Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Banned Literature

Talking about controlling what people read. The wet dream of the likes of Mr. Dawkins. The perfect world created through careful control of what kinds of ideas people have access to.

Here's something you won't find in libraries anymore, not even in German ones; where I first read these, in translation, some years back. I say that, because I checked. This is forbidden literature; something belonging to another age and mindset; something we wouldn't want to allow to pollute the minds of anybody.

If you look at the covers, you'll see the mindset in action. Squeaky-clean, perfectly ironed white colonialist confronting tribesmen from the darkest Africa.


Never mind that the stories are among the most accomplished ever written, in terms of structure and style, as well as just story-telling. But we're not interested in that anymore today.

Mr Revise is alive and well in our libraries. And we have the gall to complain about the censorship in countries like China. It's mind-control, no matter how you package it. And mind-control is never, ever benign, no matter how benign it looks. It always amounts to oppression and a removal of choice from those being controlled.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book Promotion Scams

Seriously, would you even consider, for the slightest instant, using the services of someone offering to 'promote' your self-published book, if you got an email that contained, inter alias, the following phrase(s):

BOOKWHIRL.com is an online book marketing company, specializing in providing affordable, effective online book publicity marketing services for authors. To empower authors all around the world by offering highly-effective online book marketing services at easily affordable rates.

I do believe you are the author of the book entitled “Fontaine”. I came across your book and we are very much interested in helping you in promoting your book online and exposed it to vast number of audience wherein it could attract not just your potential book buyers, but as well as your general audience.

I shit you not! And then you can go to the web, where they advertise their services, and you get stylistic gems like:

Even if this is your first time self-publishing, there is no excuse for you to commit mistakes. Committing mistakes with your self-published book can project the perception that your work is made in an unprofessional way and this can significantly hinder your success.

I'm sorry, but who writes this crap? Did they commit the mistake of outsourcing their promotional copy to some non-native-English-speaking country? If so, it is definitely hindering their success. I'm thinking Nigeria...

Or maybe it won't make a damn bit of difference. The success of email scams suggests that there may be enough dimwits out there who will fork out the preposterous fees these people charge.

Yeah, that's got to be it...

Whenever we write, it is natural to miss a punctuation, or make a spelling and other typographical mistakes. But to allow these mistakes to appear on your book, will make your appear very unprofessional. Just imagine readers reading the blurb page and finding mistakes which could have been avoided if you only had somebody review it for you before printing and distribution.

Just imagine that...

Aside from marketing, some self-published authors also tend to make mistakes in distribution. Make sure that your target audience gets to have a chance to buy your book. Some authors overlook online distribution. There are cost-efficient online distribution channels where you can have your book made widely available to a targeted and hungry audience. the internet is becoming a convenient place for people to buy stuff that they want and need, so don’t overlook the online sales and distribution channel for your product.

Nigeria. Right?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

And a very happy holiday to you all...

Appreciate the time you have...if time you have. I know of at least two instances where people are dying or maybe already dead; said event representing for them the ultimate catastrophe, and for their relatives and friends grounds for sadness.

I won't even mention the millions without reasons for any holiday-cheer whatsoever—and while I'm not one to wallow in guilt at my good fortune and masochistic I-suffer-with-them paroxysms, it appears to me that anybody reading this blog is probably not a member of that group. And so I feel perfectly justified to suggest to them that, should they lose their sense of perspective or get drowned in trivia that aren't worth a second thought, or about matters that aren't going 'right' just-so, to get a damn life.

As I sometimes do, I responded to one of those I-don't-really-give-a-shit-but-I-am-obliged-to-ask queries by a shop checkout-op by saying: "Well, I do have a pulse." I got one of those looks of helplessness from the questioner—you know, like, "WTF do I say now?"—who then decided to comment, very cautiously, that this didn't sound very cheery, I pointed out that it is. It just depends on what you consider important—with a pulse being right up there with...well, right up there at the top. I suspect the next customer in line immediately reverted the bewildered op's thoughts back to matters more germane to the season; like the price of cherries at Christmas, or the rains, which are finally starting to set in; meaning our grass is going green and starting to grow like crazy.

As for me, I decided, and it was easy, that the fact that after three years we finally had a full nuclear-family complement present and accounted for at Christmas day, was what mattered. Presents under the tree these days leave me indifferent, except maybe for the fact that those who give them do actually feel pleasure at giving them, surprises or not. So, my own pleasure was indirect, but that's cool, too, I guess.

