Saturday, August 30, 2008

We're So Frelled; We'll Be Dead In 43 Microts.

The initiated will instantly recognize the lingo. Those who aren't...well, you are, I guess, to be pitied.

We are, of course, talking FarScape.



...and you can work out for yourself what 'frelled' means, and a 'microt': well, still haven't quite worked it out, but the hints are that it's about a second, give or take. An 'arn' is an hour(-ish).

FarScape had a core cast through its four seasons, plus the miniseries that completed a story that extended over some 65 hours of TV (ignoring ads). There also was a semi-core cast that drifted in and out and out and in. The story was episodic for a couple of seasons, with several threads holding it together. Then it raised the stakes and picked up the pace; becoming less episodic, and finally, toward the end of the final season, it was the longest and strongest sustained thread I've come across in a TV series. The Peacekeeper Wars miniseries at the end was basically a major feature film in HD format; and, on several levels, more powerful than Serenity, which is kind of a benchmark for me.



FarScape is superb story-telling. It poses endless serious questions, and you kind of know it is asking them, but at the same time you are really gripped by the story; so it isn't in-your-face.

The most serious issue it brought up for me, in the sense of making me say "hmm, now what's this really all about?", was that of what constitutes personal identity, and it is this I want to talk about here. The matter came up during the latter half of S3, when John Crichton, astronaut stranded in a distant place because of a worhole transition, suffered what you might call 'duplication'.

I'll paraphrase the FarScape scenario into a suitable thought experiment; and, no, it isn't a new one, but FarScape sustained it far beyond the superficial silly-level common to most other variations on the theme, both literary and cinematographic.

So, here's the scenario:

Two adjacent rooms, connected by a door. Well, two doors actually—or maybe not. You exit Room A through one door and two of 'you' enter Room B through two side-by-side doors at exactly the same time.

You look left and see...you. You also look right and see...you. That you and you seeing you and you.

You and you are astonished at seeing you and you; understandably so, I guess.

Anybody capable of performing a complete scan of either one of 'you' would find no difference in the physical configuration or physical and mental states of you and you. Either of you reacts exactly as the other would in response to finding you in this situation. The two John Crichtons played paper-scissor-rock until the cows came home; yet they always came up with the same thing at the same time. The game became the symbol of their desire to differentiate between themselves, but it never succeeded.

So, who are you? The one looking left or the one looking right?

Thing is, there's no 'original' and no 'copy', as in the usual scenarios. None of this cloning stuff I talked about some time back. None of the two 'you' can claim to know who is the original, since there isn't any. Both of you will be convinced, for all the usual reasons, that you are you and the other one can't be—because our uniqueness is a basic cognitive axiom, if you will.

In FarScape, the 'real' John Crichton thinks he knows who he is, but the other knows it, too: that he is just as 'real'. The theme is pursued through several episodes as the two John Crichtons follow their diverging paths, until one of them is killed.

I found the thoughts resulting from this story-thread troubling. I know that there isn't going to be any 100% instant duplicator available anytime soon—at least I think not—but thoguth experiments have a venerable tradition in science. The Special Theory of Relativity for example is the result of a bunch of thought experiments whose results weren't verified until decades after the theory was proposed by Einstein. Stories are, in many ways, like thought experiments about all kinds of things, and FarScape had a lot of those.

The Two-Crichtons thread made me at least question the whole notion of 'personal identity' and whatever definitions we have for it. Certainly, there is nothing in the philosophy of 'mind' or 'the self' that accommodates two identical 'you's. But in principle it is not physically impossible to construe such a double-entity; and since we're physical creatures we must ask ourselves what that actually means for our understanding of ourselves.

Some will argue—and this is a standard device to demolish the thought experiment—that, all right, at the very first instant of duplication you and you were the same, but everything after that serves to make you into different people, since you're subjected at every level, to differing 'experienes' that will guarantee that the 'identity' is destroyed.

