August, 2013

Aug 13

Ah, Every Age Has Its Own Special Rudeness

It may be that a person’s attentiveness when you’re communicating with them is kind of a meter of their perception of your status…often anyway. Some people are less robotic about such things. Certainly when I’ve had successes that got publicity, that were known in various places, people were more attentive, they gave me more time, they spoke to me with more respect. One can feel them assessing, metering out their attentiveness. This is clearly evident in the entertainment industry. It’s also, however, something I encounter with some of my “friends” (I don’t mean facebook friends, I mean people I encounter in person) and acquaintances. If I see someone I know at a convention, say, begin talking to them, and as we talk they check their smartphone, flick through it with their thumb, I feel that I’m either boring them…and really, I don’t hold forth endlessly…or their metering of my importance places me fairly low. I see this more and more with people…

In short, if you look at your cell phone a lot when I’m talking to you–just don’t talk to me. Go hang out with your cell phone.

Aug 13

The Lesser of Evils. Yes. So?

There are no good choices with Syria. Doing nothing and letting them sort it out was just bearable until we saw rows of children who’d died a horrible, painful death through Sarin nerve gas.

I am satisfied that Assad’s regime is behind the nerve gas attacks. Death from nerve gas is not particularly quick. It is terrifying, agonizing. If you survive the nerve gas it changes your DNA. It affects every corner of your being forever. It will affect children you may have…Nerve gas is the most indiscriminate of killers in war, apart from, perhaps, the hydrogen bomb. It is, yes, significantly worse than missiles. It has been forbidden by international treaty for half a century. If we permit it to be used again, with impunity, others will get in line to use it. If we do just enough–take out some artillery emplacements, aircraft, and so on–to give the rebels the edge, they stand a good chance of overthrowing Assad. It is not true that the rebels are “a bunch of al Qaeda operatives”. There are thought to be some Jihadists among them. They have factions. It may be that if the rebels win, Syria becomes a hardline Muslim state and that’s bad. But it’s not as bad as allowing the torture and the slaughter–the latter through executions, mass murders, the shelling of civilian areas, and now the use of nerve gas against civilians, and children–to go on. One million Syrian children have fled the country–were the war over, they could return home. The resultant nation would not be ideal–but it would be at peace…

The USA’s minor, selective, pinpoint military involvement in the Syrian conflict is *not* engaging in war. It may be technically engaging in “warfare”. That is not war. War is gigantic, war is a juggernaut. Make no mistake. War is its own special condition. Our engagement in Iraq was war. This will not be us making war. It will be militarily minor. No Americans will be harmed and no civilians targeted.

Is it merely “the lesser of evils?” Yes. So? Who wishes to vote for the greater of evils?

Aug 13

A Perfect Storm of Lethal Factors

That eight year old in Louisiana who shot his 87 year old caregiver after playing Grand Theft Auto for a long time…shot her in the back of the head, killing her… It was, it seems to me, like a perfect storm of lethal factors. Or rather factors that added up to be lethal. A loaded gun lying about where an 8 year old could get it. The ignorance and impressionability and natural impulsiveness of the child…the lack of real oversight in his life…the game as applied to an eight year old who was ignorant and impressionable and had access to guns. Take away any of those factors and quite possibly the lady would still be alive. I will defend videogames with violence in them, like Half Life, an intelligent game that is as much puzzle as combat; like Call of Duty and so on. But it’s always seemed to me that Grand Theft Auto was particularly lacking in any sort of internal ethical standard. You win the game by engaging in major theft. Violence against unarmed women is allowed. Sociopathy is rewarded in the game. But no 8 year old boy should have access to any violence-based game, really. I’m talking about games with weapons that are based on real world weapons, violence based on real world violence. *Most of the time* some teenager playing a violent videogame is not going to commit violent acts because of the game. Almost never. *Some problematic persons* may have some of their tendency to violence underscored, though. But studies do not show any clear connection between violent videogames and violence in the real world. It’s just that in some cases–there can be a connection.

