Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some end-of-the-year thoughts

As of Wed. afternoon, I'll be on vacation. Posting might be more sporadic than usual; however, I'm not going anywhere (like most Americans, I'm strapped right now - the depression hit our household in July sometime), so maybe I'll be inspired. Stay tuned, as they say.

Was talking to someone the other day who I've come to know as practical and gifted with the not-so-common trait of common sense. We weren't even near the topic of politics when somehow the topic suddenly loomed, and this guy repeats a few of the common BS wingnut tropes that Obama is gonna take away our guns, that he won't say the pledge of allegience, and he has no respect for the flag, which he demonstrated by having it removed from his campaign jet - all much to my disappointment and surprise. (Invasion of the Body Snatchers comes to mind.)


This is someone I can't just haul off and say, "Dude, you gotta stop watching Fox Pretend News. It's mostly bullshit. And what isn't bullshit is horseshit."

I've said it before that we should've kept those WWII rules on the books about foreign ownership of media outlets. I think that the second biggest threat to America is the existence of the huge propaganda machine that is Fox Pretend News and its bastard cousins, like the Moonie owned Washington Times and UPI (the first being the demolishment of a large part of the Constitution and the two depressions brought about by Bush's policies).

Oh, and this same guy said that "they" would probably blame this depression on Bush, too. Well, who the hell else IS there to blame but the guys who oversaw the dismantling of oversight and regulation on the finance industry, and the suppression of enforcing those laws that remain?

I think the mainstream news agencies need to set up fact-checking departments that constantly report all the lies and stretches of the truth these propaganda outlets excrete. Something like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do, but seriously. We can't legally force them out of business, but we could kill them with the facts.

Btw, here are the facts on Obama's stance on guns (one and two) and various efforts to corrupt the truth. (I usta like the NRA, too.) Here're the facts about the pledge of allegiance stuff and the flag on his plane.

We needs ourselves some reality patrol.

Roissy had a post about the future of robot sex and, from what I can tell, he wasn't kidding.

I was gonna write a whole take-down post, but then thought the better of it. (Partially because it would be just mean, but mostly because I couldn't make it very funny.)

Here's the gist of the take-down part: we already have life-size sex dolls that are just what he's talking about, they just don't move (which may be realistic for some guys, and let's just leave it at that). (Ok, let's not. Here's a hilarious song that contains a reference to moving around - here's the MP3 if you wanna add it to the iPod.) Besides, there's the uncanny valley (ha ha, sometimes they write themselves), and I think most people would be too creeped-out by a sex robot. To further state the obvious, sex is about way more than genital friction. If all the so-called betas of the world were gonna stay away from those scary real live girls and recede to the comforts of plastic, they'd have done it by now.

(I debated on putting this link up at all, but decided to leave the choice to go there to you. NSFW, natch. The sex dolls Roissy believes will conquer the betas are found at http://www.realdoll.com/.)

The reason I brought this up at all is to (again) pimp for the great Asimov robot series The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn.

In The Naked Sun, Asimov explores Roissy's scenario, where the whole human population is completely surrounded by robots, so they imprint (if you will) on them sexually - so much so that the government had to pass a law that forces everyone to have a human "spouse" whom they have to mate with to keep up the race. Essentially the scenario that Roissy lays out, but more thought through.

Then, in The Robots of Dawn, sexual mores are such that people screw as readily as we shake hands, and refusing sex is considered a very serious rebuff. One of the subplots involves a scientist who is estranged from his daughter because he wouldn't have sex with her when she asked (which is considered normal in that society) because he considers it wrong. So here we here we have the main, er, thrust of Roissy's preoccupation, getting laid as much as possible. Again, thought through a bit deeper.

Even if you don't like sci-fi, you'll like these.

We've been having a lot of talks around the house about time machines because my daughter's class read the classic by H.G. Wells. It's been fun because time travel has always been on of my favorite sci-fi topics.

TLD: The greatest of the best in time travel fiction are:
- Primer (Here's a graphic representation of the plot - a huge SPOILER natch. The wikipedia link also has a simpler graphic of the plot, so ignore it and see the flick first if you intend to.)
- The Man Who Folded Himself
- I also have warm feelings for the whole Back to the Future series, especially how they handle Marty's mom coming on to him. But, the time travel is really just a plot device and not a hardcore geeky examination of it, like the two above; the same goes for the great Terminator series.

Alas, real time travel is simply not possible according to Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in the fun A Briefer History of Time. It has something to do with the fact that our universe isn't spinning.

So, when we were discussing time machines with MPC1, besides sharing the fact that it probably can't happen, we alerted her to the two smart-ass "there really is time travel" memes out there:
- We do travel in time: we are constantly moving forward through time.
- Our minds are time machines.