Let the likes of Richard Dawkins fester and rot at the notion that Christmas is, as he would have put it, 'a lie', and that the whole damn world seems to buy it. It's not a 'lie', but a narrative that people buy into. Fortunately for many, it's also a narrative they can use for profit, to fleece those who buy into it, but instead end up spending, spending, spending—all of which 'powers', as they say, the economy.

This is, of course true, and yet carries implications that aren't; because it implicitly assumes that economies need to be powered by 'consumerism' of the kind that even those currently not able to afford 'consumption' of fatutous and utterly useless goods would happily indulge in, if only they were given the chance. That, of course, simply isn't so (the necessity, that is); but it is the way things are, and that's that. Trivial consumerism, which gave us the social obscenities known as 'shopping malls', is a direct parallel to the kind of perspective loss I started with.

Of course, it's also possible that I'm just running along a course paralleling that of Richard Dawkins's narrow-gauge railway track. Because one person's 'consumerism' is another's pleasure and indulgence; and that, too, is a part of the great multifaceted canvas that is life and human society. Its consequences, on a personal as well as global level, may be potentially disastrous, but we'll just have ot do our best to muddle through. Neither of the non-existent guides offering themselves—fictitious deities and dumb-ass know-it-alls alike—are available for assistance.

Anyway, I'm certain that by now—with Christmas being over—some of you will recall occasions during the last few days where you wish you hadn't lost perspective over a really, truly, dumb-ass irrelevant issue or two—or three. Well, better luck next time, eh?

Accompanied by that cheery thought, have a happy 2010, and, paraphrasing Yoda: "Don't make New Year's resolutions. Just do better than you did this year."

But why wait until next year? Right now is good, too!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Richard Dawkins: Atheist Standard Bearer

Last night on Australian ABC, Andrew Denton interviewed Richard Dawkins, a man who is as obsessed with the non-existence of God as your average religioid is with the existence of this phantasm.







I never thought much of Dawkins, whose writings, some of which I've wasted time on, strike me as infused with a fervor rivaling that of...ahh, never mind. After last night's interview the impression has been confirmed beyond a doubt. Denton managed to lay bare a deeply troubled man, who, but for a quirk of circumstance—whatever that was—could have been a fundamentalist preacher/demagogue. (Actually he is just that. He's just not, say, a Christian, Muslim or Communist.)

For a few moments, listening to some statements by Dawkins, I found myself nodding, because I heard things that I could not but agree with. The next instant though I realized just how deep the gulf is between the likes of Dawkins and the likes of me. And, as if it required confirmation, then came the killer, when Dawkins revealed himself as a zealot of the kind that thinks that there are 'right' and 'wrong' ways to think; and that indeed—and he said this very carefully, but the message was very clear indeed—certain kinds of stories should be eliminated from the treasury of our imaginations, and indeed that 'imagination' should be in some form directed toward particular content; which, so he clearly thought, would be more appropriate for the development of the human mind.

Though sounding like a man of truth, science, compassion and free-thinking, it occurred to me that, given the right stimuli, he would have been one of those secretly cheering the burning—or at least the discrete elimination from libraries and general distribution—of 'unsuitable' books, all in order to eliminate pernicious influences on the mental development of our young and maybe also the not-so-young. Surely, he's a major real-life instance of creatures like 'Mr. Revise' from Bill Willingham's Jack of Fables comics. (Though, as it turns out, Revise isn't the real evildoer! But that reference is only for readers of Fables. The rest of the world wouldn't even understand what I'm talking about; Mr. Dawkins least of all.)

It is ironic—though maybe not that at all, since this seems to be the way things tend to go in the 'extremism' business—that one of the major standard bearers of a movement that is ostensibly anti-religioid is a man of such conceptual narrowness, who is fawned upon and held up as someone who actually has to say something of significance. A man who conflates having emotions with spiritual depth and understanding. A man who actually is naïve enough to believe that anybody will ever be able to create a scientific theory that explains 'why' the universe is and why it is as it is and not different. (Talk about being a religioid in search of his God!) A man who will be hailed as a leading 'thinker' at atheist conferences, where, like all good religioids, they're really just having group-think orgies promoting dogma and their agenda—and damn whatever may be 'truth'.

