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Archive for September 2008

Inner Monologue #3

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Why is everything a gimmick nowadays?

“Oh hey, I hardly noticed that you’re back again. Is it Bitching Time? I’m in a pretty good mood, so let’s get this going… What do you mean?”

Well, obviously you know what I mean, so no need to effect a real dialogue here.

“Stop ruining the magic, spoil-sport. That’s my job.”

Right, sorry. Anyway, why does everything that people find interesting need to be dressed up with some sort of hook, catch, or gimmick?

“You are making pretty sweeping and generalizing statements, you do realize, right?”

I suppose, but I read in magazines for writers that the first few pages really have to hook a reader in to be effective. If you really want to get “made” somehow, you have to grab attention. When do you run out of tricks? Everything gets recycled. A different face on the same person. A new way to say the same old things. Why bother, right? Seems that you lose something out of the expression in the fight to seem original, edgy, interesting.

“Are we going to bring up lipstick and pigs again?”

No, we already did that, and the context for that metaphor is a little off-base for this topic.

“Ah, point taken. So what do you expect to do? Are you just going to give up because you don’t think you have a gimmick or premise or voice that you think people won’t like or notice?”

I’m not sure. Perhaps I haven’t found it yet. I’m not sure I’ve got enough experience to rightfully say. I think I’m just overwhelmed with the task that may lay ahead, swimming against the current of such a powerful stream.

“The MAINstream, eh?”

That’s pretty corny, but I suppose you’re pretty close. Maybe I can hope for a cult following or something.

“Well, I think you’re getting ahead of yourself again. However, I enjoy putting your perspective back to ground level. You haven’t got the material or following here to begin fantasizing about that, I think, right? How about you just worry about writing something, THEN you can start worrying about the other stuff? Don’t worry about having or not having a gimmick. If you are concerned about finding your niche, maybe you should consider that the niche should just find you. Just do stuff and stuff will happen the way it happens.”

Thanks for that bit of ambiguity.

“Hey, that’s just how it is. Deal with it and quit bitching about it.”

But then I wouldn’t have anything to practice this little gimmick we’re partaking in, would I?

“Good point.”

Written by 2ndhandsoul

September 30, 2008 at 9:50 pm

Altered States of America

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Lately, though with some decreased regularity which I may need to correct, I’ve been reading a book called “Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered.” I forget where I picked it up. I think it was at some random book seller somewhere in New Jersey or Philadelphia. Of course, having had some minor experiences in my life with the so-called “drug culture,” I figured that the book might be interesting. It appeared to delve into the drug experience in a rational, scientific manner, which might elucidate the reality of what is really going on.

I am about halfway through, since I’ve only started reading it a few weeks ago, it’s fairly thick, and I also haven’t devoted enough attention to it, I guess, so I cannot give a worthwhile synopsis, yet. I am not really interested in making a book review, either. This post is more for putting forth some thoughts which this book has made into budding form.

The book goes over primarily LSD and related drugs, giving chemical information and notes on physiological and psychological changes in subjects. Besides the “hardcore” scientific facts and reports, they also have a number of testimonials of those under going the effects of the drugs. There are some commonalities in different drugs taken, doses given, and so forth. There are a few salient, interesting points to that. First of all, even undergoing these “trips” most (if not all) subjects realize that they are in the midst of the influence of drugs. Despite that many of those drugs labeled “hallucinogens,” they do not, apparently, produce true hallucinations in that the subject thinks they are real, like a mirage or something. They will understand that much of what they are experiencing is the effects of the drug.

What interests me the most about this is the fact many of these drugs have been used, probably in olden times and in other cultures, for mystical purposes. Many believed they were catalysts for spiritual journies and insights. Many of the subjects in the book experienced a strange “oneness” to existence. A lot of them found new perspectives to their lives and new meanings to things, a depth otherwise unseen before. One question that comes to my mind is: was the experience always there, just waiting for the right catalyst, or was the experience entirely induced because of the drug?

Ultimately, it makes one consider that the brain is quite a strange mechanism in which we observe and interact with our environment. If we introduce chemicals and other changes, we are capable of entirely altering this perception. But what does that mean? Is this just chemical reactions in that squishy matter in our skull, so that if you mix it up and give it some different juice, we’re living in another universe? What’s real then? Do these chemicals simply let down our filters so that in comes an on-rush of sensations and stimuli that we’re suddenly finding ourselves ill-equipped to now sort, categorize, and rationalize?

If we find God in our drug experience, what does that say about God? Did the drug trick us with an illusion, a chemical substitute? Or did the drug melt the veil from our third eye, to see with new sight and a new light? A lot of these drugs are to be found in nature. Are they, like Bill Hicks has said, been put there to help Man to evolve? Give us a little different spin on things, widen our horizons, put things into a different arrangement? If our brains are capable of having these experiences with drugs, is it possible we are able to achieve these states without them? Are the reactions in our brain able to align themselves with their own methods to do this? Are the drugs just the “easy way” already laid out upon the earth for us to “try before we buy” and figure it out for ourselves?

