27
Jul 15

A Story with a Happy Ending

Once upon a time there was a storyteller who made his living telling stories as he traveled about the land, starting each one with “once upon a time”. He grew tired of his own stories–even the new ones, since they were always to the formula preferred by the crowds, and never quite new, and one day decided to invent one that seemed more classically tragic and highflown. He told his usual story up to a point: of a young, very good prince, hiding from usurpers, in this case traveling with a kindly mountebank who sold snake oil and the like; as usual villains in the crowd recognized the young prince, and besought their master, King Climp, the Prince’s uncle, who bade them waylay the prince and quietly kill him.

The storyteller’s listeners grew round eyed and rapt, as he went on. The villains captured the young prince, and took him to the river to drown him; here, in the story, is normally where the prince tricked the villainous henchmen with a tale of a secret potion that could turn stone into gold. He told the story, they agreed to release him if he showed them the trick, and he used a sleight of hand that substituted a painted gold rock for a river rock. Thinking they no longer needed the evil King, they rode off–and the young prince encountered a girl, and it was love at first sight. Whereupon the evil King rode up, to check on his feckless henchmen. At this point the girl usually tricked the king–so that the Prince captured the false sovereign and was able to take his place. However, this time, in the new version, King Climp turned to the girl and said, “You have done well, Ariadne. You have delayed him. I knew those bumpkins would fail me.” The girl threw him a kiss–and laughed at the prince. The prince in a fury stabbed her…but as she died she revealed that she had been about to kill the King so she and the prince could be together. Weeping, the Prince bent over her–and was stabbed in the back by the wicked false King. The End.

The storyteller halted his tale. The listeners were silent, gape mouthed. Then they howled and mobbed him, tying him up and carrying him off to a hilltop. There they put a rope, dangling from a tree, tightly round his neck, and set him on a horse, crying out, “How dare you harm the good prince! How dare you break our hearts with this black tale!”

“But wait!” the storyteller cried out desperately. “That wasn’t the end! For the Prince was not dead…nor was the girl! The Prince…ah…let me see…he, ah, crawled away, and just as the King was to finish him off, the girl, who was wounded but also not dead, tripped the evil one…so that he fell…upon the Prince’s knife! They both survived and reigned as the kindest king and queen in all the land!”

The storyteller’s listeners clapped enthusiastically, startling the horse, so that it ran away. The crowd watched in astonishment as the now-dangling storyteller choked in the noose. Two of them tried to climb up and cut him loose but it was too late.

“Well,” said the town’s mayor, as they all turned away, “at least the story had a happy ending.”


26
Jul 15

Why Does Time Seem to Go Faster as We Age?

Why does time seem to pass more rapidly as we age? Seem is the operative word, and the passage of “time” is indeed subjective up to a point. The phenomena of events unfolding, and folding; the “arrow” of time–the movement toward relative order and entropy, complexity and disorder–essentially the observable rate of changes, adds up to the appearance of the flow of so-called time. The apparent flow of time (as such) is a summary, a kind of consensus of perception we share with others who have similar cerebral and perceptual activity.

The young perceive with more attention, without trying, if they’re doing something they enjoy. As we age our capacity for that kind of open attention erodes unless we work to restore it…Perception–most obviously eyesight–actually takes place at a rate–this rate, that rate, another rate. But always at some rate. It’s just that we don’t notice our perceptual rate, for the same reason we don’t see our own eyes (without a mirror). Our usual rate of perception is simply innate to us…however there is a spectrum, a margin, of possible modification.

