Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The New Yorker online is doing a user generated content cartoon thingy called The Cartoon Kit.
A real cartoonist creates a template situation (last months' was a desert Island) and several characters and objects that you can click and drag over to the template - and a place to write in your caption.
Here's mine from today.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
@stoweboyd reports from Twitter that the Washington D.C. area snowstorm has dropped 15" by 7:45 AM.
And it doesn't look like that storm is going anywhere, according to my read of the weather data from the University of Wisconsin ssec visualization portal:
Friday, December 18, 2009
I built a community of individuals on Twitter that are interested in the same things I am. (Cosmology, Web 2.0, Cycling, Enlightened Community Building, Baseball, Media, Art, Comedy, Environment...). I did it slowly, day by day over several months. I like my Time-line; it's become a news, entertainment and study hub.
Email notifications from Twitter inform me when people choose to follow me. I vet who I want to follow by checking their time-line, and the link to their web site if they have one. I either follow or not. In order that I have a time-line outside of twitter, I store all those notifications in my email storage. Sometimes you can't tell whether or not you want to follow, so you follow to see what happens. If they're boring, stupid, negative, annoyingly insecure over time, I 'unfollow' them.
Marketers use Twitter Search to find keywords in your tweets in order to market stuff at you in twitter, and the greater economy. There are services out there that say they can get you 30,000 follows in a week. These aren't directed at insecure facebook type friend-accumulating drones, but towards small start-up companies, usually one person, who think they can aggregate customers for sellers through Twitter.
It's all very annoying.
Also out there in Twitter-land are political movements who are networking in the best traditions of the Mastermind Karl Rove, the architect of the neo-conservative movement that elected Reagan, Bush l, and Bush ll. The same people who brought you the Iraq War, the Financial Collapse, data-mining of your electronic communications and the destruction of New Orleans are now networking with Twitter's "FollowFridays" to change Congress in 2010, and stop Obama's progressive agenda.
FollowFridays was started by the Twitter community. On Fridays people compile lists of interesting new 'follows' and bundle them together in a Tweet to a friend, and to a 'Twitter List' called #FF (List: FollowFriday).
The neo-con look to be using #FF effectively to re-organize after the Republican split leading up to the 2008 election and later. Small c conservatives and the left of the democratic party have to get organized in this same way in order the prevent these Straussian relativists from gaining enough power to neutralize Obama in the midterm elections.
A couple of days ago I received a twitter notification email from Daniel Audet a Radio host on a online radio program called TruckStar Radio.
It's like Rush Limbaugh. Relativism is the rule: thought association metrics are employed, ironical associations that don't make any sense become rules of thumb in a 'think set', (akin to worship) that are used to unite a subculture and create a community of intolerance to the outside of the group. Us and Them politics (kinda like wars that are started to distract whole cultures from social problems).
Today I watched an organized group of ultra-rightists namely the Tea Party movement networking using Twitters FriendFriday, 'TruckStar Radio' and an evangelical radio web cast represented in Twitter by @CovenantTab.
First an inflammatory Tweet is posted with a tag to a list. These are 7 of the lists I found in and around the TeaParty organizing: #prolife, #abortion, #tcot, #healthcare, #hcr #TeaParty.
Here's an example of a TeaParty Tweet:
At the list page I found the context is, President Obama is either a socialist or a communist, and the economic collapse we're in the midst of is caused by the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
I looked up the quote in the tweet and it's actually listed in all those quote compendiums and at About.com. Can't find the context though - book, article, essay or interview - just seems to be out there (perhaps someone who knows their Mailer could leave a comment).
I'm following Mr. Audet because I thought TruckStar Radio would play Gram Parsons - so when he ReTweets @BryanLongworth's inflammatory Tweet above, I figure I'll make a joke referencing the cliche that all writers are constantly in pain, as it goes with the craft:
A few minutes later in my time-line I see my name in a #FF Tweet bundle. Here is a screen shot of it; I had to go and find it again in Twitter Search.
(The two lower tweets are the history of the conversation in a drop-down window.)
Right off I'm thinking my pro-socialist retort may be getting me on a list of targets. That 'Thanks' at the end, I start to think, looks more like a threat (Social-networking-induced-self importance-psychosis - there'll be a pill for it soon).
By clicking on the other addresses though, it turns out it's just a list of everyone whos retweeted the original. This data base is being sent to all the #lists at the end of the post. Below, CovenantTab has just received four bundles of twitter addresses.
Don't know if the grassroots movement that elected Obama are organizing using Twitter, but they had better.
