The Ideology Illusion

People are not their politics. It’s easy to forget that.

In psychology, it is a well known fact that, because we need to form opinions whether or not we have enough information, people have a strong tendency to make their opinions of others based on first impressions, or single attributes. And they tend to assume that what they know about a person stems from a concrete and permanent aspect of that person and not some transitory quality like circumstance.

This fundamental attribution error lies at the heart of most forms of intolerance. If all you know about a person or group of persons is a single variable, like they are from the American South, or homosexual, or Jewish, or drive a big pickup truck, or shop at Whole Foods and you have in your mind a large set of stereotypes about that sort of person, the human mind will automatically create a picture of that person based on those stereotypes, and make a whole series of assumptions about that individual with very little evidence to base them upon.

That effect is well known. Lesser known, though, is how it applies to politics.

If all you know about someone is their political affiliation, and you (like must of us) have a picture in your head of what a person of that political affiliation looks like, talks like, drives, and so forth and so on. Thus, it is easy and natural for you to judge that person based on the picture of them you have created.

Take that and apply it to politics write large. These stereotypes make it very easy to demonize those who do not share your political opinions. It’s not that they merely disagree with you – they are horrible people who are evil through and through and are dedicated wholesale to destroying all that is good and right in the world.

This doubles when all you know about someone is their politics and something they said expressing the politics you do not like. Armed with not one but two pieces of information, we feel doubly warranted to declare that said person must be rotten to the core to say such a thing.

But the thing is, deep down, we know that we don’t have enough information to make that kind of judgment about a person. Imagine if that person thought they know everything they need to know about you based on one thing you said. You’d be outraged and demand to be treated as a complex human being with their own individual attributes and complexities.

You know…. unlike those other guys, who are all mindless sheep and genuinely evil down to every last one of them, and in every cell of their misbegotten bodies.

People are not their politics. Their actual moral nature and the politics they prefer have a weak connection at best. You quite honestly don’t know a thing about the other person except that they are, from your point of view, on the wrong team. If we all could remember this, we would have the perfect antidote to overheated political discourse.

Just remember : you can oppose someone without hating them . It is the hate that drives the politics of the day insane. True ideological discourse disappears and the desire to hurt the opposition takes over. Like in a messy divorce, people say all kinds of things they don’t truly mean just to hurt the other side and make them angry. And to get the cheers and applause that will inevitably come their way from their own side.

After all, they deserve to suffer for the things they have said to you for the exact same reason, right?

IF the tit for tat tete-a-tete continues, people end up publicly committed to increasingly extreme positions, and said positions are met with, of course, increasingly extreme opposition, and the hate (and heat) rises and rises, and eventually will spill out into violence.

After all, the other people are both totally evil and not really human, so why not kill them and eliminate their poisonous influence?

The only solution is to refuse to hate. Whenever exposed to the sorts of opinions which you find odious, take a deep breath, and say “I disagree with this person, but I do not hate them. ” Repeat this exercise as many times as it takes for it to change your perspective. Remind yourself that this person is just as human and valid and inherently good as you are. Remember that all you know about them is their politics and one thing they said. And remember that they might not even truly believe what they said. They might just be saying it to make the other side mad, or to hurt them in some way.

People’s politics develop for all manner of complex and often deeply personal reasons. Often, their politics serve their emotional needs first and their actual character last. For all you know, the person you are viewing as evil is actually exactly the kind of person of which you would wholeheartedly approve if you did not know their politics.

You might even share a lot more values than you disagree upon.

This transformation will not come easily to you, or me for that matter. I have been as guilty of demonizing those with different politics as much as most people and a lot more than some. I am a passionately ideological person by nature and it is very, very easy to slip into hating the person and not just their ideas.

And as human beings, our social instincts tell us to pick a team and then defend it from all who challenge it. This works great for team sports but it is inimical to real political discourse. The primary concern should be determining whether a given statement is true, not whether it sounds like the sort of thing we agree with or whether it is being said by someone of the same political stripe as us.

I am not claiming any form of moral superiority by making these statements. In fact, I am not even sure that the change of attitude I have proposed is even possible.

But I think it’s worth a try.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Oh, and if you think you know to which political group this message is “addresses”…. better check that envelope again, because this letter is for you.

Why smart people are neurotic

It’s all the fault of that goddamned override switch.

See, studies have shown that one of the starkest provable differences between the brains of smart people and those of people of average intelligence is that the smart people have a much stronger “override” switch for their emotions. There is a particular region of the brain that is responsible for suppressing our emotions and letting us think clearly, and smart people have one that is very good at its job.

And make no mistake, this region of the brain is extremely important to what it means to be human. Without it, we would have no choice but to act purely from emotion, and not only would that render a lot of our lovely big brains utterly useless, but civilization would crumble if we all acted on our emotions all the time.

Essentially, this part of the brain[1] is entirely responsible for impulse control. Imagine a world where nobody had any. The horror.

I also think there is a strong possibility that this part of the brain has to be strong in order for complex symbolic abstract reasoning to develop in the first place. To me, it is entirely possible that a strong override switch causes intelligence and not the other way around. It may be that the defining feature of the intellectual class is the ability to silence emotion and listen to our reasoning minds without all that “noise”.

But that doesn’t mean that intellectuals have better self-control than anyone else. Why not? Because of neurosis.

See, this override switch doesn’t come with a manual. So intellectuals start using it for all emotions they don’t want to feel. Or even emotions that they want to feel, but not right now. This override switch can totally override the emotion of the moment…. but the emotion is still there. It’s only frozen in time.

