In the name of the general

Ledat’s pulse pounded in his ears and his throat as he approached General Ungar’s tent. He was trembling like a cart on cobblestones, and his hands were hot and itchy.

The summons to the General’s tent had been as sudden as it was terrifying. He had been minding his own business, doing his training exercises in his personal tent (one of the few privileges of being in officer training) when one of the General’s inscrutable adjutants had walked in, told him to go to the General’s tent, and left, without ceremony.

As Ledat climbed the rocky path to the General’s tent, his mind boiled with possible reasons he might have been summoned. Had he made some terrible mistake? Were these his last moments as an officer in training? Or as a soldier at all? The thought of returning to his home village in disgrace made Ledat nauseous with dread.

Ledat entered the General’s tent, and paused in the antechamber to try to collect his wits. It’s probably nothing, he assured himself. Just some routine adjustment to his training. Or bad news about a relative. Something harmless like that.

Thus reassured, Ledat steadied himself, put his sword in the basket beside the flap to the inner sanctum, and entered.

Inside, Ledat could, at first, see nothing because of how dimly lit the room was. But soon his eyes adjusted and he could see that the room, like its resident, was large, spare, simple, and extremely tidy.

And apparently unoccupied. Ledat looked around the room over and over without result. Then, just as his confusion was giving way to panic, he heard the soft and familiar noise of a page being turned.

And there he was, the Great General himself, sitting quietly in front of a small field fire, reading a massive book. He had clearly been there the entire time, yet somehow Ledat had not noticed him at all. How was that even possible?

“Officer Cadet Ledat r-reporting as ordered, sir.”

The barest of nods from the massive man. At nearly six feet tall, the General towered over other men, and had a body like a garrison wall. Everything about him conveyed power, authority, and a solidity that made him seem more real than other men.

For what seemed like a long time to Ledat, there was silence except for the crackling of the fire and the turning of the pages.

Finally, without turning to look at Ledat, the General said, “Cadet Ledat, do you think me a strong man? ”

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

“It is a simple question, Ledat. Do you think I am a wise man?”

Ledat’s heart was in his throat. What madness was this? “Of course, sir. Your strength is legendary among the…”

“And do you think me an intelligent man? ” asked the General.

Ledat forced himself to stop trembling. He smelled a trap but could not, for the life of him, figure out what it was. “Yes, sir. You are a shrewd tactician, as well as a learned… ”

“And do you think me a wise man?”

“No man could be wiser, sir. ”

“And do you respect me?”

“Yes sir. Completely. ”

Finally, the General turned to look down at Ledat, and spoke to him in a voice of cold iron : “Then why have you been insulting me to everyone who will listen to you?”

Ledat’s shock was total. He felt like he was going insane. Insult the General? He would never even think of it. It would be akin to blasphemy. “B-b-but sir, I would never… ”

“So you deny it? ” snapped the General.

“Well I… I don’t know… if you say… but I would never….

“My most trusted advisors say differently. They have compiled a long list of people who swear upon their oath that you have called my wisdom and judgment into doubt dozens and dozens of times. It seems you think me a fool. I have called you hear today so that you can tell me exactly why. ”

Ledat felt like the tent was turning very slowly around him. His mind was chaos. One notion seemed more promising than the rest, as so he seized upon it. “P-perhaps if the General could be more specific… ”

“More specifically, Cadet Riche Ledat, you have been witnessed numerous times saying that you did not know why you had been chosen for officer training, that you did not think you could handle it, that you didn’t think you were good enough, and that you expected to wash out at any moment. Do you deny having said these things? ”

“No sir. There would be little point of that. But I don’t see how… ”

“Do you remember the day you learned you had been chosen for officer training, Ledat?”

“Yes sir, I do. ”

“Do you remember how the letter of induction began?”

Ledat thought back. “I think it was something like…. ‘You have been personally chosen by the Great General Ungar to… ”

Ledat’s face went pale. Suddenly he understood.

“Not everyone gets that letter, Ledat. Most enlisted men never get any letter at all, and when they do, it is usually quite brief, and it is most definitely not hand delivered by one of my personal adjutants. ”

“I…. hadn’t thought of it that way, sir. ”

“Clearly not. And everything in that letter was true, Ledat. I personally chose you for officer training because I saw, and continue to see, something in you that no wise leader would ignore. You have an excellent mind, Ledat, and that alone would qualify you to be an officer. But you also have heart, and the courage of your convictions, and those are what lead a man to greatness. So there will be no more doubting yourself and your ability to succeed, Ledat. Not in word, not even in thought. Because when you doubt yourself, you doubt me. You are dismissed. ”

With that, Ledat left the tent, head spinning with confusion, but with a soft sweet song of joy growing in his heart.


Life is boring

Bear with me on this one, because the ideas are not fully formed yet. But here goes.

The problem with the modern world is that it is boring. This is largely a good thing. Generations before ours have worked hard at making life as boring as they could, and future generations will work to make things more banal than we can even imagine today.

We have done this by eliminating danger. War, disease, starvation, drought… all of these are a pale shadow of their former selves, demoted from apocalyptic to manageable to thoroughly managed. At least in the modern world.

We live longer, better lives than any humans before us. That’s an achievement so massive that it is impossible to overstate. But it leaves us with an unmet need.

Nature makes a virtue of necessity, and we evolved in a very dangerous environment. The plains of the Serengeti have a plethora of highly skilled predators and fierce prey. So way back in the early days of homo sapiens, those genes that gave people a thirst for danger and risk were moderately selected for.

But only moderately. After all, too much of that and you stand a very low risk of surviving to breed offspring. But somehow, no amount of progress as a civilization can entirely snuff out that need for danger, excitement, and adventure.

