Unto the canopy termini

In the middle of a conversation this morning, my friend wondered aloud as to whether there were any advantages to teaching history forward in time (i.e. with causality) instead of backward. Neither of us being historians… rather, both of us being far too quantitative in our thinking to be able to reason like historians at a moment’s notice, there was some back and forth for a few minutes during which we dwelled mostly on the awareness of presentist biases, anchoring, etc.

The debate was eventually settled when I likened my principal contention – of being able to cognise and record dominant and non-dominant narratives alike – to the parsing of non-linear data structures in computer science. I was quite pleased with myself for having realised this metaphor so quickly. However, I describe it in some more detail below to invite my readers to point out any flaws in my argument and/or, more importantly, provide other arguments in favour my contention against my friend.

Linearly ordered data can be indexed as a straightforward series of values. But when it is ordered in non-linear fashion, there is more than one way to read the values. The simplest example of such a structure is the tree, and the process of indexing the values therein is called tree-traversal.

In other words, tree-traversal refers to the way you move through a tree, top-bottom or bottom-top, from branch to branch such that you traverse all branches sans jumping and in as few steps as possible. For example, in the tree shown below, you can move in the following ways:

tree-data

  • 1 2 3 4 7 5 6 8 9 10 11
  • 1 2 4 5 6 7 8 3 9 10 11
  • 1 2 3 4 7 9 5 6 8 10 11

… etc.

In these three instances, I’m imagining myself to be an algorithm switching through nodes from the bottom (roots) to the top (canopy), equating this orientation to the direction of time*. If I were to represent the algorithm as an ant moving along the tree, then the first sequence could be delineated thus: 1-2 2-1 1-3 3-1 1-2 2-4 4-2 2-7 7-2 2-4 4-5 5-4 4-6 6-4 4-2 2-7 7-8 8-7 7-2 2-1 1-3 3-9 9-10 10-9 9-11. In turn, it would comprise the following sequence of orientations (f for backward, b for backward): f b f b f f b f b f f b f b b f f b b b f f f b f.

Now, instead of an algorithm, if I were commanding a group of historians, would I be able to traverse all branches of this 1-11 tree by forcing them to either always move forward or always move backward (without jumping)? It’s obviously possible to do this if you started at the root with as many historians as the number of terminal nodes and always moved forward. At each fork, two historians would walk down the two branches. If one of them reached a terminus, she would call back and no other historian would walk down that branch. If one of them reached another fork, should would call back and another historian would come forward.

But if you tried to do this backwards – from canopy to roots – with as many historians as the number of canopy termini, then all of them will miss the unnumbered terminus off of node #3. The only way to get there would be, after recognising the presence of a fork, to send one historian forward along that branch, which act in turn will break the rule about always going backward.

The canopy termini, in my metaphor, stand for contemporary events tethered to historical narratives – the branches in the tree – that have survived intact or modified but nonetheless unbroken from a predecessor event. The unnumbered terminus is a narrative that has no present-day representation and therefore cannot be discovered or elucidated as such if one were to only work backwards in time from today.

In fact, the only ways such narratives would get unearthed were if historians (or get taught if teachers), including in the form of palaeontologists and archaeologists, came upon (or introduced) material or immaterial fragments of information that didn’t fit into any prevailing paradigms of the time. However, this means one has to rely on accidents or, worse, the beneficence of those tasked with interpreting (or unpacking) such information – which is always a bad proposition.

*And assuming that divergence increases with time.

AI beat humans at DotA but the game was rigged

I started writing this as today’s post but at some point it morphed into an article for The Wire, to be published tomorrow morning. Sharing it here in full nonetheless.

Earlier this week, a team of neural networking algorithms beat a team of five human players at a game called DotA 2. To appreciate the real advancement this bit of news represents, together with its specific limitations, you need to understand DotA. It’ll be worth it.

