Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

History Channel LogoSeems like the History Channel these days has more and more programming revolving around end-times. There was a program called Nostradamus 2012 a few months back and just today there was a program about the Seven Signs and Armageddon. And tonight there’s something about the “next” Nostradamus. It seems like it was only yesterday all you could see on the History Channel was stuff about The Da Vinci Code and the Bible Code. And it seems like weeks ago that the History Channel had programs about Jesus.

And it seems like eons ago that the History Channel had programming about history.

UPDATE: Here’s a breakdown of the History Channel’s lineup: http://graphjam.com/upcoming/?pid=11861

Yeah, I know…pun intended. I confess I have somewhat of a man-crush on Hitchens. Sure, he’s out there and is a proud contrarian, but that’s why I like him. It’s important for people to be pushed out of their comfort zone. It’s important for people to be challenged. I think that is the moment when you can create real openness. It is when you are surrounded by people that agree with you that prejudices are born.

This video reminds me of Sartre’s famous lecture Existentialism Is a Humanism…for some reason I dunno.

And of course the pièce de résistance:

The last 5 seconds speak for themselves…

TwitterEveryone’s in LOVE with Twitter. Yes, everyone’s a-twitterin’ and a-twatterin’ away on their computers, cell phones, blackberries, iPhones, abacuses, chalkboards, stone tablets, and papyrus scrolls. The media’s doing it. Hell, Congress is even doing it. Everybody’s tweeting, or twittering, or twatting, twitting, twooting, twutooting, whatever…

The first reason to hate Twitter: the overly cutsie name. It’s hard to believe we now live in a world where grown people talk about “tweeting”. It’s enough to announce to the whole world for no particular reason, “Hey, everyone who barely knows me and barely cares about what I’m doing, this is what I’m doing right this minute!” It’s enough to say, “!” It’s enough to shout out, “I want to gossip about nothing important and feverishly typing away on my cell phone gives me a euphoric sense of self-satisfaction that…oh, wait a minute, this is so much fun I think I’m cumming!” But to call it “tweeting” gives it that special “retarded” touch.

And Twitter wallows in the mundane and the superficial. Take Facebook for instance. How many friends do you have on Facebook? Now how many “actual” friends do you have in real life? Is there a disconnect? Probably. Be honest. That’s the nature of social networks. We want to connect through them, but they are public by nature and so it is almost impossible to be oneself fully and therefore connect in a genuine way. Take being on camera for instance. When you are on camera, you act different. You put up a front. You play the part of yourself. Because you’re exposed. Social networks are much the same way. Many of us act different on social networks because they in their own way shine a spotlight on us. And as a result, they are anti-social. Because we are not wholy ourselves, we are encumbered from making true connections online.

I am reminded of the old days of IRC. In those heady days when people got online, entered chatrooms, and gabbed with random people they’ve never met, you had a sense of anonymity. You could be whoever you wanted. You could say whatever you wanted. You could be a lover, you could be a smoker, you could even be a midnight toker. And ironically, people are more themselves that way. It’s when your imagination runs wild that you reveal the most about yourself. Nowadays, people no longer have that anonymity. Instead you see people building up their individual profiles, driving up their friend numbers, and generally putting up a face to the world. We get so easily wrapped up in the superficiality of the medium, that we lose sight of ourselves.

The last reason for hating Twitter stems from hype. I’ve heard everything about Twitter. How it has/will change the way humans communicate. How it fundamentally alters your life. How it is a game changer for the Interweb. It’s 140 characters, people. 140 fucking characters! It’s a glorious way to say to the world, “I just typed less than 140 characters!!!” Like all social networks, it’s built on the presumption that the world cares. The world doesn’t care. I’m sorry to have to break it to you. The world does not care! Sure, maybe you’ll touch the life of some migrant worker in Central Zimbabwe with your stunning review of the bag of popcorn you just ate, but that just seems really unlikely.

Ultimately, most people want the web to change our lives. I am reminded of the philosophy discussion group I ran for a while. People clambered for an online discussion and someone finally put up a forum on their site for people to participate in philosophical discussions online. Almost no one participated and it eventually died. Why? I think it’s because you lose the dialog. Admittedly, this is where I think Twitter has the ability to shine. It allows you to have dialogs — albeit badly. Dialogs allow you to connect. But dialogs are hinged on immediacy. When you don’t have the immediacy, everyone having the short attention spans that they do will move onto something else. And there’s nothing social about that.

