Tag Archives: thought

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.

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!

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Status Impossible

I have long thought about the status bars in my life, and the appropriate relative comparisons made to video games like the Sims and Grand Theft Auto. And beyond some simple Tetris effect, as we enmesh with technology even more concretely, these descriptions become even more applicable and important.

Jesse Schell (When games invade real life) has made some excellent points about this, as well as NY Times technology blogger Nick Bilton, in his book I Live in the Future & Here’s How it Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted.

Game achievements and status completion in games can reflect what we do in our newly augmented reality; downloads of content, how much of the entertainment you have consumed, work progress, to do lists, all of it can be broken down into percentages and infographic representations. At one point, I even made little bars for my bookshelf, so that I could be reminded how many of those books I had read, and how many I still needed to crack open.

At the same time I think about my purposefully created memories in this temporary experience:

I have formed my memories by accident.
Though some I have made my own.
They stick out in a swampish sea floating like bouys against a throng
A waving flag in front of the Federal building
As I was about to sign my life away
The yellow halo of a girl’s auburn hair
knowing she could never be mine but in that moment didn’t care
The evening I lost my virginity, the look in her eyes
And not knowing the role I would be doomed to reprise
Stuck in a ditch on a field trip, mud sucking at my shoe
hoping to not get caught, my friend not knowing what to do
A tree during recess, its sun-dried leaves pockmarked and empty
the hard carcasses of bugs left as the wind grew cold and wintry
A stolen toy, an unfelt guilt, a growing phobia, unheard accusations
Maroon and brown, like wood grain,
pulpy wet and bright, popping, blaring pain, light.
Or perhaps I’ve never remembered them, but simply a broken reference link,
I’ve fooled myself into remembering that I did remember them.

and how your free-roam experience in sandbox games is sometimes enhanced most by mere urban exploration. And though the work of these video game designers today is mind-boggling, it still pales in comparison by many orders of magnitude to the level of detail still available “IRL”. Geocaching, foursquare, and yelp are all allowing us to interact in new ways with terrain, businesses and environments that may have previously been background, to see more of the NPCs that make up our cities and staff its shops and restaurants.

With the nearly endless number of businesses, buildings, and public spaces in your metropolitan area, how could you ever hope to traverse them all (of those allowable), or even provide a statistic or percentage? Subdivide your map and think about how many you might reasonably explore and learn, so that when you walk by them in the future, they may each hold a particular experience or fleeting memory of this experiment.

Could you traverse or trespass every square foot? How long would it take you to fill that bar? To get that achievement?

Because after all, it all may turn out to have been a video game experience all along…

Alien Intelligence

As a child and adolescent, paranormal threats would frighten and obsess me more than any ghost, vampire, or irrational phobia. The most nightmare-inducing movies for me were the Day the Earth Stood Still, Fire in the Sky, and even Mars Attacks! I was addicted to the X-Files continuity, and to books like Communion by Whitley Streiber. I kept my ear glued to Coast to Coast AM, long before the befuddled yet charming (much like my father) George Noory, during the smoky-voiced Art Bell years, managing to handle ridiculous claims and speculation with both eyebrow-raised incredulity and eager thirst for woo.

Listening to it still, but with an older more skeptical mind, it’s amazing how much hardcore paranormal believers reveal about what exactly is happening in the brain by what they say. A number of them describe alien, ghost, shadow people, and old hag encounters that, regardless of the character in place, are apt illustrations of hypnagogic dreams in action. Numerous callers, and the Mothman Prophecies author Jim Keel, claim that when supernatural forces “notice you noticed them” presumably continue to act out further for that enlightened person’s benefit. They are quite closely describing their own confirmation bias, seeing the very thing they are keyed up to look for, for that very reason. Utilising the mechanism of the brain that builds patterns out of nothing, and holding firmer to their position out of fear of their invested belief being wrong, and rewarded by the childlike part of the brain that endorses mythology, animism, imaginary friends, and religion.

Their conspiratorial-minded community reinforces that they are wiser and more enlightened for having gotten in on the secret(s). Believing their information to be factual and superior, they consider themselves the truly critical-thinking ones, because their minds are open to accept such outlandish claims. Many claim a healthy mixture of open-mindedness and skepticism, and then use this justification to heavily land in the former. Mythology is interesting stuff, and perfectly healthy to delve into, but only when recognized as perfectly false.