This is the basis for neurosis. Unprocessed emotion. Freezing the moment becomes a way to avoid dealing with all unwanted emotion, with absolutely no plans made to ever thaw it out again, and on the surface, this seems to work.

But the reality is that each set of frozen emotions takes up room in the mind and places a burden on your mental resources that will impair your ability to cope until the day you go back and unfreeze them. The more emotionally charged a moment is, the more mental energy and space it takes to suppress it and keep it suppressed. That override switch gets tasked with maintaining the status quo.

Of course, this mental impairment due to unprocessed emotion makes it harder to cope with reality, and leads to escapism, wherein the individual can escape into a mental construct (usually but not always incorporating material from media, like books or video games) and, for a time at least, be “safe” from all those emotions they are afraid to face.

Sadly, this tendency can turn into a dependency which makes the person even less able to cope. And that leads to more negative life experiences… which are, of course, also suppressed.

Thus, the individual becomes increasingly heavy with unprocessed emotion that takes up more and more of their mental resources, displacing their conscious mind and creating neurotic responses to common situations. If this goes far enough, it turns into depression, draining the person of motivation and energy because so much of it is going to keeping the long list of suppressed emotion suppressed.

But because the consciousness has shaped itself almost entirely around keeping the emotions out of the conscious mind, the neurotic depressive can’t consciously perceive this burden. The neurotic depressive can feel that something is wrong, but without a significant shift in consciousness towards unleashing what has been suppressed for so long, little progress can be made against the condition.

That’s the therapist’s real job. Not just helping the person unlock and deal with specific memories (which is extremely helpful) but helping them to see that doing that is the deal. This is pretty hard to do, because intellectuals are highly adept at intellectualizing and justifying their emotional responses. They will resist with all the might of their mighty minds, and it must be frustrating for therapists to have to make their way through our defenses to get even close to making us realize that.

I am lucky in that, perhaps because of the very mental detachment that got me in this mess in the first place, I am willing and able to accept that this is the gig. Unlocking suppressed memories and emotions and finishing the experience. And I am willing to get down to work and do it, with help from my therapist.

My therapist often remarks about how sober and sensible I am about the matter. That I make connections and accept the truth of situations far faster that most of his patients. That I regularly make realizations that it takes others years to get to.

No big surprise. I’n a fast learner who was always ahead of my class in school. Guess I am a precocious patient too.

I take a certain amount of pride in my self-honesty and clarity of thought. I strive to know the truth without any regard to my own safety, which has its pluses and minuses, but it does lead to an ability to surrender to the truth when I find it that a lot of people could use.

Not sure if that is good for me personally or not. There is something to be said for having mercy on yourself. But I have this overpowering need to understand. And to that end, I will follow the thread of truth wherever it might lead, no matter what.

Maybe that’s just my overactive superego talking, I don’t know. But it does mean that my mental muscles for accepting the truth of the situation, warts and all, are well developed.

Just another function of that darn override switch.

I will talk to you fabulous people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. My Google Fu is too weak to find the name, dammit.

About women and their bodies

So, apparently, Kim Kardashian posted some nude pics of herself on her social media accounts.

And of course, a shrieking chorus of women who bizarrely think of themselves as feminists have been clamoring all over each other to grab the low-hanging fruit that is slut-shaming her for it. Oh how disgusting. She is just a dumb bimbo. What kind of role model is she?

As if it’s any of their business! In case you haven’t noticed, ladies, freedom for women includes freedom to do things you do not like. Freedom to be a slut, a whore, a bimbo, a plaything. Freedom to be a housebound housewife if she wants to, or to be submissive towards men, or to give away her “favours” to random strangers who happen to pass by. Freedom to use her sexuality without fear and without shame and without worrying what her supposed “sisters” will think.

After all, this is democracy, not society by consensus. You don’t have the right to tell KK what to do. How would you like some bossy woman telling YOU what you can wear and how you can dress (or undress)?

Oh right, that already exists in the world. It’s called the burka, and I am pretty sure most lady feminists are against it. By fearlessly baring all she has in defiance of patriarchal modesty rules, KK is doing the exact opposite of the burka. She is saying she can do whatever the hell she wants with her body, and no man OR woman has the right to tell her otherwise.

By trying to shame her into conforming to your idea of what a proper lady should do, you are doing the patriarchy’s work for it. The whole notion of a slut is based on the idea that a woman’s sexuality is a commodity to be traded instead of a vital and important part of a women’s life. To slut-shame is to not just validate this chattel property view of women’s society, but to verify that woman’s bodies are, indeed, disgusting and shameful and horrible and therefore for a woman to let people see them is a horrible thing to do that causes you to question the sanity and intelligence of the woman doing it.

Goddamn it, didn’t you ladies see The Vagina Monologues? Didn’t you get the message that cunts are awesome and nothing to be ashamed of?

But no, it’s so easy to jump on the hate filled bandwagon and sternly tsk tsk KK for daring to lower the value of access to their vagina by raising the possibility of getting it for free.

And if you have any urge to tell me any variation on “well why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free”, I have two things to say.
1. Women are not cows.
2. Women are not for sale.

People say that women who pose naked must have low self-esteem. How fucking dare these people presume to know that about someone! Maybe KK has amazing self-esteem. Maybe her self-esteem is so high that she loves herself despite your attempts to destroy her. Maybe she is so empowered and confidant that she doesn’t give a damn what people like you think. Maybe the fact that she is willing and able to completely defy what she is “supposed” to do by society means she is is a strong, bold, fierce woman who is actually a wonderful role model for girls.

