Tag Archives: skepticism

Circa 1948

1948

We break the taboo tonight and de-segregate the post-war Blues era, co-mingling  syncopations signaling a broader tolerance, “a world in which there shall be an equality of opportunity for every race and nation.”

But I do fear a social conformity will take hold with all this fear-mongering and witch-hunting!

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – Will Bradley-Ray McKinley Band
As Time Goes By – Arthur “Dooley” Wilson
One O’Clock Jump – Count Basie & His Orchestra
Butterfly Strut – Ziggy Elman And His Orchestra
Artistry in Rhythm – Stan Kenton & His Orchestra
Jersey Bounce – Benny Goodman & His Orchestra
Boogie Woogie – Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra
Flying Home – Hamton, Lionel & His Orchestra
Drumming Man – Gene Krupa
Tschaikowsky (And Other Russians) – Danny Kaye
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition – Kay Kyser & His Orchestra
I’m My Own Grandpaw – Guy Lombardo
You Keep Coming Back Like a Song – Dinah Shore
Don’t Get Around Much Any More – The Ink Spots
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah – Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers
Besame Mucho (Kiss Me Much) – Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra
Brazil – Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra
Heartaches – Ted Weems & His Orchestra
Ciribiribin – Harry James & His Orchestra
C Jam Blues – Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
Canned Heat – Chet Atkins
That Lucky Old Sun – Frankie Laine
Deep In The Heart Of Texas – Horace Heidt And His Musical Knights
Riders In The Sky – Vaughn Monroe
Pistol Packin’ Mama – Al Dexter and His Troopers
Detour – Spade Cooley
Move It on Over – Hank Williams
Cool Blues – Charlie “Bird” Parker
Sophisticated Lady – Duke Ellington
I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm – Les Brown
Bebop – Charlie “Bird” Parker
Elmer’s Tune – Dick Jurgens And His Orchestra
Snowfall – Claude Thornhill And His Orchestra
Stardust – Artie Shaw & His Orchestra
Do You Dig My Jive – Sam Price and his Texas Bluesicians
Mean Old ‘Frisco Blues – Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup
Knockin’ Myself Out – Lil Green with Big Bill Broonzy
Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Open the Door, Richard – Count Basie Orchestra
I Wonder – Cecil Gant
Laura – David Raksin
Nature Boy – Nat King Cole

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-09: Circa 1948 by The Stranger on Mixcloud

The convention of Americans for Democratic Action was winding up today in a lather of resolutions giving scant sign of enthusiastic support in November for President Truman. The ADA, heavily representative of the old Roosevelt New Deal group, gives the back of its left hand to the Wallace third-party people the back of its right hand to the Taft Republicans. Yet in three days of debates seemed to bury Mr. Truman in censure rather than praise him. A phrase borrowed from Europe may have political significance here, “the third force” which is used to describe the non-communist left, intellectuals opposing “both the tyranny of reaction and tyranny of Communist totalitarianism.”

While Senator McGrath of Rhode Island sounded off against Henry Wallace’s third party, saying “a third party has as much place in American politics as does a third party on a honeymoon” adding the Wallace campaign and supporters “will either waste their votes or give aid and comfort to reactionary candidates.”

Speaking of those Reds, the Communist Police State Action in Czechoslovakia was legalized as the Czech President accepted the Red Cabinet and their brutal plot, who will not be working with any opposition parties, whose ministers turned in their resignations last week. New Cabinet members told foreign reporters that the events of last month giving Communists controls were the ‘will of the people.’ There are no numbers on how many persons in the former government got the bum rush from their positions/arrested as “reactionaries”. Legal elections have been promised the Czechs by Communists, but many other grand promises to workers and farmers have also been made by the Soviets.

Finland, conversely, has turned down Stalin’s request to join a Russian Defense Pact Ring, fearing a loss in their liberty.

The pressure, many Washington correspondents in-the-know fear, may quicken the pace towards a shooting war, and a military pact aimed at Russia.

So while the US has written off Czechoslovakia, here at home Gov. Arthur Coolidge of Massachusetts charged that Russian agents are busy in Hawaii. He claimed to have evidence, but hasn’t spilled it to the public as of yet.

(We remember well how) Soviet diplomats obstructed the UN founding meeting in San Francisco, dormy spy rings uncovered…

Meanwhile, the United States called for nation-wide elections in Korea in defiance of a Russian boycott. China immediately joined with the United States in the proposal laid before the United Nations little assembly. Both powers agreed that steps toward establishment of a free and independent Korea were of utmost importance to world peace, and that Soviet non-cooperation should not be allowed to stand in the way.

(As for Russia, I do highly recommend reading ‘A Russian Journal’ by John Steinbeck with photographs by Robert Capa of that country’s reconstruction, a special correspondence with the New York Herald Tribune).

The U.S. may also remain isolationist regarding the Palestine issue, declaring it firmly stands for diplomatic peace; this despite a recent bomb plot in the Holy Land admitted by Arab hatchetmen. The United Nations is holding special sessions to consider and cope with the crisis. The surprise resolution moves that a council be formed to set up a committee to study the advisability of such a special assembly. The Jewish Agency for Palestine had no comment pending a full study of the speech, but there are those contending that a Palestine partition and peace are inseparable. The British, for their part, have declared that they will fire upon both Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land.

So support the United Nations as they punish future aggressors before they launch WWIII. See “a world in which there shall be an equality of opportunity for every race and nation.” (Wendell Willkie’s One World)

All while Truman chops are busted by segregationist southern governors who came to Washington to protest civil rights legislation. Here is the exchange from the stenographic record, Gov Strom Thurmond: “Will you now, at a time when national unity is so vital to the solution of the problem of peace in the world, use your influence, as chairman of the DNC, to have the highly controversial civil rights legislation, which tends to divide our people, withdrawn from consideration by the congress?” Senator McGrath: “No.”

Just who is dividing the people, and on whose terms is this so-called unity, and whose problem with peace? Our strength is in democracy, a spiritual strength that derives from our freedom, fair-play, tolerance, and the guarantee of civil rights in our Constitution. Though we have not achieved these things completely, that is the ideal we raise before the world. What would the world say if we went backward as that chiseler Governor Thurmond suggests? We can only move forward, even if slowly. Who is dividing the people; those who want to realize our ideals, or a few noisy Southern politicians and a minority of southern people.

The Dixie Democrats are hopping mad over at least four of the 10 points in Truman’s proposal, and began serious talk of convening a split from the Democrats on the civil rights issue. (1. federal anti-lynching law, 2. permanent fair employment practice commision, 3. and end to Jim Crow laws and 4. outlawing state poll taxes). The remainder of the points were a permanent commission on civil rights, a joint congressional committee on civil rights, a civil rights division of the justice department, toughening of existing civil rights statutes, home rule for the District of Columbia, statehood for Alaska and Hawaii, equalization of naturalization opportunity, settlement of evacuation claims of Japanese-Americans (who got a bum rap). The program is in particularly hot debate due to the election year.

