Monday, June 05, 2006

Send In The Clones

And here I was trying to go and collect only one of each, with the occasional double of a trooper or guard! When I saw this photo of some other guy's collection I had two thoughts:

1. So that's why you can't find Clone Trooper figures in retail stores!!!!

2. I'm just not obsessive enough!!!

(and I've gotta borrow a digital camera from someone soon so I can update and post pics from my own rapidly increasing collection. See a couple photos from waaaaaay back in February. It's at least doubled since then! Do I sound like a proud father or what!?)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Au Naturel!

Thanks to Blog Monkey I suddenly feel inspired to post after a long absence! Seems the "Controversial One" has once again stirred up the mud puddle that is our lives and away we go! I was going to post this as a comment to his post but found it started getting too long and got me thinking and writing passionately on a subject upon which I've mediated from time to time over the years. So it starts kind of like a comment to his post which maybe you should read before this:

Totally agree with what you're saying. If the drives are there they must be understood so that they can be managed without guilt. But, as with so many other human impulses and tendencies, I think we have a kind of knee-jerk reaction to hard-to-deal with aspects of humanity that says something like, "If it's natural, then there must be a way to let it work itself out naturally, after all, it's only natural". And nobody stops to ask what the hell we mean by "natural" and where our concept of it comes from? Not that I think this is your [Blog Monkey's] problem, just that this topic could end up going down this slippery slope of sloppy thinking, which is why it scares people (though that's no excuse not to tackle it head on of course! All the more reason....)

We often forget, conveniently so, that as human beings our ability to reflect and reason is one of our most extraordinary evolutionary achievements (if it can be called that). It is a human necessity to take responsibility for our abilities and the actions to which they can lead. As our actions, as we know, can have incredible consequences for life on earth, this should be a moral imperative with no exceptions. Never ever ever. I think the tendency humans have of taking a somewhat under-explored notion of "nature/natural" and applying it to human drives can be dangerous. Not that it's not true (that they are natural and not manufactured in a lab in the Antarctic) it's just that our unique situation, what with language and reason and writing and meaning and our ability to reflect and go deeper than mere stimuli/response relationships with each other and the world, adds a certain something to the pot. Our evolutionary gift is this higher intelligence. Do we use it fully yet? No, obviously. Why? Not sure exactly, probably easier not to, or to let a few leader-types use it for us even though they might only be using it for their gain at our expense, and the expense of the planet as a whole. Humanity's biggest problem is that it does not accept and acknowledge that our "nature" is to have to use our intelligence as close to fully as we can in order to survive as a species. I think we knew this before, way back when our situation was a bit more desperate on the day-to-day level. But we've (the West) have hit this comfortable blip on the radar that is humanity's past, present and future existence on this orb and for some reason, because we don't reflect enough and most often look at the situation from our limited and unexamined point of view, we don't see that our current way of thinking and the actions it leads to is slowly but surely destroying the very possibility of survival in the long term. Our intelligence could be used to guide us along easily through life if we took the responsibility and made the effort. We could have by now accepted the way the ecosystem is balanced and worked intelligently to sustain it and ourselves for millennia to come. In a way, I think this is exactly what humanity is trying to work out in recent history, as we strive to disburden ourselves of superstitious restraints such as organized and misguided religions, despotism and, to some extent, though god knows it's damn hard, materialism. Another interesting point is that often when scoffers are pushed to respond to the "what if" scenario of the Earth becoming uninhabitable, their defense is to actually call up a faith in our intelligence and our ability to "find the solution through science and invention and technology". Interesting because it is an admission that our greatest gift is our intelligence, sad because it puts off using it to the brink of collapse.

So what is natural for a human being? Is making conscious and conscientious decisions with much reflection and a sense of responsibility and duty to our intelligence not natural? It may not seem so because it does not happen to us as automatically as breathing or a heartbeat, or, an erection for that matter (for that percentage of humanity that can have one, you know who you are!), but I think this is only because of an ill-defined concept of nature infected with a carryover attitude from humanity's pre-scientific and more religious years when we thought of our intelligence as reflecting something above and beyond nature, something that had affinities only with the gods.

So how the heck does this jive with Blog Monkey's topic of discussion? Well, I'm just saying that to keep the debate intelligent I think we have to remember that the scariness factor comes from past examples of humanity using the idea of "well it's only natural" to justify all kinds of horrible things, like injustice, war and genocide. So if we've got these "Throbbing Biological Urges" (to quote the Simpsons), we've still got to realize that our intelligence can come into play to find a way to give them healthy and just outlets that will not harm others.