With out a strong grass root movement Obama won't be able to get a single thing through a Congress that is rife with corruption, K-street lobbyists, and pork barrel politics. If Senators and Representatives don't have political lobbies by the people pushing them, they'll vote to benefit themselves and/or the corrupt centre of the party. This is the reality of the military industrial dominated economy President Eisenhower warned about in his Military Industrial Complex Speech in 1960.
It's up to us, the battle lines are being drawn right now, in Twitter.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
It didn't snow much, but the flakes gently falling last night reminded me of winters before the warming. The farmers Almanac says it's going to be a cold one this year. Average temperatures seem lower than we've been used to in Toronto over the last ten years.
(Early this morning Ian Harper the CEO of BradField Productions, left a kind comment at the bottom of this piece correcting several omissions. BradField Productions is the Producer of author Kate Pullingers' 'Inanimate Alice' an "Interactive Narrative" multi-media novel. The Interactive Narrative is a new form of story telling that creates a revolutionary new experience for the reader.
I think this is an important new form, the tip of the iceberg of what story telling will become in many kinds of media in the near future.
In my take below - by missing the producers behind the stories - I missed the story, the importance of new forms that are disrupting old ways humans communicate and grow culture.
I also missed pointing you to Kate Pullingers' web site, where the novel is in progress. Parts 1 through 4 are done and available here; parts 5 through 10 are in production. Kate Pullinger also has a facebook page.
So - as I badly missed my own point here - I intend to write another piece, specifically on this new story form being spearheaded by Ian Harper and BradField Productions, "The Interactive Narrative", coming soon.
December 17, 2009)
Tonight I watched "Empire of the Word - The Future of Reading", broadcast on TVOntario, the Provincial Public Broadcaster known 'round here as TVO. You can watch the entire series hosted by the great linguist Alberto Manguel, online at TVO.org. This is a link to Episode One.
Episode Four is the forth and final chapter of the series. Tonights was a journey into the very near future, e-books, the Google Books Project, iPod, the Kindle; a view just over the horizon, the future of reading.
One of the most interesting elements in tonights show was a project I hadn't heard of before but that has been in production since 2005 called the Electronic Literature Collection.
This years winner of The Governor General’s Award for Fiction, Kate Pullinger (for The Mistress of Nothing) is the author of one of the electronic interactive narratives. A 'flash story book' for children or young adults called "Inanimate Alice". It was featured in tonights "Empire of the Word", and it sent me diving for my keyboard.
The 'over leaf' says,
"This narrative, produced in Flash, follows a young girl whose life is mediated by technology during a day of family unrest when her father is lost..."The story is interactive and has a sound track only a young person could love. In several places the story doesn't have the >> icon that means 'turn the page', instead your asked to solve a puzzle - when done - it's on to the next page. Music and pop-up windows establishes place, time of day and the feel of driving in the desolate bush country of oil rich northern China.
At the link below, "eliterature.org" is creating a collection of 'Electronic Literature'. In the upper left and right-hand corners on the page are black icons, story titles to go backwards or forwards, to more e-literature.
Here's some screen shots that will peak your interest. Episode one for the Electronic Literature Collection is at, Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China by Kate Pullinger and electronic artist, Chris Joseph. Bradfield Productions has the series so far at 'Inanimate Alice'.
(Right click ---> open in new tab, for a full screen view.)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
After some articles are 'put to bed' at FilterBlogs they get a "Posthumous Long tail Aperitif" (PHLA); links to related articles published after my original post.
PHLA for May 17, 2010: Tonight, I watched the PBS presentation of "Independent Lens" in which they broadcast the documentary, "THE HORSE BOY".
The description under the trailer in Youtube reads in part,"ZeitgeistFilms How far would you travel to heal someone you love? An intensely personal yet epic spiritual journey, The Horse Boy follows one Texas couple and their autistic son as they trek on horseback through Outer Mongolia in a desperate attempt to treat his condition with shamanic healing. When two-year-old Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson, a writer and former horse trainer, and his wife Kristin Neff, a psychology professor, sought the best possible medical care for their son—but traditional therapies had little effect. Then they discovered that Rowan has a profound affinity for animals—particularly horses—and the family set off on a quest for a possible cure."
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I wrote this piece on December 7, 2009, the day rescuers found James. I decided to with-hold it until the next day because it's quite hard hitting, and I thought it would be disrespectful to publish while James Delorey's life hung in the balance. Sadly the news the next morning was of his passing rather than his recovery - as such I decided to hold the piece until after the funeral, plus one day.
