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Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Blog That Wrote Itself

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Our friend Rusty has written eight months’ worth of blog posts, and he wanted to experiment to see what might happen if he went a while without blogging. He should be pleasantly surprised to find out that since he’s created the impetus, the blog can write itself even in his absence. On the one hand, it may be comforting for him to know that what he’s started has built up so much steam, yet he might also think of himself as expendable if the blog doesn’t always need him. Take heart, Rusty. You’re needed here, and we couldn’t do it without you.

In the spirit of writing what Rusty would want to write about, a topic has been chosen which will hopefully represent his way of thinking and do him proud. That’s right, we’re going to explore the finer nuances of spelunking (as opposed to just the garden variety nuances). Now, it needs to be pointed out that spelunking gets quite a bad rap, and this is nothing short of unfortunate. It's been argued that spelunking is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in the northern hemisphere (and who cares if the arguing was being done by a cadre of inconsequential rodents?). According to projections based on this model, spelunking could very well become the third most popular recreational activity by the year 2067 — and just in time for the Christmas rush. Anyway, when you start to see this new gear replacing the rafting section in retail outlets, you won't be in the dark as to why. The spelunkers of the world will have at long last united as a legion to be reckoned with, which is how it should be.

So, what would Rusty think of all this? We can only guess, but in our best estimation, he’d likely pontificate about how we’re all spelunkers by nature, and that we have a rich heritage of spelunking throughout the meandering yet otherwise revealing course of human history. He might assess the skills necessary to be an effective spelunker (good sense of direction, bright personality, lack of any other skills, the propensity to hiccup on demand), and he might further opine that some famous people, like Kevin Bacon, Shel Silverstein, Leonard Maltin, Ugueth Urbina, Christopher Hitchens, Florence Henderson and Connie Chung would all make splendid spelunkers, if for no other reason than they possess that extra-special spelunking mentality. But alas, Rusty is presently unavailable, so we are left continuing to wonder whether our cogitating aligns with the truer reality. And we soldier on...

Like many of you, we've admired spelunkers for their ambition, their tenacity, their running away from society, their lack of social adeptness, their obsession with attaching lights to their heads, their penchant for playing in the mud, their disregard for responsibility, their wanton devil-may-care attitude, and their many inspirational stories that keep us coming back for more and make us wonder to ourselves why we're not spelunking too.

Boy, after further review, we’re just going to have to admit right here while cutting most of our losses that spelunking is a prototypical elementary endeavor that, while having a promising future, remains in the underground for the time being and does not lend itself directly to extended analysis.

But what we are even more fascinated by is how pop culture feeds off itself. You may have noticed how awards ceremonies are arranged to “honor” the celebrities (nah... not to give them more publicity...), and pop culture thinks it’s an event more of gauging who got dressed in what's termed the most hideous of attire, as if clothing were a competition. And they always talk about (can I underline the word ‘always’ there and highlight it with the brightest pink neon marker you’ve ever seen in your life or anyone else's life and then stomp on it like Rumplestiltskin’s disgruntled hairdresser who had the wrong thing for lunch and didn't mind if she made everyone suffer because of it?) the dresses that were quote-unquote "disasters". (hopefully I didn't misquote anyone there)

You didn’t know this, but the dresses caused catastrophic conditions in scattered locales throughout the world. When Jessica Biel showed up in something she apparently had to wrap and tuck in haste from her bathroom wardrobe (hey, celebrities can be in a hurry too), the resulting force of her apparel produced measurable earthquakes in Zanzabar and outer Mongolia. They have it on record, with the correlated times.

And then the media types make their obligatory list of worst-dressed people, in order for us to be aware of who has the poorest costume judgment quotient according to their own quasi-objective fashion reference point. But we do, in fact, need to know who made critical mistakes in what they wore to special events. This provides us with key information about something that will most assuredly come in handy at a later point in our existence. What that is, there is no earthly clue, but hunches are fine to go by in the absence of anything else.

It would seem to be splitting hairs to call these assorted extravagant outfits 'disasters', when upon deeper reflection a disaster is more like non-athletic folks wearing ill-advised shorts and halter tops. Kind of brings in a little context there.

It’s all calculated anyway. How many celebrities may be thinking to themselves, “I feel like wearing something outrageous tonight”? Or “I want to get a reaction”? The press is so impressed by this development that it builds it all up as entertainment news. (now there’s an oxymoron waiting to happen…) Anyway, the subjects in question specifically posed for the picture in a pre-designated photo-op spot, specially christened by 17 Hollywood churches for the benefit of all these photo flashers as a means to get the celebrities' dresses all over the media and have people debating about them over a victimless crime that will garner them more sympathizers than critics. So what's the big deal?

A voice cries from the ashes to us, bemoaning the inclusion of such matters among what’s now loosely known as news. Call us old-fashioned, but we miss the day when news was about things that weren’t concocted… but then who are we to judge? After all, if it happened, then it’s news, isn’t it? (Wait… doesn’t everything happen?) It does make for a more convenient version of news when one doesn’t need to wait for something to first occur, but can instead choreograph it. Mold it, shape it, and then sell it to the masses and act surprised so that they will be too.