Maybe it means that she’s a better feminist than you are.

Because let me make this clear : feminists don’t slut-shame. Ever. All forms of slut-shame are profoundly anti-woman and anti-feminist. It makes women ashamed of their bodies, ashamed of their own sexuality, and ashamed of displaying their gender at all. It tells women that their bodies are not, in fact, their own, but subject to the approval of the patriarchy, and they alone shall dictate when and how women are allowed to use their sexuality.

The fact that women are still worried that people will think they are a slut infuriates me. What, are you worried that some man (or woman if you’re a dyke) won’t be willing to “pay” enough for sex with you if everyone knows you give it away for free? Can’t you see what a disgusting line of reasoning that is?

I consider myself a feminist (also a masculinist) and I passionately believe that women have the same rights as men and should be treated with equal respect and dignity. Yet if a male celebrity did this, nobody would be calling him a slut or a whore or a bimbo. The worst he would be called is pervert, and while that word still (for some reason) holds a lot of power, it doesn’t hold a candle to “slut”. To call another woman a slut is to negate her entire worth. to say that she is nothing if her chattel value is negated.

And that is not and cannot be a feminist act. It’s a patriarchal act, enlisting women in their own subjugation by making them fiercely monitor one another’s standards of modesty. A true feminist would defend a woman’s right to do whatever she chooses, whether it’s to pose in the nude, dress from head to toe in satin, or blow ten dudes on live TV.

The very idea that a woman is demeaning herself by letting people see her nude sends a very body-negative message to young girls. Men aren’t considered demeaned by their nudity. Why should a woman?

So to any woman who reads this, I ask you to think about this : is there another circumstance where you would feel comfortable cutting down another woman’s self-esteem so casually and viciously? Are you fine with the idea that a woman is subject to rules and restrictions that emphatically do not apply to men? Is that kind of sexism “feminist” to you? If KK was to be raped now, would you say she deserved it?

And if so…. are you willing to let other women judge you by the same standards?

Because remember, no matter how modestly you dress, if it is anything less than being sewn into a sack, there is someone in this world who would consider you a worthless slut.

And you know they’re wrong…. right?

People these days

(I’m trying out a different kind of authorial voice tonight. Hope you enjoy it).

Holy fuck, are people spoiled these days.

And it’s all because we’ve lost all sense of duty. You ask the average citizen what they owe society for all it provides for them and all they will be able to think of is “taxes”… and they bitch about those, too. Like they expect everything to be done by magic or something. Like the government only taxes people because they are mean and like to take people’s money just for fun.

Like there’s no connection between taxes and our standard of living, which, by the way, is the highest the world has ever known and keeps getting higher every year.

What a bunch of crybabies. Whining about doing the one and only thing they think society expects of them… and they don’t even have to do anything! The money’s taken straight off their check. Paying taxes literally could not be any easier. But still, they bitch and whine and kick their feet and act like Satan’s got them by the short and curlies just because they have less money than if angels did all the work for us… and paid the bills too.

Where the fuck do these people think it all comes from? Fire, police, army, hospitals, roads, clean air and water, safe products, banks that run, stock markets that work, water that comes out of the faucet practically for free, electricity that runs everything and is sold at cost, public transit, cars that don’t explode…. and those are just the things I can name off the top of my head. Every goddamned thing you do has been enabled and/or protected by the government, and you don’t get all that for free.

But no. These little milquetoasts act like asking them to pay taxes is like slavery.

Lemme tell ya, pal, there’s people living in slavery in the world right now who would beg to differ.

And when you ask these peckerheads where they think all the government services should come from if not by taxes, all they can do is whimper “The free market! The free market!”.

And that’s total bullshit, which they would realize if they would just pull their heads out of their asses for a minute and think. If the free market could provide it all, it would have done so ages ago and the government never would have gotten involved in the first place. Name any government service and there was a time before it for the free market to work its fairy magic and make everything wonderful, and it didn’t, so the people decided the government should do it, and it did.

I blame education myself. Shit started seriously sliding downhill when they got rid of civics class. Kids these days have nobody to tell them that they are citizens, that they live in a society, that society both provides things for you and expects things from you. No, they grow up thinking that the way the world works around them is a fact of nature, like gravity or air, and why should they have to pay for that?

Sometimes I think there should be one day a year where all the layers of government shut down for the day so people can get a good feel for what life would be like without it. Maybe then they will realize that all they get from society would be cheap at twice the price of what they pay in taxes.

These overgrown toddlers are always complaining that their taxes are “too high”. Compared to what? How much would be enough? Do you even know what tax rate you are paying? Do you know how it compares to other modern countries? For all you know, you’re paying the lowest taxes in the world. But you don’t know, because that’s not really what it’s about, is it?

You just want more money and you don’t give it a shit what it costs you, or everyone else for that matter. You have a child’s faith that you could have a bigger allowance if only mommy and daddy didn’t spend so much on heat, rent, food, clothes…. you know, all the stuff that isn’t about you specifically and that you think will still be there no matter what.

Mommy and Daddy should just give you everything you want forever no matter what it costs or what they want themselves, and if they don’t, well they’re just mean.

Well I got news for ya, Moonbeam. This is the real world, and in the real world, things cost money. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and for everything you get, someone has to pay the bill. And if you think you’re extra special and the moon shines out your ass, you are sadly mistaken.

You have to pay the bill just like everyone else, and the fact that you can’t (or won’t) see that just shows how selfish and immature you really are. Grow the fuck up, quit whining about having to pay what everybody else pays, and go back to work. Nobody is going to pay your taxes for you, and so you will just have to learn to get by with the same amount of your money everyone else does.

