Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project has launched Confident Commuter, a step-by-step guide to help you deal with public transport ticket inspectors and infringement notices.

(I’m pleased to see it includes, “Ticket inspectors cannot: … Take your phone”. I ended up on radio complaining about this last year — and subsequently in the Chinese-language media as “kind-hearted Corr” / “好心的corr”, so that’s nice.)

Alto’s Odyssey is here! Beautiful design, a satisfying difficulty curve, and the one-touch gameplay is perfect for straphangers like me.

It looks like a mysterious Bulgarian user set up a dodgy playlist and a thousand Spotify accounts, and scammed them into paying huge royalties for a few months. Clever, but while the article says “technically this person needn’t have broken any laws”, it would definitely be treated as fraud if you tried to pull this scam off in Australia.

If you’ve seen The Good Place, you’ll be familiar with its premise: in the afterlife, all of your actions will be assigned a moral score (ending slavery — good; telling a woman to ‘smile’ — bad), and you will be rewarded or punished according to your tally. China wants to make this a reality, but with immediate carrots and sticks:

[T]he State Council, the chief administrative authority of the People’s Republic of China, proposed the creation of a vast system of surveillance in which every citizen would be given a numerical score that indicated their trustworthiness. This system would be based on wide-reaching tracking of online and offline actions, all purchases, media engagement and social relations. All the information scraped off by this surveillance process would be centralised in a database and groomed by algorithms looking to extract patterns. These patterns would then be interpreted in a strongly normative way. Taken together, the algorithms would settle on a single number: the ‘Citizen Score’. This score will have massive impacts on people’s lives, with punishments and rewards once the system becomes operational. The State Council wants to make the Social Credit System compulsory for all citizens by 2020.

You’ve probably guessed where this is headed (paying your debts — good; criticising the Party — bad). Hell on Earth.

I’m quite willing to judge a book by its cover, and the logotype in the Recently Added list on Netflix was enough to convince me to give Babylon Berlin a try. After one episode I’m prepared to recommend it: trams, hats, flappers, architecture, and a noir plot that revolves around the vice squad and a theremin-playing Trotskyite. So far, so good.

A while ago, I linked to the absurdist anime Pop Team Epic with no comment, mostly because it defies explanation. This interview with its producer, Kotaro Sudo, reveals the freedom afforded to its segments’ creators, and its commitment to experimentation. For instance:

Q: Going back to episode 1, how did that French segment come about? I feel like I saw a lot of viewers at the advance screening and the TV broadcast who were left dumbfounded…

A: That was Kamikaze Douga’s idea. There’s a French person who works at Kamikaze Douga, you see.

Q: You mean the one who shows up on camera.

A: That’s him. He doesn’t speak Japanese, and communicates at work with English, so Kamikaze Douga said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we gave him the manga and let him do as he pleased?” So we ended up going with that suggestion. Since he doesn’t understand Japanese, he made the segment by looking at the art and imagining what was going on. That’s why it ignores the canon and has Popuko and Pipimi going to Paris, and makes self-deprecating French jokes. Also, he creates those as a one-man team, which is why it’s animated more like a Western cartoon. We also hired French voice actresses, so the footage is sent over there for voice-over recording. I was shocked to hear how much it actually cost to do all that… (laughs).

It’s available in Japanese or English — watch it.

Last month I mentioned the ABC’s appalling decision to invite Charles Waterstreet on to a panel discussion about sexual assault. Happily, he has withdrawn after being asked to do so by the NSW Bar Association:

“Arthur Moses SC wrote to Mr Waterstreet informing him that it was his firm view that it was neither appropriate or prudent for him to appear on the Q and A television program to discuss issues concerning the #Me Too anti-sexual harassment movement.” said a spokesman. “The reasons for that view being expressed by the President were communicated to Mr Waterstreet and it is not appropriate that those reasons be disclosed by the Bar Association.”

The Japanese figure skating team at Pyeonchang performed to a song from figure skating anime Yuri!!! on ICE. It’s hard to find a video of it because the IOC copyright cops are so aggressive, but here’s a previous performance. While you’re at it, here’s the opening to the show, and you can and should watch it on Crunchyroll.

It’s hard to choose just one quotation from Puzhong Yao’s hilarious memoir, The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective, so I’ll stick with the one used in the tweet that alerted me to it:

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership.

The Blues Brothers (1980):

Jake: Hey, what’s going on?!

Cop: Ah, those bums won their court case, so they’re marching today.

Jake: What bums?

Cop: The fucking Nazi party.

Elwood: Illinois Nazis.

Jake: I hate Illinois Nazis!

The Republican Party (2017):

Illinois Republicans should have paid closer attention to the state’s third district… Arthur Jones, a notorious neo-Nazi, will almost certainly win the Republican primary for the third district’s seat in the House of Representatives on March 20th because he is unopposed by any other Republican candidate. Mr Jones is a former member of the National Socialist White People’s Party and a variety of other Nazi groupings. He calls the Holocaust an “international extortion racket” and proudly displays racist and anti-Semitic bile on his website and blog.

New Socialist is running a fascinating series on Radical TV, and this anecdote about the genesis of Bill Brand is too good. On the night of the 1974 election, which resulted in a hung parliament and subsequently a minority Labour government, writer Trevor Griffiths and producer Stella Richmond were in a restaurant

… full of those reactionary showbiz people, who’d all had a bet on the Tories pulling it off. And, as the evening progressed and the results came out, it was amazing to watch these fuckers break down in tears and begin wailing.

They decided to make “something on politics”, about a left-wing MP torn between his socialism and his support for a Labour government. (You can watch Bill Brand on YouTube.)

Celeste began as an impressive game jam entry that became a flagship for PICO-8; now that it’s been fleshed out and ported to various consoles, it’s being hailed as a masterpiece.

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit:

Industrial capitalism has fostered an extremely rapid rate of scientific advance and technological innovation—one with no parallel in previous human history. Even capitalism’s greatest detractors, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, celebrated its unleashing of the “productive forces.” Marx and Engels also believed that capitalism’s continual need to revolutionize the means of industrial production would be its undoing. Marx argued that, for certain technical reasons, value—and therefore profits—can be extracted only from human labor. Competition forces factory owners to mechanize production, to reduce labor costs, but while this is to the short-term advantage of the firm, mechanization’s effect is to drive down the general rate of profit.

For 150 years, economists have debated whether all this is true. But if it is true, then the decision by industrialists not to pour research funds into the invention of the robot factories that everyone was anticipating in the sixties, and instead to relocate their factories to labor-intensive, low-tech facilities in China or the Global South makes a great deal of sense.

I would have missed David Graeber’s excellent 2012 essay if it hadn’t been discussed on General Intellect Unit, “Podcast of the Cybernetic Marxists”.