Near Granville Street Bridge in Vancouver. Autumn of 2019.

The Granville Street Bridge is an eight lane bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia. It spans False Creek and is 27.4 metres above Granville Island. It is part of Highway 99.

The original bridge was completed in 1889. It was a 732-metre long low timber trestle. The navigation span, near the north end, was a trussed timber swing span, tied with wire ropes to a central wooden tower. It was largely designed by the CPR, and cost $16,000. In 1891 the bridge was widened on both sides for streetcar tracks, except where the tracks converged for the swing span.

The second bridge was completed in 1909. It was a longer, medium-level steel bridge with a through truss swing span.

On February 4, 1954, the current Granville Street Bridge, costing $16.5 million, opened. A million cars would cross over the bridge in its first month. The city of Vancouver funded the bridge itself as Mayor Frederick Hume said “no formal assistance given by any other government body.”

The eight-lane structure was constructed on the same alignment as the first bridge while steel plate girders salvaged from the second bridge made barges for constructing the foundations of the Oak Street Bridge.

The first “civilian” to drive over the 1954 bridge was the same woman who was first to drive over the second bridge in 1909. She had been widowed between the two openings, and so had a different name. Both times she was at the wheel of a brand-new Cadillac.

Recent improvements to the bridge include increasing its earthquake resistance, and installing higher curbs and median barriers.

A Lost Cyber Utopia: What Happened to the Soviet Internet?

Exploring Soviet cybernetics as an alternative narrative of the future.

While it is common today to view computer technologies as a product of capitalism created with the backing of the Pentagon, back in the USSR of the 1960s some scientists and engineers saw computers as “machines of communism” and put forth their own vision of a global information network.

In her sci-fi video project After Scarcity, Iranian artist Bahar Noorizadeh tracks Soviet cyberneticians of the 1950s–1980s in their attempt to build a fully automated planned economy. Presenting this as an alternative history, she looks at the economic potential of socialist cybernetic experiments and their power to challenge contemporary financial worldview.

In search of alternative narratives of the future, more and more artists, speculative designers, and researchers from around the world are turning their eyes to the history of Soviet cybernetics. “How might we use computation to get us out of our current state of digital feudalism and towards new possible utopias?” she asks in her film.

On one hand, this allows us to think about how this alternative internet could have changed the course of history. What would the Communist Party and the Soviet military have used the new technology for? Would the Soviet internet have created digital tyranny? Having its own internet, how would the USSR have responded to the drop in oil prices, Perestroika, and Glasnost? And how would the USSR have looked at the turn of 1991? How would the Cold War have unfolded if the internet as we know it had been rivaled by a Soviet alternative since the 1960s?

On the other hand, exploring this legacy allows us to envision what impact the ideas of this unrealized digital socialism could have on our contemporary lives. Noorizadeh’s work makes us think what would Vladimir Lenin’s famous formula “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country” sound in a world of blockchain and the Internet of Things?

The USSR wasn’t the only country experimenting with cyber-socialism. In 1970, under Salvador Allende, the Chilean government commissioned British cybernetician Stafford Beer to develop a computer system known as Project Cybersyn. However, the vision was abandoned due to the violent military coup led by Agusto Pinochet, and the project was deliberately dismantled.

It was the economic boom in the early 1960s USSR that led to the rise of the idea of Soviet communism with a cybernetic face. The ever-growing economy was now more difficult to manage, the massive amounts of data it generated were hard to process, and industry branches were almost impossible to synchronize. It became clear that public administration tasks needed to be facilitated with the computers and industrial control systems (ICS) that had already been widely used by the defense industry.

After Scarcity is focused on the figure of Victor Glushkov, a visionary mathematician and director of the Cybernetics Institute of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, led Soviet efforts to deal with the looming economic stagnation. Thanks to him, the country saw the emergence of new specialized institutes and departments within major universities, all of which shared one goal—training new computer and ICS specialists.

“While the Stalinists opposed cybernetics, thinking it bourgeois pseudoscience, cyberneticists like Victor Glushkov rose to prominence in the 1960s as increasing bureaucratic demands of the centrally planned economy threatened to turn the Union into an absurdist administrative state,” Noorizadeh says in her film.