A funeral for James Delorey was held on Monday December 14th at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Whitney Pier. Chance the heroic dog, was in attendance. Chris Shannon of the Cape Breton Post was there.
James Delorey is survived by his bother Jessie, his mother Veronica Fraser, and his father Jason Delorey. My sincere condolences to the family, their friends and all James's class-mates and teachers.
Monday, December 7, 2009:
(My take on what autism is may be different from the opinions of some doctors and some parents of autistic children.
I believe autistic children are far smarter than we realize and are coping with our neurotic, hypocritical culture as best they can; which is not well. The dominant culture unconsciously "pulls back" those who go too far out in front. The brilliance of these children causes them to create thinking structures that are different, and at odds with the general perception of things - these delicate constructs are destroyed by the dominant culture's 'normal' ways of thinking. In some cases these exceptional children cope by turning 'off' the irreconcilable data streams. Some choose to leave aside what seems to them to be unimportant skills - like talking - until later.
My take on the intelligence and consciousness of dogs may also differ from many - as you will see...)
I woke this morning to the CBC radio news report that the Delorey family dog had returned home. Like everyone, I hoped it meant the boy was still alive, and that the dog would lead searchers back to the boy who had been missing since Saturday the 5th of December. I was elated when it was announced at a news conference at 4:00 PM that the boy had been found.
As I researched the story all that day I was appalled by the lack of understanding of dogs and autism by those reporting the story and the seeming lack of 'bush smarts' evidenced by actions of the juggernaut of rescue experts.
The phrase "..the boy followed his dog into the woods..." is repeated in many pieces published about this story - it's imagery from the Brothers Grimm fairy-tale, Hansel and Gretel. It is repeated without comment from a Canadian Press piece in which the idea first appeares. It implies that the seven year old James Delorey - who has been diagnosed autistic - must therefore be a moron, and that he blindly follows his 'mixed breed' dog wherever he wanders.
Like a boy and his dog have never before gone exploring in the woods.
Nancy King, writing for the The Cape Breton Post, leaves the offensive idea to the bottom of her take. CBC Nova Scotia also deemphasized the imagery. All the other papers I've read don't have budgets for actual reporting, they simply republished the Canadian Press piece or have so-called writers
James Delorey's is not a moron, he's a boy who watches Sesame Street - a childrens' show that helped educate several very smart generations - and who's favourite music is U2 - a band that uses complex counter point and overtones in it's compositions - qualities that many 'normal' kids in this low-quality-mp3-generation can't hear.
This boy is as normal as any other seven year old except the fact he has chosen not to speak, and with all the human stupidity around this story, the kids' decision seems smarter and smarter at every turn.
Reporting for the The Cape Breton Post, Nancy King writes,
"After Delorey was found, it took about 90 minutes to transport him 400 metres through heavy brush to where a LifeFlight helicopter was able to touch down. It’s believed he was unconscious when he was found."
The boy was found 1.3 kilometres from his home, just off a trail leading directly to his back yard. The "safety" bureaucracy decided to bring stretcher loads of equipment and a dozen experts into dense bush. Next the 'experts' decided to transport the boy through dense bush to a helicopter landing spot 400 metres away. It took them four hours to get the boy through that bush - over very dangerous ground to carry someone on a stretcher.
From the CBC Nova Scotia piece titled, " Rescuers Fly Cape Breton Boy to Hospital":
"Nearly four hours after being discovered, the boy was airlifted to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. With the paramedics doing their job and getting the 400 metres to where the chopper landed, it took an extreme amount of time and a lot of effort on their part to extract him from the area he was located," said Const. Kenny Routledge."
If they'd carried him out along the trail the boy had walked in on, they could have gotten him to a warm house in thirty minutes. He'd have been warming with his family while the bureaucrats met to decide whether to ask his parents if they wanted him transported to the local hospital 11 km away or by helicopter to Halifax, 310 km away.
Anyone who grew up in a rural area knows this stupid bunch of city slicker rescuers probably added more than three hours to the boy's time in the cold with their politically correct nincompoop bumbling.
Michael MacDonald for Canadian Press wrote:
"His dog, a mixed-breed named Chance, had emerged from the marshy forest north of Sydney about two hours earlier, spurring searchers to redouble their efforts to find the little boy." What that REALLY means is '..spurring searchers to follow the dogs tracks back to the boy'. But of coarse it can't be so simple; they had to call in a professional tracker to follow the dogs path, prints of a dog they had on hand.