But we’re not going to write about any of that stuff. No, not us. In the end, we have to admit that we have no idea what Rusty would’ve written about. And yet… it’s so fun to pretend.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

E.O.T.W. or Bust

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What would you say to console someone if the apocalypse were here? “Hey, cheer up… it’s not the end of the world.” … “Okay, um, maybe it is… but look at it this way — there’ll be brighter days ahead… or, um…” Hmmm.

How do you put a positive spin on that? Not very easily. “You know all that laundry you hated doing? Yeah... Well, you can stop worrying about it now. And those bills that are due in a few weeks? Forget about them.” Score! I get to keep all of my paycheck this month...

A question arises as to whether the end of the world is the only thing we should become troubled over. Conventional wisdom via cultural literacy suggests anything that’s not the end of the world isn’t that bad — that everything short of being an apocalypse can be adequately dealt with and work in our favor. Is there truth in such a maxim, or is it merely an exaggerated and catchy way to give a pep talk and sell detergent? Aren’t there other things rivaling the end of the world?

Nietzsche intoned, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” To me, that would require always recovering from difficulty, and I don’t think Nietzsche was able to support such a notion. He might have more correctly said that anything that doesn’t kill us has the potential of making us stronger. Nietzsche also said that God is dead, to which God said, “Oh yeah?” and he struck Nietzsche down on my birthday in 1900 (though it wasn’t quite my birthday yet).

Death obviously represents the end of this world for the person who has died, even though such a representation is displaced for those of us who are still living. But then if that person was the world to us, isn’t it a microcosm of the end of the world? Just because you or I keep on breathing, how is that necessarily preferable to an apocalypse for everyone?

C.S. Lewis knew I was going to think about this someday, so he graciously provided material to augment my point. In The Problem of Pain, he writes, “We must never make the problem of pain worse than it is by vague talk about the ‘unimaginable sum of human misery.’ Search all time and all space and you will not find that composite pain in anyone’s consciousness. There is no such thing as a sum of suffering, for no one suffers it. When we have reached the maximum that a single person can suffer, we have, no doubt, reached something very horrible, but we have reached all the suffering there ever can be in the universe. The addition of a million fellow-sufferers adds no more pain.”

So based on Lewis’ assertion, an end-of-world scenario wouldn’t produce heightened suffering to what already exists today, but rather the suffering would merely be distributed laterally. Thusly, greater news coverage would only be justified in terms of quantity, but not in terms of quality.

Another question that begs to be answered here is this: Is the end of the world really so desperate that it’s truly the “end of the world”? In other words, is it something to worry about? I mean, what are the ramifications if it is the end of the world? Are people going to be around to be upset about it? Will it be on the news? What news? Will it adversely affect the stocks? Will it make it harder to run barefoot through the park in the rain?

Amid Nietzsche’s claim about anything but death making us stronger is the assumption that being at the end is negative thing. Finality is therefore construed in that sense to be bad. Note the scientifically based consequences mentioned below in discussion of the shelf life of mother Earth:

The luminosity of the Sun will grow by 10 percent over the next 1.1 billion years. Climate models indicate that the rise in radiation reaching the Earth is likely to have dire consequences, including the possible loss of the planet's oceans. The Earth's increasing surface temperature will accelerate the inorganic CO2 cycle, reducing its concentration to the lethal levels for plants in 900 million years. The lack of vegetation will result in the loss of oxygen in the atmosphere, so animal life will become extinct within several million more years. But even if the Sun were eternal and stable, the continued internal cooling of the Earth would have resulted in a loss of much of its atmosphere and oceans due to reduced volcanism. After another billion years all surface water will have disappeared and the mean global temperature will reach 70°C. The Earth is expected to be effectively habitable for about another 500 million years.

I like how they round off their estimates. Give or take a few hundred million years here or there. Hey, when you can maybe get next Thursday’s weather forecast semi-consistent, I’ll start thinking about trusting your models for the future of the universe a little more. In the meantime, we’ll call those projections slightly cloudy.

Sufficeth to say that a long, long, long time after Desperate Housewives has gone off the air, the Earth will stop being habitable for the likes of us. There — was it that hard to put in words?

I’m sure that the primordial soup went through the same process of portending doom and gloom over the impending big bang. The soup wasn’t comfortable with the idea, but ultimately it seemed to have been all for the best. Were those seen as dire consequences back then? Did the universe survive? Well, you be the judge. What were the realistic alternatives anyway?