I can *see faster* if I exert my attention. I find that if I locate my attention itself, then I root my attention in the present moment, and quiet my associations as best I can, then simply perceive, time slows down while I maintain this state. This slowing is a subjective perception in one respect, since objectively events are unfolding at the whatever speed is natural to them–but in another way, time *has* slowed for me since I’m aware of more of it. The brain is taking pictures and stringing them together, more rapidly than we’re aware of. Normally we’re getting fewer “frames per second”, so it all seems to go by faster, like the major events of a day whipped by on flash cards. For neurological reasons, reasons of entrenched habit, and the psychology of aging, time seems faster as there’s less information processed. Adding more “frames”, more beats of perception, means more information to process which takes “more time”, so to speak. Events move more slowly–though not tediously. (People sometime note the same effect with some mind altering drugs though in my opinion it’s not as beneficial a means for slowing time, over all, since it doesn’t enhance our control of attention).

When we get older, we work more and more on autopilot; our cognition gets weathered, and we generally tend to take less in. So since we’re skipping intervals, time seems to “speed up”. If we move against this process by activating attention, time seems to slow down. It becomes, at least, richer and fuller–more the way it effortlessly was…when we were young.

People have been talking about the apparent speeding of time for the elderly so glib people, and perhaps some neurological theorists, have tried to come up with an explanation, and they’ve given us the tortured one about relativity based on time used and remaining, but it doesn’t explain the alteration of the passage of time with the enhancement of attention…And they’re just wrong, those people. Suppose your car starts spinning out of control on a freeway–this happened to me, and luckily cars flashed by me and I wasn’t hit and I ended harmlessly in the margin…and time slowed down for me. Everyone has had this experience. So how does the graph and the relativity and time-remaining thing explain that? How does it apply? It doesn’t. The one thing that explains it is that perception of events increases, temporarily, in such a case, which apparently slows time …only, time is an illusion of existential, environmental, and internal activity. An objective view of this activity working out is the fourth dimension. We incorporate bits of the fourth dimension, I suspect, when we stretch our attention to take in more “frames per second”.


26
Jul 15

An OFF THE CUFF Review of EX MACHINA

Finally saw EX MACHINA. Alex Garland, who wrote and directed this (the first film he’s directed) also wrote the very under-rated DREDD, and SUNSHINE, and 28 DAYS LATER (certainly one of the best zombie films ever), and several novels and is generally a very bright talented guy. I think I remember that at least one reviewer of EX MACHINA described it as “intellectual”. Most movie reviewers wouldn’t know intellectual if it bit them in the ass. But it’s a smart movie, and very effective. A sign of an effective, meaningful movie is that you think about it afterwards, and I’m still thinking about it, on and off, a couple hours later.

EX MACHINA, a movie about artificial intelligence, the survival instinct, seduction, male/female relationships, and much that is sinister, inevitably reminds us, thematically, of BLADERUNNER and it also seems an homage –more than Spielberg’s “A.I.”–to Kubrick …that is, the shots, certain ideas, but mostly the film making, is very Kubrickian, and not accidentally I’m sure. It’s seamless film making and, while some bits –maybe much of it–are predictable, well…I can’t say more…but it works out…The film is not without its imperfections but it’s a very, very strong science fiction film, one of the best. All the actors are very good indeed…but it’s the film-making that impresses.

Happily lacking in big stars, EX MACHINA was not terribly expensive, compared to some, and it made a handy profit. I don’t think it should have a sequel but, commercially speaking, it *could* have, given the story and the relative success…


25
Jul 15

On the Mass Murder Channel–Coming This Weekend!

THIS WEEKEND ON…THE MASS MURDER CHANNEL! Mass shootings, mass knifings, mad bombers–we have them all day, all week, 365 days a year! Now that is coverage!!

…The MMC presents an interview with the DC Sniper himself! “Deek Snipes” as the fans call him will talk planning strategy! (Interview conducted before his execution.)

And…Is the Louisiana theater shooter small change–just three kills?–or was he a talented beginner with bad luck? Our MMC panel discusses!

Let’s get coldly analytical on our Saturday Midnight Massacre as we review and compare the Aurora and Sandy Hook killings–is the choice of weapons really so important? Contrast their gear, and text us your opinion!