But the device is questionable, and tries to skirt the issue by avoiding answering the original question by re-defining 'you' as whatever comes out of the duplicated identity. But that doesn't deal with the issue of what you and you actually think, and how you understand what you are. It's easy to look at it from the outside and say "this is so", but that's from a point of view that isn't yours and yours. Meaning the device fails because of its inherent incompleteness and the reliance on the assumption that 'identity' can be defined objectively from the outside of the object in question.

If you're wanting to investigate the issue further, treat yourself to this test, which will invariably raise more questions than it answers; but also will reveal things about your own notions about what constitutes 'you'. As you may have gathered I consider these at least as if not more weighty than those looking at the issue from without.

Have fun.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Spread the Gospel

Michael Moore: Stop reading now

Does anybody really need any more proof that this guy is...how can I put it? 'Stupid'? Really, really stupid. Really, totally, completely, ass-wipe stupid. Oops, hang on, wasn't he the one who wrote a book called Stupid White Men? Ahh, the irony...

Germans flex their funny bone

'Flex'. 'Bone'. Crack. I wonder if they'll still laugh. Or maybe they do think it's funny.

Anyway, to make sure we do get at least one laugh on this post...


Monday, August 25, 2008

Chocolate Is Good For You

But we knew that, yes?

Disclosure: the research may not have been entirely neutral; but you'll have to judge for yourself.

Crackpots

Here's a little story a great martial arts teacher sent around yesterday. I thought I'd share it.

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what the cracked pot perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. 'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.'

The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?' 'That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.' 'For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.'

Friday, August 22, 2008

Another Bit Of News From Another World

I'll cite this verbatim; it's too precious not to:

Young man stabbed in 'potato peeler game'

A 20-year-old man found with serious stab wounds to his stomach outside his apartment in Hjo, south-west Sweden, apparently received his injuries during a game involving potato peelers.

According to Lars Johansson of the Swedish police, the man was involved in a game in which two people stick potato peelers into each others stomachs in order to prove to each other that they are real men. In this case, the game went a little too far.

Lars Johansson told Sveriges Radio that other young men in Hjo are also known to have tested playing the extreme game.

The young man's injuries were not life threatening.

The case is currently with the public prosecutor, who has not yet decided on what action to take.

The man who stabbed the 20-year-old with the potato peeler is not under arrest and was not hospitalized for any injuries.

Knee-jerk reflex compels me to look for a 'moral' here, but in this instance the mind boggles.

"Don't stab people with potato peelers," is one obvious thing here. But another is this—and if you follow the link to the article and browse through this Swedish news organ a bit more: living in a country with Sweden's extreme 'socialized' framework really, really doesn't help people to make better choices in their lives. If anything it's the other way around. I've heard of bizarre rituals proving manhood, but to be desperate enough to resort to potato peelers, that adds a whole new level of strangeness.

The whole question of "why potato peelers?" is yet to be resolved. It could be because these morons really are morons who think that they can't really, really hurt each other with such instruments; but who love to pretend that they can. Well, they can; so there. The other possible answer is that in a society like Sweden's where the state has virtually completely stripped the common populace of weapons, potato peelers are the most dangerous weapon still in public hands and, presumably, obtainable at any supermarket—though I wonder if a ban will follow soon enough. And then, how will the Swedes peel their potatoes—without a potato-peeler permit, that is!

In a country of real men they would have used proper knives and guns!

Still, one shouldn't mock the Swedes. After all New South Wales has made the carrying, without an excellent reason, of laser-pointers in public a criminal offense. Right now that only applies to the green, high-power type, but your common garden red laser is sure to follow soon. Just give those control-freak screwballs a reason or two.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More From The Frontiers Of The Bizarre And The Irrelevant

Woman died of natural causes; was not stabbed

What is the world coming to?

Tattoo Expo Performer Suspended by Metal Hooks Falls and Breaks Leg

The lessons here are too multilayered to grasp all at once: like don't perform at tattoo expos and definitely do not get yourself suspended by metal hooks (though wooden ones might be okay).

Mourners Shocked to Discover 'Dead Man' Was Just on Vacation

So death is just a vacation. The new metaphysics for the 21st century.

Dead carp find friends in songwriting husband and wife

Everything is grist for the mill of the muse.

Drunk Latvian boat captain found on Estonian island

He definitely crossed a line there.


