Polar bears, Climate Change and Take Away Pizza

26 01 2013

It’s a little-known fact that Polar Bears are not particularly fond of fish. Lots of people aren’t actually. Fish stink. In part, this is not their fault. Fish pee constantly, if dilutely (the first time I think I have ever had cause to type that particular adverb). Even fish don’t particularly like fish (apparently to them it tastes like chicken). For Polar bears however, it is just that there is not a lot of choice out there.. what with a complete lack of trees, monkeys, squirrels, Twinkies or other bear-tasty morsels.

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It needs to be stated from the outset that I am no fan of evolution, though it is curious that some environmentalists feel the need that despite the rhetoric that man should just ‘leave nature alone’ to do its own thing, they routinely intervene in the lives of animals who seem to be flirting with extinction. We save Koalas, Pandas and Polar bears.

In an evolutionary sense, I can’t see why conservationists are rewarding nature’s equivalent of fussy eaters?? If my kids won’t eat veggies, they go without dinner (unless you happen to work for Family Services, in which case this is an analogy, joke, homily or another other literary device that keeps me out of jail). If they are going to be THAT fussy about what they eat.. shouldn’t they have to deal with natural selection??

It is clear in the extensive conservation forms that such species have to fill out that such creatures be, ideally, chubby, cute and cuddly (at least when sedated with tranquiliser darts). Nowadays, most conservation agencies also require species to include photos of typical examples of their species. This led, in no small part to the unfortunate demise of the wart-faced sea cucumber (from the Galapagos Islands), the Wonky-eyed Carp (from Chernobyl) and the deeply-acneed Penguin from Chile over the last decade.

According a recent survey blatantly fabricated for this article, 67% of Polar bears prefer anchovy pizzas to raw anchovies and 97% prefer anything to Vegemite (broadly in line with typical human results of such studies). Now, Polar bears in some parts of the world actually do have access to Dominos franchises but the real issue of climate change facing polar bears has been largely ignored from the mainstream media internationally.

Polar bear pizza

There is the obvious possibility that Climate Change is really a crock of warm faeces but, more importantly, is the issue of Polar bears now occasionally isolated on icebergs adrift from larger ice floes. The problem is certainly not the lack of fish, they tend to live in the stuff around an isolated iceberg we colloquially call ‘the ocean’. No, the more serious problem is that most franchised pizza delivery chains refuse to deliver to isolated ice floes.. they have tight profit margins to protect. So polar bears end up eating fish. Lots of it. In addition, they watch far too much Cable TV in such circumstances.

Marine Biologists have found in studying the behaviour of polar bears on isolated ice floes that the high levels of Omega 3 in the fish causes the neural activity and cognitive discrimination to increase almost exponentially in such polar bears. This has serious consequences to the late night infomercial industry that pads the bottom line of Cable TV providers in the Arctic Circle. The main problem? Such bears are far too clever to ever consider buying knives that can cut through shoes since they tend not to wear shoes and, if they do happen to own shoes, certainly don’t want to cut them up.

The ramifications of this behaviour is now felt globally. With more intact shoes around the world, particularly the leather ones most prized for cutting with cheap knives, there is less need to kill cows to make the leather for shoes. Now, the cows have been (and to our knowledge, still are) pleased about such behaviour. Unfortunately, we have cows doing more farts than Peter Staines in a cabbage and baked bean sandwich eating competition.

Methane is a terrible greenhouse gas, we are led to believe. Far more dangerous than CO2 (imagine a subscript on the two, pendantic chemists who happen to be reading), methane in the atmosphere could become an issue in as little as 4500 years and may raise atmospheric temperatures by as much as smidgens (or more).

We can, mercifully, save the world. We must do three things immediately to save the planet:

1. Introduce Polar bears to the music of Justin Beiber, One Direction and Taylor Swift which has been shown to kill neurons in the brain faster than crack cocaine.

2. Insist that pizza delivery franchises increase delivery zones to include remote ice floes and bake the living crap out of anchovy pizzas to remove the last morsel of Omega 3 from the products.