Traffic PatternsI walk to work on a daily basis and when I do I encounter this intersection with a peculiar although fairly common traffic pattern. First, the east-west traffic goes. Then, the north-bound traffic going straight and turning left goes (there is a green arrow). Then, the green arrow goes away and the southbound traffic goes. Now typically, according to this pattern, I don’t get the WALK signal until the southbound traffic goes. This makes sense. I, of course, bend the rules and jaywalk while the east-west traffic is going, which is usually pretty light anyway. Then, when the left arrow goes green, I cross to the divider and finish crossing the street once traffic clears or the east-west traffic gets the green light. It’s all crudely represented in the image to the right (I am the blue line). Still confusing? Well, then screw you, I can’t make this any clearer.

So why did I go through the trouble of explaining my morning commute? I like to think of it as an example of bending the rules. In a normal scenario, a person would simply follow the WALK signal and cross the street accordingly. I know the traffic pattern. I know how the lights work. I don’t need the WALK signal. I can bend the rules and this comes from a deeper knowledge of the intersection and the traffic patterns there.

So why does this matter? Because it illustrates my point: knowledge can trump the rules. Take the case of trikinosis. Trikinosis ensues when pork infected with a roundworm called Trichinella spiralis is ingested producing cysts in your gastrointestinal tract. Jews and Muslims are forbidden to eat pork because it is seen as unclean. Perhaps they found people dying of this parasitic disease, attributed to pork, and came to the conclusion that pork = bad. They didn’t know about trikinosis and how to prevent it. We do. And so millions of people in the world are able to eat trikinosis-free pork without fear of repercussion. Here is a case where knowledge trumps the rules.

Recently, there’s been a furor over gay marriage and there’s a lot of people out there arguing against it on the basis that “the Bible is against it”. In short, the argument is it’s against the “rules”. I always find that the argument “the Bible tells me so” is a weak argument. In fact, it is a non-argument because it denies the debate entirely. It is a fair way to go about things as a child, but grownups have to think beyond these boundaries, for the world is not so Manichean. There’s a lot of gray out there. There are lot of difficult questions. Simply wishing away the complexities of life doesn’t get you very far. We should seek knowledge to understand the complexities of life and how to navigate them. That’s what grownups typically do. I don’t know why people are so afraid to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Hell, it gets me through the intersection faster.

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Baby KrishnaGrowing up Hindu, I was surrounded by the folklore of Krishna. For those of you who are not familiar with Krishna, he was an incarnation of God, an Indian prince, that blue-skinned dude in old Indian paintings. You could say is the equivalent of Jesus although that does neither him nor Jesus any justice.

I won’t get into details about Krishna since it goes beyond a mere blog post, so I’ll leave it to Wikipedia to get your started. Growing up learning about the life of Krishna, one thing had always struck me as peculiar. You see, unlike Jesus, there are many stories of Krishna’s childhood. Through old stories in the Mahabharata, we see Krishna grow up. And unlike Jesus, we see this child, this god-incarnate, as a mischievous little bastard.

Yes, folks, little Krishna gots himself into a mess o’ trouble. He’d steal butter. He’d tie people up. He’d steal the clothes of young women. And with godlike acuity and magic, he just as easily got himself out of trouble. Which of course always struck me as odd. Because this flies in the face of everything we know about God. God, the creator, the all-powerful, the all-knowing, etc., etc. So why would God manifest Himself as a mischievous child? What does that say about Hinduism?

I simply ignored these tales as rubbish for many years until I had an epiphany, and the epiphany was this: It does say something about Hinduism. In many pagan religions, gods are looked up to as one would look up to a mother or a father. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God is the father. Even Freud said that our feelings about our parents are transferred to that being we call God. And we want to be like children again with an ever-loving God to protect us.

And yet in Hinduism, we have this God-child, this Krishna, who with all of his wiles, all of his mischief, Hindus accept and worship. Because while in other religions, people are taught to love God as one would love a mother or a father, Hindus — through Krishna — are taught to love God as one would love a child. Unconditionally. Without fear or remorse. With acceptance and care. Like a mother or a father would. Like a grownup.

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