Saturday, April 30, 2005

Mature enough for what?

This makes me feel a bit queasy.

I mean, really. What the heck? They say she's not "mature" enough to make her own choice about abortions, but she's mature enough to have a baby at 13? Baffling. I could understand if the situation was as in less developed countries where the methods aren't developed enough to be considered safe, but this is in the US. I admit that people's bodies develop at different rates, but is a 13-year old girl really obligated to give birth just because she got pregnant?

Monday, April 25, 2005

A "load of dingo's kidneys"

Usually I'm not the kind of guy to discuss religion, but I guess going through bleedingisaac can do things to a person (in a not-bad way).

So, if war is hell on earth, and thruth is the first victim of war, then one might say that in hell there is no truth. So to fight of hell one might say that we should seek out the truth and fight off lies.
It is certain that a few isolated Christian writers explicitly argued against the spherical Earth. Lactantius (245–325) calls it "folly" because people on a sphere would fall down; Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (315–386) saw Earth as a firmament floating on water; Saint John Chrysostom (344–408) saw a spherical Earth as contradictory to scripture; Severian, Bishop of Gabala (d. 408) and Diodorus of Tarsus (d. 394) argued for a flat Earth; and Cosmas Indicopleustes (547) called Earth "a parallelogram, flat, and surrounded by four seas" in his Christian Topography, where the Covenant Ark was meant to represent the whole universe.
Wikipedia - Flat earth
The geocentric model was generally accepted at the time for several reasons. By the time of the controversy, the Catholic Church had largely abandoned the Ptolemaic model for the Tychonian model in which the Earth was at the center of the Universe, the Sun revolved around the Earth and the other planets revolved around the Sun.
Wikipedia - Galileo Galilei
As such it would seem that many great men have been persecuted for their ideas by people who did not approve of them. But not only great men, but ordinary people too...
For several centuries, dominantly Christian societies believed that Satan was acting through human and animal servants. These beliefs can be seen as a reaction to emerging alternatives to the Christian hierarchical order, such as the worldly knowledge and cultural practices brought into a relatively backward Europe from the Middle East by those returning from the Crusades. Over the centuries, there were extensive efforts to root out the supposed influence of Satan by various measures aimed at the people that were accused of being servants of Satan. People suspected of being "possessed" by Satan were put on trial.
Wikipedia - Witch-hunt
The Spanish Inquisition was the Inquisition acting in Spain under the control of the Kings of Spain. This Inquisition was the result of the reconquest of Spain from the Muslims and the policy of converting Spanish Jews and Muslims to Christianity. The Inquisition was an important tool in enforcing the limpieza de sangre ("cleanliness of blood") against descendants of converted Jews or Muslims. It was also used as a tool to punish and eliminate homosexuals.
Wikipedia - Spanish inquisition

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't enjoy treatment like that just because I'm not a believer. Maybe it was considered to be the truth then, but what about now? Does anyone honestly believe that witches exist and that we can throw people in the lake to see who floats and who sinks? Wasn't it then a lie all along? And today? Is AIDS a punishment on homosexuals from god? Maybe that's also a lie...

So what we know (or think we know) is that religion has spread many lies throughout time. Many atrocities has been committed in the name of belief, and continue to happen even today, as shown by the situation in the middle-east and the sarin attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult on a Tokyo subway in 1995.

In other religions, such as Hinduism, reincarnation is a central part and the goal is to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. What could be worse than to be reincarnated into a world full of lies and warring? Would that not be a hell in itself? Perhaps it's the release from that hell, the release from the death-rebirth cycle, that so many religions speak of. A release from a world of hostility partly caused by the religions themselves..?

Who knows, this is all just a "load of dingo's kidneys" as someone smarter than me would have said.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Therapy Blog?

Sometimes I wonder what it is about people's fascination with bad news. It seems as if all the news is centered around disaster. Aren't there good news to talk about? Probably, but good news doesn't really sell as well. There's nothing to catch the public's attention like a good disaster, such as a terrorist act, earthquake or killer wave.

And in the blogosphere, too, there is a propensity to talk much about one's very personal issues.
I'm miserable again. I'm miserable because I'm very excited about this girl and I know I'm going to fuck it up. I'm going to fuck it up being miserable about knowing that I'm going to fuck it up, and then after my being miserable goes ahead and fucks it up I'm going to be even more miserable. Probably more miserable than when I started.

Also, I have a canker sore.
vulkoqq
Not just posts can include these kinds of confessions, but blog descriptions, like that of mywhiningzone ("wherein i describe the impending demise of my decade-and-a-half marriage. let it be a lesson to you young folks..."), and post titles, like "How I ended up rolling around (publicly) in feces." Very often these problems are told in a humorous way, often with a degree of self-distance. Some of the most popular blogs are not afraid of retelling tales of hardships.