Sorry, but I can't go back in time and take out Hitler and Marx with my mind. Argument over.

That said, I had a very visceral memory evoked while I was writing the first section in this post, which gave birth to this section. The song "Riders on the Storm" by the Doors circled up in my playlist and suddenly I was sitting in the window of my dorm room, which was on the 14th floor, had no screen, and faced out across the campus; I was listening to that song echo and phase through the dorm buildings, an amazingly haunting sound I've never heard reproduced otherwise. The town had one FM station that all the college students tuned in to, and for some reason every time that song came on - the station always played it when it rained - everyone opened up their dorm windows and turned it way up, so it would echo across the campus. It was always a great moment.

Since we have a three-year-old, we have dealings with the big guy in the red, fur-trimmed suit. (I keep waiting for PETA to take on Santa, since they've done so many other brain-dead and ugly things.)

Or at least we try to have said dealings.

Our youngest is slightly braver than our eldest was at this age, but she just will NOT get near Santa. Just won't have it.

Yes, we have the requisite shot of both chilluns in full wail on Santa's lap, but this year MPC2 just said "no."

My suspicion as to why kids utterly freak out is: it's probably a lot like meeting God. Here's this huge guy who can magically get into your house and bring you toys, and he's supposed to be super nice and everything, but holy cow here he is IN THE FLESH!

Right now I'm reading the controversial "event" book, The Shack (and I don't remember which group doesn't like it, the fundies or the mainliners), where supposedly the hero talks with God. It'll be interesting to see how the fear angle is played, if at all. I've yet to read a (fictional) book about someone meeting God where they even deal with the topic of how truly terrifying it would be. In the Bible, the first thing the angel or messenger from God says to the poor soul is something like "fear not" or "don't freak out!", so it is clearly something that makes you loose your shit.

Hmmm, maybe I'll write a short story about Tom Cruise meeting Zenu!

This has been a very contemplative year for me as:
- Leaders I've loathed have been replaced (or soon will be) by leaders I like very much, both on the national scale and at work.
- My wife and I are facing the fact that our three-year-old is the last child we'll have. And she's already pretty much a kid, as she's completely potty trained, can speak in full sentences better than the current occupant, can count pretty high, and already recognizes many letters. We love kids and so this is bittersweet for us. We like that we're getting our adult lives back to some extent, but having a baby in the house sure is sweet.
- I'm truly, irrevocably middle-aged and am experiencing some standard things that come with that, such as I now typically prefer non-fiction to fiction (the fiction's got to be better than usual or I can't stay with it); I like pretty, melodic music more than I do bleeding edge stuff, though am thrilled that rock seems to be gaining ground again; and am completely invisible to anyone under 30. (Let me assure you that last one is not self-pity, but a fact. I'm more bemused by it than anything.)

So my mind drifts to hopes for the New Year.

I hope:
- My family is healthy, happy and safe.
- The depression will be short.
- The injuries and casualties to our troops will be as minimal as possible, and they'll be brought home.
- There are at least three music albums, a couple movies, and more than a few fictional novels that are amazing awaiting us out there in 2009.
- I finally drop some of this extra weight.
- All my friends who are getting divorced find solace and peace, and find someone new, if that is their wish. (This is the second wave of divorces I've experienced in my circle of friends).
- I still have a job throughout the year. (There doesn't appear to be any danger there, but I've been surprised before.)
- That I can manage to entertain you, dear reader, as much or more than I have in the past.



Mike@EcoSalon said...

There's a perspective on Asimov's "Robot" books that I'd entirely forgotten. Evidently a revisit is overdue.

I'm still nonplussed why the Elijah Bailey storyline hasn't been picked up by movie-makers. But then, we have what was made of Matheson's incredible "I Am Legend" up on the big screen...and suddenly I'd rather Asimov remained unplundered by Hollywood.

Whisky Prajer said...

Re: Santa = God, there's also the line-up to take into consideration. We've never done the Santa Picture, but every year we gather in the Peanut Gallery to watch the circus. It always amazes me to see kids dressed in their finest finery (which means they've spent an hour at home getting dolled up, or hectored into uncomfortable clothing), then plopped on the poor sod's lap for a five-minute portrait. Unbelievable pressure, with Mom standing next to the teen at the camera looking anxious about the result. I'm not sure what the going rate for Santa portraits is, but they're not charging enough.

Merry Christmas!

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Annie Dillard, in her short story "God in the Doorway" (in Teaching a Stone to Talk) wrote the definitive Santa = God piece. Tolle, lege.