the Christian Church wallpapered a ceremony over the top of it. The simplest line between two points involves a Germanic fertility / spring / dawn goddess named Eostre, and a lot of spring and fertility imagery (rabbits, eggs, daffodils…please don’t make me draw you a diagram).

Which is why you have one of the most solemn celebrations in the Christian calendar stuck rather cockeyed over the bright colours and chocolate-infested imagery of Easter, and at random points in the calendar any time from end of March to end of April.

Personally, I’m in for festivals that involve hunting down chocolate and then holing up somewhere comfy to eat it. I’m very culturally flexible for festivals that involve food.

May the chocolate-distributing bunny be good to you.

Eostre

Egging on Easter traditions

Egging on Easter traditions

Egging on Easter – some of the less traditional traditions

I’m a big fan of any festival that involves bright colours and good things to eat. Chinese New Year is one of my personal favourites, since it includes firecrackers as well as all of the above. Christmas, too, is a great excuse for competitive gluttony followed by a food coma with a mound of new books by my side.

However, the one currently up on the roster is Easter, that icon of the Christian calendar, marking the death and resurrection of Christ. Which, for some reason, is widely celebrated with chocolate bunnies and eggs in weird colours (more on that later). As I’d be struck dead if I tried to claim I was a devout anything, I thought I’d have a look at some of the lesser-known Easter traditions and where they came from.

Pretty much everyone’s familiar with the bunnies and the dyed hard-boiled eggs. So how about fashion shows, kites, and murder mysteries?

Well, the fashion show apparently started in New York, according to Mental Floss, sometime in the mid-1800s. Traditionally, it’s considered lucky to wear new clothes on Easter (no real idea why, but I’d posit some link between new beginnings and new clothes…), and apparently some of the New York upper crust felt they should be displayed for a bit more than just the Easter church service. The tradition’s broadened a bit over the years, but still exists today in the Easter Parade.

And I mentioned kites, too, didn’t I? Well, in Bermuda they fly kites to symbolise Jesus’s ascension to Heaven. The kites are brightly coloured, and designed both to fly and to make noise in the air; a great tradition for an island where the Trade Wind blows from the East 364 days of the 365.

Murder mysteries. Well, I have no idea why murder mysteries, but in the Nordic areas, Easter is celebrated with murder mystery TV shows, book releases, and even short mysteries on the sides of the milk cartons. The Visit Norway site thinks it started as a marketing stunt in the early 1900s by a couple of young authors, but whether they’re right or not, Easter in most of the Nordic countries means crime mysteries galore. (And, may I say, Nordic crime shows are fantastic? Generally I have an issue with crime shows, because I figure out whodunnit it five minutes in and spend the remaining 40 minutes being sarcastic, but there’s a couple of Nordic ones that knocked my socks off: check out Trapped and Border Town.)

So… what’s your favourite weird and off-beat Easter tradition? (Beat kites and murder mysteries, I dare ya.)

Easter 2019 Sparkly Badgers

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