This need is particularly out of place in modern dull society. But human needs never go unfulfilled for very long, even (or perhaps especially) the completely unconscious ones we can’t even recognize let consciously fulfill.

Thus, there is a conflict between the world how it is for the modern human living in a modern society and the world how we need it to be. Simply put, actual life is too boring for us. And yet we are civilized humans and therefore hardly about to actively introduce danger into our lives.

The modern human resolves this conflict via a layer of delusion about the world. We imagine the world to be more exciting and dangerous and above all more thrilling place than it really is, and that satiates this need. Our delusional structures are custom-fitted to be exactly as much danger as we need without said danger demanding we disrupt our safe, sane, modern lives.

This is the exact reason why people continue to believe that crime is on the rise despite the irrefutable fact that the exact opposite is true.

This is why people fixate on problems which are the most frightening and exciting instead of the ones most likely to actually impact their lives.

This is why all stories must contain conflict in order to be interesting.

And this is why the human mind has been invented spirits, demons, ghosts, goblins, vampires, and other imaginary dangers since the dawn of civilization.

We simply cannot face how boring life really is.

No two people’s delusional dangers will be exactly the same. For one person it might be belief in the supernatural. For another it might be believing that the country is going downhill and any day now, society will collapse. For yet another person, it might be getting a thrill out of reading true crime stories.

That’s the thing about the modern world. The media (and ourselves) generate content to fulfill this need and the catch is, it’s not entirely illusory. There is always that tiny infusion of fact to make it seem “real” without it being as boring as if it actually represented object reality.

The perfect exemplar for this is reality television. These shows pretend to represent reality, but everyone knows that they are either scripted or practically scripted. And why? Because the producers of the show know that reality is boring and that people want conflict and drama.

And they are certainly not going to leave that up to chance.

And yet, people buy into them. The hint of reality makes the almost entirely synthetic narrative more compelling. We know it doesn’t represent reality – but it sure does make the shows more “realistic”.

For the most part, these are harmless delusions. On a day to day basis, they do no harm and make people feel better in a way that helps society function.

But when you look at the larger picture, worrying possibilities appear. Belief in the Red Menace put the entire world at risk for decades. Belief in the prevalence of crime and terrorism leads people to surrender important rights in order to feel safe from illusory enemies. The Internet’s need for outrage ruins people’s lives every single day.

And all because we prefer world views which excite us over boring, mundane reality.

Don’t ask me for a solution, because I am not sure there is one. Slay one illusion, another will take its place. There will always be a market for danger in the shadows. There will always be a need for dangers that seem real enough to believe in, but only enough for the story to make our lives more exiting, not enough to be really REALLY real and hence demand immediate action.

That is why there is always a market for an apocalypse. Whether it’s spiritual, cultural, or environmental, people love to think that it is all going to end in their lifetimes. I mean, what could be more exciting than that?

But not like…. right now. Sometime soon, sure. Just not right now. Because we have things to do.

How do you solve a problem like that? We are certainly not about to introduce real danger into our lives just so that we can get our thrills. Instead, we forward stories of objectively terrible things to one another then wonder why.

The solution probably begins with acknowledging that everyone, from the most crazed adrenaline junkie all the way down to little old ladies playing mah-jong, need danger and risk, and most importantly, that this need can lead us to believe things that are just plain not true, and do things to protect ourselves from dangers that do not exist.

It’s okay to believe in ghosts. It’s not okay to spend all your money on anti-ghosting your house when you have a family to support. It’s really that simple.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Friday video roundup?

Woke up feeling super crappy. So, you guys get caught up on my video output two days early. Huzzah.

First up, some freaky ass space music :

My playing around with low tempo again. I just can’t resist. Things get so weird when you slow shit down that much. And kind of majestic. And, to be honest to the point of bluntness, the lower the tempo, the fewer things I have to come up with to fill my one minute for the day.

Not at all proud of that, but until my mental and physical health stabilize, some days you are going to get minimum effort, and others you will get my very best.

Most days will be in between, of course.

I’m doing okay with the CPAP. But I need to do better. Right now, I definitely put it on when I go to sleep at night. But if I get up to pee or eat, I don’t usually put it back on.

And I wonder why I wake up feeling like used shit?

So I have to crack down on myself. The thing goes on no matter what. If I sleep, it’s with CPAP. Period.

I talk to myself a lot on this blog.

Next vid : given what I confessed above, I am especially embarrassed to admit : more music.

But at least I included some other stuff!

Hmmmmm. Love that organ riff, been wanting to use it for a while. But I am not sure that vocal sample really works with it. And the whole thing seems sort of low density and unfinished.

At least I gave people some cool optical illusions to look at while they are not quite entertained by the music. I like my text explanations. I didn’t plan it that way, but they ended up coming across as quite surreal, at least to me. Looking at something while the text tells you what your eyes are lying to you about.

Makes me wish I had done a voiceover for them. Just a calm, neutral, precise voice telling you strange truths in plain language. The voice of HAL from 2001 would be perfect.

On the home front, I have been trying my best Google Fu to try to find scholarships, bursaries, et al to bolster my education fund. I figure, why have more student loan debt than necessary? And I did find a few things, so…. good on me, I guess.

One more piece of my original music :

I am proud of that one. It’s far from perfect… there’s holes in the beat that I could not figure out how to fix without throwing the whole thing off kilter, and obviously, not everyone is going to get behind the whole machine sound.

But still, I am proud, because it’s innovative, complex, and was a lot of fun to do.

The pictures of machine shops are just there to give people something to look at. The bit at the beginning about machines making music when we’re not looking came about purely because I miscalculated the number of pictures of machine shops I would need, and didn’t feel like opening my browser again to get more, so I had two slides worth of content missing.

