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Archive for August, 2008

While it is no surprise to me that the lyrics to many kiddie songs are both insipid and inane, I had not given a great deal of thought to very much of the content. Some of the sentiments and concepts expressed are extremely odd, and some are just plain scary to contemplate.

As such, I present a kiddie hit parade of sorts – the songs I refer to will doubtless be known to you all.

1. Your father is bribing you to shut up by buying you all kinds of stuff. Much of it appears to be livestock.

2. Some lunatic decided to put your cradle in a tree and I am now trying to convince you to sleep in it, presumably with the idea that when high winds hit, you’ll get a surprise. And this is good. Really.

3. Field mice are evil, the resolution of which lies in cranial trauma administered by a rabbit.

4. Speaking of cranial trauma, the protagonist of our next ditty not only suffered the injury and indignity of falling down a hill, but also the painful cauterization of the resulting wound with whatever substance was convenient and acidic, in this case vinegar.

5. Living in footwear is apparently not conducive to birth control, nor to the ability to feed your kids, though it does give you quite the background for child abuse.

6. When your true love drowns in the sea and you are unable to save her, you still have her sister as a backup option once you have made it through the obligatory four verses of grieving.

7. Spiders have nothing better to do than climb up spouts, and are too stupid to find somewhere else to go in bad weather. And we are supposed to believe this of a species that also engages in the laudable practice of helping young women get off their tuffets and get some exercise.

8. Egg-shaped people should avoid sitting on masonry, for they are too fragile to survive loss of balance. They are also rather less subject to re-assembly than, say, an IKEA bookshelf.

I’m sure I could come up with many more, but that’s all I can think of for the moment. If you feel inclined to comment with others, I look forward to reading them.

Also – though of a less traumatic bent – does anyone know the escape velocity required to counteract the gravitational pull of mulberry bushes?

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It’s official.

Just got a very welcome email, which began as follows:

Oliver, Congratulations and welcome to the Xerox family. I am pleased to confirm your start date of Tuesday, September 02, 2008.

So yeah, w00t, I can has job, and any other overused meme-age you care to put here. 🙂

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Throughout its history, Western science has had one major failing – its inability to ‘think outside the box’. Each passing day brings a new theory or discovery, most of which are ignored or derided by ‘orthodox’ scientists who cling to their safe, comfortable dogma. In the 1860s, chemists refused to acknowledge John Newland’s idea that the elements might fall into eight distinct ‘families’. Later on, Dimitri Mendeleyev was awarded the Nobel Prize for the same idea, which led to the periodic table that hangs on the wall in every high school. The stories of Copernicus and Galileo have become famous examples of maverick scientists proving the establishment wrong. Even such luminaries as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein suffered the disbelief of their contemporaries at one time or another.

Due to this hostile, neophobic academic climate, few scholars are willing to stick their necks out and embrace a novel idea, regardless of its merits, for fear of losing their reputation or – worse yet – their funding. Indeed, it is an unwritten rule of modern science that the investigation of certain subjects is tantamount to professional suicide. No chemist today will seriously experiment toward the alchemical ideal of ‘transmutation’. Few anthropologists will accept the possibility of trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific contacts before the days of Columbus (pr at least Leif Erikson), and even those few will guardedly admit that a few small-scale events could have occurred, but no major communication. It is a rare Egyptologist that will look twice at the notion of the Sphinx being older than the Fourth Dynasty, and a still rarer geographer that truly believes in Atlantis.

Science holds tightly to its predetermined ‘facts’ – indeed, just as tightly as religious people hold to their own. Each accuses the other camp of trying to ‘undermine’ theirs with ‘obviously untrue’ statements. Such tensions are understandable, since science and religion are in a sense two roads leading to the very same goal; each is on a quest to understand the ultimate truth of the Universe. I believe it is time that these two take a long, hard, objective look at each other, since there may be a wealth of information in each that would benefit the other. Perhaps Aleister Crowley said it best:

We place no reliance
On Virgin or Pigeon –
Our method is Science
Our aim is Religion.

Crowley’s own unorthodox religious leanings and somewhat dubious reputation aside, this example of his thinking bears remembering. The word ‘religion’ comes from Latin roots meaning ‘re-tying’, more specifically a re-establishment of one’s link with the Divine. ‘Science’, on the other hand, means ‘knowledge, and the pursuit thereof’. I can think of few better ways to be bonded to any God or Goddess than through knowledge – detailed study of Their greatest work, upon whose verdant bosom over six billion of us have made our homes.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”.
– Socrates

In our arrogance, we claim to know many things. Just as we once ‘knew’ the Sun revolved around the Earth, ‘knew’ the world was flat, we now ‘know’ that we cannot travel faster than light, we ‘know’ the reasons for rainfall and tides and comets and black holes. We couldn’t possibly be wrong, since we’re such smart, highly evolved creatures.

I’m sorry, I said the E-word. Evolution? Creation? A little of both? Who knows?

Today more than fifty million Americans went to school. They learned, or at least heard, certain key factoids which make up a part of the accepted body of American knowledge. Few will have thought to question anything stated by their instructors – indeed, the most frequently asked question across these schools today was probably “will this be on the test?”. Millions of notebooks were half-heartedly flipped open to record unthinkingly the words of the curriculum.

Western society in particular is guilty of this practice; we place inordinate value on sameness, such that within any given socioeconomic group most people will dress the same, listen to the same music, watch the same TV shows. Fashion statements are generated by large corporations, whose subsidiaries pander to the similarly slavish fashions of the niche markets. Record companies churn out new clones of old artists, the promotional machine turning them into superstars and ensuring their marketability. Ultimately, a tiny élite controls the behavior of most of tomorrow’s leaders, who are mindlessly following orders as they are taught more and more definitely how to think – or perhaps more importantly, how not to think. We read Orwell’s 1984 and think of it as fiction when in fact it simply mirrors today’s reality so perfectly that one must almost ask whether Orwell was a latter-day prophet.