But I worry that the conservative con to brand New Dealers out of touch, arrogant bureaucrats is a short hoof from labeling them Communists! How soon they forget! Look! Truman didn’t keep government-built or backed plants at the war’s end! They went right back to private owners.

You’ll remember how Daddy Warbucks was revived, gloating at the corpse of FDR!

And the fix is in, government contracts were rescinded, plants closed up, flat soldiers come home expecting jobs instead to join picket lines against fat head moneymen. Gallup polls show 62% of the public fears another Depression in the next ten years.

“Yet once the war is over its backwash smears over us, and the nation succumbs to greed, fear, ineptitude, fumbling of the morning hopes, shoddy dispersal of the evening dreams. That in late 1946, the two most painful and pressing shortages in the land should be the most primitive necessities of life; food and housing, is evidence enough of the disintegration, no matter how temporary these shortages may turn out to be… Does show that to become efficient this country needs the stimulus of war? Does it mean that 295,000 Americans have to be killed in order to give us true effectiveness as a nation?” -journalist John Gunther, 1946

So Truman places a $15 billion ceiling on defense spending, bolsters social welfare. Truman; small-business populist, anti-monopoly, distrusting of Big Trust, Big Labor and Big Business.

Indeed, 1947 had seen a boom set off by the savings of both war worker and war profiteer, pent-up demand and rising wages! And demand means more jobs! Hundreds of houses built in a day! But it’s not all silk!

Truman lifted price controls on meat when conservative businessmen raised prices and fears and turned up the heat. He blamed “reckless group of selfish men”, the same group that “has opposed every effort of this administration to raise the standard of living and increase opportunity for the common man.” By appeasing them, Truman tipped his mitt again, his policies gummed up by cheap flimflam! Inflation accelerated, cost of living up, special interests feeding frenzy, prices raised by the greedy.

Federal subsidies work when directed and divested correctly; housing, swimming pools, playgrounds, baseball fields, suburbs accessible by highways… Mortgages guaranteed by the GI Bill.

Hayek (free market anti-socialism enthusiast) and Keynes (that economic interventionist) both agree that antitrust laws and minimum wages are necessary!

Blind ‘stereotypes’, referred to by head shrinks, are fixed attitudes towards an idea, event, or person. A blind spot in the mind, the cause of which is emotional and irrational, disallowing the person’s attitude to change with changes in factual evidence pertaining to the object of prejudice. Pertinent illustrations such as race prejudice, an extreme sort where individuals are vilified in generalities incorporating all the evil traits which may have ever been found or imagined in any one past member of the race. Attitudes expressed about the late President Roosevelt and his ideas often fall into this same category. His name has been slandered with such intensity and emotion that one could almost feel the murderous hatred in their hearts; there is nothing analytical or thoughtful in what they say.

It’s an excuse to ally political highbinders with big business high pillows and their dough, fear-mongering the pliant into cheesy loyalty, making chop suey of the rest. Right-wing groups are firing off their ‘confidential’ (re: unsubstantiated) dope to HUAC and the FBI, fueling Hoover’s inquisition. Now we’re grilling not only union leaders but teachers, book reviewers, social workers, and librarians. the Chamber of Commerce is demanding that authorities ban whomever they deem too pro-Communist off of radio airwaves. Even social gospel ministers ousted from their pulpits! No totalitarianism or infringement on freedom of speech here, my friends.

I do fear a social conformity will take hold.

The jingle-brained conservatives are enjoying a counterrevolution with William Jenner, John Bricker, William Knowland, Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon… even the once pro-New Deal Hollywood liberal Ronald Reagan is espousing more conservative malarkey, see what they know!

Texas Tom Clark (Attorney General) architect of the list of subversive organizations, making guilt by association a national security policy.

And Adolph Menjou (Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals) spilled to HUAC last year, “I am a witch hunter if the witches are Communists”.

They dress it up as a Christian crusade to despoil your children. But they’re putting the screws on the working man, gunning for all of us, with the convenient moniker that they’re protecting us from the reds, when they’re really putting us behind the eight ball. One of HUAC’s loudest mouths, John E. Rankin, is a notorious racist and anti-Semite, as are several other committee members. That’s why they’re spending so much energy giving the up-and-down to Jews who escaped Germany. It’s all pretty hinky, I tell you.

After all, unemployment for blacks is three times that among whites; their pay only 30-70% what whites make.

So the fat cats have ginned up big support for their Crusade, even though a few short years ago in 1945, Americans sick of war, some 70%, opposed a “get-gashouse” approach with the Soviets, lousy with post-war blues: triumphalist despair. But ever since Dean Acheson said we have to be on ‘permanent alert’ against some unknown phantom forces, resources and scratch are diverted to purely military industry. They see their support now against the Communists as an egotistical Holy War to save Christianity and Civilization. There are those who don’t believe the War ever ended. We’re being given a Hobson’s choice between appeasement and containment, disarmament and military strength- ignoring all diplomatic alternatives. They’ll use the crack-up in Czechoslovakia as a crummy excuse to drop atom bombs on more babies.

And that means there’s little bumping gums for progressive programs without a crisis. Truman’s campaigning on the messages of national health insurance, federal aid to education, and civil rights. He may be in the right, but he’s in real Dutch if the guys in graft tell him to take it on the heel.

It doesn’t seem like much of the Fair Deal or New Dealer policies have much tooth any more, the final being the GI Bill. We still do not have an Economic Bill of Rights.

Gin up Solidarity among veterans, workers, the common man. The saps.

1947 Gallup poll shows one-third of veterans feel estranged from civilian life, either in a jam or off their noodle, and 20% feel ‘hostile’ to civilians. War Department survey replicates this; one in five is “completely hostile” to civilians. Survey finds there are 15.8 million vets, average age 29, 80% of them under the age of thirty, 33% went directly into service from school, only 25% finished high school. Veterans and their families make up one-fourth of the population.

The divorce rate today is more than twice that of 1939. But the marriage rate and birth rate are also spiking. So is the homicide rate, as any of these Joe Palookas could go off the track in a moment!

HUAC and the blacklists has made it impossible for any picture to get made taking the side of the workers, who for their part have seen hourly drops in pay since VJ Day.

And Truman himself overestimates the power of the unions to make his points. He wants to draft men who strike during peacetime, as in Germany or Russia! That’s the crop of it! He seized the mines after criticism that he was too pro-labor. Most unions are on the square, hostile to Communists, fearing it damages their cause.

A late challenge to the Taft-Hartley law is entering our courts. The act restricts the activities and power of labor unions. Named after sponsors Senator Robert Taft and Representative Fred A. Hartley, Jr., overcame Truman‘s veto last year; labor leaders called it the “slave-labor bill” while President Truman argued that it was a “dangerous intrusion on free speech”, and that it would “conflict with important principles of our democratic society”. The latest orderly and properly challenge is by CIO News and its president Philip Murray, trying it in the courts in a democratic manner. Mr. Murray said he and the CIO were acting in complete respect for the “law of the land” and not in a spirit of “defiance or bitterness.” This refreshingly constructive and calm way of tackling the issue hits on all eight, and may end up in the Supreme Court, a matter on which Congress will be called upon to expand, condense or clarify.

