"The endless babble of nothingness"

480"The endless babble of nothingness". This is a good example of accurate one-liners in the podcast "The Rest Is Politics". The podcast was launched in 2022 and has become one of the leading political podcasts in the United Kingdom. It's hosted by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart. Campbell is a journalist and political strategist known for his work as communications chief for Tony Blair (labour). Stewart is an academic, author, former diplomat and politician and has served as secretary and minister under Theresa May (conservative). Their aim is to "disagreeing agreeably". The quality of the podcast is outstanding. Despite their political differences they often agree in their analysis. They are also extremely harsh judges of character. If someone is talented, average or a tent revival clown, they say so. All delivered in a mix of eloquence and clarity. "The Rest Is Politics" is educating and entertaining. In fact, at times it's hilarious. I laugh right out loud when I listen to the podcast in my headphones. I'm ambivalent when it comes to politics in general and to Swedish politics in particular. I like the game, but can't stand the players. The bar for entry in politics is low. If you just hang around, it will eventually be your turn. Politics seems to attract a particular type of person (student council president). They are advised not to be themselves and speak their mind. It could be to their disadvantage. At the same time, many politicians are too media trained to be truly relatable. The political debates are just unbearable. It's sand-box-level where representatives of various political parties are speaking at the same time and deliberately choose to misinterpret each other. I reach for the remote control to change channel or turn off the TV. However, I like Swedish political podcasts. Or more correctly, I used to like them. The podcasts started out with high energy and a fresh take on politics, but now they have all deteriorated. The preparations and current shape vary and there's no consistent quality. In comparison, the Swedish podcasts lack the political and analytical edge. With a few exceptions, it's amateur hour with all that implies. Recently, they have begun to cross-reference and recycle each others content: "As podcast X discussed bla bla", "This issue was also covered by podcast Y bla bla", "This question was highlighted by podcast Z bla bla". This must be the lowest form of political journalism. I don't think I can go back to Swedish political podcasts again.   

"No AI was used”

480AI is here to replace you. So far, it seems that we safely can get back to sleep. There are obvious teething problems. Stilted AI-written pieces or AI-created images of people with extra limbs and fingers are some examples. However, many AI-advocaters argue that we should sleep with one eye open. The machine-learning is improving by the minute. AI is coming for you and your job. The next victim to the slaughter is music. This fact divides people. Some people argue that, throughout the ages, musicians have been "influenced" by and "borrowed" from each other. There's nothing new. AI just makes it much easier. Other people (here I include myself) argue that AI is different. Before AI, no matter of how influenced you were or how much you borrowed, you still had to put in the hours to make it yours. That is, if you had any artistic ambitions. Nowadays, the "influencing" and "borrowing" have turned into "stealing". The AI-advocaters like to think of it as a "democratization" of music (you don't have to be a musician to make music, or content as they like to call it). There are other unresolved issues. AI companies train their generative AI models on songs without their rightsholders permission. We will see how this plays out. I come to think of the rock band Queen, who on their early albums in their liner notes proclaimed that "no synthesizers were used". Contrary to popular belief, Queen didn't hate synthesizers. They just wanted to emphasize that the sound came from Brian May's guitar. Man and machine in a perfect symbiosis. Most musicians have been through enough the last two decades with restructuring of the industry and horrendous new business models. Will AI be the straw that breaks the camel's back? Maybe or maybe not. In the not too distant future record albums will be labeled "no AI was used" as a statement. This is going to be a mark of quality. Of course, if there are any musicians still around.  

"The Voight-Kampff test"