So I put whatever popped into my head in there, and that happened to be some BS about machines coming to life and making music.

I’d already called the piece Music of the Machines, so it wasn’t exactly a huge leap.

They say success comes from hard work and innovation, and I suppose that’s true most of the time.

But sometimes, it’s innovation and laziness.

Our next piece is…. NOT MUSIC! It’s me talking.

Check it out, man. Production values! Not just me talking uploaded raw, but me talking with intro and outro and my snarky little Colbert’s “The Word” style commentary, which in my head I often here in the voice of Pat Cashman.

There’s no internal edits, granted, because I didn’t see any big errors, but listening to it now, there were some small ones that I could have snipped out to get rid of a few ums and ahhs and broken up the flow just enough to give the thing texture.

One of these days, I will get around to using my tablet and webcam together to finally have the two-camera effect I have wanted for so very long.

I would basically be using my tablet as the main camera and the webcam for asides and such. The tablet takes higher quality video than my rinky dink little webcam, so it has to be the main. But I think the change in quality when I switch to webcam footage will help cement it as a different POV.

It makes me happy just thinking about it. It would be just like TV!

And that means a lot to me.

Finally, we have our sneaky ulterior motive for wanting to do this video shit today : this video!

I am crazy proud of that. That looks practically good enough to actually share with strangers. I worked very hard on it last night and I adore it. I adore it because I actually went to the trouble of adding the content I have wanted to see in my own stuff after seeing it in other people’s similar content.

Yeah, I am not the first person to think of doing the “what the lyrics sound like to me” video. Hardly a surprise. And other people illustrated their silly lyrics. And before last night, I told myself that I didn’t have the energy to do that.

But last night, I sat down with Google Image Search and got my goddamned pictures. And it was a lot of work, but it wasn’t horrendously difficult. In fact, once I got warmed up, it was kind of fun.

And all because I did my blog writing in the afternoon so I would have all evening to work on video,

So I did the lyrics part, the text, then took a break, then did the pictures.

This could be the beginning of a brand new level of quality for me.

And all it cost me was time and effort that would have otherwise been wasted doing nothing.

Right on, Black Rain!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

The numbers game

OK. Time to take another crack at the question of people’s relationship with math and numbers.

I keep coming back to his subject because it puzzles me. I find it hard to understand why so many people have this strong mental aversion to things involving math, even very basic math. So I suppose I am looking for answers.

The root of my puzzlement is that the sort of math I am talking about is very simple math. We’re not talking about strange mathematics involving bizarre sounding things like “n-space” and “asymptotic variables”. We’re not even talking about algebra, the bete noire of many.

We are talking about extremely simple math : add, multiply, subtract, divide. If you graduated from elementary school, you know how to do these thing. And you don’t even need to do these things yourself. That’s what calculators (or, more likely, calculator apps) are for. You only have to understand them.

So it is clear that it’s not that people can’t do or understand the math. They are perfectly capable of it. And yet they avoid math like it’s the worst mental torture known to mankind.

Ergo, it must be something deeper. Something about the nature of one’s experience with math, perhaps.

One possibility is that it’s entirely random. If your first experience with math is easy and fun, you form a good opinion of it, and said opinion leads you to be open to more math, and hence you become good at it and comfortable with it.

If the first experience is bad, the opposite happens. The mind closes down on the subject because math is now treated as a threat imposed upon one from above, and the scenario is set for a person to learn only the absolute minimum required in order to get through school and then to cleanse the mind of all math once school is done.

This phenomenon is greatly enhanced by the nearly universal belief that some people are just naturally good at math, like they have the “math gene”, and for everyone else, it’s nothing but mystery and misery.

I don’t believe it, and I think belief in this “math gene” is very destructive. It gives people an out that seems like a relief at the time (guess I am just not one of those math people) but which, in my opinion, leads to people being unnecessarily subnumerate and hence open to manipulation, not to mention unable to exert the control over their lives that a comfort level with math brings, especially when it comes to finance.

Money is numbers. And numbers are power.

I don’t think it’s a gene and I don’t think it is random chance either. I think it goes yet deeper than that, into the deeper layers of human psychology. I think people become afraid of numbers and math because they understand that numbers are binding, and do not want to be bound by them.

The amount of money you have is a number. As such, it cannot be changed to fit better with your emotional needs. That’s why people think numbers are “cold”. They are not alive. They are finite. They are limited. And some people, right-brained people, simply cannot accept that kind of truth.

So they rebel against it. They do everything they can to minimize contact with the cold, finite, divided, “uncaring” world of numbers. They prefer to operate from an expansive worldview that is not tied down by numbers. They try, in a sense, to pretend numbers do not exist or do not represent truth in any meaningful way.

But the numbers of a situation do represent truth. Hard, unyielding, unwavering truth. And if the numbers don’t add up, nothing works. No amount of soul-searching, contemplation, examination from different perspectives, or prayer is going to change that.

If something costs $1200, that’s it. You either have that much money or not. If a bridge can only hold 1000 pounds, then there is no amount of negotiation that can convince it to hold more. If your child’s temperature is 104, then it’s time to take them to the doctor no matter how inconvenient it might be.

Numbers can represent truth that absolutely cannot be denied. No wonder so many people don’t like them.

Some people even give in to the feeling that the numbers somehow change when they are not looking, and it can certainly seem like that sometimes when you are dealing with numbers on a large scale.

But you know they didn’t. The idea is absurd on the face of it. What, did magical number gremlins change the numbers while you blinked? Of course the numbers haven’t changed. How could they? And armed with this irrefutable fact, you can go back to what you are doing and figure out where you went wrong.

Perhaps the difference is one of the qualitative versus the quantitative. Or pragmatism versus idealism. The idealist wants to remain in the world of untarnished ideals. The pragmatist accepts the limitations and imperfections of the world because they wish to get things done.