In Chicago, the National Lawyer’s Guild charged in a policy statement that there is a ‘co-ordinated and unrelenting’ attack being made against civil liberties in the U.S. Over 200 delegates to an annual meeting voted their approval yesterday calling upon Congress to repeal the Taft-Hartley law and abolish the House Committee on Un-American Activities, for violating four amendments to the Constitution. Benedict Wolf, New York lawyer, read that recommendation to Congress to investigate the Federal Bureau of Investigation itself.

This is the Age of Distrust – engineer enemies for the upcoming election; if the Nazis and Japanese won’t do, use Communism. Without recommending an advocation of the tenets of Communism, one does not need then to fly into the arms of right-wing fascism or “narrow nationalism” (Wendell Willkie’s One World). Upton Sinclair warned us that it can happen here. Fears of totalitarianism abound when there are disingenuous geezers in charge! Hard facts have a way of melting into the shadows of ambiguity.

Ah, TINSEL TOWN!



Stay tuned for all that plus hokum, bunkery, science and more! On this time-displaced episode of a Stranger in a Strange Land!

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-03-09: Circa 1948 by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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The Future

future

This week, aaron.Jacob and I look to the future of hoverbikes, robots, augmented reality and bio-hacking. Forecasts and predictions exceed our wildest imaginings, but will they prove realistic or surrealistic?

Try not to get too future shocked as we set the dial on our experimental time machine and hope for the best… tomorrow!

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King (Terramix) – terraon
Future Shock – Curtis Mayfield
“The Daleks” (Serial B): TARDIS Computer – Brian Hodgson
Past Present and Future – Demon Fuzz
Tank! (TV Edit) – Seatbelts
Robot Parade – They Might Be Giants
2014 – The Unicorns
Idioteque – Radiohead
Violent – The Faint
Remember The Future (part 1-2) – Nektar
Buffalo Stance – Need New Body
In The Bio Burbs – PASSAGE
Energy Traffic – The Mole
We Are the Future – Non Phixion
Virus – Deltron
Seventeen Years – RATATAT
Friends 4 Ever – Girl Talk
IBM MT/ST The Paperwork Explosion (instr.) – Scott, Raymond
Uske Orchestra – Pel-Pun
Polka Electronic Death Country (Otto Von Schirrach remix) – Mochipet
Laser Eyes Clip – Sifl & Olly
Cyborg Control – Man Or Astroman
Look Back And Laugh – Minor Threat
Jetson’s Theme – Man… or Astroman?
The Future – Leonard Cohen

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-23: The Future by The Stranger on Mixcloud

In the not-too distant future, political scientists have reason to suspect what the major issues of the next few years will be. Climate, Drones and Terrorists, Pentagon Spending, Agriculture/Energy, and Campaign Finance Reform.

This all seems a little optimistic to me. But as we’ll soon see, these wonks aren’t the only big dreamers.

The World Futurist Society has released their forecasts, and they are impressively grand. Some seem inevitable, others outlandish, but all of them progressively more challenging, and some beneficial, to mankind.

  1. Electric cars powered by fuel cells earn extra cash for their owners
  2. Open-source robot blueprints cut the cost of robots by 90%
  3. Smart phones help spur political reform in Africa
  4. The world’s oceans may face “mass extinction event” by 2050
  5. The “cloud” will become more intelligent, not just a place to store data
  6. 3-D Printing Revolutionizes manufacturing
  7. India may eclipse China in population and innovation by 2028
  8. Robots may become gentler caregivers in the next 10 years
  9. A revolution in smart materials creates a new energy boom

Idealistic indeed, as those of us who see their gadgets more as personal adversaries than helpful widgets.

“Technology that promises to remove small annoyances of one kind introduces small annoyances of another.” ~Pamela Haag

But there is the tendency to hope for the Best of All Possible Worlds,
in science-fiction, in science fact, and in augmenting our very reality. Soon people will be able to purchase Google Glass and make immediate (if superficial) improvements in their worldview. It gives new meaning to the concept of ‘rose-colored glasses’. I personally can’t wait for Super Saiyan mode, They Live mode, and Cyclops mode.

But the fact of the matter is, you can’t predict how new technologies will change the world until they become part of the commoner’s usage.

Tim Maughan argues in a fascinating new interview about augmented reality with the Huffington Post:

Technology becomes the most effective — and thus potentially the most damaging— when it passes that novelty stage and becomes mundane and commonplace. The way smartphones have radically changed the way we lead our daily lives is perhaps the most recent example. It’s been an incredibly short six years from revolutionary product launch to utterly mundane ubiquity.

And few of us have had time to pause and think about the effect it has had on us, either as individuals or society. When it comes to judging how technology effects us there’s an understandable tendency to look at the bleeding edge, at first adopters and hackers, those that take the plunge and dive in. I think it’s a tendency in part by academics and journalists to want to be seen as ‘cool-hunters’, finding the latest trends and speculating about what they could develop into.

The truth is until it becomes commonplace and in the hands of a massive range of people we can’t tell how it will be used. I don’t want to bruise anyone’s geek-pride here (okay, maybe I do a little) but being an early adopter only makes you special for a short while, and on your own you’re not going to make any paradigm shifts. By definition you need everyone else with you to do that.

Many people just don’t know what to do with the future transforming reality around them. It makes them uneasy, even panicked; Future-Shocked. And others worry that the technocratic digerati will forge ahead, leaving other classes behind; an ageless human problem for every era, none better than the rest.


Can Futurists even make a difference? Does science-fiction and those rosy-eyed optimists benefit the scientists in hot pursuit of tomorrow? Do they create a Utopian vision for which we aim? Or can they do more damage than good? Or are we all just way off the mark?

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-23: The Future by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Voynich

voynichThis week we eschew that media violence to discuss the mysterious Voynich Manuscript with aaronJacob, some of the more ridiculous beliefs surrounding it, and even the more sane claims. We’ll hear clips from Terence McKenna and Brian Dunning, and consider everything from Rosicrucians, secret alchemical societies, spirits and seances, psychedelic visions, time travel and even the Necronomicon.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-12-15: Voynich by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PLAYLIST
Hall Of The Mountain King – Self Diagnosis
the history of utah – camper van beethoven
The Magic City – Sun Ra
Music For Electric Violin – Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Zappa
The Garbage State – R. Stevie Moore
Man Of Mystery – The Shadows
Strangers From the Sky – Kim Fowley
Song of the death machine (1970) – Bruce Haack
Polaris – Man Or Astroman
Principles Unknown – Man Or Astroman
Space Prophet Dogon – Sun City Girls
Dengue Fever – Flowers
Misterioso – Thelonious Monk
Sap Alan On The Tellial – Mong Hang

We spend the rest of the show discussing skepticism, science, atheism, bias and reasonable reactions to political travesties.

