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August 7, 2011 - July 31, 2011

Thursday, August 04, 2011


RE: Christianity


YOU SAY "MATERIALISM" LIKE IT'S A BAD THING. My first few questions. Many more to come, but these will start us off.

1. The resurrected Christ was ephemeral? Not even. Luke 24:39: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." And what's the point of verses 41-43, if not to say "Look, he's so material, he even ate some actual material food. Chewed and swallowed it and everything."

I was Mormon for a lot of years, so maybe I'm biased, but I still think Joseph Smith's take on matter and spirit makes the most sense: "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter." (D&C 131.7-8) A year earlier he expounded "the body is supposed to be organized matter, and the spirit, by many, is thought to be immaterial, without substance. With this latter statement we should beg leave to differ, and state that spirit is a substance; that it is material, but that it is more pure, elastic and refined matter than the body; that it existed before the body, can exist in the body; and will exist separate from the body, when the body will be mouldering in the dust; and will in the resurrection, be again united with it."

He also postulated the ultimate immutability of matter eight or nine decades before Einstein. So he's got that going for him.

2. No mind without quantum physics? I'll humbly (you know me) suggest you might be making the same mistake as scientific orthodoxy: All the major discoveries have been made and now, to cop a phrase, all that's left is crossing some i's and dotting some t's. What about a paradigm-shaking, narrative-shattering revelation or theory, like Rupert Sheldrake's morphic field? Our catalog of the universe's ways is nowhere near exhaustive. Right?

3 (2a). No resurrection without Christianity? Why not? Maybe modern science would be hard-pressed to make it happen, but in a hundred years? A thousand? It's a shop-worn cliche, but think of all we can do now that we couldn't 200 years ago. Hell, 50 years ago. Tell a die-hard audiophile in 1960 that within his lifetime, crate after half-ton crate of his beloved vinyl will fit on a little gizmo that fits in his shirt pocket and weighs less than a fart. Tell that audiophile's doctor that early 21st century man can grow human ears on the backs of pigs and rats. Hasn't history shown us that all impossiblity is temporary?

Think CSI. The show ascribes to technology more power than is currently credible-- the famous vertical of the reflection of the killer in the screw of grainy video of the licence plate comes to mind-- but the thrust is true.­ DNA science has elevated criminology to a kind of magic. In 1970, not even the most unhinged, fanciful lunatic would have guessed that DB Cooper would be identified 40 years later by some dried-up spit he left on a cheap stogie. Beyond insanity. And yet.

Impossible is temporary. Maybe the universe can put up impossbile baracades indefinitely, but we can knock them down infinitely. Death, like Polio, like the sound barrier, will be conquered. And after that, oblivion itself will be thrown in the lake of fire. Those of us who die before death is cured aren't just SOL. One day all will undergo Total Forensic Recovery, reconstitution of mind and body in toto from a single speck of nearly nothing (Boz 15.9).

Obviously, I don't have the exact timeline for all this in front of me. My safe guess is a million years from now. (I like Ray Kruzweil a lot, but there has to be some serious hiccups between now and the AI's Glorious Emergence in 2045. Nothing in real life ever goes as smoothly as a precisely-graphed exponential curve). Either the humans of 1,002,000 AD will pull us out from the dust, or, if something's gone way wonky, dinomen will rescue us from the glittering micro-debris of Asteroid Belt Earth.

Why dinomen? No reason other than I read about them as a kid and liked the idea. If that meteor hadn't killed off the dinosaurs, one raptor-type with a particularly high cranial capacity might have evolved into a sentient humanoid ["the general body form of humans... is the most logical arrangement for a big-brained land-dwelling creature"]. And since the asteroid strike seems like an even bigger fluke than evolution itself, it made sense to my young brain that most of the alien's we'll meet out in space will be dinomen, and yadda yadda. Imagine waking up after eons of dirt nap to lizard men with kindly eyes and a language like birdsong. That's a future I'd be down with.




Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Philadelphia:
Media Punching Bag vs. Reality

He was a drunk, scrawny amateur. You'd have booed him too.

CAN WE CHANGE THE SUBJECT, B-MAN? Brizoni is suddenly interested only in women, unless it's just boobs instead. His prerogative. How about I talk about something less hormonal: cities.

I really wasn't going to mention the new ascendancy of the City of Brotherly Love in the world of sports. It's just sports, right?

Then I dipped into Netflix and found a new (old) entry in the Steven Bochco legal TV series opus called Philly. Which changed my mind.

There have been multiple Bochco shows. There was Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, and then Raising the Bar. The last was especially interesting. Heroic public defenders, whose clients were often (gasp) actually innocent. Mrs. CP and I liked the show, which actually seemed to shine a light on prosecutorial ruthlessness as a bane with some mitigating circumstances.

Philly is subtly different. Not much. But enough to be noticeable.  I had to double-check that the setting for Raising the Bar was New York City, but there's no doubt, obviously, in Philly. Early on, a weaselly prosecutor admits he lives for homicide trials, and the heroine responds, "You're in the right city." In Raising the Bar, the judges are eccentric, arbitrary, and pig-headed. In Philly, they're just pigs -- lewd, gross, and ethically despicable. In Raising the Bar, an ambitious assistant prosecutor has an ill-advised affair with a cop she comes to regret because it compromises her ethics and her case. In Philly, an assistant procecutor does a plea bargain on her back with a lothario defense attorney and smiles her way to their next tryst without a second of legal conscience. In Raising the Bar, the defendants always seem to have extenuating circumstances; in Philly. they're mostly playing their attorneys for fools, unless the attorneys play them first. As the title should make clear, the real villain of the show is Philly itself. The seat of everything awful in urban America.

For the record, I don't actually dislike the show. It's probably more accurate about the state of the justice system than Raising the Bar. Cities are villains; their politics are villainous. But why is it universally okay to make Philadelphia a scapegoat for phenomena that probably exist in every major urban center? Philadelphia reliably votes Democrat to an even higher degree than New York City. Why is it okay to dump on this particular city, by name, when New York gets, for the most part, a free pass?

Which leads me to the sports connection, not to mention a link to Brizoni's theorem: "That's this week's metaphor. Red overalls: The forehead-smackingly obvious thing you can't see because you've seen it your whole life. "

All opinion-shaping media originate in New York. If America has a Rome, it's not Washington, DC, it's Manhattan. It doesn't matter where you get your news or what news you think is important. The New York Times claims to speak for the nation, but their assumption is always that New York matters more, and the alphabet networks agree. The same, not irrelevantly, with ESPN, which is far more interested in the Yankees, Mets, Jets, and Giants than anyone else, unless perhaps it's their mirror selves in Los Angeles (like the ex-Brooklyn Dodgers). You're a Fox News guy, you say? I counted three consecutive stories on Fox & Friends this morning about New York teams -- on this supposedly national show -- including Rex Ryan's new leg tatttoo (yuck) and a soprano 10-year-old calling a Mets homerun from the broadcast booth (yawn), that were more important than the Phillies being the first team in the majors to win 70 games, putting them more than 30 games over .500.

The forehead-smackingly obvious thing you all know is that Philly has the worst fans in the world. Which says something important about how low, stupid, and contemptible Philadelphians must be. They booed Santa Claus. You all know that, right? Sure you do. Because ESPN keeps reminding you, and they speak for the common fans, right? Which also means that when the mere name of Philadelphia is used as a punchline signifying low behavior and corruption, you obediently laugh, right?

Right?

This isn't about what color pants Mario is wearing. It's about what you know that just ain't so. (Meaning no disrespect to Brzioni. He teed this conversation up. My appreciation for his insight.)

