Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Cessation of All Things

Sooner or later, death will visit. I do not just mean you personally, but I mean to everything anything has ever known or experienced.

For humanity, it may be a virus in 20 years, nukes in 30, nanobots in 50, a food shortage in 1000, or eventual resource depletion (100 million years?). But that’s just some of what we may do to ourselves, on top of which there are also be a variety of limiting ‘external’ factors. The heat from the Earth’s (nuclear?) core will become unreliable or depleted in 3-5 billion years. If we manage to make it through that, the sun will consume us as it exhausts its fuel in ~5 billion years. Say we do make it into space, whatever sun we find will eventually become inhospitable as well. If the universe keeps expanding the resources will not be accessible (not as if they are now). But that is not the point. The best case scenario must still include the eventual decay of protons, in a stupidly long time from now, which will leave ‘nothing.’ The point is that it all goes.
It is inevitable.

So then what is the point? I believe the question itself is flawed, it assumes that there is a point to begin with. It would be better to start with “Is there a point?” I think the realistic answer is “In an absolute sense, there is no point. Yet, in a personal sense, there is the worth of the happiness that exists in your life.”

So what do you do? The best thing I can think of is to do whatever brings you the greatest amount of overall positivity (happiness/contentment/pleasure) and the least amount of overall negativity (unhappiness/discontentment/displease). Of course, this type of general answer is potentially unhelpful.

So what do you actually do? I would say one should engage in a process of discovery and research. Sample many things, many places, many spaces and see what you find. Travel, both internal and external, is required to have a good understanding of your own desires.

Interestingly, for myself this realization causes some… complications. Increasingly, I want to help the world, see people treated with respect, end violence, spread compassion and understanding and the like. If my perfect world existed, everyone still dies. To fight for human rights, does not mean truly saving lives, but is more realistically characterized as creating conditions where people will only die ‘naturally.’ Kinda depressing, but it is realistic. So… knowing people die anyway, one might be tempted to ask, “What’s the point?” Well, the aforementioned discussion would apply and there would have to be some cost-benefit analysis of the stress that I incur from caring about the mistreatment of others and how it is offset by the positivity created by the happiness of another whose life has been bettered by my actions. Of course, that presumes that

a) I’m a completely rational, informed agent (person), and
b) I actually have choice regarding my actions.

The first is definitely not true (as much as I want it to be) and it is very likely the second isn’t either (as much as it seems to be). Yet, the procedure outlined above is still the best course of action to follow. One should try to weigh evidence in as rational a manner as possible, despite limitations in information processing abilities. (Still thinking about this one) Additionally, while there may only be ‘apparent’ choice, one can still act like there are real choices because your life is subjectively open. In this manner, some will find it easier to proceed along a path of growth. The disadvantage of this heuristic will be evident down the line when one experiences the limitations of their own actualization abilities.

PS: Alternate title was “Dying, everybody’s doing it.” Which do you prefer?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Narratives Collide

Last week I had a wonderful (phenomenological) experience. First, some background: I’m currently reading two books with very different stories. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (‘Trilogy’) is a comical philosophical tale of a man’s journey through space/time, while Still Life with Woodpecker is an amusingly clever, quirky story about how to make love stay, set against a backdrop of personal and socio-political desires and self-reflective writing.

What had happened was that I picked up Still Life after just reading Hitch Hiker’s Guide, but, apparently, did not consciously notice the switch. Consequently, I read 3 or 4 lines of Still Life and began to think, “What the heck happened to Arthur, Zaphod and Trillian (characters),” “This makes no sense at all!” A split-second later, realization dawned. I laughed a little, delighted at remembering the feelings before, during and after the event: those shifting from confusion to understanding, to attempted understanding of the shift itself. I had entered Still Life with a whole narrative concealed within my brain, which obviously conflicted with a narrative that is separate and was not appropriately retrieved/activated.

This particular situation highlighted how many ‘unconscious’ processes are happening as a book is picked up that one has been reading.

I managed to stop reading a book, put the book down, move rooms with the book, and then pick up another book. Obviously, I looked at the book as I picked it up so I could find my place, open the book, move to the top of the page and begin to read.
Yet I still didn’t notice the switch, even with Hitch Hiker’s Guide being 5 times thicker than Still Life. Fascinating! As I was reading both books relatively consistently over a short period, the background info wasn’t that clouded which in turn made the experience all the more prominent.

It was delightful to witness how much ‘priming/accessing’ is occurring by just picking up a book (i.e., much more than I would have anticipated). It is even more amazing to think that this ‘preparation’ is happening all the time while your being reacts to everything within your sensory/perceptual range (with attention as a mitigating factor, of course).