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Ancient Peoples

If you watch any of these “historical documentaries” about visitors from outer space interfering with our ancient progenitors, you’d see the proponents of these theories claim that there is no way that massive sculptures and architecture could have been done without extraterrestrial help. Those mainstream historians and archaeologists just don’t understand when they claim that the evidence of UFOs and aliens in old artwork or texts is something more reasonable, when they posit some Earthly, mundane explanations.

Our ancestors, the ancient alien experts claim, weren’t stupid. And the official story makes them seem dumb, by not giving them the full credit they deserve for recognizing obvious aliens when they saw them, and then sitting back as said aliens (or gods, or whatever) did all the work that our stupid, useless ancestors could never have figured out on their own.

But they weren’t stupid. They were able to make complex astronomical calculations, invent forms of art, agriculture, writing, and design marvels such as the pyramids. Some of them would have been smarter than others, of course. Some of the people of that age probably believed some really weird things; perhaps they believed that their ancestors were visited by even more ancient aliens, whom they gave all the credit for all previous human efforts, without any evidence.

I’m just saying that their knowledge and sophistication was limited by the understanding of their time. People would have made dumb logical fallacies back then, like arguments from antiquity or arguments from ignorance.

Hm. Come to think of it. If we had aliens helping us out throughout history, we’d probably be a lot further along, and wouldn’t fall in such intellectual gaps.

10 Cliches That Try to Take the Place of Legitimate Argument

We’re all guilty of it, whether in our daily conversations, debates or blog posts. Analogy and illustration serve to simplify our understanding and answers to life’s complex conundrums. Sometimes, however, these over-used aphorisms over-simplify to the point of absurdity. It may even amount to pseudo-intellectual name-dropping, hoping to fool your audience into thinking that because you know who George Santayana was, that being in such good company means your reasoning must be thoroughly sound!

They may have a legitimate point, they may even be saying something you agree with, but “a broken clock is still right twice a day,” and fallacious logic can still coincidentally lead to a correct conclusion.

1. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

-Albert Einstein

Which is why he stopped trying to comb his hair after a while.

But how else would mutation and evolution have happened, innovation and invention, or the replication of experiments, the very foundation of falsifiability and the cornerstone of scientific discovery?

Actually, I prefer to think that Einstein wasn’t really talking shit on replication, but merely accurately describing that most everything that happens in the cosmos is insane. If you have some stupid theory of everything but your experiments can’t prove your pseudoscience, you’re not wrong to keep trying. Just insane.

People have used his phrase in political arguments, critiques of opponents, constructive criticism of peers, matronly advice, and internet comment sections, all hoping to wow one another with their undeniable wisdom.

When this fails to happen, they do it again and again.

This may be because, as we know, there are no original ideas.

2. “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”

-T. S. Eliot

And immature artists sue you for stealing

It’s not that I agree or disagree with any of these clichés (although some are undoubtedly ridiculous, as we shall soon see), it’s just that many of them are offered up instead of saying anything valuable at all. Of course creative people steal from their influences, we are all the product of our experiences!

Plagiarism is an even thornier-than-usual issue these days, however, so you had better be careful what you use this old quote to justify!

But I don’t think it’s fair to say that there is no original content. And not everything has to be mash-up or a modernization or a cover or a sequel or a gritty revisioning. Nobody like Ramses II existed before Ramses II (not even Ramses I). And the aforementioned Einstein was obviously thinking on another cosmic plane! To say nothing of Edison, Newton, Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Archimedes… okay, now I’m just name-dropping! And certainly each of them drew on the accumulated knowledge of the great minds that came before, but that’s not really saying anything more than the obvious. We need these mutants to inject genuinely fresh and new ideas because, after all, the rest of us are so stupid.

3. We only use 10% of our brains.

In some cases this is true.

In addition to being on this list for overused phrases, you’ll also find it listed in collections of commonly cited phrases that aren’t even true. Those in the pseudosciences and radio arts often hold Einstein as an example of a God-king who could somehow magically harness 20% of his brain power, with the rest of us catatonically drooling down our fronts with glazed eyes. Many misattribute the quote itself to Einstein, or imply that special training (expensive books and tape) can “unlock” the remaining percentile, or even that impressive psychic powers or a sixth sense reside in the bulk of our unused gray matter.

Although many mysteries regarding brain function remain, every part of the brain has a known function.

According to wikipedia, it may have been early neuroscientists who used the 10% figure when referring to the proportion of neurons in the brain that fire at any given time or to the percentage of the brain’s functions that had been mapped at the time (accounts differ).

No matter, this commonly held misconception has proliferated through our pop culture, and is claimed by paranormal believers so much that one cannot help but wonder if they just want it to be true because it applies more readily in their case. Luckily, for about as many people who use this trite falsehood, there seems to be just as many ready to counter and ridicule it.

4. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

– George Santayana

Which is why they'll be remaking this movie soon.

I’m not a big believer that history repeats itself in any verifiable or scientifically useful way. That being said, similarities can be found between any two time periods, or probably, between any two things one cares to draw comparisons or confirmation-biases with.

And just what are the parameters? Are my neighbor and I doomed to repeat the events of the Peloponnesian War? If I suddenly forget the Nineties will I wake up one morning with a mullet?

I guess I’m mostly annoyed by the politician’s usage of this gem. When describing the economic collapse of recent memory, it could behoove one side or the other to compare either to the policies that led to the Great Depression, or to the recovery policies that dug us back out.

Invariably, someone uses a shade of this quote to wreak their foul Godwin’s Law, implying that because we are not diligent against the current administration (or whatever), that they must be Nazis readying for a blitz.

But Nazis were all about history! They had a storied passion for their firm place in history, for better or worse, and deliberately chose which facets to glamorize and which to destroy. There was very little unintentional lapse of memory at work.

Ironically, today nazis are often treated as a sinister joke, the sheer ridiculousness itself guarding against tyranny in that very specific form

5. “First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Martin Niemöller

This seems a very reasonable statement of our human nature to ignore problems until they are at our doorstep, or how we willingly bow to authority, no matter how triumphantly evil. Zimbardo or Millgram in action.

Call it survivor’s guilt, guilt by association, criminal negligence… no matter what it’s called, it’s still just a slippery slope argument. Granted, when cases of genocide are concerned, it’s best to err on the side of not imprisoning and slaughtering millions, but I would still be remiss not to point out that logical fallacy.

And even still, assuming Martin’s speaking for everyone in Reichland to make his point more valid (or at least assuming that the decades of quoters do), then each person up the chain would have also been a varying degree of guilty. There was no one left to speak out for you, because no one was speaking out for anyone, any time, anywhere, anyway.

Another similar (and just as overused) quote is Edmund Burke’s “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” 

No… I mean… evil sort of had the most to do with it… call it 80/20

6. “God does not play dice with the universe.”