Being a pragmatist myself, as well as someone who is quite comfortable working with numbers, I might be biased. But to me, people’s refusal to do even the most basic kind of mathematical reasoning strikes me as childish and absurd.

And that’s what it boils down to. Once you strip away the things that a calculator can do and the belief that math is a “you got it or you don’t” proposition, all you have left is mathematical reasoning. People are unable or unwilling to think in numbers.

And these are not stupid people, necessarily. That’s why I think it has something to do with psychology or temperament. Some people inherently reject the cold hard inflexible truth of numbers, and will tell themselves whatever it takes to discredit mathematical truth so they don’t have to face their own refusal to accept reality.

“Oh, surely such a complicated thing as this can’t be reduced to mere numbers!”

Why the hell not?

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Super video blowout EXTRAVAGANZA (part 3 of 3?)

Welcome to what is probably the last installment of the video roundup for now, at least.

I sort of miss talking about stuff.

Anyhow, on with the show!

Of course, we start with music.

In case you missed it, and I doubt you did, the reverse echoing stuff near the beginning and the excellent Peter Lorre quote at the end are the exact same clip.

I originally had the clip at the end of the song, by itself, but then I decided it would be much funnier if the music cut out right before he said “HE’S MARRYING A CHICKEN!”

And now, I confuse people by talking :

Well I had been listening to a very erudite female men’s rights advocate and I was sort of hot for the cause. And I was trying to illustrate a point. But I think I got a little carried away. I wanted to illustrate the different ways people think about different genders and how bizarre that is, and tilted against men it can be.

That was all I was saying.

Blah blah blah, more music :

Meh. No… that’s not strong enough. Bleh.

Some okay ideas but as a whole, it’s uneven, off balance, and clumsy. Kind of ashamed of it really. But it is, perversely, not in my nature to take something down just because I don’t think it’s my best work.

Logically speaking, that’s exactly what I should do. But that’s sane thinking, and I am not, in any sense, sane.

Not sure I want to be, honestly. It seems like such a drag.

And speaking of things I am not totally proud of :

It wasn’t originally called Test Footage, but I was unhappy enough to want some weasel words in there. I mean, it’s not horrible or anything, but it ended up falling a long way sort of what I was trying to do and that’s always depressing for us fragile and sensitive artistic types.

Love that ending, though. Almost makes up for the rest of it. I need to tap into my uber wacky side more often.

And now, part three of my self-abuse trilogy.

Man I was bummed. Now, after talking to my therapist about it and having him talk me down from mt tree so I could bounce back, it all seems almost silly. But at the time, I really did feel like I had fucked up big time and I was in deep doodoo because of it.

It’s sad how depression can keep you from seeing the solution to your problems. It makes your horizons so damn small.

This next piece is a companion video to this blog entry :

Not a lot to say here. I am not saying that it’s some major cross to bear to be a person who doesn’t have a lot of strict preferences. But it has been a issue in my life, not severe, but pesky. That’s why, like I say in the blog entry, I express preferences when asked even if deep down I don’t really give a shit.

That way, things go more smoothly and I don’t end up arguing with people who are trying to help me.

More of me just talkin’ :

It says something about my general level of impatience that I am already tired of talking CPAP. I went back to the place yesterday. My sleep apnea tests at just past the line between “mild” and “moderate”, like it did before, and things went pretty well with the CPAP machine once I a) remembered to get distilled (oh sorry, “demineralized” water for it and b) had a few nights to get back into the habit.

It’s still a pain to have to strap in just to sleep, but that will fade with time as well.

Oh look, I’m talking in natural light again :

And yeah, like I say, I am probably repeating stuff I said before in various venues. It was what was on my mind right before I made the video, and so I went with it, and realized partway through that I had already talking about this stuff.

But at least I eventually staggered into new territory.

The way I do things is so crazy!

But hey, check out those production values!

Well, if it’s not talking, it must be music :

Bleh. Bordering on blek. Volume balance is way off, and the whole thing seems lumpy, uneven, and sudden. I must have been really messed up that night and hence even sloppier than usual.

Honestly, sometimes it amazes me that anything I do turns out well. Just goes to show that method, reason, and careful scrutiny is one way to get things done.

But it’s not the only way. There’s a lot to be said for the joy of creation and the freedom of mind it requires.

And now, for something completely different :

Great fun doing this, although the sort of listening required is surprisingly draining. You have to listen very intently and yet in a very specific way. It makes me tired just thinking about it, to be honest.

I hope the results are funny to people, or at least entertaining. It’s a fine line between “LOL random” and just plain random. it seems funny to me, but I made the darn thing. I just might be biased.

That’s the thing with comedy, as least from where I am sitting. Sometimes I create stuff that feels right to me, but at the same time, I have absolutely no idea if anyone would find it funny at all.

So it’s not always the comedy writer sniggering at their own wit as they type out their gems of hilarity.

Sometimes it’s as abstract and intuitive as tone poetry.

Finally, we have this video of me being silly in my CPAP mask.

Sorry about the low volume. I guess you have to be Ron Perlman to be able to project through a mask like that.

Well, that’s it for now folks. We’re not totally caught up, but the rest can go into the roundup for next Sunday.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Super video blowout EXTRAVAGANZA (part 2 of 3)

And the hits just keep on coming.

Here’s me being weird and ranting about things nobody else gives a shit about.

I look good in natural light.

I grew up drinking unsoftened water… in other words, water that had a little fluoride added and that was it. All minerals intact. My first experience with softened (in other words, demineralized) water, on a family vacation when I was 5, was quite a shock. It tasted so… wimpy. And insubstantial.

