What About 2021?

It’s a New Year, so it’s time for that Janus backward and forward State of the Blog Post. (I did plenty looking back in the previous post, so today I’m looking mostly in the other direction.)

As I’ve mentioned, I framed 2020 as a year for changes. Many of them got sidelined (or outright derailed) but the year did result in some decisions that matter here. I find I’ve gone beyond my rope when it comes to what I’m going to begin always referring to as “fantasy bullshit” (FBS).

That’s not to say fantasy bullshit is all bad (some is fun; some might even be necessary), but I am going to start calling it what it is.

My problem (and I’ll own it) is that I’ve become thoroughly disgruntled with nearly all forms of fantasy bullshit. I see our culture as having slipped too far into its own head (and up its own ass). We’ve fallen too far into fantasy.

It led to the last four years (and the last four months), the horrific proof of the pudding.

It may help to understand that my definition of sanity involves the degree to which one’s mental model matches the widely acknowledged consensus reality. (And I do believe in the general validity of that consensus.) Put simply, if you seriously believe in unreal shit, I have to question your sanity.

Case in point. At first I thought Flat Earthers were a fun pretend club, kind of like the Renaissance Faire or a science fiction convention. I assumed it was harmless fun, perhaps indulgent and silly, even a bit stupid, but ultimately sane FBS.

But no, these folks, at least some of them, apparently actually believe in this stupid bullshit. And make no mistake: it is stupid bullshit. Not mere fantasy BS, but 100% pure Grade A genuine stupid bullshit.

Still, they’re harmless enough. On a scarier level, anti-vaxxers.

On an utterly terrifying level, consider the sociopolitical world in the last decade(s). For assorted medium levels of terror, just look around: advertising, corporations, health care, civil issues, climate change, finance,… pick your poison.

So much awful bullshit. What gets me is that I’ve been seeing it for 50 years now (since high school), and it just gets worse and worse. These last four years, when viewed through that long lens, are beyond surreal and appalling.

The world has gotten so loud with noise from many sources (fair and foul), and so filled with wall-to-wall deep-pile fantasy bullshit, that we don’t realize what a clown show damn near everything has become. We’ve normalized surreal and appalling.

I’m utterly appalled, and it’s fucking surreal to me.

And I’ve had enough.

§

I have at times in the past said I was going to take this blog to a different level. Each time I find myself backing off and retaining the mask of a more polite blogger. It’s not my intention to offend.

But I’m suffering a frisson between the Yin of my deeper identity and the Yang of my expected identity. I’ve never mastered the social mask (in part because I never believed in it), so my true self tends to shine through anyway.

[I have an Engineering Mind that insists pointing out flaws can only lead to a stronger result (once the flaws are fixed). Indeed, my Mind insists there’s no chance of fixing flaws until they’re pointed out. On some level, I have a hard time understanding why people get upset with this. To me, it’s working together to make something better. Sauce for goose and gander, I do want my flaws pointed out so I can fix them.]

[[Of course there are caveats aplenty. Mostly it boils down to earning the right, along myriad paths, to point out flaws. At least the personal ones. It’s open season on the public ones.]]

To repeat, offending absolutely isn’t the point, but I confess I’m prone to being… emphatic. I also have a tendency towards performance art. I got involved in theatre in high school, filmmaking in college, and lived in Los Angeles the while, so I’m incorrigibly a bit flamboyant.

The mask, even when I get it right, is exhausting, and this year especially I’ve begun to wonder why I bother. If trying not to offend people still offends people, then why bother?

So I think moving forward I’ll mostly stick to my corner and, in blog posts, write what I feel like writing. (The blog certainly couldn’t be less popular, so it’s not like it’ll matter much.)

Especially though, I want to focus on things that are real.

[There is also that, as mentioned, I’ve been angry about FBS for 50 years, and I need a way and place to vent. Since the day I began this blog it’s had a Rant category.]

[[Possibly, these days, metaphors about mask-wearing can get a bit lost in the crowd. Obviously I mean the masquerade party kind of mask. A disguise.]]

§

I am, generally speaking, a philosophical realist. I believe the world exists physically and regardless of us (or anyone). It is something we discover (not invent or imagine).

While I’m neither a scientific instrumentalist nor a mathematical constructivist, I have strong sympathies with both views. (A topic I hope to explore this year is the question of whether reality is rational, but not real. There is a question of whether infinite precision is meaningful or possible.)

For instance, I’m a bit leery of Cantor’s transfinite numbers. The division between countable sets and uncountable sets seems sensible, even physical despite both being infinities. But the idea that one can have hierarchies of uncountable sets seems like FBS to me. Rational mathematically grounded FBS, perhaps, but still.

I’m likewise leery of ideas involving multiple realities, be they separated in space or by magical decoherence. Also of ideas that take faster-then-light or time travel seriously. (Modulo how Relativity slows individual clocks to create effective time travel into the future.) SUSY and string theory get special mention as egregious FBS given the strong scent of groupthink.