But even though people are drawn to read about such difficulties, it can't be only for the reason of publicity and popularity that bloggers write about it. After all, blogging isn't an unfamiliar concept anymore; there are countless of blogs, each with their own sad stories. There's no guarantee that your story will even be read by one single person.

For many, it's just the act of getting it written down, and that helps them pinpoint the problem at hand. In a way the blogosphere is similar to a world-spanning therapy group, where every person is given their own outlet for their issues, and readers who recognize the problems can sympathize and respond with their own feelings.

Global online group therapy for a generation who more than any generation before is affected by mental health-problems and self-doubt.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Definitions

It just occured to me how some people need to have a famous name associated with something for it to have any value, or for an idea to have hold any water. It's as if people don't always realize that it's not the name of definition of something that gives it value.

Say that someone hears a song that they find sort of catchy. They ask whoever is listening to it what it is, and find out that it's some obscure indie band that's never even been close to the charts. That someone would probably just forget about it unless it's there's a known name they can associate with the music. Or if in a philosophical discussion someone brings up a really good thought, someone asks "who was it who said that, Kant?", and the one who brought it up says that, no, I thought of it myself, then that idea has much less weight for the listeners than if there was a famous name backing it.

Are you familiar with the Tommy Hilfiger line of clothing/various junk? None of the merchandise is actually made by any specific company, the production is all outsourced and just about the only contribution he makes is putting his name on it and raising the price. (No offense to Tommy or any of his fans/customers.)

Even though it sounds odd, something can exist even though there's no definition of it. In the same way, a person can discover or realize something without ever having been told about it, like someone thinking of the same ideas as Marx without ever hearing of him.

Just because there's no name for it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Regret

I used to really beat myself up over the various regrets I had, like "why didn't I ask that girl out?" or "why did I ask that girl out when I knew she was going to say no anyway?" (even if I really had no idea what she was going to say). But as I've grown older and out of puberty, I've come to accept regret, much as you accept the size of your penis or something.

Basically, I realized that regret will always be there, like death or taxes. I think that just about everyone have done something they regret; there's noone who's perfectly happy with every single choice they've made. And since there's no way to rewind time and do things differently, there's no way of seeing what would have happened had you not done that thing you regret. Maybe you'd then regret not doing it..?

The grass is, as they say, not always greener on the other side.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Debating...

I don't like debating. It's not because I'm bad at it, as growing up with a know-it-all big sister has taught me a thing or two, and with the proper preparation I could probably fare pretty well, but I find the experience tiring.

I noticed it recently when I was about to write a reply in a forum to a statement that downloads of music in any format has a negative impact on sales (which most know isn't true). But after I had written out my incredible worded reply that was sure to knock the opposition of it's feet, I just deleted the thing. Yeah, maybe I was being a coward for not wanting to take up the fight, but I could see from the rhetoric that the poster seemed to just be after a debate for the sake of debating. Nothing wrong with that, of course. A debate can be a good exercise for the mind, and if I was five years younger I would probably have gone for it. Heck, if I was five years younger, I might have said it myself just to play the devil's advocate.

A debate is after all just a play; you can argue just about anything no matter how stupid, and there is minimal chance that any of the participants will change their minds about anything. You can have the best idea in the world that you want to tell everyone about, but you're shot down by someone who doesn't care either way but is just hired in to promote the opposition's argument.

Maybe I've grown old and soft. Or old and hardened in my opinions. I've had A Youth's View From The Right in my blogmarks folder for a while now, and while part of me thinks it would be good to read through it and come up with counter-arguments, another part of me just doesn't want to sift through any more of these kinds of arguments.

I should know better than to end this with a huge blockquote, but this from The Oatmeal pirate is too good not to be written again and again:
The news is full of small biases that most of us never even notice. These biases confirm our beliefs and make it easier to watch or listen to news. It is quite uncomfortable to hear strong arguments from our opponents. Our own president will confirm this, as he refuses to read liberal columnists. However, these actions are complete nonsense. How dare we believe ourselves to be correct if we don’t even know why our opponents believe what they do?
People need to start listening. Maybe then we’ll realize that every side of an issue can be justified with clear, black and white facts.
Liberals, your conservative friends are not stupid.
Conservatives, your liberal friends are not stupid.
When we find the truth about life and our world, I assure you it will be neither black nor white, neither liberal nor conservative.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Idea Factory

(Forgive this strange post as I'm sllightly sick and a bit dizzy/doped up on headache-pills.)