It was the Wonder Bread of water, more or less.

Next up, for those of you who don’t like music, there’s music :

A truly top notch piece from me, in my opinion. Simple, gentle, relaxing, and very pretty. I am especially proud of it because I actually overcame my urge to add elaboration and left well enough alone. The result speaks for itself.

Oh, and I also stepped outside the box in that I used a sound editor to do the fade in and fade out, which means I stretched my mind and my process enough to include an extra step.

Yay for me!

In our next piece, I vent a neurosis :

That whole business is the sort of thing that has been haunting my head for as long as I can remember. I have known I was extraordinary since I was three years old. And well-meaning adults told me that I had a lot of potential.

But because I am fucked up in the head, that just seemed like a looming, crushing obligation to me. The subtle oppression of high expectations, I suppose.

Why am I so afraid of leaving the middle?

More freaking music :

Another delicate, dreamy piece.

I don’t know why I beat myself up over doing so much music. It’s not like it’s low density content that I can just toss off. Each piece takes at least an hour of steady work.

But I will admit, it’s my default thing to do if I don’t feel ambitious enough to do more production=heavy content like some Interpretive Subbing or a Sarcastic Slideshow, but can’t think of anything to talk about either.

So to my overweaning superego, that means I must SUFFER.

Man, I hate that guy.

And the next thing is me talking about the theatre bug :

That time, I had just had the revelations and was able to put them to vid immediately. And I think they are pretty sharp, honestly. I am sure that this purpose gap in the modern world, the inability to feel the meaning of what you do for a living, reaches deep into man areas of our modern civilizations.

Marx called it alienation.

Back to music :

Not everything in this totally works, but I am still pretty happy with it. I am especially glad that I was able to do such a long stretch of solo melody without it being a total nightmare. Most of my pieces are low on that. I don’t know what else to call it… the parts where, if it was being played by an orchestra, it would be a solo.

Sometimes, I really hate being musically subliterate.

Yup. It’s more music!

That’s a pretty rockin’ piece, if I do say so myself. Maybe the flute bits could have been a little quieter, and that ending is pretty weak. But you gotta love that kickass bassline and the way the flute contrasts with it.

You know, I might just be getting good at this music thing. Maybe I should start working on a symphony. Knowing me, my symphony would be like, eight minutes long, tops.

Or maybe even…. dare we say it… NINE.

Up next : Yet more music!

Wow, that part where the sax cuts in is pretty rough. That definitely needs work. I mean, things go more or less okay from that point on, but in the future, I should work on being more critical of these moments before I throw my work up on the web for every Tom whose Dick is Harry on the Internet to see.

But what can I say. Some learn by study, others learn by just doing it a lot.

I do it a lot.

And the next piece of music is… not music! Psych! :

The title is stolen from a trivia book my friend Chris had when I was in college. Today, that type of book would take the form of a “fun facts you might not know” list article, or a site like Mental Floss. But way back when I was a callow youth and dinosaurs roamed the open malls, there was a big market for those sorts of books.

I was quite fond of them myself. I love info-snacking like that. I have a big appetite for knowledge.

Trivia books like those are like a big bowl of popcorn for the mind.

Well, enough verbal content. Time for more goddamned music.

That strings loop always gets stuck in my head.

And it still amazes me that I put this piece of music together without consciously realizing that the string part and the vibraphone parts are playing more or less the same notes.

I just knew they sounded right together. How thrillingly right brained of me!

And for our next selection, you get a nice thick piece of Sarcastic Slideshow :

Gah, I should not be this sleepy at 1:12 pm, especially after drinking a liter of Diet Coke. But sometimes caffiene actually makes me sleepy. That’s just how fucked up my sleep system is.

Maybe when I feel sleepy, I should drink alcohol instead.

Anyhow, where was I? Oh right. I love how snappy the audio captions are in that one. I hope it didn’t go too fast for people. That’s always a worry when someone has to read what’s on the screen while also taking in what you are saying.

And finally, we have…. um…. part 2 of the same thing? :

Oh right! I had so many awesome “bad English” pics that I decided to split them between two videos.

Thank goodness I will never have so much content that I have to split it up ever again.

See you for Part 3, dear readers!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Super video blowout EXTRAVAGANZA! (part 1 of three)

As promised, today I will start to “catch you up” on my video output.

First of all, we have this little wee rant of mine.

That was the night when I had finally gotten so fed up with the wayward and wastrel ways of our cousins to the south that I just had to vent. So out came a lot of things that had been in my mind for a long long time.

I mean, Jesus Christ, America…. for a country with so much pride, you have very little shame.

Maybe that’s what you need.

Oh, and is anyone else nostalgic for the time when the mass shootings were months apart?

Next up, the usual blurb of music.

My self-judgment : it almost works. It’s almost good. But not quite. The two samples are both awesome, but combined, they are just a little too cacophonous. Maybe if I had lowered the volume on them it would not have been so bad. But there’s a lot of areas where they just don’t meld.

It’s so easy for me to fall in love with a really cool sample.

Up next, we have another in a long line of Sarcastic Slideshows :

That’s Eric Clapton (who IS GOD) playing Classical Gas in the background. I really should do music credits for these sorts of things. It’s the least I can do.

Except when it’s my own music. Or wait…. maybe ESPECIALLY when it’s my own music. Hmmmm.

I assume the “All Employees Must Wash Genitals” is someone’s idea of a joke. Unless it’s from the set of a porno.

Then there is this one :

I’m not going to talk about it.

This next one is a little low on content :

Man, that was a shitty day. I am glad it happened, though, because I feel like I burned through a lot of the crap that clogs up my brain in the process of dealing with it. Especially the stuff about my childhood. That needed to happen.

Catharsis is freedom.