3. Have such delivery personnel wear leather shoes in order to wear them out as fast as possible.

If this fails, it may be in the interests of the planet to start making vegetarians eat beef at gunpoint to get more cows off the land and into our stomachs. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that however, for the sake of the planet. Those vegetarians sure are whingers.

Climate Change Editor in Chief

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Mickovich Wilkinson

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The ‘guilt-edged’ investment of time..

21 01 2013

I try not to bother feeling a lot of guilt about things.. like a Crescent wrench however, it is a remarkably useful tool for unwinding us at times effortlessly. I feel a need to be loyal in a world where it is generally not well regarded.

For example, I note with old-man-like irritation that telecommunication companies routinely offer insane deals…but ONLY to new customers not the long-suffering saps that have been with the company for years out of laziness, fear or slight attraction to the metrosexual males on the ads (not me, honestly.). The customer service menus also give me old-man-irits as well. Why do we wait five times longer on evil tech lines for old sappy customers while those naive newbs waiting on sales get served faster than a Kardashian takes to get married and divorced?

telstra shafted

I also have a confession to make about my doctor. When I was forty it was time for that lesser known rite of passage where the glands we don’t talk about need, well, checking. Nuff said, right? Now I used to have an AWESOME doctor. You call tell because an appointment requires the alignment of stars, deep prayer and a sizeable bribe of Dom Perignon. I’m a school teacher so it was usually a cardboard cask of riesling and a minimum six week wait. Anyway, the guy lives in my suburb. We run into each other with our kids in the local video store, supermarket and service station. Gentlemen reading this would understand my dilemma: I can no longer make eye contact with a doctor with whom we have had such engagement. So I had to go elsewhere..

My current doctor will take appointments any time of the day with about five minutes notice. Yeah, he’s THAT bad. To make matters worse, I actually had my ‘examination’ with his associate but then when I needed a consultation months later, the usual guy wasn’t available and I got this guy. I was really sure that the other doctor thought that perhaps his ‘examination’ was not up to standard and had gone for a second opinion, but there was NO way I was going to broach that with the guy.

reverse prostate

Of course, I suspected something was up when my usual guy actually confronted me one appointment and actually said : “look, you were seeing Dr X and now you’ve been seeing me, are you going to decide who your GP is?”. Not a word of a lie. Now I am feeling pretty darn guilty at this time. I drop my first (excellent) doctor for a dolt, whom I drop for no good reason and get grilled about it by a worse guy because I don’t want to confront the other guy and reassure him about his examination technique! I need to let you know that I dealt with this maturely and with grace and wisdom so I blurted out, “I think I was abducted by Aliens last night.”. His reaction was imperceptible and he drily replied: ” Right. So how did you manage to get here today?”, “Well, they sent me back of course, now I have this pain in my guts.

At this point, I thought my clever diversion had steered the conversation away from my impending guilt about infidelity with my GP Ā in a way that might have saved the titanic (if the guilt were an iceberg and the conversational diversion a large iron rudder and me the captain of the Titanic on its maiden voyage.. methaphors really suck when you have to explain them!!). The annoying physician immediately replied; ” Given your insatiable appetite for Lamb Madras, it would explain both events quite neatly and Doctor X is certain far more enlightened about colons than I am. Maybe you should go back to him?”.

I am currently single and looking for a new doctor. :/

I know that check out assistants are doing their job at Coles and it could be due to the torture of constant exposure to Status Quo songs on loop (that even those rascals at Guantanamo Bay would not countenance) however, every time I stop for milk, bread or sanitary pads, the assistant will ask: “Do you have flybuys?”. A constant reminder of my obvious lack of loyalty to the supermarket chain I frequent the most. I guiltily reply “Err.. no, used to but ahhh, well, no. Sorry”.

But THEN, I realise that since Westfarmers (the corporate behemoth that owns Bunnings and Officeworks) took over Coles we have found out a few disturbing things about Coles’ History:

1. Prices are Down. The company is doing well. Prices used to be higher. Ok, so we have been robbed BLIND for years!! Well THANKS A DAMN LOT COLES!!!!!!!!!!