Shortly put, it's your brain. That's where the magic happens, whether it be that million-dollar idea or the solution to that rubik's cube you've had sitting around forever. But doesn't it still seem as if everybody are chasing after new and exciting ideas as if they'd be a scarcity?

I see ideas much as people. They come in many different forms and they may be similar or quite opposite. But most of all, I think that ideas come about a similar way that humans do: two of them meet, chemistry occurs and after a while a new one is delivered to the world. Quite like music, it seems as if everything is a derivative of something gone before. Though that's not really a bad thing, as humans evolve, so does the ways we communicate and the ideas that fill our minds.

And ideas also have the capability to transform and change other ideas, much like an encounter between two different humans may change them both, like when you fall in love or make an unexpected friendship.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the meeting of ideas is brainstorming. Of course ideas can clash in circumstances where everybody's too headstrong, but when the minds are open and the flow of ideas remains unhindered, that is when you can make great positive changes.

To end this entry I present to you an excerpt from an article at The Writing Life:
In class yesterday a student volunteered to let the class brainstorm his story concept, and the next half hour included some of the most spirited and fun dialogue I've had in class in weeks. I think the students saw the benefit of the exercise. There's a natural tendency to "protect" and "defend" one's idea and play it close to the vest. This student was great, responding "fantastic!" and "perfect!" as other students shot ideas at him. This is what its about, putting away the ego and embracing things that are best for the story.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Japanese Toilet

Even though my fascination of Japan is relatively well documented, I simply cannot imagine using a Japanese-style toilet (have a look at this instructional Flash movie to see how it's used).

The whole contraption just frightens me, it's like they had just ripped a regular urinal from the wall and forced it into the floor. I can imagine that any westerner confronted with it would feel like John Spartan in Demolition Man when confronted with the toilets of the future... "he doesn't know how to use the three shells!"

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Useless Crusade of the Music Industry

The music industry is suing even more music lovers, which should come as a surprise to noone. It seems as if the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) is so intent on sawing off the branch of piracy that they don't even see that they're sitting on it. Yes, I am afraid of downloading western music now, but that has also caused me to almost stop listening to it entirely, since I have started listening to, and in turn purchasing, Japanese music. As can be read in the excellent Cultures of Music Piracy: An Ethnographic Comparison of the US and Japan (PDF) by Ian Condry, Japan has taken a non-suing stance in regards to file-sharing.
By March 2004, hundreds of lawsuits had been initiated in Europe
(Landler, 2004), but only three legal actions have been taken in Japan.
Of course that doesn't make downloading Japanese music legally right, but at least you can explore the music without the threat of a lawsuit hanging over you.

In one way, it might be a good thing that the IFPI are so persistent in their witch-hunt of "pirates", in that it's becoming painfully clear that the music industry of today cannot cope with the technology at hand. And since the technology is ever improving, how are they supposed to handle it, say, 5 years from now?

It seems as if the IFPI wants people to buy music out of fear, instead out of respect. Perhaps what will happen is that the potential customer, in fear of being prosecuted, instead turns to independent bands, or bands signed on a smaller, non-suing, label...

EDIT: From The Register:
Japan is also joining in the fun, becoming the first Asian country to take legal action against people who use P2P services to trade the record business' wares without payment.
Nevermind what I said then. Still, they'd have to travel half-way around the world to get me. Bring it on!

*runs out and hides in the woods*

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Next Next-Gen

The Register has an article about the (alleged) unveiling of both the Xbox 2 and the PS3 (or whatever their respective names will be). Maybe I'm getting old, but it seems that I just got the Xbox not long ago...

Anyway, the reason I got the Xbox was due to the in-built harddrive. I've never been too fond of the memory card-thing, the only experience I've had with them was with the Gamecube and it was a bad one (I sold it off not long after I had gotten it). Maybe it would've been better if I had just let it sit in the card slot the whole time, but that didn't appeal to me. The memory card-issue was also the reason I didn't buy a PS2 (though in retrospect I might have enjoyed a PS2 more than my Gamecube).

So going into the next generation of non-PC gaming machinery neither console looks to have a built-in harddrive in their default set-up. The ball is still in the air regarding the Xbox 2 and the different versions of it MS will or won't make. (Three different versions, Bill?) All of this means that I still haven't made any real decision of which next-gen console I should buy.

But I have looked a bit at what's promised for the future of the Xbox 2, and most of it seems to revolve around massive improvements of the online capabilities. If you've read what I think about online gaming, you'll understand if I'm not slipping around in my own drool. Not only that, but MS are strongly encouraging developers to make use of Xbox Live, too.
Microsoft is requiring developers to make all Xenon titles Live enabled.
Does anyone else hear this less as "It's good to play together" and more as "It's good to pay Microsoft to let you play together"?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The "Hithhiker's Guide..." movie

In my travesting blogspot via the Next blog-button, I found a link to an early review of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie at A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago. As one have might feared, the results are not too good. A shame really.