It's time humanity gave intelligence its due. And it's high time we see it as our prime ability for survival. Think of it as our wings, our jaws, our gills, or our powerful hind legs, whatever analogy works for ya!

Friday, May 19, 2006

In case yer checkin'

I'm alive.

I'm just kinda busy, kinda in a weird head-space, not feelin' like writin' much lately, nor reading much for that matter.

No offense to anyone.

Just watching a lot of TV in DVD format lately [Lost, Buffy, Angel] and waiting for quick and terrifying bugs to start showing up unannounced and just on the outskirts of my peripheral vision, what with spring having sprung and all. Also, my daughter is terribly two and suddenly no longer sweet and adorable 95 percent of the time. Had to drag her kicking and screaming from a Walmart last night (and I never go to Walmart so I consider this a punishment from above for being so conveniently amoral).

Wow, this is almost a post.

Friday, March 31, 2006


James Lovelock thinks it's too late. Gaia is sick, maybe dying. Nothing we can do, anything that could have been done would have had to be undertaken 50 years ago back when we knew too little (or ignored what could have helped us). Got this from an interview with him on CBC for his new book, The Revenge of Gaia.

Anyway, it made me wonder about something, thought I'd throw it out there.

Is it possible that the birth of science fiction or any literature concerned with the future came about when something in us clicked and we knew, instinctively, that we are without a future, that a future for us as a species is now impossible? To stave off insanity we had to imagine ourselves projected into fantasy times yet to come so that at least the life of the mind could experience a type of transgression of our limits.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure this isn't the case and that the birth of science fiction had more to do with ideas of progress and the amount of change in the cultural landscape (and the actual physical landscape) an individual human began to witness in their own life time at the dawn of the industrial revolution. Still, it is intriguing to wonder if there was more to it than that given what is happening around us today, how any of our imagined futures seem impossible and unrealisable. I wouldn't put it past our more instinctive animal brains to have subconsciously seen this before we could realise it consciously. Maybe it was even meant as a warning, the only one we would psychologically allow to manifest from our own pens.
After all, much sci-fi is concerned with apocalyptic or dystopian futures and rarely something to be admired and striven for. So maybe, just maybe, we had ample warning from the depths of our imaginations. Or maybe I'm just a flake. But I like the way it sounds to say we had to dream ourselves a future since we were destined to be without one.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I Like James Taylor....

Driving home very late, listening to his Sweet Baby James album and fuck you I don't care what you think! Yeah maybe I'm singing right along or maybe I'm not. Not really any of your business. But there are certain songs on there that make me wish we were all stuck in the seventies forever! And this is a weird kind of nostalgia because I never heard him much when I was young during that actual decade. My parents never had any of his albums, whatever I heard must have been playing on my hometown radio station, between "The Open Line" and "Dial-A-Deal". Regardless, when I listen to those songs I am touched by the voice of that time, a recent time, one that seemed to be moving towards recognizing what it meant to simply "be in the world". A time when perhaps there was still hope and you could just look out the window of your car on a road trip and see the world in all its mysterious glory and feel confident in assuming there would always be a tomorrow.

Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Lord, the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go

Who the hell can write and sing that today without having it ring false somehow? There seems to be something so unpretentious about it all, something that puts faith in the common experience and lets it speak for itself.

Convinced? Whatever. Maybe tomorrow I'll see a map to world peace hidden in a Scorpions ballad. Sue me.

[And by the way, for a real treat, check out Two-Lane Blacktop, the film by Monte Hellman starring baby James himself as a practically mute drag racer alongside his mechanic friend played by the late Beach Boy Dennis Wilson (who died diving off his boat while drunk and wearing jeans, or so I've heard). A purer film has not been made, ever.]

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Do We Need the "Current State of Affairs" to have what we have?