In the field of consciousness, I still file under FBS the idea of simulating the mind on a conventional computer, let alone the idea of brain uploading. However, note there is here at least some physicality to these ideas. I do see them as open questions, whereas I see the book as (provisionally) closed on SUSY and some of the other physics FBS.

Bottom line, if there’s no data making an unequivocal statement, it’s fantasy bullshit. I’m not saying I’m necessarily opposed to it, but I just can’t treat it like it’s real anymore. I can’t take it seriously.

§ §

This probably won’t change the nature of my posts that much; I’ve never been one for FBS.

[For examples: I’ve enjoyed the Renaissance Faire but never in costume (maybe a hat), and I don’t much play the game of speaking Medieval. I’ve enjoyed science fiction conventions, but, again, never in costume (maybe a hat). I haven’t worn a Halloween costume since my 20s (sometimes a hat, though). I’m just not into dress up (but I do like hats).]

So there will be posts about physics and math. People with math phobia also interest me. The phobia is real, but I wonder if it can be corrected. Most importantly, can it be prevented in children before it happens? (The truth is, the dreaded trigonometry is actually dead easy. We need better teachers.)

I started writing about algorithms in detail some time ago, and I’d like to pick up that thread again.

There are some especially geeky posts I’ve got planned. One about the Bell Ringer’s code (as potentially a literal code); another about the X-Bar switch (part of my fascination with telephone switching equipment and relay logic).

Baseball in 2021 is a question mark both objectively and subjectively. Even given how messed up this year was in nearly all regards, I was still surprised by my disengagement with baseball. It was the first year I didn’t use my Python stats suite (not fully, anyway, just some for the Twins).

Does this signal a downward arc, or was it just 2020? Hard to say given how weird and upsetting last year was.

I’ve been wanting for some time to return to talking about religion and spirituality. I’m thinking of a new category, Sunday Sermons. (There are a lot of preachers in my family tree.) I’ve long been interested in the Yin/Yang of worldly/spiritual, and I’ve always meant to talk more about it here.

And, yes, I’m fully aware that spiritual pursuits, by my own definition, are fantasy bullshit, of course they are. So are science fiction and murder mysteries, which I love and couldn’t do without. The bullshit itself isn’t the problem; it’s taking it too seriously.

No one is expected to take me seriously, or even listen, when I talk about stuff like that. (Indeed, why take me seriously about any of this?)

§ §

I’ll end this with a bit of blog business and some stats and charts.

I keep trying to come up with a menu structure I like and that isn’t too unwieldy. Part of that effort includes new pages listing Book Review posts and Movie Review posts. (I’m at long last leveraging the 1-2-3 above-the-fold style I’ve been using since I started. Worked out okay, I thought.) The former isn’t complete, yet; doesn’t go all the way back.

[There’s also one for my pomes.]

§

And lastly, stats and charts. As it turns out, 2020 was my biggest year in multiple ways.

For one thing, 177 posts in 2020 beats all previous years. So does the quarter-million words. During the first arc of the blog, from 2011–2016, the most posts in one year was 129 in 2015. (That was also the busiest year of the arc. See below.) The average during that time was 110 posts per year.

Then I took a year off. When I resumed in 2018, it was slowly; only 74 posts that year, the lowest number in any year (other than zero in 2017). Then I got busy: 160 posts in 2019 and 177 in 2020.

Overall it bumps the average to only 120 posts per year. Two years with an average of 168 doesn’t have that big an impact on seven with an average of 105. In any event, I certainly stepped up the pace the last two years. No idea if I plan to continue in that vein (I’ll have to get back to me on that).

In total, it’s 1076 posts (36 pages) and 1,263,854 words (not including the pages). Funny to look back at all that.

I also had more traffic this year than in any previous year:

Hardly gang-busters but certainly more of everything this year. There were even some old posts that saw more traffic this year than in any previous. (I wonder if it has anything to do with people being stuck at home.)

§

I typically include charts for individual posts with hit stats that stand out, but I think I’ll leave most of that for the 10 Year Anniversary in July. There are some that stand out, though:

Abacus and Slide Rule, for instance, seems to be catching on. The post was largely motivated by a couple’s fascination with my abacus. Apparently they aren’t the only ones.

My Grandfather’s Axe has turned to be a popular post, too, which makes me happy. I’m kinda proud of that one (it’s #2 this year and #2 overall).

The Imitation Game is getting increasing attention. Interestingly, it’s a very negative review (maybe the pendulum swung on Cumberbatch).

The Rick O’Shay post is one of my personal favorites, so I’m delighted it does so well. It’s #5 overall and #5 this year.

That’s enough charts (but I have plenty more if you want).