DotA stands for Defence of the Ancients, a multiplayer online battle arena developed in 2003. It is played by 10 players at a time, in two teams of five. Each player has over a hundred heroes, or characters, to choose from at the beginning of the game. Each hero has a unique set of abilities and characteristics that defines their role in the team, and all of which can be augmented using items purchased and recipes concocted in-game; the gold for all this comes from killing members of the other team.

All DotA games are played on a map divided diagonally into two halves, each half protected by one team. In the two corners are the team bases, to be protected at all costs. If they’re destroyed, the corresponding team loses. The map is rough terrain riven through with three corridors: one cutting across and the other two going along the edges. Each corridor is protected by four towers – two for each team – that fire bolts of power at offending players.

In each game of DotA, players work together to take down enemy towers while protecting their own, levelling up as they gain more experience, buying items and finishing recipes, and battling other players. The whole shebang lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple hours.

DotA 2 was a standalone sequel to DotA developed and published by the Valve Corporation in 2013. According to one tracker, over 471,000 players have been online (on average) every day over the last 30 days.

Unlike in chess or at Go, each DotA hero can only see what their own teammates are up to; the enemy’s actions are out of view unless the two parties engage. There are no set number of pieces that can make a fixed number of moves. Depending on which heroes have been picked, each game can progress in millions of ways. And the set of all possible outcomes of all possible strategies in all possible games is ginormous. Finally, your success depends on your teammates’ success and the team’s success depends on yours.

So when we say neural networks have beaten a human team at a game like DotA, we’re talking about a very different kind of victory than what was achieved with chess and Go. And it’s accompanied with a different set of caveats, too, that only a gamer would be able to appreciate.

The neural networks that have accomplished this feat were designed by OpenAI, the nonprofit AI research company cofounded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman. The networks’ team was called OpenAI Five (or just Five) and, according to its maker, it taught itself to win at the game by playing 180 years’ worth of gameplay against itself every day for two months.

The human opponents were semi-professionals. It’s doubtful if Five will be able to beat DotA professionals, a challenge OpenAI says it will take on in Vancouver in August this year at The International, an annual DotA 2 tournament, after further upgrades.

Beth Singler, a social anthropologist, wrote, “In computer science, games are frequently used as a benchmark for an algorithm’s ‘intelligence’.” To extend the connection, the Five’s victory is significant because problem-solving scenarios captured by DotA and other games like it closely resemble real-life problems, where long-term planning, coordination and making reactive decisions in line with the intended outcome are key.

If Five could win at DotA, then it has demonstrated an ability to tackle large and dynamic problems without having to be specifically coded for them – likely its biggest achievement in the current scenario.”There are many problems in the world that are far too complex to hand-code solutions for,” Altman wrote on his blog. “I expect this to be a large branch of machine learning, and an important step on the road towards general intelligence.”

It’s an important step indeed, but it’s also not as big as it’s being made out to be because the games Five has been winning at were limited in important ways. According to the OpenAI blog, it excels when the following rules are applied:

  • Mirror match of Necrophos, Sniper, Viper, Crystal Maiden and Lich
  • No warding
  • No Roshan
  • No invisibility (consumables and relevant items)
  • No summons/illusions
  • No Divine Rapier, Bottle, Quelling Blade, Boots of Travel, Tome of Knowledge, Infused Raindrop
  • 5 invulnerable couriers, no exploiting them by scouting or tanking
  • No Scan

(Quoted verbatim)

The first rule says that each team’s heroes have to be those five, no others. Warding is when players plant items called wards at various points in the map to expose invisible players in its vicinity, among other things, and to negate enemy wards. Roshan is a neutral creature in the map’s centre that players can gang up on and defeat in battle to acquire uniquely powerful enhancements. The Boots of Travel item allows players to teleport across the map, inflicting damage not possible in other ways. Scan is a tool to detect the presence of an enemy unit in a given area.