Friday, November 26, 2004

Blown Away

Late last night I had the delightful experience of going on a ten-minute walk around my building. The delight was caused by a wonderful wind that was whirling wildly. I love the feeling of wind rushing against my body. I happily found a decent wind tunnel in which I had to actually incline myself to from being knocked back. I was gleeful! :)

The other high points of my excursion was coming upon a dingy apartment building parking lot. At first glance it was nothing special, some broad puddles, an outside light or two, the darkened brick of the building and a shadow inducing tree. But then, the wind came. Looking at the puddles, it was as if a two-dimensional galaxy of stars exploded. The ripples across the surface look liked particulate illuminating orbs rushing away from an impact, themselves likely cause a chain reaction in a nearby galaxy. These events of nature also appeared to be a sun moving across the sky or a bioluminescent sea creature swimming near the surface. I just stood and watched. The excitement would ebb and flow. At one point, calmness existed. Soon, I heard the powerful wind behind me in the distance. I turned to see a leafless tree’s branches flailing from the assaulting air and thought it is only a matter of time. Fifteen seconds later, wind met shallow water, galaxies sparked and the universe exploded.

There is beauty all around, you just have to not look for it.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Respect, not equality

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
This famous line from the US Declaration of Independence is completely fallacious. The concept is not just lacking ‘self-evidence,’ but actually exists in opposition to evidence. Humans are not genetically equal, they are not treated equally, nor are they raised in equivalent environments. Consequently, people do not end up ‘equal.’ People have different abilities: a result of differing innate inclinations and practice/exposure to various situations.

Everyone should be treated with respect, but they should not be treated equally.

Some may think this merely semantic pedantry, but if words are meant to communicate thoughts, they should be as accurate as possible. To perpetuate a blatantly false notion does not help the world; indeed it undermines the actual intent of those who would propose equality.

In the interest of lucidity, imagine an elementary school classroom. There are children with levels of ability in the categories of reading, spelling, science, mathematics, geography, arts, gym… etc. It is highly unlikely a student would have equal abilities with another student. Even more improbable is the idea that all the 20+ students would be equal to each other. More plausibly, children enter school with different levels of abilities compared to their peers. This situation would indicate that some child is better at some thing than some other child, but is also likely worse on some other measure. This is why teachers (should!) try to focus on different aspects of learning for different children, so proficiency can be gained in areas where it lacks.

The utility gained by having a useful description of humanity will be far greater than that of an antiquated notion based on false premises. Respect and compassion, not equality.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Mass, Space & Time

Have you ever wondered how various measures are defined? Here are the biggie's from The International Bureua of Weights and Measures. Remember the arbitrariness of many things, but also the great utility the comes from consensus plus the metric system.

Kilogram (kg)
The kilogram is the unit of mass; it is equal to the mass of the international prototype of the kilogram (made of platinum-iridium). (They may be moving to a quantum based measure in the future)

Metre (m)
The metre is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299 792 458 of a second. (This was an improvement upon a platinum-iridium bar. If you want some history)

Second (s)
The second is the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom.
(I know I always think of all ~9 billion periods when I count seconds)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Throughout your days, you’ve likely created or been exposed to the idea that “Maybe it’s all a dream.” Meaning that life is a dream and you are asleep.
Philosophically: Maybe you’ve heard of the notion that there is an evil demon that is making you feel things that aren’t real. The demon creates the illusion of the world around you, while hiding the true nature of things.
Philosophically with some science: Maybe you are a brain in a vat. Your brain is being controlled by scientists stimulating your neurons to make you think you are sitting at a computer reading this, but are really in a vat with electrodes connected to various inputs/outputs of your brain, all of which is connected to computers.
Computationally: What if you are really just in a computer simulation? [Simulation Argument: Moore’s Law (referring to integrated circuits) states that the computing power available for a given price will double every 12-24 months. It can be thought of as a way of understanding the exponential growth of computing. Some think it will run out for circuits in 10-15 years, but the past 100 years shows that as a technology is exhausted something new comes along (…vacuum tube begat transistor begat integrated circuit begat 3D computing?). By 2050 we should have enough computational speed to model all human brains. Therefore, one has to assume that humans will never run anthropological models of themselves, or that we will go extinct before 2050. If not, then we will be able to run realistic simulations by then. Or has it already happened?]
Notice anything yet?

One more: It was aliens that created the Earth along with humanity, but they are so sophisticated they were able to do it without leaving a trace of their involvement. Actually, they did it 137 times! See, they thought 136 was far too little. What? Why not 138? Are you nuts? Come on, that’s just silly. :P

What I’m trying to demonstrate to you is that none of these statements can be disproved. This does not mean that these statements are not true, but that their very nature precludes proving them false. They cannot be falsified. They are not falsifiable.
Consequently, aside from a positive feeling that may occur whilst pondering these possibilities, there is nothing else here. Acknowledging the existence of non-falsifiable statements is enough; employment of greater intellectual effort would be superfluous.
What if you are in a dream within a dream? Or better yet, what if aliens made a vat that had you in a simulation of a dream? If any of the aforementioned statements were actually true, what would change in your life? Assuming the statements are accurate in their lack of falsification, you would never be able to know if you were in a dream or vat or… etc., therefore, nothing would change. You’d still eat, sleep, socialize, strive, fail, succeed, change, grow… die. What changes?