One of Glushkov’s greatest practical goals was the creation of the National Automated System for Computation and Information Processing (OGAS). He believed that in the face of impending economic stagnation it was the only lifeline for the country’s further development. Glushkov envisioned thousands of local computers connected to one another through a regional server. The mainframe network was supposed to be synchronized nationwide and connected to the main computing center in Moscow. The main idea behind the project was to make managerial decision-making less biased and dramatically improve industry and transport efficiency.

Glushkov’s project wasn’t the only failed attempt to create the Soviet internet. In 1959, Engineer Colonel Anatoly Kitov proposed the creation of a “unified automated management system” for the national economy that would link together large networks of computers installed at large factories and government agencies. The project, however, never received the support of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

The political reasons behind OGAS’ failure and the complex relationship between information and power are explored by science historian Slava Gerovich in his article InterNyet: Why the Soviet Union did not build a nationwide computer network. “Cyberneticians aspired to reform the Soviet government with a technological tool whose uses the government itself defined. This resulted, quite naturally, in the transformation of the tool itself—from a vehicle of reform into a pillar of the status quo,” he writes.

An obituary published in the United States described Glushkov as the “King of Soviet cybernetics.” In his book Fundamentals of Paperless Informatics, published a few months after his death, he wrote a visionary prediction: “Soon enough paper books, newspapers, and magazines will be no more. Every person will have an electronic notebook—a combination of a flat screen and a mini radio transmitter. No matter where you are in the world, if you key a specific code in the notebook, you will be able to summon texts and images from giant remote databases. This will forever replace not only books, newspapers, and magazines, but also television.”

Despite being written for a mathematically oriented audience, it became popular with people who had nothing to do with computer science. Glushkov also speculated about computational technologies in everyday life: future TV sets and television, multifunctional telephones, programmed washing machines, paperless documents and correspondence, computer games, language-based programming (a prototype of personal assistants like Siri or Alexa), electronic newspapers and magazines, and even electronic money (a Soviet e-currency project was proposed by Glushkov’s team in 1962).

For a New Year’s Eve party, the employees of Glushkov’s institute came up with “Cybertonia”—a virtual country ruled by a council of robots. Cybertonia enthusiasts organized regular activities in Kyiv and Lviv including conferences and children’s parties, published brochures, issued its own currency. It even drafted the Cybertonia Constitution, with Cybertonia becoming a speculative design project that imagined a Soviet cybernetic future that never saw the light of day.

In his 2016 book How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet, media scholar Benjamin Peters clearly shows that bureaucracy was to blame for the failure of the Soviet internet project. Instead of creating a collaborative research environment, different self-interested agencies and bureaucrats diligently stood up only for their own agenda. The Soviet Union was unable to build its own internet—not because it lacked technologies or the institution of private property, but because it was impossible to get a project of this scale approved by all of the necessary agencies, whose interests it sometimes contradicted.

“The first global civilian computer networks were developed among cooperative capitalists, not among competitive socialists. The capitalists behaved like socialists, while the socialists behaved like capitalists,” writes Peters.