On the Sunday Strafe we take along cool look through our telescopic sights at the mass murders in other countries. There aren’t many! Is gun control to blame?!

MMC–the channel that loves the 21st century, and is ready to take it from our studio right to your sofa, camera lenses ablazing!

[Or, you could just watch CNN]


18
Jul 15

Is ANT-MAN’s Shrinking POSSIBLE? Why…NO! However…

…Friends and I were discussing how the super shrinking in ANT-MAN and THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN and THE ATOM…could be rationalized. How it could be possible. Well, it’s NOT possible BUT…

If I was writing the script I’d use one of three dodges I can think of to make it seem possible–eg, the Incredible Shrinking Man, Antman etc, have some of their mass “projected into the fourth dimension” –it still is attached to them in a way however–and I stole that from Isaac Asimov, who used it in Fantastic Voyage novelization. OR I would point out that there is *said* to be way more space in atoms than substance, and therefore you can do a lot of theoretical compression if you can control the interaction of compressed subatomic particles…OR…

One can use the ever popular “quantum universe” dodge, suggesting, for example, that problematic particles are projected to a “spooky action at a distance” detachment, for example, and other “quantum physics as magic” kind of talk. NONE of this would convince me that it’s really possible, but it would aid in suspension of disbelief. But they don’t hire guys like me for stuff like this, because they prefer you say it’s possible because of Pym Particles or something and leave it at that.


12
Jul 15

Duality Looks At Us

Faces are divided into two equal halves; symmetry of eyes on each side of the nose, of cheeks, matching opposite halves of mouths: with people, with animals, insects. Plants are symmetrical too, for the most part. . .We see this mirroring in organisms, notice it now and again, don’t think about it much. But…

It seems so expressive, like an artful depiction of nature’s inner essence; as it it’s the appearance taken by the projection of life out of the universe where everything is an iteration of duality.

Action, reaction, a third thing that emerges from those two, which in turn becomes an action, generating a reaction. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. One eye, two eyes, face. And, in the old myth symbols, a third eye is placed between the two.

Hands clap and sound emerges; a face comes roughly together in two halves (even in Quasimodo, despite some asymmetry), in our perception, and it can seem as if there’s an emanation from between the two halves. Certainly in the “faces” of blossoms, something emanates. Duality looks at us from–everywhere.


30
Jun 15

Who Would Harm a Cartoon Bird?

Was walking the dogs and saw a couple of cartoon birds. They were California Quail, a male and female, young, cartoonish creatures the like of which find their way into actual cartoons pretty often. They look Disney-designed. The males are pudgy, with sartorially splendid markings, stylish piping of white about black masks, golden yellow speckling a proud breast that looks like something from a Punch illustration of a fat Brit noble–and of course, that bold and impudent plume drooping over their beaks, a kind of apostrophe always setting off the bubbling pip pip noises they make. They run, these guys, more often than they fly, sprinting like roadrunners when pursued. They love a good dust bath too–they totally luxuriate in dust baths.

And they like parties. Once I went out behind my house and found a large covey, or really a whole flock of them, communing along the edges of my roof, on tree branches, the fences–scores and scores of them facing inward into the yard, pipping and plipping at one another. I read that they’re “highly social” and in this case they were positively conventioneers.

On the walk I watched the young quail couple making a single dotted line across the ground through someone’s yard, the female following in the exact turns of the trail left by the male. A charming sight. Sometimes it’s relaxing to unashamedly revel in the site of an adorable, plump little bird with a plume. Who would harm such a–*BLAM!* Dick Cheney at a “game farm”…where “hunters” go into a fenced area, find the little birds, and blow them to pieces, for fun, with a shotgun. Cheney loves to do it with quail, doves, grouse… and if he’s been drinking he might shoot his friend in the face.


