Monthly Archives: March 2007

A Fairy Tale, Pure And Simple

Around 300 years before the birth of Christ, there was a Greek mathematician named Eratosthenes. Using logic, empiricism and methodical science, he determined that the Earth was, in fact, round. Not only that, he also calculated it’s circumference.

An amazing feat indeed, considering that, at the time, everybody else on Earth believed that the Earth was flat.

Over the next 2300 years, this knowledge slowly but steadily seeped into the collective consciousness of humanity. But at first, the concept would have seemed ridiculous. After all, how could the Earth be a sphere? Wouldn’t people on the other end fall off? The idea flew in the face of traditional assumptions. You can’t really blame people for not believing it. I mean, the ground looks flat after all. People back then weren’t stupid, they naturally just constructed their world based on the things they could see.

Eventually, sailors would observe that a ship’s mast would descend below the horizon. This rather simple observation is enough, today, to prove to everybody that the Earth is not flat. Or is it?

Believe it or not, there is actually a group today called the “Flat Earth Society” that firmly argues against the curvature of the Earth. They claim that the Earth is flat, and they’ve got some ‘compelling scientific evidence’ to support it:

“There are rivers that flow for hundreds of miles towards the level of the sea without falling more than a few feet — notably, the Nile, which, in a thousand miles, falls but a foot. A level expanse of this extent is quite incompatible with the idea of the Earth’s ‘convexity.'”

If the Earth was curved, then large lakes should have a measurable curvature on their surface. Repeated experiments show that they are perfectly flat.

Now I know what you’re thinking. These people are just crazy. I mean, how can you deny such an overwhelmingly proven fact of science without being totally brainwashed, or downright retarded? Well, it’s actually very simple.

You see, it’s astonishingly easy to convince people of something if you throw enough scientific jargon at them, and frame it as if it were ‘obvious.’ The above quotes are perfect examples of how certain groups succeed in deceiving people by taking advantage of their impressionable nature. It’s pretty clear that the above quotes are based on fake science. It’s laughable, really. Here is another typical example of how science is abused in an effort to deceive:

There you have it. According to top Christian scientists, if evolution were true, our peanut butter should come to life. Personally, I think it’s an insult to Christian people everywhere that such a flagrantly ridiculous postulation should be made as if it were legitimately founded. I’m not an evolutionary biologist by any means, but even from taking science 9, I can tell this ‘scientist’ that:

1) Life doesn’t occur in sealed environments because there is no fresh oxygen

2) Evolutionary scientists DO NOT claim that energy and matter necessarily create new life

In any case, I think it’s clear to any rationally thinking person that the claims made by this man are only intended to deceive stupid people, much in the same way the “Flat Earth Society” uses vageuly scientific rhetoric to convince idiots that the Earth is flat.

So why bring all this up? I’ll tell you why. Because there is an increasing movement in North America to teach children about “alternatives to science” in terms of life and nature. This is wrong. I’m not saying children should not be exposed to religion, but children are supposed to get their FACTS from school, not their ideologies or their beliefs.

How would you feel if the “Flat Earth Society” decided to add “Flat Earthism” to the school curriculum? How would you feel, if this organization wanted your children to be taught that the Earth is flat? Well here’s the kicker ladies and gents:

Denying evolution is, within the realm of proven science, equally as absurd as denying that the Earth is round.

There is 100% absolute scientific consensus on evolution, and if ‘Christian science’ tries to tell you otherwise, it’s because organized religion is (and always has been) fundamentally threatened by the prospect of human knowledge. And wouldn’t ya know, the “Flat Earth Society” just happens to be a Christian organization too! What are the odds?!

If you still have questions about how evolution occurs (ie. how did the wing evolve, how could lifeless matter become living, etc.) then there are perfeclty argued, fully documented, utterly tested and unquestionably proven reasons for how evolution occurs… that is, if you’re willing to read a book. It’s just as easy to see as a ship’s mast going down over the horizon, even if the idea seems, at first, to contradict our natural assumptions.