Roseanne Barr: Angelina Jolie 'Evil,' Brad Pitt 'Vacuous'

Ugly pot. Pretty kettle. Black.

The Great Colorado cow and bear confrontation

Let me guess: Roseanne mistaking the bear for Brangelina?

With DNC in mind, city bans carrying urine, feces

Keep Obama smelling clean.

German nudist jailed after not paying fines

Seriously, if you looked like this, would you let the world know?
Warning: Potentially traumatizing images!

Russian-made police cars let criminals on Porsche escape police easily

Doh!

And here's a selection from an 'organ' of the Russian State called 'Pravda', which means 'The Truth'—and as everybody could have guessed, anything with such a pompous-ass name surely has no connection with said 'Truth'. Indeed, Pravda makes a biased rag like the NYT look even-handed by comparison. Not only that, but there's some truly bad 'science' in here as well. So enjoy—or not, as the case may be.

Condoleeza Rice and the insult to international diplomacy

Hang on there! This is the country ruled over by someone called 'Putin', yes?

Jupiter and its moons prepare nuclear winters for Earth

I can't even begin to tell you how stupid this is!

Sex crimes increase dramatically in summer because of women’s scanty outfits

By comparison this appears almost sensible.

And, more disturbing images from a Russian 'organ' to finish off this litany of the inane...

Muscular bronze stallion with weird human genitalia advertises provincial hotel

Warning: this article contains disturbing images from another world.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Watch Your Step: You're in Italy!

Let me quote this article verbatim; it's short enough...

No sandcastles please, you're in Italy

Sat Aug 16, 2008 11:17am EDT

ROME (Reuters) - When in Capri, don't wander off the beach in a bikini. If you go to the sea in Eraclea, near Venice, remember that building sandcastles is forbidden. And don't even think about mowing your lawn at the weekend in Forte dei Marmi.

Emboldened by a nationwide crackdown on crime and a government decree giving them extra law-and-order powers, Italian mayors have issued a string of often bizarre by-laws to enhance "public decorum".

Public displays of affection in a car can earn you a fine of up to 500 euros ($745) in Eboli, feeding pigeons is off-limits in the centre of Lucca while in Novara groups of more than two people are forbidden from lounging around in parks at night.

Italian newspapers have dubbed this year's holiday season "the summer of bans". But this week one town hall was forced to acknowledge things may have gone too far.

Rodrigo Piccoli, 33, called national radio to protest after he was fined 50 euros for lying down in a park in the northern city of Vicenza to read a book. The mayor has since promised to drop the ban.

What is it with people and regulations? This reads like something out of a Jack Vance novel. Talk about life imitating art.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Art Speaks

The other day, driving back from the Gold Coast to our home in the NW of Brisbane, I turned on the radio—tuned by default to Brisbane's only non-commercial station—only to drop into a talk show, mixed in with a bad selection of retro music, in which the host was asking listeners to give him the low-down of what they thought 'Art' was saying to them, or should be saying, or was saying at all, or might be or could... You get the idea, I'm sure.

Predictably, the responses were a wank-fest of inane ponderousness, perfectly matching the question; which proved, if proof were needed, that the answers are indeed in the questions. Always.

Then, a couple of evenings ago, 'Art' came up again, this time in a post-news magazine on TV. The anchor interviewed an Australian theater director of some note, who now lives somewhere else, and who has little good to say about how the Australian 'Art' scene is supported, or not, by the Australian government. No need to go into the details of the plaint, which are in any case, nuncupatory. The interesting point though was that this gentleman, like his interviewer, as well as the host and callers-in to that radio show some days before, treated 'Art' like it was something that could be defined clearly enough to, for example, be used in a context like 'Arts Funding'—which is, of course, what all his plaints were about: that the 'Arts' did not receive the appropriate funding or funding for the 'right' kinds of things, and that basically they were more valuable than a lot of other stuff that's going on in society—like 'Sports', which is always a good bashing boy.

