Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Unselfish Selfishness of Absurdism

It's an odd one, this. Listen to that Angel speech in the this blog again. This is the Absurdist's creed, packaged into a bit of Joss Whedon-penned monologue. It's fairly obvious and should ne no belaboring: if there's no one and nothing to provide 'meaning' and that all meaning emerges from oneself; all deeds are based on decisions ultimately prompted by what one thinks is right; and that said deeds are executed because for of one's 'liking', if you will, doing what one considers 'right'.

Religioids will claim that this means that the Absurdist is selfish, since her decisions are based on satisfying her own desire (to do as one likes). And ''selfish' is bad, as we all know. Hence the Absurdist isn't a good person. He'd be a much better one if he were to obey God—or whatever stupid authority one cares to dream up—instead of using his own pathetic judgment as the ultimate reference on which to base his deeds. Et cetera. Et cetera. And indeed, considering the self-indulgent, narcissistic self-love mantras of the New Age movement and its precursors and descendants, one might be inclined to be sympatico toward such sentiments.

However, 'selfishness', as might be implied from the above, is actually not what we're talking about in the Absurdist context. There is a difference between doing something because it satisfies one's desire and doing something because it benefits oneself. The former need not, and indeed often does not, lead to the latter. New Ageist selfishness, of course, does; as does the jejune kind that is epitomized by the phrase "And what about me?", or which takes any imagined or true action by someone else that is not of benefit to oneself as being personally directed at said 'oneself'. It's not "How could he/she do it?" but "How could he/she do it to me?": two words that completely and profoundly alter the subject of the phrase.

The Angel monologue is a mirror of the transition from selfishness to a state that is still self-motivated, but changes the focus of the speaker's motivations. The desire for personal redemption—often glorified as being a worthy personal goal, and not just by vanilla Hollywood fare, but also by a large sector of far more pretentious, nose-up-its-own-ass literature and film-making—is replaced by a desire to help others and to relieve suffering. Not for the glory of God or righteousness or something else outside oneself, but merely because one does not like people to suffer and desires to do what one can to make things different.

So, no, Absurdism is not selfish. It may well degenerate into Nihilism and from there lead to a life in Anomie, and this is prone to giving rise to all sorts of excesses. But it couldn't possibly be worse than the less appealing excesses of religiosity or ideology in general, and indeed it is much less likely to lead into such directions. There are good reasons for this, but I have decided that all of them will insult so many people in so many ways that I'd better shut up.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Health 'Fact'. Health Myth. Tomaito. Potahto.

Treat yourself to this.

Graphene Is Here. Dracoderm Is Coming.

Many heros of legend have been equipped—by means varying from 'blessings' by magical beings to bathing in the blood of, equally magical, dragons—with skins impenetrable by weapons; though usually, since that tends to be necessary for the story (1 2), there's some critical flaw that makes them vulnerable to those who know about it. Achilles's heel. Siegfried's (a.k.a. 'Sigurd') shoulder.



While impenetrable skin is biologically undesirable for humans, the next best thing is some kind of equally impenetrable armor, and the history of martial technology could be written as the history of armor and weapons designed to kill the wearer anyway. This goes for personal protection as well as the more large-scale kind.

The topic here tough is personal armor: the kind you wear on your body.

We've come a long way along that path. Science and technology have gone hand-in-hand to produce some fairly amazing materials, the currently-in-vogue one being Kevlar, which is the staple basis of most personal armor today, enhanced, for different purposes, with various other inlaid materials. One of the most recent variations on the 'personal armor' theme is something called 'Dragon Skin', which is, you must admit, quite impressive.


I have shamelessly latinized Dragon Skin to 'Dracoderm' and used it in my novels. There's even a domain name that goes with it, and which I am going to do some work on one of these days soon.

As usual with such technology-based things, reality tends to catch up with imagination these days; and though the still-to-be-invented 'Dracoderm' works on very different principles to the scaly Dragon Skin and provides radiation protection as well—don't you love it the way I talk about it as if it already existed?—there are some suggestions that we're getting there; and it may come as no surprise to those working in research on the properties of that amazing element, Carbon, which seems to provide an ever-broadening spectrum of possible configurations and resulting uses.

So, here's the two-dimensional configuration, called 'Graphene', being prodded by a diamond microprobe. (Yeah, I know it's a diagram!)


Click on the image for more info

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Comment on Comments

As it sometimes happens, I received a comment on a recent blog—won't say which. I moderate comments I receive, for excellent reasons, all based on past experience. Some would call this 'censorship', but so be it. You can call it anything you like. But this blog isn't a 'forum', but a private display-board, if you will; and what I allow anyone else to scrawl on it is entirely my choice.

The comment I received contained statements I agree with. Unfortunately it also contained a link to a website, which I checked out and whose contents I do not wholly endorse; worthy though they are in many ways. Now, I could have just struck the website link from the comment and published the 'edited' version, but I'm not going to start that kind of game. If the commenter wishes to resubmit the comment, in its current form minus the link, or in some other form, he's more than welcome to do so.

