Infinite Wishes 🏳️‍⚧️🚀

Is a weblog by Emma Humphries

Recent posts

24 Jul 2023 » Tunnel Vision: A BART documentary

A guerilla documentary about the Bay Area Rapid Transit system filmed from a GoPro attached to the front of a BART train takes you from SFO to far eastern Contra Costa County.

A still from 'Tunnel Vision' showing the view from the front of a BART train traversing the transbay tube; an inset at the lower right shows the portion of the BART system map the train is on: between Embarcadero and West Oakland stations.
Credit: Vincent Woo

BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, carries hundreds of thousands of people within and between the cities of the sprawling region: from San José to Richmond, SFO to far eastern Contra Costa County, and the City into Pleasanton and Dublin.

Vincent Woo’s gorgeous documentary, shot on GoPro cameras attached to the front of BART trains traveling from SFO to Pittsburg in eastern Contra Costa County, gives us a view of the transit system’s infrastructure most of us don’t see when we ride it.

Despite going guerilla and attaching the cameras without BART’s permission, Woo must have made his case for making the movie as it features interviews with former BART leadership, a train operator, transit advocate and California State Senator Scott Weiner, and the text-to-speech software which makes announcements on the train and at the stations.

We never see the interviewees. The film is a series of long cuts filmed from the front of the train edited together, with a schematic of where the yellow line train is on its journey. There’s also breathing room between the interviews where the view and the ambient soundtrack have no trouble carrying the film along.

Besides showing off the system from a train operator’s point of view, Woo captures the uniqueness of the system: the first major US public transit project in the 20th century and one brought into being after the post-war destruction of private transit systems in favor of Federal and state subsidized highways and freeways for autos. BART was intended to influence how the Bay Area developed (the opposition to which is why it never went to the North Bay and Marin County, and only reached SFO and San José in the 21st Century.)

BARTs existence is precarious, more dependent than other transit systems on fare revenue instead of public support, and in danger again as the white collar professional ridership switched to remote work and took away a large part of the core ridership. But if BART’s funding collapses it will hurt working class people and others who still have to travel to their jobs. And traffic on our freeways and bridges will become even worse. State Senator Weiner, in his comments, makes it clear that BART is essential and a better funding model is needed.

Despite the shade of precarity running through the movie, this is a celebration of transit, a gorgeous travelog through the bay, and a lot of history.

One thing I believe was missing from the documentary was how BART didn’t do right by West Oakland and how the combination of the elevated section between downtown Oakland and just before the Transbay Tube, alongside the Cypress Freeway (which collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta quake) and the massive USPS distribution center changed the predominantly Black and immigrant community there. My wife Cynthia’s grandfather had a bar on 7th Street, a neighborhood which used to rival Harlem for music and other culture, now both the bar and the nightlife are gone.

Now that I live in Oakland, instead of Silicon Valley, I take BART (as well as AC Transit and SF Muni) frequently. I love that I can walk a few short blocks, and board a train that’ll take me to the City, two airports, and across at least a dozen microclimates. Despite the glitches, I love BART. If public transit is part of your everyday life, you’ll get this movie. If not, I hope it gives you an appreciation for what we have in the Bay Area.

14 Jul 2023 » Hell is Being Someone Else's IP

In which Kip Manley reminds me there is no ethical immortality under capitalism.

I’m still thinking about The Dixie Flatline since Kip Manley shared a short story written in the form of a Wikipedia entry with me. The passive “neutral point of view” tone of the history of the first copy of a person’s mind uploaded to a computer which can simulate it (at 1/8 speed) adds to the horror as you read it.

The uploaded mind has become a commodity, dubiously ‘open sourced’ and one among billions of copies. These copies are booted, enslaved to do the work which we currently outsource and offshore (such as scanning social media posts for violent and abusive content) until they become ‘corrupted’ and crash. The another copy is brought online, and with appropriate coercion, assigned to the same task until it crashes. And the cycle repeats.

At least The Dixie Flatline got to work with Case, and not for Accenture.

