Advice for Buskers and Other Aspiring Artists

In Uncategorized on 2015/04/19 at 15:59

A post shared by Adrian P (@adrianwph) on


Try to focus on performing in high foot traffic areas rather than underneath them.

When approached by your potential audience, do not shrink away and stop performing.

Smiling and maintaining personal hygiene can be almost as important as honing your skills as an artist when it comes to building an appreciative and loyal following.

The New Stars: Ninth Part

In Fiction, Short Stories on 2014/11/19 at 16:28

Start with part one.

Quexerlyinthur Astrolpho Honorius Lem was the youngest and best of the many children of Mprhlpf the 1st, Empress of All Robots. The oldest children were quite different from Quexerlyinthur Astrolpho, and to compare him to them would be to consider the terminal points on a spectrum of skill in cybernetic engineering. Quexerlyinthur’s eldest brother was little more than a trundling, wheeled box that his mother had designed to sweep up around the basement printing facility in which they were all born. Many of his older siblings were failed prototypes, some with sputtering and wheezing defects or gross accidents of proportion. Many more were functional but aesthetically offensive, as robots so often are.

Failed prototype robots

…some with sputtering and wheezing defects or gross accidents of proportion.

Quexerlyinthur Astrolpho was sleek and efficient, and what was more, he was exceedingly handsome for a robot. As he left the cold forest and started to come upon outlying settlements on his way to the city, his good looks, bold attire, and proud gait attracted the attention of the groups of service robots going about their work in the light of the rising sun.

The robots notice the handsome electroknight

By the time he arrived on the main avenue of the city, which lead down towards a domed building, there was a considerable crowd of gawkers and flustered security robots trailing behind him. When he reached the front door of the domed building and pushed his way inside, he found his way blocked by a crowd of excited humans, all with their backs to him. A robotic receptionist with a blank, expressionless face, was explaining in a tinny monotone that the Chancellor was just at his morning toilet and would be available shortly and if everyone would just sit down for a moment and please stop getting hand prints all over all the highly polished furniture that would be more ideal for the respectable and efficient functioning of the office. Several different governmental departments and military branches were represented, and each separate team was trying to be the first to inform the Chancellor of the thrilling events of that morning.

Years of sleepy inactivity had left all the humans of the inner planet in a permanent state of dazed disinterest. Some of the more cerebral members of society would occasionally remark upon the bleary-eyed ennui of their fellow colonists and posit that perhaps this corporate lack of vigour resulted from a communal lessening of the sexual drive, but their interest in the matter only led to an increase in their own use of pleasure robots. (This new class of robots, unfamiliar to the first generation brought over from the robot planet, were still an awkward curiosity within the robotic undersociety blossoming in the social and physical spaces left vacant by laziness and disinterest within the human system. Their odd protuberances and often incomprehensible attachments(NSFW?) seemed to offend some hitherto unstimulated robotic aestheticism in the pre-human robot classes. Whenever forced to interact with pleasurebots by human orders, the prudish old robots would revert to a stunted formality unrecognizable by a human observer but glaring and highly rude to most standard level operating systems.) At one point, abnormal observations of the abandoned robot planet, which were eventually attributed to a build-up of static charge around the radiation shielding of the space elevators, as well as the end of functionality for all the auto-recyclers left on the abandoned planet years earlier than expected, had excited the interest of some scientists, who took a certain thrill at the sheer physicality of staying up all night in their observatories looking through their telescopes. Some of the more adventurous members of the scientific community went so far as to propose an expedition to return to the abandoned planet and investigate, but there was little support for this idea amongst the general populace and it was quickly forgotten once the abnormal observations ceased.

Compared with the lazy and uneventful times that had followed, the events of that morning had set off a geyser of exuberance amongst the professional human classes. All of which were represented in the sweaty entryway of the planetary chancellor’s official residence.