I'm NOT saying that sports is the whole measure of a city. But it's at least a clue to who the people are deep down. While ESPN continues to repeat the ancient shibboleths, professional athletes are flocking to Philadelphia, even though they could mostly get more money in New York. Roy Halladay. Cliff Lee. Roy Oswalt. Nnamda (called by one analyst the Peyton Manning of defense). Vince Young. The eager baseball throwback named Hunter Pence. Why? When they could all have gone to the Big Apple for more money?

It all has to do with what Philadelphia is, and what New York, despite its pretenses, is not.

New York is Rome. Lifelong Yankee fans can't afford to see a game at the new stadium. They have empty seats. Philadelphia Phillies seats are sold out game after game after after game after game. Plilly is a set of neighborhoods that extend far beyond the city proper. We love our teams. We cheer, we boo, we care, we are knowledgeable. And we are nationwide.

Check in on any game the Phillies are playing on the road. There's always a Phillies contingent, sometimes outnumbering the locals, as in the disgraceful Marlins and Nationals franchises. But you never hear of a frightening crime like the beating that occurred in Los Angeles of a Giants fan. At every home game the Phillies play, you can see Phillies jerseys flanked by opposing team jerseys -- Mets, Pirates, whatever -- with no sign of violence. They're usually sharing a beer and, given the usual outcome, commiseration. What other city in the United States would do what Philadelphia did for Harry Kalas? That's just love, pure and simple.

And, I'll suggest to you, that's Philadelphia. Not Rome. A blue collar town. Sure, we have rich people. But they don't think they own the whole world. They're content to have been the birthplace of it all.

So why isn't New York content? Why do they insist on pissing on Philadelphia, on convincing all of you that Philly is vile?

Because Philadelphia is the nearest living proof of their hubris. A great city that doesn't put on the same airs. Our baseball stars don't date supermodels, our football stars don't shoot themselves in strip clubs, and most of our sports icons, including even the hockey players, live quietly with their wives and families in New Jersey. Just folks.

The latest wrinkle is the Phillies effect. The Eagles have Phillies-envy. For years they've been in control of the salary cap. Now they've figured out that there's a simple way to repay their indefatigable fans: Win.

Which would be what? The American Way?





Christianity


ANGLICANS 'R' US. SADLY  An odd day. Bracketed by thoughts of death and the afterlife.

I'm saddened by the fact that BalowStar no longer returns my calls. I'm pretty sure he didn't like this.

Ah well. I was never a conventional Christian. I came to it earlier than most. (Sorry, Brizoni.) (Sorry, Rob.)

Before either of you were born I was grappling with the problem of Judas. As early as the age of twelve. I couldn't figure it out. Without the betrayal, there is no crucifixion, no fulfillment of prophecy. Yet Jesus is God and Judas is man. Who is making the sacrifice here?

And so I have spent my whole life grappling with Christianity. Along the way, friends have found their own answers and turned away from me. Because they are righteous and I am somehow not. So be it.

But here's the truth of it. I may not have known whether I believed or not, but I have always had a vision of the Christ. I used to think he looked at me uniquely -- because I was young and full of myself. Now I know that all he was ever doing was giving me my own time and way to find him. Because he knew I was trying, looking, groping my way toward him.

I was cursed not with faith but intellect. This can't be so. He can't be so. Except there's no other explanation. If he didn't rise from the dead, there's no accounting for the the ascendancy of Christianity and its conquest of the world.

Stalemate. I believe, I don't believe. And yet there's no way Christianity exists at all if God didn't play his hand and change the world. Checkmate. History doesn't permit of any other interpretation. Christianity was the first and only religion Rome had to stamp out. When they couldn't, they finally embraced it.

Why I've written everything I've ever written. I've overcome the Judas problem. Christ was a quantum superposition. That this doesn't yet make me a Catholic is presumably a problem. Again. Sorry.

So today I began at six am with an on-demand viewing of the "40 Days" documentary done by the History Channel.