I mean, what the fuck happened to maturity? What happened to growing up, realizing the world doesn’t revolve around you, and lining up to pitch in? How is it that we have people in this country whom we allow to marry, buy houses, raise families, and vote, yet don’t understand how the world works?

And why in the world does anyone listen to these spoiled brats? People act like the entire idea of taxes is some kind of evil plot. But for all you know, you’d be happier with higher taxes if it paid for something that is useful to you, like free childcare, or total prescription medicine coverage.

I’m telling you, things are going all to hell because of these people. We have to take our country back from these losers.

If we don’t, they’re like to hold their breath until we all turn blue.

That’s my say, and I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

About the Charleston Massacre

Here we go again.

As one would expect to happen in the wake of a senseless act of brutality, the modern media beehive is abuzz with talk about this latest incident of that peculiarly American specialty, the mass shooting.

Yes, they happen in other places. But they don’t happen five to six times a year anywhere but the U S of A. And I am very happy that President Obama said so in his official response.

The rest of us in the “advanced world” (gonna steal that) have been saying it, or at least thinking it, for many years. If America was a person, it would be a highly unstable lunatic. The lunatic often means well, but ends up doing more harm than good. And as a rule, is very bad at self-control.

Of course, one of the things up for “debate” in the reality-hating world of right wing conservatism is “if” the crime was racially motivated. The evidence is overwhelming that it was. The dude said “I’m here to kill black people. ”

If that’s not evidence enough for you, then you are clearly operating to preserve belief, not understand the world.

Why do people want to deny the racial element? I think it comes down to not wanting to be part of the problem. The Fox News times went right ahead and adopted an absurd form of victimhood in order to achieve this : it wasn’t racist, it was anti-Christian.

I think that, in the Alzheimer’s demographic of Fox News, there is some seriously magical thinking going on. These people think that if there is no racism any more, they themselves are not racist.

They deeply suspect, in that part of their mind they keep locked away that deal with reality, that they really are racist. In fact, they are sure that they are. But that is clearly viewed as extremely wrong by society, and so they can’t admit to themselves that they are, or that any of their friends are.

So they are willing to deny the entire existence of racism just to escape the truth about themselves. Easier than having to change your mind, I suppose. At their age.

However, I think the fact that this crime is racially motivated tend to lead people in the wrong direction. People want to connect this to racism as a whole in order to make sense of this horror, but the truth is, there is very little connection.

Sure, this person was racist. He was also crazy. Racism is simply the form his insanity took. it could have been anti-semitism, sexism, or a deep belief that some people have flies in their eyes and must be destroyed.

Because of all the racial horror happening recently in the USA, it is extremely tempting to connect the dots. And who knows, maybe that influenced his choice of psychotic modalitity. In another time, he might have decided it was hippies that were responsible for all the evil in the world. Or the Illuminati.

But that doesn’t really say anything about the state of race relations in America. Cops killing unarmed black people is extremely relevant to the issue. One lone nut crossing that mysterious line that separates the one who does from the millions that don’t is not at all relevant.

Remember that line. There are, in the world, probably at least a hundred thousand people with the exact same beliefs as this man. But they don’t shoot up black churches. They never will. This guy did.

And nobody knows why.

All we know is that, for some reason, in any population, there is a chance that someone will really, truly, completely believe the things that people only say they believe because it makes them feel better.

If the extreme racists of the world truly believed what this man did, they would all do what he did. It would be the only thing they could do, from their point of view, to stem the rising black tide.

But they don’t do it, because that would be crazy. You can believe whatever the hell you want if you know, deep down, that you will never ever act on it. You can go around thinking everyone with blue eyes has no soul, or that children are parasites, or that everyone is a robot but you, and if it makes you happy to do so and you know you won’t act on it, who cares?

Once you understand ideology as serving emotional need far more often than any attempt to align one’s beliefs with reality, a lot of extreme ideologies make a lot more sense.

Another perennial topic being attached to this incident as people grope for answers to questions that may have no answers is guns and gun control.

I don’t think that has much to do with it either.

His father bought the gun. Background checks wouldn’t have stopped him, unless we were willing to say that anyone connected with a mentally ill person is banned from buying guns. Waiting periods wouldn’t have stopped him. He was crazy when he asked for the gun and he was still crazy when it got it.

There’s not a lot any law can do to keep a father from giving his son a gun. That would have been just as true up here in Canada as it would be down in the USA.

Better mental health services might have helped, especially if there was an early intervention. It’s less clear if they would have done any good with a more recent intervention, though. The truth is, the system only recognizes the criminally insane after they have committed a crime. Before that, they are just the same as a million other people with loose screws.

The only way to truly cut down on these incidents is to lower the societal pressure level. That means turning down the heat, embracing our mutual humanity, and working hard and making sacrifices in order to strive for moderation.

None of those things are American values.

So I return to my original point :

These things keep happening because America is fucking crazy.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

I just watched Guardians of the Galaxy

But I’m not going to talk about it.

Ah, who am I kidding? Of course I’m going to talk about it, because it was really great.

(The following contains spoilers galore)

I would say it lives up to its hype, more or less. It’s a ten tons of fun rollicking adventure which also manages to work in some genuine sentiment and meaning along the way.

Plus, and I cannot stress the importance of this too much, it has a talking raccoon with a big gun and an attitude in it.

That means a lot to someone like me.

And the very end of the movie promises that the Guardians of the Galaxy will return, and all I can say is, they had better, because I already want more.

