Monday, January 26, 2009

Stimulating, No?

OK, I've been watching the rhetoric ball go back and forth on this whole Obama stimulus package thingy, and I've had enough. Is there anywhere one can find - in detail - exactly what this package consists of? I've been searching for half an hour now, and all I've been able to find are editorials that either gloss over its supposed benefits ("It will provide relief, restore infrastructure, and create jobs!") or are just a blanket opposition ("It's socialism, a package deal that just hands money to democrat party special interest groups.") I want a list - dollar by dollar - of what this package consists of, and the years it's supposed to cover. Why is that so hard to find?

Come to think of it - why is ANY real information so hard to find on the internet these days? Why is it that in the "information age," a search on any subject almost automatically leads to advertisements for books or exclusive sites about that subject? OK, I'm getting off topic here, but it's a trend that's starting to annoy the piss out of me.


Friday, January 23, 2009

What's Up Your Bottom?

I had a conversation with a friend today about how drugs and alcohol reduce inhibitions. This is why they're so plentiful at parties. I asked what would happen if no one had any inhibitions at all. My friend suggested that marriages would be destroyed because everyone would be having affairs, friendships would be ruined because everyone would say what they really thought about each other, and people would probably wind up killing each other.

To quote from the sci-fi classic, The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson:
It is now theoretically possible to link the human nervous system into a radio network so that, micro-miniaturized receivers being implanted in people's brains, the messages coming out of these radios would be indistinguishable to the subjects from the voice of their own thoughts. One central transmitter, located in the nation's capital, could broadcast all day long what the authorities wanted the people to believe. The average man on the receiving end of these broadcasts would not even know he was a robot; he would think it was his own voice he was listening to. The average woman could be treated similarly.

It is ironic that people will find such a concept both shocking and frightening. Like Orwell's 1984, this is not a fantasy of the future but a parable of the present. Every citizen in every authoritarian society already has such a "radio" built into his or her brain. This radio is the little voice that asks, each time a desire is formed, "Is it safe? Will my wife (my husband/my boss/my church/my community) approve? Will people ridicule and mock me? Will the police come and arrest me?" This little voice the Freudians call "The Superego," with Freud himself vividly characterized as "the ego's harsh master."
So what do you think? Would a lack of inhibitions be the end of civilization as we know it, or would it create a life free of stress and anxiety, full of new and exciting works of art and innovations that the superego had suppressed?


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful

I have, over my life, accumulated a few good friends - some of them female. And some of these female friends went on to marry and have daughters of their own. And some of them have complained to me at one point or other on the horrible example the media sets for their daughters. (My sister, for example, won't let her daughters watch any Disney cartoons because the heroines all count on a man to come and save them.) As the father of a beautiful young lady who watches television and movies, and I have to admit I just don't get it.

I became aware of this perspective in the late early nineties. Our female sex ed teacher berated us about... Dick and Jane books. Boy, did she hate those Dick and Jane books. See how the dog plays with the boy? See how the dog sleeps when the girl tells about the things she likes? Subliminal programing! The only problem is that these examples were from at least twenty years before any of us were born. I remember thinking... who honestly gives two shits? True, sexism did and does exist, but by the eighties anyone caught committing it anywhere near a school had their pants sued off of them.

Maybe it never seemed like a big deal because to me, the adult men on television had it much harder than the women. (The late great Issac Asimov said it much better than I in his essay, "Mr. Spock is Dreamy!") Almost every husband or father on television - Ralph Kramden, Al Bundy, Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin - was an idiot whose wives' IQs at least doubled theirs (with, perhaps, the exception of Peg Bundy.) These wives would at best roll their eyes at their husbands' dreams, at worst, take delight in detailing their past failures. And boy did these men dream. And fail, always because of their own stupidity. Maybe that was the worst example of all - don't try, you'll fail, you'll fail, you'll fail.

So tell me your tales. Was there a time when something you saw in the media made you feel inadequate? I'm not talking about being angry about a show portraying (men, women, soldiers, librarians, cops, penguins) in a way you don't like, I'm talking about something you saw as a child - a character in a movie, TV show or book, that honestly made you feel bad because you didn't measure up to it.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Simulism Part II

A year ago, I posted a thought experiment on simulism. To keep it short, simulism is the idea that life as we know it may be just a computer simulation. Lately, I've been doing a bit of late-night-staring-at-the-ceiling pondering Zen riddles, such as, who - or what - exactly is "me." I've also been pondering - as I have in the past - the question of why human brains that have supposedly evolved for survival are so self-destructive. (Please see Kurt Vonnegut's novel Galapagos for further reading.) So, I've decided to do a mashup.