Because of these restrictions, the takeaways across the board are also limited. On August 11, 2017, an OpenAI neural network beat a human player – the first victory of its kind – at DotA 2 but in a 1v1 setting, rendering the game less complex than Go. Vlad Savov wrote at the time that the bot is “still only scratching the surface of the competitive complexity of this game”. What Five has demonstrated is an ability to scratch with five fingernails at the same time – but it’s still only scratching.

For a less jarring metaphor, I turned to a friend, an accomplished software engineer and a hardcore DotA player himself, who equated the feat to a child learning to drive: “Five is no longer riding a tricycle, it’s now on a bicycle with training wheels.” The last stop is a jet-ski. He also cautioned that while a DotA puritan might call the restrictions potentially debilitating, the resulting game was still complicated enough to have resulted in notable learnings – a view other DotA players also shared in person and on Reddit.

However, even others interpreted the gameplay limitations differently, drawing attention to the fact that Bill Gates had called Five’s victory “a big deal” and “a huge milestone in advancing artificial intelligence” on Twitter. User conquer69 countered, “The restrictions are there because otherwise, the human players would win against the AI. OpenAI always want their bots to win against humans. It’s what gives them free publicity.” Anuj Srivas, The Wire‘s tech and business editor, agrees.

Bots – intelligent or otherwise – are also good at clicking, and DotA is a game that relies heavily on clicking, and pressing keys, at the right time. The Five may have a few tricks up its sleeve but its impeccable timing was certainly part of the triumph, and such timing – to use Altman’s words – doesn’t ‘capture’ usefulness. User jstock23 wrote, “If [the Five] were artificially limited to a human’s reaction time, I think it would perform worse.” So winning at DotA might not translate completely into real-world success.

It all comes down to the show the Five will put up at The International – and even then, it will be worth exercising caution about what any of the victories actually stand for. For one, OpenAI has said that the ‘mirror match’ restriction will still apply. For another, DotA – despite enabling multiple strategic modes – is similar to chess and Go because each competing player or team moves towards a victory described by well-defined values of a finite number of state variables. What happens when nobody (or nothing) is able to identify a quantitative problem to solve for?

I’ll follow Singler’s idea and be actually excited when I can play Dungeons and Dragons with a machine-borne intelligence.

Specificity and incompleteness

These days, I can’t remember either the good news or the bad news. When someone talks about the good news – likely a centrist or someone who hasn’t thought their political views through – I nod along, keen to counter them but just feeling so tired. When someone talks about the bad news – which is most people I know – I nod along, deeply familiar with everything they’re saying but every once in a while getting the feeling they’re cherry-picking all the bad stuff and just listing them together, making it sound like your reality is a dystopia short even of simple joys like a good morning tea. I’m too woke to function perhaps. But then I want to counter them too, point out something good that happened, but then for the life of me I’m unable to think of something. When I do think of something, it’s been a couple hours hence and those people have left.

The only thing I can remember well is what pervades my mind from its surface, through its bulk, right to the centre: stories I’ve commissioned, stories I’m editing, hiring this or that subeditor, scoring SciWi’s next exclusive, things happening inside the newsroom. I’ve never known what news means to a person outside journalism, and what it’s like to engage with the news when you’re not involved in producing it. To the journalist, news is absolutely important just the way nuclear power plants are essential for society from the POV of a nuclear engineer. But unlike the industry in this metaphor, journalism is a public institution (or so they say) and an important part of functional democracies, and I think many journalists are excluded from honest participation simply by their positioning in society.

In other words, how do you be honest to your profession if you’re also going to simultaneously determine the fate of the society in which it is situated? Does such an honesty, straddling journalism, democracy and society, even exist? (I’m getting very strong Gödel incompleteness theorem vibes here.) Heck, how do you even define morals in this setting?