And that’s after watching a two hour movie about them!

But you see, this movie was the origin story. You know, how they all met and became friends and formed an ass-kicking team of epic proportions. We haven’t seen them in action as the full Guardians yet.

It was like two hours of foreplay!

And they left the door wide open for sequels. Thanos is still out there, and compared to him, Ronan at his worst is a toddler in a snit. Thanos is one of those big time cosmic villains in the Marvel universe, not as big a threat as Galactus or the like, but in a galaxy littered with petty tyrants, warlords, and dictators, he’s one of the worst.

As usual with modern film, I faded in and out during the pulse pounding action scenes. I paid enough attention to get the gist of what was going on, but for the most part I just let the images pass before my eyes.

I just can’t keep up any more. Movie pacing has continued to accelerate and action density has continued to increase, just like it has all my life, only now I am too old to match speeds with it.

And I am someone for whom, at one point, nothing could ever happen fast enough for me. Everything seemed like it had long boring patches between the good stuff, and the only thing that could keep up with me was video games.

And not all of those, either.

But I don’t regret the loss of processing speed, because I got depth of understanding in its place, and that rocks. Things that I wouldn’t have understood at all as a young nerd, I now grasp intuitively. As we age, our ability to comprehend expands and expands, and time seems to pass more quickly than before because we can understand larger chunks of it, and so a period of time that was once divided into a thousand mental time units is now divided into ten.

What else… man, the scene with Rocket pleading with Groot not to kill himself to save them, and then him reacting to Groot’s death, really tore me up inside. Extremely emotionally moving. The guy who did the voice of Rocket (plus the team that animated him) really made me feel what Rocket was feeling. I felt his grief.

All that emotion, and me already knowing Groot is not dead! I have seen enough other stuff with the Guardians in it to know that Groot can be shattered into splinters and as long as one of those splinters is kept alive in a pot, with some water and nutrients, he will come back good as new.

So I didn’t need that cute little scene before the credits where tiny potted Groot dances to the music to know he was alive. It takes a lot more than that to kill a Groot, or at least, Groot.

The movie makes it clear that there are more where our Groot came from, but they are very rare. I like to think that is is the larval forms of a species that spends most of its incredibly long lifespan as planet-sized forests. That would explain why he has vocabulary issues and is maybe not that bright.

He’s just a baby!

Oh, and I will add my voice to the choir of people saying that they did not stick to the idea that people of Drax’s race do not understand metaphors. There are a number of metaphors he seems to understand perfectly well, like “giving a shit”.

Imagine if he had taken THAT one literally.

Plus, wow, they really took a risk when they opened a feel-good science fiction action blockbuster with a kid watching his mother die in the hospital. Most movies would have stuck that in as a flashback after the characters had been established, but nope, kid listens to Walkman, watches mother die, gets abducted by aliens.

The whole Orb thing left me with the same feeling I always get with that kind of thing : who are these ancient assholes who make something that gives whoever has it massive power and then just lets it loose on the universe where it is sure to cause untold misery just by existing for people to fight over?

Talk about irresponsible! Sometimes they don’t even bother to lock it. You hold the ancient Nya Nya of Power, you got powers like Doctor Strange mixed with the Hulk.

Now there’s am issue of What If? I would buy.

So yeah, the movie was a hell of a lot of fun and kept my attention riveted for the whole two hours, minus the time I couldn’t keep up with the action. I suppose that its overall structure is fairly corny, but originality is overrated anyway.

Better a well written piece of predictable, formulaic fiction than the most innovative and unpredictable piece of crap ever.

Plus, it is good to have a big cultural milestone recent movie under my belt. Next, I need to finally watch the Joss Whedon Avengers movie. I am way past due.

God I hate that Richmond Center doesn’t have a movie theater any more. I am two blocks away from it! I would totally go see movies in the theater if it was that easy.

Oh well, VOD is taking over anything anyhow.

I will walk to you nice people again tomorrow.

I hate this episode : “Kill The Moon”, Doctor Who

Recently, Daily/Nightly taking the week off had led to my roomie Joe and I have watching the first Peter Capaldi season of Doctor Who on DVD. And for the most part, it’s been good.

I like Capaldi as Doctor Who. He makes make the Doctor seem natural and easy. And he successfully projects both sides of the Doctor, the crusader for good and the insensitive jackass. The Doctor has always had problems with his people skills, some Doctors more than others, but Capaldi seems able to give us a fuller, richer picture of the Doctor, warts and all.

Mostly, it’s the eyebrows.

But recently, I watched an episode called Kill The Moon and it made me so goddamned mad that I just have to rant about it.

Here’s the scenario : Doctor Who and his current companion Clara have ended up on the Moon in 2045. They discover that, for some reason, the moon has gotten heavier, and that’s causing all kind of problems down on Earth, what with the tides and stuff.

Honestly, the Moon’s effects go way deeper than the tides. There’s evidence that it is the way the moon’s gravity tugs on the molten core of the Earth that both keeps it molten and causes the Earth to have a magnetic field to protect us from all the space nastiness out there like the solar wind.

But hey, since when does a science fiction show care about science?

Anyhow, it turns out that the Moon has put on weight because it is actually the egg of a gigantic space creature, and soon, the egg will hatch, destroying the Moon in the process, and killing all of humanity from the tidal effects and the giant pieces of Moon that will come hurtling towards us and hit with the force of a billion Tunguska impacts

Throughout the episode, they take pains to establish that the human race has not colonized space yet, so that is the sum total of humanity down there on Earth. And in the cold opening, they show Clara earnestly asking all of humanity to help her make an important decision that will effect all humanity forever.