Next up : Music AND slides! Really, I spoil you people.

The slides come, of course, from the internet, but more specifically a site called Heroes in Situations that collects all kinds of comic panels that are hilariously “off” when viewed out of context.

The music, of course, is my own composition. So many of this tunelets of mine seem really promising, then they end. I have defeat my “one minute only” compulsion and stop being in such a hurry to be “done”.

Insert premature ejaculation joke HERE.

Note how the color of the text matches the color of the shirt of the person speaking.

That’s what I call quality workmanship. For a change.

Making those little re-subs is a lot of fun and a lot of work. I can never be sure if they are funny or not.

Once I pluck up the courage to have my voice acting appear in things, I will try dubbing.

Next : more music!

That is one of my favorite pieces that I have done recently. To me, it sounds professional, slick, and very cool, as well as interesting and somewhat unexpected.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

Oh, and a word on titles : Like a lot (but by no means all) of writers, I hate coming up with titles. So I tend to go with the first thing that pops into my head that isn’t totally stupid.

Why is it called “Sunrise In Neon City”? Don’t ask me. I just work here.

Next, me talking.

As you can see, Joe is my saviour and he solved both of my reasons to be stressed out and I can’t possibly thank him enough for that. Honestly, I owe him a ton of thanks for a lot of things, but I am pretty sure that, while he appreciates appreciation, were I to totally give in to my effusive nature, it would make him highly uncomfortable.

So I get it done in one sincere, heartfelt, hearty “Thank you so much!”.

More of my happy shining face making words :

I have no idea why I didn’t just turn off the tablet that was making the spooky blue glow. I suppose I thought it would add texture in my inimically wacky ass style. I do remember that I was feeling pretty strung out that night from my various madical conditions and running on blind determination, so perhaps my mental faculties were on spring break that night.

I think the video evidence bears this theory out.

Next up, more of my ponderous pontifications :

Video suitable for thinkers only! Everyone else will probably start wishing there was more visual content.

And yeah, I should totally get on that shit. At the very least, spend some time with Google Image Search in order to get appropriate pictures, or do those cute lil Stephen Colbert’s “The Word” style text comments again.

Well, every day I get a little stronger. I am more open to effort lately. The idea that I am happier when I am busy is finally penetrating my crosswired cranium.

Yup, the next one is me talking as well :

Erf. Not my best work. I am even more incoherent and all over the place than usual. I remember it was jeezly hot that day, and knowing me, I was probably dehydrated. Plus, to be honest, I was probably also really sleepy. My sleep has been all over the damned place this summer.

But that is a subject for another time.

And finally, some more music, this time downright silly :

I love that piece because, despite the semi-dubious decision to use that very low-octave bassline that some people might not even be able to hear, the end result is so lighthearted and pleasant and just a trifle silly that it really feels like I stretched myself as a composer on that one.

Feels weird calling myself a composer. But that’s what I am, or at least, that’s the only word I know to describe what I do, with the samples and music and such.

Well, that’s all for today, dear readers. There will be two more parts of this exercise that are more or less just like this one. That’s how big the backload of unshared video has gotten.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Nerdsplosion in Fanhattan

Recently, I nerdsploded. In fact, I have been nerdspoding for a while now. Because I read a news story and watched a video that told me something that just plain buried the needle on my geek excitement meter.

They have invented the fucking tricorder.

Well, okay, not exactly. For one thing, this device has an actual display (your smartphone/tablet) instead of just making vague sine wave type sounds.

But the basic idea is that it’s a little gizmo that can read the exact molecular structure of anything you point it at. You can get a whole spectrographic reading on absolutely anything as easily as you could take a picture of it.

And this BLOWS MY FREAKING MIND. I want one of these things SO. BAD. I want it so bad that I am pretty sure I am maxing out my capacity for acquisitional avarice. Just thinking of it makes me do the grabby hands.

And not for any of the rather sad sounding “practical” uses they go on and on about in the video. I mean, I am sure it can do those things and much much more, but hey, you can use a microscope as a doorstop if you really want to. That doesn’t mean that is what it is made for.

No, I want it purely because it is the single coolest piece of technology ever to me. It’s entirely gizmo appeal. The ability to simply know what everything is made of is the most amazing and thrilling extension to human senses since the invention of the camera. So much genuine, direct knowledge at your fingertips…the prospect makes me dizzy with anticipation.

I realize that not everybody will be with me on this. I imagine that most people would find it hard to see what I am so freaking stoked about. To most people, I would guess, this piece of technology is sort of neat at best and pointless at worst.

But I don’t care. I am happy to just sit here and revel in how much this makes me feel like I am truly living in the future. The ability to learn exactly what any random object is made of makes me feel like we are living in Star Trek. That we are one step further to that utopia. And that we are opening an astounding new vista in public knowledge.

I hope this thing really catches on. I mean, I know the average person won’t care like I do, but I hope it catches on as a curiosity or a hobby like metal detectors. It would take someone dreaming up a killer application for it, something that would either save or make money for people, or give them another kind of knowledge that they desperately want.

Find out if your mate is cheating? It could work.

The reason I want so badly for it to become ubiquitous (hey, maybe it will start to be built in to people’s smart devices!) is the incredible wave of improved accountability that would unleash on capitalism consumerist economies worldwide.

Companies that had been getting away with cutting corners on their products would suddenly find themselves up to their asses in alligators (or litigators, which are far worse). Say your chairs are rosewood when they are really just oak? Busted! Claim your herbal remedy is full of exciting sounding ingredients and it’s really just aspirin? Busted! Is that chemotherapy medicine counterfeit? SO DAMN BUSTED.

Capitalism thrives on those kinds of things. The bad players get driven out of the market and the good ones take over their market share. And we the consumers get better product cheaper.