When a non-journalist has views about what journalists should or shouldn’t do based on what the non-journalist thinks journalists should be responsible for in a democracy, I’ve got two ways to respond: balk or blank out completely because I’ve never had to think about an answer as a non-journalist. You’d think it was simply about shifting one’s POV and empathising with the ‘outsider’ – as we often supposedly do? – but it’s not. If I do do this and say something you don’t agree with, neither you nor I are going to be able to tell whether my argument is rooted in my ability to empathise or, in fact, my inability to empathise properly. So overall, I’ve become completely unable to separate the fourth estate from my understanding of what a democracy is and, more significantly, become blind to which way causality is aligned between them.

A dull review

There’s a new book by Alan Lightman out, titled Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine. Irrespective of others’ appreciation of it, I expect to find the book preposterously dull if Michael Shermer’s review in the Times is anything to go by. “Does a scientific understanding of the world erase its emotional impact or spiritual power? Of course not.” ––thanks Mr Shermer, we were waiting for you on that.

For starters, I’d have thought we were way past casting the ‘science v. spirituality’ face-off as novel or, more misguidedly, as something to bait the casual reader with. In the latter case, the more well-read among us must brace for one of only two possible outcomes: a bird’s-eye review of the topic or a restatement of its essential animus in new words (a task for which Lightman is particularly suited). If it is a bird’s-eye review, then the book deserves to be judged as one of science, or science communication. But if it’s going to be old wine in new bottle – which a critic of Shermer’s standing should surely be able to sniff out – then the book must be judged solely for its quality of prose. His review is convincing on neither count, however.

Last: Musings on the subjectivity of science are always welcome; where I find the slip-up often happens is when people other than the authors claim the book is something it is not, and in this regard Shermer seems particularly suspicious. The giveaway is (always) simple to locate: what the reviewer claims to find interesting enough about a book to want to include it in the review or, better yet, cast the review such that it invokes the best parts of the book.

Given that there is a vague paragraph, something about “absolutes”, and another about science itself being like faith with a lazy allusion to some Einsteinian opinion, and some hilarious circumambulation of the captivating nuance these POVs have been known to offer, all ultimately glued together with quotes from Sagan and Feynman… isn’t this as monotonous, and as mainstream, as it can get?

For solitude

Climate change is gradually turning the abundance of space into privilege, at least if it already wasn’t before.

In a warmer world, in which we will surely prize the efficient use of resources, physical isolation will be a luxury.

Not everyone will forswear all the land they have currently to occupy, but the more conscientious among us surely will, and the least privileged already have no choice.

You know Mukesh Ambani’s Antilla. How much land was cleared to build it? How much carbon is released into the atmosphere to power it? And how many people does it house?

The answers are not bound to be efficient, certainly not as much as they ought to be.

Our cities aren’t going to become more liveable – if indeed we’re able to get on that trajectory – by becoming bigger or less populated.

While these are the market’s aspirations, the state should counter-aspire to use its resources more efficiently and effectively.

For example, public transport is the way to go, not larger cars to transport one or two people at a time no matter how green they claim to be.

A more conscientious use of personal space is also the way to go, and Antilla is veritably anti-climatic for the four people it houses.

Notice that it all eventually comes down to our use of land. No matter the relatively infinite supply of solar or wind power, land is a finite resource. We live on it.

And being punctilious about land use, directly or indirectly, means consistently opting for the commons in all endeavours except those that protect our fundamental rights.

This, in final turn, means creating and maintaining a commons that we can all be proud of, and use without reservation or excuse.

How will these changes modify our art? How will human music, film, photography, etc. evolve in a world two degrees warmer?

Climate change may have creeped up on us but its realisation has certainly been marked by inflection: a short period in which the world decides to think and do differently.

In which ideas already known to be good and actions known to be desirable are reevaluated for their energy efficiency.

In which the more the seas rise, the more our endeavours will be penalised for being less efficient in their use of public resources.

Inflection always begets nostalgia. Perhaps our art, a few decades hence, will be shaped by the endurance of memories and marked by reminiscence.

Perhaps our literature will be consumed by the recreation of various togethernesses and our music by the reproduction of complete, and bygone, carelessness.