We believe that our government has our best interests at heart rather than its own; we believe that the news media is always telling us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; we believe that accepted scientific principles are always right and we believe that our textbooks, encyclopedias and religious works provide an unerring guide to the world and everything in it.

Where am I going with all of this?

If the patterns of today continue, it is conceivable that within a few generations humanity will be faced with a completely new scenario, an event which we are unable to predict today, and that the billions of Earthlings faced with this problem will be unable to devise a single new idea between them and will thus perish.

Some may consider this a needlessly alarmist hypothesis. Others may sit comfortably and say that God – and I use the term to indicate any religious figure or figures – will no doubt save us from any such catastrophe. Others still may cling to accepted scientific dogma, believing that the corpus of accumulated data will no doubt yield a solution. What if these people are all wrong?

I believe that it is the duty of today’s Westerner to make himself a royal pain in the tail for the establishment. Perhaps the scientists are indeed right, or the Church, or the historians. I am not willing to bet the continued existence of my species on it. The class of 1491 believed that the world was flat even though the Egyptian, Minoan and Greek civilizations had already mathematically determined otherwise and certain Asiatic folks had already visited the American continent. The learned elders of the sixteenth century were convinced that the Sun revolved around the Earth, going so far as to revile and punish the mavericks who proposed a heliocentric system, notwithstanding teachings from the past suggesting otherwise. Today we all accept the Darwinian theory of evolution, albeit in a rather distorted way that would horrify Darwin himself, though many of us are aware of the establishment’s reluctance to believe him. What do we “know” today that the class of 2100 will ridicule? Nothing, say the scientists. What we know now is obviously the shining, unassailable truth. Their word does not satisfy me any more than the “truths” of yesteryear satisfied Columbus or Galileo.

The Real Truth as we know it today is not an ultimate destination; it is a claim made by closed-minded people who wish to keep their books in the accepted literature and their royalties in their wallets. It is a system of denial whereby anyone proposing a different scenario is immediately dubbed a ‘crank’ (at best) or a ‘heretic’ (at worst). Few members of the establishment are open-minded enough to accept that if a well-loved article of established dogma is proven incorrect it must be amended or replaced. Even on those rare occasions when the ‘lunatic fringe’ is proven correct about something, those very lunatics who dared to dream of something new gather their followers about them and begin to cling to their own discoveries as tightly as the now-discredited generation before them, and before long the new knowledge is just as entrenched as the old, accepted just as blindly by the next generation of students.

If we are to progress, to advance our understanding of Science, of Nature and of God, we must question everything. Only those who believe that faster-than-light travel is possible will have the impetus to make it possible. Only those who believe in human immortality will find the way to make it happen. Only those who learn the lessons of the past will be able to carve out a meaningful future for the human race.

I’m sorry, Henry, but history is no longer bunk. Let’s take another look.

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Legoslation

The legislative process in this country (and likely others) is positively out of wack.

(Note to self: find out where exactly wack is and look into living costs, because things seem to work pretty well in there)

Any bill passing through either House gets all kinds of crazy amendments, many of which have nothing to do with the purpose of the bill, and some of which are only peripherally related.

This is not legislation – this is what I would call Legoslation. Remember playing with Lego bricks and building really weird shit because your bricks didn’t match, or didn’t actually fit together the way you wanted them to? That’s the stuff becoming law in this country.

If someone wants to introduce a bill declaring September 3rd National Salad Day, that’s fine with me. If someone puts an amendment on a health care bill which mandates National Salad Day and you can’t pass the health care agenda without also mandating federal recognition of salad, I consider that a problem.

There are 535 members of Congress, and each of them undoubtedly has a different agenda. But for heaven’s sake, people! You can still co-operate while keeping your agenda separate, and holding important legislation hostage because you want your own little project funded is positively backward.

A good example of this is the recent immigration bill. I think that if you want to build a border fence, draw up a bill providing for the border fence and that alone. If you want to have a guest worker program, draw up a bill for the guest worker program ONLY. If you want to make large-scale changes to the entire immigration system, put together as many bills as can actually be kept separate from each other. This ensures that members of Congress can actually vote according to their own views and for the good of their constituents. And while I recognize that in this sort of a system it will be harder for Joe Congressman in Alaska to get funding for a $3million bridge that doesn’t go anywhere… but that’s kind of the point.

Also, it’s not as though there won’t be wheeling and dealing. Feingold (for example) can agree to vote for a bill sponsored by Dodd (also for example) if Dodd reciprocates. The votes will still be there, you just might actually have to WORK for them instead of bludgeoning the rest of the pack into giving them to you. And perhaps it will even allow for more bipartisan cooperation – if a bloc of Congresspeople (or should that be Elected-Americans?) from the states in the middle want to work together to provide a large-scale agriculture bill which will benefit all of their states, this is not a problem for me. Even amendments which would relate directly to agriculture would be fine. But if Joe Senator in Florida sticks a rider on the bill for urban development projects in Tallahassee and Pensacola, it should be stricken down as a procedural measure, and either introduced separately for a vote on its own merits or as part of a wide-ranging urban development bill. There are enough mutual back-scratching agreements in Congress to allow it to survive this sort of arrangement.

This would also be a good way to reduce the ‘pork’ projects in general – remember that being one of Nancy Pelosi’s promises for the new Democratic-led Congress? Hasn’t happened so far, it’s really just a different batch of pork.

Let’s see an end to Legoslation and a return to legislation. And maybe a National Salad Day, just for the hell of it.

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