Feelings vs Intellect

xkcd #1901There’s really only one web comic I read anymore: xkcd. Randall Munroe continues to turn out thoughtful gems, and I really appreciate the ad-free nature of the site. I also find his What-If? series delightful; the first episode is one of my favorite interweb jewels!

But it’s his insight to the human condition and ability to nail a point with such brilliant brevity that I most relish. I value some of his comics as highly as I value favorite quotes; both are pithy petards against our myths and illusions.

And sometimes he even hoists my petard a bit!

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2017: Number of the Beast

So it’s been more than a year since my last post here. Because reasons; many reasons. One of them is that this is the 666th post on this blog, and that invokes my interests in symbolism, metaphor, and numerical shenanigans. Seems like I should “do” something in this one.

The Beast I’ve had in mind all year is that Obvious Monster a bunch of very angry, very stupid, and in some cases very evil, people connived (emphasis on “con”) into our POTUS. I’ve made my feelings very clear on that (in so many of my posts last year), so I’m not going to say (much) more in this one.

Instead, because it was a rich, full year, more of a personal recap.

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2016: A Year That Really Sucked

2016-0What a god-awful, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year! For, oh, so many, many reasons:

My Minnesota Twins had the worst season in their franchise history (and now they will probably trade my favorite player, Brian Dozier); a whole bunch of people I cared about, or had some sort of ties to, died in 2016 (and many more I never knew and didn’t have ties to); there was that whole 2016 Presidential election thing (which was deeply awful on many counts, and who knows what will happen now); and let us not forget Syria or Flint, Michigan.

In fact, I’m not sure I can name one good thing about 2016. Except that, maybe, it’s finally over.

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What is Fiction?

robert-fordAt one point in HBO’s Westworld (don’t worry, no spoilers) Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) gives a speech about stories, about the value of fiction. He references a belief that fiction elevates — or at least illuminates to good value — the human condition. The belief also holds that those who read a lot of fiction are in some sense “better” people.

The idea is controversial on several grounds. Firstly, it’s hard to define what makes people “better,” and you can’t measure or test what you can’t define. Secondly, even if “better” is defined, not everyone will agree with the definition. Thirdly, there’s a nature-nurture aspect that makes comparisons like this very hard to tease out of any data you can gather.

Maybe a place to start exploring the idea is to first define “fiction” and go from there…

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Westworld (mega-spoilers!)

westworldThe previous posts avoided spoilers and talked about HBO’s Westworld in general terms of its themes and characters — stuff that is apparent just from the trailers and basic setup. This post isn’t like that! Do not read this post unless you’ve seen all of season one!

Or unless you really like spoilers or just don’t care about the series. But if you do, you should trust me on this: You do not want this spoiled! It may even be all the better if you avoid any interweb discussion … the fans really did figure out some of the secrets before their big reveal. (On the other hand, the show’s creators have made it clear the truth was always in plain view. And so it was.)

Here are my questions and observations about the last episode and the season as a whole. I think we all have a few questions…

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Westworld (mini-spoilers)

westworldIn the previous post I wrote about some of the general themes I saw in HBO’s Westworld. Such big picture topics are inherent in the basic description of the series — intelligent robots used as playthings — and don’t require spoiling plot points or character revelations. Everything I wrote about in the last post is part of the general context of the show.

In this post I want to look more closely at things that struck me in particular, but it requires exposing certain aspects of character or implementation that could count as spoilers if one is very strictly trying to avoid knowing anything about the show.

But if you have some idea about what’s going on, maybe just from trailers, this post shouldn’t spoil anything for you. I won’t give away any of the big secrets or reveals.

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Westworld (no spoilers!)

westworldWay back in 1958, science fiction author and critic Theodore Sturgeon coined the term Sturgeon’s Revelation. Which is that “90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap.” This became known as Sturgeon’s Law while Theodore’s actual law (from a 1956 story) — that “nothing is always absolutely so” — is forgotten. (Philosopher Daniel Dennett expanded the Law to say that 90% of everything is crap!)

I’ve always found this applies especially to science fiction TV. And in this Anno Stella Bella era, there is a lot of SF TV, so naturally there is a lot of crap. (Honestly, I don’t even pay attention to the SyFy channel anymore.)

Happily: HBO’s Westworld … not crap! In fact, it’s a gem that offers many facets worthy of (non-spoiler) thought and discussion…

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BB #60: Bad Signs

Well, it’s been two weeks. Things still seem very unsettled and chaotic. It’s not an obvious disaster, yet, but many of the signs aren’t encouraging. If it does turn out pear-shaped, we might look back at this early indicator:

trump-victory-speech

I’m surprised no one picked up on this…

There are three human beings in the frame of that shot. All three share at least two characteristics. I’ll give you a hint: All are male, and all are white. #justsaying

Not even his FLOTUS-elect was allowed in shot. Interesting priorities.

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BB #59: Who Among Us

BrainFireIt doesn’t matter, because this isn’t about that, but it was a blog page I was reading — about baseball, as it happens — where the writer used the phrase, “who among us is perfect?” I hear variations of that sentiment often. It’s meant to embrace the flawed humanity in all of us, but to my ear it sometimes excuses the egregious.

In this particular case (again, not the point), the writer was excusing the putative racism of a ballplayer during the 1940s, and that’s when a Brain Bubble floated up to my consciousness: Does it seem we use the phrase “no one is perfect” a little too broadly, a little too generously?

Have our standards of acceptable gotten lower in the modern era?

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A Side of Feelings

face-palm-polar-bear

SMH…

When it comes to feelings (nothing more than feelings), there are two strongly reactive — yet very separate — feelings clubs on my mind these days. The one that surprises me is personal and seems to have only myself as a member. The unsurprising one, the angry, depressed, shocked one, contains nearly all the liberals these days.

A more on-the-nose term might be ‘city folk.’ (Or my personal favorite: “polis people.”) Some see this — I fully agree — as a divide between rural and city sensibilities, between local old-fashioned and global modern tech, between yesterday and tomorrow.

One side is stunned the other won, while the winners are holding their breath wondering what they’ve won…

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