Sanctioned — one year ago

It is now a year since Sanctioned was published. Sanctioned_cover_x350px.jpg

This satire of a system that is clueless, callous, and out of control is changing the world. Obviously, millions of people are abandoning the old regimes and flooding to the side of reason and humanity.

Even as the tide of history changes around the rock of my tome, many readers will be unaware of the provenance of the cover art.

I took the design of official government documents as my template. The font, the cyan bar, the royal seal come directly from HMG. The cyan colour is reference to the similar cyan strip on the documents of the Department of Work and Pensions, on which the book’s Department of Aspirations is modelled. 

I was tempted to leave the royal seal visible, but had no idea of the consequences of this. Perhaps some readers, or the Queen herself, would mistake Sanctioned for an official government document. 

In the end I partially obscured the seal in case extradition extended to the part of the world in which I live, and led therefrom to a complicated fate by hanging, drawing and quartering. 

The blood spots were extracted at knife point from bureaucrats whom I hunted at night. Their deaths allowed me to decorate each copy individually with their vital fluids and screams. 

I believe the effect is quite striking. 

Sanctioned (by Chris Page, by the way, he mentions in an SEO-friendly aside) is still very much available from Psipook Press in paperback and Kindle from Amazon. 

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Bollocks to … (no. 27 in an infinite series)

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A big hello in art to the #RoyalBaby

It's that royal baby

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Make Facebook and Google pay for all the data they’ve taken from us

 

Facebook and Google have been monetising our lives, but we can (and should) monetise them back.

Seems that Mark Zuckerberg’s dreamboat has become a zombie ship of ghouls. This month Facebook has turned into farce-book.

While we were all sharing pics of our morning cappuccino and cute cats, Facebook was scraping our lives and turning the shavings into hard cash. Whenever we clicked that like button we were clicking money directly into Mr Zuckerberg’s bank account. The button ought to come with a loud ka-ching sound effect. The icon is a thumb’s up, but it may as well be a dollar sign. Or perhaps the thumb means ‘Cheers, mate! Another one born every minute!’

Let’s try a little thought experiment. Imagine Starbucks was eliciting donations of coffee beans and milk from its customers and then selling them back to us as cappuccino. We’d see right away that this wasn’t a caring-sharing business model, we wouldn’t have to scrunch our faces in an agony of dilemma and say, yeah, but, I like Starbucks coffee. We’d just go elsewhere. Yet, this is more or less how Facebook works and how many of us are reacting to it.

Or put another way, if I came into your living room, nicked the photos off the wall and sold them on the street, I’d be arrested. It would be called theft. In Facebook’s case, it’s called an innovative business model.

How much money has Facebook made over the years? Well, even Wikipedia doesn’t know. It’s a number so big only astrophysicists can deal with it. A year ago, Facebook was valued at $407 billion. Mr Zuckerberg himself is, at the time of writing, valued at $61 billion, which while being about $14 billion down on this time last week, is still a lot of cappuccino.

Facebook’s business model was no secret, but now it turns out that the ship of ghouls is a leaky old tub, and was open to piratical plunder by just about anyone who cared to wander in by way of an inane personality quiz and nick the family digital silverware. More alarming still, anyone with a political axe to grind was hacking in too. These players were not so much swinging elections as swinging them around their heads.

Users have been feeling a mite let down and, rallying to #deletefacebook, have been deserting that ship in droves, which, at first thought, seems like a wholly reasonable reaction.

But.

Let’s face it, many people like the ‘Book. In these times of restless populations and scattered families, and especially for those of us who live abroad, Facebook has proved a neat way of staying in touch. We can keep up with our pals and family across continents and timezones just as well as with those across town. The primary means of communication for the professional organisations I belong to is Facebook. If you run a small business you can get your message to the punters without shelling for the huge ad rates of traditional publications. We can cosy up with our favourite celebs and our heroes, and immerse ourselves in everyone else’s breakfast 24 hours a day.

There are those users who are unconcerned about this data piracy. When people say they don’t care about Facebook taking their data, they are saying they don’t care that their lives are grist for a rich man’s money mill.

The amount of data Facebook has collected is staggering. And Google has collected even more. If Facebook is a vacuum cleaner for data, Google is a black hole. 