As well it didn't occur to organizers that they simply had find one 'dog person' in the whole buffoonery of know-it-alls - or perhaps the boys mother or father - and have the animal lead them to the spot where the the good dog had left his best friend to go find help.
Nancy King writes, "In all, nine search-and-rescue teams from across the province contributed to the rescue effort, as well as hundreds of volunteers."
Common sense is common in South Bar Nova Scotia I'll bet, but it looks as though the safety infrastructure couldn't harness it, instead they lead like Kings, and covered their mistakes by calling in the next level of bureaucratic buck passers.
Tera Camus, Sherri Borden Colley and Laura Fraser Staff Reporters for The ChronicleHerald.ca wrote:
"The community has rallied in support of James and his dog, turning out in the hundreds to search. More than 26,000 people joined the Facebook group "Bring 7 year old James Delorey home safe!!", leaving messages of hope for his family and volunteers."
In the comment section of the CBC Nova Scotia story, "KevinBrown2009" wrote in response to another readers take:
(Posted 2009/12/08 at 1:57 AM ET)
"Thinking maybe the dog knew it was time to get help."
"ABSOLUTELY! Dogs KNOW when things are not right and the are VERY protective of children. I saw a News report tonight that said the dog always followed the boy around even though the boy was not particularly fond of the dog. Obviously the dog has STRONG protective instincts (as most do). It kept the boy warm until it realized that the boy was in trouble. At that time I have no doubt the dog decided to go get help which lead to the rescue of the boy. Dogs truly are mans best friend!"
James Delorey is recovering at the Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre in Halifax Nova Scotia.
FilterBlogs UPDATE: 10:15 AM DEC. 8, 2009
James Delorey passed away "..due to injuries he suffered during his time in the woods." CBC Radio reported in it's 10:00 AM ET Tuesday December 8, 2009 national news broadcast quoting a statement released at a news conference at the IWK Health Centre.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
CBC Nova Scotia did a nice follow-up piece on how the community was coping with the roller coaster of emotions that the town and the whole country experienced. James' school mates wrote letters of condolences to the Delorey family, part of a way of coping with the tragedy.
School consoler Tina Kennedy-Lohnes said,
"They're gone up and they're gone way down with this whole event and it's really bothered them. And having a vehicle to write about it and actually do something is therapeutic and it just gives them hope they have actually done something."
Later in the same story:
"We felt sad about James so we wrote a letter saying that we are sorry that one of your schoolmates passed away," explained student Nathan Harris. "We were praying that he will live and I was happy when they found him, but then I was sad when he died."
I agree with what Nathan said, and my writing reflects that - but I felt I had some important things to say about the way this story was reported and more importantly about the way rescue officials conducted the operation.
After some articles are put to bed at FilterBlogs they get a Posthumous Longtail Aperitif (PLA); links to related articles published after my original post
PLA - I've updated this 'How To': Friday, April 23, 2010 Facebook's "Instant Personalization" aggregates User Data to Producers and Marketers. Facebook has changed they're privacy settings again, again to keep up with the links Twitter and other social networks are creating that are getting hits in search.
"Marketing companies are data mining with these applications to create maps of you, your family, your friends families and their friends families friends - a data base of their incomes, likes, dislikes, political and sexual, dispositions - all aimed at selling you stuff (or as I like to say, giving you garbage in exchange for the great legacy of your fore-bearers)."This article is a follow-up to a rant I published, "Facebook's Privacy Settings Very Un'friend'ly" which was about how facebook makes it really hard to figure out what going on around there.
This piece - takes you along on my journey of discovery - with screen shots - on how to set every settable parameter that effects your privacy on facebook.
Wired Magazine has a good post by Ryan Singel about how facebooks new privacy tutorial pop-up page is designed to keep your information flowing freely around the internet.
TechCrunch also has a good post by Jason Kincaid.
Knowledge is power; here is some.
(all screen shots enlarge - for a better view, right click ---> open in new tab.)
In the article I wrote two days ago about facebooks privacy settings I said that,
"with all the talk about the new privacy settings page - forced on facebook in part by the Canadian Privacy Commissioners dictate of July 2009 - I went back to facebook in order to block that application..."
Well, I blocked Tom Wait's Magic Trunk's access to my data. But it was not in the "Applications Settings" page where I looked a couple of days ago - instead it was 'hiding' in the right hand sidebar element labelled "Requests". I clicked "see all" and facebook opened a new page, the pending requests page. The page doesn't actually have a title, which is common in facebook, its address in the address bar ends: "../reqs.php".
