Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Foo Fighters, Brisbane, April 30, 2008

I have a confession to make—and, since I'm making this in public, in the 'street' of the internet and on the pages of my blog, I guess it's going to be a public confession. Well, so be it. Thing is just that, until now—well, until last December,when I bought the tickets—I was never motivated to go to a rock concert. Nor to anything musical qualifying for the label 'pop'.

Why not? Probably because of 'life' and wherever I was in my head. Bottom line is that I really can't think of a group, musician or singer for whom I would have considered it worth the time, the effort and the money to go. It's kind of funny, and maybe ironic, that finally, at an age that probably placed my wife and I into the upper five percentile in the seniority stakes of those attending, I did find someone that made it worth my while, here and now. The time and the place and Foo Fighters.

The place: The Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Boondall, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Very fucking cool. Loud, with the basses providing an interesting internal massage. Adrenaline churning stuff. Basically 'Whoa!'

The most memorable segment: when they did But Honestly, which is a fav of mine, but in this context it was terminally overwhelming and sent shivers down my spine. (I include the YouTube clip here again.)

The whole thing was magic. What more can I say? Very loud magic.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Life After Death

"Life is too short and death is too long." One of the memorable one-liners, thrown in with casual ease and apparent total lack of awareness of its profundity, by Rube, who is full of this kind of stuff.

The thing about DLM, as you can see from the poster, is that it promotes the notion that there actually is something there for you after you die. Same goes, of course, for any story set in the 'afterlife'. And, let's face it, there are thousands of those, all across the human universe.

But the overwhelming evidence is, or so those disposed toward rationality and science would think, that there is nothing there. Zilch. Nada. Zip. Null. Diddly-squat. Rien. Da big fat ZERO. Actually, less than a zero, because a zero is something. Non-existence is...well, non-existence. It is the negation of everything we know and can possibly conceive. And that's a biggie, let's face it.

So, where's the rub? I mean, you know there's a rub, yes? There always is.

The rub's this: what is the question we're actually trying to answer? I mean, with regards to what's commonly called the 'afterlife'.

Remember that your answers are always only as pertinent or relevant as the questions you're answering. And when it comes to the afterlife—or, somewhat related to it, the 'before-life-life'—I suspect that we just may have no idea of what we're actually trying to find out. Everything we are asking is somehow related to a notion that what we know as 'life' right here and now is reflected in whatever comes 'then'—sort of. And if you pursues that kind of line of thought, then all you'll ever come up with is variations on: How is life after death different from life as we know it now?

DLM doesn't do any better, not from a metaphysical point of view, than most at illuminating the issue; and, let's face it, why should it? It's entertainment, and it's more about the living than the dead anyway; because those that die and pass on disappear, never to be heard from again, and the 'Undead', the Grim Reapers...well, they're not actually dead; they just have moved from being participants in ordinary human life and society to being bystanders, or, as Rube once put it, 'facilitators'. This allows them to gain insights into 'life' that they would not have had otherwise, because ordinarily you a) can't really stand back far enough to see what the bigger picture might look like, and b) don't have quite as much time to do ponder these things; while George and her buddies do have that time—as well as lots of motivation to ponder such issues, though not all of them are inclined to do so, preferring instead to live in denial.

There are, I should add, philosophies—Buddhism, the non-religious aspects of it, is an example—that are at least aware of the difficulty of figuring out the right questions to ask with regards to LAD (Life After Death). Buddhism appears aware that there are real issues with humans conceiving non-existence. We may be aware of the inevitability of death, but that doesn't necessarily enable us to comprehend its nature.

Still, I think the enterprise isn't entirely hopeless. It seems to me that there are ways of working out what, if—that being THE BIG IF— anything 'cognitive' and personal-identity-wise, lies on the other side of the cessation of brain function. I even think that we might have all the evidence we need to take a stab at guessing whatever there is on the other side, or if anything actually there; because, let's face it, this is the first question to answer. The problem is that whatever 'evidence' there might be is a) contradictory and/or ambiguous and/or often equivocal, b) most of the time not discernible as 'evidence' related to this particular area of investigation and c) almost always circumstantial.

