Friday, March 31, 2006

Terms of Endearment

I've listened to a little rap music in my day--and I mean that literally. If I want to hear about gang-bangas and how great it feels to beat up a "ho," I'll watch Jerry Springer, not purchase your shitty bling bling overpriced CD. And no, a life of crime and hard "thuggin" is not going to help you get ahead in life, unless "ahead" means "dead" or "in prison." Don't get me wrong...American History X wouldn't have been HALF the movie it was without all the racism and wonderful ethnic stereotypes...but those are based at least loosely on reality. You people created those likenesses. It's up to you to unmake them.

Back to rap music. I've heard enough of it to be officially confused. Someone please tell me: Is it a good thing or a bad thing to be a "muthafucka"? Obviously I know it's context sensitive, but if the people writing these songs had any idea how ridiculous they sound, the choads among them would shut up and let those with a real message take the mic. Tupac, The Beastie Boys, MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice...these men had/have vision. "No Sleep Till Brooklyn"? WORD. Gentlemen, the studio is right this way...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Nerdgasm

I was definitely in the market for a science fix, and what better topic than the search for life in outer space? I flipped to PBS last nite around 2am and watched a documentary for about two hours on various things beyond our atmosphere that I did not know.

For one, being in space for as little as a week can cause a person to lose nearly 30% of their muscle mass. A cosmonaut back in the 70s went up and spent a week in zero-gravity, only to find that when he came back to Earth, he couldn't even walk. Thus, for someone to survive prolonged space travel, they're going to have to do regular workouts. Amazingly, gravity alone keeps our muscles busy and toned, even while sitting still, aimlessly babbling into the computer.

Next, several ideas have come along for terraforming Mars (making it livable for humans). Interestingly, one thing that would help thicken up the planet's atmosphere is....greenhouse gases. Not like we don't have enough of those to go around. So that stuff makes a more dense atmosphere, which in turn warms up the planet, which would at least cause the ice caps to melt, and the proposed permafrost underground, as evidenced by surface cracks visible from here. The water starts to flow, then we could conceivably seed it with tough breeds of phytoplankton that would start turning the planet's largely CO2 gaseous makeup into oxygen. Just gotta make sure the other important components like nitrogen get in there.

The established ecosystem would start to bring some balance to the weather and surface conditions, forming clouds, maybe even turning the sky blue. This would all work IF the planet's weaker gravitational field can actually hold the atmosphere onto the planet. Big IF. Could be a ton of money spent on something that will never work.

So, my idea is that we just bottle up all our greenhouse gases now and start shooting them at Mars. The containers break open, and we can see, simply via our waste products, if the plan would have worked at all. And it's relatively cost effective.

Next up were methods of transport. They said 90% of the weight of the space shuttle at liftoff is fuel, and every kilogram of mass they send into space costs about $1 million. Thus, cheaper, lighter fuel sources. Two ideas were suggested.

1. Build a smaller spacecraft and give them enough fuel to get there, but the tools to manufacture methane fuel once they land to return home. Sounds risky, especially if any of the needed elements are damaged or lost. Then they're just stuck there on Mars.

2. Nuclear power. It's light and efficient, but also dangerous. Again, and damage to the components during re-entry or landing could spell the end for the entire crew.

On the other hand, the nuclear aspect of it opens up some interesting sci-fi ideas. Like going to a planet, getting into some trouble, and detonating the engines. Yeah yeah, it's a sci-fi cliche, but at least it's nice to see where it came from.

ANOTHER interesting tidbit I learned was how body structure and evolution are determined by the environment. For one thing, if life evolves on a larger planet with a stronger gravitational pull and perhaps a harsher environment, those creatures will have more dense bone structure and muscles, and much tougher skins. They would be badasses if they ever came to Earth, with its gentle climates and lesser gravity. They'd essentially be....Superman.

In the same vein, let's say we did manage to colonize some place like Mars or the moon. After a generation or so, those people probably wouldn't be able to come to Earth because of the way their muscles and hearts will have developed. Lower gravity means they wouldn't be as strong, and thus just walking around on Earth would be extremely taxing. Lower gravity also effects brain development. Dolphins swim in the nearly zero-g environ of the ocean, and their brains are at least 1/3 larger than ours. Dolphins and whales have their own sort of communication system as well. So, extend that to humans, and we may in 1000 years time have two distinct evolutionary tracks of humans developing that are innately different. On one hand we have the physically weaker but intellectually superior Martian humans. On the other we have the hardier but slightly dumber Terran humans. And you just KNOW how much mankind loves people who are different from himself. Civil War? Genocide? Envy? Jealousy? Being different could yet again threaten to bomb us back to the stone age. The war with the Angry Red Planet could end up just being a war with ourselves.

And that, my friends, makes me want to WRITE.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gray Day

It's one of those gray days. The kind where the chill of the wind whistles across screens and the leaves blow upwards. You can faintly smell the last tendrils of winter clinging to the air, knowing that the life of spring is about to hatch all around. Old man winter puts up one more fight, covering the sky with a lifeless sheet, blanketing us from the sun. Looking out across the hills, I see a light in the distance on a hilltop, not sure what it is, just past the steeple across town.