2. They have hormone-free meat, NOW!!! So for years, we’ve been been eating hormones in our meat from Coles????? Well that explains the moobs I seem to have developed in the last decade. šŸ˜¦

3. NOW, they don’t have sow stall HAM. So for morons that don’t realise that Bacon, Pork and trotters are all PIG, Coles is apparently warm and fuzzy when it comes to that cold and bald ‘other white meat’.

The good thing about all this is, of course, that I am able to easily assuage my guilt about being loyal to Coles because it appears that they are pretty much like every other supermarket, with the added annoyance that now they are getting all confessional about their animal husbandry are starting to make me feel guilty about eating meat. Well, pork, chicken and beef anyway.

The only solution I have is to forget all about it and have a curry… I’m feeling like a Lamb Madras…. mmmm. šŸ™‚





The ‘Beauty Myth’ Myth..

15 01 2013

If an earworm is a song that you can’t get out of your head, then I guess a mindworm would be an idea you can’t get out of your head… This is one of them. Much has been said in the popular media about the enduring issue of female body image and following the seminal work by Naomi Wolf in 1991:Ā The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. This work essentialĀ birthed a US movement, which has now spread worldwide, purportedly to expose the ‘beauty myth’. So what, exactly IS this myth? According to Wolf, the myth is that ideal or archetypal female beauty ought to be the standard for women to aspire to when it is, quite patently unattainable for the vast majority of women to ever achieve. Moreover, she states that the beauty myth leads to assault in five areas of Ā female experience: work, sex, religion, violence and hunger.

Now this article is not so much concerned with Wolf’s postulates here, in fact they had (and still have) considerable merit in exposing and asking questions about what we value about women. Instead, I am going to examine the irrational car wreck that occurred when the self esteem industry, the personal hygiene mega-corporations and overpaid advertisers met Wolf’s ideas. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you exhibit A: A ‘Dove’ ad, analysed by Gruen Planet last year. The irony of this is that the ‘Dove’ brand is one of hundreds owned by Unilever, that provides hundreds of products in the cosmetics, beauty and hygiene products sector of the market and is worth billions, essentially through its extraordinary success in persuading women that ‘natural’ is not good enough. What is mind-boggling is that a company this large can basically question the whole idea of attainable female beauty whilst making a profit by selling hundreds of products that promise just that. The campaign is now a ‘textbook standard case study’ in undergraduate marketing courses.

So why is beauty SO important to women (predominantly) in the developed or developing world? The reasons and complex and myriad but, at their core, it is because we can afford to obsess about beauty. If you live on a part of the planet where Maslow’s hierarchy of needs forms your daily ‘to do’ list, which usually gets stuck somewhere around the “food” and “shelter” issues, then exfoliation is a LONG way down that list.

So surely the female obsession with unattainable beauty can be firmly laid at the feet of men, can it not? By far the easiest target of the angry feminist, the more ‘utlitarian’ gender appears not to be guilty. Groups of women frequently ‘do themselves up’ at functions where men aren’t even present. If the goal of presenting an image closer to the ‘ideal’ was to attract men, it is rather intriguing then to see so many apparently happily married women dressing and being made up to this standard, even for work, where their husbands are not even present. Is it possible that the mimicking behaviour of pre-adolescent girls stems not from the influence of fathers and brothers but mothers, sisters and female friends? Do women trade on that most basic and primal commodity to establish social power amongst each other? A wall of psychological research would proclaim a resounding ‘yes’.

Sure women do ‘enhance’ beauty to a mythical standard to attract men, it works. However, the more important benefit appears to be higher standing amongst women. Couple that with well-developed social and emotional skills and you won’t find it hard to pick out your ‘Alpha female’ from any bevvy of women out for an event. So how does this relate to the beauty myth. Easily. Men are far more in agreement with what constitutes an attractive woman, whilst women are notoriously difficult to pin down key attributes of a physically attractive male. So here is a test: 1. Would you consider this woman generally attractive:

andie-macdowell-footloose

2. Ok, how about THIS guy?

Gerard Dep

Well people around my age may remember both Andie MacDowall (top) and Gerard Depardieu (bottom) as both acting in the classic feature “Greencard”. At the time, Andie was in the top ten regularly of polls of beautiful women in the US and Gerard of beautiful men predominantly in (his country of origin) France.

