Satire that predicted the future

I don’t think the intent of these satirical bits was to predict the future, but as I look at them, their resemblance to what we’ve seen in social trends of the last 20 years is uncanny.

“Gee Officer Krupke” from “West Side Story” (1961)

“I want to be a woman” from “Monty Python’s The Life of Brian” (1979)

Jim Carrey as “Environmental Guy” from “In Living Color” (series ran from 1990-1994)

Dr. Paul Maier on the historical Jesus

I really liked this presentation. It seems like we need it, because there’s been an idea circulating around our culture that Jesus is just a “pure myth.” He never existed in the first place. I first heard this idea in the 2000s, when I heard archaeologists say they found no inscriptions of Jesus’s name anywhere in Israel. There was historical evidence for Peter’s existence, but that was it. From my own research, reading people who understand how to read ancient historical accounts, this is not true. There is historical evidence for Jesus’s existence, and for the New Testament story about him, that these people have ignored.

A point Maier made is that you have to understand the culture in which contemporary history was written. Imposing modern cultural understandings of history on it misconstrues it. He doesn’t say that the New Testament in the Bible is to be taken as history, but rather says that secular historical accounts support some elements in the New Testament story. This goes along with what I used to hear, which is that myths often have some basis in history. The stories are embellished, but they’re likely based on real people, and real events in some way.

My favorite #WalkAway video

Brandon Straka started his internet #WalkAway campaign last year, where he had people post videos about why they’ve left, or distanced themselves from the Democratic Party. I’ve liked many of the videos, but this one by Deborah Castleman is the one I most identify with, really because of her description of how she arrived at where she is now with respect to what our climate is not doing. Though, I like what she said about Trump as well. 🙂 This is from Oct. 2018.

Is there a biological reason for the rise and fall of civilizations?

This is an intensely interesting topic for me. I’ve been wondering about this for years, but I haven’t been able to locate how to approach it: What underlies the more obvious motives for constructive and destructive societal trends? The obvious characteristics don’t seem to explain enough. I’ve been hearing about r/K selection theory, and I find that compelling. Penman expands on that to try to explain the biological origins of civilizing behavior, and its opposite, which is destructive.

This is a discussion between Stefan Molyneux and Dr. Penman on this topic from July 2015.

The gist of what undergirds r/K theory, and Penman’s idea of “biohistory,” is a category of action in molecular biology called epigenetics. It’s the idea that your genetic machinery can change its behavior in response to environmental factors. Unlike the popular notion of this, it doesn’t mean that your DNA literally changes its chemical makeup, rearranging genes in healthy and unhealthy ways. What epigenetics looks at is that the cells in your body, responding to chemical signals that your body generates in response to stimuli, can dynamically turn certain genes “on” and “off,” by adding and removing what have been called “genetic markets” to your genetic code. This has physiological effects. What’s most interesting to people like Penman (and myself) is the idea that it can also have psychological effects, changing how we see our relationship to the world around us, and our expectations of it. Not much of the cause and effect of this is clear in my head yet. Not much of that has been explained. Even so, at least with r/K theory, it seems to have a lot of explanatory power in showing what’s been going on with our politics.

I didn’t find Penman’s site (linked above) that edifying, but I thought I’d reference it, since that’s where this material comes from. It links to a book, “Biohistory,” that I’m currently reading.

I thought from listening to the discussion with Molyneux that this concept is not “fully baked” yet. My impression was that Penman made what sounded like contradictory statements. I’ve noticed that can happen when someone is explaining something, but doesn’t give the background for it, because they absent-mindedly assume the audience has it. After some exploration, one can understand there is no contradiction. I’ll just reserve judgment on this for now.

A house divided against itself cannot stand

Lately it seems odd what I’ve been putting under “favorites,” because talking about stuff like this is not my favorite thing to do, but I put it here because I think it explains what’s going on in our society so well.

I’ve thought for the past 5 years that the U.S. is in a state of cold civil war. As countrymen and women of different political stripes, it is almost impossible to talk to each other. I mean that literally. So many conversations about political differences result in such putrid bile that the participants can’t stand each other, or they just don’t talk at all, or some of the participants even get to the point of harassing their opponents, or even physically causing them harm.

In the last 6 years, I’ve seen how people in institutional settings cannot even say what they think without being summarily dismissed, or at best, cast out of some privileged position, but still employed.