§ §

Bottom line, I’m out of patience. I’m tired of watching my words. I realize there are consequences of that (consequences I’ve experienced most of my life because I never could keep my mouth shut).

I’ve decided I just don’t care anymore.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

17 responses to “What About 2021?

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Reading my newsfeed this very morning, and up pops a perfect example of what I mean.

    Between the story about local police investigating the stabbing of a 13-year-old-boy, and the story about South Korea’s population shrinking is a story with the headline: “Star Wars Reveals How Palpatine Cut The Jedi Off From The Force”

    Because, in this badly confused culture, that infantile fantasy bullshit is somehow perceived as on-par with racism, violence, policing, and population (or climate or employment or poverty or…) — I’m beyond mind-boggled or appalled or stunned or astonished.

    I’m just disgusted.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Hell of a post for the last day of Chillaxmas (it’s Twelfth Night tonight), but it’s Tuesday and time to roll up the sleeves and put on the gloves.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Speaking of (harmless) FBS, I was amused at about a recent Mars Mission that involved very accurate measurements of methane… and didn’t find any.

    There’s been a fantasy about finding life on Mars, water on Mars, going to Mars and living on Mars, yay, we’re going to Mars with Elon Mars and the Mars express.

    O.M.G. That’s some premium fantasy bullshit.

    Mars is dead, dry, essentially airless, toxic, and very far away. It’s been that way for billions of years. It’s a boring red rock of only passing scientific interest. If Mars made any sense at all there would be thriving cities in the Antarctic. And under the sea. And on the Moon. But there aren’t because no one is stupid enough to actually live there.

    Methane. Sheeze. As if.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I would give slightly higher odds regarding the phosphine supposedly discovered on Venus, because there certainly is plenty of available energy and organic material. But even so, such an extraordinary find requires extraordinary support,…

      And the most recent reports seem to be backpedaling. Time will tell, but clearly skepticism is warranted.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Not giving a fuck is freeing. Happy New Year, motherfuckers!

  • Brian

    “We’ve normalized surreal and appalling.” yep, creeping normality is a topic I’ve delved into before. It’s fascinating what a few years’ worth of perspective can give you, providing you keep your eyes open.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yes, that’s a big part of it — keeping one’s eyes open! And remembering. I think maybe what we’re seeing is a kind of overflowing of a bucket that’s been slowly filling for years. I’m old enough to have once wondered what 1984 would be like — would it be like the book? Back then 2001 seemed like the distant future (the Space Odyssey). The date alone is a bit surreal to me, the state of the world, especially of this country,… I just don’t recognize it.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    It occurs to me that the superior verisimilitude of today’s movies, TV shows, and video games, has been an unfortunate double whammy on our psyches.

    Firstly, as I’ve long thought, the level of realism does make our visual stories a lot more powerful, which is a sword with two edges. They’re more immersive and engaging, but they also have greater power to affect and shape us (just as real life does). So while CGI and film techniques bring wonder and realism, we may also have given them more power to program our minds. Books and plays, for instance, don’t have this power because the lack of realism distances the viewer from the content. (Which is generally a good idea — stories should be too immersive. We must always be able to know they are stories.)

    Secondly, and this is the thought that just struck me, such realism in stories, contra books and plays, removes the need for, and exercise of, our imaginations. We no longer need to imagine anything about, say, Lord of the Rings or Sherlock Holmes. Indeed, in the latter case, there are myriad visualizations to pick from. This is, in video games, also true of our play time.

    So what is the consequence of rarely exercising our imagination? Does it just go away? Or does it get subverted into a tendency to believe in fantasy bullshit? I can’t help but wonder if needing to imagine stuff doesn’t turn into a love of conspiracies or astrology or flat Earth or multiple worlds or whatever fantasy bullshit comes along and seems attractive.

    It’s an odd thought; one I’d like to explore further.

    (Has being a creative person with a well-exercised imagination made me more prone to recognize the fantasy bullshit so many others get mired in?)

  • Our Fertile Imagination | Logos con carne

    […] More importantly and to the point: Does it get subverted into a tendency to believe in fantasy bullshit? […]

  • Hard Problems | Logos con carne

    […] some ideas requiring some imagination and greater metaphysical commitment. (FTR, I file these under FBS. I would bet they will someday be shown to be […]

  • Wyrd Smythe

    It’s to the point of being every time. Pointless fantasy bullshit from armchair wannabes. I’m getting beyond being beyond my rope.

    Note to self: Stop commenting elsewhere! Anywhere! It’s just pointless.

  • Superheroes Bore Me | Logos con carne

    […] written before (more than once, and more than twice) about my perception of how our attachment to fantasy of all types seems a […]

  • Friday Notes (Jun 25, 2021) | Logos con carne

    […] it’s not a little ironic that I posted about how I was done with FBS on January 5th (see: What About 2021?). The very next day, of course, was January 6th, a day I think will live in infamy in our future […]

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