The rationale for this assertion was that the 'Arts' represented those activities that would leave the legacy which will, in some future, testify to what we are today, in a similar manner, and this dumb-ass argument always seems to come up, that 'Greek' and 'Roman' arts are a kind of monument for what those cultures were, and that around this, after all, our own culture has developed. In other words, we basically should spent lots of money now on 'Arts' so that 'future generations' should benefit from it.

I'll get back to the questionable nature of that kind of priority-setting in a moment. First of all though, can we please have a reality check on the nature of 'Art'. I would like to submit that, whatever nebulous definition of the subject one might wish to concoct, the following is almost self-evidently true:

Art is an Industry.

Answers.com provides, inter alia, the following set of definitions for 'Industry':
  • Commercial production and sale of goods.
  • A specific branch of manufacture and trade.
  • The sector of an economy made up of manufacturing enterprises.
  • Energetic devotion to a task or an endeavor.
  • Ongoing work or study associated with a specified subject.
'Art' pretty much fulfills all of those. There are producers and those who supply the producers with raw materials. There's a marketing/sales/distribution network. Some producers do well, while others don't; their fate determined by themselves, their products and the 'marketplace'.

Lest someone thinks that this view of 'Art' is cynical: it isn't. It is, in many ways, the only way in which 'Art' can be properly defined, so that it can compete in the marketplace of commodities for whatever share it can get. Indeed, when all the high-brow bullshit is stripped away, whenever someone pleads for 'funding' of 'the Arts' in any way, shape or context, this is precisely what is being implicitly admitted, though rarely said aloud. The moment economy enters the equation, 'Art' enters the same playing field as...oh, say beer.

The only real question about 'Art'-the-Industry is whether it should be funded based on considerations that aren't 'marketplace'; as would be, again the same example, beer. Reason why I picked beer is that by and large people consider the beer industry as not requiring 'public funding'. Also, like beer, the Arts produce 'optional' things. That's as opposed to, say, anything having to do with utilities, health care, education, tools, transport, building and so on. Some things are required—though not necessarily to the absurd extent they are often provided—and others aren't.

Art and beer aren't 'required'. They'll be provided anyway, because lots of people like Art and beer and are willing to pay for it; and that generates 'marketplace forces'. But for the administrative elements of a society (a.k.a. 'government') to spend contributions by members of said society provided, often at gunpoint, to said governments (a.k.a. 'taxes') to support activities outside the scope of the 'required', that should be a matter for debate. And I think it is highly legitimate to ask just exactly what is more important for the 'future' of society and the world and whatever: spending $XXX on supporting the Arts or spending the same $XXX on, say, the provision of more readily available and better equipped health services.

I know, and what about all the poor artists? All that talent that goes unsupported? All those great works that will never be produced, because the encouragement of 'funding' wasn't available? All that culture that'll never be produced and left for our descendants? All the beauty that'll never see the light of day, because those who might otherwise have produced it didn't because they had to earn money to support themselves and the hungry mouths of their families?

All these questions are legitimate. However, the answer may well be "Get in line!" The notion that the 'Arts' somewhow deserve a special place in the doling out of tax-payer collected funds is at least questionable. And, while it is true that a lot of 'artistic talent' may go down the gurgler because it wasn't 'supported'...well, isn't that kind of thing true at any level; not just the financial one? How much talent is wasted because of social pressure on the taleneted ones, because of parental neglect, because of life's endless whimsically-contrary contingencies?

But could it not also be that there's something else here; something that goes beyond our superficial notions of 'talent', 'nurturing' andhow that relates to 'Art' or anything else that requires similar personal human effort, persistence and so on? Could it not be—and I'm just putting this out there as a notion that'll probably find few takers—that the result of trying to nuture every potential talent is actually counterproductive?

In one episode of Angel, Wesley, being charged with the organization of a castle invasion and the deposition of a tyrannical rule, sends a part of his castle-invading troups to what is almost certain death. When someone points this out to him, his reply is something like "in certain situations, making sure that everybody survives just will get everybody killed".