Am I being harsh on the man and his faith alike? Maybe, but I make no apologies. The arrogance of extremist atheists like him is just too close to that of every extant monotheism. Still, unlike Dawkins and his ilk, I believe that we are free to choose what we believe. It may be hard to do so, and it probably is for a lot of people. But that's life. Nobody said it was going to be easy. Though Dawkins's books could all have been edited into a single volume, and not a very thick one, they do contribute to the richness of human thought; and though his narratives about 'reality' are deficient, simplistic and, at least in my view, wrong in so many ways—and right in some others; as we must not forget, because that's important, too!—they belong into that vast pool of 'diversity' that is the source of human spiritual evolution.

But there is a difference between 'Being an Atheist' and just not believing in God. The two may overlap in many ways, but at heart they are different. Atheists just need to believe. God-Free-Zone people, like good old Absurdist me, just refuse to 'believe' matters that we may not actually ever be able to know about—and want to figure out as much as they can, within the scope of their intrinsic limitations, about what is, if you will, 'really going on' with life and the universe and every-damn-thing.

And the answer is not going to be '42', because 42 isn't prime. That, at least, is my theory—which I offer to anybody for disproof.

Meaning, it's probably '43'. But that, too, is conjecture.

Facebook Obsession

Since viewing this article required you to actually sign up for the NYT—something you might be reluctant to do—I quote it verbatim here. It's worth reading.

Facebook, while useful for 'networking' purposes and, say, finding people one may have lost contact with and so on, has a very dark side, which may turn out to be more costly than the benefits it purports to bring. A much simpler way, for example, of keeping up with people you know, and to communicate with them may be to have a shared blog or something along those lines. The technology infrastructure for that exists, and it's really easy to use. It also makes it easy to keep the social network to a sensible size, and to stop things like 'friend' requests that one would rather ignore, but for fear of offending feels one cannot.

Another way out is to use Facebook as an interface to find people you may have lost contact with, and then switch over your comms to another medium, like emails or blogs, with the latter probably being the nicer and more visual interface.

To Deal With Obsession, Some Defriend Facebook

Published: December 20, 2009

Facebook, the popular networking site, has 350 million members worldwide who, collectively, spend 10 billion minutes there every day, checking in with friends, writing on people’s electronic walls, clicking through photos and generally keeping pace with the drift of their social world.

Make that 9.9 billion and change. Recently, Halley Lamberson, 17, and Monica Reed, 16, juniors at San Francisco University High School, made a pact to help each other resist the lure of the login. Their status might as well now read, “I can’t be bothered.”

“We decided we spent way too much time obsessing over Facebook and it would be better if we took a break from it,” Halley said.

By mutual agreement, the two friends now allow themselves to log on to Facebook on the first Saturday of every month — and only on that day.

The two are among the many teenagers, especially girls, who are recognizing the huge distraction Facebook presents — the hours it consumes every day, to say nothing of the toll it takes during finals and college applications, according to parents, teachers and the students themselves.

Some teenagers, like Monica and Halley, form a support group to enforce their Facebook hiatus. Others deactivate their accounts. Still others ask someone they trust to change their password and keep control of it until they feel ready to have it back.

Facebook will not reveal how many users have deactivated service, but Kimberly Young, a psychologist who is the director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery in Bradford, Pa., said she had spoken with dozens of teenagers trying to break the Facebook habit.

“It’s like any other addiction,” Dr. Young said. “It’s hard to wean yourself.”

Dr. Young said she admired teenagers who came up with their own strategies for taking Facebook breaks in the absence of computer-addiction programs aimed at them.

“A lot of them are finding their own balance,” she said. “It’s like an eating disorder. You can’t eliminate food. You just have to make better choices about what you eat.” She added, “And what you do online.”

Michael Diamonti, head of school at San Francisco University High School, which Monica and Halley attend, said administrators were pondering what the school’s role should be, since students used Facebook mostly at home, although excessive use could affect their grades.

“It’s such uncharted territory,” Dr. Diamonti said. “I’m definitely in support of these kids recognizing that they need to exercise some control over their use of Facebook, that not only is it tremendously time consuming but perhaps not all that fulfilling.”

In October, Facebook reached 54.7 percent of people in the United States ages 12 to 17, up from 28.3 percent in October last year, according to the Nielsen Company, the market research firm.

Many high school seniors, now in the thick of the college application process, are acutely aware of those hours spent clicking one link after another on the site.

Gaby Lee, 17, a senior at Head-Royce School in Oakland, Calif., had two weeks to complete her early decision application to Pomona College. Desperate, she deactivated her Facebook account.