As my final point, let me just say that I have the utmost respect for the beliefs of others. If you choose to believe that evolution is only a theory, then that is your prerogative. All I’m saying is that, logically speaking, you might as well believe the Earth is flat as well.

You can believe whatever you want. I won’t try and stop you.

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Kiss My Fat Ass: Tyra Banks Charts New Worlds Of Hypocrisy

As some of you may have heard, there was a recent controversy in America with regards to Tyra Banks’ fat ass. A photograph was taken of her on the beach, where it was apparent that she had gained weight. The former super-model-turned-talk-show-host then appeared on television admonishing the media for being so callous towards her.

She blames the media, and in particular, men, for picking on women and making them feel unattractive. She then tells all those people to “kiss her fat ass.”

At first, one might think that Tyra’s tirade is commendable. But oh no. Not here. Not in my house. Your television viewers may have amnesia Tyra, but I still remember that you were A TRASHY SUPERMODEL:

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So who is to blame for the unrealistic image of beauty that girls seem to have? Tyra… are you saying that it’s me that is to blame? Are you suggesting that it’s ordinary men? Are you implying that it is PEOPLE IN THE REAL WORLD who are responsible for all of this nonsense? Well Tyra, I have a little speech for you.

This unrealistic image of beauty is created by YOU AND YOUR INDUSTRY. Unless my eyes decieve me, that’s YOU slathered up in cooking oil and pulling your bikini down for the camera-man. The sheer audacity… the sheer hypocrisy… to go on national television and preach about insecurity and young girls… it’s just blows my fucking mind.

You deserve everything you get, Tyra Banks. You deserve to have every single inch of your body scrutinized by the public until you don’t have one shred of pride left in you. That’s the deal you made when you decided to become a super-model – when you decided advertise your body in swimsuit issues and porno-mags, and when you began lending your name to vapid beauty product endorsements. You have absolutely no right to speak on behalf of real women.

So kiss your own fat ass.

“A Fascinating History” (Part II): The Lost Age Of Airships

Many people are familiar with the Empire State Building. It was the world’s tallest building for 40 years, and is generally titled the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” It is a classic symbol of the optimism and prosperity that is often associated with early 20th century America. Aside from its symbolism and history, the Empire State Buildings has always been, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful structures ever built. It’s art deco style is so reminiscent of the Golden Age.

However, there is one thing that fascinates me the most about this building; something that not a lot of people actually know. The Empire State building was originally designed to be an airport.

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This is a real picture. During it’s construction, builders attached large mooring devices onto the 102nd floor, which at the time was known as the “landing platform.” The idea was that Zeppelins, arriving after a 2-day journey from Europe, would dock to the mast and let passengers down into the city. In fact, it was attempted 3 times, but strong winds made the process too dangerous. Several people were nearly killed during two of the attempts. Amazingly, an airship was successfully moored to the Empire State Building in 1931.

Why do I tell this story? Because I think it nicely demonstrates man’s incredible ambition in the face of impossible challenges. Truly, the early 20th century was the golden age of optimism:

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Sadly, such futuristic speculation ended up a little off the mark. Our cities lack the kind majestic grandeur depicted in these works of art. Ultimately, such designs are not viable, and impossible to engineer within the current capabilities of mankind. And yet… there is a kind of haunting realism to each picture.

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Despite the apparent impossibility of building such things, in these pictures I see a world that could have been. The cities seem to borrow from the ancient world – vast citadels of breathtaking architectural beauty – a perfectly calculated infrastructural network – the ultimate expression of form and function. They are truly breathtaking images that inspire the imagination.

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But there is a dark side to such ambition. For if left unmitigated by reason, such grand dreams can lead to incredible arrogance. As man explores his capabilities to the fullest, so too must he recognize the limits of his reach.

