the Blacklight Arrow

David Blacker’s Blog

Death by Any Other Name

The Sunday Times quotes the Prisons Department spokesman as saying that a new title is being sought to replace that of “hangman” as the negative connotations of the current title of the post is putting off applicants for the vacant spot. I have helpfully made up a list of possible designations for this job; feel free to add to it:

Life Terminations Officer

Permanent Citizenship Revocation Manager

Life Executive Officer, Prisons Department

Director of Lifestyle Suppression

Chief Operations Officer, Executions & Terminations

Terminal Penalties Officer

And my personal favourite: Director of the Division of Ultimate Solutions

Advertisements

May 4, 2014 Posted by | government, Life, Politics | , | 1 Comment

LIttle Talks by Of Monsters & Men

Hey! Hey! Hey!
I don’t like walking around this old and empty house.
So hold my hand, I’ll walk with you my dear
The stairs creak as I sleep,
it’s keeping me awake
It’s the house telling you to close your eyes
Some days I can’t even dress myself.
It’s killing me to see you this way.
‘Cause though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore.
Hey! Hey! Hey!
There’s an old voice in my head
that’s holding me back
Well tell her that I miss our little talks.
Soon it will all be over, buried with our past
We used to play outside when we were young
and full of life and full of love.
Some days I feel like I’m wrong when I am right.
Your mind is playing tricks on you my dear.
‘Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
Hey!
Don’t listen to a word I say
Hey!
The screams all sound the same.
Hey!
Though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
You’re gone, gone, gone away,
I watched you disappear.
All that’s left is a ghost of you.
Now we’re torn, torn, torn apart,
there’s nothing we can do,
Just let me go, we’ll meet again soon.
Now wait, wait, wait for me, please hang around
I’ll see you when I fall asleep.
Hey!
Don’t listen to a word I say
Hey!
The screams all sound the same.
Hey!
Though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
Hey!
Don’t listen to a word I say
Hey!
The screams all sound the same.
Hey!
Though the truth may vary
this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore

August 29, 2012 Posted by | Life, Love, music | , | 2 Comments

Blacklight Manual BM-9876 “Counter Guerrilla Intellectual Operations”

"Guerrilla Board" by Golpeavisa/Deviant Art

Often when participating in heated online discussions we see commentators engaging in is what I like to call “guerrilla intellectualism”. This intellectualism is to true intellectualism what guerrilla warfare is to true conventional warfare — a sort of bastard little brother. However, while there is nothing dishonourable in guerrilla warfare, since it is necessitated by a lack of strength and not a lack of morality, the opposite is true with guerrilla intellectualism. While warfare is a clash of arms, the balance of which is irrelevant to morality or the idea behind it, in debate it is a direct clash of ideas. Therefore guerrilla intellectualism is a strategy grasped at by those who are lacking the intellect and/or morality to face off against an opposing idea on equal footing, just as guerrilla warfare is grasped at by forces who lack the force of arms to directly confront a more powerful enemy.

So as in guerrilla warfare, the guerrilla intellectual (not to be confused with the intellectual guerrilla) must flee when confronted with a direct assault (ie a direct question), he must avoid exposure and encirclement by superior numbers (ie a paraphrasing or outlining of his argument in order to give it clarity and reveal its failings), he must extricate himself from the battlefield when casualties mount (ie abandon the debate when proven wrong), choosing instead to return and make pinprick attacks in other engagements or launch totally new attacks in areas of his choosing, to give the impression of overall victory and frustrate the more powerful enemy who will begin to wonder why his superior arms and numbers (ie facts, stats, and historical evidence) cannot defeat the guerrilla intellectual.

Like the guerrilla soldier, the guerrilla intellectual cannot hope to defeat his more powerful enemy’s superior intellect (weapons and numbers) and morality (idea). His only hope is to demoralise the stronger enemy (ie break down his focus on his true idea) and entice him into committing his troops to small battles on the guerrilla intellectual’s territory where devoid of his true strengths his troops will be whittled away piecemeal.

Guerrilla intellectuals enter into this form of debate in several ways, but there are two most common paths. The first is born of necessity; I call this the Prabhakaran Model. Here the keyboard warrior initially believes his idea is strong enough to defeat an opposing idea in open battle; a battle that he has chosen by attacking an idea he disagrees with or by having his own idea attacked by an opponent. After several defeats at the hands of his superior opponent, he realises the weakness of his idea and is forced to resort to guerrilla intellectualism to avoid total defeat. Another path is what I call the Viet Cong Model. In this the keyboard warrior realises right from the outset that his idea stands no chance in direct combat, but he still decides to attack his opponent’s idea, choosing guerrilla intellectualism deliberately. While the Prabakharan Model user often honestly believes that his ideas are powerful, and that it’s simply his own inarticulateness that prevents him from being victorious in conventional debate, the user of the VC Model is quite aware that it is his idea that is flawed. He will only increase the intensity of his attacks if he sees that the true intellectual is prone to fall into ambushes and other traps. Continue reading

March 9, 2011 Posted by | Life, Uncategorized, War | , , | 6 Comments

Loving Mr Grey

Ask Sri Lankans born in the ’70s to tell you which cars they remember growing up with, and you’ll hear about Austin Cambridges, Morris Minors, “Upali” Fiats, and Beetles. All of which are rubbish. Yes, I know people will put out a fatwah on me for calling a Beetle rubbish, but it is. And yes, I know Upali Wijewardena’s Fiat 128 was the Micro of ’70s Sri Lanka, but you’ll be better off if you put wheels on a Ceylon Tea crate. Plus you’ll be faster. Doesn’t anyone remember a Karmann Ghia, or a Datsun 240Z, or a Mercedes 300? Or at least a Mk1 Golf, for God’s sake? Why do people seem to remember the bland? Somehow, though, I doubt that Sri Lankans in the year 2040 will look back fondly on the Nissan Sunny.