The account still existed, but it looked to others as if it did not.

“No one could go on and write on my wall or look at my profile,” she said.

The habit did not die easily. Gaby said she would sit down at the computer and find that “my fingers would automatically go to Facebook.”

In her coming book, “Alone Together” (Basic Books, 2010), Sherry Turkle, a psychologist who is director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discusses teenagers who take breaks from Facebook.

For one 18-year-old boy completing a college application, Professor Turkle said, “Facebook wasn’t merely a distraction, but it was really confusing him about who he was,” and he opted to spend his senior year off the service. He was burned out, she said, trying to live up to his own descriptions of himself.

But Facebook does not make it easy to leave for long. Deactivating an account requires checking off one of six reasons — “I spend too much time using Facebook,” is one. “This is temporary. I’ll be back,” is another. And it is easy to reactivate an account by entering the old login and password.

For Walter Mischel, a professor of psychology at Columbia University, who studies self-control and willpower, “what’s fascinating about this is that it involves spontaneous strategies of self-control, of trying to exert willpower after getting sucked into a huge temptation.”

Professor Mischel performed a now-famous set of experiments at Stanford University in the late 1960s in which he tested young children’s ability to delay gratification when presented with what he called “hot” temptations, like marshmallows.

Some managed to stop themselves; others could not.

“Facebook is the marshmallow for these teenagers,” Professor Mischel said.

Rachel Simmons, an educator and the author of “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence” (Penguin Press, 2009), said Facebook’s new live feed format had made the site particularly difficult to tear oneself away from.

“You’re getting a feed of everything everyone is doing and saying,” Ms. Simmons said. “You’re literally watching the social landscape on the screen, and if you’re obsessed with your position in that landscape, it’s very hard to look away.”

It is that addictive quality that makes having a partner who knows you well especially helpful. Monica said that when she was recently in bed sick for several days, she broke down and went on Facebook. And, of course, she felt guilty.

“At first I lied,” Monica said. “But we’re such good friends she could read my facial expression, so I ’fessed up.”

As punishment, the one who breaks the pact has to write something embarrassing on a near-stranger’s Facebook wall.

After several failed efforts at self-regulation, Neeka Salmasi, 15, a sophomore at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Mich., finally asked her sister, Negin, 25, to change her Facebook password every Sunday night and give it back to her the following Friday night.

Neeka quickly saw an improvement in her grades.

Still better, she said, is that her mother no longer visits her room “every half an hour to see if I was on Facebook or doing homework.”

“It was really annoying,” she said.

...

In his follow-up work, Professor Mischel said he found that some of the children who delayed gratification with the marshmallows turned out to be higher achievers as adults.

Halley said she and Monica expect their hiatus to continue at least through the rest of the school year. She added that they were enjoying a social life lived largely offline.

“Actually, I don’t think either one of us wants it to end,” she said.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Knowing'

Sometimes I feel that I'm saying things here—into the void of cyberspace, and is it a case of "in cyberspace, no one can hear you scream" and/or "do you really make a cyberspace sound if nobody hears it?"—that are so dazzlingly obvious that they should require no elaboration. Yet I elaborate. Why is this so?

Here's a case in point.

Question: What does it mean to 'know somebody'?

Like when you say "I feel I know you!" or maybe "Sometimes I think I don't know you at all!"—whatever the case may be.

What say with this is effectively: "I know what's going on one your head." And even more importantly: "I know what you're going to do in a given situation."

If we're wanting something more profound, we may think of 'knowing' someone's 'soul', whatever that's supposed to be. But basically it boils down to something that's ultimately concerned with explanation and prediction.
  • Explanation of why some person acted in a particular way in a particular context.
  • Prediction of how some person is going to act in a particular context in the future.
That's really all there's to it. Our 'knowing' of another is confirmed either by the consistency of our post hoc explanations or the success of our predictions. It is called into question by the lack of said consistency or predictive success.

But is that really all there is to 'knowing'? And, even if it is, is there something 'behind' all this, that is the actual thing to be known? And what, if anything, is that 'thing'; that element of what there is to be 'known' about a person?

To any self-respecting Aburdist or non-religious Existentialist, 'the Soul' obviously won't cut it as a suitable answer. Besides, we then have to ask further: "What about the soul is it that we claim to 'know'?" It's likely way to respond to this or that situation? That's basically, as any half-decent philosopher should know, a naïve form of materialism, where the soul is some object of substance, no matter how esoteric, which takes the part of the body in defining the 'real you', or something along those lines.