I know that some will scoff and insist "There is no evidence except that which indicates that there is nothing left of anything smacking of 'consciousness' after death."

I beg to differ. There is no evidence whatsoever to 'prove' that there isn't anything after death. The case for there being nothing but 'extinction' or just plain 'nothing' rests on the absence of evidence; specifically of the kind of evidence acceptable to those who have this particular axe to grind. That is a weak case, which qualifies as 'shakily circumstantial'. It's quite possible, maybe even highly probable, that the LADDs (Life After Death Deniers) are quite correct. However, at this stage in the game the onus is on them to demonstrate that all the 'evidence' presented by those of a differing opinion is bogus. The arrogance of those proclaiming themselves as 'rationalists', who think that being ' rational', at least to their own over-inflated self-esteem, gives them a better shot at the truth, thereby exempting them from the need to provide this kind of 'proof', is really reflective of a particular kind of stupidity.

As an individual who has always been highly conscious of his mortality, I've been profoundly interested in the nature of personal death for more years than I care to admit. I've considered a lot of the presented 'evidence', from just about all sides of the many-sided argument. After all these years, while leaning toward the 'there's nothing at all' side, I am conscious of the fragility of the arguments for that position.

But I am also aware of the dangers involved in assuming a position of what amounts to 'hope'. Said 'hope' is that after death there may be something that remains; possibly enough to qualify as 'I'. Anything is preferable to extinction: this is a very fundamental emotion, at least in most people, whether they admit it or not.

But there's another argument here, and it is this: just because a particular alternative is more attractive than another, and just because that alternative might be favored driven by motivations including hope and just plain wishful thinking, that doesn't per se make that alternative in any way less potentially valid.

And there is stands—and still we're wondering and pondering and agonizing... And I wonder if there is something, some crucial element of evidence, that qualifies as a 'decider'.

If life only were that simple.

Munch and Crunch

The correct answer to the first question here is Munch-and-Crunch.
The correct answer to the supplementary question is Bones of Coral, still one of his best.

Continuity Error Freaks

Here is a place where you could spend the rest of your miserable lives.

I say this knowing that the 'Continutity Error Freaks' (CEFs) thus addressed might feel just a tad peeved. Still, I am unrepentant and without much affection for those practicing Continuity Freakery on a more than 'casual' basis, but also partially in a spirit of compassion. After all, as a constructor of complicated worlds I really have to have moments of Continuity Freakery myself, or else my stories would really suffer.

But Continutity Freakery as an activity for its own sake is a lot like Art Criticism. It serves no other purpose but to self-glorify the CEF (that's the Continuity Freak) by demonstrating to himself and the rest of the world just how clever he is, and at the same time taking down the story-teller by a notch or a lot of notches. And, yes, I know, some CEFs justify their activity by saying that CEs just 'irritate' them or that they're just a bad thing or something dumb-ass like that. But what people say is rarely directly representative of what they really do, intend or feel and think.

The sad thing—or just a bit of instant Cosmic Justice, depending on how you look at it—is that by focusing on continuity errors CEFs basically lose the plot; pardon the pun. It doesn't matter whether the plot being criticised in question is good or bad, meaningful or trite and shallow, has hardly any continuity errors or is riddled with them. The moment one drills holes into it in what is usually a mean spirit, the plot and the story is lost to the driller.

So, I ask these people—and I could also ask Art/Music/Movie/Literary Critics the same thing; but they're beyond salvation, so I won't waste my time or breath—the same question I've discussed some blogs back:

What do you want?

Specifically, what do you want out of a story—be it verbally told, from a book, or told in a movie or play? Like many other things in life that's a decision most people don't even know they are making. Why? Because by and large it's not the kind of thing people think themselves about. Least of all—if I may get another gratuitous stab at these Foxtrots again—professional, or just habitual, critics.

Thing is, there are good and worthwhile things to be gotten out of the vast majority of stories told across the spectrum of 'media' available today; even those stories qualifying, on certain levels and viewed from certain perspectives, as...well, I'll be kind and call them 'deficient', often severely so. The truth is that it often—maybe 'usually'—doesn't matter. Because there is what there is and there is what the recipient perceives as being there.