A little extra
If you are in a dream, there is a body sleeping and dreaming.
If there is a demon, the demon exists somewhere to torture you.
If you are in a vat, a world exists with a vat with you in it.
If you are in a simulation, there is a program running with a ‘computer’ simulating your world.

It would appear that even these statements lead to the existence of an external reality. Thoughts?

Monday, November 22, 2004

National thoughts

I was watching the National and I found several things worth mentioning, along with some thoughts.

1) An online game company, Traffic, is offering a game where you can assume the place of Oswald and shoot JFK for $10 (or CNN). The company says it is to educate people about the whole incident. Yet, they are offering $100,000 for the best replicating shot in the next three months. Thanks for helping out the world guys.

2) They were discussing the incident with the Miss World competition in Nigeria, and how a woman received a fatwa indicating to others to kill her. Salman Rushdie was interviewed because of his satire of Mohammed and consequent 10 year fatwa calling for his death. I’m mentioning all of this because of something that had me laugh out loud in shock. CBC showed old footage of a large group of people, having the appearance of protestors, carrying a big banner that reads “We will Kill Salman Rushdie.”

Why I thought it was funny (the absurdity!) was the contrast of the appearance of a parade, but the true content of negativity and hatred. Then I pictured someone saying “Hey, Salman, some people are having a parade for you.” Then he gets all excited and hopeful and rushes to the screen. “Awwwww, maaan… they want to kill me. Well, dang, that sucks.”

Reportedly, the 1989 fatwa reads: In the name of God Almighty. There is only one God, to whom we shall all return. I would like to inform all intrepid Muslims in the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an, as well as those publishers who were aware of its contents, have been sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare insult the Islamic sanctions. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God willing. In addition, anyone who has access to the author of the book, but does not possess the power to execute him, should refer him to the people so that he may be punished for his actions. May God’s blessing be on you all. Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini. - Wikipedia
I could go on about this, and I may another time, but check Wikipedia for now. As well, after reading the fatwa, my earlier humour has dissipated.

There is another point here on which I would like to briefly comment, and that is freedom of speech in at least some parts of the world. The thought was sparked by some thoughts of Freud’s when he knew that his books were some of the first that were burned by the Nazis: “Look at the progress we have made. In the middle ages, they would have burned me. Now, they just burn my books.”

To think that in the past people were often killed for their beliefs is bad enough, to know that they still are is so much more sickening.

Lastly, because the woman was from Norway and the Miss World was in Nigeria, they needed some sentence to lead into a segment. I think they could have done better than, "Norway is about as far from Africa as you can get." (paraphrased)
Really? The distance is only 5644km. Sigh.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Email from God

(thanks Sam & Chris)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

In the news...

It takes a real man to hunt from his computer, a real stupid, saddening, pathetic little man.

There will now be a Google for scientists/researchers: Google Scholar :)

300,000 child soldiers in 30 conflicts in the world today – CBC Newsworld. They also reported that children in Uganda are walking with bags filled with basic needs while our children are walking with bags of Halloween candy. Shelters are set up for children who get abducted into Uganda’s civil war. The children often sleep on the veranda’s of shop-fronts not only for the security the light brings, but so they can study. (There parents can't protect them).

It was bad enough that the CIA director is fully backing Bush, but now Bush can instruct him to purge those 'disloyal' to the president! Are they using Orwelll's 1984 as manual?

The world's oldest man died at 113. Great little read. Apparently, he "gave up driving at 108 because he found slow drivers annoying." haha

For an update on what saddening things are going on in Iraq (with many helpful links). Seems like elections might not happen... what a surprise.

I can't help but be a little amused to think of monkey problems on highways. Not traffic, or bad weather, but monkeys! (Maybe you shouldn't build roads where monkeys live, jackass)

Apparently, Sri Lanka is bringing back the death penalty. Not just for murder, but rape and drugs as well.

The US complains about Iran producing Uranium. Like kids with toys, you don't want other people to have them. Sigh.

There is cautious hope for Sudan.

Bones or boners? Which do you care more about?

Cloning (not the movie kind) will not be officially banned.(BBC or NY Times)

Actual voting is overrated, why not just eat it?

I read a decent interview with Chris Rock from the Onion's A.V. Club.

Intellectual realizations may not quickly alleviate visceral sensations.

Your nature is not fixed, but things take time.