-Albert Einstein

Unless this is a tabletop RPG. In which case, God uses many dice.

Einstein’s been proven wrong on many things in the years since his death, as he was just a man, and a product of his time. But this quote should be understood in his context and time, with the understanding that  Neitzsche proclaimed God dead, and that Spinoza proclaimed God to be a sort of pantheistic representation of all being. Similar to Dawkins or Hawking’s assertion of the non-necessity of a God, a reasonable and scientifically literate individual does not need a God to play dice with the universe, but admitting its  irrelevance to science does not render moot the possibility of a personal, non-interventionist deity.

Moreover, religion has nothing to do with it, so people who use this quote to claim that even the infallible Einstein was a believer are missing his point. Einstein was referring to the (then) burgeoning theory and study of quantum mechanics, which in the decades since his death have had numerous verifications and observable interactions with established physics. In fact, the very early precursors to the field are thanks to Einstein himself.

And really, what kind of scientific method would it be if it all just stopped after Einstein? Just because he said or did or thought or believed something, doesn’t mean we all have to!

7. If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge too?

Hey, man, go with the flow.

Some version of this argument can be heard by desperate debaters and scolding mothers worldwide, and implies that following the herd will bring us to a nasty end. But really, it all depends… Is there a bungie cord? Is the bridge taller than 4ft? Is the goal itself to commit suicide? Am I going to be the very best at it? Has the pile of bodies gotten tall enough to comfortably break my fall?

With its equally clichéd antithesis, “50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong”, the appeal to popularity or appeal against popularity really tells us nothing about the original argument, or the wisdom in group-thinking. People who follow the “herd” have a “sheep” or “lemming” mentality. And yet, 4 out of 5 experts agree, everyone else is doing it, and you do want to be popular, don’t you?

We need individual thinkers to point out that the Earth is round and goes around the sun, but we also need group cooperation to build roads, operate government, form protests, fight wars, make the trains run on time and populate Coachella.

These fallacious nuggets appear everywhere, but just because everyone else uses them, doesn’t mean you will. Right?

8. “Won’t somebody please think of the children!?”

-Helen Lovejoy

After epochs of stuffiness and reactionary noisemaking by parental associations and nosy church busybodies, imagine how much slower our society must have progressed due to whatever scary monster-of-the-week was lodged in their collective craws.

We basically ended up with violent Prohibition in the U.S. because of ‘The Boogeyman’, and this ‘reasoning’ still wreaks havoc in our schools, on our televisions, and in our libraries. All sorts of censorship have been implemented to protect our defenseless children, from comic books, video gamesplastic-propelling toyssex in music and the cartoons in cigarette advertising. More accurately, censorship is put in place so that one group of vocal zealots can get their way, or to disenfranchise another group, or to help facilitate half-assed under-parenting.

The entirety of Jenny McCarthy’s insane and factually-vacant crusade against vaccination can be summed up as ‘for the sake of the children.’ You know what the children really need? Intellectual discourse and critical thinking to engineer a better world for them to grow up in. I know, it sounds batty.

At the same time, the really cool, really old people remind us how easy kids today have it. How back in their day, they only had a jagged shard of metal to play with, or how they used to have to work in a factory for seventeen hours a day for pennies, or how they used to be afraid of things like… y’know… polio.

Come to think of it, back in my day, we had playgrounds made of concrete and steel. Kids have it so easy.

9. “Greed is good”

               -Gordon Gecko

For all your conniving and success, you still couldn't avoid LeBeouf.

For all your conniving and success, you still couldn't avoid LeBeouf.

Especially true in this era of class warfare, where the top blah-blah-blah-percent blah-blah-blah against the bottom blah-blah-blah-percent! We hear this from the right-wing media, the corporate elites, and their bought legislators. It’s the defining principle at work in ‘Trickle-Down Economics’, deregulation, free market principles, and Citizen’s United.

I could write multiple separate essays on all that Ayn Rand nonsense (and I have), but mostly I just hate it when cautionary tales are taken out of context, idolized and seen as divine inspiration. How soon we forget how things ended for Gordon Gecko, or Tony Montana, or Don Corleone, as instead we are bedazzled by the short-lived success and glory. Unfortunately, things do not turn out as bad for the baddies in real life, who seem to rarely see their downfall from massive hubris. It’s nefarious, it’s ignorant, and it’s bitter irony.

Which serves as a reminder that the original cautionary tale was Satan’s.

10. Those who choose not to vote shouldn’t be allowed to complain.

Good enough reason for anyone to complain.

Or any other fascistic (though perhaps well-meaning) platitudes of intellectual treacle. If somebody exercises their freedom of speech and vote by abstaining, then that’s a perfectly reasonable choice. As if a dictatorship or some other undesirable federal form of government would affect non-voters differently than voters! In fact, it’s the political ideologues and loud patriots who would hear the boots marching first, not the apathetic whiners.

Why is it that if someone chooses not to perform one constitutionally granted right, they should be stripped of an entirely different enumerated one? Just how well would the following fly with these freedom-flinging pro-voting bigots?
  • Those who choose not to practice freedom of religion should have troops quartered in their home.
  • Those who choose not to assemble shouldn’t allowed to bear arms.
  • Those who skip jury duty shouldn’t petition their government.

Okay, well maybe that last one is a bit hypocritical, but still…

Of course, the abstainers will still have to listen to the clichéd proselytizers, because they’re just exercising their First Amendment Rights, after all.

BONUS: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes!”

-Benjamin Franklin

This one only annoys me because people like to quote it and then add their own third thing, completely missing the entire point. ‘And taxes’ is the punch line, implying that they are as detrimental and damning as death itself, when clearly they’re just a damned nuisance. To add your own third option, whether to make a point or attempt to be humorous, underplays the quote. Quit it. I’m sick of hearing it.

How would you like to start a religion?

In Alain de Botton’s recent book; Religion for Atheists, the School of Life philosopher argues the benefits of religious thinking. He points out that the shared values in humanist philosophy and religion are not mutually exclusive. Moreover, the structures and traditions of each may be useful in creating a society that we can all agree is good and moral, regardless of their personal God (or lack of one).

Big Think – Alain de Botton “Religion for Atheists”

Those with brilliant acumen for realizing the essential effects of religious and spiritual thinking, as well as skeptical and critical thinking, should use every tool to navigate an otherwise trapped society ruled by charlatan plutarchs and snake-oil salesmen.

Tim Mawson has argued that atheists need to pray in an open-ended fashion, at the very least as a personal experiment to falsify the possibility of one’s own spiritual pantheon. Or is this a dubious step down the path to belief, activating and placating the God delusion parts of the brain? Or can a sufficiently intelligent brain maintain the divisions between outwardly-seeming contradictory systems of thought? Though Richard Dawkins would ask ‘what’s the point?’, many others ask ‘what’s the harm?’