Some months earlier I accepted a friends request to try the application, but strangely the pending request was still in the list. So today I clicked it, and then went to my "Application Settings" page, and there it was - so I blocked it - as you can see in the screen shot below.
The information the application had already accessed (and to which I had agreed to); is already out there on the internet, there's no way to put it 'back in the bottle'.
This is the facebook "Application Settings" page.
As you can see, I've blocked the Tom Waits application (after the horse has left the barn).
I am a journalist and have been acting that way from the first time I posted an entry to a blog six years ago, as such I use my real name. Lately I've actually been trying to give Google more of my information, to see where this 'recommended for you' thing is going. As well, I would rather know what Google knows about me rather than wonder about it. I want to be completely transparent because if I find myself in court one day, I'll have a record of the same information about my internet use as anyone else on earth could possibly have. That evens the playing field if a prosecutor (persecutor) tried to spin my data against me - I could counter spin it, back to the truth.
The fact of the matter is, if you've been using the same computer *alone* for a period of time, the google link-cloud has a 'fingerprint' of your search behaviour - even if you switch computers or use a mirror site (and thus show a different IP address) - Google Search will recognize that it's you very quickly. You can't hide (except in a crowd of users).
Facebook, and all other social networking applications work better the more people use them and, they become a better experience for the user the more data that users add.
What I'm going to show you next about the privacy settings in facebook therefore, facebook doesn't want you to know. Seemingly your clear knowledge of how facebook works is bad for the application, and bad for business.
I think not.
This next page is my "Profile Page"with all settings in extreme privacy mode. All the settings I could - with the "Customize"option beside each category on the "Privacy Settings" page - set to "Only Me". This took me about 50 clicks, and about 10 minutes work once I figured it out.
Below is a preview facebook showed me, with everything set to "Only Me". The way it "looks to most people on facebook". The 'required' settings left only 5 categories viewable by "Only My Friends".
(Notice this nice ads in the side bar that annoy me to no end.)
Next is the "Privacy Settings Contact Information" page. This is the page where I did all the clicking in the "Customize" options window - to change the settings from "Everyone" to, "Only Me". The screen shot shows the "Customize" pop-up window open, I've just adjusted the "Hometown" category to "Only Me" - working my way down the list on the left.
The last page you should know about is a settings page called "Application and Websites" that allows you to determine "what information your friends can share about you through application and websites". In the screen shot all are set to wide open. Everyone who I've labelled a 'friend' can access all my info when playing those games or taking those quizzes.
Marketing companies are data mining with these applications to create maps of you, your family, your friends families and their friends families friends - a data base of their incomes, likes, dislikes, political and sexual, dispositions - all aimed at selling you stuff (or as I like to say, giving you garbage in exchange for the great legacy of your fore-bearers).
Which reminds me, I got to go back to facebook and un-check some elements!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The absolutely magnificent grandeur of the Alberta Tar Sands Project demands you take a step back in order to take it all in, way back, and way up Rusty, way up.
Here are some aerial photographs of the Alberta Tar Sands Project that I was able to find on the web, created by three different photographers: Essick, Helbig & Burtynsky
(All images can be enlarged by clicking them.)
Peter Essick, working for National Geographic, created these and many more - which appear at the National Geographic site.
And to compare...
Louis HelbigBeautiful Destruction - Alberta Tar Sands Aerial Photographs
Kristin Reimer and Louis Helbig flew their 1946 Luscombe Bush Plane east to west across Canada. One of their destinations was Fort McMurray and the Alberta Tar Sands which Louis wanted to photograph from the sky. They've put up a public gallery.
Louis Helbig has several gallery exhibits up coming. Right now Snapdragon Gallery in Ottawa Ontario, Canada has hung the walls: A solo exhibition, 'Beautiful Destruction – Alberta Tar Sands Aerial Photographs', December 10, 2009 - January 6, 2010. 791 Bank Street (at Third Ave).
Edward Burtynsky"Edward Burtynsky: Oil"
Lastly, St. Catharines, Ontario born Artist Edward Burtynsky's ten year project titled, "Edward Burtynsky: Oil" just finished showing at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washihton DC.
The Galleries biographical essay reads,
"This exhibition, premiering in the capital city of the United States in Fall 2009, represents a look at one of the most important subjects of our time by one of the most respected and recognized contemporary photographers in the world."Unfortunately the exhibition being taken down as I write. Luckily though the Galleries web exhibition is still up and I was able to catch some examples to show here.