These two videos I think explain very well what’s going on. The first is from Dec. 2014 at Harvard, with Christopher Caldwell, called “The endless 1960s.”

The next is from June 2019 at the Heritage Foundation, “America’s Cold Civil War.”

What the panel crystalized is a fact that Caldwell talked about more vaguely, which is that we have a country that believes in two different constitutions, and we have two political parties that are defending each one. The two constitutions are labeled “the constitution of 1787,” what we traditionally call “the Constitution,” and “the constitution of 1964,” which is the Civil Rights Act that was passed that year. The Republicans defend the “1787 constitution,” the Democrats defend the “1964 constitution.” Caldwell said that the Civil Rights Act has been treated as if it’s “a kind of constitution.” The panel at Heritage treated it as if it’s a competing constitution.

What was fascinating was listening to how Caldwell talked about the Reagan presidency. He surmised that the Reagan Admin. came in thinking that their election was a revitalization of the old order (the “1787 constitution”), but they found this was not the case. What Reagan ended up doing was leaving the 1960s revolution’s welfare and “managed economy” bureaucracy intact, but “buying off the losers of the revolution” with tax cuts that allowed the “losers” to a) not bear the cost of this other system, and b) to “secede” from it. The hope was that a revitalized private economy would allow the “losers” to recover. They could realize a system of independence, and the welfare/managed economy state (the revolutionary order) would whither. That didn’t happen. People got wealthier, but first of all, the generation that Reagan dealt with was educated by progressives, not educated in how the older constitutional order thought, and secondly, corporations felt just fine getting on the dole. So, what Reagan ended up creating was “detente” between the two orders.

Caldwell further asserted that Obama’s election in 2008 was a declaration that these two orders could not stand together. One had to go (the “1787 constitution”). This leads into the discussion at Heritage, where some conservatives just laid it on the table. What conservatives don’t like to talk about (and some only murmur about it) is that it may get to the point of a hot war. They hope it can be avoided, but that may not be possible.

This discussion between Joe Rogan and Andy Ngo re. the recent Antifa attack against Ngo, I think, gets right to this point.

The problem I’ve seen is whenever conservatives have tried to talk about the “1787” constitutional order, people on the Left have racialized it, saying, “You mean you want to bring back slavery?” While it’s convenient to talk about these “two different constitutions” by the date they were ratified, I don’t think it conjures in the mind what’s actually being discussed. I’m sure when most people hear “constitution of 1787,” they think of how we had slavery. That isn’t what these people were trying to communicate. They were saying, “This is when the constitution was ratified,” but they’re not excluding the amendments that came later, which outlawed slavery, and created civil rights, the right of blacks and women, and people 18 or older to vote, etc. I think these conservatives are on to something extremely important in talking about this, but it would behoove them to use a different way of distinguishing these two social orders, because if they talk about it with a wider audience, it’s going to end up scaring a lot of people needlessly.

The conversion of universities

There’s plenty of material on this out there. It’s being expressed in a variety of ways, though only a small number of academics are generating it. The crux of it is that universities are abandoning their core mission of educating people to learn and explore, reason, argue and contend, in the small-l liberal tradition, and are substituting a progressive moral teaching that takes on the qualities of a religious education.

I’m putting this presentation here by Professor Amy Wax, because she says so much that needs to be said about this. It’s devastating. My heart sank as I listened to her talk about what’s being promoted from the top on down, inside universities, particularly the Ivy League.

I wanted to add this to a post on my Tekkie blog about higher education, because I thought her presentation was excellent, but so much of the Q&A that happened afterwards, even though there were some great, smart, to-the-point questions that cut to critical issues, was about what could be done politically. I felt like it got off the subject. The Q&A was the majority of the time.

I think I understand what’s going on with what Wax is describing, because I’ve listened to some analysis of it. A generation of academics have decided that our society is sick, down to its foundations. It was born of the original sin of discrimination, but they believe they are the leaders of a cultural revolution that will rid us of that sin. To effect that revolution, all that we need to do is promote equality of outcomes, to throw out white men from positions of power (if they will not be “allies” in this revolution), and substitute women, blacks, latinos, gay people, all of the people who have been discriminated against, now, and in the past. What they sacrifice, though, is the idea of merit, as has been traditionally defined (that you have mastered some areas of knowledge, and accomplished some things with that knowledge that produce better outcomes than past efforts), and substitute a different idea of merit: That you’re oppressed. The mythology that’s promoted in this quasi-religious belief is that those who are oppressed can “see better,” or “see interestingly” in ways that those who have been promoted for merit in the past cannot. We just haven’t been listening to them, and now we are. It will be wonderful, so the thinking goes.