Perhaps the skeuomorphs our digital prophets retained to bridge the more functional technology of the 21st century with the intimacy of the 20th

will wind their way into our words, songs and images; finally into our memories

To preserve there the knowledge of mountains as beautiful, the seas as deep, the skies as blue, the rain as bliss – and quietly teach us to remember them so

While the world’s foundations crumble beneath us, under the weight of landslides, floods, drought, libertarianism, ignorance and disease.

Perhaps our folktales will valorise the effeminate human, celebrate death, and find wisdom in Carson’s notes as much as Borlaug’s, in Vonnegut’s as much as Le Guin’s.

Perhaps our eschatology will transform into a less destructive fate for the sinful and deem the fallen worthy of salvage if they have communed with the wild.

Perhaps our language will recoup the names of forgotten birds, lose its adjectival distaste for rodents and speak of deserts and the pelagic alike in sylvan tones.

Whatever kind of world it will be, it will have to be a world aspiring for a stronger, more connected and more accessible commons.

But will its new grammar of togetherness forsake the romance of solitude?

No rest for tall people

Yesterday, I travelled first class in the Shatabdi Express, from Chennai to Bengaluru. I’d been looking forward to the journey because of the extra legspace in the offing, and the ability to sit in a train for five hours without having to manspread, curl up (to the extent possible), give up and pay for some ‘XL’ option or simply forswear your kneecaps. As it turned out, there was extra legspace, and the journey still sucked.

In its ‘common class’ coaches, the seats on the Shatabdi Express don’t have a headrest, but the first class seats do. However, it doesn’t protrude entirely from the top of the seat as much as begin from three-fourths of the way up in the form of a pronounced bevel (about an inch-and-half to either side).

Learn Paper - 7.png

As a result, I couldn’t sit up straight without being forced to stoop forward. The only other option was to recline such that, when I slid down the necessary amount, my head would rest on the bevel and my shoulders would be spared. Turns out for someone 6’4″ tall, such a configuration is not possible. So while the ‘common class’ coach penalises me for having a long bottom half, the ‘executive class’ coach penalises me for having a long top half. Second, if the Indian Railways has someone about 5’5″ in mind as the typical customer, doesn’t traveling in ‘common class’ already give them all the legspace they need?

Being tall is useless – and not seldom actively painful – in India.

oglaf!

xkcd does the best nerdy comic but oglaf is the comic I never knew I needed – and it’s probably the best ever. It’s wry humour + sex, often featuring erotic fungi and The Blind Gibberer, and even more oftenly situated in the sort of medieval setting that Dungeons & Dragons campaigns are. Most of it reads like those parts of a porno that have an actual story going on and as if they were directed by Taika Waititi. All together, the comics are sort of like bits and pieces of various D&D campaigns in all of history that never got played simply because they couldn’t muster the requisite gravitas, or pomposity. I sat down an hour ago to write this post but found oglaf instead and have been reading it since. So today’s post looks to be a flop, and I’m not even sorry.

*back to oglaf*

Liberation from the clock

Laura Vanderkam writes in Fast Company about a three-minute habit that changed her life: keeping track of how she spends her time during her waking hours, with a spreadsheet. Much of her piece is directed towards mitigating parental guilt – that Vanderkam might not be spending too much time with her children, or when she is, that she’s not doing anything else with her life. In this case, keeping track of one’s time to remind oneself that one is still leading a productive life has worked out well. But although Vanderkam says it’s the best investment she’s ever made, she only just stops short of explicitly advocating that everyone else do the same. That’s where the problems would arise.

(A caveat before I proceed: “do more” is not the same as “don’t be lazy”, and I expect my readers to know the difference.)

The average adult attention span of the 21st century has (ironically) received much attention for being perceptibly lower than before. And we deserve all the tools at our disposal to remind ourselves beyond our goldfish-like memory that we’re not fucking up as much as we think we are. But that’s not all time-tracking is used for, and in the wrong hands it could be an instrument of capitalism. For one, the attention span goes hand in hand with another defining feature of our ‘accelerationist’ period: productivity, and the need to optimise for it in all walks of life.