There *was* a local gang, ’round here, in Oakland, that was especially vicious, that *did* in fact play GTA before going out on the street and committing acts of real mayhem. They said it was a ritual with them. That doesn’t prove they wouldn’t have committed those acts anyway. But the game, which celebrates sociopathy, might have nudged some members of the gang along… I’ll see if I can find a link to an article about them…so it’s complex. But I personally think game designers should *choose not* to create a game like GTA. Call of Duty is violent enough…

And yes I realize the kid could’ve shot the old lady, quite possibly, even if he’d not been playing a GTA for hours first…

Aug 13

My Off The Costumed Cuff Review of KICK-ASS 2

The irony in his denouncing KICK-ASS 2, which I just saw, is that it contains the best performance I’ve seen by Jim Carrey in a long time. He stays in character splendidly. He denounced the movie for its violence, which he saw after the Sandy Hook massacre happened. Admittedly that event would have put anyone off raw depictions of violence and this picture contains very creative and imaginative excesses in violent imagery. The running lawn mower through the windshield and so on. If you liked KICK-ASS you’ll probably like this sequel as it’s internally logical (enough), and full of event and action and humor and pretty well directed. Not as well directed as the first one–different director. And the story, which borrows from CARRIE at one point, doesn’t work quite as well. Many of the movie’s plot turns are fairly predictable. But having said that, this movie has Chloe Grace Moretz as a teenage Hit-Girl in it; it has the crack-up Jim Carrey character; it has a real woman bodybuilder from Russia playing a woman bodybuilder from Russia in it–but one gone into the super villain business, as “Mother Russia”–and she’s *great*. Hell that genuinely super powerful Russian girl is worth the price of a ticket. There is a lot of very effective satirical humor–the part about what teen girls are into and how “it’s biology, bitch”, was, I thought, really quite funny.

The Hit-Girl action is good. The development of Motherf*cker, without the asterix, the villain Red Mist has become, works for me. Most important, Hit-Girl busts her moves and gets it done… and the music is very cool. Including another from Joan Jett. . .

We had a great time watching KICK-ASS 2. I hope there’s a KICK-ASS 3– and bring back Mother Russia.

Aug 13

The United States, Syrian govt use of Nerve Gas…and our Options

This morning it became clear that the President is seriously thinking of militarily intervening in Syria–because it’s now coming clear that men, women and children are being killed by Sarin nerve gas there. One key remark he made (paraphrasing here) is that “It is a threat to the security of the USA when people are using nerve gas anywhere.”… People talk as if Egypt, Syria, the middle east in general, is all part of the USA. “Why doesn’t the President do something more about Egypt?” Egypt is not Missouri or Oregon. It is a foreign country so he can only do so much. And he can only do so much about Syria…But there were hints in his remarks today that *if the UN approves* he’s going to intervene in some way. …President Clinton said that his own greatest policy mistake in office was not doing anything about Rwanda when it was clear that genocide was taking place there. He regrets it… But these aren’t American states–so why do we have to take responsibility? Because we can. And because no one else is doing so, in any major way. Re Egypt, our military intervention doesn’t make sense; I suspect the Pres will suspend military aid to the present govt there… Re Syria, there’s no other way–military intervention is the only course of conscience…If the President intervenes, many on the left and some on the right (like Rand Paul) may object. “Warmonger!” If he doesn’t intervene militarily, many other people of all camps may be horrified with the consequences and howl, “Why didn’t he intervene?” He has just said that international law prevents military intervention by the USA *unless the UN votes to allow it*. If they do, I think he’ll use pinpoint military intervention: a No fly zone, carefully placed missiles–*perhaps* the use of special forces in some small operations *if* he can reliably locate the whereabouts of Assad. I think that, with UN backing, simply taking out Assad and his closest backers… this man who’s ordered the use of Sarin nerve gas on civilians…is appropriate.

Aug 13

Aw Shaddup Glib Hipster

Most of my friends are, more or less, some variety of hipster. I’m probably some kind of hipster myself. But glib hipsters annoy me. Glib hipsters say things like, “The Sex Pistols were like the Monkees, Malcolm McClaren did everything for them, he created them, they weren’t real punk rock.” Shut up, glib hipster and if you’re smart you’ll discount pretty much anything McLaren ever said. I knew him and he was full of shit. Glib hipsters opine in a kneejerk way. They say, “The Rolling Stones once had some validity but they’ve sold out and they’re too old and no longer creative.” Every rock band wants commercial success (it’s better than having a job) and they just write music they feel like writing, not just stuff that’d please glib hipsters. And glib hipsters say “White people don’t play the blues worth shit.” Shut up, glib hipster. Many white blues players are very respected by black bluesmen. Stevie Ray Vaughan did a fine job.