480Blade Runner is a great science fiction film. It's an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The film is set in a dystopian future Los Angeles, in which replicants are bio-engineered to work on space colonies. A group of replicants escapes back to Earth, seeking to extend their lifespans. A blade runner reluctantly agrees to hunt them down and take them out of circulation. They are believed to be a threat to humanity. The replicants are almost identical replicas of human beings. But how do you detect a replicant? The Voight-Kampff (VK) is a polygraph-like machine used by blade runners to determine whether an individual is a replicant. It measures bodily functions such as respiration, blush response, heart rate and eye movement in response to questions dealing with empathy. The VK test comprises mathematical, linguistic and behavioural multiple-choice questions. The internet is overflowing with VK questions, for example "You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, it’s crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t, not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that?" The VK test should not be confused with the polygraph (lie detector) test. The polygraph has a range of accuracy that is estimated to be between 80 and 90 percent (more likely lower). The term accuracy is misleading since there's no way of knowing if the examinee is lying or not (in most cases it can't be tested). Generally, there's little evidence that tests can accurately detect lies. In 1986 and 1991, CIA employee and Soviet spy Aldrich Ames passed two polygraph examinations with flying colours. The advanced trick? By being calm and relaxed. Could the VK test be circumvented? Humans pass the test by nature of being human. A functioning sociopath or psychopath (a person with just enough empathy to get along in society) would still show up as human. Replicants are not able to pass the test. But, who knows? Whenever everything else fails, a spirited appearance, small talk and a forced smile could be a good strategy. Just like a regular job interview except that the consequences could be life-changing. 

"The correct trilogy"

480I'm a perfectionist in some areas of competence, while I'm a procrastinator in other areas. I take some pride in that the information on the website is correct and can be peer-reviewed for added credibility. Even the sun has its spots. A serious website editor isn’t afraid to make corrections if needed. Now there’s a need. Recently, I wrote a blog post about "The Lupercalia trilogy" read more here (opens in a new window). The correction is as follows: The "first" album "Petr & the Wulf" isn't a part of the trilogy. However, the album is a prequel to the trilogy with the stories of the fictional town of Lupercalia and the people who live there. In hindsight, two things stood out. First, the "Petr & the Wulf" album doesn't include "Kinnery Of Lupercalia" in the title. Second, the twelve years between the "first" and the "second" album should have made me suspicious. The correct trilogy consists of "Kinnery Of Lupercalia; Undelivered Legion" (released by Munly & the Lupercalians in 2022), "Kinnery of Lupercalia: Buell Legion" (will be released by Slim Cessna's Auto Club on 31 May 2024) and Kinnery of Lupercalia: Toombs Legion" (will be released by DBUK at an undisclosed time). The confusion could have been avoided if I had read "Chants, Calls, & Hollers". It's a chapbook featuring lyrics from the trilogy. The book is printed in a limited edition of 320 hand-sewn copies. All signed by the author. Words by Munly J. Munly and illustrations by Heather Reynolds. The man behind it all is notoriously difficult to interview. In fact, it's a futile exercise. The answers are vague, ambiguous, evasive and questioning. This could be an attempt to make yourself more interesting than you are. But more likely, you are a complex person with a distinct opinion and approach. In the light of this, releasing three albums with three "different" bands isn't strange. Munly is the creative force of M&tL, SCAC and DBUK and the line-up is pretty much identical. In an interview for the blog Supercorrupter, Munly says: "One day I wouldn’t be surprised if all three bands eventually became one". Suddenly everything makes perfect sense.

"The deep state"

480The term deep state is common in anti-establishment circles. It comes from the Turkish word derin devlet (lit. deep state) and has negative connotations. A deep state is a type of government made up of potentially secret and unauthorized networks of power operating independently of a state's political leadership in pursuit of their own agenda and goals. It's a very fascinating conspiracy theory. But is there any evidence supporting the theory? Sure, there may be small pockets of resistence, reluctance, idleness and slow-moving organizations here and there, but does a colluding deep state exist? Some politicians blame their political failures or shortcomings on a deep state. Most politicians are good at churning out their opinions, but often lack the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to make a difference. In a democracy civil servants advise, but ministers decide. A good civil servant isn't afraid of speaking truth to power. After all, they are paid to point out financial, admininistrative or legal problems so that politicians can make well-informed decisions. Basically, the problem isn't that politicians listen too much to advisors. On the contrary, they listen too little. They often end up whining: how hard can it be? Well, changing policy isn't easy. It's not unlike a pick-up sticks game. The sticks are intricate connected. If you move one stick, you may move other sticks as well. Experimenting is very costly and the traces deter. The deep state is a chimera in the minds of the conspiracists. Why is a deep state not conceivable? We blatantly overestimate bureaucracies. They lack the abillity to coerce, cooperate and coordinate. The inability to deliver must be sought elsewhere. And the answer? The dog ate my homework.  

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