Neither good work nor a good life should be the product of such optimisation because improving productivity ad infinitum can be deleterious to what it means to be human. For example, Vanderkam mentions a lot of numbers from her spreadsheet:

Working 40 hours a week, and sleeping about 52 (my rough average), leaves 76 hours for other things. I saw that I did have time to scale up my own personal interests. I joined a choir. I nudged up my running frequency from four times a week to seven.

Beyond assuaging personal concerns (esp. of the upper class), many of us would make the mistake of assuming these numbers mean anything. They don’t. Tracking time allows us to notice more clearly those hours in which we’re not doing anything, and we yearn to fill those hours up with something. In the process, we lose all sense of the importance of time that is free of this utilitarian calculus because it is being constantly deprecated and devalued.

The more we track time, the more we open it to being commoditised. It’s not healthy for our sense of goodness and contentment to arise from the acknowledgment that we’re not putting all available hours to good use. And when time becomes commoditised, we also leave the door open for others to define what forms this ‘good’ can and can’t take, and for self-determination to take the backseat.

Many of us, like Vanderkam, are prone to remembering the number of flights we’ve missed over the number of times we caught them just fine. But we shouldn’t remember the good times over the bad ones only because we think they were better spent. If we do, it’s inevitable that we’ll also start misguidedly accumulating regrets. As Vanderkam writes,

Indeed, knowing exactly where my hours go has helped me, in some moments, feel like I can slow time’s ceaseless ticking.

She’s not comfortable with the fact the time never takes a break – but why should it? We shouldn’t accuse time for not letting us do all the things we’d like to in 24 hours while we remain in denial of the purpose of our mechanical routines. We must ask ourselves: why do we have to do so many things in a day?

We’ve let gainful time encroach so far into our lives that having free time seems offensive. Gainful time is not just the time spent creating financial value, it’s also about spending time to accrue other forms of value – especially social. Tracking time to increase productivity guided by capitalist ideals engenders its own variety of shaming (time-shaming?). It’s become more fashionable to say you’re doing 1,000 things every day. (This also closely parallels the tendency to expect everyone to have an opinion on everything.) When you say you did nothing yesterday, you’re seen like – and you feel like – a failure. Your self-determination is non-existent.

Getting free time is particularly difficult for those for whom it’s not simply a matter of finding it, particularly wage labourers. Two examples from recent memory illustrate this area of concern well.

First: labour rights movements of the 20th century focused on being more paid for overtime thanks to the neoliberal view that working more = more money = better life. Workers were also entitled to ‘free time’ in that it was a time to perform unpaid labour, but in time, many of these tasks have also come to be recognised as lying outside of the demesne of ‘free time’. A common example is that of women who perform household activities. As a result, the fight for a ‘right to free time’ that further excludes “household labor, personal care, and caregiving” has been growing.

Miya Tokumitsu, a contributing editor at Jacobin, wrote an excellent article for the magazine in October 2017 on this theme. Excerpt:

Free time, as IG Metall argues, is essential for basic dignity; to care for ourselves and our communities, we need time away from generating profit for employers. Just as importantly, we need it to realize our human potential. Our ability to think independently, experience romance, nurture friendships, and pursue our own curiosities and passions requires time that is ours, time that belongs neither to the boss nor the market. At its core, the campaign for fewer working hours is about liberation, both individually and collectively.