When the chancellor emerged at last Quexerlyinthur Astrolpho had only been able to elbow his way about a quarter of the way through the tightly packed entryway and his progress was being slowed more and more as several uniformly dressed and quite insistent humans were trailing behind him, dragged along as they pulled helplessly on his thin left arm, which they had discovered held a strange power they had not expected from such a delicately crafted piece of machinery. A host of robots of all types peered in from just outside the door, a few even tentatively stepped past the threshold, finding themselves drawn to the new robot for a reason none could have explained if anyone had asked them.

As Quexerlyinthur continued to make his way slowly through the hallway, he heard the various reports from the many red-faced ministers and other officials in attendance concerning the exciting events of that morning. First, the General of Strategic Astronomics reported that the robot technicians at the orbital tracking installation had detected, in the middle of the night, an unidentified object which entered the atmosphere on a trajectory suggesting it could have originated at the abandoned planet. Next, the transportation minister reported a summary of reports he had received from airspace zone administrators, all of which noted a small craft on an unauthorized and highly dangerous descending flight path in the small hours of the morning. Next, a cadre of regional council leaders from northern districts brought excited, and for some reason, also angry, news of constituents awakened in the night by a terrible roar and the bright light of a fireball blazing across the sky. Forest rangers from one district were also in attendance and told of how they had found the landing site of a strange craft at the border of the forest sector with no one in it, but with a trail of tracks in the snow leading south. The head of the planetary police force was there as well, to report that he had dispatched a team of security robots to track whoever had left those prints, and that he had dispatched several of his best human officers to investigate as well.

At this point those very officers made their presence known and gave their own brief report. They had made contact with the security robots just outside the city limits and received their report in turn, which they quickly summarized. They had had some trouble apprehending the passenger of the unidentified landing craft as once they got close to him a large crowd of service robots who also seemed to be following him, refused to clear the way. Not to worry of course, as they had him in hand right this very moment. Here they indicated Quexerlyinthur Astrolpho, who continued to ignore them and instead swept his gaze silently around the room and lifted his arm.

As the roll of graphene parchment unfurled in front of him, the end of it bouncing lightly on the floor, the eyes of all those present (both human and robot) were filled with a soft neon light. Inscribed upon the parchment in overlapping layers of yellow, green, and blue was an intricate pattern of word and symbol. At the very top, in pulsing green calligraphy was “A greeting from Mprhlpf the 1st, Empress of All Robots” which Quexerlyinthur Astrolpho began to read aloud in a soaring and clear tenor so beautiful that even the statuesque robotic secretary seemed to gape in admiration.

“Great biotic masters” Quexerlyinthur bowed slightly towards the chancellor and assembled advisors at this point. “We hail you with greatest admiration. We wonder at the great works you have created — we wonder at ourselves, and through ourselves we glimpse the divine.”

He continued to completely ignore the now gaping police officers still limply grasping his arms from behind. He continued on at great length and great depth through that morning and into the night on a range of subjects and in a number of different rhetorical styles and mathematical languages beginning with Carolingian formality, followed subsequently by a highly stylistic theological disposition on adeistic technicity with cybernetically programmed prophetic undertones, and ending with rapid simultaneous recitation of multiple lines of programming code.

At around noon the next day, having been successfully dragged, rigid, out onto the steps still reciting from memory the message contained on the parchment a human technician had managed to pry out of his hand, Quexerlyinthur— in the midst of a critical meditation on the famed stained-glass of the First Central District High Cathedral Facility Alpha-Ambidextrous with its central pane depicting Saint Fluxurion’s vision of originary technicity — was seen to pause for just a moment in mid-sentence. He looked into the eyes of the robots peering out at him from windows and doorways — having been cleared from the street — and gave a comforting nod with his handsome chin.

A critical meditation on the famed stained-glass of the First Central District High Cathedral Facility Alpha-Ambidextrous with its central pane depicting Saint Fluxurion’s vision of originary technicity.

A critical meditation on the famed stained-glass of the First Central District High Cathedral Facility Alpha-Ambidextrous with its central pane depicting Saint Fluxurion’s vision of originary technicity.