Consumption realtime montage
Nicholas Metivier Gallery Toronto. "Edward Burtynsky: Oil" (October 8 to 31, 2009) in Toronto at 451 King Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5V 1K4 - phone: 416-205-9000 -
(I'm sure they can help you)
("Edward Burtynsky: Oil" was made possible with the generous support of Scotiabank Group. The exhibition was organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 500 Seventeenth Street NW Washington, DC 20006 (202) 639-1700. HASTED HUNT KRAEUTLER Gallery New York is the exclusive representative for Edward Burtynsky in the United States. Thanks for the screen shots.)
"Soon someone is going to engineer a Twitter application that looks alot like the better parts of facebook. Facebook could be a part of that, but instead it looks like they're playing it like it's Us vs. Them, when in fact they're two different things."
An Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) application called "What Do Quizzes Really Know About You?" that EFF created through facebooks open-source developers software portal, which coincidently did not ask me to allow access, showed me that - via the one application I had previously given permissions to - the whole world knew more about me than I had intended.
So now with all the talk about the new privacy settings page - forced on facebook in part by the Canadian Privacy Commissioners dictate of July 2009 - I went back to facebook in order to block that applications access.
Here's a screen-shot of my facebook Privacy Settings - applications and websites page.
As you can see it tells me I haven't blocked any. But to find out what applications I have allowed access - and then to block them - was another matter. I just spent an hour trying to find that place, without success. When I dig through the maze and actually get it done I'll let you know - and show you how to do it in your settings.
If this is the way facebook thinks it can keep the data flowing, and thus continue the monetization of the site - namely through subterfuge, miss-information and misdirection, they are sorely mistaken. If I feel I'm being taken for a ride, I'll leave.
Twitter is a much more flexable application for social networking, the only thing it doesn't have that facebook has is that neat way you can paste an address into the text bar and up pops up a screen-shot in thumbnail. I like that. But Twitter applications like Seesmic have pop up windows too. Soon someone is going to engineer a Twitter application that looks alot like the better parts of facebook. Facebook could be a part of that, but instead it looks like they're playing it like it's Us vs. Them, when in fact they're two different things.
Good luck at working this through facebook, I hope this helps.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Just watched Star Trek Voyager episodes "Demon" (May 6, 1998) and "Course: Oblivion" (March 3, 1999). The two episodes were written separately and Course Oblivion was broadcast a year later. It's not until more than half way through that you realize your watching "Demon" Part ll. Another brilliant bit of writing from Jeri Taylor (- and those other guys who wrote DS9).
For those unfamiliar with the story line of the series the Star Ship Voyager has been hurtled into the "Delta Quadrant" by a vastly superior life form known only as "The Caretaker". The journey home is the series nine-year story arch.
Four years into their journey, some seventy years from home, Captain Janeway is forced to set Voyager down on a 'demon class' planet for fuel. A silvery liquid lays in pools everywhere on the surface of the 5000 Kelvin planet - it contains elements that can fuel Voyager's engines. The 'silver liquid' also has a strange quality, the ability to mimic anything it comes in contact with - including the crew.
Two members of the crew doing a preliminary exploration of the planet are copied by the fluid and are mistaken for 'real' by the crew of Voyager. Soon though the originals are found, with slow leaks in their spacesuits, and near death. The ship is now sinking into the 'mimetic fluid' under the ship forcing Captain Janeway to use any means necessary to escape. Her efforts hurt to doppelgangers now in sickbay, thus Janeway discovers she can negotiate with the mimetic fluid outside - through the dopplegagers inside. A new life form has been born and it wishes to continue, just as humans do. Negotiations ensue and a deal with the 'planet' is struck: fuel in exchange for DNA samples of the entire crew.
Que the music and role the credits, the magnificent Voyager lifts off, the doppelganger crew left on the surface waving goodbye.
Continuing the story, the second of the two episodes titled "Coarse: Oblivion" takes place ten months and eleven days later story time, broadcast ten months later.
Everything is going swimmingly and thanks to the new 'enhanced warp drive' Voyager is now a little over two years from earth - then things begin to go terribly wrong. Soon the officers discover that they, the crew and the ship are all made of the bio-mimetic fluid - from the Demon planet they encountered almost a year earlier - and it is beginning to lose cohesion; the ship and the crew are beginning to disintegrate.
And this is the point of this essay.