… it would be a mistake to assume its battle is a particularly European one. Time and again, the American labor movement has taken up the struggle to reduce the workweek and expand workers’ freedom. It has recognized the potency of a demand that not only imagines a world where people have more control over their lives, but one that builds the bonds of solidarity by uniting the interests of workers and the unemployed, highly skilled and less skilled, foreign-born and native. (emphases mine)

Second, in 2015, a European court ruled that time spent commuting to work is to be counted as time spent at work if the workers in question don’t have a “habituated” location to call their workplace. If somebody drives from Gurgaon to Delhi to work and wouldn’t otherwise undertake this gruelling commute, this policy makes perfect sense, and should in fact be extended to workers who do have a fixed workplace. The ruling was in line with the EU’s ‘working time directive‘, which aims to keep workers from labouring for more than 48 hours a week on average. The court said in its ruling:

… the workers are at the employer’s disposal for the time of the journeys. During those journeys, the workers act on the instructions of the employer, who may change the order of the customers or cancel or add an appointment. During the necessary travelling time – which generally cannot be shortened – the workers are therefore not able to use their time freely and pursue their own interests. (emphasis mine)

So, by all means, convert free time into ‘useful’ time but be mindful of whom that usefulness is serving – you or something else. To make better use of time, we ought to examine the numerous demands made of us, many of which we assume as individual responsibilities without question, and shed those we find harmful. In tracking time, we must not lose sight of the context in which it serves a humane purpose because it is also tied to class politics.

Entrepreneurs watching how they’re spending their time to singlehandedly get a startup off the ground might be doing the right thing but they are all also typically members of the upper class. For them, being less efficient has few, if any, long-term material and social and political consequences.

The sadness of Johnny Depp

Rolling Stones has published a fabulous profile of Johnny Depp, written by Stephen Rodrick. It’s about 15 minutes’ worth of reading long and I highly recommend you read it right now. The profile’s power comes from excellent writing and a narrative that makes you come really close to feeling sad for Depp but never truly letting you get there, like an asymptotic sympathy held in check only but significantly by the fact that the actor, now in his 50s, is craving for a pity you realise he doesn’t deserve.

I harboured a soft spot for him towards the end for being a man who believes so much in a goodness of the world and its people that just doesn’t exist. But aside from being what seems like one of the “broken people” – Depp’s coinage – Depp comes across as being inebriatedly oblivious to the consequences of his ludicrous actions despite multiple attempts from his friends and family to ‘save’ him. He still thinks he’s funny, that he’s doing right by his family and friends, and that he was screwed over by TMG, the company he hired to manage his finances, when he wasn’t looking. But why wasn’t he looking?

As Kayleigh Donaldson sums up nicely on Pajiba, Depp just seems to be stuck in a time-capsule and convinced that his karma will do him right.

Depp is in his 50s now. [His] attempt at swagger is just depressing. Usually, this is the kind of stuff you’d think Rolling Stone would be all over: The rock & roll life to the max, no apologies and no holds barred. But it’s 2018 now, and Rolling Stone has evolved. Its coverage is different, the people it covers has varied far beyond the world of rock. Besides, even the actual Rolling Stones themselves don’t do this shit anymore. Depp comes across as stuck on his own planet, drunk and alone except for the one yes man who thinks it can all be solved with a few good words.

Rodrick’s profile takes down yet another lone genius not worth celebrating as much as he is, at least outside of his films. Depp’s thinking is shallow, his interests restricted to his immediate vicinity, his ostensibly philanthropic concerns brandished about as if they mean anything. To extrapolate what Donaldson says, the West of the 1960s could’ve protected him the way it did someone like Kerouac or Thompson but in 2018, Depp is just being a fool. He needs to catch up quick but until he does, he will remain obtuse.

Apologies

I’m sorry, my dear followers, to have to disappoint you (or, quite possibly, induce a sigh of relief) but today’s blog post will have to be just these lines. My laptop died yesterday, I got a cold, lots of anxiety, a mild fever and a migraine, and I’ve got a hectic weekend coming up. I’ve been sleeping/lying down all day today and haven’t had the headspace to think of new things to write about, let alone bring myself to write. I’ll hopefully be back on top of the game tomorrow. Perhaps the idea encapsulated in today’s post is that I’m just showing up so I can say I’ve been maintaining a habit, sometimes just for its own sake. Good night!