Or as Kadam Morten (teacher in the New Kadampa tradition of Buddhism) explains, the neuro and cognitive sciences have shown an increasing benefit to the sustained practice of meditation, which can permanently change the structure of the brain and improve attentional capacity. Buddhists belief in the interdependence and interconnectedness of all things – a kind of unified theory of everything, and that all of reality is a distortion, which is echoed in the disconnect we know exists between physical reality, our sense organs, and the brain that illusorily compartmentalizes our experiences. Morten reminds us that the human capacity for love, compassion, peace, apology, happiness and joy all live in the brain, and can be understood through the lens of both spirituality or scientific discovery.

Since we all seem to be wired for belief, whatever the survival mechanism that brought us to this point, these instincts have clearly had a massive impact on religion, art, society, ethics and emotion. And while the corroborative neural pathways in humans and other animals can tell us a lot about brain evolution, the more subjective questions of emotion may always be beyond our grasp. How could we ever fully understand what emotion an animal is feeling, or even apply the human words we’ve developed with our own electrochemical impulses? But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be more informed, more literate, in our empathic roles as researchers and investigators and thinkers.

Some of these questions are (as yet) unfalsifiable, which makes them useless to science, but not necessarily to our growth and adaptability as humans. Provided there is no conflict with the current model of scientific knowledge, the Canon, then perhaps the ever-evolving systems of religious and spiritual thinking in our history can also build into a productive model of social utility.

But reconciling the physical world of hard science and metaphysical speculation is nothing new, and the brain is certainly capable of maintaining multiple worldviews.

When Einstein referred to his God, he was referring to Spinoza’s God. Indeed, when Richard Dawkins denies God, he refers implicitly to the God of traditional theology, and not Spinoza’s being of infinite attributes… or being itself. In so doing, the Big Bang can be the creation myth, empirical discovery becomes our theology, the laws of physics our forms of magick, and the Heat Death of the Universe becomes analogous to the Eschaton.

The Philosopher’s Zone – Beth Lord “Spinoza’s God”

This is not to say that science is based on belief, that creationism is in any way equitable to evolution, that quantum physics can by extrapolated on the macro-scale to justify mystical flim-flam, or that energized memory crystals can infuse the power of intention to transform reality into the magical alternate version you desire. Some things are simply false notions.

Atheists are still the most hated and distrusted group in America, despite being on average just as moral and law-abiding as any random religious adherent (and certainly more than some I could mention). Reason and philosophy have different aims from religion, the extent to which these various factors rule our lives and interact and cooperate with each other partly determining the kind of person we will be.

Theists do battle with atheists, atheists fight right back, many religions disenfranchise or discriminate against others, while some atheists belittle agnostics and others whose beliefs and opinions differ from their own.

The false dichotomy has it that people on the right behave and believe irrationally, and that those on the left are amoral heathens. But what if all parties involved transcended their petty differences to find those sticking similarities? How could we organize our communities, nations, and minds in such ways as to accept the verifiable truths found in science, and the infinitely complex beings we believe keep us thinking, going, doing, feeling, and helping?

Lest we forget that our great American experiment was started by a group of deists, who believed in a necessary first cause but were otherwise largely agnostic regarding the idea of an interventionist Creator. They believed that intellectual pursuit, discourse, and hard work were what built a nation, not an affinity to ghosts and clouds. True, while many of the groups that came to America to escape religious persecution and indoctrination were more puritanical, many others rightly splintered from them. Splitters.

Even Scientology, which is only fifty-eight years old and is largely regarded as a cult of science-fiction quackery, has spawned a reform movement of former members now disillusioned by the Church, but still firm believers in the metaphysical benefits they receive through their form of worship:

Marty was given intensive auditing, carried out lengthy meditation exercises, and at one point during a “communication drill” in which he had to silently stare into a counsellor’s eyes for an hour, underwent what he calls an “out-of-body” experience. “I literally exteriorised from my body,” he says. “It was incredible. It changed everything.”

The tools of science reveal that meditation alters brain-wave states, ritual belief and thinking change the dosage of electro-chemical impulses, and fasting raises the user’s perceptional awareness and focus. All this without the drama of a a bullying god, danger of fraud such as dying in a sweat lodge under some nincompoop new age guru, myopic prejudice rendered by dogmatic interpretations, or tithing your savings to a theocorporate entity.

Perhaps a truly superintelligent being (AI, extraterrestrial, extradimensional, god-like, or ourselves in the near future) would need to explore an infinitely rich tapestry of realities involving scientific discovery, spiritual self-reflection, psychoanalysis and even experimental psychedelic use.

“It has to do with your own intelligence. Truly stupid people aren’t interested in psychedelics because they can’t figure out what the point of it is. It feeds off intelligence. It’s a consciousness-expanding drug. If you don’t have any consciousness you can’t expand it.”

-Terence McKenna

And while an extreme intelligence would be largely unpredictable, given that its parameters for growth and survival would be very different than our mortal comprehension, it is useful to note that no strategy or resource would go ignored or unconsidered. It should go without saying, but often goes unnoticed, that a diverse set experiences, techniques and modalities for thinking will yield a more well-rounded, intellectual individual with wider options and resources for problem solving and deep reflection. We may even reach a point in our development towards super-intelligence that allows us to induce analytical or spiritual thinking, psychedelic or profound experiences all at will, depending on what suits our present needs.

Science is still the greatest tool we have for discovering the truth about the physical world, and neuroscience may bring us answers in the coming centuries concerning our elusive and dated conceptions of consciousness and self.

But epistemology and metaphysics aside, the most pressing and useful marriage of these techniques and schools of thought could further the higher order ethics usually found in humanist philosophies, and in the desire utilitarianism of Alonzo Fyfe, as “the idea that morality involves using praise and condemnation to promote desires that tend to fulfill other desires, and to inhibit desires that tend to thwart other desires.” This empirical system defines ‘general good‘, which can be either true or false, and the more specific ‘moral good‘:

“A good desire is a desire that tends to fulfill other desires. A bad desire is a desire that tends to thwart other desires.”

It uses relational values in such a way to determine a moral realism and not a moral relativism, in the same way that, say, distance can be both relative and definitely quantifiable at the same time. This would seem to result in a society that pursues civil libertarian values that do not adversely affect the lives of others, while rejecting both the individual subjectivism of psychotics and narcissists, and any desires based on fictional precepts such as neo-conservatism or fundamentalist dogma. In other words, such a system of ethics avoids the dangers of both populist and oligarchical power-mongering based on false notions. It, like other rational forms of philosophy and political science, would allow religious followers to worship as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. This would seem simple and American enough, and perhaps such a reasonable approach may one day replace the heated rhetoric and violent passion of theocratic conflict.

Conversations From the Pale Blue Dot – Alonzo Fyfe “Desire Utilitarianism”

In the realm of the secular sciences, peace is already being wedged into the Middle East, with cooperative endeavors such as SESAME, or Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications, which has been bringing together physicists from Israel and Egypt and Jordan, and perhaps eventually Iran.