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The attitude that our world should be manipulated by lever-pulls and on-off switches is, in many ways, still deeply entrenched. At what point do we reserve our ambitions, and accept that we will always be, to some degree, subject to the Earth? All man’s spirit, innovation, and cleverness will never be enough to build such fantastically perfect Utopias. The dream of moored airships died long ago, and with it the dream of the hovercar and the colonization of the moon. So often the promises of the past are depicted as absurdities by history. This is an immutable fact of human existence. One wonders; which of today’s promises will one day be considered failed experiments?

Empires Lost, Trampolines Abandoned

I’ve always felt a strange personal relationship with the area surrounding my house. I suppose that is a natural human inclination, and yet it’s been rendered somewhat futile in this great experiment we call suburbia. I suppose we call it a ‘neighborhood,’ but in truth, there’s no such thing as ‘neighborhood’ around here anymore. We don’t know our neighbors, and there’s no border dividing my so-called ‘neighborhood’ from the millions of identical suburban streets and cookie-cutter homes that seem to surround and suffocate us. You feel it when you walk down the street at night; that eerie quiet that makes you feel like every dark window has watchful eyes in it.

There used to be a rickety old bar just around the corner from my house. As kids, we would trespass and rummage through the various old oil cans and conveyors that were inside – long abandoned, long forgotten – relics from as far back as the settlement of my town. Across the street there was a huge cow-field, and in the middle was a little frog-pond. All of the kids from my neighborhood somehow found their way there in the late afternoon, where we discussed our adventures of the day, and the discoveries that we had made.

There’s a tennis court there now. Surrounding it is an empty field of well-trimmed lawn. The barn was knocked down years ago. It’s been replaced with an urban housing development – mostly semi-detached homes in sunny pastels with Motor homes on their driveways and rusty trampolines in their backyards. I still remember where the big trees were, where the bike trail was, and where I found a looney that one day (only to drop it later on that very same day.) I still remember the old concrete sewer pipe that was left abandoned by construction workers, and how it was so overgrown and full of earwigs and centipedes that none of the kids dared go near it.

In an strange way, that leftover concrete pipe was a part of the landscape of my childhood as the trees and the blackberry bushes. It was just there – and it was there for years – until they needed to lay pavement there. Then, one day, I went to throw rocks at it, and it was just gone, leaving a sunken impression in the mud containing a few scrambling bugs. I didn’t feel sad, I just didn’t understand where it had gone. And for the first time ever, I wondered where it had come from to begin with. In a way, I guess I had assumed that it was just as much a part of nature as the ground beneath my velcro sneakers.

One day, the frontiers of my childhood empire began to change. The impassable blackberry bushes that marked my territory were stripped to the ground. Heavy machines began to turn the dirt and dig deep watery trenches. They soon built the wooden structures that were to become the ‘neighborhood’ that I live in today. 

One of the wonderful things about children is that they are incredibly adaptable, and imaginative beyond limit. To me, the enormous piles of dirt and the brightly coloured construction vehicles became fiery volcanoes and ferocious dinosaurs. The wooden frames of future homes became fascinating new areas to explore, and my naive little mind did not fully grasp what was happening.

Slowly, fences started going up, until my empire had been subdivided and appropriated beyond recognition. And then one day, for lack of a frontier, I just stopped exploring.

There is a certain irony to this story. First of all, my childhood environment was an area in transition from rural to urban, so I have mixed feelings of nostalgia and regret with regards to the sprawl that I live in. Should I have been sad to see my concrete pipe disappear? After all, it was just industrial litter.

Secondly, I often wonder what got destroyed for my house to be built. Sure, it was probably just another section of swampy lowland, but I’ll bet that whoever built that old barn had kids, and I’ll bet that my house is built within the borders of a young child’s empire too. It makes me wonder just when we will be satisfied with our ‘neighborhoods,’ and when this runaway train we call ‘progress’ will finally stop.