How can anyone really be sure that their minds, through various combinations of hypnagogic sleep states, pareidolia, or confirmation bias, aren’t fooling us into supernatural superstition no different than those in the past? Jim Kieth, himself a paranormal investigator, inadvertently revealed some of the weaknesses in his Casebook on the Men in Black, explaining how we have always had some cultural awareness of (as Terence McKenna calls it) “the Other”. Men in Black used to be iterations of Old Scratch, the devil himself, or else the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague. Greys used to be any number of various little green men, fairies, goblins, or demons. And if one doesn’t accept the more grandiose implications of a Jungian collective unconscious (used to support a metaphysically telepathic astral plane of nightmarish archetypes), but simply the deeply ingrained set of socio-psychological beliefs, then the disconnects only seem to hurt the credibility of the phenomenon being an external physical force, more than mere mental construct. One can make the argument that these phenomena actually have been observed as a constant but simply described (I would argue, widely) differently. That the inter-dimensional or mystically quantum nature of these objects and beings make them ephemeral spirits, manifesting differently. Even if this is the case, it only lends to the unfalsifiability of the whole matter.

At least with accounts of Bigfoot, the reporting and sightings throughout history are fairly consistent.

What is surprising is that even when skeptics, astronomers, astrobiologists, xenobiologists, and philosophers suppose the existence of alien intelligence, it is usually described as autocratic, organizational, and would probably have mathematically subcategorized our sector. At least partially or wholly integrated with machine, they would be cold telepathic drones, more like one giant organism than many, frightening in their passionless drive to accomplish hive goals. The commensurate measures that led to cellular life growing more diverse, apes to be social climbers, and humans to be the planet’s most winningest species, might certainly have allowed a space-faring race to survive in the perpetuity necessary for interstellar travel. Their motives would be so far removed as to seem malevolent (but in actuality no moreso than the automatic slapping of a mosquito), their technology like the ‘magic’ of Gods, their thoughts unknowable, their abilities seemingly without limit. One thing would be certain, they would have their own limits and needs, beyond our comprehension, but as important to them as ours are to us. It is frighteningly coincidental how this model fits the described greys and their behavior. Listen to any specific person on the matter, however, especially those that receive mental messages from our astrological space brethren, and you’re in for a world of intellectual hurt.

Even the Catholic Church now believes in our brothers from the stars, also saved by the Judeo-Christian God. This may not help either argument much.

The thing is, we’re all on the inside of a false centre looking out at all the things that are when we aren’t even sure what “are” means.

Ultimately, it all comes down to faith. Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard believed that taking that leap of faith (be it a god or love) was ultimately scary and could prove to be wrong, and therefore should take courage. No such evidence could ever be enough to pragmatically justify the kind of total commitment involved in true religious faith or romantic love. Faith involves making that commitment anyway. Kierkegaard thought that to have faith is at the same time to have doubt. So, for example, for one to truly have faith in God, one would also have to doubt one’s beliefs about God; the doubt is the rational part of a person’s thought involved in weighing evidence, without which the faith would have no real substance. In essence, those who try to use science to prove their faith do not have real faith. Faith and scientific method are mutually exclusive. You cannot use phenomena to explain or justify itself, or rely on mostly unreliable witness testimony. Proponents or willing adherents to the supernatural should try like the dickens to falsify their own hypotheses.

This surely works the other way, and die-hard skeptics should explore the evidence of outlandish claims, if for no other reason than it is fun. Similar to theologian Tim Mawson’s claims that atheists should attempt prayer for some period of time, to strengthen their disbelief. Wouldn’t their logic would supersede any patterns of magical thinking? And how would one know which God to try this with? Of course many skeptics would argue that the burden of proof does not lie with those that posit something’s nonexistence.

What interests me most about all this is this; Why is it much more difficult to accept the existence of God or UFOs, than a pig (which you have seen before but are not looking at right now) or Japan (which you may have never directly observed)?

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Stop the train and let me off!