I will, however, mention this: that comments with site-links will not be published, and especially not comments with links to sites that have an obvious connection to the commenter and could thus be understood as promoting said sites or engaging in similar acts of proselytization.

I don't put 'ads' on my blogs. Period. That goes for explicit ones as well as what Germans call 'Schleichwerbung': what translates into something like 'stealthy advertising' and is often known under the appellation of 'product placement'.

In the internet world of just about everybody taking just about every opportunity of making themselves better known and heard by all sorts of means, I am taking this stand because it seems like a good position to take up. It doesn't matter how worthy the cause and even if it is non-commercial. If I link to something it's because I endorse the linked-to organization so much, that my differences with them are paltry in comparison to my agreements. This is my prerogative and readers will have to live with this. No apologies made.

No doubt this will piss some people off, but that's life.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Terminator Salvation


So, looks like I was right and the Terminator series continues without Arnie, which is all for the good. Unfortunately it also continues without Nick Stahl and Claire Danes, from T3, whom I really would have liked to have seen in those roles.

Still, Christian Bale as John Connor seems like a reasonable choice, though it'll put quite a different slant on everything—which need not be a bad thing. T3 already was a distinct break with T1 and T2. This in effect just continues the trend. Let's hope it lives up to its potential.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lesbos locals lose lesbian appeal

OK, so this title was too good to pass up. Unfortunately behind the puerile smirks and winks and nods lurks something just a tad more troubling, for this is the conclusion to an issue that was first raised some time ago:

Lesbos islanders dispute gay name

and now, after almost three months, it turns out that they lost their case at first base, in a Greek court. Hence:

Lesbos locals lose lesbian appeal

I'm not going to discuss the merits of this whole issue, but it has a touch of grim irony about it, plus a goodly dose of your usual run-of-the-mill double-standards.

For one consider this: can you imagine what would have happened if the islanders in question hadn't been some basically 'white' Europeans but some 'indigenous community', suitably downtrodden and with a past history of having been victimized by evil Western Colonialism? The worldwide outcry at the (ab-)usage of their name would have been deafening.

Or so you would think. Maybe. Very much 'maybe'! For try to imagine the whole of the affected anglo-Western (...what can we or are we allowed to call them?—I think I'll settle on ' OTPOTSS' which the British government considers appropriate, and so why not?) community accepting a judgment that would not have gone against the islanders!

And here's another joke, though it, too, is a grim one when seen in this context. Also, let's face it, we've got to be careful about historical narrative, which is after all, almost all fiction and ususally tailored to suit whomever it is meant to serve.

But if it is true that "new historical research has discovered that Sappho had a family, and committed suicide for the love of a man" (the poetess, Sappho, and her origin being the reason for the sexual context of the word 'lesbian'), then the whole thing assumes a supreme and almost exquisite degree of absurdity.

But, let's face it, it isn't actually funny. Hypocrisy rarely is.

Lion Love

OK, so I couldn't resist putting this one here...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It Takes Jupiter to Tango

Harking back to this, where I said that I suspected that maybe we're much more alone in the universe than the ET-philiacs would have us believe...

Well, here's some fresh news on the Where-Is-ET? front:

Solar systems like ours may be rare

Just thought I'd follow that up...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shocking stuff: Italians to Al Gore

Snapshots from across the spectrum of human depravity and stupidity...

Italian sunbathers [relax] at the beach despite the nearby presence of the bodies of two Gypsy girls

Cruelty, instantiated in this kind of indifference, denial and detachment, is beyond my comprehension. I know it exists, but 'comprehension' is a different thing altogether.

Gore Makes Energy Challenge, Exits in Long-Idling Limo

Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi, I guess. Surprise fails to materialize. Of course, the Greenies among my readers will me more likely to fawn over the second part of this video, where Al (a.k.a. 'Manbearpig') continues to hold forth, blahblah blahblah blahblah. And the dismal stupidity of some of the commentaries on the video, as well as that exhibited by the interviewed attendees leaves me breathless. What a piece of work is... Ahh, foxtrot it.

And get a load of this:
I just knew there had to be some Islamic counterpart to the Jesus face in the plant root or the Virgin Mary face in the toasted sandwich.

On the page there are a few links ( 1 2 3 4 ) that make me realize that the phenomenon has epidemic proportions, occasionally even causing criminal behavior.

Terry Goodkind made his name with a fantasy novel called Wizard's First Rule. Though he ultimately succumbed to pointless seriesitis, the First Rule is something that not only wizards, but all people-manipulating scoundrels have used since time immemorial.

People are stupid. Given the right conditions anybody can be made to believe anything.

What do you believe?

Monday, July 14, 2008

100 Reasons to Invade New Zealand

Apparently NZers didn't find this funny, and an official complaint was lodged after this—spoof, in case you haven't noticed!—ad was aired on a satirical Australian ABC show.

Very f..ing funny.



Here, for those who want more, is the program context, in which the ad appeared. There's another—spoof!—ad in here, but apparently this did not attract complaints.