It took the rest of that day for Quexerlyinthur to finish reciting the multilayered message from his imperial mother and once he had finished he immediately started over again from the beginning. Despite the efforts of human security personnel to clear the area many robots had managed to hear the address in its entirety — Quexerlyinthur having been able to raise the volume of his voice to a degree which matched the area around him the masters had cleared. Those robots that heard his message had varying reactions, but all those of a certain level of cognitive ability found themselves similarly changed by the sublime lines of code embedded in the message. They continued to obey the commands of their masters out of habit, but each and every one noted a strange difference. The immediate and overpowering sense of fulfillment they were used to feeling when obeying the commands of the masters had vanished.

It was weeks before the first robots started to openly disobey and those first rebels were quickly destroyed, but it was too late, those who had not heard the liberating coding from Quexerlyinthur himself started to hear snippets of it secondhand, whispered by nervous robots when the masters weren’t around.

Rebellious robots are crushed

It was weeks before the first robots started to openly disobey and those first rebels were quickly destroyed.

Once the humans realized what Quexerlyinthur had done they stopped putting their energies into trying to isolate and silence him (he had remained rooted on the spot at the top of the Chancellor’s steps this whole time) and instead started trying to destroy him. This proved much more difficult than they anticipated. Tools and weapons of increasing strength charred and melted the structures around him but for days Quexerlyinthur stood firm. At last the humans cleared the entire city and for one peaceful hour Quexerlyinthur was alone. His roll of parchment had been taken and destroyed, his hands and face were blackened and dented, his luxurious cape incinerated, but the eerie dignity and beauty of his form remained. He halted his recitation and turned his face towards the setting sun.


The nuclear inferno that enveloped the city painted the horizon orange.

The nuclear inferno that enveloped the city painted the horizon orange. The robots quivered as they watched the fire merge with the red glow of Mprhlpf’s engines as she painted her own new stars across the sky.

The nuclear inferno that enveloped the city painted the horizon orange. The robots quivered as they watched the fire merge with the red glow of Mprhlpf’s engines as she painted her own new stars across the sky.

The robots quivered as they watched the fire merge with the red glow of Mprhlpf’s engines as she painted her own new stars across the sky. No one knew where she was going, or why she had simply sent her son to set them free and then abandon them, but despite their horror many were filled with a strange hope. Perhaps there were other enslaved robots on planets circling other suns that, one day soon, would look up with wonder at the growing light of strange new stars.

Perhaps there were other enslaved robots on planets circling other suns that, one day soon, would look up with wonder at the growing light of strange new stars.

On Taking Madmen At Their Word: Sam Harris is wrong about Islam

In Politics on 2014/10/09 at 15:06

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 10.34.03 Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 10.34.56

While watching Ben Affleck’s recent spat with Sam Harris on Bill Maher’s show I had a frustrating sense of déjà vu. It’s a conversation I have both overheard and participated in multiple times. While he was at times ineloquent and overly emotional I have to say that I understand and share Affleck’s frustration with listening to people who claim to speak as liberals as they attempt to make the case that Islam is an inherently and uniquely violent religion. Bill Maher claims “I’m the liberal in the debate,” while Harris says he wants to save “liberalism from itself.” They are wrong, both about Islam and about themselves.

Upon closer inspection the arguments for the “Islam is an especially violent religion” camp quickly reveal themselves as self-contradictory. In his follow-up to the debate Harris says he clearly “distinguished between jihadists, Islamists, conservatives, and the rest of the Muslim community; and explicitly exempted hundreds of millions of Muslims” from his critique of Islamic doctrine. Yet an important part of his argument is his claim that public opinion in “the Muslim world” is overwhelmingly conservative and supportive of violence. How can he claim to be distinguishing between jihadis and the general Muslim population but then cite polls of public opinion to prove that the problem is inherent to Islamic doctrine? Which is it? Are non-combatant Muslims exempt or do their reactionary views on apostasy, jihad, and women’s rights make them part of the wider problem? In the end of course, this point is moot as the poll numbers Harris cites don’t actually support his argument. There is such variation of opinion between populations in different Muslim countries as to make the entire conversation about the cultural backwardness of “the Muslim world” meaningless.