The best advice for anyone being in a position to have to decide whether to become or continue to be the recipient of a story, in whatever medium, is to just stop when it doesn't 'speak' to you anymore. Things is, when it reaches that stage, even if you continue, often only from stubbornness or a sense that that's what you're obliged to—but why should you be 'obliged' to do anything 'optional' like that?—the likelihood that you've closed yourself off to receiving anything useful from the tale is so great that you might as well close the book or walk out of the movie. So you wasted a few dollars. So what? Is it really worth it, just to get your investment's worth, to waste the most precious commodity in this life—time—on something pointless like that?

There is, of course, a remote possibility that something will come up that will change your mind, or show you stuff that completely turns around your perception of the story you're reading or watching or whatever. That possibility is always there. It's yours to assess and act accordingly. In my experience it is too small to be considered a guide for action. I'd rather close the book.

But if you chose to watch something you found tedious, pointless, unappealing, uninspiring or devoid of anything that would speak to you...if you chose to watch it to the end anyway, then have the good grace to acknowledge that it was your choice. Don't gripe about its deficiencies; though you may well bemoan the reality of life and the media world that allows enormous sums being spent on producing some irredeemable shit, while many better things linger in obscurity. That's just the way things are. Best you can do it help to promote the good stuff with whatever means are in your power, and basically ignore the crap. Because energy expended on trashing crap is wasted. It doesn't promote the higher-quality competition. Never has.

Which is why, with a very, very few notable exceptions, avoid reading or writing negative Amazon reviews. And taking a movie to bits because of its continuity errors... Hey, life is full of Continuity Errors. Haven't you noticed?

Oh—and, just in case you wonder, as well you might, what I was doing on, I chanced upon by reference from an Amazon review of a movie. And, no, I have no intention of gracing it with more of my time than the 5 minutes or so I wasted there. Really, folks, what's the damn point? There have to be better things to do with one's life.

Ahh, yes, now that's another topic altogether...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Selling Dead Like Me

For those who need the sale...

The Intro

When Death by Flaming Toilet Seat happens

and here's the earworm...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Quiz for James Hall Fans

Question: What is the correct name for this type of vehicle?

Supplementary question: Where can one find out what the correct name for this type of vehicle is? (Just in case one has forgotten it, which is actually unlikely.)

Both answers will be supplied a few blogs down the track. Meanwhile, James Hall geeks, how about it?

Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Well, after many months of futile searching, fate—for want of a better term, though 'accident' is obviously the Absurdist's first choice—steered me from one place to another, and an inkling made me stop and ask myself "why not check it out?" and so walk into that store where I found...

Now, I've been searching for the old elf for a long time. Was going to sit it beside me onto the sensei's mat on the dojo floor, so the students could see it and remember to 'do' and not just to 'try'—which is something I've griped about before.

Anyway, maybe it was better that I didn't find Yoda then, because I have a feeling that the practice, though appreciated by my students, would have been regarded with less than open approval and appreciation by the PTBs. Martial Arts people tend to be excessively serious about the dignity of their activity, and to have Yoda there might have been considered...well, let's call it 'frivolous'. Which is wouldn't have been, but in my experience certain types of people sometimes have a hard time understanding my sense of humor, inside of which hides a very deep seriousness.

Yoda's here now though, as you can see, and a very nice Yoda figurine it is, too! And as we speak—well, 'as I write this'—he's sitting beside my screen, and making me wonder what it's all about...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Death by Toilet Seat

Some months back, when still living in New Zealand and with spare download bandwidth on my account, I downloaded two seasons of a now-canceled TV series called Dead Like Me. Don't ask me how I came across it. It certainly was never shown or heard of in NZ. * I guess it must have been in some other context; but it sounded interesting and I had the spare bandwidth—and so, why not?

