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Archive for the ‘Off Topic’ Category

Mortality

February 19th, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Need to get this out of my system.

As a child, death meant Jesus coming down from Heaven and taking someone away with him on a cloud. It also meant lying flat on your back, arms spread into a T shape, eyes crossed and tongue lolling, a child’s cartoon interpretation.

Occasionally I would perform this pantomime, every time disappointed by my lack of success. Perhaps, I thought, I moved. I breathed. I did something to give myself away. I just didn’t understand.

As a teenager, it meant the mysterious disappearance of a sad but much loved relative and a complete reordering of the family to adapt to new circumstances. I didn’t understand.

In my twenties death meant drug overdoses, car crashes and gunshots: Life lived so close to the edge that one simply fell off. Death was just around the corner and I was never afraid. I suppose I just didn’t understand.

Now, in my thirties, death means getting some news from a doctor and, after going under a knife, you get drugs that, after a while, make you wish you were dead. Sometimes the universe obliges, other times it does not.

This time it’s not me. This time it’s a friend, not a friend of a friend, or the relative of a friend. Suddenly I understand a terrible disease, understand what ‘The Big C’ really means and suddenly this disease is a part of my cosy, comfortable little world and finally, at last, I think I’m starting to really understand what mortality really means. Perhaps, in ten years, I’ll see that I did not.

It seems late in life to be learning these lessons. Life, it seems, isn’t just what you make of it.

Obviously Menacing

November 16th, 2010 at 10:29 am

Paul J Chambers. You have been found guilty of offending the stereotype of a moron. And a few morons. The penalty is to be strapped to a rocket and blasted to the moon. You're going sky high, mate.

Save us, please, from the tyranny of the non-existent ‘ordinary person’.

An ordinary person is incapable of understanding sarcasm or irony and thus takes things literally instead. An ordinary person doesn’t like any fruity or challenging activities – they go to work, probably in a factory or a shop, and they come home and watch Coronation Street and Eastenders then put their 2.4 children to bed.

An ordinary person has no truck with scientific mumbo jumbo, or other ‘nonsense’ like foreigners. Maybe they read the Daily Mail or the Sun. They lead a simple, uncomplicated life perfectly adapted for a simple, uncomplicated brain.

Except, uh oh, this stereotype of a dimwitted ‘ordinary’ person is just that. There is no such thing.

So, of course, when Judge Jacqueline Davies decided to condemn Paul J Chambers, ruling that the tweet he’d written..

Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!

… as “obviously menacing” and that any “ordinary person” would find it so, I felt like I wanted to go on a violent rampage myself. Perhaps I’ll blow up a few court houses, or pull the ears off the Judge’s cat, something like that.

But pity Paul J Chambers: Condemned by a stereotype, condemned because the Judge thinks we’re all so witless, dull and childlike in our comprehension of the subtleties of adult communication that Paul has injured us and must be punished, by the State, on our behalf.

But, despite that, we should all thank the Sweet Lord for this Judge, I say. She understands that we ordinary people need protecting from menaces like Paul. You can’t have people telling jokes on Twitter, that would lead to chaos! It’s impossible to communicate that you’re being sarcastic or ironic electronically and you have to rely on context and pre-established criteria to understand what people are saying! THAT’S JUST WAY TOO COMPLICATED FOR US ORDINARY PEOPLE!

No, I’m not being sarcastic. I’m being sincerely flattering, obviously so, and, yes, any ordinary person would agree.

NaNoWriMo

November 4th, 2010 at 10:26 am

I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo, which is a challenge to write a 50,000 word Novel during November.

I’ve tried before – and failed, but this time I’m approaching it differently this time. First, I don’t have a master overarching plot already worked out. Turns out a ‘fill in the blanks’ approach to writing isn’t for me, while seeing where characters seem to want to go themselves is. Perhaps I’m just more interested in the premise this time. All I’m willing to say, right now, is that the Novel currently has the name of ‘Jones Versus the Dark’.