Music Without The Industry

The waitress hands me a cold glass of beer as I lean back in my chair. Up on the stage there are six of the most talented blues musicians I’ve ever heard, and they’re rocking everyone’s balls off with their unbelievable solos and well-honed sense of showmanship. I look around the dance floor, and then I look at the tables around me, and I realize that the people that I see are there every sunday night:

1) The aging socialite with a trendy salon-style hairdo and several rows of pearls dangling from her withered old neck. She awkwardly hits on every young guy in sight, occasionally slapping their asses and vainly beckoning them on to the dance floor.

2) The attractive young blonde girl who doesn’t look at anyone except the lead singer. She stands nose to nose with the stage monitor and casually dances in her low jeans and skin-tight T-shirt while she drinks her high-balls and forgets the world around her.

3) The old South American guy who wears a white cowboy hat and sits on a stool in the darkest corner of the bar resting his elbow on a weathered old guitar case. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t speak, he doesn’t smile and he doesn’t move the entire time. He has the face of a man that has seen the entire world, and his eyes never wander very far from the stage.

4) The 70+ guy who wears his suit to the bar, but takes off his jacket when he dances with all the gorgeous girls in their 20s who want him for his money… but he doesn’t care what they’re after, cause he’s over 70 and having the time of his life.

5) The little old lady who wears nothing but black leather and dark sunglasses, and dances at the very front of the dance floor as if it were a heavy metal concert. She still remembers the sixties, but doesn’t remember any of the decades that came after it.

6) The tall guy with no sense of fashion and too much hair product who’s only purpose on the dance floor is to smack girls asses, act like a pornstar and piss all the other young guys off. Or at least, he would if there were any other young guys on the dance floor. He usually goes home with the aging socialite.

7) The young Asian guy who comes alone, leaves alone, and looks totally out of his element. He hovers near the back of the dance floor bobbing his head and tapping his toes out of time with the music. One would get the feeling that he has never been to a bar, and yet he is there every week, tapping his toes all the same.

8) The short girl in the blue tank-top who looks like she just came from teaching acrobatics at the gym. She chats with the band, dances in the aisles and generally bounces on any available lap.

9) The bombshell blonde in the short black skirt and high boots who looks like she just caught the midnight train in from a Hollywood after-party. One gets the impression that she could be a movie star, but she’s quite content dancing by herself and cheering enthusiastically at the end of each number. Her make-up sometimes looks as though it has run, as if she was crying a moment ago.

10) The old cattle-rustler who seems to have done a serious hit of acid before each set, and feels the need to improvise outlandish dance moves while staring at the ground and firmly clenching his belt buckle.

11) The gay guy who wears all black and moves across the dance floor like a figure skater with his right hand behind his back at all times.

12) The waitress who only works there one day a week for fun, can balance 9 glasses in one hand, and mouths every single lyric while doing it.

13) …and me.

I don’t think I need to tell you; sunday night is quickly becomming my favourite night of the week.

I’ve often heard people say that in all the recording, marketing and money-making, music has been lost somehow. I agree entirely: something is not right about my generation’s music industry. Even if the music is good… it somehow lacks soul. I guess the point is that the REAL music doesn’t HAVE an industry.

So the waitress hands me a cold glass of beer, I lean back in my chair, and I watch six talented blues musicians rock out, and I feel a kind of excitement that I’ve never felt before. I’m excited because they see me at the front and they know I’m a fan. I’m excited because they’re playing for me – because they take my requests – because it’s less a performance than a shared experience now. No amount of MTV airtime, no amount of radio-exposure, and no amount of stadium seating will ever simulate that experience. That experience is called Rock & Roll, and the band is called Brickhouse.