A much more useful question to ask about 'knowing' is: "What characteristic of our beings, what property, events, cause-effect relationships, and so on, can actually be held to be broadly causative of our actions and therefore need to be properly understood, or their detailed nature or contents identified and characterized, in order to serve as suitable explanatory frameworks for explanation and prediction—and thus qualify as the things that we need to be able to claim to 'know' if we want to make any sensible statement about 'knowing' a human being?"

Yeah, that was a long and convoluted sentence—offending my own sense of 'Plain English, please!' So, I apologize, but I'm not going to rewrite it.

The answer—and you could have predicted it, coming from me—is, of course, that it's the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the people around us and the world and the universe. Know the stories and know the person. It's a simple and complex as that.

What changes as we go through life—in some people more than in others, driven by their dispositions and life experiences—are our stories. And when someone says to someone else "I just don't know you anymore!" that's all they're saying: "Even if I once knew your stories, I know don't anymore; at least not the ones that matter to our relationship."

Think about that next time you look at another person. Think about what it means for your relationship, and for what you have to do—and the other person has to do—to make it better.

A quick note about fiction writers—whose business it is, of course, to tell stories that usually aren't true, except maybe in a metaphorical, symbolic or allegorical sense. Any fiction writer, however, will, by implication or intent, incorporate portions of the stories they are telling themselves about themselves and the world into their fiction. Even those who think they don't, do. They're just too naïve to realize it.

Because of this, if you have a good friend who is a writer of fiction, it will almost certainly help your 'knowing' of him or her, to read what they write. If you don't do this, then those who actually do read what they write, even though they may just be a part of the 'general reading public' may well know your friend better than you do. They may know more about his aspirations and dreams, about his views of life and the universe, about what matters and what doesn't.

It's possible, of course, that the kind of fiction your friend writes isn't your cup of tea. Like maybe, you're a detective fiction fan and your buddy writes sci-fi. Or maybe you like 'literary' fiction, but your friend writes what you consider trashy romances instead. Or invert those things, if you will.

Your friend not worth that much to you, that you'd step out of your "this-is-what-I-like" circle and into his to see what really going on in his or her head? Interesting. Why is it so? Is it because you actually don't really want to know about your friend, but would rather cling to the image you've built up over years, maybe decades, and it would be disturbing for you to have all that shattered by a dose of what's really going on in his head?

And take this one step further, because that's the next logical place to go. Because, say, your friend doesn't actually write fiction; but almost everybody reads it; or watches movies or TV series. I know, one will argue that of course the choice of reading and watching material consumed by a person in their 'option' time will leave clues as to what they think and like and are interested in and aspire to and dream about. But nothing, nothing at all, will reveal this as directly and pointedly as the fiction they consume 'for fun'. Meaning that which isn't work related or in any way obligatory. We're talking about the books they read themselves to sleep with, or inside of which they'll spend endless hours in preference to doing other things, some or all of which may appear like they must surely be hugely more important that reading this book or watching that movie—and possibly not just for the first time, but again and again and again.

The fiction consumed in people's 'optional' time will tell you just about anything worthwhile about a person; not only what they are like now, but about what made them into the people they are—because where they were at one time on the way to where they are now is just as important to understand someone as a current-state-of-affairs analysis. Every psychoanalyst will tell you that, but how many of them will actually try to find out what kind of fiction their patients/clients like, and liked, to consume? And it's all such a total giveaway!

So, if you want to 'know' your friend, your mate or whoever you choose to have a close relationship with, in this dullwitted urban 'civilized' world of ours, where true life-trials as character-revealers and 'I-know-you' testers are rare indeed, have a look at the fiction s/he consumes. And, of course, if s/he's a writer, or, more generally, a story-teller, look at the stroies s/he tells. If you don't do this, you may indeed not be in a position to 'know' your friend.

And, yes, this is personal. Very, very few of my oldest—sometime very 'old'—and closest friends, people I've known for decades, haven't read a single line of what I've written; and certainly not a single one of my novels. I do understand partially why this is so: because sci-fi—and especially the rattling-yarn, adventure, romance, sex and violence kind I tend to write—is basically below the level of what they consider 'literature'; and often is, indeed, unless it makes obvious pretenses to social or philosophical commentary, considered somehow irrelevant to their lives.