Because you see, as it turns out, Clara and one other human (yet another of an endless series of Resting Bitch Face actresses on the show) have the means to kill this creature before it dooms all of humanity.

And the big question is : should they?

Seriously. That’s the question. Gee, should we save the human race by killing this thing? Gee, that’s a toughie.

Wait, no it isn’t. it’s the easiest fucking question ever. Kill the thing! Sure, it means the taking of an innocent life, but the people down on Earth are just as innocent and there are a hell of a lot more of them.

But no, the Doctor leaves the decision up to Clara and RBF woman, and they manage to patch into every single TV on Earth to ask that humanity vote by turning their lights off if they want to live and leaving them on if they want the creature to live instead of them for some reason.

Because you can see that kind of thing from the Moon. Probably.

Understandably, humanity votes to live. And it really seems like they are going to do the right thing and kill the star beast before it can doom humanity, but at the very last second, Clara ignores democracy and lets the thing live.

And what do you suppose happens next? Why, humanity is doomed and Clara kills herself for being the stupidest person ever.

Just kidding. Via what is literally the largest deus ex machina ever, it turns out the very lovely space creature leaves behind an egg that is identical to our Moon from before all this bullshit, and somehow, this means everything is okay and that Clara did the right thing.

Except she really, really, really didn’t. All evidence from all sources told her that saving the creature meant dooming all of humanity, and the fact that it magically (and stupidly) happened to work out doesn’t change the fact that she made the wrong choice, in fact, the wrongest choice ever.

As if to mock me, they even had RBF woman repeatedly saying something like “morality isn’t always about being nice!”.

Exactly! The episode should have been the perfect object lesson for that. But people cannot accept that truth, and so the entire universe of Doctor Who has to bend over backward so far it can kiss its navel just to protect people from the logical consequences of their refusal to get their hands dirty.

What Clara did was doom humanity rather than do something that made her feel icky. It was an entirely selfish decision : her moral comfort over the fate of every single human being alive and the continued existence of the human race.

It doesn’t get much more selfish than that.

Not to mention the extraordinary stupidity of the idea that a newborn creature can have the entire mass of the egg it came out of inside it already. Just imagine a baby chick laying an egg identical to the one it just came out of, the egg that by the most basic of all logic has to be bigger than the thing which is going to hatch out of.

Plus, there was two minutes of episode or so where there WAS NO MOON. You know, the very thing that was going to doom humanity. Apparently, universal doom politely waited for two minutes so we could get our act together.

And there’s still huge chunks of our former Moon headed straight for Earth.

It’s as bad as that episode of Torchwood where they blew up some scientists who were on the verge out inventing the cure for everything (alien tech was involved) just because the scientists’ methods involved kidnapping innocent people and doing involuntary and painful science to them.

I swear, these episodes are designed to piss me off. They are like a giant middle finger to utilitarianism and the truths it contains. Sometimes the right choice doesn’t feel right. It goes against our basic, day to day sense of morality. Most of the time, “don’t do bad things, only do nice things” works as a functional morality.

But that doesn’t negate the truth that the moral choice is not always the one that makes you feel good. I would kill that fucking space creature in a heartbeat, and feel no regret. Being a morally and mentally intact person, I would actually feel pretty good about saving the entire human race. I wouldn’t like killing the creature and I would wish things could have been different, but I would not regret what I had done at all.

Because I would have done the right goddamned thing.

God, I hate that episode.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Turtles and me

Just finished watching Turtle Power : The Definitive History Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a documentary about the whole Turtles thing, from how Eastman and Laird met to the day they signed the rights away twenty years after the first issue.

They met because Eastman found a copy of a fan comic Laird had been doing called Scat (interesting title) and decided he wanted to meet the guy behind it. They hit it off instantly and, after a lot of time spent drawing and watching TV together, they came up with the Turtles, made the first comic, and borrowed money from relatives to get 3000 copies printed.

And it took off like a rocket from there. The 3000 copies sold out in a few week. By issue 8 they were selling 150 thousand copies per ish, six ishes a year.

Then came the toys, the cartoon, the three movies, and the live tour. (Yes, a live tour. In which they were rock stars and sang pro-social rock and roll. That still amazes me. )

The movies were, sadly, of descending quality according to fans and the box office. The phenomenon peaked with the first movie. Sadly, nothing aimed at kids can have a long life, as the N’syncs and Justin Biebers of the world know. The second movie was so ill-received that the third had no chance to make it. After that, things dropped off pretty fast.

But of course, nothing that was that big dies out completely. Now fathers are introducing their kids to TMNT, and they attempt to reboot the franchise now and then.

The less said about the Michael Bay movies, the better.

I really enjoyed the documentary. I love finding out all the details about something I like. Anything about how the sausage is made in the media is fascinating to me. And I was a Turtles fan at the time… sort of.

I was too old for the cartoon when it was on. Plus, I had the disadvantage of having been a fan of the comics. To me, at the time, with the snottiness of youth, I thought the cartoon was a farcical demoting of dark, complex, interesting characters into pathetically tamed down goofy kid’s stuff.

People forget that the original comic was not for kids.

So while I was somewhat aware of the massive phenomenon that was TNMT in the 90’s, I was not a part of it. So I had no idea, before I saw this documentary, just how massive it was.

I mean there’s big, and then there’s BIG.

What really got to me was the testimonials from people who were kids at the time. They talked about how, all at once, every kid was into TNMT. It hit that fast. There was something about the Turtles that instantly appealed to kids and the fact that the people involved did an extremely good job of marketing them didn’t hurt either.