As Wax pointed out, this is not just happening inside the liberal arts (where this thinking has been infiltrating for decades). It’s now infiltrating STEM fields.

What this system of morality actually promotes is the banishment of knowledge, and the banishment of any ideas of truth, because knowledge, if you pursue it deeply enough, leads to some uncomfortable ideas. Some may shake us to our very core. There are things that can be rationally asserted as true that make us feel uncomfortable. By this morality, it doesn’t matter if the ideas are true. What matters is the messaging that makes the chosen oppressed groups comfortable. Psychotherapists would recognize this as the social environment that exists inside of dysfunctional families, “Don’t upset your dad.”

Wax is right. Universities used to be better than this. That isn’t just nostalgia talking. Students are being denied a proper education while they’re shelling out outrageous tuition. As I pointed out on my Tekkie blog, this is because, as Wax said, parents don’t care. What they want is for their children to get their degrees, because they figure that is their ticket to a better life. Universities are literally selling degrees, for the most part, not an education, though they figure they still have to go through the motions to be convincing. Students still take 4+ years to get their degrees, if they finish (a significant number do not).

This does not point to a bright future for our society. We are sacrificing knowledge on the altar of people’s feelings.

Similarities

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been finding similarities between pop songs. They don’t sound similar, but there are moments where something about them merges. What’s amazing to me is they’re decades apart. I don’t know how I come up with these. A modern song sounds familiar, and the older song just pops in my head.

A glimpse into our future

This may just be satire, but I can’t help but think that these videos could very well resemble our future. Hats off to Neel Kolhatkar, who wrote and directed them.

Modern Educayshun

#Equality

Why do I say this? A couple of segments from Bill Maher’s show illustrate.

You know the saying, “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win”? Well, the PC crowd may have won…

Further, a segment from Reason.tv

Does this make me look fat?

I’ve been following “Foamy the Squirrel” for probably the last 6 years. I first discovered him griping about dealing with tech support from India. Ah, those were the days…

I’ve known for a while that everything under the sun that is considered bad or harmful is being ascribed to carbon dioxide and global warming, either as a cause, or an effect. For people who’ve paid attention, it makes it real obvious there’s a bandwagon effect going on here, that the good name of science is being used to corral people into certain modes of living that our betters want us to move to. This is yet another example. Foamy gripes that now obesity is being seen as a cause of global warming. This is no joke. There’s even an article in Scientific American about it, taking the idea seriously.

Personally, I think the idea that obesity causes global warming is a joke, but that doesn’t stop some people from trying to push stuff like this in order to “solve” our obesity problem. Rather than try to educate people in society, which our betters have given up on, global warming has become a catch-all psychological barrier they’ve erected to change our behavior. I look at this example and think, “Come on. Do they really expect us to buy this??” Personally I find it insulting. Rather than engage the public, we’re shown a door and told, “Go through it.” If we ask why, we’re just told, “If you do not go through it, the world will end. Do it! Do it NOW!” It’s idiotic.

Getting older, part 2

In one of my last posts from 2011 I commented about getting older, and that South Park was glibly pointing it out to people like myself. Watching this video is a bit depressing, but I can’t help but feel there’s some truth in it. The old world that was so exciting to me has passed away, and all I’m left with is fear, with some of my own ambitions, and I have no idea where they will land me.

Wisdom for the ages

I first heard this poem by Rudyard Kipling when Glenn Beck published his book “The Overton Window” a few years ago. I didn’t really understand it then. Bill Whittle does a much better job explaining it here. It might be worth pausing it as you listen, because there’s a lot of meaning in it that’s very applicable to today. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes, and it is my opinion we are “rhyming” once again. It makes me wonder at times why schools bother teaching history. It never seems to do our society any good. I don’t know that the main problem is that people forget history, though that’s part of it. It’s that the way we teach history doesn’t convey the fact that the best purpose of learning it is to teach us about ourselves, humanity. The hope is that we will learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. It doesn’t seem to matter. We do it anyway without realizing it.