I wonder if this isn't true in this particular context as well—as I suspect it is in lots of others, no matter how uncomfortable that notion might make us feel. Maybe there is more to 'Art' than just talent and the nurturing of said talent, or the provision of opportunities for 'talent' in general to flourish. Maybe 'Art' actually benefits from more...well, let me call it 'robustness'—in the artists themselves. Maybe that thing, whatever it is—drive, ambition, vision, tenacity, a sense of mission, need—is just as and maybe even more important. Art involves the 'production' of something and the quality and value what's being produced may depend on much more than just someone or a whole bunch of someone's thinking that they are more 'creative' and therefore in some sense 'better' and more valuable to 'culture' and future generations than the rest of the, by implication less 'cultured', masses around them.

There is a difference between helping those in true need and just plain 'pampering'. Artistic endeavor, being by its nature 'optional', does not really qualify as 'needy' in that sense. Neither do artists. I'm saying this as someone who was born into a family of artists, and who probably can lay claim to being an 'artist', though I tend to reject the appellation. But the 'family of artists' I was born into was of the kind that not only combined an urge for personal creativity with a sense of what you might call 'artistic integrity', but also with an understanding that if 'Art' is meant to earn a living, even if only of the 'just-sufficient' kind, then you do what it takes to make it so, rather than waiting for, or demanding as if somehow it were your divine right, tax-dollar handouts for what basically amount to an enterprise in personal satisfaction—all-too-often of entirely unwarranted vanity. There are people in much greater need of, or actually deserving of, public-fund assistance than those aspiring to 'artistry'.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Couple of Very Cool Images (just because they're there)

The Right to Privacy

Australia has recently been added to the list of those places were Google's 'Street View' is available; meaning that in a large number of population centers people with cameras have driven up and down streets and taken endless photos. These include not only images of 'public' buildings etc, but also suburban houses, park areas and so on—basically everything that can be seen from a street where someone might drive along. In effect your house, if you live in one of those photographed places, has just become such a 'public place'. I know mine has; I checked.

From some quarters there was an outcry: about how our privacy had been rolled back yet again, infringed upon, violated. Never mind that the outcry didn't last long: the media got bored of it within a mere two days!

And it is true that 'privacy' (1 2) had been stripped of yet another layer. Suddenly people can not just look down on your house from above, but also from street level. The argument that the information thus obtained could be used by antisocial elements to 'case' you place in preparation for, say, robbing you, is cogent and irrefutable. So is the one that relates not to you but more 'public' issues; for example that terrorists will use such information for much larger-scale mischief.

But such is life in the information world and the days of he internet. In recent work-related web researches I have come across information about the operations of 'security'-type forces that appears innocuous, yet when considered some more, reveals a lot about their operations and systems that I, were I responsible for publicity at these organizations, would keep a tight lid on.

But I was going to talk 'privacy' and our 'rights' to it and the subsequent violations of said rights.

First of all, a reality check.

'Privacy' is a canard.

'Privacy' is a concept accompanying historically fairly recent trends toward large-scale urbanization and fractionalization of society—and that only in certain parts of the world, those being mainly in the 'West'. In the 'old days', and even in the current days for most humans alive, privacy simply didn't exist, except at the level of 'thought', and even there it was highly doubtful that it existed, because—like today—vast masses of people actually do believe that there's a God who knows what's going on inside their heads, and who basically peeks into everything they do; and I mean everything.

Not much 'privacy' there, is it?

People will argue that 'God' is exempt from the list of those whose noses you don't want in your business; and that 'privacy' has to do with other people not snooping around where they shouldn't. That's cool, but traditionally that state of affairs was exceptional at best. In smaller-scale communities everybody basically knew and still knows everybody's business, because that's just the way it is. A lack of 'privacy' is essential for the maintenance of 'community'. The desire for 'privacy' is a desire for isolation. Granted: some part of a healthy psyche requires such isolation; but the truth of even such a limited-scope statement may not be acceptable in many cultures.

That, after becoming large-scale urbanized and fragmented, we should now find our privacy chipped away on by the ready availability of images from above and street-level of our residences, is ironic, to say the least. But it isn't the grimmest of ironies, which is this: we are afraid of the wrong kinds of 'privacy invasions'.

Google Maps? Google Street View? Schmoogle Maps!