As someone who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, I can’t say I have ever seen someone catch on that big. Sure, there were big hits like He-Man, but never to the point where entire classrooms were filled with wall-to-wall He-Man fans.

Some people would be into He-Man, some into G. I. Joe, some into Thundercats… it was a diverse social environment.

So I find it hard to relate to this massive cultural phenom. It really feels like the Turtles were the exact right thing at the exact right time. The days of He-Man were just ending, and the kids were ready for something completely different. Something a little more mature, a little more cool, a little more edgy. Something a little less obvious, that talked down to them a little less, and that had that magic “boy band” formula of “four people with different but relatable personalities”.

For historical context, think of the Beatles.

You have The Nerd (Donatello), the Bad Boy (Raphael), the Good Boy (Leonardo), and the Party Animal (Michelangelo). Between those four, you pretty much have most kids covered.

Luckily for me, because I was not a kid during the TNMT explosion, I was never asked to pick a favorite Turtle. I honestly don’t know. Parts of me resonate with each of them.

In the comics, I liked Raphael because he was the dark moody one and I was still in my Wolverine phase where I was attracted to that kind of character. Seeing as I was a teenage boy when I read the comics, I too was moody and dark and would have been the one to rebel against authority if anyone had been trying to assert it over me, and so I loved characters that reflected that.

I mean, my other big hero (and always my A #1 dude till the end of time) was Spider-Man, and he’s not exactly a “joiner” either.

The difference, of course, is that I grew out of it. Now I can’t stand prima donna assholes like that who act like their emotions mean they don’t have to control themselves like everybody else does. Just having these people around makes everything more difficult and time-consuming and just way more of a hassle than it needs to be, and one begins to wonder whether it is worth having them around at all.

Luckily, cartoon Raphael is a lot more like me. Basically, I see myself as being part Raph and part Donatello… a sarcastic nerd. I admire Leo for being a leader and keeping things together but I don’t really identify with me.

And Mike is an idiot and annoying and I often want to smack him. Seriously, Michelangelo… STFU. You’re a dumbass!

I get the concept that his function is to keep things from getting too dark and being sort of the jester of the group, but I am not feeling it. Raph is funny. He’s my kind of court jester.

Then against, I have never liked clowns.

Anyhoo, I really enjoyed the documentary and highly recommend it to everyone who was even slightly a fan of any of the versions of the Turtles. Even the Michael Bay ones.

And I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

On The Road : Sunny Wednesday edition

Went to cash my tax return check and put it on my secured visa, and just could not stop myself from coming to White Spot.

I can’t really afford it, but what the hell. Live a little. There has to be place where prudence and sensibility end and freedom begins. Where the soul flies free, and yoi trade the cold and childish pleasure of being tthe kind of who is “ttoo smart for such nonsense” for the life enriching idea that maybe, just maybe, those “sstupid” people that you feel so superior to know something you don’t.

After all, they seem pretty happy. Can’t argue with results.

It is hard for the overbearing intellect to admit that anything good can vome of going with you gut. The intellect wants to be able to understand, verify, and appove every single action. It treats anything that it does not understand and cannot verify as noise at best and pure unadulterated evil at worst.

And the world does not lack examples of instinct leading to evil. In the Western worlD,higher morality is considered to be a product of the triumph of reason over evil. And thus, we are very good at looking at an evil and finding the instinct to blame.

But this is a narrow and simplistic point of view that tars all instincts eith the same brush. Racism is an instict. But so is kindness. The desire for war is an instinct. So is the quest for peace.

Morality itself is an instinct. The intellect alone cannot provide a reason to prefer life over death, pleasure over pain, paradise over holocausT. Aol morality presupposes that it matters what happens to people and that we are all looking for the “right” thing to do.

Neither of these presuppositions is logically supportable. We care what happens to people because we, as humans, have strong communal instincts that tell us to look after one another and to, in a sense, to treat another’s fate as we would our own.

And we only seek the right thing to do because our strong communal instincts drive us figure out how to be a good person both in the eyes of our community and before our own conscience, which is also an instinct.

Once we step away from the Western model of reason oriented morality, we begin to see ourselves as more human. And that makes it easier to accept the humanity in others. The anti-instinct rationalist dynamic puts people in the untenable position of ignoring many good and helpful instincts that reach deep into our emotional well-being. Instincts that, when ignored and suppressed by the overbearing superego’s tight grip on the conscious mind, simply find other ways of expressing themselves outside of any possibility of conscious control.

Thus, they turn into compulsions, aversions, blind spots, depression, or even psychosis, and all because of the rational mind’s refusal to listen to instinct and, at least some of the time, do what it says.

Somewhere between the people who always go with their gut and the people that never do lies the land of true human happiness, where the intellect ceases to be at war with emotion and the mind functions as one.

From what I can gather, that is what a lot of Eastern mysticism is about. Their approach may not seem rational or even comprehensible to the Western mind, but by refusing to demand an impossible bifurcation of the mind by saying reason is good and instinct is bad, their practices avoid much of the convolutions and complications of the Western approach.

A house, and a mind, divided against itself cannot stand.

Once we realize and accept that both good and evil are the products of instinct and that rejecting instinct wholesale is just as wrongheaded as rejecting reason wholesale, it opens the door to a fuller and more nuanced understanding of what it means to be human and live a human life.