The ability of a cognitive realization to modify an emotional experience varies within and across both people and situations. For those that are looking to change once in awhile or for those that are looking to continually grow, it must be remembered that patience is required. If you have been alive for 25 years you have received 25 years of conditioning to make you exactly as you are. There have been millions and billions of events (and non-events) that occurred to create the being that is reading this sentence. Your biological heritage, the greater culture of your country, and the smaller cultures of your province, city, neighbourhood, friends and family have all had great effects. Possibly a misappropriation, I believe thinking of various socio-political places in your life as cultures may be beneficial, if only because when ‘culture’ is mentioned its impact is overt and does not require much explanation. Obviously, the climate of your school (for example) is a subsection of larger cultures, but they will all be slightly different and each will have an impact upon you, even if it isn’t noticed. Consequently, some traits are going to take some alternative conditioning and great effort to change. I still say try, because growing (not just from eating pizza) is what life is about. What else are you doing? No really, what else are you doing?

Try to apprehend that when you are attempting change, most of the time you are still within a series of influential cultures or situations. There are many salient cues and triggers that make it harder to mitigate the power of events. Do what you can to remove potentially negative influences that impede your growth. A good friend is highly beneficial; someone to whom you can communicate your goals and problems of development, but who is also there for a hug or a laugh. Use the resources available to you. Things do take time, but that isn’t too bad. Why? Because change is still possible. Sure, some characteristics appear genetically determined, but the expression of genes (which is not fully understood) describes only inclinations or tendencies to respond to certain biological, chemical, social(…etc) stimuli. Even if your overall potential is capped in one area, I doubt you have reached the ceiling, so just keep going until you hit it. How about possible? It is possible for you to do X.

In the process of self-actualization, the road can be difficult and steps are hard to make. Patience. Realize the power of inertia. Do so not to submit or acquiesce, but try to understand and contextualize situations, which in turn will give you proper expectations for the outcomes of your introspective perseverance.

Read more, learn more, change the globe.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Clever Comedy

(Last night Jon Stewart was disscussing the CIA director's memo to fully support the Bush adminstration which has consequently caused the resignation of several high level employees. His talking to his "Senior Intelligence Analyst" Rob Corddry)

JON STEWART: Rob, Porter Goss [CIA director] has made it clear that opposition to the Bush administration won't be tolerated within the CIA. Now suddenly there is a mass exodus. Is this basically an attempt to fill the CIA with party loyalists?
ROB CORDDRY: ...the administration knows that the best way to stop things from going wrong is to get rid of the people who thinks things are going wrong.
JON STEWART: But, uh, that sounds like a solution that really addresses perception more than reality.
ROB CORDDRY: You're right Jon, it is a solution.

So damn funny! Everyone should be watching Jon Stewart! (no projection there)

More Nukes? How about a new version of Tetris!

It was recently announced that "New nuclear weapons systems being developed in Russia could include a missile designed to defeat the U.S. missile defence shield." (CBC).
The NY Times reported: "We are not only conducting research and successful testing of the newest nuclear missile systems," [Putin] said in concluding remarks to a regular gathering of commanders at the Ministry of Defense, which were reported by news agencies and broadcast on NTV. "I am certain that in the immediate years to come we will be armed with them. These are such developments and such systems that other nuclear states do not have and will not have in the immediate years to come."

1) Damn arms proliferation which 'forces' countries to 'whip out' the size of their missiles.
2) How on earth would any missile shield work effectively? It seems that Putin is stating their technology would defeat the US missile shield, which isn't even developed yet. I feel this will always be the way. Evolutionarily speaking, shields develop as a response to attacks, they cannot predict new attacks. Humans supposedly can predict the future, but whatever someone dreams up as a theoretical attack on which to base a missile shield someone will invariably just come up with something to circumvent it. Not good for anybody.
3) Russia had such lack of resources to deal with their decomissioned nuclear subs, that they need other countries to bail them out.

It's one thing to crap where you live... but don't crap
a) nuclear material in the ocean and
b) where other things live.

In summation: Boo weapons and boo Russia for following the stupidity of others

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Billions and Billions

Your lifespan will bear witness to the end of three billion lives; it will also witness the beginning of seven billion lives.

I started thinking about the life and death of humans on Earth, and after looking into it, I found some interesting results. Obviously one must be cautious about extrapolation, but I am underestimating the numbers. Using myself as the template:
The population of the Earth in 1979 (my birth) was 4.376 billion (or 4.4 in 1980 or 4.3 in 1978)
Life expectancy at birth is currently 56 years at birth for the world, and 79 for Canadians.
For greater relevance, a Canadian male (me) in 1979 would be expected to live in 71.6 years (I did some math).
All things being equal, I will live longer than everyone who was born before me, indicating at least 4 billion people will die before I do.

Using 71 years I will probabilistically live to until 2050, when the world population will likely be 9.2 billion (or 8.9 billion)
So... if there will be 9 billion people on the planet when I die, and 4 billion were alive when I was born, one could conclude that 9 billion lives will begin throughout my life. Of course, because these data are hard to meausure, I low balled it to 3 billion and 7 billion just to be safe.