Of course I'm not so bothered since I probably won't see it considering the review, but a shame for those who haven't come in contact with the Hitchhiker's series before. What's the probability that from seeing a bad film they'll want to read the book that it's based on? A book can certainly benefit from a good film adaptation (think Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter) but perhaps the opposite is true of bad adaptations. And based on how people these days have a tendency to see the film rather than read the book (does anyone know Gone with the Wind as anything else than a movie?), there is a real risk that when future generations want to find out about the Hitchhiker's series that their grandparents are talking about, the first thing they'll come across is a movie that's only known for being bad.

The Blog Code

I was going to say something about how to write a blog, or how they're mostly written, but apparently there are whole lists about what and what not to do (award-winning lists, even). As simple as that then, just follow the series of bulleted points and you're bound to get readers, fame and a book deal or two.

Though I'm glad that there's easily findable advice (don't get me wrong, it's a good list, especially #27) I can't help but feel that it leaves something out... Oh, right. Do it your own way.

If you don't want to do anything on that list, that is perfectly fine. If you don't want to curse or write about sex and politics, then so be it. Write about what you are interested in, and don't let anyone start telling you what you should and shouldn't write about.

I'd better not write anything more so I won't be on the recieving end of a bloggie next year.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Cursing

Most people who care about language and good writing would probably tell you to avoid foul language and swearing, and with good reason. Just because you riddle a text with curse-words (or "cuss-words", though I've never been a fan of that expression) doesn't make it interesting or edgy. Well, edgy in the sense that your sure to offend someone, but no amount of cursing can bring an edge to dull content (though it's often tried).

But cursing, when used in moderation, can often add some spice, and maybe even stilistic contrasts, with swearing. Think about a generic rap-song, or just about any Quentin Tarantino-movie, where it seems as if every other word is a curse word. In that context, where the listener is flooded with swearing, the curse word loses much of its weight. If you try to make anything stand out using a curse word in that situation it would be like dropping a teacup while the elephant is rummaging the porcelain-store; nobody would pay much attention. But imagine if the suburbian next-door mother of 2.5 children would suddenly start cursing like a sailor? Wouldn't that raise an eyebrow or two?

It's all up to what you want to say, and how you want to say it. Even though we cannot emphasize our tone of voice on paper, we can still use words of varying gravitas to fit the situation, and better express the mood we want to create in the reader.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The new "bad"

Or should that be "good"?

"When you're good, you're good, and when you're bad, you're really good", is that how the saying goes? These days you often see and hear people describing themselves using what used to be disparaging expressions. Men proudly admit that they're disrespectful egoists, women parade that they're bitchy (with or without writing it as abbreviation of some odd phrase).

In general, it seems as if people are fond of using phrases that used to be disrespectful to describe themselves or their peers. Mimi in NY writes something that I've been thinking about myself:
On the way home from Queens I stopped outside a Newsagents, and listened to a group of black kids talking.

"Yo, motherfuckin' nigger jus' popped the filippino down, tellin yo' man, that nigger is bad"

They noticed me listening and grinned at me. I asked them if it's ever OK for a white person, indeed any person, to use the word 'nigger'.
All the while adjectives like "kind", "sweet" and "symphatetic" are being associated with weakness. Do women think they have to be "bitchy" in order to be respected, or is it that women who claim respect are considered to be "bitchy"? Maybe the two are freely interchangable. Do guys think that they have behave even more like assholes if they see a woman speak her mind in order to be considered more "manly"?

And it get's even worse if the slang gets so widespread that it replaces the proper wording. Imagine being on vacation in, for example, Germany, eating at a bar or inn. You enjoy the meal very much and would like to compliment the chef. He comes to your table, and you say "This food is 'the shit'!"

On the other hand, you can't have the rules of language set in stone. As an evolving race, we need an evolving language. We cannot require everyone to follow the rules simply for them being rules. How would we describe the Internet in the terms and rules from the 19th century? In the case of language, rules are definitely meant to be broken. And then fixed, only to be broken again. As has been done many times before, or we would still be using strange words like "muggy" even today.

Some people might not know where the line is between what is accepted and what is not, for the area arund it is incredibly unclear and wholly dependant on the people standing around it. But remember that language is for communicating; if misunderstandings occur, try to find a different way of saying what you want.

Since Dictionary.com is my friend, I follow that definition. Most of the women who describe themselves as bitchy are probably not really "female canine animals" or "lewd women", but just people with a personality standing up for themselves.