The likelihood that someone's going to find out something about you they shouldn't know through these is minuscule compared to the invasion into your lives by leviathan-scaled peddlers and that other great destroyer of liberty known as 'The Government'. Never mind whether they call themselves 'democratic' or whatever else they're willing to admit to. If you're worried about your privacy, worry about the gazillion cameras in public places, all placed there to 'protect people' or 'prevent crime' of course, but at the same time effectively tracking your every move. Worry about the bizarre powers of taxation authorities. Worry about the myriad apparently-benign ways in which your lives are controlled and checked up upon, just to make sure that we're good citizens; all these things being ostensibly designed to 'protect the community', or 'making us safer', or 'looking after our welfare'.

The 'privacy invasions' of the small-community have been replaced by those of organized government. This is nothing new, of course. But what has changed is the capability of governments to do so—and they're using this newly-developed capability to the utmost of their ability.

'Privacy' never really existed on any large scale, and with things going as they are, it never will either. And with the lazy-ass societies that we, in the West, have developed and are still developing, the process will only accelerate.

Of course, every now and then, the benign dictatorships of the world will ease off a bit, just to make us feel that maybe we're not straight-jacketed quite as much as we may fear we are.

Sweden Eases Rules on Naming Children; 'Budweiser' Now OK


Like WOW! Now that should make the Swedes feel much better about life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

OK, so find the theme here... (and which one is the odd one out?)

Drive naked, save America

This may be the solution to tackling the Greenhouse Effect!

No-nose Bicycle Saddles Improve Penile Sensation And Erectile Function In Bicycling Police Officers

But who wants horny cops on bicycles?

The Hazards of Too Much Sex

Does it make you blind after all?

Nigerian advises against 86 wives

And, being a Nigerian, he'll send you a million dollars in inheritance money. Just email him your bank account number, access code and password.

Giant smelly flower puts on sex show in Belgium

OK, so do I hear "Little Shop of Horrors"?

Man says he's porn inspector, demands free videos

Words fail me.

Bacon makes everything better - even chocolate?

And this is just damn, f..ing wrong!

Things That Belong In Weird Movies

This thing definitely belongs into that category.

click on the image above for a really big picture


The Law Of The Cucumber

OK, so I just could not not share this:

Al-Qa'eda in Iraq alienated by cucumber laws and brutality

And—well, maybe I'm watching too much of Angel at the moment—there's this here, which struck me as just a tad outside range of the 'ordinary':

Flight of the dead

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Traipsing on: From the Merely Strange to the just plain Weird.

Now you see him; now you dont

If they convert this into a radiation shield, the money spent on the research could save the species. But I might be thinking too far ahead.

Sauna Championships

There so much more going on in this world that just the Olympics.

FIGHT GLOBAL WARMING

Another solution (at least for meat eaters).

FIGHT GLOBAL WARMING

With a shitload of luck The Guardian will be one of the first casualties of rising sea levels—but don't hold your breath.

Vampire Deaths

And you thought Angel in L.A. had a vampire problem!

Just keep focused on the really important things in life

I hope she keeps a doggy-poo bag and a pooper-scooper in her car.

"Now she works only on her own horse, Chanty."

Possibly R-rated! Seriously: you might not want go there!

Just snip it

There's lies, damn lies, and agenda-'science'.

Do Muppets Ever Get Colds?

Well, maybe they don't, but people do. And I have a doozy of a cold right now. Nose spontaneously and unpredictably turning into a leaky spigot, swallowing gunk provided courtesy of my sinuses, sudden coughing fits at night that keep me and my wife awake, a head that feels like it's twice its usual size and weight, and all the other goodies that come with this kind of infection.

Colds make you miserable, and they're right 'there' in your face—literally!—and by and large you feel like shit, and you want to complain and winge and just lie down and do nothing until it's all gone by.

Right.

But then I walked into my living room yesterday morning, and on some morning show they were talking to a woman who was, for the time being anyway, still surviving a bout with one of the most lethal cancers extant (ovarian cancer), and I got a glimpse of a lady that instantly struck me as an extremely life-affirming person; posture, smile, general demeanor, everything. And it was like 'whoa!'. And as I walked out of the room—didn't have time to watch the interview—I heard the interviewer asking something like "Tell me about how this all started," and she replied something along the lines of "Well, at the time my husband was battling with leukemia...".