Now some interesting implications of these numbers. If you live to be 80 (conservative) you will live for 29200 days (80 x 365). Let's exaggerate and assume you meet 100 new people a day, every day of your life. That would be 2.9 million people. Consequently, 100 times that number is the amount of people that will die during those days. It blows my mind! To think that 100 times the people I meet in my life (friends, acquaintences, people you pass in the street) will die. (Additionally, 200 times that number will denote the new lives on the planet.)

At smaller intervals, using the 3 and 7 billion and assume a 70 year lifespan (or 2.2 billion seconds)
Every 1.36 seconds someone will die.
Every 3.17 seconds someone will be born.

This is the world in which you live. Life and death is all around you. It is all precious.

For a breakdown of Canadian deaths in 1996.
If you want estimates from -10000 to 1950...
For a shocking feeling which almost removes the meaning it is supposed to convey. (for specificity)

Everybody who likes sex AND physics, raise your hand! (and read on)

A friend (thanks Mush) recently sent me "TOP 10 REASONS WHY SEX AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT IS NOT AN ADVISABLE FORM OF PROCREATION." Check out the link if you like the first one:

10. Penile length contraction:
According to the relativistic theory of length contraction, this is an inevitable consequence of performing sex at the speed of light. An average penis of length 13cm traveling at 99% the speed of light will contract down to a length of only 1.8cm (this is about the same length as the smallest functional penis officially recorded). At the speed of light, length contraction leads to an interesting paradox in which the penis seems to have no length at all, but is still managing to have sex somehow.

As well, this guy Dr. John has a whole site filled with similar stuff: The Joy of Sexual Physics.

So damn funny :)

Monday, November 15, 2004

Sweet Validation

"Somebody somewhere thinks I'm better at something than somebody else." - Marge, The Simpsons (last night)

Tsk-Tsk CBC (and Baywatch 'movie')

This is part of a recent story from CBC's website: I've published the headline and first three paragraphs.
Flu will kill millions unless vaccine pushed through: WHO
TORONTO - Not enough work is being done to create a vaccine to fight a pandemic influenza that could kill millions of people, the World Health Organization warns.

A top WHO official said Friday that up to 30 per cent of the world's population – nearly two billion people – could get sick unless trial batches of pandemic influenza vaccine are pushed into production and licensing, the Canadian Press reports.

About 1 per cent of those people would likely die.
(end of excerpt)

Did you notice anything? Think for a minute before you re-read the story below.

Flu will kill millions unless vaccine pushed through: WHO
TORONTO - Not enough work is being done to create a vaccine to fight a pandemic influenza that could kill millions of people, the World Health Organization warns.

A top WHO official said Friday that up to 30 per cent of the world's population – nearly two billion people – could get sick unless trial batches of pandemic influenza vaccine are pushed into production and licensing, the Canadian Press reports.

About 1 per cent of those people would likely die.
(end of excerpt)

"Will" is not the same as "could." Indeed, the former connotes great certainty in the event that is predicted, whilst the latter is more overtly probabilistic. Additionally, many will not read the entire story, and some not more than the headline. As such, I find this particular story unnecessarily misleading and alarmist because of its inaccurate headline. (I mailed CBC to tell them so; not much point just ranting.)

Alternatively, CBC was fine with their coverage of the story "'Baywatch' movie in the works." (Of course, I think the wrong word is in quotations.) They were objective but still managed to mention that "The plot of each episode would invariably require Anderson or her co-stars, who included performers like Yasmine Bleeth and Donna D'Errico, to run along the beach in all their slow-motion glory."
I was amused reading it and thought they could have been more concise.

Here is my version:
"This just in, a Baywatch movie is in the works. Apparently, duh, men like boobs. In other news..."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Faith in the Truth

"If the scientists' summum bonum or highest good is truth, if scientists make truth their God, as some have claimed, is this not just as parochial an attitude as the worship of Jahweh, or Mohammed, or the Angel Moroni? No, our faith in the truth is, truly, our faith in the truth--a faith that is shared by all members of our species, even if there is great divergence in approved methods for obtaining it. The asymmetry noted above is real: faith in the truth has a priority claim that sets it apart from all other faiths." - Daniel C. Dennett, Amnesty Lecture

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Your life probably isn't that bad...

I was just watching the news and heard of Marc Woerlen; a man whose his pregnant wife, Monika, and their seven children died in a southern Ontario farmhouse fire Monday night. I truly cannot imagine what this would be like. Picture yourself going away to set up a new place to live and then hearing that your entire family has died. (When I do I end up tearing.)

(After taking all that in)
Upon reading another story, it was reinforced how important faith was in the Woerlen's lives. My first thought was that maybe belief based on conditioning is not that bad. A second thought was that I was shocked that a fellow (female) believer, describing their sect, said, "We don't want to be equal to men." Hmmm...