Meaning, what was Jesus doing in the six weeks between the resurrection and the ascension? It's a mystery. Catholics insist he was physically resurrected. The New Testament seems to indicate he was an altered, ephemeral being who could move through walls and vanish at a moment's notice. Which I can believe. But Catholics I know insist that we will all be revived, solid flesh, just as we were before. Like righteous zombies. Not buying it.

Then, sixteen hours later, I watched Bill Woodruff talk to people like himself who left their bodies and saw the afterlife, including some complacent atheists. Except you could see he wasn't buying their stories. He'd seen the divine. And he still wanted to get back to it.

In between -- from 7:30 am to 11:30 pm -- I saw the customary heartache of people fearing and avoiding death. (Yeah. Several soulless Obama speeches in there, courtesy of FNC.) The usual human condition.

You know what? I believe. Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. And without quantum physics, there is no out-of-body mind experience. Deal with it.

Doesn't mean I have to be Roman Catholic. It just means I'm a Christian. And I think He knows I'm doing my best at that. In my poor, frail, pitiful way.




Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Praxgirl

Can't talk. Learning. So much learning.

EXPANSON OF... "MIND" SPACE. I love these videos. Well, I like them. Disappointed the girl relies a bit too much on the original academic language and student-paper-speak instead of phrasing these concepts in plainer English. And though I'm fond of them, the boobs divert some of the mental energy I'd spend doing my own translating on the fly.

BUT. When I finally do parse the high-falootin-ness, I can tell she's done a masterful job of cutting down the extensive original text to its essential ideas. And I know a thing or two about editing.

Not to brag, but my world is filled with girls like this. Yours too, right?




Monday, August 01, 2011


Metaphor Monday


IMPORTANT. Mr. and Mrs. CP lost a dog this weekend. If you haven't already, read the post below this one and send some love.

EXPANSION OF MINDSPACE. I was prowling through Shuteye Town 1999 this weekend when inspiration struck. The passage to blame:

How do you think a kid like Pasco [an accomplished hacker] gets from ‘use spreadsheet’ to ‘break into a vast international software system guarded by layers of brilliantly designed security systems’?

He learns.

Yes. But how does he learn? Or more properly, how does he manage to learn by leaps and bounds, mastering bigger, more complex chunks of information with each new trial?

He builds on what he already knows and uses it to learn more.

Exactly. The principal mechanism in that process is pattern recognition. Another way to say it is that he’s a natural mapmaker. He learns the spreadsheet, but not just the keystrokes. He recognizes the pattern of the way it works. When he encounters a new program, he doesn’t approach it as a brand new subject and sit down with a stack of manuals. He pitches the manuals into the corner and goes right to work, using his own map of the conceptual terrain he’s covered in his prior experience.

The name of the mechanism he’s using is ‘metaphor.’ It’s not just a figure of speech from poetry class. It’s the single most powerful means of learning there is. This is like that. What else might be the same? What’s different? The search for pattern thrusts the mind instantaneously into the realm of manipulating brand new information. That’s why it’s infinitely superior to the preferred female learning technique of rote memorization, which is simply the filing of inert data.

Metaphor enables us to understand something new right away and to be systematic in exploring the unknown. It is far and away the most important application of pattern recognition.
­
The concept behind Metaphor Monday is simple and brilliant. If I do say so myself. And I do. Because modesty is lying.

If the Boss's theory of metaphor is right, and it is, then the more we understand, the more we can understand. The more varied the stuff in our minds, the more readily we can make sense of new stuff coming in. The more this we know, the more, and faster, that we can learn.

I propose we expand our mind space on purpose. I propose we put some theories, formulae, and stories in our heads solely for their potential conceptual value. An investment, a deposit in our memory banks.