Once and for all I want to know if all the "bad" of industrial society is really necessary to have all the "good things" (such as medicine, shelter, food, books, and even our technology of convenience, such as cars, elevators, trains, planes, telephones, internet)? It is often assumed, even stated, that the modern world, its luxuries and conveniences and life-enhancements, both in quality and quantity, could not exist without industrial capitalism and the way it currently operates. Is this true? This is a fundamental question that our societies must address (should already have addressed by now, actually). Ignoring the very notion for the time being that our "improvements and betterments" to living may actually lead to worse and meaningless modes of existence, ie the benefits we enjoy pale in comparison to the quality of a perhaps shorter but more meaningful existence that could exist in a world that had less convenience, less medicine, fewer all-consuming machines and minds, is there not a way to keep all these improvements but in such a way that the world and humanity actually sustain themselves indefinitely, and even repair the damage done? Is there not a way capitalism, or a system like it, could work more sustainably ? Has anyone read anything along these lines? An analysis of aspects of the current state of affairs and whether or not a change in it is possible and if so what might be sacrificed that we currently think we cannot live without? It is a forgone conclusion that even if the answer is "YES", that we can change the way our societies function but still keep the machines, keep money, etc (ie is the true problem shortsighted leaders and spineless, greedy corporate kings using a system to their advantage alone at the expense of the future?), that I would like to think we can still consider other options. But my sneaking suspicion is that we can do all we do currently and more and for longer, more sustainably and more fairly with a tweaked, better-guided, farther-looking approach that would only upset the minority that currently benefit in a massively disproportionate way. Anyone read any good books on this subject?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Commuting Thoughts 3: Law and Justice, Past, Present and Future

I've been reading Ronald Wright's Stolen Continents: The "New World" Through Indian Eyes, mostly while riding the subway to and from work. It is a very healthy, though often painful, antidote to all the propaganda we've been force fed about the European invasion of the America's and the continuation of those same attitudes and practices to this day. (I'm going to do more research and post stuff on Canada's hushed-up, extremely recent abuse of their indigenous populations, what I've read so far has made me ashamed to be associated with the government of this country and I don't care if that smacks of it treason when you're expected to pledge allegiance to criminals and subtle despots?)


One question that has come up in my reflecting upon Wright's work is how justice can be applied to the problem of past, sometimes long past, atrocities (and not even just atrocities but I'll get to that in a moment). I've been exposed to the rhetoric for years now about how we cannot be held accountable for the sins of our fathers, how we cannot and should not feel guilt over what has happened in the past since we weren't there perpetrating it with our own hands upon entire, healthy and fully functioning civilizations and how those of the past "didn't know any better". But for me these convenient truisms have never rung, well, true. It hasn't rung true not only because, to this day, the two sides of this conflict have continued to either benefit or suffer disproportionately because of those past actions, not only because a little deeper reading reveals that one culture was allowed to so devalue another that it could hate and destroy it, treat it as so inferior that it could make and break "binding" treaties on a whim, justify it as good for the other side, claiming the other side was too "ignorant" to understand this. What bothers me on a more fundamental level is that I still feel there needs to be some way of making "something" accountable for past acts of barbarism, avarice (of absolutely insane proportions), manipulation, distortion, cruelty, slaughter and lies. If it only takes a few years for such crimes to become mere myths, rumours, "whatevers", or worse, justifiable, then what good are the concepts of law and justice to human societies in the first place?

It is about the larger question of responsibility and hinges on our understanding of something like an action/time dynamic. Does a certain quantity of time take away our ability to judge something criminal, unjust or immoral and to attempt retribution? If so, how much time is sufficient and to what infallible, universally comprehensible logic can we turn in order to calculate the quantity and justify our decision? If it is merely based on the longevity of those who carried out the unjust actions, then what are we to do with the ramifications their actions have had upon the descendents of the contemporaneous parties involved? Can justice only be meted out if the perpetrators are amongst the living? If we do decide, rather callously and much too lazily for my tastes, that this is to be the basis of how we know when we can stop seeking justice for crimes, then the winners are always justified no matter how they win as long as enough time passes before anyone successfully brings them to justice in the present. Basically, this is a childish, if you can squeak by and not get caught mentality then you're home-free! If we allow this, how can we expect to turn to history to learn from past mistakes? What is history actually teaching us if we allow this continue to be the normal order of things? Does it not teach that, given enough time, anything is justifiable? This is a very real and slippery slope, one that we have already been sliding down for some time now. For if the past can have its criminality erased then the present and future are also susceptible to being "justified" with a similar logic. The logic might go something like this: If in the past our ancestors did "X" and even though we see that though "X" was bad, we can say they didn't know any better or that it was done based on some vague, unexamined notion of "simple human nature", and we admit that our action today, "Y", is similar to "X" (though perhaps apparently we see differences that to us make it more justifiable), then doing "Y", though it may involve ignoring laws and morality, can be done and cannot really be punished since "X" can has been forgiven and time will let the crimes severity diminish and fade. And what's to stop the "X", "Y's" and even "Z's" of tomorrow from also being necessary and ultimately forgivable such that we start to lose recourse to precedent and the insurmountability of laws and the concept of justice? We begin to start to feel complacent about injustice knowing that history will not judge us too harshly.