So then what are the sociological ramifications of the end of the world? True, it will make it harder to have a civilization, which could put a damper on a lot of the things we’ve become accustomed to. Yet ultimately, it represents nothing more than a change. We often fear change due to its unknown qualities. The sun scorching the earth is indeed a phenomenon we have yet to experience, and sure, we realize we’d have to sacrifice a lot of the amenities we’ve come to enjoy. But it's not like it's the end of the world or anything...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fruit ___ the Bottom

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I've seen it both ways, and we've got to settle which is the better term — Fruit at the Bottom... or Fruit on the Bottom. Yogurt connoisseurs everywhere have been holding their collective breath for an answer.

Saying the fruit is at the bottom lends a connotation of being somewhere in the general vicinity of the bottom, while on the bottom gives more of an impression that it's way down low, pressed against the bottom. In this respect, at would be more representative of the truth we're in search of. Continuing our examination...

Danny and the Juniors did a little ditty nigh 51 years ago known as At the Hop, and one shudders to think of the ramifications had they instead chose the phrase On the Hop. The results would've been disastrous. Not to be outdone, five years hence Dr. Seuss penned the inimitable Hop on Pop, which does strike one as a tad preferential to Hop at Pop. So then which of those paths is the yogurt culture compelled to follow? This one appears easy, as a doctor of Theodor Geisel's status would trump a junior achiever in most universes.

But this isn't the end of it, since Seuss upped the ante with his inestimable tome Fox in Socks two years later, further confusing the issue. Literary cognoscenti have taken note that the fox was not at the socks, nor was he on the socks, but was rather fully engaged in a veritable fox-socks symbiosis. So then what of this notion of fruit being in the bottom? Not sayin', but I'm just sayin'...

To meet with the demands of our dairy intelligentsia, we need to backtrack a little here and define more of our terms. What constitutes the bottom? A bottom could be reasonably designated as the lower portion. Looking at it this way, can the fruit be at the lower portion of a yogurt container? One bristles at the prospect. Much too vague for our purposes here. Can fruit be on the lower portion of the container? That makes about as much sense as reality shows. (actually I need to apologize here for being overly insulting to the word 'on' in that manner) Now, for the clincher... can fruit be in the lower portion of the yogurt container? Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding...

While I'm convinced we have a winner now, let's not be too quick to dismiss other possibilities. The undergarment industry would have a lot to say on this whole issue. Their fruit traditionally being of the loom, it behooves us to consider yogurt as being fruit of the bottom. Now, it might not sell much that way, but we aren't in search of popularity here. Rather, our quest is in what's apropos in expressing the proper role and function of renegade fruit in an otherwise quaint yogurt environment.

Also not to be overlooked is fruit by the bottom, which brings with it a more egalitarian effect. At second glance, it's a little more on the non-committal side, possibly rendering it too ambiguous for this inquiry.

And then there's fruit with the bottom, although that's just a tad too existential for my tastes. If I hear something like that, I'm half-expecting a cascade of flowers to permeate the atmosphere as I open the lid, and that's on the extreme side. Fruit over the bottom? Too melodramatic... it would be the kind of thing Hollywood would no doubt feel compelled to make a movie out of. Don't even go there. And then if you want a more technical approach, you might go for fruit above the bottom. But then, isn't everything above the bottom? Beyond all that, a conceivable mystical version could be fruit upon the bottom. Something to think about.

But for sheer elegance, I think I'm somewhat partial to fruit along the bottom. I believe I could buy shiploads of something like that. It's got this dreamy, poetic feel to it.

Or perhaps throw out this bottom concept altogether. I could even go for Fruit Underneath... the mysterious fruit lies below. Let your spoon take a dive... if you dare. Maybe the world isn't ready for that yet, but it may have its time.

And why not Fruit at the Top? Is the fruit really heavier than the yogurt? I seriously think against such a thing. Or why not just say Fruit Somewhere Inside, and leave it at that? Is it important that we know precisely where the fruit resides? Do we really need a GPS for it? I wonder if they're trying to cater to that 4% of the population that will open it up to white yogurt and say, "Dang... they forgot to put the flavor in, Martha. Now what do I do?"

This prepositional endeavor brings up some side issues. How about those signs at fast food places... "Now hiring – apply within." As opposed to applying up on the roof, or applying over in the flower beds? Applying within was actually the last place I would have guessed. You know, my first inclination was that for that vaunted position of burger flipper I'd need to be flown down to their corporate headquarters in San Bernardino and go through a series of in-depth interviews and screening tests. At any rate, if you have to help the applicants figure out the most logical place to turn in their resume', then maybe they're just not cut out for the job. Don't help them too much. Use the built-in filters you've got to your advantage. Life sends us clues if we'll pay attention to them.

I wonder on the whole if we're too eager to help consumers find their way that we don't allow people their moment of discovery.

We don't need to have inside information about a movie prior to watching it in order to enjoy it. Don't show us all the scenes ahead of time. That's what the movie's for. Let it unfold. Let it tell its own story. Likewise, let life do the same thing. Let it unfold. Let it surprise you. Don't try to peek at the ending. The fruit will be there waiting for you... somewhere... and it doesn't really matter where.

Dance Like Nobody's Watching

Philosophy Soccer