Ready Player One is one of the best and most thrilling films of the last decade

A still from Ready Player One (2018), directed by Steven Spielberg

Seeing Ready Player One (2018) again in May made me remember some things that I haven’t thought about in years. I saw Ready Player One for the first time when it was released in theaters. Back then, I wasn’t really impressed by the film. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t in the right mood when I saw it. I saw it in a rather small, dull auditorium in a new cinema, and I went to the bathroom more than once during the screening. But, when I saw it again in May of this year, it left quite an impression on me. I now think that it’s one of the most enjoyable films of the last decade. For me, it now stands along films like Dredd (2012), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Logan (2017), Incredibles 2 (2018), Toy Story 3 (2010), Lincoln (2012), Room (2015), and even The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013). I can rewatch these films again and again, and there haven’t been many such films made in Hollywood in the last decade. I am familiar with the pop culture that is featured in Ready Player One. I know about the films and the music that get mentioned. Only when it came to video games was I not fully in the know. It’s because I didn’t grow up playing video games. I’ve got to say that the only home video game console that I’ve ever had before I reached my twenties was the Atari 2600. My father brought it over for a few weeks when I was little. I don’t know where he got it. This happened at a time when the Atari 2600 was several generations behind the consoles that existed. So, while other children got to play on their Nintendo consoles, for example, I got to play on the Atari 2600, and only for a few weeks. And the games that were on it weren’t even the best. There was Custer’s Revenge, which is a game that’s notorious due to its goal being to rape a Native American woman. There was Pac-Man, which people think contributed to the North American video game crash of 1983 because it’s a bad game. And there were a few other games that I don’t remember well. I played the games, but I didn’t enjoy them because they looked so primitive. Nowadays, the Atari 2600 is considered to be a pop culture icon and the first popular home video game console. It plays a part in the story of Ready Player One. But, when I played it as a child, I didn’t like it much. My “parents” didn’t let me do anything that they thought interfered with my schoolwork. They took away anything that they thought I was spending much time on. Therefore, I didn’t get to watch much television, or read books for children, or play with toys, and I certainly didn’t get to have a game console. Moreover, I don’t come from a wealthy family. Some people may think that I had a middle class upbringing, but I actually had a working class upbringing. I went to a regular school and got a regular Western education that was intended to keep the masses obedient and not knowledgeable. I had no money when I was a child, and I rarely had money when I was a teenager. I had only a few toys, and I had to draw and make my own action figures out of paper. In this respect, things got only a little better when I became a teenager. I acquired a small television set that could play VHS tapes after I finished the 8th grade in high school. But I couldn’t buy any tapes because I had no money. So, I had to borrow tapes from my local library. In this way, I became familiar with popular Hollywood films. On that same television set, I also got to see many films from Hong Kong because it had an antenna and was thus able to show a few local channels in black and white. I began working at my local library when I was in the 10th grade, but part-time work doesn’t result in thousands or even hundreds of dollars of income. So, the first console that I acquired when I was in my twenties is the PlayStation 2. I bought the slim model of the console, when the PlayStation 2 was already at the very end of its lifespan. The fact that this console has a built-in DVD player, and that it can play PlayStation 1 games, played a factor in my purchase. I still have this console, along with a remote control that I bought for it. The first video games that I bought for my PlayStation 2 were Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy Tactics, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Final Fantasy X. Now, for anyone who knows something about video games, it should be clear that all of these games are excellent. Metal Gear Solid 2 is the best game in the franchise, in my opinion. Final Fantasy Tactics is easily one of the best and most memorable video games of all time. Chrono Cross is the perfect Japanese