And the thing is, we are just getting started. If this product catches on, there will be countless imitators, and where there are imitators there will be innovators who are looking for the edge that will make their version of the same thing better than the competition. In the future, there may well be versions that are more accurate, more helpful, or even versions that do things that are so cool and handy and wonderful that we will wonder how we ever got along without them.

What I am hoping for is the invention of a kind of Wikipedia of substances. A vast database of what things are made of (and what they SHOULD be made of) created by all those people scanning all those things all over the world. A database that anyone can access for research or just plain curiosity.

What an amazingly rich and deep dataset that could be! A database like that could replace dozens of years of research for many important projects and form the jumping off point for innumerable worthy studies of things too obscure to justify a big expensive study, but perfectly suited to small studies based on deep diving into deep data for analysis.

Heck, think of what it could do for medical diagnosis! So much of what now requires sending the patient to a lab and then waiting for the results could be done right there in the office. No pipettes, no centrifuges, no technicians. The doctor could take the samples right there in-office then point the SCIO at it, and boom, all the answers they need.

This device, the SCIO, and its offspring have the potential to create massive new efficiencies, and that is always where progress in the modern world starts. Someone invents something that replaces something expensive with something cheaper, and suddenly a brand new capacity is put into the hands of the masses, and great change comes about as a result.

This could be such a game-changer. It might not change things on the same scale as the changes made by the Internet or the smartphone, but then again, nobody could predict all the things that would come of those, either.

Try to imagine a future where everyone has a tricorder in their pocket. It beggars the imagination, or at least, it beggars mine.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Oh, and I totally meant to do a video roundup today. Tomorrow, I promise!

A thick brick of dreamtime

Yup, time to describe a dream I had last night.

The first part of it that I remember clearly was Felicity telling me that she had gotten two tickets to something called Epix Arson, which was some kind of a big deal fetish dance party which might get pretty wild.

Or so I hoped.

She said that the bad news was that the tickets had turned out to be disappointingly expensive… to the tune of $300. I was, quite realistically, stunned by this. I live on nine hundred a month… that’s a sixth of a month’s income there.

So I got all stressed as to how I was going to pay her for my ticket. There was a vague someone in my dream who didn’t get why I was so upset, and I got all indignant and huffy and said “Because a hundred and fifty dollars is a lot of money to someone like me, OKAY?”. Clearly, they had struck a nerve.

Somehow, this segued into me wandering around a dream-fiction version of the high school I went to, Three Oaks Senior High. It wasn’t the real thing, more like a vague impression of it.

Just like my dream version of my home town of Summerside.

And the thing is, every room was completely empty. No desks, no chairs, nothing on the walls. And the rooms no longer had doors, just curtains that flapped in the breeze of the windows,which were always wide open.

Throw in the white walls of Three Oaks, and the effect was very summery and pleasant. I wandered the halls in a state of grand and expansive nostalgia, saying to myself “Ah yes, this room!” and feeling very good indeed.

Eventually, though, the emptiness of all the rooms started to bother me, and so I said to someone “I understand that it’s the middle of the summer and you are ‘between shows’, so to speak…. ”

I don’t remember the end of that question, nor do I remember its answer. I do remember saying to said person that I had graduated in 1991, and I was there just to look around and remember.

Eventually I deduced that the place had been heavily remodeled since I had been there last. Parts of this fictional version of my school (again, not the real place) had been merged via the removal of walls, other parts had been entirely renovated. All in all, the place felt fresh and new and full of new life.

That’s not the freaky part, though. The freaky part didn’t come till I sat down to write this blog entry, and was going over the dream in my mind, when I suddenly realized that this dream took placed in a cleared out version of the same fictionalized version of my high school that I had been to…. in another dream!

I had even remembered, within this recent dream, that a certain door used to lead (rather surprisingly) to a very chic restaurant/nightclub, with candles on each table and people dressed up to the nines in a way that was very attractive without being gaudy or showy.

Like a laid back jazz version of fancy dress.

It had been, in fact, the sort of place where a beautiful chanteuse who is also the romantic interest of the hero sings a slow, smoldering torch song that mesmerizes all the men in an old fashioned black and white movie.

Kind of an odd thing to have connected to a high school, but dreams don’t have to make sense.

And the thing is, I remembered all this during the recent dream. I was remembering a previous dream within a dream! My dreams have become excitingly meta.

As I wandered further, I ran into someone saying “You’ll never guess where I am going!” and I was just about to say “Epix Arson?” when someone else said it first.

Then all this somehow segued into me being in some kind of minimalist Skytrain station with Felicity, possibly on the way to getting to Epix Arson. It, like my fictional high school, was all bare white walls, but instead of being brick it was smooth white stone. There weren’t a lot of people around.

I remember that the way it worked was there was two levels, an upper level where you waited for trains for long trips, and a lower level which was reserved for shorter trips.

Or maybe the other way around. I guess the one level’s trains went further but the stops were further apart geographically.

And everything was okay at first, but the station kept getting weirder and weirder until it started to seem a lot more like Mos Eisley than my sleepy home town of Summerside. And I started getting more and more apprehensive.

And then I realized Felicity was no longer with me, and I was mad at her for abandoning me in this weird place.

I wandered around looking for something familiar, and finally I saw what seemed to be a small bar at the end of one corridor. I was so freaked out that I wasn’t making any assumptions, and so I asked the refreshingly human and normal looking bartender, rather tentatively, “Do you take… Canadian money?”.

Luckily, she said yes. Then I asked her if she knew how to make a Grasshopper, which is a lovely minty cocktail that I adore. She said yes, of course.

And there’s where I apparently ran out of tape, because I don’t remember any of what happened there.