Culture codes, languages and biases cannot be changed overnight. But perhaps the ongoing reformation (of art, science, philosophy, and religion) can utilize these ideas to bridge the gaps in these disparate fields. As we can see, they all have vital importance to operating minds, and we need only to overcome the contrived conflicts that have arisen through ignorance, but that may otherwise doom us with their obstinacy.

Awesome Source

If anyone were to ask me (they never do) what sort of sources I use on the internet as News Director for Mutiny Radio, for my own show The Stranger in a Strangeland, or just as a web surfer, blogger, podcaster or podcast-listener, I wouldn’t have had a list readily available. Modern technology, however, would allow me to whip up an answer in the form of the feed aggregators on Google Reader, Blogger and iTunes. All the same, I thought I’d have a “little” entry prepared with some words about each and why I use/enjoy them, should anyone become inquisitive in the future, or for posterity.

News Sites/Aggregators

Generally, I have a preponderance of news waiting for me to skim in my Google Reader each morning. This includes the wealth of information from the New York Times, BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and Russia Today (RT), all of whom I trust to varying degrees to deliver a broad picture of what the world looks like at the moment. I typically do not trust the NYT’s coverage of Iran (or hardly any American sources for that matter), but agencies like Al-Jazeera, RT and the Conflict Monitors of the Human Security Report Project are usually reliable for producing a look at international issues from every side. Talking Points Memo (TPM) showcases what would be considered the progressive side of the news, but often without comment, with links to entire quotes and context, and a diligent job of muckraking. Their charts and analysis are great fodder for any news feed.

To get at the real heart of matters, however, we want journalists and researchers who will more deeply cover the stories than the national conversation would normally dictate or allow. Intrepid newmen and editors from Alternet, Truth-out, Democracy Now! and the Real News Network provide hard-hitting watchdog journalism, and pose incisive questions to power. Salon is a refreshingly progressive source of news, comment, and blogs written by the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Mary Elizabeth Williams, and Truth Dig, which features progressive columnist Chris Hedges. The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur is perhaps the greatest news resource on the internet or anywhere if you want to escape the drudgery of big corporate-driven conservative media.

Regardless of politics, I choose not to read the Huffington Post due to their abysmal science reporting. Without a good sense of the scientific method, I cannot trust their standards for journalism.

For science news, there are more resources than time to read in a day, with my inbox overflowing more in this category than any other, a reminder of the rapidly developing times we live in. New Scientist (both the magazine and the site) and Physorg provide a constant stream of scientific discovery, with timely technorati Ars Technica and WIRED revealing where the state of technological advancement has us (WIRED recently broke the story of the NSA’s mega-base in the Utah desert). The Electronic Frontier Foundation combines civil libertarian advocacy work and news with parsing large amounts of technical and legal information, “defending our rights in a digital world.”

For an alternative view, Disinformation aggregates strange and conspiratorial stories from around the web, defiant of the Big Brother states that allows their continued existence.. for now.

Whereas sites like Laughing Squid, Flavorpill and Neatorama offer up pop cultural items, mashups, fun topics and much needed escapism, in other words, all things neat-o. Neat facts, and topics can be had at Mental Floss and life’s big questions at Soul Pancake (co-created by Rainn Wilson). Gizmodo’s (itself a tech news giant) sister-site io9 (as well as Syfy’s own Blastr) keeps us at the cutting edge of science-fiction, which of course could be light years ahead of science fact reporting, or as their tagline boasts “We come from the future.” Whereas Lifehacker helps you get your shit together with easy, simple fixes, showcasing shortcuts to life’s tedium.

And just as general resources go, you’ll find that Snopes has been the greatest defender against internet and urban legend chicanery for years, and that the TV Tropes wiki will help you understand how fiction, culture and memetics works a whole let better. You won’t believe they actually have names for some of these things!

Podcasts

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe is hosted by Steve Novella, neurologist, professor, president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society, with his panel of skeptical rogues, brothers Bob and Jay Novella, Rebecca Watson and Evan Burnstein. The interesting science topics, audio games and quirks, in-depth interviews, numerous sci-fi references, and of course the irreverent, conversational and casual wit of the skeptics makes it a welcome treat on my ipod each week. These usually go over an hour, but I consistently find myself wanting more.

Brian Dunning’s Skeptoid are a much smaller, so if you want your dose of critical thinking in a fifteen minute dose, enjoy his cool presentation of the self-researched topics ranging from Bigfoot to the Denver Airport. Now over his 300th episode, he somehow manages to uncover a seemingly endless array of new and intriguing myths, legends and misinformation.

Big Picture Science (formerly Are We Alone?) is hosted by Seth Shostak and Molly Bentley of the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute. With the big picture question of ‘Are We Alone’, the goofy gang of serious scientists have springboarded into the world of the atom, the future, the cell, the virus, the planets, the brain, and any other area where an inquisitive microphone can go. Ideation of this magnitude can also be found by watching Dr. Michio Kaku expound on science’s great questions on Explorations in Science.

Neuropod, hosted by neurogeek Kerri Smith, comes out once a month (with a few bonus episodes here and there), to fill you in on some of the latest discoveries in the world of Neuroscience. Not all of the aspects catch my interest, but the ones that do really do. And since it isn’t as prolific as some of the others, and the information not as time-sensitive, I can enjoy it at any pace without them piling up.

Two more that have been around for a while but I am just now beginning to check out and delve into are the BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific and the backlog of wonderful TED Talks (both audio and video).

Though I am now well-planted in the firm reality of scientific discovery, a nostalgic craving, sense of zany fun, and a smirking incredulity keep me coming back to Coast to Coast AM hosted by George Noory, with John B. Wells, George Knapp and Ian Punnett playing weekends and backup. I have been hooked on this show (along with many other listeners, of which there are now estimated 4.5 million listeners every night, making it the most listened to late night show in North America) since the mid-to-late-90’s, when Art Bell‘s grizzled tones would part the airwaves to spook us with the most arcane topics. Today’s shows are sometimes less esoteric, and the format is more formalized, but George Noory is absolutely charming in his innocent and nonjudgemental inclusion of a wide variety of topics in the realms of politics, conspiracy, the paranormal or speculations on the future.

The Psychedelic Salon with Lorenzo features lectures from some of the world’s strangest and deepest thinkers, such as Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Albert Hoffmann, Alexander Shulgin, and of course the inimitable Terence McKenna. I must admit that I skip some shows that do not feature McKenna’s brilliant form of rhetorical styling and intellectual mastery. Of late, however, I keep coming back for Lorenzo’s faithful coverage of the Occupy movement, and related audio, which I sometimes use on my own show. Another fun nugget of mind-body awakening can be found in the Alan Watts Podcast, rebroadcasting short philosophical bites from the Alan Watts Library.

The Philosopher’s Zone with Alan Saunders, whose received pronunciation may at first seem strange on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio National, nonetheless perfectly mixes deep, philosophical questions with silly, simple ones. Part history lesson, part mind expansion, don’t allow your own life to go unexamined without at least inspecting some of the introspections bound to arise while listening!