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“Wonders Of Nature” (Part I): A Miracle Overlooked

There is an old legend that goes something like this:

Around 600 years before the birth of Christ, there was a great battle between two civilizations: the Medians and the Lydians. The battle was fought during midday, and there was not a cloud in the sky. In the midst of all the fighting, the sky suddenly turned to black, and everything became night. Stricken with complete awe, each soldier laid down his arms and gazed in wonder at the sudden night that had mysteriously befallen them. The darkness lasted for about 7 terrifying minutes. When the daylight returned, both sides declared peace, for fear that their gods had disapproved of their war, and forsaken them. This was written by Herodotus.

Today, archaeologists have speculated that this event occured on the 28th of May, 585 BCE, and that it is not just a legend.

We are all familiar, today, with the term ‘solar eclipse.’ We all know what it is. We know that it happens when the sun lines up with the moon, and when the moon blocks out the sun making everything dark. It’s a rare and beautiful occasion. Yes, we know all about it, don’t we?

But… many people wrongly underestimate what an incredibly rare event it actually is. Not only on Earth. Not even in our solar system. No, a total solar eclipse is actually rare in the entire Universe. All you have to do is think outside the box, and you will realize that the Earth’s sky is not as ‘normal’ as you might think.

I don’t remember what grade I was in, or which kid it was that asked me. All I remember is that I was playing on the monkey bars, and somebody asked me:

     “Andrew, don’t you think it’s funny that the moon and the sun are the exact same size in the sky?”

At first I just sort of brushed it off. I mean, of course the Sun and the Moon are the same size. It had just always been that way. I didn’t think it was funny at all. Later I was in science class, and my teacher told me that the sun was actually ENORMOUS and the moon was actually very TINY, even compared to the Earth. Not only that, but the Sun is billions of miles away, and the Moon is actually very close. Here is a photograph that shows (to scale) the size of the planets relative to the sun:

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*Distances not to scale in this picture*

So then I started to think. I thought about it a lot when I was a kid, and one question always kept popping up in my head:

     “If the Sun and the Moon are so far away, and if they are such different sizes… then why are they the EXACT same size in the sky?”

The answer is, of course, totally reasonable in nature. The distance from Earth to Sun is 400 times the distance from Earth to Moon. By some cosmic stroke of luck, the diameter of the Sun also happens to be 400 times the diameter of the moon. Because of this correlating ratio, the Moon and the Sun appear to be the same size from the perspective of the Earth. Thus, when the moon is on the right orbital plane, and when the eliptical orbits of the Earth and Moon are just right, the Moon blocks the Sun with an uncanny sort of perfection:

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The result of this miracle of geometry is one of the rarest and most spectacular celestial coincidences in the Universe. As the moon perfectly obscures the sun’s photosphere, an eerie halo of plasma can be seen with the naked eye.

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This is one of my favourite facts of modern science for one simple reason: because nobody ever thinks twice about it. People just accept that our Sun and Moon are the same size in our sky. Nobody ever questions this, even though it is an astounding coincidence. Nobody ever looks up and the sky and says “Weird, our Sun and Moon match perfectly… even though in theory they could appear to be absolutely ANY size from our perspective.”

Also, the fact that they appear to be the same size would probably have provided convincing evidence AGAINST Copernicus’ theory of the Heliocentric Universe! I’ve often wondered… if the Sun and Moon appeared to be different sizes in our sky… might mankind have discarded the idea of a Geocentric Universe long before the 16th century? I’ve often wondered. But then again, I’ve often wondered about a lot of things.

“Muir’s People” (Part II): Those Damned Emo Kids

The term ’emo’ gets thrown around a lot these days. It’s a highly ambiguous term which is loosely characterized by a combination of punk and gothic styles in both music and fashion. It’s a convenient “image tribe” for people who want to rebel against “the man” but still fit snuggly into the predominant archetypes of acceptable fashion. In other words: emo is for impressionable idiots with too much of their parents money.