Captain Janeway decides - in a conscious denial of the available facts - that in order to maintain the purpose of Voyager - the zietgiest - the reason for continuing, that the mission cannot change. In a consultation with her 'Number One' Commander Chakotay, Janeway says,
"The way I choose to look at it is this: if everything about us was duplicated, that includes our memory engrams, the emotional centres of our brains; so if you feel something, if you remember something, if you believe something...."
And Later to the crew:
"Duplicate or not I'm still the person I was yesterday; and so are all of you, and that means we're going to do everything we can to complete our mission, which is to reach earth."
I don't know that the writers (Bryan Fuller and Nick Sagan), had this in mind when they wrote 'Coarse Oblivion, but I think the choice Janeway is faced with reflects the conumdrum America finds itself in today regarding the oil economy.
The present coarse is no coarse at all, but it seems at one point, it's the only one we've got. When Janeway finally does turn around, recognizing her folly, a nearby oasis turns into great disappointment - they are turned away by a belligerent alien space force. The scene spot-lights Voyagers weakness at a crucial time in a cruel universe.
Trapped in a neurotic psychosis for too long Voyager now has no way out. In a gallant run back to the Demon planet using their enhanced warp drive, Voyager disintegrates at high warp, disassembling in a liquid implosion.
(Boy now that I write it out, maybe Bryan Fuller and Nick Sagan did have that in mind when they were writing the episode.)
Image courtesy: ex-astris-scientia.org
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Watched The Night of the Iguana (1964) from a play by Tennessee Williams, Directed by John Huston, Starring Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Grayson Hall, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon.
As soon as the Olive Branch poem was finished, this poem popped into my head, it's quite neat, so I wrote it down:
The coin of life,
One side's death,
One side's birth.
We try to understand it,
For all we're worth.
Michael Holloway 12/09/2009
By Tennessee Williams
How calmly does the olive branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer
With no betrayal of despair
Some time while light obscures the tree
The zenith of its life will be
Gone past forever
And from thence
A second history will commence
A chronicle no longer gold
A bargaining with mist and mold
And finally the broken stem
The plummeting to earth, and then
And intercourse not well designed
For beings of a golden kind
Whose native green must arch above
The earth's obscene corrupting love
And still the ripe fruit and the branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer
With no betrayal of despair
Oh courage! Could you not as well
Select a second place to dwell
Not only in that golden tree
But in the frightened heart of me
Text of the poem courtesy:
Linda Sue Grimes
Classic Poetry Aide
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
BoingBoing had this for me in my gmail box this morning, the headline separated from the picture by a link to Boston.com, so to show it correctly in Facebook I put them together here; here.
Vancouver Olympic torch looks like ginormous, dank doobie!!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
After some articles are put to bed here, they get a Posthumous Long-tail Aperitif - links to related articles published after my post:
Posthumous Long-tail Aperitif, July 30, 2010, from the Utne Reader
"What Darwin Didn't Mean
We’re so proud of our dog-eat-dog world that we fail to notice that it’s not"
..originally published in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Issue #16, Spring 2010:
"Cachet of the Cutthroat
Social Darwinism isn't only morally wrong; it doesn't even perform the function it claims to perform: fostering real competition.
by J. Wes Ulm"
Posthumous Long-tail Aperitif, March 15, 2010:
"Ideas" from CBC Radio One, broadcast from February 15th (part 1) & 16th (part 2) 2010, "KING SOLOMON’S RING". Podcast is available at the links.
"Konrad Lorenz spent a lifetime watching animals, figuring out how they live together, how they communicate, and - most important - how their worlds touch ours. Philip Coulter traveled to Austria to follow the trail of Konrad Lorenz today."
Last night I listened to CBC Radio's "Ideas" program which presented the conclusion of a 'radio essay' entitled "The Evolution of Charles Darwin". The entire show is available in podcast now. (New Link Works! - Fall 2010, CBC re-newed ALL their links with-out re-directs! Grrr..., said the Blogger.)
This last hour was most interesting to me because it dealt with The theory of Evolution going forward, it's intertwining with biology, genetics and social psychology.
The main thread was an idea called 'Punctuated Equilibrium', which is a beautiful refinement of Darwin's Evolution. The concept was foreshadowed by Ernst W. Mayr the father of the philosophy of Naturalism, who in trying to precisely define what species are - and how they evolve - arrived at Peripatric Speciation (1954). In the era before computer assisted genetic mapping his ideas were based on observation of birds using the tecniques of the day; anatomical homology (the study of form and function) and observations of embryonic development. According to Wikipedia, Mayr's ideas are the theoretical underpinnings for Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould's 'Punctuated Equilibrium'.