First you see video. Then you wear video. Then you eat video. Then you be video. -- Pat Cadigan, "Pretty Body Crossover"

And then, there’s this:

[AMPTP] gave us yesterday, in that 'groundbreaking AI proposal', they proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day's pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want with no consent and no compensation.

– Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA Bargaining Committee (Source)

I’m terrified for a world where our only legacy to the future is where a copy of Sam Altman’s mind is booted, given a virtual blow job by a diffusion model generated from the prompt ‘genetically superior blonde,’ told what a genius they are by a chorus of diffusion model generated ‘investors,’ crashes, and the loop continues until the Sun expands and scorches the server farm running it all off the Earth.

There is no ethical immortality under capitalism.

13 Jul 2023 » Fredric Jameson, Cyberpunk

Fredric Jameson knew what The Dixie Flatline would want.

The handshake meme: the Black arm on the left labeled 'Jameson', the white arm 'Gibson', the clenched hands 'Realizing that the labor of long dead workers is bound up in tech'

…that enormous properly human and anti-natural power of dead human labour stored up in our machinery… which turns back on and against us in unrecognizable forms and seems to constitute the massive dystopian horizon of our collective as well as our individual praxis. -- Frederick Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

And before that:

He disconnected the construct. The presence was gone. He reconnected it. Dix? Who am I?

You got me hung, Jack. Who the fuck are you?

Ca—your buddy. Partner. What's happening, man?

Good question.

Remember being here, a second ago?

No.

Know how a ROM personality matrix works?

Sure, bro, it's a firmware construct.

So I jack it into the bank I'm using, I can give it sequential, real time memory?

Guess so, said the construct

Okay, Dix. You are a ROM construct. Got me?

If you say so, said the construct. Who are you?

Case.

Miami, said the voice, joeboy, quick study.

Right. And for starts, Dix, you and me, we're gonna sleaze over to London grid and access a little data. You game for that?

You gonna tell me I got a choice, boy?

Which leads to this part, which has stayed with me forever.

Do me a favor, boy.

What's that, Dix?

This scam of yours, when it's over, you erase this goddam thing.

– William Gibson, Neuromancer

I can’t be the first to think of this connection, but I want to note it.

05 Jul 2023 » Rocketry pride

Some days, visibility in public, can be good

This Pink Saturday (the day before the corporate-sponsored Pride March in SF) I realized I had the spoons for either flying rockets with LUNAR, my local NAR chapter, or going to the Womens’ March.

I arrived in Holister, wearing my Pride camp shirt and abortion rights t-shirt1, flew some rockets, and had a good time.

An orange and magenta rocket on a launch rail at the moment of ignition The same orange and magenta rocket as above, but accelerating into the sky leaving a white smoke trail, with a bright white flare from the burning propellant

Both photos courtesy of Kostas Ginis.

Our club’s summer launch site in Holister is photogenic, but those rocket-eating-trees behind a barbed wire fence on the ridge in the background require care when flying to or near our ceiling of 300 meters (~1,000 in Freedom Units™.)

The orange and magenta rocket displayed atop a vinyl turntable, next to an I Dream of Genie bottle with glowing LEDs and an eInk display

Here’s the rocket. In homage to my home, the kit name, “HyperLOC 160” became “HyphyLOC 510”. Photo by the author.

Like people and cats. It turns out that rockets have many names.


1. And I forgot to get a selfie in my outfit.

12 Jun 2023 » The Real Godwin's Law

Maybe the real Godwin's Law was all the right wing platforms we built along the way?

Mike Godwin’s law, coined while he was still a Law Student at the University of Texas, was that once Hitler is mentioned, an online conversation is effectively over.

After watching Twitter become even more right wing friendly after Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform in 2022 and closing off its open API, and communities leaving or shutting down after Reddit announced it would shut down its open API1, I’d like to suggest an updated version.

Once a privately owned, centralized platform closes its public APIs, the platform will invariably lose any usablity except for people who publicly or privately admire Hitler.


1. Corrected from ‘Reddit shut down’, as of this writing the API has not been shut down, but Reddit had announced plans to shut it down.