There’s a certain irony inherent to the idea that one can be ‘unique’ or ‘individualistic’ within the realm of marketed teenage fashion. This is an example of the kind of contrived branding that has become so common in emo culture: the Emily Stange line-up of clothing and accessories. Here we see Emily with her four cats (Sabbath, Miles, Nee-Chee and Mystery):

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“We’re all strange here” it says. That’s another way of saying “Everyone is special.” It’s a contradiction in terms, and I think it perfectly encapsulates the utter futility of emo culture: trying to dress like you’re attuned to some authentic subculture, even though you’re just a little brat who still eats Lucky Charms for breakfast. It’s just impossible, unless you’re actually PART of the subculture. And everybody knows the only people in touch with subculture are the extremely rich, and the extremely poor.

Everybody knows that emo kids are not actually strange; they are just snotty little suburbanites who want to feel like they have a “struggle.” Their motto should be”We’re all lame here.” Or how about “We’re all spoiled and devoid of any genuine personality here.” More to the point I think.

Face it kids: you have a comfortable life in the suburbs, and you should be goddam thankful for what you have. Everybody has personal struggles in their lives. That does not make you, by any means, “strange.” It makes you just like everybody else who feels insecure, isolated and confused. It’s called GROWING UP you turds, and I can assure you that there are much worse “struggles” in life than being rejected by your pubescent crushes and being unpopular in your noon-hour hallways. So what if Tad likes Amber instead of you? So what if Mr Sakamoto’s science class is lame? Suck it up you pansy! You don’t need to dress-up like you’re an avante-garde artist, or somehow part of London’s underground music scene. That’s something little kids do: it’s called “playing pretend.” It just makes you look like another impressionable tool of the teenage fashion industry – nothing more. Bah!

Emos are not individuals by any means. Quite the opposite, in fact. They are just another fleshy mass of stupid teenagers who happen to be caught up in the fashion trend du jour. The REAL individuals in high-school are the kids who take time to learn to play music, or do well in their classes, or go above and beyond in their favourite sport. They’re the ones who actually have the stones to march out of time with the ominous drum that is high-school, and build a personality of their own.

How Many Zeroes Can We Fit On The Blackboard?

Over the past few months, I have been working as an english teacher. Most of my classes consist of young children, around the age of 10. It’s been long enough, now, that I have started to pick up on certain patterns in their behavior. I find children to be really interesting people.

I’ve often heard people say that “Kids are naturally innocent.” For most of my life I agreed with this, but as it just so happens, I haven’t been around kids for most of my life.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people saying that “Kids are little devils.” Sure enough, I would agree that children tend to be annoying little brats just as much as they are sweet little angels.

Now, I believe that children (particularly the young ones) are like unprogrammed humans in some regard – that is to say that they are like a canvas – not yet set into the people that they will become. This is simply because they lack the neccessary experience. They also lack knowledge. They have not yet learned about wars, gods, money and power. So whenever I observe the actions of kids, I often feel like I am looking at humanity, as nature intended – as if I am looking at a blank slate of humanity. And here are my conclusions about humanity so far:

Children (we) ARE innately innocent, and actually have difficulties even comprehending the concepts of hatred and discrimination. This, I think, speaks volumes about the nature of humanity.

BUT…

I’ve also concluded that children (we) are naturally inclined to cheat, and work primarily in their (our) own self-interest. How, exactly, these two conclusions meet, I cannot say. It’s a bit of a paradox, I know. But therein lies the profound realization that I have made. Perhaps it is my own concepts of good and bad that are informing my judgement of children. Perhaps they are the ones who ought to be judging my system of morality, because they are the standard of human reasoning and morality. Makes sense to me in a bizarre kind of way.

One last thing that I find interesting: I’ve tried a few times talking to my students about the concept of ‘infiniti.’ They all know to define it as “the worlds biggest number,” but not one of them has yet been able to grasp the concept that it is eternal, or everlasting. That is to say, each child thinks that infiniti can be drawn on the board, provided they have enough time and space to fit in all the zeroes.

I can’t explain exactly why, but I think there is something so fundamentally human about that.