Punctuated Equilibrium was published in 1972. Gould was studying anthropods, those thingys that you were introduced to as fossils in eighth grade science class - relatives of those soft bodied, dark brown, multi legged bugs with the armadillo like horizontal striations along their backs, that you find under rocks.
Punctuated Equilibrium according to Wikipedia, is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that most sexually reproducing species will experience little evolutionary change for most of their geological history (in an extended state called stasis). When evolution occurs, it is localized in rare, rapid events of branching speciation (called cladogenesis).
Drawing of a Phylogenetic tree with branching speciation.
The success from year to year of plants with different seed-shell-thickness and in turn the success of birds with different kinds of beaks, is evidence of the honing of the potential with-in species. Those potentials in the genome are called frequencies of variation and a species ability to switch-on odd specifications that appear with a particular frequency in the genome, determine whether that species will survive a particular set of changes.
So in a period of global warming, plants that produce hard shells may prosper - thusly birds with bigger beaks flourish and birds with smaller beaks do not. In these extraordinary periods, birds that specialized in cracking soft seed shells die out all together; but that does not mean the DNA sequencing that reflects the specialization - towards smaller beaks - disappears, it just becomes less frequent in the surviving species. Small beak genealogy remains in this case as the 'dead sequences' genetic biologists are finding, gene sequences that don't seem to do anything.
In my opinion, these seemingly 'useless' sequences are the legacy of adaptation that allow species to adapt through extraordinary epochs and return over time, if necessary, to survival tools adopted earlier in radically different circumstances.
As well, our social adaptability seems to be able to be communicated across generations. In the 1970's an experiment was preformed with worms:
- One group of worms were taught to run a maze to get to food. Another group were simply feed. The two groups were separately ground up for meal.
- Two new groups of worms were tested for they're ability to negotiate the same maze; they scored equally.
- Then one group was feed the meal of worms that were trained to negotiate the maze and the other was feed a meal of ground worms that was not trained.
- Both groups were then tested in the original maze.
The group that was feed the generation of worms that learned the maze did statistically better at learning the same maze than the group that was feed the meal of worms that did not learn the maze.
I couldn't find a reference to this experiment on the web - but but my source is a good one, my father, who kept up with this sort of thing through the American Association for the Advancement of Science's journal "Science".
But what the experiment reveals is that there are electro-chemical metrics formed through socialization that can be passed on to the next generation. We're talking here about only the core, or as I like to call them, hard-wired instincts: fight or flight, the smell/taste of poisons, the sound of 'incoming' or falling objects, the sound of a crying baby, the sense that the 'other' is about to be agressive.
The potential for adaptability in humans is many levelled and extraordinary.
I see characteristics in humans that also appear in squirrels and other mammals, all the time. I choose the squirrel here, because there's a lot of them eating compost in my back yard.
I've written on the human-like behaviours of Raccoon families in earlier posts here.
Squirrels are close relatives to humans based on the embryonic development classification system (see image) and, really interestingly, when hemoglobins in the blood are compared, only 27 out of 146 amino acids differ between squirrels and humans (gorillas differ from us by 1, lamprey eel by 125 [see table]).
Watching the squirrels in my back yard there are squirrels who spend all their time searching for food and those who spend as much time socializing as they do collecting nuts. While it's impossible to know which strategy is more successful for squirrels, without sitting with them for some years (al a Jane Goodall), one would suppose the balanced individuals' gene sequence would be more successful than the loner, 'geeky' behaviour. But in this year where all the squirrels are putting on huge layers of fat (presumably in advance of a deep snow pack - how do they know??), perhaps the geeky individual who's focused on building the biggest store will be better positioned to procreate come spring and thus, in this particular cycle, the one to pass on his peculiar gene sequence frequency.
The Canadian Farmers Almanac predicts a colder than normal winter here in Toronto Canada (how do they know??), and the squirrels here agree, they say it's gonna freeze four feet down and not melt till May.
Now, hyperbole and mixed squirrel metaphor soup. My social networking weather report for the (hopefully) catastrophic fall/winter 2009-2010:
This coming winter of economic uncertainty is one where 'geeky' behaviour may have a better chance at surviving the deep freeze - and thus be better positioned to attract. But of coarse the 'geeky' behaving females of the species will prosper as well, meaning that success may send them looking for princes once again come May.
Ah, the winners and losers mythos; not even localized, brief, quasi-punctuated equilibrium can kill it off.