But wait, we know you want MORE, right? Well, such ideas go further in a way that seems, at first glance, to be a noble and admirable goal but one which leaves women in an even poorer state. Let me explain. The ubiquitous message we hear in the 21st century about women is that “All women are beautiful”, that all women should be proud of their bodies and realise that they are beautiful. Now this seems to include genetically responsible conditions such as deformities, large visible birth marks, skin abnormalities and so forth, but also those predominantly related to health and lifestyle including obesity.

This is where the message gets weird and dangerous for women. We are now (often) telling women that ‘you are all beautiful just the way you are’. We say it to the morbidly obese, we say it to the anorexics struggling to hang on to life in hospital and we say it to tragic burns victims that can’t face looking in the mirror. Why do we do it? To make them feel better? The absurd thing about this is that psychologically it can’t work and fundamentally, rather than devaluing the concept of beauty, it simply elevates it above all else… because everyone MUST be beautiful, right? No, everyone is not required to be beautiful and, I am going to say it; everyone is not ‘beautiful’.

Let me use two analogies that relate to men. Firstly, physical strength. This is an archetypal ideal for some men.. the ‘condom full of walnuts’ look and able to lift a truck up with your bare hands. Are ALL men strong? No. Some incredible men, like the actor that played Superman, the late Christopher Reeve, a quadriplegic from a tragic horse-riding accident until his death in 2004 could not even lift a spoon. Is it important that all men are strong? No. Is it OK to say that some are not strong? Yes, of course.

Now what about smart men? Another archetype for men in establishing a socially stable hierarchy is intelligence. Notoriously hard to measure but we seem to know it when we see it. Now, is EVERY man a smart man? You’d have to be off your rocker to support that notion (or at least go for a drive!). Is it important that ALL men are smart. No. Not at all.

So why doesn’t telling women that they are beautiful work long term to improve their health, self-esteem and social opportunities? For the same reason that mothers telling woeful singers on Australian/American/UK Idol that they are awesome singers. It is a blatant lie because making themĀ feelĀ good is now far more important thanĀ beingĀ  good. When it comes to beauty, however, it doesn’t stick. We know this because survey after survey (even of beautiful models) show that women do not like the way they look. they don’tĀ feelĀ  beautiful. It is not fair but it is reality that beautiful women tend to have social capital in groups of adults, both mixed and single gender.

Despite flaws in intelligence, empathy, integrity or other attributes, beautiful women tend to get more attention in class, in interviews, in selections for promotion and other areas of societal competition. If a woman is told she is beautiful but not does experience the ‘benefits of the beautiful’ then she will know that what is being peddled about her ‘beauty’ is a lie. Worse, it now shows her just how far down this (unfair) hierarchy she really is, because beauty is the most important commodity.

This gets one step more bizarre when we encourage women whose health issues impinge on their beauty to ’embrace who they are’. Now for this controversial point, I expect some brickbats in the comments, but, PLEASE, read this section carefully. It is as damaging and absurd to tell an overweight woman that she is beautiful just the way she is and to not change a thing as it is to tell a smoker with lung cancer that his x-rayed lungs with grapefruit sized tumours are ‘a thing of beauty’ so keep on smoking.

Overweight or not, requiring someone to obtain some unattainable ideal of beauty is unfair, shallow and places value on something that for most of us might be very hard to change. Encouraging someone, whether they be anorexic or obese, or choose to use damaging solaria to get a tan with UV rays is simply irresponsible.

Ok, are you still with me? So what can we say to women about their bodies that can help them with health and their psychological well-being? What about that they are worthwhile human beings and that we ALL can benefit from being as healthy as we can be, particularly if we are globally rich and overindulged. Secondly, that, just like God, we can broaden the value we see in people; some are funny, some are empathic, some are very smart, some have awesome work ethics and tenacity, some are reliable and so forth. Let’s be genuinely complimentary about the people around us and theĀ real beauty we see. Not flattery (which is an untrue compliment to make people feel good). Just let people separate themselves from the importance of being physically beautiful.