I’m still stuck on finding out what it really means, the depth and breadth of it. And what are we so afraid of in the experience? Where is the taboo? Sure, we can treat the experience with a little reverence and healthy respect, but awe bordering on superstitious fear seems a little much. The drug laws are a whole seperate issue, however, so I’ll let that lie for now. Am I missing out on a piece of reality? I’m I keeping myself mired in mundania by accident or design? I guess we shall see.

Written by 2ndhandsoul

September 30, 2008 at 9:03 pm

Traffic.

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Traffic. You hate it, I hate it. Almost simultaneous with the invention of the car came terrible drivers. This is not anything new to most people out there. However, what I’d like anyone to realize, to remember, to consider, is this:

A car is, for most intents and purposes, a moving room with wheels. It is also several thousand pounds of metallic-death-and-destruction-waiting-to-happen. If we pause to consider the fact that we’re driving a really large bullet, we might not take the act of driving for granted, so much. It’s somewhat sobering to contemplate just the danger one can cause or be placed in, while at the mercy of a few tons of steel speeding at many miles per hour. One wrong turn, one distraction, one bad decision, can destroy lives forever.

What is also taken for granted is the fact that there are rules governing the operation of traffic. One has to realize that these rules – and perhaps any rules at all – are pretty arbitrary. They are words and ideas that everyone expects the other people out there will follow. But we don’t have to, that’s the thing. There is literally nothing stopping you from veering off the road and onto a sidewalk to decimate all the yielding and weak, fleshy people presumably kept safe by “traffic laws.”

We stop at red lights and stop signs. We yield to the right of way and pedestrians. We use our turn signals, check both ways, go the listed speed limit, etc. At least, we should, and we expect (and I guess, hope) that everyone else zipping around in their death-machines will as well.

I have news though: there is no one watching to see if we misbehave. Sure, there’s the police, but they are not everywhere at all times. The only thing keeping us from really doing the possibly terrible things we so easily could is some sort of “tattletale” complex. If I do something bad, someone else is going to tell on me – that sort of thing. (Of course, that presumes anyone is really watching or cares. It also presumes that there’s anyone left alive afterward to be a tattletale.)

I guess I just find it fascinating the way traffic functions without the need for constant, overbearing enforcement and regulation. Operating the lethal metal boxes at breakneck speeds assuming our safety and that everything will remain just fine. That’s right Mr. Pedestrian, you may cross the street now. Don’t mind the growl of the combustion engine churning, controlling and channeling the energy of miniature explosions within, empowering this machine that could so entirely obliterate you without even slowing down, should I decide to switch from the brake pedal to the accelerator. You’re life is safe and sound and unthreatened.

I guess that’s what cheeses me off about reckless or rude drivers. So they think they can get away with shit? The rules are able to bend for them, because…what? They’re special exceptions? What’s stopping me from snapping and forgetting the rules, myself? This made me consider making a little list…

THINGS I WOULD DO IN A VEHICLE, IF THERE WERE NO CONSEQUENCES FOR MY ACTIONS:

– Jump into the lane with oncoming traffic and see how long I can last before getting hit.
– Drive along a sidewalk, preferably downtown.
– Drive a car off a parking ramp, hopefully from the top floor. Also hopefully onto a crowded street and sidewalk below.
– Smash through the front door of a shopping mall or office building or bank; whichever has nice, big glass doors. Then I would park and continue my business there. Fuck parking lots, right? That’d be the closest spot, I think.
– Always go as fast as the car can go, even if it’s just down the street. Without heeding crosswalks, stop signs, or traffic lights, of course.
– Do some donuts in the middle of a cemetery or public park.
– Instead of the horn, I’d just ram people to get their attention.
– Straddle the lane-dividing lines.
– Side-swipe people that try to pass me. Slam on my brakes if someone is tail-gating me.

Well, that’s just some. I’m sure to think of more.

Written by 2ndhandsoul

September 19, 2008 at 4:05 pm

The Fringe: Friend or Foe?

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Have you watched this new show: The Fringe? No, I haven’t yet. I probably will watch at least an episode or two, just to make sure my knee-jerk reaction is either justified or not.

What is this knee-jerk reaction? Well, it comes about the premise of this show, primarily. These are X-File-like stories about federal agents policing “dangerous science” of some form or another. Stuff like re-animation of the dead (I wonder if they’ll be making references to any H.P. Lovecraft material?) or nanotechnology or whatever. I think the idea is that they ensure that such science doesn’t damage society and civilization as we know it, by any unethical or reckless experimentation and so forth. Fine. That seems reasonable enough. But does the popularity of the show bespeak of another, underlying current of sentiment in our society today? As always, I think I am reading into things a little too deeply.