Summary of the basic premise, shamelessly copied and pasted from Wikipedia:

Eighteen-year-old Georgia 'George' Lass (played by Ellen Muth) is the show's protagonist and narrator. George dies early in the pilot episode, leaving her mother (Cynthia Stevenson) and rest of her family behind at a point when her relationships with them were on shaky ground. She becomes one of the 'undead', a grim reaper.

George soon learns that a reaper's job is to remove the
souls of people, preferably right before they die, and escort them until they move on into their afterlife. The show explores the 'lives' and experiences of a small team of such reapers — led by Rube (played by Mandy Patinkin) — as well as the post-mortem changes in George and her family as they deal with George's death.

I finally got around to start watching the show, and it's...well, a gem. Truly. I doubt I've ever seen better. It's slow, and not much really happens; but once it gets to you it won't let you go.

As Mandy Patinkin wrapped up the message of the show: "You have a finite amount of time here, don't waste it. Even if it's a cloudy day or you're living in darkness, fight like hell to find the light."

The spirit of the series is kind-of represented by the snaps below. And if you go here and turn on the sound on your computer, you'll hear an endless loop of one of the songs that gets played at the oddest of places.

And in this next one, they are—probably, because I haven't seen the episode yet, and so I'm guessing—looking at the scene of yet another gruesome massacre, with twisted bodies, faces in ricti of agony and bucketloads of blood. George's way of dying by falling space-station toilet seat was, after all, one of the less bizarre ways in which people in this series meet their demise; and the Grim Reapers of Dead Like Me.

Very cool. Wickedly funny and wry. Very deep. Very wise. Joss Whedon, eat your Absurdist heart out.

* Homer Nods: As my buddy Hazari pointed out, I was mistaken in saying this. Now I wonder if I may have read about it in the TV Guide when still in NZ, and decided that there was no time in my life right then and so downloaded it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A bit more Bob Seger

For those who don't know the guy, here's some more...

And if you're not adverse to slightly schmaltzy...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Stunning, Absolutely Amazing, Nature of 'Existence'

Following on from this...

It could be 'age', though I doubt it, because I know far too many people who would also qualify as the same 'age' as I, but who wouldn't for a moment have the same kinds of...let me call it 'sense' of something that is difficult to out into words. Besides, being of a contemplative inclination—to the point of exasperating people sometimes when they really would like things to be light and fluffy, but I refuse to oblige—such thoughts are less likely to be brought about by the mere fact of getting older and much more by what you might call 'life contingency'.

So, here's one of those things; maybe the biggest one.

Have you ever some across one or more of those people who, while being in quite OK circumstances and having nothing concrete to complain about—short of the usual usual, which is always present, no matter how 'OK' one's life may be—nonetheless complain about the 'emptiness' of their lives; it's lack of 'meaning' and/or the absence of 'personal fulfillment'; things just not going 'right' or along some self-devised or conceived 'plan' or 'path'; and so on?

Their plaint is often wrapped up in the statement that there's just got to be more to 'existence' than...well, 'mere existence'. Getting up in the morning and going to bed at night. Bob Seger in his song 'The Ring' wrapped up that sense of there just not being enough, of something missing in those two lines:

...Another day comes to and end Another day just ends...

BTW, I am a kind of fan of Bob Seger's as well. Here's a gratuitous insert of a music video of his, just to break up the philosophizing.

This plaint about the unsatisfactory nature of 'mere existence' comes about because...well, just because we exist. We also take 'existence' for granted. We can't help it—again, just because we do exist. Non-existence is actually, in the immortal words of Vincini, 'inconceivable!'

And I don't just mean our existence as human beings, but the existence of any-thing. EUL. Of course, our own personal existence, as 'being alive', is the predominant and maybe most awe-inspiring aspect of this, given that at one stage each of us really didn't exist, then came into existence, and subsequently will, at some stage, cease to exist—as a creature aware of its own existence anyway.

That, when you really start thinking about it, is heady stuff! So dazzling and overwhelming in its plain glorious reasonlessness that people invented ways to make it appear reasonable; an action that in itself lacks any foundation in 'reason', excepting a circular snake-bites-its-tail kind of way. Making it seem like it were in any way 'sensible', from some higher point-of-view, that there is anything at all. Ever. As if the very notion of what 'makes sense', of 'reason' and 'logic' and all that, weren't actually only possible, or even 'created' by, if you will, the basically not 'sensical' at all of 'existence' itself.