And if you tell me Janis Joplin couldn’t sing blues and doesn’t have soul I’ll yank off your soul patch.

Now watch what you say about the Ramones and Zappa too.

Aug 13

Beware What You Say of the Jabberwock, My Son

It was in fact particularly brillig, that day, and the toves were, I admit, slithy and there was a certain amount of gyring and gimbling in the wabe. And yes, the borogroves *were* in fact, mimsy. The mome…it was *somewhat* outgrabe. I don’t know if I’d have said “it definitely raths outgrabe”, really. The Bandersnatch–it has often been maligned. People call it frumious. An exaggeration, in my opinion. The Jabberwock, to be perfectly candid, came waffling, not whiffling, I remember it distinctly. At first recollection, I thought it was actually in the bulgey wood, but no, on consideration–it was indeed the tulgey wood. The creature burbled, that I admit. But slaying the Jabberwock and dancing about shouting how frabjous the day is–that seems inappropriate to me. Jabberwocks are gorgeous creatures, there can’t be more than forty or fifty million of them in the North of England, so really, to say the day so marvelous a creature was killed was frabjous–it simply makes me snicker-snack, with, well, a rubber blade, as I’m not permitted to have a vorpal one.

They won’t trust me with any sort of real blade here, sadly.

Aug 13

Does Nature Wear Spurs?

Nature wears spurs. Nature spurs us with bacteria and viruses, in the service of natural selection. Nature uses earthquakes and floods to spur us. Nature spurs animals of all sorts with a relentless pressing, prodding–it winnows with the turning lottery ticket barrel of genetics. It spurs evolution. Some say evolution isn’t going in any particular direction. It seems as if it is, but some insist that’s an illusion. I’m not clever enough to know for certain.

Animal evolution does seem to lead to greater species efficiency. And if a species is badly “designed”, doesn’t that predicate extinction? Isn’t the movement away from extinction a kind of direction? …

But what direction? Where is nature riding us to? Where is it going with its relentless spurring?

Aug 13

The Age of Extreme Adaptation

This is fast becoming the age of extreme weather. Now people will be motivated to do more forcefully what we’ve been sluggish about, till now: study how to design buildings, and places, infrastructure better suited to withstand hurricanes and tornadoes. Our means of surviving the most destructive storms hasn’t been focused on as a truly major, really fresh undertaking in physics for many years; it hasn’t been pursued as if it were a new science–pursue it that way, start over and look at it without preconceptions, and new discoveries will be made…

Wildfires are on the increase due to climate change. Now people will be motivated to find entirely new ways to prevent fires and, failing that, to fight forest fires, wildfires of all kinds. There’ll be motivation to look at them anew; to think anew about their physics, their activity, their fuel sources; to tackle the phenomenon within a more concerted, better-funded scientific project.

This will be the age of extreme adaptation.

Aug 13

The Giant White Truck

Walking the dogs I came upon an elderly man prepping his giant white truck to pull his giant white RV to Long Beach, something he does about every six weeks. He accosted me, in a kindly way, and told me all about how the reason his truck is so noisy when starting is because there’s 30K pounds of pressure in it forcing the diesel through really fast to prep it for burning, so fast, the truck dealer told him, the stuff literally breaks the sound barrier. He told me about how his father used a .22 to shoot rabbits to get the family through the depression and how his father had binocular vision. (I’m not sure how we got to shooting rabbits.) He somehow segued to a story about how a hiking trip turned scary, in 1967, when the fair weather suddenly became a blizzard, and then sleet; a flood came round the canyon and wetted him to the bone and nearly washed him away; how he’d given his future wife his gloves in the blizzard and they turned her hands black. I told him about how Audie Murphy had done the same with his .22 re rabbits, and that pleased the old gent. Then he told me another story–and the manner of each story, a good many in one 10 minute conversation, was like a man on his deathbed remembering his life, though this man was spry. But it was age I was hearing, a gerontological phenomenon, the brain delivering up buried narratives, memories worked together in great detail, toward the end. It was a kind of neurological pattern in memory. It just had that tracery, the way woodgrain has its own.

He didn’t bore me. There was a great deal more, and it was all interesting…It just seemed like a merging of the neurological and the archaeological…

I assume my own brain is making deposits, laying the groundwork for future neurological/ archaeological digs…