Similarly, philosopher Tim O’Connor‘s Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot (taken from a Carl Sagan line), raises startling, tortuous questions about God, self, reality and being with atheists, agnostics, deists, and religious scholars of every faith. The show aims to “take philosophy to the street, illustrating how conversation… can be carried out in a careful, civil, and constructive way by people who disagree.”

When I first started listening to The History of Rome, I thought I would listen through the reign of Augustus or perhaps Claudius and then get bored. Here we are near the beginning of the Dark Ages, and I’m still hanging on to Mike Duncan’s carefully researched and recited dissertation on the storied lives, politics, drama, battles and intrigue (with a little cheesy humor thrown in at times) of Rome’s expansive civilization. To jump around in time, the adorable and well-read Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey present Stuff You Missed in History Class from HowStuffWorks.com. Thrilling and yet sometimes obscure historical stories, often examining a subject from as many angles as possible, revealing personal stories from time in the process, heartbreaking, brave, humorous and epic.

The International Spy Museum SpyCast is a great bit of history and political science education if you’re into the worlds of espionage, military history (and present), and the skullduggery of terrorists and intelligentsia alike.

Even the hilarious and conversational entertainment programming I subscribe to, Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier’s Smodcast and Ricky Gervais‘ podcast with Steven Merchant and Harvey Pilkington, present a sort of primer on critical thinking. Often revealing stories of science, religion, and history in the same casual manner as pop culture or scatalogical humor, the more skeptical Mosier often guides Kevin gently through the scientific method, whereas Ricky and Steve will taunt and ridicule Harvey’s mistaken notions of how the world works, ultimate culminating in an Idiot Abroad. Two different examples for how friends interact, and two different methods for how skeptics or atheists can talk to believers, and either way, all in good fun. The Onion adds another satirical bit of aural pleasure to your inbox, giving you some sensationally fraudulent talking points for the week.

And finally, X Minus One (X-1) has been my constant ipod companion since my first Nano. Classic tales of science fiction and horror from the 1950’s and 1960’s, the same spine-tingling diversions into space and time that probably elated my father when he was a boy.

Blogs

The frequently updated blogs on WIRED are some of my favorites, and I think I’ve been following them the longest, as they equally rate with other news in my feed. Epicenter, which puts the reader in the heart of the constantly changing world of digital media industries and business. Writers like Kim Zetter and David Kravets present absolutely essential information on Danger Room, closely following military gadgetry and national security, or Threat Level which, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, highlights the latest threats to our privacy, individual freedoms or civil liberties pertaining to technology and surveillance.

Nick Bilton, tech blogger for the New York Times’ Bits, is also the author of I Come From the Future and This is How it Works, a stunning analysis of how the shifting media and technology landscape is affecting industries, our culture, and our brains. As a blogger he is adept at finding and focusing in on lesser talked about yet important issues in technology, often raising stirring points about the trends and transactions.

Michael Anissimov (who was interviewed on the Strangeland) is media director for the Singularity Institute and co-organizer of the Singularity Summit. He is co-founder of the Lifeboat Foundation, which seeks to find safe and responsible developments for emerging technologies. His blog, Accelerating Future, bring our minds closer to the future of nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics, transhumanism, Artificial Intelligence, the Singularity, and extinction risk.

Harvey Silverglate (another former guest), criminal defense civil liberties litigator, author of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of of Liberty on America’s Campuses and Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, former ACLU attorney, partner of the aforementioned EFF, and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has many articles available at Reason Magazine, which is aptly named.

Whereas Law and the Multiverse serves to illustrate how legal actions might come to be decided in the worlds of fiction; comic book superpowers, science fiction, and even AMC’s drama Breaking Bad are all made the subject of legal analysis.

Micah Allen’s Neuroconscience researches brain plasticity and cognitive neuroscience, while Mo Costandi’s Neurophilosophy deals with

Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy is astronomically great, and is hosted along with several other fascinating science blogs at Discover Magazine. If you enjoy a good skeptical dose like his, I would check out the above-mentioned Dr. Steven Novella’s NeuroLogica blog, his advocacy on Science-Based Medicine, or the contributions to Skepticblog along with the likes of Brian Dunning, Micahel Shermer and others.

Illusionist/Future World Dictator Derren Brown has lots of fun updates of stunning imagery, science, magic, psychology, skepticism and the supernatural, all especially appealing to my eclectic tastes. Author, psychologist and skeptic Richard Wiseman offers up puzzles, brain teasers and illusions each week that will make you want to show someone else.

Mind Hacks keeps readers abreast of the news in neuroscience and psychology, with the bold assertion that with such understanding, such tricks will help figure out one’s own brain.

I’ve recently become addicted to the grand ideas presented at Big Think. Similar to TED, you can find great links, lectures, and interviews, but in a much more condensed and potable form. Politics, science, society, and the mind are all game to their host of editors.

Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings is yet another brilliantly curated web resource for intellectual pursuers with a love for art, literature, photography, biography, science, philosophy, and historical oddities. I cannot emphasize how much I love Brain Pickings!

Especially significant of late in the wave of psychopaths taking control of our democracy, the Ponerology Blog details discoveries in the science of evil, spearheaded by Andrew M. Lobaczewski, Ph.D.

I also put together a little tumblr concerning the fate of the publishing and retail book industry in this historically significant shifting media landscape, dramatically titled Likely In Store.
As for food blogs, dire decadence demands that one consume updates from Fancy Fast Food, Insanewiches, Cook to Bang, This is Why You’re Fat and the Cheese Underground.

I’ll also occasionally head over to the Brothers Brick or Brick Testament to get my LEGO on, but I do worry that this may open up into a black hole of LEGO blogs for me.

Webcomics (Bonus!)

Of course I’ve been a lifelong fan of Penny Arcade and PvP, (as long as they’ve been live), and Brian Clevinger’s spritely 8-bit Theatre back in its day, and Diesel Sweeties, the robot romance webcomic. I’m also stunned by creatively experimental and remarkably crafted works like Scott McCloud’s Zot! Online, yuumei’s Knite or Demian5’s When I Am King. Pervs will enjoy S.S. Myra or Chester 5000 XYV. And just about anything anything with art by Scott Campbell, John Allison, or Kate Beaton.

I know I just fired a lot at you, and it’s all just the tip of the iceberg! But with an overabundance of digital information, news, discovery, curiosities and entertainment, we all have to be our own curators, or as author James William Powell puts it, our own ‘SPAM filters.’ Hopefully by pointing toward some of my favorite daily, weekly or monthly sources, I can help some curious internet wanderer in the future. Of course, it may all be different by then! At the very least it stands as yet another blog time capsule to what I ‘fed’ on at this point in my life.

I’m always looking for new sources! Of course, it goes without saying that Mutiny Radio should be your source for a much more streamlined helping of these sources! And Mutiny Radio is always looking for intrepid journalists, editors, aggregators or bloggers! Get a hold of me at thestranger@earthling.net!