When you go down that path of thought you'll discover some truly amazing things, the most breathtaking of which is the utter, complete, all-enveloping and glorious absurdity of it all. And, far from staring into an 'existential void' that needs to be filled up with some silly God so that it isn't quite as 'void', what you're really looking at it yourself—because by looking you are existence itself regarding itself. The Absurd appreciating its own Absurdity and saying "Whoa!"


Oddly enough, my daughter Aynia, quite by chance, just happened across some evidence that people react very strangely to the un-reflected-upon but nonetheless 'sensed' notions outlined above. And this here is definitely indicative of a need to be more aware of what goes on in one's head when dealing with the great LUE.

Or maybe it really is just evolution in action.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Darkness in New Zealand

New Zealand, in the heady Sturm und Drang days of the Labour Government of David Lange, displayed a courage that many in the international community found inspiring. A policy to make New Zealand a nuclear-free zone was actually cast into law, and New Zealanders had good reasons to hold their heads high.

Of course, as is so often the case, not all was rosy in Aotearoa; and with the grandiose gestures and idealism also came a need to completely rearrange the country's ailing economy and drag it into the present. It wasn't pretty, but it was necessary. But people suffered, and Lange ultimately paid for it; though some of the causes for his ultimate political demise also had to be laid at his own feet. Those traits that made him great also made him weak and in due course Labour suffered a hiding, from which it recovered only years later when Helen Clark—a individual about whom I've nothing good to say, and so I won't say much—became Prime Minister of New Zealand in 1999 at the head of a Labour government still in power.

When she came into office, after a bout of 'conservative' government, it was euphoria in the ranks of 'lefties' and 'middlies', who saw coming at them a new epoch of righteousness, prosperity and just generally a government that would take care of those least able to help themselves, the arts, sport, the health system and so on. New Zealand took a traditional and utterly predictable anti-American stance on the Iraq war, pissing off not only the US, but also its Australian allies, in the grand tradition, or so it appeared of David Lange. His name was invoked many a time. And why not? Helen learned her craft in under his and his successors' auspices.

It took a few years to wear the shine off Helen. A majority of New Zealanders—many of whom are almost pathologically anti-American and almost equally pathologically pro-Canadian and/or pro-Scandinavian, and maybe you see the trend here—applauded her inclinations to slag off countries like Israel, diplomatically and by such devices as ensuring 'exposure' of covert Israeli operatives in New Zealand; actions that earned her the epithet 'Hamas Helen'* in some circles.

As was inevitable, years in power and repeated election wins, have habituated not only Helen Clark, but the whole Labour government to 'being in power', with all the attendant results, many of which are unpleasant and directly lead to a corruption of the very purpose—if there ever was one, beyond politicians' desire to be in government!—that they apparently brought to the 'leadership' of the country. But Labour and Helen presided over a halcyon period of economic growth and that made up for a lot of sins. But the appellation 'The Right Honourable' as applied to Helen and her cronies is becoming more and more of a farce.

A few days ago, New Zealand signed a Free Trade Agreement with Mainland China—that's that large Asian country which calls itself a 'People's Republic'—the first such agreement between China and a Western country. I'm not going to get into the details of this, but suffice to say that it's probably a good thing for New Zealand—economically speaking, that is. And since New Zealand is, right now, in the throes of a severe economic downturn... Well, you've got to feed the mouths of your people. That's 'Realpolitik', is it not?

Well, maybe, and more than 'maybe'. But...

There's Tibet. And while even G.W.Bush, that much-despised and ridiculed demon, saw fit to comment unfavorably—though unsuccessfully—on China's behavior in that land; while the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, as recently as a few days ago on a visit to China effectively told them off for their human rights abuses—also without much effect, one should add; while all that was going on and in the lead-up to the signing of the agreement between China and NZ there was what can only be described as a deafening silence from the New Zealand government and its out-of-touch PM.