Secondly I’m assuming that by the end of the month, if I’ve hit the target of 50,000 words, I’m likely to be a better fiction writer than I am right at this instant. It might not sound like much, but it gives me permission not to worry about how good or well written this early stuff is. Better to review this stuff and improve it after I’ve had the benefit of a month’s worth of experience and better understand exactly what this story is about and what my ‘style’ might be.

The schedule for NaNoWriMo is somewhat punishing, especially with other commitments, so I suspect I’ll be updating this blog even less. I just thought it might be an idea to explain why.

Star Wars 3D: The Truth

September 29th, 2010 at 6:57 pm

In which I direct you away from this site. But, please, come back.

So you think George Lucas couldn’t get any worse? Oh, oh truly he could. How George Lucas Found A Way To Cheapen The Latest Hollywood Gimmick. It’s written by me and it’s over on the Speccie Arts Blog.

It may help with the nerd rage one feels on occasions such as this.

Why Scientology Is Interesting

September 29th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Start a religion. Best. Game. Ever.

The curious thing about religions, at least from my point of view, is that anyone can start one. The trick is to have your religion ‘make it’, becoming a perpetually self-sustaining entity that exists long, long, long after you’re dead. That’s how you “win” the religion game. The prize? Immortality.Well, sort of. Your name will live on long after you’re dead, and if you’re really good people will be changing their behaviours based on things you’ve said.

Come on… who wouldn’t be into that? It sounds brilliant!

It is, perhaps, ironic then, that so many religions have at their core beliefs in the ability to live on after death. Whether or not people can isn’t something I’m going to answer here (oh, sod it, the answer is “no, they can’t”) but in many ways being a prophet or leader of a religion will often have people assuming you’re off being immortal somewhere, doing all immortally type things like.. um… counting grains of sand in the Sahara Desert for the 1,004,232nd time or making out with each other. Or is that just Vampires? Bloody vampires have all the fun.

But I’ve digressed. If the BBC’s documentary about Scientology last night is right then Official Scientology is losing followers, not gaining them. I doubt, somehow, that they’re going to have a cash-flow problem, and their survival isn’t really in doubt – but it seems incredible that recruitment wouldn’t be getting harder as details about their practices leak into the wild.

The religion game is survival of the fittest. It’s a microcosm of evolutionary theory whereby religions that operate in a way that promotes their growth survive, while those that don’t do not. As far as models of faith go, the Abrahamic faiths (for example) are phenomenally successful, which is unsurprising. Many are expansion packs for Judaism which, itself, has proved to be very very resilient.

The question for Scientology is why they seem determined to avoid moving to a model that’s proven to work in the long, long, long, long term?  It’s in territory that puts it outside of that sweet spot enjoyed by the really successful religions, and as David Allen Green points out, the Internet is proving to be a fundamental obstacle to the Church’s long term growth plans. The problem is simple: If you keep your secrets secret, you can’t really have a go at people for calling your secrets stupid. If they’re out in the open then when people call them stupid you can go down the tried and tested route of calling them intolerant of religious belief.

As a model that actually works perfectly well. Give away your “secrets” for free and charge people for belonging to the community, for attending your churches. That’s worked for thousands of years. It’ll probably work for thousands of years more.

You might be worried. You’re thinking, “Damn! If they find out our secrets they’ll think our Church is stupid!” but, seriously, you’re wrong. People can believe just about anything if you give them enough of a reason to. Be a cool bunch of awesome people and tell people all they have to do to join you is believe that there’s some sort of alien space god hiding inside teapots and, fuck it, people will. They really will. In fact, it’s better than that. They don’t even have to believe it – they just need to say they do and never, ever, ever admit to anyone else that they don’t. That’s practically the same thing for your purposes.

The religions that have been going for thousands of years have survived because they’ve been flexible enough to adapt to a world changing very quickly and they ‘fit’ with human psychology quite nicely. The religions that survive the Internet will, I’ve no doubt, be even harder to shift than ever (for those that try. Personally I think once you’ve thrown people to lions and that’s not worked, you give up or go mad.)

I’ve no doubt that Scientology, with the right changes, could become a perfectly viable religion like any other. Whether or not they do depends on whether or not they’ve learnt the lessons of the ones who’ve already made it. Religion is a game – learn to play, noobs.

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