Every day of my life as long as I can remember, I have pictured myself as a hundred other things besides a man; a superman, a sea turtle, a bird, an ape, a demigod, a snail, a plastic bag, a volcano.

I fantasize that God or some other space alien will lift me up and unify me with the energy of the cosmos, or else smash me into an unrecognizable paste with their giant fist-from-the-sky. Either way, I wouldn’t have to deal with the minutiae.

I wish that I had never learned what wishing was. No I don’t. Yes I do.

But an immortal man would have no more chance of understanding the world or himself than a stillborn baby. So here’s to equality.

I asked an old man once, while helping him fill out an online application, what I should put down for his skills and whatnot. He replied with clear pronunciation, “Well sir, I am what you would call, ‘a lazy man.'” Even though I hated him, I wish everyone would be as honest as him, and by that I mean I wish everyone would say exactly what he did.

People suck. Mostly the white ones. There’s not enough hatred against whites, if you ask me. But its not as if anybody will do anything about it. The winning teams were decided long ago.

The difference between luck and chance is the letters that are used, and thus, their placement in the dictionary.

The difference between success and banality is the same distance between a supermarket and a natural history museum.

You’re born, you live, you die. Like the frothing effervescent sea foam of a pounding rushing wave, which exists but an instant, only to be replaced later by a near facsimile. It’s silly to want to do anything else but that, or even complain about the circumstances in-between. It makes for very predictable literature, or a very boring board game.

There’s a reason there that the heavy waves of the ocean are considered revitalizing and new to the fragile human spirit. Doesn’t anybody else wonder and worry about the fact that a body can trouble themselves over the supernatural (sometimes egregious) effects of a rainstorm one day, and smile at the uplifting stupor of a full rainbow the next?

A lot of people have no regard for ‘tomorrow’. They seem foolish because a storm could wipe out their home the same day they lose their job. Those people who have great consideration for ‘tomorrow’ wisely organize their piles into geometric stacks that will one day be the forgotten detritus of a long-extinct smoking cinder.

Everywhere are roots sticking out of the ground, and throngs of immobile people, and fences, and ‘No Trespassing’ signs, and public transportation, and little spiky balls of vegetable matter stuck in your footwear. But the reality is you can’t escape your own skull, the contents of which conspire against you far more than any other real or imagined forces of the universe.

I used to laugh at people with ridiculous phobias, as I am not afraid of clowns, or needles, or spiders, or dentists, or dogs, or what other relatively harmless things my friends are. That is, until I realized that I am afraid of perhaps that most fantastic and intangible construction of human evolution: falling in love.

I don’t believe I could take the time to get to know somebody as well as I know myself. I don’t know myself all that well.

Some people take drugs to stop them from thinking so much. Others take drugs so that they’ll think even harder. Society is a drug that does both simultaneously.

I can feel my thoughts and opinions and beliefs and wishes and aspirations and dreams sloshing around in my brain. I feel their weight. As though tilting my head back and forth would let them ooze warmly from my inner ear canal with a loud ‘POP’ and puddle into a pillow cover which I would then throw away and forget about.

When I try to force myself to think, I get sleepy. When I try to stop myself thinking, I get a headache. Either way I need to lie down.

If I ever do get depressed, it seems to be during those transcendental moments of beauty that defy all attempts at description. I involuntarily enter a trance-state as if in some drunken mind-frame, but wholly different from any drug. Thoughts overtake me, in what should be a happy or religious experience, but somehow induced from another place, like spoken in tongues, or finding something you thought you threw away long ago, or suddenly realizing you’re at the place you were supposed to be, but you don’t feel at all the way you anticipated. Disoriented, thinking of your position to the world all wrong once confronted by its image, then inexplicably angry at nobody. What an odd coincidence.

I’m grateful for plenty of things, but perpetually devoid of any ideas on how to express it appropriately.

If I ran away from ‘it all’ and changed my name or stole somebody’s, sure, the scenery might be better, but there would still be all the bullshit. It smells the same everywhere.