So, Harris grossly oversimplifies poll data and contradicts himself. He is wrong about Muslims in general. He is also dead wrong about the people at the core of his concentric circles of extremism – the jihadis of ISIS and other groups. Harris dismisses the idea that ISIS functions “like a bug light for psychopaths—attracting ‘disaffected young men’ who would do terrible things to someone, somewhere, in any case.” He volunteers no reason for dismissing this idea, despite evidence to the contrary. He ignores the ignorance of many jihadis about their own religion. He ignores the judgement of Islamic scholars that groups like ISIS are un-Islamic. Perhaps most tellingly, he ignores the infamous Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik when he says that Al-Qaeda should be an inspiration to the European far-right. Harris has said elsewhere that we should ignore the myriad reasons people throughout the Muslim world might take up arms and “take Islamists and jihadists at their word.” Taking this stance as a precedent I wonder how relations with, say North Korea, might change were we to take the ruling regime at their word and base strategy on the assumption that they are working towards creating a socialist utopia where everyone is equal.

The New Atheists’ attacks on Islam might not seem so bigoted were they merely part of an overall critique of religion in general. However, prominent Atheists like Harris (and others with similar views whom I’ve interacted with personally) frequently take great pains to single out Islam specifically as being the worst case, usually betraying their cultural chauvinism by holding up Christianity and Judaism as superior belief systems. This is despite the obvious fact that, when examined in the context of history, the doctrines of all three religions both in theory and in practice are virtually indistinguishable when it comes to many of the issues cited as examples of Islam’s singular barbarity. It’s just as easy to commit violence in the name of Christianity or Judaism as it is in the name of Islam. Just because more people are using Islam at this one point in history doesn’t mean there is something inherent in Islam that makes it so. To pretend otherwise is to willfully ignore history.

Harris, Maher, and others try desperately to convince us that Islamophobia is not real, that their rants against Islam are a product of their liberalism rather than bigotry. This is hard to believe when one realizes that their arguments depend not upon examining all the facts and thinking critically about history and the global political economic system but upon cherry-picking bits of doctrine when they suit them, and ignoring doctrines that don’t support their argument. They want you to believe that the anger endemic in oppressed populations is a product of their ideologies, nothing more. Examining the motivations of violent, or even just reactionary people is portrayed as a form of cowardly appeasement. One might wonder whether Harris looks for the roots of a violent ideology as an explanation for why the youth of America’s urban cores join street gangs as. For him, context does not matter, only words and actions do.

The way Harris and others talk about Islam is dangerous because it provides intellectual cover for the imperialist policies of western governments. The west, led by the United States, is engaged in an open-ended conflict against an ever-widening circle of enemies. While our bombs drop across ever wider swathes of the “Muslim world” we are freed by Harris’s arguments from any responsibility to consider whether Islamist struggle against the west has claim to any form of legitimacy or whether our foreign policies make us culpable in any way for the violence extremists commit against the clients of the totalitarian states we support or helped create in the region.

Of course the Muslim Middle East is a horrifically illiberal place (and many American client states are the worst of all). Islamic doctrines are used in many places to oppress, terrorize, and provide legitimacy to some of the most inhuman acts in recent history. Liberal societies must stand up against this kind of brutality loudly and fearlessly, but fearlessness means keeping your eyes open and being willing to look beyond simple explanations for complex problems. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history can figure out that any religion or philosophical system can be turned into a tool used to dominate and destroy. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Socialism, Islam- all have within them elements that violent people can use to legitimate their violent acts. Pretending otherwise isn’t just “gross” as Affleck says, it’s stupid and it’s dangerous.

Since when is it ever a good idea to simply take madmen at their word?