Nothing is ever simple. I applaud people who see their lives as opportunities to help others, those that support their communities and families... but not so much the inequality thing. More important, I take issue with conditioning girls to believe that they are not equal to men to the point they will not even seek equality. Of course, I have not done research on this sect, nor do I have all the information. It is better to see it as an "If, Then." Dang continua.

PBS rocks!

I just finished watching a very interesting documentary from PBS’s Frontline called “The Persuaders.” Please check the website, it has lots of stuff and I believe you can watch the whole show. It is about marketing and advertising, or more accurately called manipulation and whoredom. It was quite informative, especially in a more specific sense about what certain companies are doing in various marketing campaigns to acquire our mental space. One starts to feel sickened at how much time, money and effort is put into convincing you to buy junk you don’t really need. What’s worse is that all of this research being conducted greater understand human desires is being used for evil purposes. It getting scary to think how precise targeted advertising will become. There are companies that exist to build profiles about who you are, how you live and how you will live and then target you over your lifespan. Not good.

"There is no secret that the American public, and the public of every society on the face of the earth, is willing to consume crap. They consume crap from their cupboards and their pantries and they consume crap on television. But they are very particular about which is which. And they don’t want to seem them conflated. They don’t want the purity of their telecrap to be adulterated by the merchandising of the fast food crap and they will rebel." – Bob Garfield, columnist, Advertising Age

I must say I was amused by this statement; mainly because of the matter-of-fact manner with which it was uttered. I disagree that ‘every society’ consumes crap. It would have been better to say ‘developed/corporate nations.’ (Make your own scat joke here). As well, I haven’t seen much of a rebellion. (For those who watch Friends, do you care that the Pottery Barn episode’s script was financed by Pottery Barn?)

"Once a culture becomes entirely advertising friendly, it ceases to be a culture at all, it ceases to be a culture worth the name. It has to have the constant mood that shoppers require, there has to be a kind of muzak playing in the background all the time. Now if you think back to those dramas, those comedies that have really stayed with you, that have moved you tremendously, that you want to see again, that you think about for days. Well, those kinds of works are increasingly unlikely when the stuff that’s on TV basically functions to sell Pepsis, to sell Nikes, to sell selling, to sell consumption." - Mark Crispin Miller, New York University

Think about that. It is not about a product. It is about selling selling. Selling consumption.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Incredibles

I saw The Incredibles yesterday, and I thought it was fantastic! (I’ll try not to give anything away). The characters were well developed, the graphics were phenomenal and the story was great. Admittedly, I think I was expecting something funnier because Nemo was hilarious, but felt a good build up throughout. It is best to think of it as a superhero action movie first and enjoy the comedy/drama aspects as delicious icing. Of course, the plot was relatively predictable which was likely for two reasons: it was aimed at a younger audience and it was a traditional superhero movie. I also thought there were good role models aside from some initial stereotyping. It was definitely a good movie for people with children seeking a movie for the whole family. If any one cares about voices, the lead was Craig T. Nelson (which I only got from the credits), Holly Hunter (Elastigirl) and Jason Lee (bad guy). I know I find it frustrating to ‘know’ a voice but not be able to name its owner.

After watching The Incredibles, I couldn’t help but utter in a wistful manner the phrase “I want powers” (pout included). This wasn’t so much a new development, as a reminder of my previous fantasies. Come on! It’d be SO cool! I was gleeful during the scenes where there were more superpowers on display. Yes, yes, see it as childish whimsy, but it would be ineffably wonderful to have superpowers… if you don’t agree with me, I will fight you! :P Just think of how many people I could help. Some of you may know that I have a slight interest in Superman (insert eye roll here), and seeing The Incredibles just made me drift into unreality. Although I could go on, I should probably stop before this ‘degrades’ into some fanboy analysis of which even I would make fun.

Additionally, even though the words “feature presentation” came on the screen, the first thing was actually an advertisement for another animated film “Cars”. Phhhh! Not cool. After that, was a delightful short which had a great positive message embedded in amusing animations and entertaining lyrics. I think it is a good message for kids as well as adults. (Sceptical Darren wonders if it was a sort of positive priming to put you in a good mood before the movie so your overall experience would be better… meh. Oh, he also wondered about a scene in the ad for “Cars” that is very similar to part of the movie… commercial activation within an otherwise ‘mind control free’ movie?).

One Mind At A Time, Mine Included (MG)

The following is a post made by Matthew Good on November 10th (My title is his). I thought it was worth displaying in its entirety. Please read.

On November 3rd, like millions of others, I was less than impressed with the outcome of the US presidential election. On that day, which was spent on the phone with friends from the States and talking with those on tour, I posted an entry that very much reflected my feelings at the time. I will, without any reservation, admit that I could have chosen better words with which to convey my disappointment, as such feelings were in no way intended towards those Americans that were proactive in working within the system to remove President Bush, that understand the ramifications of Bush’s re-election, and must now face four more years of disastrous leadership. If anything, the 1,000+ e-mails that I received in the days that followed impacted me greatly, acting as a wake up call of sorts. Alienation is not an answer - it is ignorance; and I am guilty of it.