David Lange would have been horrified at this public display of evidence for the ultimate corruption of the tenets of what NZ Labour once claimed it stood for.

Is it any wonder, one may ask, that New Zealanders—as we did ourselves a few months back—are leaving the country in an ever-increasing torrent? And most of them do so as 'New Zealanders'; not as, like I and most of my family, citizens of both Australia and New Zealand, and folks with a history of repeated international 're-settlements'. This is significant, because it bespeaks of the lack of faith those who are leaving have in their home-country and its future; and I know that many really have no intention of ever returning. They may change their minds, but with the future as it looms right now, I doubt it'll be anything soon.

The descent of New Zealand into a darkness of sorts—a darkness of spirit that now is being accompanied by an economic downturn that no Free Trade deal with Chine is going to stave off—might be short-term, or it may last for longer; possibly for as long as a generation. Because it started quite a while ago, when everything still appeared much rosier; and when things build up their momentum like that, they tend to be hard to stop.

For the sake of New Zealand I hope this isn't going to be as bad and disheartening as it now appears.

* The epithet is not undeserved. After all it was much more likely to see the members of her cabinet and/or party displaying themselves holding hands with the likes of the late Yasser Arafat than shaking the hands of Israeli leaders. The gentleman in the suit below is the very same who just signed the Free Trade Deal with China.I rest my case. (And, yes, I know that Arafat was Fatah, not Hamas; but that's not the point here.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Billionaires Like Danger...

...or so one would conclude, given the following snippet or information, gleaned from here, and combining it with this.

Blondes are said to have more fun but it seems brunettes steal the hearts of billionaires.

Brunettes [...] are more likely to marry a successful man than their blonde sisters, a study today said.

Experts checked the hair colour of the wives and girlfriends of the world's top 100 billionaires. [...] 62 per cent were brunettes.

Fair-haired women came in a poor second with 22 per cent of the world's top billionaires marrying blondes.

Raven-haired women enticed just 16 per cent of the world's wealthiest men, while not one of top billionaires is married to a redhead.

I always wonder who the abovementioned 'experts' are, but what the heck. Let's suppose for a moment that the input data are valid.

I wonder if the study included Eastern World (Middle and Far East) potentate-billionaires, and what the stats are when looking at them alone. In fact, given that the study included 100 samples—which is a crapload of billionaires, given that they are referring to the 'top 100'!—it might be feasible to divide the sample up into smaller chunks with regional stats. I wonder what that would tell us.

And, yes, there's another, hidden, implication here. Feminists' hackles should be rising everywhere. Not because of the apparent objectification of women, based on hair color; because that's not really what it's all about at all. But I noticed that apparently the top 100 billionaires are all men.

So I wondered how many female billionaires there actually are. Wikipedia came to help here, as it often does. So there a a few, mostly from Europe and the US. Anybody care to survey their male SOs? I bet that in this case, as in so many other gender-related instances, the results will not be symmetrical to those quoted above. It should also be added that some of the 'top' female billionaires are kind of...well, 'old'. Which might lead to yet more interesting criteria that one could apply to comparative studies.

In fact is there anybody out there with lots of time on their hands? The internet is all you need.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More Foos

So, while I'm pondering another blog on profound themes, here's another Foo Tune from my list of favs...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Total Annihilation

Looking ahead even more than here, Scientific American gives us this intro to an article entitled The End of Cosmology?

A decade ago astronomers made the revolutionary discovery that the expansion of the universe is speeding up. They are still working out is implications.

The quickening expansion will eventually pull galaxies apart faster than light, causing them to drop out of view. This process eliminates reference points for measuring expansion and dilutes the distinctive products of the big bang to nothingness. In short, it erases all the signs that a big bang ever occurred.

To our distant descendants, the universe will look like a small puddle of stars in an endless, changeless void.

What knowledge has the universe already erased?

Stuff like this is the butter and meat and garnish in the sandwich of Absurdism. It also has a tendency to make me look at the world with a melancholy air. And last, but not least, it adds a ineffable pathos to what would otherwise be the merely-funny antics of an idiot trying to break into a liquor store.