So, deleting your account or just ignoring the situation are two options, but I have a better idea, and it’s a very simple one.

Mr Zuckerberg, you have made gazillions of dollars from our data, so why don’t you simply pony up? Why don’t you pay us our share?

It would be like your users, the ones you once referred to as ‘dumb fucks,’ becoming your business partners, becoming real stakeholders — in short, it would be like Facebook becoming a respectable business.

So the simple remedy is for Mr Zuckerberg to share his enormous profits with the people who have provided the raw materials for his product. We can be paid a fair price according to how much we have engaged with the platform over the years. That would be easy for Facebook to work out since they have kept a record of every interaction you’ve had with anybody on their platform since you joined.

So, that’s a gazillion dollars divided between 2.2 billion users … you do the sums. There must at least be a cappuccino in that for each of us. And if this is to be a community and not a factory farm for data, we should then each of us have control over which bits of our lives to monetise, and which bits should be kept out of the data store. If this happens, Facebook may start to look like the community we all thought it was when we started using it.

And when we’re done with Facebook, we can make the same deal with Google, which has collected even more data on us. Where Facebook is a vacuum cleaner for data, Google is a black hole.

After all, Mr Zuckerberg, as you capitalists are fond of pointing out to us dumb fucks, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

And why shouldn’t I be paid for my data? It is after all my life.

Afterword: I have started a Change.org petition aimed at getting Facebook and Google to accept their responsibilities. You can join in here.

 

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Hey, honey, I shot the kids!

I originally posted this story on psipook.com in 2004 when I first learned of the existence of this thing called an AR-15, a gun that has featured in so many killings in the US.

Since then, the AR-15 has been in the news a great deal (see the foregoing link), but time nor the repetition of tragedy have dulled my incredulity that pretty well anyone can go out and buy themselves a military-grade weapon.

So for no particular reason other than my mind is still boggled, here’s that post again.

Shoot the neighbours

This morning I had a pair of sick-world revelations.

I was reading an online BBC report about how Clinton’s ban on the purchase of assault weapons is about to be repealed.

That was sick world feeling number one.

Sick world feeling number two: the BBC, to help its non gun-toting readers along, listed three typical assault weapons — the AK47, the Uzi and something called an AR-15, which was described as a civilian version of the military M-16.

A civilian version of the M-16!

What civilian application can there be of a weapon that fires 1000 rounds per minute, is deadly at ranges over a kilometre and whose bullets can penetrate house walls?

You can imagine the scene in American suburbs. The sun is shining, the butterflies are flapping in the garden.

Hubby tells wife,”Hey, hon, I’m hefting my AR-15 so I’m just out to cut the grass. And then I’m going to shoot it. And then I’m going to shoot the flowers a while.”

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Lawnmower

“OK, hon. I’ll be right here in the kitchen with my Uzi shooting the washing up.”

“Then maybe later I’ll put up that book shelf in the den.”

“Make sure you shoot it after. You know you sometimes forget.”

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Deadly assault weapon

“Hey, how about we get the neighbours round tonight for a cook out?”

“And then we can have a nice shoot out together. Sounds blissy.”

“Say, did you feed the dog?”

“No, but I did shoot it.”

“Well, that should keep him happy a while.”

Guns don’t kill people. Idiots with guns kill people.

September 14, 2004

That was 2004. There have been a lot of shooting events since then. Now I would have to add extra dialogue to reflect the current reality. Such as:

“Well, hon, I’m just going to drop by the school to shoot the kids.”

“OK, make sure you get a couple of teachers too. Oh, by the way, can you pick up a pack of brats on the way home?”

“Sure thing, hon. Now don’t go restricting my right to bear arms while I’m out.”

“No chance of that darling. I need my gun to protect myself from idiots with guns.”

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2018, innit!

2018, innit! Doghouse, dog’s life, dog days, or the actual dog’s bollocks? Live on to find out.

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This working li(f)e (part whatever in an infinite series)

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This working li(f)e (part 1 in an infinite series)

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Nine hilarious wardrobe fails you haven’t seen before (really!)

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A question from my cat to Donald Trump

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