RPG. Games like these no longer get made. I’ve noticed that in the last decade the video game industry in the West and in the Chinese nation of Japan began to resemble the movie industry and the publishing industry. The video game industry is now dominated by monopolies that release unoriginal and dull games. Therefore, I don’t have much of an interest in games that got made after the 2000s. There are some exceptions to this trend, however. Nintendo continues to release fantastic games, even if they are sequels. Pikmin 3 for the Wii U, for example, is a fantastic game that I finished playing about a month ago. Unfortunately, because of the low sales of the Wii U, not many people got to play this addictive and polished game. By the way, the Wii U is my favorite console. I will discuss it in a future post. I haven’t even purchased a Nintendo Switch because I think that it’s lacking in features, and I’d rather use the Wii U that I have because of its much better backward compatibility and features. The new games don’t have ambitious stories, or innovative gameplay, or memorable music. Therefore, games like Xenogears, Pikmin, or even Pokemon Red and Blue no longer get made. Since there’s no innovation in gameplay, the focus nowadays is on graphics. But what good are better graphics if the game is boring to play? And the graphics may be more advanced but still look worse artistically. I will discuss this and other matters in future posts. The first handheld video game console that I bought is the PlayStation Vita. The fact that it plays games, music, and videos, and features backward compatibility via the PlayStation Store, played a factor in my purchase. It also has a web browser and features apps like Netflix. I still have this console, and I’ve got to say that I like it very much. I’ve never had a handheld console before I bought the Vita several years ago. When I was in the 7th grade, my sister brought me a Game Boy that her friend had. In this way, I got to play on a Game Boy, which was already outdated at that time, for several days. The only game that was on it was Pokemon Red and Blue. Fortunately, I got to finish the game before my annoyed mother forced me to return the handheld. There is a part in the game in which I got stuck for a day or more. It’s when I couldn’t find the move Cut in order to cut down trees and proceed to the next town. Somehow, if I remember correctly, I was able to acquire the move Fly before I acquired Cut (or was it the other way around?). Going back and forth between various town and roads and looking for any clue that might help was quite annoying. These days, solutions to problems such as these can easily be found in a video game guide. Of course, I would have preferred to play on a much better handheld that was available at that time. It’s called the Muslim Boy, and the Game Boy is actually a lame knockoff of this great Islamic console. The Muslim Boy was developed by Jihad Electronics. It featured unforgettable games like Super Muslim Bros, Muslim Man 2, Wariobeard 3, Muslim Or Die, Camel Racing, Arab Street Fighter II, Jihadvania, The Legend of Aladdin, New Muslim Super Studs, and Star Sheikh. The Muslim Boy was powered by a nuclear battery that could be taken out to power something like a Toyota war truck. Don’t ask me how that works. Muslim science is way too advanced for me to explain. Moreover, some of the parts of the Muslim Boy were perfect as replacement parts for the AK-47 assault rifle, which is another impressive Muslim invention, just like the Toyota war truck. Allegedly, Shigeru Miyamoto stole many of his ideas from the great Muslim video game designer Muhammad Muhammad. Anyway, I enjoyed seeing Ready Player One enough that I saw it again only two days later. I don’t have an interest in the story of the film, which is about the OASIS. What appeals to me is the fact that the film is well made, that it’s entertaining, and that it has appealing characters. After a turd like Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008), I thought that Steven Spielberg has lost it in his old age. But he came back with Lincoln and Ready Player One. I’m now considering buying the book by Ernest Cline on Audible, just out of curiosity. The video game industry is one of the industries that are being promoted by the Western establishment as a distraction for the masses, somewhat how “bread and circuses” played a role in Ancient Rome. Still, most of the consoles and games that were made before the 2010s are great, and I have no problem with people playing good video games. I can recommend looking at a book like Art Of Atari by Tim Lapetino. It’s amusing how the now primitive Atari video games had covers made for them that look so much better than the covers made for modern video games.