Kipling wrote this in 1919. John Derbyshire has some good commentary on its background. He said that Kipling had just lost his son in WW I, and he had lost his daughter some years earlier. Derbyshire said,

…it is hard to disagree with the general opinion that “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” is a clinging to old-fashioned common sense by a man deeply in need of something to cling to.

The best scene in Battlestar Galactica

The series is long over, I know, but this scene has a timeless quality to it. It seemed to capture an important aspect of science in a nutshell: the desire to know with more than what humans use to perceive reality. To me, it was a powerful, gripping scene. Unfortunately all that can be shared is the audio. There’s no video clip of this online.

The Cylon character named Cavil says he doesn’t want to be human. That’s not what I’m trying to say here, but I can relate to the idea that our human senses can perceive so little of what’s really going on in the Universe, and so we need instruments to translate the unseen into something we can perceive.

Marilyn vos Savant

I remember hearing about this lady years ago. She was supposed to be really smart, as is discussed in this video a bit. I never heard her speak her mind at length, so it was nice listening to her in this video. She’s been a columnist in Parade Magazine for years, so I’m sure I’ve read her a bit.

The dialogue in this video gets tedious at times, but if you can be patient you’ll get some good insights out of it.

Yorkshire Inception :D

I watched some of an old PBS documentary called “The Story of English.” A part of the series was they’d show different English speakers so you could hear what they sound like. One region they recorded was Yorkshire in England. Then I found this video. It made me smile. 🙂

Starting anew

This blog used to be over at Posterous. They shut down for good on April 30, so I brought it over to WordPress. I haven’t posted anything here in a year-and-a-half. I got this blog going because I was dissatisfied with Facebook. It’s since improved enough that I felt comfortable using it as my main place for posting this sort of stuff. In addition, Google+ opened up. Still, there have been times when I’ve felt like I’d rather just post stuff here. So I’m getting back to it.

Getting older

Stan (from South Park) is getting older (he’s turned 10), and it’s a major transition. He can’t seem to get along with his friends, and to boot his parents are divorcing. Everything he used to enjoy looks and sounds like s__t.

http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/398743/same-old-crap

The link is to a scene from an episode called “Ass Burgers” (a play on the word “Aspergers”), since the school therapist thinks Stan is suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. Though it’s explained in the finale from last season (called “You’re Getting Old”) that Stan has become a “cynical a__hole.”

I can relate to this scene and others where stuff feels like crap to Stan, though I don’t see everything that way. I enjoy the stuff from when I was teenager, and some stuff I didn’t “get” back then. I’m “older,” and I can relate to feeling disgusted by the ploys that are used to entertain and persuade people now. I’ve felt the same way Stan feels, asking people, “You like this crap,” and seeing them enjoy it. I’ve had that feeling to some extent since my twenties, though it’s increased since I’ve gotten into my late 30s and beyond.

Anyway, the above scene made me laugh a lot. It’s just so masterfully irreverent and truthful.

A great demonstration on how “soaking the rich” will not solve the federal government’s budget problems

I remember billionaire Ross Perot giving a similar talk on this about 15 years ago, except back then you couldn’t balance the budget by taking everything the rich had. He said that would only fund the government for 3 months. Now the rich are a lot wealthier, and it’s conceivable that you could balance most of the budget by taking everything the rich have. The problem is the government would get significantly less revenue the following year if it actually did that. The goal isn’t practical, and we would be rightly considered a nutcase of a country if we did it, but I’ve met people who basically believe in this.

The article the presenter refers to is here.

The inconvenient truth is that the government is going to have to cut spending, and in the most uncomfortable places. Another problem is that in order to avoid a crisis, some brave politicians are going to have to sacrifice their careers, just as the Democrats did to pass their health care bill (though they got cushy private sector jobs as rewards for their votes. I doubt any politicians are going to get the same rewards for cutting federal spending…). Barring that, events are going to force us as a country to make some tough choices, and that’s going to be a lot more painful. I hope we choose to avoid that fate.

States are facing fiscal crisis soon

60 Minutes did a segment on the looming fiscal crisis that many states are facing in the near future, titled “State budgets: the day of reckoning”. I consider this an important story, because the states that are in crisis could cause another financial collapse like what happened in 2008. Meredith Whitney, a financial analyst interviewed for the segment, has done extensive research into the fiscal health of the states, and she said that there will be 50-100+ municipal bond defaults within the next year, despite what the ratings agencies say (which also misled investors in the real estate bust). She said it like you could take it (the information) to the bank. She also said it’s highly unlikely the problem will be corrected before the crisis hits, because there is so much complacency in the state governments towards this problem. It looks like we’re going to need to prepare for another “bumpy ride.”