Well, what can you say? If this isn't the PTBs yelling at you to get a damn sense of perspective, I don't know what is!

And so, even though I slept like shit last night and the inside of my nose feels like...ahh, never mind. It's all crap. For almost all of the likes of us, a cold is at worst an inconvenience.

I mean, so we feel lousy; so we feel like we just want to crawl under a blanket and pretend the world isn't there and we don't have to work to earn a living and do the housework and everything else that we'd rather not do. So we commiserate with ourselves, because we're sure that nobody really knows just how miserable we feel, because those others don't have colds, and even if they did, they surely wouldn't feel quite as bad as we're feeling now.

Yeah, I know. All true. But so f..ing what?

Big deal!

As long as a cold, with all its attendant but transient misery, is the worst health issue we have to complain about...

A sense of perspective isn't only important. I think it may also serve to heal. Because one of the worst things you can do when you're sick is feel miserable in your mind as well. And perspective alleviates that misery; and by that it serves to heal.

I still feel like shit, but it's a bit like the match-burning scene in Lawrence of Arabia: the thing is not to let it matter—because, let's face it, for the vast majority of cold-misery sufferers it really, honestly doesn't...'matter', that is.

Life is full of colds; real and metaphorical alike. Children should be granted some leeway with their as-yet-missing sense of perspective and their me-me-me-miserable-me focus. But for adults, by and large there's no such excuse. A bit of misery, such as that accompanying your average cold—yeah, I know, your colds as never average; just like most people seem to think that they are above average, which makes no statistical sense!—isn't a big deal. It really isn't. That's because with a bit of misery there's nothing actually at stake. It won't change your life and it'll pass.

And, yes, I was talking about metaphorical 'colds' as well—just in case you missed that one.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Copycat Tigers

Tigers are sneaky and should probably trusted no further than you can throw them, which, considering the weight of your average grown-up tiger, is like zero-distance. You couldn't even lift one of those babies! 300+kg. Try it sometime if you don't believe me.

This report should serve to drive the point about the untrustworthiness of tigers home:

Copycat tiger attack at zoo

Which reminds me that Dance of Tigers is still extant! Whatever happened to it? Lest anyone thinks that it'll never come, rest assured that it will.

The move across the Tasman certainly held up things. Also, I'm not the kind of 'writer' who requires the 'daily-discipline' approach to getting things written. I know this is like a mantra of sorts with many writers and writing-teachers—the latter being would-be writers, who find it easier to teach than to do. It probably helps when you're starting off along this road and need something to get you from the 'I-want-to-be-a-writer' stage to the 'I've-actually-written-a-shitload-of-good-stuff' phase of things.

Also, a lot of 'professional' writers consider it almost like a badge of professional respectability and credibility. "A writer is someone who writes."

True enough. By the same logic a story teller is someone who tells stories. And, somehow, stories don't just come into existence out of nothing; and neither does their genesis and development require you to sit there staring at a computer screen, with a keyboard beneath your fingers. Personally, I find that the most productive time for me to devise stories, or work out story bits and pieces, or have new ideas or whatever, is actually when I'm out just walking; preferably outside city confines somewhere. It's not 'must', but it is definitely 'conducive'. Not a computer in sight or reach—which, so I've come to think, is actually a good thing, because the absence of said essential equipment makes you want it there and then, and that creates a very beneficial tension.

Everybody has his or her own methodology, I guess. In my case, there's an issue also of needing something to say, over and above mere plot and stuff going on. Whatever that is, is hard to predict. It's got to do whatever life throws up as 'important', I suppose; and that, as is in the nature of things, isn't subject to sufficiently precise analysis. By now, with the move and everything that occasioned it, plus whatever came with and from and was dislodged by it, a lot of things have added themselves to the substrate of meta-story that goes with the story-proper.

It gets to the point, eventually, where there's so much of it that it's like a dam being overloaded with the water building up behind it. Dance of Tigers is very close to that.