You think The Silence of the Lambs doesn’t contain propaganda? Think again.

A still from Raintree County (1957), directed by Edward Dmytryk

I think that it’s time for me to share some of the things that I’ve enjoyed lately. First of all, the people who follow my blog probably realize that most of the films that I see are old films. There’s a reason for this. When it comes to Hollywood films, old films are much better than the films that get made nowadays. When it comes to TV series, I don’t even watch any modern series because I don’t want to waste my time on watching unoriginal and poorly made shows. The only new TV show that I’ve seen in the last few years is Switched At Birth, and I watched it only out of curiosity. It started out well, I suppose, but then became dull after the second or third season. I haven’t watched Game Of Thrones, but I might read the books by George R. R. Martin simply because I’m curious to see what propaganda messages from the establishment they contain. Anyway, in the last several months, I’ve seen a number of Westerns. For some reason, I very much enjoy seeing American Western films now. And they don’t have to be old ones. I enjoy seeing newer ones too, but, in my opinion, the old ones are especially enjoyable. I particularly like Westerns that were made in the 1950s and the 1960s. I enjoyed seeing Raintree County (1957), Shenandoah (1965), and Pale Rider (1985). Hostiles (2017), for example, isn’t an old Western, but I still enjoyed seeing it, for the most part. It features a good performance from Christian Bale. But this is only a small number of examples from my rather large film collection. I haven’t yet seen a large chunk of the films that I have in my collection. I’ve seen only a small number of recently released films in the last several months. Movie theaters are obviously closed for now. Out of the ones that I’ve seen, I can recommend Trolls World Tour (2020), Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019), Knives Out (2019), 1917 (2019), Bad Boys For Life (2020), Ford v Ferrari (2019), and The Invisible Man (2020). I found Bad Boys For Life to be particularly enjoyable, and I think that it’s the best Bad Boys film yet, though that’s not saying much because the previous two films aren’t masterpieces of filmmaking. Bad Boys For Life is a good mix of comedy, action, and even some drama. Now that I’ve got these films out of the way, I can mention the films that I’ve enjoyed rewatching. The Ring (2002), which I saw again in January, is one of my favorite horror films. It’s one of the films included in the book Movies Of The 2000s from Taschen. I’ve got to say that I saw it for the first time years ago, when I was in my early teens. I saw it together with my sister and her friend. Back then, I had a difficult time watching horror films because I found them to be frightening and difficult to watch. I also don’t have a fascination with horror and death, which is something that many Western people have. So, even a mildly frightening film like The Ring was difficult to watch for me. I couldn’t finish watching it. Seeing horror films now isn’t a problem for me because I’m an adult now. The Ring is a particularly good remake of the Japanese film Ring (1998). I like the Japanese film, but I like the American remake even more. There’s a good performance from Naomi Watts. There’s a spooky, interesting story. There’s a good music score from Hans Zimmer. The cinematography by Bojan Bazelli is fitting too. All of this added together makes the film one of the best horror films of the last few decades. I rewatched the Matrix trilogy and the Scream trilogy. I think that they work fine as trilogies because even the lesser films in the trilogies have something enjoyable in them. I won’t say much about them because they’re very popular and many people have seen them. Iceman (1984) is a fantastic film. I’m surprised that it even got made. Well, I suppose that in the 1970s and the 1980s good science fiction films like Iceman could still be made in Hollywood. Ground Zero (1987) is a good Australian thriller that I’ve never even heard of before I was going through a list of all of the films that were released in the 1980s. Resurrection (1980) is another film that doesn’t get enough attention, to my surprise. On second thought, however, I shouldn’t be surprised that films like Resurrection don’t get as much attention as they deserve. The films that do get attention from the Western media, from the movie industry, and from the publishing industry are ones that have propaganda messages from the establishment. Therefore, good films that don’t contain propaganda, or ones that contain little propaganda, don’t get mentioned and become forgotten. These films have to be dug up by movie enthusiasts and discussed on independent internet blogs. When it comes to propaganda in films, I can bring up The Silence Of The Lambs (1991) as an example. Some people may think that it’s propaganda free, that it’s very well made, and that it’s an intelligent, gripping, and mostly realistic portrayal of FBI work and of solving murder cases. This is true. The film is fantastic. But even this supposedly propaganda free film actually contains propaganda from the American establishment, as it turns out. In the film, the FBI is portrayed as an agency that works for the benefit of the American people. The main character, Clarice Starling, is an FBI trainee who’s dedicated to her job and who wants to help people, especially because of a personal reason. By the end of the film, she, with the help of the agency, gets to solve the case and get the villain. In reality, however, the FBI has been used for many decades already as an instrument of class oppression by the American establishment. This is a side of the FBI that’s not shown in the film. The FBI is an institution that has been engaged in terrorist acts and in crushing political opponents in the USA. The agency works in the interests of the American ruling class. So, as you can see, even a good Hollywood film like The Silence Of The Lambs, which appears to contain no propaganda on first viewing, has a propaganda message. Quite shifty, if you ask me. And, finally, I’m also in the process of watching all the Godzilla films of the Heisei period and the Star Trek films that feature the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I remember the day when I saw a Godzilla film for the first time. I saw it with my mother and her friend in a theater, in the summer, when I was little. I still remember that sunny day well, and the film was Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993). Needless to say, back then, I enjoyed seeing the film very much. Therefore, the Heisei Godzilla films are somewhat special to me. I had a similar, memorable viewing experience when I saw Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith (2005) when it was released, in a theater, on a sunny day, in the summer. I saw the film by myself, but the fact that the auditorium was filled with Star Wars fans and the fact that I saw the film at my favorite cinema in the center of the city made it a very memorable and enjoyable experience for me. Unfortunately, that old theater, which was called Granville 7 Cinemas, no longer exists. I can mention that I recently bought the book Cosmos by Carl Sagan. What’s interesting about this book is that it’s the hardcover copy from 1980. It has 13 chapters with illustrations. The illustrations and the writing by Sagan are so much better than what you find in modern educational books. I’ve already listened to the book on Audible, and I’ve seen the TV series, but the copy that I found at a used books store is so appealing that I decided to buy it. I can recommend it to anyone else as well.