This is not an easy path for those of us raised in the Western school of thought. It requires us to question the deepest layers of how we see the world. Our deep investment in the reason good/ instinct bad dynamic is part of the very bedrock of our culture. Our storytelling almost always revolves, in one way or another, the triumph of our morality over a more savage and primitive one. Even the barbarian heroes of yesteryear were heroes only in the sense that they saved maidens from sacrifice by savage peoples or fought cruel barbaric tyrants in the name of freedom.

Even out anarchic heroes fight for the Western way of life.

To step away from that model and try to examine things from a greater perspective is to take a step into the black of night for us Western types. Especially those of us of an intellectual point of view who are even more alienated from the world of the id than the average citizen.

We embrace reason not simply as a means but as an end unto itself. We retreat into fortresses of thought and cut ourselves off from both the positive and the negative aspects of our deeper and more intuitive selves, and often finding ourselves living and thinking as though the conscious mind is all there is, or all that counts, anyhow.

That’s like pretending the interface is the whole machine, like thinking that all there is to your car is a steering wheel and a stick shift. And then we wonder why things stop working when we run out of gas.

Only when we remove this artificial and destructive barrier between the rational mind and the realms of emotion and instinct can we stop the war inside and become whole.

We became human without ceasing to be animals. Our deep selves know things our rational minds could never deduce. The answers to our most pressing questions about ourselves and how we can be happy lie far deeper than the light of reason can ever reach.

And the id is not a mistake.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

The Brunch Club

Okay, so I have now seen the entirety of The Breakfast Club, and I feel compelled to talk about it.

Why? Because I loved it, essentially. I have no problem AT ALL seeing why it is considered a classic film and an iconic film of the 80’s. It does the ensemble drama thing extremely well. The characters are all recognizable types, and yet they don’t feel stereotypical. They feel like real people, people who know, maybe even people you’ve been.

And of course, they are of my era. They seem exactly like the sort of people I knew at the time. They dress like people of my era, they talk like people of my era. They all seems so…. normal to me.

And that makes the drama penetrate all the deeper. I almost feel like I went to school with the characters.

My favorite scene was the one where Molly Ringwald (Claire) tells the brutal truth about how they will all go back to their regular lives and have nothing to do with one another once their group detention ends.

That’s the truth laid bare. And yeah, that’s a really shitty thing to do, especially to Brian the nerd. He is the one who would suffer the most from everybody just going back to their lives like none of it had ever happened. He’s the lowest status member of the club… even the basket case with no friends ranks higher than a nerd… and also the most vulnerable and sensitive. He wants to keep the cool friends he thinks he has made.

And the thing is, we don’t really know what happens after the movie ends. Maybe they do stay in touch. Maybe they don’t.

But I would understand if they didn’t. They all have their roles in their peer group. That is the context of their lives. Everything they know about who they are and where they fit in comes from their peer groups. Expecting someone to leave that and risk not ever being able to go back is asking one hell of a lot of a human animal.

And while Brian says that he would never reject the other four if they met in the school halls, I am not sure that would be true. If all his nerdy friends were there, I think he would be just as prone to wanting to preserve his position in his peer group and would feel compelled to say something about how he and the others aren’t friends, they just “know each other”.

Even us low status types have our status and our role.

The one most likely to be able to stay friends with the others is Allison, described by the film as “the basket case”. I think that’s a tad harsh. She’s definitely kinda nuts and has a deep need to be dramatic and mysterious and dangerous. But I don’t think she is a “basket case”.

It’s just that goth and emo didn’t really exist in 1984. So they didn’t know what to call her.

Speaking of Allison, boy did I ever hate it when she got the preppy makeover from Clair. It’s like Clair took a really interesting, unique girl and put her through the conformity meat grinder and out popped some boring chick who looks like a million other girls.

Yuck, yuck, yuck. Give me back the interesting version of her! Sure, she’s nuts, but at least she’s an individual.

Moving on, the movie’s villain (inasmuch as it has one) is clearly the “criminal”, John Bender (no relation). He is the one who acts as the agent of chaos that adds the energy to the system to enable change. Of course, he does it by being an abusive asshole with an entire lumberyard’s worth of chips on his shoulder and attacking everything and everyone in sight, so he is not in any sense a good person, but he ends up being the one who pushes people’s limits and thus getting the truth out of them.

There is also their hardass teacher, Richard Vernon. Mister Vernon. Hard to believe that there were ever teachers that could get away with being that aggressive. I can’t imagine any of my teachers acting like that. I have seen enough references to that sort of teacher in things to believe that there were really guys like that out there, but I never met them.

It’s just so un-Canadian.

And counterproductive. If I had met that kind of teacher when I was a teen with a head full of testosterone, I would have made it my full time occupation to destroy him. He would have been my nemesis, and I would have done whatever I could to fuck with him in every way possible.

I am not saying that would be justified. He’s a man trying to do a very tough job and I respect that, even if I think he is going about it the entirely wrong way.

But I know what I was like as a teen and I am positive that the only reason I didn’t have any behavioural issues is that nobody was messing with me. I had no such convenient a lightning rod for all that anger as a Mister Vernon.

Instead I had…. nothing. In high school, I was a ghost. No friends, no peer group, wandering around the edges of what was happening but never truly being a part of any of it. I went to class, did the work, went home. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I wasn’t completely invisible. In class, I sat at the front and asked (and answered)questions. The typical ghost sits in the back and avoids attracted attention. I… did not.

Like I have said before, I am a strange blend of extroversion and introversion. In many ways, I am incredibly shy. But in the right contexts, I have total self-confidence bordering on arrogance, although of course, I don’t see it that way.

I have total faith in my intelligence and creativity.

It’s everything else that I have a problem with….

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.