Of course, you never know if some other story doesn't come along suddenly and steals the show for a while. Or a screenplay maybe. Still, in the end, there will be just what there has to be for making Dance of Tigers into whatever it has to be—said 'whatever it has to be' gaining shape with every day that passes.

I know, the world isn't exactly hankering after DoT like it was the next Harry Potter, but I consider the obligation to get it done one day soon a personal one. Maybe not writing it for a pining audience is actually better. Like with the previous sequels to Keaen, (First Edition, with the Second Edition being in the final stages of being edited: another holdup in my general production flow), I had a lot of freedom to write the story I wanted to write, without having to take into consideration others' expectations.

So, yes, Gaston Huil with his pet tiger will come to Tethys, and it isn't going to be a good thing for the people there. And only a very devious scheme to deceive him, plus a crapload of luck is going to prevent Tethys from becoming yet another part of the Authority's grand rule.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Donkey dies after being hit by car

I kid you not! These things do happen.

The article continues thus:

A donkey was hit and killed Monday morning on Borden Road in southern Sacramento County.

A California Highway Patrol dispatcher reported that there were two donkeys in the roadway at 6 a.m. in the 11000 block of Borden Road. A motorist apparently collided with one of the donkeys, killing the animal.

The motorist was not injured.

What is the world coming to?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Redemption

Redemption:†

Redemption is a religious concept referring to forgiveness or absolution for past sins and protection from eternal damnation. Redemption is common in many world religions and all Abrahamic Religions, especially in Christianity and Islam. In Christianity redemption is synonymous with salvation.††

So, let's consider this whole redemption thing. Basically it's just the notion that you can be a total asshole and get away with it, as long as you make up for things at some stage before you're due for sin-repayment. Meaning also, that we're talking about 'sins' here, which should never be forgotten, because without sin the whole redemption thing has no meaning. It certainly hasn't for someone who doesn't carry the load of Abrahamic Religious conditioning. And you might want to remember there are a lot of religions unencumbered by 'sin'.

I don't know if it has ever occurred to you just how profoundly corrupt the concept of 'redemption' is; as is 'sin' of course. Both notions have done more damage to human progress—along the moral/ethical/spiritual path—than can possibly be ever fully appreciated. 'Redemption' is a conceptual parasite that feeds off a natural human emotion: guilt. Guilt for having done something that offends one's sense of 'right'; which is a feeling that goes beyond mere being socially-relative conditioned, because it is based on built-in factors.

The prevalence of 'redemption' as a theme in literature and the arts in general goes to prove just how much easily we are controlled through the abuse of our 'guilt'-weakness by religious and social manipulators. It would do all of us a lot of good if we took a step back and saw it all for what it is.

It's simple: if there is no 'sin', then there is no 'redemption'. Then all we can do is our best to balance the cosmic scales of equipoise as much as we can. But that's about it. It doesn't mean that the stains from past misdeeds are washed away or covered up or 'made up' for in any way whatsoever—just that, prompted by guilt or whatever suitably motivating emotion, someone ended up doing something that made him or her feel better than that other crap they did. If, in the course of such actions one gets a feeling that through a balancing of cosmic scales things become more 'right'...well, that's cool. It's probably entirely imaginary, but that doesn't really matter. As long as it makes the world a bit better. That's all we can hope and work for anyway.

The present tirade joins up to this, just in case you're wondering.
From Wikipdedia.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Jesus Cats and Decapitated Prairie Travelers

OK, so you thought you'd seen everything?

Ha!

Continuing on with the theme of holy images appearing in mundane objects—though, of course, who could really call a cat 'mundane'!—here's* something to dazzle even the most feverish imagination.

The borders of journalist inanity also have no apparent bounds. To wit:

Nudist war on the German-Polish border!

Designer vaginas blacklisted

And from one corner of 'civilization' come these news:

Saudi religious police ban pets

Seriously: who needs 'aliens'? Especially with this:

Man decapitated on Canadian bus

Yeah, I know what you're thinking: Only in...

Now be nice! I mean, really, it could have happened anywhere. Right?

* Warning: this is a video, so will take a bit of time to load.