I am often asked by people how they can become proactive in an attempt to help change the world. I realize that the phrase ‘change the world’ is somewhat corny, but it’s accurate. The question is, of course, very general and innocently naïve, but it is a welcome one. I have often commented on the fact that one of the most pervasive problems in many circles of activism is a very elitist arrogance that often alienates those looking to try and help make a difference in whatever small way they can. Reaching out to anyone that would involve themselves in positive causes is never a mistake, only a missed opportunity to both meet new people and swell the numbers of those looking to commit to making their communities, their countries, and their world a better, more peaceful and tolerant place.

There are, of course, thousands of ways to make a difference. When I first delved into the world of activism I was drawn to human rights because I have always struggled with what I perceive to be a massive imbalance between the rights of the affluent and those of the poor. My wife Jennifer, for example, is involved with numerous animal rights groups because of her great love of animals, a passion which has taught me a great many things that I had no idea about. In the end, it comes down to what you, as an individual, feel strongly about.

Ultimately, you should do some homework about those organizations involved in whatever areas interest you. And no matter what anyone says, don't feel as if you're doing too little when you first get involved. Find your comfort level and choose your own speed of progression. The truth of the matter is that, as urgent as help is needed, no one is in the position to turn away those that are looking to become involved. Activism is not a contest, it is not a trend, it is not counter culture, and it should never (in my opinion) promote the use of violence. It is simply people concerned about the well being of their world, in whatever way; making their voices heard, listening to what others have to say, and trying to do whatever they can to invoke positive change that will hopefully affect the lives of others.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Always Remember

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- John McCrae

After reading some statistics about how many Canadians have served and died for our country I feel it is important to remember their sacrifice; not because of the total amount of people (~117k), but because of the manner in which they died. These people are part of the attempt to make the world a better place. Their efforts have aided my existence as well as the rest of the world. I thank them and continue to thank those who are fighting truly just wars, or those that are fighting the nature of war itself.

I think the lives of others should always be kept in mind, but if you need a day for it, please soak up as much as possible.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Rahman Abdel-Raouf Arafat Al-Qudwa 1929-2004

Yasser Arafat has passed. (CBC, BBC, NY Times and CNN)

I must admit my ignorance regarding the impact of this situation. I have concerns there will be a void where there was a trusted uniting figure, but these are mitigated by the thought that change may help the peace process.


I just (finally) watched Outfoxed: Rupert Murdock’s War on Journalism. I highly recommend this film about the practices of Fox ‘news’ and the propagandist machine of news media in general.
One can easily see the destruction of true journalism and the rise of ‘news’ that exits to fulfill the agenda of megalomaniacal deluders. The blatant hypocrisy, lack of introspective analysis and internal monitoring is staggering.

This is not ‘Fair and Balanced,’ but a network that seeks to deceive and control though graphical manipulation, repetition, fear mongering and character assassination.

Lastly, the only positive thing I can say about Bill O’Rieilly is that he would be a wonderful case study of narcissism and self-delusional thought processes.

A job well done!

Two members of U.S. President George W. Bush's cabinet resigned Tuesday, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Don Evans. (Cbc or NY Times)

I think the highlight is Ashcroft's words in his letter, "I take great personal satisfaction in the record which has been developed. The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved. The rule of law has been strengthened and upheld in the courts." Hmmm... let's think about this.
1) The record - The record of truly invading another country on false pretenses, denying the validity of the Geneva convention, and allowing such terrible practices to occur to your prisoners that the world can now see you as morally deviant?
2) Safety of Americans... achieved - safety from whom? There are now many more 'terrorists' seeking to harm Americans. In both Iraq and the world, the levels are rising. If anything, things are likely much worse. (but keep selling them weapons, there is no way that that will bite you in the ass).
3) The rule of law - what rule? what law? what courts? The 'Patriot' Act pretty much removed most of the utility of those words. Geneva convention was not respected. As for the court, the US has publicly rejected the notion of International Law or an International court. They must mean American courts. Everyone knows there isn't a problem with the US justice system. *eye-roll*

David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University, said it best: "We had an attorney general who treated criticism and dissent as treason, ethnic identity as grounds for suspicion and Congressional and judicial oversight as inconvenient obstacles. He was a disaster from a civil liberties perspective but also from a national security perspective."
Congrats John! I hope they will have a nice cake for all your good work.

Oh, and apparently, a potential succesor Mr. Gonzales received some flack for a white house memo in which he called the Geneva Conventions "quaint." Aw, Human Rights are just so antiquated. Really, we're in the 21st century, isn't it time we moved away from human rights and towards freedom? Bah!