25
Jun 15

Why Are There No Flying Cars? Because…

“Where are the flying cars I’ve been waiting for?” There are prototype flying cars, which fly, but there are vast complications with them. For one thing, if you run out of gas in an ordinary car it rolls to a stop on the road; if you run out of gas in a flying car it crashes through a roof, maybe hits a day care center, or smashes into a refinery, or crashes into the river and the person drowns; maybe it crashes into traffic from above, and so on.

Then there’s the question of landing and taking off in one. Sure, most of that can be automatic, in many cases, especially as such techs evolve, but even then–where do you put all those runways? Even if it’s landing pads you need lots of them for lots of flying cars…Then there’s air traffic. We already have air traffic–we’d have to route flying cars around and through it. How complex is that? Will the signals for directing flying cars onto a specific route interfere with plane tech?

You could say we already have another sort of flying car–they’re called helicopters.


21
Jun 15

Annoying Spit Splattered, Neck Jabbing Television Trends

Certain current television conventions, which sometimes overlap into movies, irritate the hell out of me. The latest one is, when people French kiss, they do it face on, nose to nose, instead of turning their heads more naturally at an angle, and then they are going glup-glup glob-glob and simulate pushing giant alien tongues down each others throat, as if they’re trying to mutually lick tonsils. It makes me think of two house painters, who dip big paint brushes into buckets of saliva; they then turn face to face and slap the brushes up and down, up and down sloppy brush on brush. In real life, with anyone who’s not mentally handicapped, kissing that includes tongues is not like a dog sticking its whole snout in a giant bowl of meat-fat and gorging itself. I am not saying French kissing is disgusting–not at all. I’m saying current television “French kissing” is not French kissing at all. It’s some idiot’s idea of passion.

Second, in TV shows people are always sticking syringes in people’s neck, all the way in, to knock them out with some potion. If you jammed a three inch or even two inch needle in someone’s neck they’re not going to wake up just fine. If you just happen to miss the jugular–in the typical show this syringe stabbing in the throat is always done apparently at random, long as it’s in the neck–they might live; and *if* you don’t go too much to the side and hit the spine, they might not become paralyzed; even then you’re going to have an enormous ugly swelling on the neck, and possibly a blood clot, agonizing pain, many broken blood vessels some of which will need surgery. Stick the damn syringe in their hip or something. I suppose they think it’s really *cinematic* to do it this way, with the throat, it looks better, but it’s STUPID. Just add an extra wider shot, if you have to have the neck-jab trank syringe.

That’s if you have to include this whole “syringe in the neck” knockout crap. You don’t–at this point, having it in the story is pure hack writing.

Famously they were having fighting gunmen in gangs and so on turning their pistols sideways to shoot, for awhile. This is fading now, because everyone pointed out to the directors that no one really does this and it’s an ineffective use of a gun. You can’t shoot very accurately that way. So maybe they’ll also stop jamming increasingly large needles in people’s necks and increasingly grotesque tongues into mouths soon.


20
Jun 15

What the Charleston Mass-murderer Has in Common With the Very Few Americans Who Try to Join ISIS

I think the Charleston shooter did it for the same basic “reason”, the misguided reason, that a very few young American Muslims join ISIS. Because they feel centerless, unfocused, unappreciated, powerless, empty. Let me clarify, I don’t mean the normal feeling of not knowing what to do with life, common to a young person; I don’t mean normal youthful confusion. I mean, things are worse now. They can’t find a place in the world–simply as young men. This makes them prey to extremists.

So this young man, who once had some black friends, feels the way those lost ISIS recruits feel–and he falls in with online racists, possibly through the racist youth organization Stormfront–and local racists too, no doubt…and he wants to belong, wants respect. And he’s angry, all the time, anyway. We don’t know why yet. But that’s part of the formula for his rocket fuel.

And now he’s got meaning, he thinks, and importance, he supposes, through a mission. He even referred to his “mission”. Maybe someone sent him on the mission; maybe he made the mission up in his mind. But it seems to me to be remarkably parallel with the “I think I’ll join ISIS” kids. . .a similar psychological profile.