What worries me is how this show can be seen as a manifestation of our latent fears toward anything we don’t understand. Instead of magic, warlocks, sorcerors, demons, and whatnot, we’ve replaced these fears with “science run amok” — these monsters and dark practitioners have been exchanged for scientists, mutations, aliens, etc. I suppose we’ve just switched one set of superstitions for another, continuing to fear and dig our heels in against evolution.

Am I saying that careful monitoring and the emplacement of ethics for proper research is a bad thing? No, of course not. I just think it’s a little bit of an over-reaction, perhaps like the whole hadron collider scare. Perhaps it’s a little arrogant to think we have the power, even accidently, to destroy our race or our planet. I don’t want to start getting religious or far-out-there, but I have to consider that other forces out there might not let us get that far. Sort of like how all the world’s banks are helping businesses out of the hole they dug themselves in, lately… Okay, maybe that’s a bad example. The connotations either way imply too many more connotations.

Anyway, before I bunny-trail any further, I guess I’m going to have to check the show out and see what’s up. I love horror and disaster films, if only because they are so outrageous and I enjoy seeing how the authors and creators believe mankind will get done in. The more fantastical the better, since I really don’t believe in it. It is more of an expose on our own basic human natures; the survival instinct, the … “noble-izing” of the human spirit against horrible odds, etc. Wonderful human drama of the most extreme possible type. Just how this show supposes to give a cultural critique will determine the worth of this show to me. Will they really play off science as the new evil to be kept in check, or will it be the evil in our own human nature, where science is the tool, that will need saving? Are they trying to open our eyes and teach us a lesson? Or are they going for the cheap thrill and prey on our human fears and prejudices?

Yeah, so that’s what I think, so far. I predict an avalanche of similar sorts of shows. We’ll see if “Heroes” will take a similar tactic, or veer off onto its own course. You can be sure I’ll be back with something to say about it, sometime.

Written by 2ndhandsoul

September 19, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Where Our Research Funds Are Going

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Two largest known prime numbers discovered just two weeks apart, one qualifies for $100k prize.

Nerds! Nerds, I say! To further enjoy some of the absurdity to this revelation, please follow the link explaining just what a Mersenne prime is. A number, pretty much, divisable by itself and 1, just done with a pretty-looking formula. They award money for finding this shit out. It keeps those furious brain cells from finding out useful information like cancer cures and eliminating world hunger. Let’s reward trivia! Just turn the damn thing into a game show for math nerds. At least it’d be more entertaining, right?

I guess I just don’t see the functional potential of this discovery. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it isn’t interesting, in its fashion. I’m just saying…it really doesn’t seem all that particularly special. At least not worth $100,000. That’s all I’m saying. Maybe.

Written by 2ndhandsoul

September 18, 2008 at 10:14 pm

A Baby Formula Best Served Cold

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How was Chinese baby formula chemically tainted?

I’ll tell you: it was a secret revenge tactic taken by the Olympic Oversight Committee at being cornered into allowing a bunch of obviously underaged atheletes into the ’08 Summer Olympic Games.

The conversation went a little something like this:

“Hey d’ya see the news about what that hacker found about them gymnasts?”

“Yeah. Damn, we’re kinda left with our pants down. We look pretty stupid for allowing it. Yet, it’d be almost as much hassle, if not more, if we penalize them or something. Especially considering the Olympics are being held there. I don’t wanna get knifed like that poor bastard, do you? What do we do?”

“Well, I suggest we keep things rolling, but we even the score later. I have a great idea: we’ll sabotage their infant formula!”

“Yeah, there won’t be any more underage athletes or, if we’re lucky, a China left, if we wipe them out early!”

And thus the plan was put into action, shortly thereafter…

Written by 2ndhandsoul

September 18, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Calamity is funny.

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Am I the only one that finds this whole economy/Wall Street/stock market/whatever-the-fuck thing amusing? You can’t make this shit up. I really don’t have the inclination to make a headlong delve into the subject, with links and any editorial — a) because I’m lazy and b) I’m lazy — but I think anyone wanting a good belly-chuckle ought to read as much into the story as they can.

I’ve just gotten this impression of these bankers shovelling mounds of cash into this big firey pit:

“We can’t put the fire out! It just keeps growing!” one sweating, breath-laboring banker says to another working beside him.

“I know, it’s like…fuel for the fire or something,” the other responds with perplexity.

“Perhaps we should start using other people’s money to do this,” the first one suggests.

“Excellent idea! We’re not meant for this kind of labor! We’re meant to fleece the one’s meant for this kind of labor, hello!”

At this they both drop their shovels and clap each other on the back, having a good-natured laugh.

(It’s probably nothing like this at all, so I’ll have to come up with a better visual metaphor image thing.)

Written by 2ndhandsoul

September 18, 2008 at 8:31 pm