Unrelated but worthwhile.
It seems that just because you've won 6 gold medals, doesn't mean you can't endager the lives of others. Phelps, next time stay in the pool. That way you may only harm yourself.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

When I say "Rolfing," what do you think of?

I think this is one of the funniest new words I've come across. I think it sounds either bad, messy or sexual. Try a couple sentences:

"I was just rolfed."
"I was up late rolfing last night."
"You're a rolfer? How does that pay?"

Sadly, the reality is that rolfing is a "system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organize[s] the whole body in gravity" named after Dr. Ida P. Rolf.
You can find out more at the Rolf Institute. If you go, you can "locate a rolfer" or "become a rolfer."

Yeah, this will crack me up for awhile. :0

ps: Ever been rolfed? (hahahaa)

Watch our for your walls

A man has his beliefs: his arguments are only his excuses for them... we only see what we look at: our attention to our tempermental convictions blind us to all the facts the tell against us. - G.B. Shaw

Objectivity means that we can separate facts from our thoughts and feelings about those facts.

I dislike arguments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and often convincing. - Wilde

Monday, November 08, 2004


Another link he has up is "Sorryeverybody.com" which has pictures of people apologizing to the world for Bush being elected. (May have some trouble loading). I guess 'you' can still do something.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Every 35 seconds, someone on Earth commits suicide

In our society we often hear of terrible murders or shootings that have occurred, but what of suicides? What are the data on these two types of life-ending situations?
In Canada, suicide is 7 TIMES more common than homicide. As well, suicide is about 4 TIMES more likely to happen in men. (Generally, about 3500 suicides each year compared to about 500 homicides. There is more recent homicide data than suicide data, but please check the links for yourself.)
Suicides: 1996/1997 suicide rate (Stats Can), 42 year graph (irate author's page though)
Homicide: 1999-2003 homicides (Stats Can), 41 year frequency graph

I can only presume that we hear of homicides more often because they signify a potential threat to ‘you,’ whilst a suicidal person is ‘only’ a threat to themselves.

First, I think of how many suicides might occur in a ‘hidden’ manner and would therefore be misattributed to car accidents or various other events that seem inadvertent but in fact were premeditated. This would invalidate the notion of suicidal persons only harming themselves.

Second, what are we actually trying to achieve as a society? Even if it is true that someone with a gun is more likely to harm you than someone who just wants to kill themselves, isn’t suicide a bigger issue? The main reason homicide is bad is because it denies another life. Life is intrinsically valuable. People are ends unto themselves. The preciousness of life is the ultimate reason underlying debates about human rights, war, abortion, and religion. The very nature of suicide rejects these notions.

I just wanted to highlight the nature of the situation here in Canada because I did not know the numbers were so high. It was only after I read an article detailing the causes of death in the US and saw that suicides were above gun deaths, that it was evident that our society may too have deeper problems that exist in a manner unrelated to outward violence. (Just to clarify, the Canadian stats are all homicides, not just gun related incidents. Additionally, the suicide stats say nothing of attempted suicides)

For intellectual stimulation, do you think one of my sentences technically should have been ‘the main reason homicide is bad is because it denies another life… without their consent?’

Lastly, each year 1 million people die will from suicide. Suicide accounts for half of all violent deaths worldwide!?!? Shocking and saddening!

If you need help, or here

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Reality has not set in...

George W. Bush was re-elected today. The provisional votes will not be enough to surpass the margin by which Bush was leading in Ohio.
I have had fears that the American people would be lead astray by specious agrumentation, scare tactics and negative campainging. My fears were offset by my hope: that people would actually think. They would think about the issues, the facts, and the style of how these two men were trying to convince the masses of their worth. I hoped that they would have seen through the facade and seen the utter obviousness of the Bush's lies and manipulations.

I was wrong. It hurts. It does not hurt because I was wrong, but what it signifies. Today we witness the validation of ignorance, deception, and power over justice. The result of this election is in direct opposition to how I think the world should be, how I want people to be, and what I plan to do with my life.

Whilst I know this is cause to fight harder, there will currently be some personal fallout. I hoped for better from the Americans. Naive? Not entirely, but perhaps a little. The only solace I can take is the thought that if most Americans truly understood the issues and the facts of what is happening in their own country and in the world as a result of its actions, they would have chosen differently.

If not... well, then... they are hopeless.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

United Against a Common Enemy

Today, sadly, is one of the most important events in my lifetime. Something seems wrong about 120 million people, many ignorant, deciding something that will affect the rest of the world. Yay, might! *eye-roll*
There will be a record number of people coming out to vote and I think numerous people have become involved in the political discussion simply because of the negative impact of the 'Bush doctrine.' Even if Kerry wins, the country is pretty much divided and that is still a huge problem which doesn't change just because power changes hands.
I find it truly amazing that more Americans cannot see through the overt fear mongering, repetitive spinning propaganda machine that has become their 'news.' There is a long way to go... let's hope a step is taken forward instead of falling off the mountain.