Time for analysis. I feel like there is something very important about my high school being all open and fresh and empty and summery, and how good I felt there. It’s like I was leading a better version of my life, one in which I was secure in my self-worth and worried about a lot less things and felt joy, nostalgia, and truly free.

That is the version of me that I am striving towards, and I felt grateful and privileged that I got to visit it for a while.

I have no idea what Epix Arson means, although I think that in the dream, it represented my freeing myself up emotionally, sexually, and romantically. It is exactly the sort of thing that a freer and more joyful version of me would love to go to.

As for that strange last act, I am not sure what that means. Being mad at Felicity for abandoning me made sense. Not that she ever would do that in the real world, of course. But I have severe abandonment issues and part of me always expects that people I count on won’t be there when I need them,

So maybe the whole “things getting weirder” business was just a setup for that. But I dunno.

I have a lot of dreams where I end up lost. I think perhaps my mind is trying to free itself from my tendency to be afraid to explore because I want to know where the road goes before I set foot on it. In order to do this, it has to force me into situations where I have no choice to explore, and leaving me there.

So maybe all this time, I’ve really been abandoning myself. For my own good.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Atheism has failed

Recently, I learned a very interesting fact. It seems that up until the 1970’s, all prominent sociologists and other social thinkers were positive, absolutely positive, that religion was on its way out and, given the steady march of progress, science, and reason, would soon fade away as everyone realized how silly the whole thing was and how they didn’t need it any more now that science had better answers and reliable miracles.

Clearly, this has not happen.

Instead, starting in the 1980’s, religion came roaring back all across the board. Religious fundamentalism caught on like wildfire, and suddenly secular governments were being overthrown all over the world by forces backed by religion.

And whether it was Falwell’s fundamentalists putting Reagan in the White House or jihadi militias kicking out the Shah of Iran, one thing was abundantly clear :

Atheism had failed. Religion was here to stay.

And why were those prominent sociologists so very wrong when it came to their predictions of religion’s end? Because once more, the liberal intelligentsia had allowed themselves to believe that through peace, love, harmony, and enlightenment, everyone would eventually see the light and become liberal intellectuals just like them.

And they did this without once glancing in the direction of the average person whom they were so sure was on the cusp of leaving the warmth ans safety of their churches for the chilly embrace of scientism and the ice cold scalpel of reason.

History says otherwise.

And just why, pray tell, did atheism fail so spectacularly to replace religion? Because it was, and still is, led by people who were raised with religion and thus still have within their psyche the structures and islands of stability such an upbringing brings, and thus were free to leave the actual dogma behind once their minds became mature enough to start questioning things.

But most people never get to that point because it requires a certain kind of certainty in one’s ability to figure things out for themselves that only occurs natively in people in the higher range of intelligence.

For everyone else, religion does the job.

And what a job! Atheism never stood a chance against the vast suite of benefits religion brings to the individual believer.

Atheism provides no comfort in times of pain and distress. It offers no sense of community, no social hub, no connection with something larger than oneself, no sense of being loved and cared for by the ultimate parent, no deeply satisfying regular group ritual which synchronizes and enhances the communal mood. It offers no deeply resonating symbols, no rich and colorful narrative filled with stories both interesting and education, no help when you are down, no counsel when you are confused. It provides neither someone to beseech when we fear powerless nor someone to thank when things go well, nor does it provide someone to blame when good triumphs over evil.

It doesn’t even provide someplace to play ping pong.

All atheism can provide is the cold comfort of knowing that you are “right” on a level so obscure as to be meaningless to the average person as it has absolutely no bearing on their everyday life.

Not everyone is a philosopher. Not everyone is inclined to worry about what is “really really” true. Most people are just trying to get through life in a way that works for them. If belief in God, their religious leader, and their church provides them all the things I listed above and more, they have no reason to change. They have no reason, in fact, to even think about it, and all public atheism and its attacks on religion does is provide the exact kind of sense of community under attack that forges such deep and strong ties between people during times of war.

You’ve given their story a villain. Congratulations.

It was true that religion was declining very slowly in the Seventies, but that trend was purely the result of the Baby Boomers rejecting the religion of their parents and seeking their own way.

But then the Boomers who had rejected bourgeoisie institutions like marriage and work got married and had kids anyway, and got old enough to feel their mortality thus start needing real answers, answers that satisfied them instead of merely glibly deflecting the issue, and atheism could not provide these answers.

At the same time, as they aged, the Boomers’ minds became less and less able to adapt to change, and that feeling that the world is spinning out of control and becoming something they could no longer recognize crept up on them, and the rebel hippies became more and more conservative as time went by.

Then the Eighties comes along and almost all of those tie-dyed revolutionaries voted Reagan (or Thatcher, or Mulroney, or..), went right back to the church of their birth or something a hell of a lot like it, and atheism’s smug and lofty predictions of its own effortless victory was revealed to be as ludicrous, unreasoned, and blatantly self-serving and short-sighted as any scrap of dogma from any of the religions it thought was ripe for the scrap pile of history.

And the same will happen with the current crop of atheist bigots and religion bashers. Just like most people don’t think they will marry and have kids when they’re young but most people actually do, the current generation of Dawkinites will swear they will never go back to church again…. and most of them will.

And this will happen over and over again until public atheism stops strengthening religion by attacking it and focuses instead on replacing religion’s many levels of benefit with someone that works as well for people.

It has always been easier to complain than act. To attack instead of consider. To join in the fun of a public hate rather than stay apart by insisting we should love and respect even those with whom we disagree.

But the entire thrust of historical humanist liberalism demands that we restrain our worse instincts and strive to be better human beings by embracing the better angels of our nature.

Atheism has failed precisely because that is one thing it cannot do : inspire humanity to be better people.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.