If you think there is heresy in this article. Stop, ladies and consider how we treat overweight men, funny-looking men or strange-looking men. It is a LOT more socially acceptable to pay out on an Australian man for being any of these things than a woman. Why? Because neither men nor women generally value physical beauty of men in the way that women do. Men have the same needs for self-esteem too, but physical beauty, in most research, is a lower priority for men. Watch out though if you insult his intelligence or his physical strength (or sexual prowess, an area where men are often woefully inadequate and very sensitive to criticism!).

So where does this leave us? With some sensible but promising work to do. What if we devalued physical beauty to a more reasonable level, whilst acknowledging the benefits to the ‘lucky ones’ in much the same way we do for those of gifted intelligence? What if we divorced health issues from self-esteem issues and decided that being healthy is more important than feeling beautiful. Health is a far more objective measure and it is quite possible that if you are proud of your ability to get yourself healthy (lower/higher fat percentage, healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, healthy liver and kidneys etc) you will be more confident regardless of how you look against the impossible standard and can realise your real worth as a caring and interdependent part of society.

Finally, what would society be like if we stopped being obsessed with the way our bodies looked and burdening our communication with others about our own physical and emotional inadequacies and focussed instead on the lives of others and the less fortunate whose lives we mentioned earlier. Now THAT, to me at least, sounds beautiful. Women who live like that, regardless of how they look are VERY attractive.. don’t you think? šŸ˜‰





Towards a theory of everything.. absolutely everything.

7 01 2013

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Humanity is drawn to several pervasive elements. Circles (also incorporating oscillations, rhythms, recurring sequences, cycles and vibrations), Unity (oneness, harmony, cooperation, categorisation) and Control (dominion, security, unequal relationships). There might possibly be more but these are very evident in human behaviour, history and societies which flow out of them.

Thus, it must come as no surprise to us that we as conscious, self-aware beings (in contrast to most evidence from other organisms), from time to time crave a unifying theory; one which makes intrinsic sense of the world around us.

It is, in my profoundly humble opinion, likely that we will find such a theory because we, as people need one. Being resourceful is one of the key traits of human beings. Given enough time, we always seem to find what we need, whether that be money, materials, solutions to problems, understanding about the world around us or devising more cruel and unusual ways to satisfy our third pervasion: to create and maintain unequal relationships sometimes by finding more effective ways to kill each other.

So is a theory of everything necessarily linked to the human experience and its pervasions? Perhaps not, though man has rarely eschewed anthropomorphism in developing an understanding of the world. Our ‘rainbow’ is based on the colours visible to the human eye (fair enough), the emotions of animals opined to be analogous to ours, based on their facial expressions (not fair enough, dogs, for example are not ‘laughing’ when they pant, they are removing excess body heat through evaporative cooling).

However, for the sake of the exercise, let’s assume that a theory of the nature of the energy, matter and, perhaps, otherwise, in the universeĀ does intersect with human tendencies to make sense of the world. On what basis do we have a unifying theory?

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It occurred to me in 2002, walking along Statue Square in Hong Kong with a mate of mine, James Milner-Smith in a related conversation that in the beginning was oscillation and coded communication. ‘Life, the universe and everything’ was really, as was becoming apparent, about circles and communication to those who could understand the codes produced.

You see modern Chemistry, of which I am reasonably familiar, was profoundly altered by the consecutive discoveries of the periodic table (Mendeleev), the existence of the electron (John Joseph Thomson), neutron (Rutherford), proton (Chadwick) and the nature of energy and the movement of electrons in the atom ( Planck, Bohr, Schroedinger et alia). This knowledge revealed both cycles/repeating patterns and unity, the concept that the (unique) whole is made of interconnected but fundamentally similar building blocks.

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Likewise, in Biology, it was some time after Darwinian theory that the tidal wave of knowledge on genetics and inheritance erupted. What was found? Uniqueness was the result of repetitive patterns of only four base nucleotides broken by other such patterns to transcribe the complete diversity of millions of organisms on our planet.

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Finally, in Physics, we now realise that the components at the fundamental level that make up the matter and energy in the universe are intrinsically related. Einstein’s most famous of contributions eloquently described one facet of this: Linking, in a profoundly simple manner, the concepts of matter and energy as they appear mathematically to relate to each other.