While you’re about it, ask a Sri Lankan to name a great ad from the early days of local television, and it’ll be a pretty predictable choice. The original Airlanka jingle (above) will certainly feature among them, with people still able to sing bits of it or at least hum the tune. There’s one of those dodgy old massage guys on Hikkaduwa beach who sings one part of it (“Blue voters, smiling ice — Sri Lanka, pair of dice”) over and over, as he walks along the sand looking for customers. Then there’ll be the Dot toffee commercials (“Oyagey kate Dot, mage kateth Dot!”), the Thultex spot — the only reason I remember that one is because at 14 years old, I’d never seen that far up a woman’s leg. So we remember this stuff, but were they good ads — did they entertain us (OK, there’s that leg again), engage us? Fuck, no, but we remember them anyway. Mostly because there were far fewer ads around back then.

Now it’s pretty easy to see why people remember great cars and great ads — or great anything for that matter. Cars, movies, books, we remember the ones that were interesting, fun, touching — things that played to our emotions, that entertained us. But what makes us remember things that we have no reason to — why would we remember a packet of washing powder? We wouldn’t, because there’s nothing to remember about it. But somehow Sri Lankans manage it. We even remember the Austin Cambridge. Why?

Perhaps it’s because Sri Lankans, on the whole, prefer the bland and anonymous. We save our spice for our rice, and that’s only because everyone else does it too. Every other day of the week I’m up in front of clients, trying to sell them an ad that I think will do all kinds of wonderful things for their brand. Market share, brand building, top-of-mind, etc etc. And as I pitch that top-of-the-range ad out onto their boardroom tables, I can see them squirm and wait, hesitating over this Scirocco that’s going to have everyone talking and pointing — and believe me these aren’t Porsches; they really are Sciroccos, maybe even RS5s. But no, the client’s waiting for me to run out of revs so that he or she can buy that Toyota Allion that no one will notice. It’ll take them from 15% market share to 17%, smoothly and comfortably, and very very softly. And in an unfeeling, numb coma.

Continue reading

July 8, 2010 Posted by | advertising, cars, Life | , | 9 Comments

Reading with Both Eyes

The Juggler by Spock84/DeviantArt

The Juggler by Spock84/DeviantArt

I keep thinking about balance a lot these days. Not just physical balance, obviously, though I think about that too on some nights, especially when I’m walking out of a bar. I’m thinking more about a mental attitude. About keeping everything in the air, and not dropping any of the balls. I think it requires a sort of 360-degree peripheral vision that allows you to plot the locations of everything without focusing on anything. It’s something I feel I’ve always wanted, but never managed to achieve. I just finished reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, and there’s a bit in it that touches on this. In it, the protagonist is attempting to decipher books from the planet Tralfamadore:

Billy couldn’t read Tralfamadorian, of course, but he could at least see how the books were laid out — in brief clumps of symbols separated by stars. Billy commented that the clumps might be telegrams.

“Exactly,” said the voice.

“They are telegrams?”

“There are no telegrams on Tralfamadore. But you’re right: each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message — describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”

Years ago, a friend of my father’s told me how he was learning to speed read, and it involved using his peripheral vision to scan down both sides of the column of text, the left eye down the left side and the right eye down the right. The downside of this technique was that while you registered the pertinent details quickly, you didn’t really absorb the sentences. So it was great for reading a newspaper, but not so much when it came to a novel. But it’s still all about balance, of not really focusing on any one thing.

Like walking, riding a bicycle, or flying helicopters.

It makes me sometimes wonder what balance really is. An awareness; a compromise? Or is balance in fact the opposite of focus, of quality — of good, even? But Robert Pirsig often talks of quality as almost situational awareness; an overall grasp of the big picture. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, he makes it sound like balance:

If you want to build a factory or fix a motorcycle, or set a nation right without getting stuck, then classical, structured dualistic subject-object knowledge, although necessary, isn’t enough. You have to have some feeling for the quality of the work. You have to have a sense of what’s good. That is what carries you forward. This sense isn’t just something you’re born with, although you are born with it. It’s also something you can develop. It’s just not “intuition”, not just unexplained “skill” or “talent”. It’s the direct result of contact with basic reality, Quality, which dualistic reason has in the past tended to conceal.

A juggler needs balance to keep all those objects in the air, but he still doesn’t lose touch with them. He touches them all, moves them around, controls them. Maybe that’s it.

July 8, 2009 Posted by | Life | , , , , | 10 Comments