My most foolish fantasy has never been contemplating suicide. That is, I never think about it seriously enough to be considered ‘contemplation.’ Certainly not more than the average person, I suppose. Just as every heterosexual has the stray homosexual thought, but with such infrequency and frivolity that one can’t seriously self-identify as gay, let alone act upon it. So when somebody steps in front of oncoming traffic to end their life, it astounds me that they would want to reduce all the petty problems in their life into one massive immediate one. Though, to their credit, if they are killed they can’t be said to have any problems at all. But I always think, ‘if they aren’t killed, just seriously injured, they’ve increased their share of problems to work with tenfold.’ No. My most foolish fantasy is that I imagine stepping into oncoming traffic, surviving, and being somebody else’s problem. Maybe somebody attractive.

But I’m not depressed or tortured. That would be just another excuse to disrupt a disturbing train of thought, and I think its best to see the train to its destination, no matter how annoying. The trains are never on time, always end up at the wrong place with the wrong passengers aboard, with squealing wheels sparking against steel at an uncontrollable rate of speed, the driver having jumped off long ago. So far, there’s been no crash, but that’s almost worse.

No artist is tortured any more than any other thinking individual. Torture is what religion and the CIA perpetrate upon dissidents, or what some fetishists do for loads of money. But I repeat myself.

I don’t know what’s more upsetting, that the universe doesn’t care what I do, or that I don’t.

Not that I really have any problems or complaints, mind you. Just the typical ones that we all have, from the starving third-world villager to the multi-billionaire CEO. Wait. Scratch that.

It troubles me very deeply and very often that I am just like everybody else on the planet, and nobody is just like me.

I ask too much

I ask too much of myself, of others, and of reality. I ask too many questions in general. Generally, I ask too much.

Are thoughts something physical, do they exist without the mind, are they sent to us from some place besides the mind, or do they exist only because we do? Are thoughts simple cells of the brain stimulated with electrical currents leaping from synapse to synapse, dendrites twittering rapidly like birds in heat? Or are thoughts independent of the mind, corporeal forms that remain long after our physical brain has decayed and returned to the matter whence it came?

What is time? Is it an illusion of a series of still images placed over our eyes to tell us that we exist in a single timeline moving forward at some arbitrarily divided measurement system? Does all of time happen within one instant, or is all of reality as we perceive it with no distractions, with no loopholes, with no catches, with no deception?

Is there only one universe, or are there an infinite number of them for all eternity, and how would we know the difference? More scarily, how would we be able to tell the difference between a world dictated by the edicts of free will and one of predetermination? How would we tell the difference between a universe with God and one without Him? And if there is a God, and we were conceived by His mind, shouldn’t our minds have the ability to understand at least part of him, to realize him and conceive him as He conceived us? Is there a collective consciousness, and if so, then I go back to the question of the infinite universes…

If there is such a thing as infinity, then how can two doppelgangers, one evil and one good, exist when one would have to go to hell and one would have to go to heaven? Do they negate each other? Would your evil (or good) twin cancel you out? Where would you go? In an infinite system, there must be no limitations, stipulations, regulations or barriers. Every scenario must and shall be played out, meaning that there must be an infinite number of universes and timelines that directly and incontrovertibly contradict each other into nothingness, as would all of infinity be?

If there is no afterlife, then what is that void? You cannot picture blackness, because that is something, you cannot picture space, because that is something, a black hole is still something, you brain in a jar in the Matrix is still something, and heavenly clouds are still something and what you see when you close your eyes is still something, as is the wolf from the Neverending Story.

And a mathematical paradox occurs to me, infinity and nothingness are semantic opposites, mathematical principles expressed in symbols because they are so abstract that our finite minds cannot understand them in entirety. But it is also logical to say that zero infinity because zero can cancel out infinity, and perhaps that the two are inexorably intertwined, are, perhaps, synonymous? Are they also synonymous with God? All things that we have no solid tactile concept for…

How can you prove/disprove infinity? How can you prove/disprove nothingness? How can you prove/disprove God?

It all answers one question easily, however, and that is the question of why I haven’t been able to sleep restfully for days.