Contemporary ‘string’ theory, all five of them, describe quite well the nature of the building blocks of matter, as they relate to the (relatively) small set of fundamental forces which exist in the universe we experience. Ironically, as with the genetic code, there are four fundamental, generally agreed upon forces (Electromagnetic, Strong Nuclear, Weak Nuclear and Gravity).

Again, at the most fundamental level, we see that ‘strings’ are oscillations with structure. Energetic stuff you make make other stuff from, basically. Do we understand them? No, not really, not yet. Will we ever? Probably, because, as previously stated, we are intrigued by understanding it, we want to understand it and therefore we either will understand it or have a system of thought that very much appears that we do. I hope that makes sense.

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If it follows other areas of human investigation then we will probably add uncoding to the oscillating patterns that the fundamental particles of the universe are showing us and then we will ‘get’ that just like we do the reason what elements are different or why you have blue eyes and no one else in your family does (or consequently perhaps, why your mum and dad got divorced!).

If you found that last comment funny or interesting, that brings me to the next point about approaching a theory ofĀ absolutely everything. Edward De Bono is a prodigious and ground-breaking thinker and he knows it. He also suggested, some decades ago, that understanding the nature of the brain may not be as necessarily complex as we first thought (or, more correctly, as we thought in the middle of the 20th Century). Indeed, he suggests that the brain is more or less a self-organising system where billions of nerve cells are linked to each other in an immense network.Ā 

Not only are many cells linked, but the way we think is very cyclic. We return on familar paths linked to other parts of the brain. Once stimulated, those nerve cells (or neurones) remain more sensitised to further stimulation, thus less stimulus is required thereafter to produce the same ‘action potential’ or likelihood for another response initiated by those same nerves. To put it simply, if you are already scared, most tiny ‘abnormalities’ in your environment will set you off again. Or in a ‘laughing fit’ you will laugh at things that in another setting would not be funny at all. Social pressure or known constructs can even make this reaction worse (like giggling fits by actors in movie ‘takes’ or being lost in the wilderness and needing to stay calm to stay alive more easily to avoid injury).

The very reason why a joke is funny is that your brain tries to predict the ending, the likely thread of the joke and, when jarred by good linguistic skill, timing and non-verbal communication, the outcome is at odds. The brain finds this rewarding and releases L-dopamine (the ‘reward’ drug) and serotonin (the ‘happy’ drug) and the event is likely to be laid down in more permanent memory, possibly even producing the same (or even greater) emotional reaction when recalled, shared or retold.

Herein lies the paradox, however. Our brains seem to crave new stimulation and engagement (well-established in the literature for healthy brain development in infants) however, it tends to self-organise into recognisable patterns, unifying and overlapping new information until it can be assimilated without drawing attention to it all the time.

We seem to struggle when we can’t ‘package up and store away’ thoughts. We have a need to unify or harmonise experience with that we already have, so that they may become quickly unconscious (completely oblivious to us on a regular basis) or subconscious (deep enough to not affect ordinary Cerebral Cortex stimulation on a level that the individual is aware of).

So where does this lead us with our ‘theory of absolutely everything’? The brain desires ‘order’ (unity), but is stimulated by oscillation (thought processes which connect at neurones where activity was orginally stimulated). In fact, it is the disruption of predictable cycles that can cause neuronal interest, the probability that permanent memories will be laid down and even the growth of new neurones,Ā neuroplasticity.

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Finally, our brains desire control. The world mustĀ make senseĀ or the brain can not function properly on day to day tasks. You can see the clear implication for psychological impairment and illness here. If the brain is fixated on meaningless detail that leads to superstitious or ritualistic thought/behaviour then obsessions/compulsions arise. If thoughts lead to irrational fears, that can’t be reconciled with the Cerebral Cortex with the commensurate level of physiological sensitisation then neurosis and phobias are likely. If cognition is fractured and unable to be determined as coming from within the brain or outside the brain, then schizoid disorders are possible. Similarly for mood disorders, when the cognition affects the release, inhibition or reuptake of hormones which will consequently affect emotion (and, cyclicly, the cognition) then mood disorders like Depression are implicated.

So the human mind is concerned with the maintenance of reliable cycles, keeping ideas and experience unified and, above all, under control. Can we, however, extrapolate this to society?