And, since we're in 'offensive' mode and one Mr. Ratzinger—a.k.a. 'Pope'—is currently visiting Oz, with all the attendant and live issues about child molestations by Catholic clergy, why don't we top if off with this:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Utopia

This is a l-o-n-g one, sorry, and since it's 'transhuman' related it's been placed here.

You've been warned! It might have a soporific quality.

Rabbit Lovers Beware


Do not, and I repeat DO NOT, read this...

Rabbit ripper
shocks Germany


What is the world coming to? GLOBAL WARMING! suddenly doesn't seem to matter anymore.

Please ignore the fact that by belly is twitching as I battle my near-futile attempts to control... Ahh, never mind.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Where Is ET?

Nick Bostrom's article on the undesirability of finding life on Mars got me thinking, as articles of that kind will. These thoughts come, I guess, with being a writer of what passes mostly as 'science-fiction'.

It also reminds me that in my 'space' novels there are no alien intelligences—nor do I have any intentions of introducing any. The reasons for this are two-fold:
  1. I don't need aliens to tell my stories.
  2. I've come to consider seriously the possibility that maybe there is no 'life' as we know it in the galaxy, or maybe anywhere, in this universe.
Regarding (1):

There are two reasons why one should introduce 'aliens' into sci-fi stories. Both of these reasons subsume a great many variations on a theme, but basically that's all they are. Sometimes they overlap, but that's not germane to the argument. The reasons are these:

(a) A desire to speculate about the nature of 'intelligent life' and what it could look like and what results 'contact' between 'them' and 'us' might have for either species or life-form.

(b) Aliens are used to explore and highlight aspects of human behavior, individual and social.

About (a), I think we've now been-there-done-that and pretty much exhausted the use of the speculative in investigating this. It was interesting when it first came our way, but nothing actually new has been added to it for quite a while. Besides, the real point has usually been missed, which is that we actually have no idea what 'alien intelligence' even means or could mean. We'd probably have more of a notion of what would or could go on in the 'mind' of an A.I. we've created, even if it's a 'super'-A.I., than of 'aliens'.

Everything that's ever been written has been conceptually and contextually anthropocentric, and it can never be any different. I think even the idea of the existence of some 'basic' form of communication, such as that conceived by SETI or attempts to send signals into outer space, is presumptuous. It's based on the assumption of the universality of our mathematics and science—all of which, as one needs to reminds oneself, is based on the way our brains work; and there's no guarantee that there could not be a gazillion different ways of 'brains' to conceptualize and systematize the 'scientific', and that these conceptualizations would be completely incomprehensible to another form of intelligence.

Regarding (b), the device has some merit; but I think other humans are sufficiently incomprehensible and puzzling to give us endless material for 'behavior exploration'. Why trouble with the overhead of contriving 'aliens'? It was cool in the early days of SF, and the likes of Jack Vance have had a field day with the technique. But it's time to move on, methinks. The point is also, that we know nothing much more today that'll help us with figuring out what 'aliens' might be like than we knew in the early days of sci-fi.

All of this means that I have no interest in aliens and latter day SF involving 'aliens'—with a few notable exceptions, like Rewind, where the aliens, however, were just a stand-in for deities bearing certain gifts. Besides, aren't humans so very much more interesting?

Regarding (2):

I know that you can use 'statistics' to 'prove' that there just has to be more life than just ours in the galaxy and/or the universe at large. But let's face it, there's lies, damn lies and statistics, as the saying goes; and there are the assumptions that you base your statistics on.

With the hubris typical of scientism, late 20th century sensibilities and a reaction against long-established monotheist dogma—which tends to favor the notion that we're all the life there is and ever will be—assumptions were reworked so that 'statistical analysis', both scientific and 'commonsense' indicated hat there had to be life on other places than humble Earth. The post-Copernican astronomical paradigm—Earth is not at the center of the universe or in any way special—translated into a biological one. Nowadays the conclusion is considered too obvious to dispute, and only religioids are generally considered capable of entertaining other notions.

I think it's pretty much implicit in what I said before that I think science based on unquestioned assumptions driven by social bias and political and social correctness is bad science. As far as E.T. is concerned I cannot see any evidence whatsoever—except that produced by flakey stats based on flakey assumptions—for the existence of any form of 'life' that we would recognize as such; and even less, if that were possible, for the existence of 'intelligence'.

Bottom line: we may actually be all alone. The one and only spark of life the universe has ever brought forth, and maybe the only one it ever will give rise to.

The answer to the question may be that the question is meaningless. And I wonder, if maybe it's all that bad an answer. There is no God and there's no E.T. Nobody to help or hinder us. It's all, again, up to us to make of what we are what we can be.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

ALERT: cyberspace screwups fixed (I think!)

All right, so my cyberspace presence—and especially that of owlglass.com—appears to have been restored.

Some associated domain links still need to filter through to be restored to their former place, but that shouldn't be longer than a few days. By and large, things should be back to as 'normal' as anything in cyberspace can be.

Fingers crossed, spin around thrice and sing a magical incantation.

How To Live Forever or Die Trying

I've decided to split some topics off this blog, so please go here.