An example: Before it slid into mere idiom, "red herring" was a potent metaphor (pun not intended, but I'll take whatever credit for it you're inclined to give). A red herring was a strong-smelling fish convicts would use to throw dogs off their scent. "Red" was distinctive because the fish got that color through the smoking and curing process that gave it said strong smell. Journalists and readers of detective fiction, when realizing a politician or writer had misdirected them, then-- to borrow Dr. Jaynes' phrase-- metaphied the idea of the red herring to describe what the malefactors had done. This-- being led to believe or expect one thing only to have a different thing be true-- is like That-- A tracking dog being made to follow one scent instead of another.

Recently I've come up with a metaphor of my own. I don't have a metaphrad-- that's the thing the metaphor is used to understand-- for it yet. But why wait?

I've been bedeviled by the art above, in one form or another, since early consciousness. If you're of a certain age, it'll stir the same feelings of nostalgia and youthful excitement in you that it does me. But take a closer look, with adult eyes:



Not... that great, is it? Love how that leg comes from the, uh, center of his torso. Uh. When we were kids, we never noticed when the box art was shoddy. Nintendo was too rad, too impressive, too legit for the thought to have even occured. But I guess the painting did the job, didn't it? To the target audience, it seemed like a noble expression of man's highest aspirations. Fat dude holding a turnip leaping many times his own height. When you're young, you don't need the symbolism explained.

Shortly after the release of Mario 2, Nintendo dispatched a staff artist ­to trace over the original painting, replace the turnip with a more iconic mushroom (because vegetables were only in Mario 2, duh), and keep the new cartoon near the top of the folder of promotional Mario images, from whence it would become the company's go-to stock Mario image. (or maybe the turnip painting came after the mushroom cartoon. Who knows)

A few months ago, I found what may be the most nostalgia-strong use of the image ever. If the Mario 2 box is nostalgia reefer, this is nostalgia crack:



From a 1989 Dr. Strange comic. Look at how much sheer past is present. The two Sears logos, one with the slogan you haven't heard or thought of since the very early 90s (is Sears still a thing? Haven't been to that corner of the mall this century). The "24hr. Toll Free" number in lieu of a website. The pre-Photoshop graphic design-- the Nintendo logo was clearly cut out by hand. The now-exorbitant prices for the games-- maybe a sealed copy of Zelda in mint condition would fetch more than 40 bucks in 2011. Maybe. I know I could get, like, twenty copies of Rambo on eBay for $34.95. They're good for skeet shooting.

Upon rediscovering this ad a few months ago, I hatched a scheme. Take ad to a good print shop, blow up to around 2 by 3 feet, sell prints online, light cigars with hundred-dollar bills for the rest of my life. Sadly, production turned out to be prohibitively expensive, and copyright law isn't quite as lenient as I thought. I never got past the first proof.



After the project ended, I framed the prototype and put it up on my living room wall. Looks sexy up there with those oversize print dots. My good buddy came over one weekend to play some Battletoads and try new beers. Naturally, he was super impressed with what I'd done. He had just one little observation. An observation that TURNED MY WORLD UPSIDE DOWN.

"Mario's overalls are the wrong color."

"Um, no they're not." "Oh, they so are." I looked again. Nothing seemed out of whack. "No, they're fine." So fine, in fact, I was getting very confused as to why he'd say they weren't. Was he trying to be funny? He usually doesn't miss the mark quite this wide. "They're blue, not red. See?" He handed me my copy of Mario Party 7.



My brain split open.

Mario has blue overalls. Has ever since, um, Mario 2. In the game, that is.



After that, on the box of Mario 3.



After that, everywhere ever since.

Of course Mario has blue overalls. Duh. DUH! Who ever heard of red overalls, anyway? But I'd been seeing that image of Mario in red for forever. I'm accustomed to it. It looks as normal and natural to me as the sky. I never, ever would have noticed the red overalls if they hadn't been pointed out to me.

That's this week's metaphor. Red overalls: The forehead-smackingly obvious thing you can't see because you've seen it your whole life.




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