I have good reasons to 'know' them to this degree, because I know what they read, have read some of it; and I know the movies they watch, and those they watch again. I'm a 'library spy', and a bookshelf tells me more than you know; especially the fiction. So, yes, I can claim to know their stories to some significant degree. Yet it strikes me as somewhat ironic that they know far less of mine than any stranger who has actually bothered to, for example, read the entire Tethys series.

This is not something one holds 'against' one's friends, of course. Friendship, if the evidence is anything to go by, obviously can transcend such apparent trivia as 'knowing' one another. At least as far as certain individual-stories are concerned. There are more important things; other stories, sufficiently shared to create a social bond, which can be very strong.

So, no judgment is implied, and I want to make this clear. But there is irony nonetheless...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Remaining new Tethys series covers

All the Tethys novels are now available with the new covers from lulu.com. Because of distribution logistics, this means that Finister and Tergan now exist as second editions, which are available in parallel with the original first editions.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Terrible Asymmetry of Death

There's a big farmer's market every Sunday in a town not too far away, starting at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. or thereabouts, though in winter people tend to arrive later than that. But in summer at that time in Queensland it's bright daylight, and by 7 a.m. you can get seriously fired by the rising sun. One gets to know people at the market, some of them anyway. There are stalls you return to for your fruit, vegies and things you intend to plant in the garden, like herbs, flowers, trees, fruit-trees, aquatic growths like water lilys, and so on. If you're that way disposed, you talk to people at those stands, especially those who run these stands basically by themselves. And you get to know them, in a way, and as far as they're prepared to let you know of them; what with you being a stranger, someone who just drops by their stall a for a few minutes on an early Sunday morning.

There's a guy I buy lettuce from, plus occasionally, when he has them, free-range eggs. In his 60s somewhere, I'd say, judging from appearances—which can be deceptive, of course—and the fact that his oldest offspring is in his 30s. The guy reminds of your archetypal Santa Claus, and would fit into that role in a mall, with kiddies on his knee and "ho ho" and everything and sundry.

And then, yesterday he told me that he'd just had a car accident, the car was scrap, his lettuces are scrawny because of the heat and dry weather, he had more back problems than you could shake a stick at, with some of them dating back to his youth, and basically, as he told me, he would not be indisposed toward putting a gun to his head to end his dull, boring and basically pointless existence—if it weren't for the fact that he didn't want to inflict this on his wife and three children. Otherwise, what was the point of continuing this anyway? Nothing's there before you are born and nothing's there after you die. So what?

It's been a while since I heard the extinctionist† case put forward so pithily. And I actually believe that he meant it.

People die everyday: this is a fact. We're all going to die someday: this is another fact. Even if we manage to postpone that day for a long, long time—as some of us intend to!—it'll come. 'Living forever' merely means that today and every day after today isn't that day. Living forever therefore means living in eternal vigilance, such as there has never existed before, to make sure that this situation will prevail.

Of course the non-religiously-inclined ones might argue, as did my buddy at the market, that we should stop making such a big deal of death, since it's pretty much the same 'state', if you will, that someone found themselves in before they were conceived. A 'state' that isn't a 'state' at all, but the non-existence of any kind of 'state'. The religious folk will, of course, dispute this version, but that's unsurprising.

While I think the religiously-inclined are speaking from a point of view of very little evidence, so, of course, do the extinctionists, who are in a position not unlike that of those on either side of the current Global Warming debate; seeing and hearing only what they want or expect to see or hear.

Thing is, of course, that, even if one accepts extinctionism as one's basic death-paradigm, that it still means that the extinction at the end (death) is something completely different to the non-existence before the beginning (birth). This is so because of the asymmetry of time and its arrow. Before the birth—or conception, or somewhere in between; draw the line wherever it pleases you—of an individual there was no individual, and no universe that contained said individual. There were possible universes, each of them different from the other, but none of them existed as such.

After the point of 'birth', wherever it is placed, there definitely existed one universe, which by itself gave potential rise to a gazillion possible branches, in which the individual in question did exist. In that universe—whether there also can be said to have existed others is entirely a matter of speculation—said individual had the thoughts and feelings it had, and performed the actions it did, each time, by virtue of its existence; shaping the universe in some, albeit small way; thus determining, again even if only in a tiny way, which branch of the possible universal history was being taken. You should really treat yourself to Continuity Slip. Download is free—for the time being anyway.