The ideas of Law and Justice need to be better understood and comprehended even (or especially) by the common citizen. As social beings it is our duty to uphold and keep honest and incorruptible such institutions that seek to protect us from ourselves and our weaknesses. Laws are supposed to be thought out, created and written down in what we could call our better times, at the moments in the lives as societies when we are best able to reflect, think and critique human actions and decide, well in advance or in response to a recent injustice, a way of delineating what is right and wrong and how those who refuse to obey these delineations will be dealt with. This is meant to prevent situational ethics, to defend against the abuse of power by disallowing in advance the mutability of law and the concept of justice. This is not just an intellectual exercise, this has the most practical fallout in all aspects of our individual lives. Just look at what is occurring in the USA right now. The Patriot Act seeks to bypass or even usurp laws and the Constitution because of "the current situation", one that is spoken of as if it was something completely new and unforeseen, something with which the laws of the past cannot adequately deal. This is, of course, rhetoric said and disguised as thoughtful, insightful discourse. Leaders have used the fear of "threat" for centuries in order to justify their actions even at the expense of the basic needs of the citizenry.

There are of course problems with an overly simple concept of Law and Justice. If taken as too simple it can easily be abused while seemingly being upheld. The creation of the Patriot Act, for example, is just such a case. It could be viewed as a calm and measured response to a recent injustice as if from a "better time", post the actual days on and around September 11th, 2001. But if there was a more general and better understanding of how individual laws have functioned to protect rights and how a law should not be easily overturned without an incredible amount of evidence and overwhelming support to do so. Otherwise, laws are temporary, fleeting and easily changed based on the apparent, real or imagined, needs of any given situation (and we all know how much human beings like to take advantage of 'situations'). The laws that have protected rights must be upheld no matter what the situation. To operate within their boundaries must be the highest priority and worked at exhaustively. This requires real and actual leadership, seeking not simple, band-aid and potentially dangerous "modifications" to current laws, but the most intelligent and measured response in accordance with Law and Justice. We should learn to immediately fear and end any government or body that claims the need for a quick and easy solution that undermines the foundations of society by circumventing current, entrenched laws and rights. Their actions should be instantly considered treasonous.

The problem of how to maintain a state of justice and seek retribution to the descendents of past atrocities is also complicated by the fact that it is difficult to come up with material and monetary quantities that could be seen as adequately compensating or, worse, that would somehow, again, work negatively to erase the severity and abhorrent nature of the past crimes by somehow canceling them with sufficient funds. Also, at what point does one stop seeking to be compensated for ancient decisions? If I find that a great great great uncle had a castle in England and was murdered and had it stolen from him by someone whose descendents happen to still be living in the lap of luxury because of it, while I'm now working menial 9 to 5 jobs (as have all my ancestors since), can we seek retribution from the present day descendents of the murderous thief? I admit, this is a sticky situation but we should not shy away from it for such reasons. Humanity needs to take responsibility for the problems it has created for itself. We need to know that effort is required and not quick fixes. We also need to be able to judge the severity of past crimes and current fallout. For example, in the scenario I gave, have I truly been put in a position that has crushed my soul, blocked my ability to enjoy rights and freedoms? No, not really. I still have my culture intact, I still have strong standing in a community and do not experience the irrational fist of prejudice on a daily basis. In the case of past atrocities and injustices committed against aboriginal populations, these crimes have far more damaging ramifications to this day. Racism, inferior status, continued lying and manipulation, attempts to eradicate entire cultures and civilizations. There is a major difference here, I think.

An appropriate quote quoted in Wright's book to end this:

(this concerns events around 1838 when Cherokees were being forced to be resettled, yet again):

"When removal came, they argued that Treaty of Echota did not apply to them, as they were North Carolina citizens. Their leader, old Yonaguska, or Drowning Bear, was said to be the finest speaker of his time....When Boudinot's Bible came out in Sequoyan script [a form of writing created by the Cherokees after colonial contact], Yonaguska listed to a chapter or two and remarked, 'Well, it seems to be a good book - strange that the white people are not better, after having had it so long'."