My favorite Star Trek moment

I was not a fan of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” when it was running, mainly because it ran so contrary to the Star Trek ethos of exploration. Instead it was mostly mired in the politics of the Star Trek universe. This one episode, though, called “Far Beyond The Stars” touched me in a way no other Star Trek episode, of any series, has. It’s about how Capt. Cisco travels back in time to the 1950s (though that assertion is somewhat nebulous given what happens: Is it a dream? And if so, which is the dream, and which is the reality?) In that time he is a science-fiction writer, having no memory of his existence as a Starfleet captain. Over time he has visions of his existence on DS9, and develops a story of a black captain on a space station (just like his own character in the DS9 series), but he runs into the racism of the time. He is put down by society, and though he tries to get his story published in the next issue of the magazine he works for, the issue is scrapped (“pulped”) when some people in the operation manage to get it put in, and he is fired, because the owner of the magazine doesn’t like the idea of a non-white character in a leadership role, even if it’s futuristic.

This one scene was a pinnacle achievement for Avery Brooks in the series. I’m sure he had done better work in other productions. He is most certainly a professional actor. In any case, I saw this scene and it made me tear up. It still does. What got to me is his sense of feeling alone, that the ideas he has are so tied up with his identity, and that he cannot share them with everyone. He exists in the present, but his mind is in the future, and he wants so badly for that future to come to be. The reality that hits him is the world he imagines has to stay only in his mind, and can only be shared with a few others who are open and can appreciate it. It’s a sad realization. He fights this, saying:

“You cannot deny Ben Cisco. He EXISTS! That future, that space station, all those people, they exist in here, in my mind! I created it! … You can pulp a story, but you cannot destroy an idea! … That future, I created it, and it’s REAL! Don’t you understand? It is REAL! I CREATED IT!”

The need to think beyond our good intentions–to real science

This is a great video illustrating how attempts to do good end up hurting people and the environment if the people taking action don’t try to think beyond their good intentions and test the real effects of what they do.

Another good example of this is what has happened in our national parks for decades. Michael Crichton talked about this in one of his last speeches, “States of Fear: Science or Politics?” Crichton starts by talking about reported catastrophes that never happened, and then gets to our inability to understand complex systems at 29 minutes into the video, where he discusses in detail our mismanagement of Yellowstone National Park (in case you’re interested in skipping to that part).

My tribute post to Blade Runner

I was thinking of writing this post on my Tekkie blog a couple years ago, but didn’t get around to it. Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies of all time. Some really great videos came out about it on YouTube. I share them here.

Herve Attia made this “filming locations” documentary last year:

A musician calling himself “meastempo” made this “how-to” video on “the Blade Runner” sound, using a Yamaha CS70M, and a Roland MV-8800, pretty close to the original equipment Vangelis used. It sounds awesome!

Recalling the CED player

I remember these from when I was a kid. All the department stores were selling them, and lots of movies were sold for them. They came in these large phonograph-record-sized caddies, which contained the disc. Just as you see in the video below, you insert the caddy, and the player removes the disc. When you want to “reject” the disc, you slide the caddy back in, and the disc is released, so you can slide it back out. This is how the disc remained protected from scratches.

I remember someone telling me that the discs were played using a stylus, and I wondered how that was possible. I was used to phonograph record players, and I understood the principle of the stylus being vibrated by the groove in the vinyl. I wondered, “How would this produce video?” It turns out the stylus did not contact the disc. CED stood for Capacitance Electronic Disc. A current is induced in the disc, and the resulting signal is picked by the stylus (I think. Either that or the stylus induces the current). The disc is totally analog, both video and audio. This was the first-of-its-kind video disc.

 

Here’s an interview with Richard Sonnenfeldt, the head of RCA in the 1970s. He talks about how CED technology changed over time as the engineering improved.

Wake up, America! We need to face this

“Wake Up, America!”, by Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post, May 17, 2010

This is a bit old, but the problem is still current.

The following video pretty well sums up the problem. I don’t know about you, but I find this scenario horrifying.

The guy says, “If Obama has two terms, this is what will happen.” I don’t necessarily subscribe to that. I hope that we can arrive at fiscal sanity while Obama is still in office, whether he serves one term, or two.