By this simple existential expedient, post-death extinction is not the same as pre-birth nonexistence. It doesn't matter—again assuming that the extinctionist view is correct—that the individual, extinct as it is after death, will never 'know' that it is dead or what 'death' actually is 'like'. The question may indeed be in principio meaningless.

And there is another difference, a very important one. Because pre-death-extinction the individual is capable of thought and action, and of reflecting on, for example, the nature of post-death extinction. It was, however, never able to reflect on this, or life, before it was born. The individual may also, indeed it probably will, find that it does not want to be made extinct; and there will be a profound cognitive, judgmental and, insofar as these feelings are involved, emotional asymmetry in the individual's attitude toward its non-existence prior to birth and after death.

Therefore the atheist same-after-as-before argument is existentially null and void, in a very 'cosmic' way, if you will. And that, by the way, is also what makes contraception and killing two very different things, while abortion and killing are not; thus making a nonsense of the conflation of the two (contraception and abortion, that is). If I had a dollar for every time a conflation of un-conflatable concepts is performed in arguments about just about anything that qualifies as moderately important, I'd be rich. That and category mistakes, of course.

† This is not, just in case you feel inclined to 'google' or 'wikipedia' the term, the kind of extinctionism you might find in the venerable game of NetHack. Rather it refers to a philosophical position towards death, which states that with the cessation of neurological function everything having to do with awareness, cognition and 'mind' ceases to exist completely. There is nothing left. Not a trace. Might as well never have been born, as fas as the dead person is concerned. Actually, 'dead person' is an oxymoron. A person is only a 'person' when they're alive. When they are dead, there's just a corpse.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What Then Shall We Die For? The freedom of the seas.

Pirates again! After a time...

The latest potential victim of Global Warming and the general psychological malaise afflicting the people of this planet apparently may be the freedom of the seas.

UN may curtail 400-year-old 'freedom of the seas'

Not that I much hankered for living a life on the oceans—though being on a ship does strange things to me and invokes odd yearnings—but having someone officially take it away, no matter how cogent the reasons (though when it comes to the UN, 'cogency' probably is an oxymoron when applied to anything they do), is a serious blow to a dream. All the more urgent that we work harder to find a way to sail the space-seas beyond our world. Mankind needs open frontiers, or it will destroy itself.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creepy, creepy

Things people do...

Way I see it, we should do all we can to put this whole damn industry and anything related it out of business. Is that really too much to ask? Just think of what all the money we waste on trivia and irrelevancies could do. We could even find a way to retrain the death-profiteers for something better and more productive maybe? Stranger things have happened.

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Well, at least they're made in the USA, not China. Though I wouldn't shout it from the rooftops if I were an American!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Ahmadinejad comedy hour: and you thought OUR politicians were dimwits

How's this for a change. I'm not sure what would be more unsettling: that this guy believes what he says, or that, much more likely, he believes that enough of people he rules over are sufficiently stupid to believe it...

Quoting from the article:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims the United States is attempting to thwart the return of mankind's savior, according to reports from Al Arabiya, a television news station based in Dubai.

Ahmadinejad reportedly claims he has documented evidence that the U.S. is blocking the return of Mahdi, the Imam believed by Muslims to be the savior.

“We have documented proof that they believe that a descendant of the prophet of Islam will raise in these parts and he will dry the roots of all injustice in the world,” Ahmadinejad said during a speech on Monday, according to Al Arabiya.

"They have devised all these plans to prevent the coming of the Hidden Imam because they know that the Iranian nation is the one that will prepare the grounds for his coming and will be the supporters of his rule," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

This was brought to you by the Ahmadinejad comedy channel. But I think he may have maxed out with this. It really will be hard to beat.

Monday, December 07, 2009

FINISTER New Cover

Next one coming along. Just as well I have the layered Photoshop original images. Makes it easier to use the bits and pieces that are required for this format.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Cover Designs...again!

Still tweaking these. Still not happy with them.

Here's the latest for KEAEN: whole wrap cover and what is the effective front page. The wraparound theme, which you can also see on the owlglass.com home page, is an update on what was there before. I think I prefer wraparound. It means, of course, that the front-cover images have to be re-thought, and this is how I have re-thought them.

Below is the version of Keaen appearing soon on lulu. A new interior, somewhat tweaked, has also been uploaded, since the printed versions with the old headers can have problems, due mainly due to the quality of the POD printers, with whose services and quality I continue to be unimpressed. I had expected better from Australia.