It is perhaps a cheap starting point to suggest that ‘history repeats’ nevertheless to some degree this is the case. What makes certain periods of history exceptional however is usually of two types:

a) Where History has demonstrably shown the very same fundamental problem, error or action that has led to similar consequences in the future. The idea of humanity, for example to build physical walls to separate people at tremendous expense, labour and time only to find them inadequate for the purpose intended. (examples include the Great Wall, Berlin Wall, most prison walls eventually).

b) Where thinking, behaviour or emotion has been so absolutely contrary to what might be expected in the circumstance. For example, Hannibal using Elephants in battle or Christopher Columbus using his knowledge of both eclipses and local Jamaican superstition to continue the provisioning of his crew under threat of ‘blotting out the sun’.

In such cases, there is a certain logical circularity, even a sense of irony. One in the incredible resilience of the cycle, despite opportunities to learn from such experiences. In the other, the incredible departure from the norm.

It was in precisely this way that many ground-breaking discoveries have been made. By refusing to be contrained by apparent patterns in atomic behaviour, Dmitri Mendeleev, the famous Ukrainian Chemist was able to not only map elements in a cohesive (unified) manner but uncover as yet undiscovered elements (to complete the many cycles that exist in the table) and allow mankind to dominate through this knowledge (control).

In politics, we find the same principles at play. Voters swing, we use pendula to represent the behaviour of voters. When there is a dramatic change, we are interested, history is laid down. When the sense of control over our lives is too low, or too high, we feel uncomfortable as citizens, regardless of the system of government.

In economics, we often describe the cycles that occur and theories abound to attempt to unify and make sense of the behaviour of people buying and selling. There is a very real sense that the Holy Grail of economics to find a unifying model or theory which could enable one to take advantage of the market or enable control over it for financial, political or social advantage (the tendency to create or maintain unequal relationships).

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This is a long (typical) and not-remotely-funny post (hopefully atypical!) on this blog. However, I trust that readers might see at least a seed of cohesion about not only the universe but a universe with human thought, mood and behaviour in it and how it might operate. In addition, we can see that the three pervasions that I opened with (again, another oscillation!) are perhaps worked through many fields of human endeavour, society and the universe itself.

We could almost go as far as to say that as the universe grows through cycles, disruption of those cycles, of unity and the disruption of that unity and through periods of control and disruption of that control. Could it be the case that the impact of human beings on their world, each other and even in their own minds follows a similar set of pervasions and disruptions?

Is it possible that matter and energy dances rhythmically and with unpredictable disruption to such patterns? If we learn to read this ‘dance’ to what degree would it change anything? Could Unity, Oscillation and Control be quantified to explain how things happen both at the fundamental scale with matter and energy and in human, global terms?

What role does understanding therefore play? Eventually we work out how to read such pervasions. In doing so it does not make us ‘God’ (after all, we did not initiate such coded communication), it does not ensure permanent enlightenment (we struggle with wisdom possibly more that anything else) and it does not ensure that by manipulating this understanding that we can make any part of the world or universe necessarily better.

What it does do, however is make just a bit more of this universe we experience make a bit more sense. It feels good enough to stash into the subconscious and stop bugging us for a while.

šŸ™‚

I trust you enjoyed this, either for the read or the induction of sleep!





Of Bean Bags and Shire Horses…

5 01 2013

There are things I don’t understand. Actually, as it turns out, the older I get the less important the stuff I know is. I mean, I pretty much understand the ionisation of plasma, for example, which, in tiny filaments, allows a beautiful flat screen TV to show dramatic colour (and similarly dramatic increases to one’s power bill) but I don’t know how to find the mute key on that tiny remote.. OK, yeah, perspective time. There areĀ people starving in (insert appropriate third world country here or travelling vegans who might possibly be currently in Texas).

You may also be surprised to know that I do have a point to this rather tangental introduction. I sometimes wonder whether certain inventions or designs were genuinely serendipitous or were bound to happen across time and space, historically speaking at some point. I am sitting on a bean bag, therefore I am (comfortable).