Thinking Time

So sometimes I wake up and I find that I do not want to get out of bed because I have been thinking about the universe and the miniscule random possibility that any intelligent lifeforms might have evolved, let alone two, let alone two close enough or intelligent enough to meet each other. And I bury my head deep into the softness of my pillow as I think about this and how lucky it must have been for a semi-highly evolved ape to move into the direction of manhood, and how technology and art and civilization emerged and logical thought allowed for such thoughts as these, and how it all would have been a moot point if apes never turned into man, or conversely, if God had never deigned to create life on this planet, or if I were born a single-celled organism or perhaps somebody without the ability for abstract thought or somebody in a third world country who has to worry about where their next meal comes from, not philosophical nonsense at seven in the morning. It bothers me that I CAN be thinking such nonsense, because it only reinforces that I am a member of that group of individuals, a small portion of life on this planet alone, let alone anywhere else in the universe, or compared to God, who have that ability to reason and read. To learn and process cognitive thoughts concerning cause and effect. I shudder as rain pounds on the window outside, myself snuggled deeply in my bed, that it is all a moot point, or else, it would and probably should have been if I had been born an Arctic Fox, or an albatross, or perhaps just an idiot. The randomness that I was born, not only on a planet with a habitable lifesphere, but also into a middle class white suburban family in America, with ninja turtle toys and a VCR player back when that was something laudable, and also male, which give me a bit of an edge on the competition. Perhaps not particularly at the peak of physical prowess, or even intellectually, but no lightweight either to be scoffed or scorned. I think about how lonely it must be for us to never ever ever reach alien life in all of our years on this planet until it or God or both decide to sweep us away, and how equally frustrating it must be for alien life elsewhere.

And I think about, since we were so lucky and privileged, every one of us, to live in this life on this planet, better to have lived and lost than never to have lived at all, why we waste it bickering like children with thermonuclear weaponry, shrapnel grenades and fully automatic weapons. Why we bomb country after country full of brown people and why here, even in your own backyard, teenagers can buy a glock and take down another for not paying his drug money on time or how homelessness is rampant and most of us look the other way or how religious zealots loudly advocate the destruction of one race or sexual-orientation against another? How an innocent man can sit in prison after a farce of a court trial? How far does it go? From the little white lies to the abuse of children and animals and other so-called dependents that we’ve surprisingly taken under our wing when we can’t seem to be responsible for ourselves financially or medically. How do we dare to police the world as the fathers of all nations, telling who can have what an which trade goes where and who gets bombed for why WHEN WE DON’T EVEN GET ALONG THAT WELL IN THE SENATE! This is what we’re doing with our evolutionary process! This is what we CALL civilization! This is how far we’ve gotten in the two-hundred years as a nation, industrialized, civilized! After the age of Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Jr., and in the age of Montel! After Teddy Roosevelt, so called policeman of the world, and Harry S Truman, the buck stopped and nobody knew what to do with it! The Code of Hammurabi out the window. To hell with the Torah, screw the 95 Thesis, nobody even remembers the Hypocratic oath! This is a day and age when the Golden Rule is synonymous with Golden Showers!

And I’m as bad as all the rest! I’m impatient! I’m impolite! I’m ineffective! I have no backbone and if I perceive that somebody is fucking me I’ll fuck right back and use all the racial slurs I know! I’m a miserable bastard! I remember a time when Carson Street was closed (the only viable street in South Side) and the buses had to go around, because somebody had threatened to bomb a local bank. The only thing I was thinking was, “Jesus Christ, I’m late for class,” when there were women and children about to be infected with deadly anthrax! The news later told me that this wasn’t even a bank ROBBERY, it was JUST a bomb threat, and THAT pissed me off, because I had at least wanted all the trouble to be for something productive! I at least wanted ONE person, just ONE, in all that mass hysteria, to be happy. Even if it were by illegal means. Why? Because I can’t stand the idea that somebody could be so miserable as to threaten to bomb a bank for NO GODDAMNED REASON, other than that they are more miserable than the rest of us, and they want a little company! That makes ME miserable, and I am a selfish narcissist whose constructed little invisible box of a universe doesn’t allow for outside thinking of other people, because for all I know, NONE OF THEM EXIST! God, I’m a miserable bastard!

The Gods looked down and laughed. And I think it was Bill Watterson who once said, “Sometimes I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is that nobody has tried to contact us.”

I think all of these things and I think of what a poor excuse they’d make if I called into work and asked for the day off.