What the instruments of astronomy and astrophysics have revealed to us is a picture of the universe that's very much at variance with the comparatively simple concepts extant only a few decades ago. The current thinking about the real-long-term future of LUE—based on observations made at the 'now' of our existence in the cosmic life cycle—isn't cheery by any means; and neither is the time leading up to it. All that, presuming of course, that there's someone around to watch it all develop.

What the article points out, maybe most poignantly, is that as time goes on, the universe progressively wipes out more and more evidence about its own past—and especially creation—and it is quite possible that it has already done enough of this dirty work to lead even us, who are at a comparatively early position in its (projected) history, to quite erroneous conclusions about what it is, where it came from and where it is going.

I'm not sure if I find that exhilarating or depressing. I mean, if I were one of those people who have a hankering for their 'roots' in order to be happy with who and what they are, because I need the context...if I were one of those people, then I guess glumness is a more likely response. On the other hand, as an Absurdist, I should maybe find it encouraging. For, does it really matter 'whence?' Is it not much more important 'where?' and 'where to?' Of course, the prospects of the ultimate 'where to?' aren't too cheery either. If cosmologists are right about an ever-increasing cosmic repulsive force, that would mean that in the end said force might well overwhelm all those forces that holds things together right now, and ultimately tear apart even atoms and maybe elementary particles—to leave a vast, disjoint void of...well, basically nothing...a cosmos maybe just as inherently incomprehensible as that which existed 'before' time began—which is just about the most incomprehensible thing going, at least for me.

Well, after all of that it was then much more cheery to read this here from the frontiers of biomedical research, which is about things much more immediate and what you might call 'humanly relevant'. And it occurs to me that here also we have a case of science revealing just how damn complicated and even-more-damn-complicated things are. But in this case the complexity of it all, though daunting and defying simple solutions, also offers hope that, on the scale not of hundreds of billions of years but of the next ten or so, things may actually look quite good.

So, let's take it one step at a time and see what we can do about that cosmic expansion and stuff when we get around to being able to deal with it.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Monday, April 07, 2008

But Honestly

Here, from my list of favorite Foo Fighter songs is 'But Honestly'; not so much for the lyrics, but for the style and pacing of the song. It's very typical of how the band slowly winds up a piece, from something giving a deceptive appearance of 'acoustic' into all out hard-ass rock.

And here's another example of the same style.

Works for me.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Self-discovery in the Supermarket

So, according to this, it's like this (inter alia):

Men are subconsciously attracted to fairer skin[ned women] because of [the fairer skin's] association with innocence, purity, modesty, virginity, vulnerability and goodness [...]. Women are attracted to men with darker complexions because these are associated with sex, virility, mystery, villainy and danger.


In effect, a preference for Colin Farrell over Daniel Craig or Monica Bellucci over Michelle Pfeiffer expresses a preference for danger.

Well, I don't know about Farrell and Craig, both of which I find 'average', but then again, I'm not a woman. But I have some fairly firm preferences in the Bellucci vs. Pfeiffer case. Very firm preferences. However, I'll keep the details to myself, if you don't mind.

But listen, how about the Political Incorrectness of it all! I mean, just cop a read of this:

In an analysis of more than 2,000 advertising photographs of men and women, the researchers found that the skin of white women was 15.2 per cent lighter than the skin of white males, and the skin of black women 11.1 per cent lighter than the skin of black men.

Advertising photographs were chosen because almost invariably the models were considered to be among the most attractive people of the races and genders.

And it doesn't end there, because...

[...] women with the darkest complexions were more likely to be in an advanced state of undress. They were also more likely to have a bared midriff, and only they are shown with bared feet or are implied to be totally nude.

The darkest-complexioned women in this group were also likely to be provocatively dressed, wearing underwear or similar clothing. Women with the lightest complexion are more likely to be conservatively dressed and portrayed as friendly, happy and honest.