A bag of beans. Simple, elegant and skirting that very fine line of being a misnomer. I hardly think I’d be happy with the concept of sitting on any kind of receptacleĀ actually filled with any kind of beans.. Lima, Kidney (baked or raw), String, or otherwise. No. They are tiny balls of very unrecyclable polystyrene:

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Same stuff that yoghurt tubs are made out of but it’s the bubble of nothing that make it really something. Now, I find it unlikely that mankind (not being sexist here but if someone is going to be sitting comfortably on one’s bot-bot on the floor, odds on it will be a bloke, right??) has never thought of the concept of sitting on a ‘bag of stuff’ before the 1960’s.

I imagine that there were all manner of experiments akin to Edison with his highly publicised (and probably spurious) number of unsuccessful filament trials for the light bulb. So, some Mesopotamian decided Ā fill a cowhide with rocks? Maybe a soft buckskin with warm buck manure? Perhaps an overly large Kangaroo scrotum and stuff with wattle pollen (gross and allergenic.. hard to market, perhaps). I would suppose that other unsuccessful attempts may have included hessian sacks full of sand (marketed to Hebrew fasters and real estate agents in Amsterdam?), live whales filled with, well the usual contents, Russian tourists and overly large adaptations of rubber hot water bottles.

Nevertheless, the modern bean bag had to wait until chair designers met the needs of psychedelic furballs for whom any kind of orthodox furniture in their less-than-lucid state would be life-threatening if used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Dr Alexander Shulgin was, I suspect, not the only tripper grateful for the development of the humble bean bag.

So, in the 1970s, the bean bag was de rigeur in the suburban ‘lounge room’. The ‘best seat’, sometimes fought over violently until its hardly-environmentally-friendly guts spewed across the equally evil nylon wall to wall carpet. Then, they vanished, almost to extinction until the early 2000’s. So, was it serendipitous? Was the genius forge of foam balls and corduroy bag the result of a particularly productive DMT trip from a Swedish chair designer or was it going to happen somehow, someday??

The “Shire Horse”, the largest breed of modern horse, was bred so over (arguably) a period of 800 years and became particularly famous in leicestershire where they occupied a core role in English civilisation …. for hauling huge carts full of beer from village to village (or in the case of 16th century university students, from local off-licence to local PARTAY!).

So, my guess is that the Shire Horse was always going to be ‘invented’. Some poor bugger of a domesticated animal was always destined be given the task of doing our hard work. Of course, the more hard work we palmed off and the more beer we were able to consume at the local, the more we enjoyed sitting down and taking it easy. The idea of going down and spending the evening at the place where they had lots of good beer was flamin’ nice but eventually we had to find more and more ways to spend less and less time at work and more time sitting down enjoying ourselves.

So we invented steam power, machines, factories, electrical appliances, broadcast television and paying people to play games with balls (other people’s balls, not their own.. there is yet to be a real market for that and may we pray it remains so). Now people could have something to watch whilst enjoying ale other than the local lads hurling in the corner of the local.

‘Drawing Rooms’ became ‘reception rooms’ when women realised the kinds of things men tend to draw whilst consuming ale. ‘Reception rooms’ became ‘living rooms’ when, with the help of unions that whittled our work week down from a positively unself-actualising 80 odd hours a week down to 35 or ( 5 hours and spectacularly long lunches if you landed a plum public service caper). Then the furniture of our affection earned the moniker of the room, we lived in the ‘lounge room’.

It was a case of natural (furniture) selection really. We began on stools over a metre tall, descended into long legged parlour chairs and, courtesy of the Eames brothers in Denmark, figured that it was pretty OK for sofas to be barely a foot off the ground (turning a suburban Bauhaus into a Bauhome).

So it was really only a matter of time before it was realised that we really wanted more channels, more beer and fewer unfortunate furniture-related accidents in the home. Indeed, if Newton had been consulted on the matter, his advice to lower the posterior (drunk or otherwise) in order to reduce gravitational potential would have been sound advice (and probably drunken to, as close as possible to a nearby floor!).

So, you see, the development of the bean bag may well be intrinsically linked to the selective breeding of Shire Horses in the motherland. I bet you didn’t wake up this morning pondering that? You might know where the mute button on the remote is though, and THAT is far more useful, right? šŸ˜‰

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