If you've ever played a role playing game - either in a fellow nerd's basement or online - you know how the system works: You play a character. When you want to do something, you roll a die or the computer picks a random number that decides if you are successful or not. That probability is influenced by your character's statistics. If you want to successfully smack someone upside the head with a morning star, your roll will be helped if you have high strength and agility statistics. Likewise, if you wish to seduce the Leslie Cohen Gollem, you need like twenty-five charisma points.

Now, what if the soul, or "me" or whatever is the player, and the mind is the character, with all of it's stats? You want to lose weight. g0d rolls the dice, and if your gluttony stat is too high, it probably won't happen. Or what about that living room that needs painting. If you're procrastination stat is up there, chances are it won't get done. No, I'm not trying to abdicate free will, but I've always been fascinated by how the human mind can fight itself tooth and nail against doing what it knows is in its best interest. Any thoughts?


PS - RIP, #6, and Khan Noonien Singh. One of my favorite heroes (click her for a previous Prisoner post) and villains, respectively. You will both be sorely missed.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Tony Soundtrack

Here's a fun little game: What songs do you think define you? Not your favorite songs, (if you notice "Joe's Garage" isn't on here, though it is such a toe-tapping tune,) but songs that relate something about yourself?

Here's my short list:

You Are What You Is - Frank Zappa
Hey Tomorrow - Jim Croce
Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerrin (Yo, haters - I don't want to hear it!)
Brain Damage & Eclipse - Pink Floyd
I'll be Mellow when I'm Dead - Weird Al Yankovic
Where Have All the Average People Gone? - Roger Miller
Time - Pink Floyd
Those Were the Days - Mary Hopkin
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - Monty Python

Ok, what's your personal soundtrack? What songs say, "Hey, this is me... sometimes."?


1/9 Addendum:

I thought of 3 more songs that belong on the list, in no particular order:
Mr. Tanner - Harry Chapin
Flowers are Red - Harry Chapin
Through the Years - Kenny Rogers (Our wedding song!)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Who Do You Love?

The topic of self love was brought up in a recent conversation with a friend, and it got me thinking: Is there anyone out there who truly "loves" themselves? Does anyone even know someone who loves themselves? Therapists say we should, self-help books say we should, I tell my children that they should - but does anyone actually do it? What I'm asking is, is loving yourself really just an abstract feel-good-psychobabble goal that has no actual meaning? Could it be that humans are just naturally self-critical, and that is quite all right and we shouldn't worry about it?

Now self-pride is something else. That subject, I'm afraid, Ayn Rand hit on the nose: If you want to be proud of yourself, you have to actually do something to be proud of. The feeling is not going to come first out of thin air.

Any takers?


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Warning: Nerd ranting

Ok, I'm really pissed off at the new choice for Doctor. Does the once mysterious time traveler - who started out as an anti-hero grandfather with white hair for fuck's sake- keep having to get younger and younger just to keep the kids watching? Is the teenage girl squee factor all that matters anymore? Stephen Moffat has (thank God) taken the reins from Russell T Davies, but from their choice, I'm guessing the soap opera factor will continue.

Sigh. Time to pop another Jon Pertwee DVD in the player.

All right. Ranting aside, best of luck to Matt Smith, who at 26, is the youngest Doctor ever.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Calling all Geeks, Nerds, and other Sci-fi fans.

For those who don't know, David Tennant is hanging up his key to the TARDIS and leaving Doctor Who at the end of this year. My friend Simon has informed me that the 11th Doctor will be announced tomorrow. As there haven't been any hints so far, here is my wish list:

8. Stephen Fry. Ok, he's a little on the large side, but maybe the Doctor could go old school and start using his mind to solve problems again. Also, he played a wonderfully disturbed Timelord in Death Comes to Time

7. Paul McGann: Not really, I know, but can we PLEASE go back in time and see how the 8th Doctor died? Please?

6. Ringo Starr. Don't mind me, I just think Ringo would be great in anything.

5. Eddie Izzard. Do I need to explain?

4. Rowan Atkinson. Not only did he unofficially play the 9th Doctor in the Curse of Fatal Death, he was actually considered to be the official 9th Doctor. Besides, they could always do a special where the Doctor meets Baldrick...

3. Michael Palin. Ok, if any of the Pythons were to play the Doctor, I would have wished it was Grahm Chapman, because then he could have said, "this is what we doctors call..." Unfortunately he had to up and die nineteen years ago, so Michael Palin would be my second choice. He seems to have a kind vulnerability around him. The only negative is that horrible toupee or hair implants or whatever he has these days - but many Doctors have worn hats in the past.

2. Richard E. Grant. Not only was he an unofficial 9th Doctor in Scream of the Shalka, he was also the self-described "mirror-licking-sexy" Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death.

1. David Warner. Yes, he's old, but he's done a great job as the Doctor in the Big Finish Unbound adventures. And yes, it's quite all right for the Doctor to be old again.

All right, fellow nerds of the world, who do you think it should be?