With a researcher concluding that:

Physical lightness and darkness are aesthetic characteristics that... exemplify the link between aesthetic and moral judgements. On average, fair complexions in women are the dominant aesthetic ideal because sexual modesty and conventional femininity are the dominant behavioural ideal for women. However, there also exists an appreciation for a darker complexion in women, though less common, and this less-common aesthetic preference appears to coexist with a view of such women as more overtly sexual... darker women are seen as more promiscuous.

So, guys, who is it to be: Monica Bellucci or Michelle Pfeiffer? Jessica Biel or Nicole Kidman?

And the ladies: Colin Farrell or Daniel Craig? Ewan McGregor or Djimon Honsou?

Next time you glance, surreptitiously I would hope and with due shame, at some of the crappy mags flanking checkout counters—or maybe those you catch a quickie perve of as you wander past stands at the newsagent's or bookshop on your way to the Science or maybe Gardening sections—pause a moment to make your tiny voyeuristic orgasm into a data-collection exercise to determine where you fit into this scheme of things.

Are you Dangerperson ('Monica Bellucci Man' or 'Djimon Honsou Woman') hidden inside a Homebody—or maybe vice versa?

Since most of my readers, according to the map that tracks them, live in those parts of the world for which this study is pertinent, I would suggest that these questions may have relevance; especially since 'the researchers say that many judgements about beauty are made at a conscious level, such as about height, weight, leg length, and the shape of the nose and the mouth. "In contrast, other physical attractiveness ideals, including complexion... are made at the subconscious level," [...] '. So, this may be a way to gauge some of those things about yourself that ordinarily remain below the level of awareness.

So, embark on a journey of self-discovery in your local supermarket! Don't just waste the time spent in queues at the checkout! Don't feel bad about opening up that mag so seductively placed within ready reach and browse it without intent to buy, as you have so often done before—or maybe...ahh, whatever...just throw it into the basket or trolley and hope that no one you know and who might take the piss out of you actually saw you do it. Better even: now you can buy this shit and think of it as your very personal 'research material' to probe into the depths of your own psyche! Or maybe the dismal bilges of the psyches of those publishing this junk.

But is it really junk? After all, the researchers in the article referred to at the top and quoted from at length, would have spent considerable time wading through similar materials. So, why not you?


OMG, what have I done?!

Despite the disparaging attributes I have attached to the magazines in question, might I with this blog actually be actively contributing to increasing their circulation by providing those who would ordinarily have resisted, for reasons of shame if nothing else, to buy these rags, with gratuitous motivation for putting them onto the conveyor?

I hope not. Besides, it's probably enough if you just sneak a peek while waiting for the person ahead of you to finish loading their, overflowing of groceries onto the conveyor belt. And the next time you watch some dumb-ass show like the Academy Awards or Golden Globes—where everyone and sundry and the women above all, of course, are dressed up to the gazoo in what often are unbelievably awful dos—have a good look at who wears what and how this relates to what you've just read.

And not just that. There's a whole world of sociological observation opportunities opening up here, all provided by your local TV stations. For it isn't just possible correlations between the way people, and especially female people, are dressed and how that relates to the issues discussed above, but also how the witless reporters who interview them actually treat the interviewees; what kind of questions they ask; the body language; and so on. I'm sure there's ample more material for fascinating studies, some of which you might wish to conduct yourselves.

Or pretend to conduct, anyway...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Things People Do

From the 'unbelievably stupid' department of liquor store robberies, here's this:

And, continuing with the liquor theme...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My Office

Contingency and luck have contrived things in such a way that, for several days a week, I can work 'remotely', which saves me a crapload of traveling. Also, it means that I can work in my improvised office, which is on my rear veranda. All very cool.
And here's another gecko shot. This one was tiny; barely big enough to eat a small moth. But, as a friend of ours said when I commented on the many miniature geckos in our house, "they'll grow up". Well, I hope so. You need a fair-sized gecko to dispose of the larger roaches around here.
To conclude, only for those interested in matters world-political, here's a 'why-am-I-unsurprised?' item from the WSJ. Peggy Noonan's dictum that "history is an irony factory" kind of leaps to mind, don't it?