It's days like this—days where the world looks completely dead, but on the verge of rebirth—that I begin to feel alive again.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Incoming Controversy!!

I like stirring shit up, especially when all I'm doing is focusing the lens and not actually causing it. All of what follows stems from a blog post by a gal named Angela (Saturn_Girl), a post which you can find here. It was essentially her take on gender affairs in the modern world. I linked a bunch of people I know to it, and got very mixed opinions. Since few of these people will associate themselves with the blog community and actually LEAVE comments (except one, I see), they're all going in here. Go read the original post, then come back here and enjoy the fracas. (Note: I included gender and rough geographic info for statistics' sake, and to see how things may or may not align the ways you'd expect)

#1 - Male; Baltimore, MD
You thought that was an interesting perspective? For a while I assumed
it was satire. Eventually I decided it probably wasn't. The saddest
thing is that this girl reached the age of 35 before writing this
18-year-old's essay. And to end with, "Before you send the inevitable
e-mail asking why I'm not criticizing men" is almost comical. Like
that would be someone's objection. However, it is definitely comical
that she referred to herself as a "rare woman with a brain and a touch
of sanity." I find it depressing that there can even exist adults who
think this way about the world around them. If she had written this in
adolescence, I would understand. That would explain the lack of
sophistication. But to display that level of naivete as an adult is
embarrassing.

#2 - Male; St. Louis, MO
I hope this girl isn't plagiarizing the work that I've seen elsewhere. If
this is the girl then cool. Otherwise, yeah she has a point but it's also
pretty biased. Anytime I see an argument that says all, always, never, none,
there might be a fatal chink in there. Otherwise though I've always liked
this girl's work and it's very entertaining.

Two thumbs up

#3 - Female; Boston, MA
This woman's opinion is BY FAR the most lucid, ACCURATE and REALISTIC that I've ever read concerning gender affairs today. Thank you SOOOOO much for sharing it with me! I agree 100%, and will be sure to forward this to LOTS of people.....

#4 - Female; NYC, NY
At first glance, I thought I was in for a long diatribe on why women, many of them calling themselves feminists, still like men that treat them like crap. It started out with the seemingly humorous anecdote about the nasty old hag of a grandmother which made me chuckle a bit; but, then things took a somewhat darker turn. The tone moved from annoyed and fed-up to rage-filled and hateful. In short, this chick's got some issues. She appears to be blaming women for just about every social ill and problem in our society. I always have a bit of problem with one group being scapegoated for every problem on the planet. This just makes the problem overly-simplistic instead multi-faceted and complicated which is normally the case. For example, it's kind of like when a columnist or public figure blames teacher quality for everything that's wrong with public education. The problem of poor pubic education is way too complicated to just blame the entire system break-down on this one group of people. There are issues like parental involvement, school funding, legislation, cultural issues, etc. Sure, teacher quality plays a role in this, but it's not the only cause of the problem. This chick is blaming women for everything from serial killers to low standards in higher education. Scapegoating women (and not just feminists, she says "women") for these problems is too simplistic. I mean, Hitler did the same thing by blaming one group, the Jews, for all of the problems in Germany. The economy? Jews. Crime? Jews. Etc. I'm not calling her Hitler, but I'm just pointing out that she's using the same tactic in her writing here.

Which leads me to another point: generalizations. She tends to lump all women into one big category. Women want lower standards. Women want the bar lowered for them. Women want to be viewed as victims. Women don't respect men who don't beat the crap out of them. Generalizations are a big pet-peeve of mine. I mean, if she pointed out specific women, or if she said feminists or the National Organization for Women, then I think I would have had less of a problem here. By implying that all women want these things, she's offending some of her potential readers. I mean, I'm a woman, and I don't want any of those things. So, as a reader, and a member of the group that she's making generalizations about, I'm naturally a bit offended (I mean, not all THAT offended.....I don't even know this chick).

Another pet peeve of mine (next to broad generalizations) is also lack of research, or even just accurate examples or facts. Now, I really liked her Columbia University example that she used. If that indeed is their new policy, then that's a load of bullshit (funny, that as a woman, I would agree with her.....I'm sure she'd be shocked). I also liked her example of all the negative female stereotypes on Lifetime (of course, I would also point out that these same movies provide quite a few negative male stereotypes as well). Still, she levels quite a few other accusations at women that I think are pretty inaccurate. There's some faulty cause-and-effect going on here, and she doesn't offer any evidence to back up some of these claims. A prime example of this is her assertion that college standards have been lowered at around the same time more women have enrolled. First of all, I don't know of any colleges where an 82% would be considered an A-, and I taught at Owens Community College which has just about the lowest standards of anywhere on the planet. Secondly, if she'd opened up a newspaper, she'd have seen that many policy makers are claiming that public education is now "leaving boys behind." Overall, there are more boys qualifying for special education, fewer graduating from high school, and way fewer even meeting the minimal standards to get into college. Men are also incarcerated at a much higher rate than women. If college standards are set so low now as a result of women, then why are fewer boys getting in as a result of shitty grades and test scores? Now, I'm not saying that this is all public education's fault (maybe part of it, but, again, I think the problem is probably more complex than just one simplistic answer). I'm just saying that she definitely doesn't know what the hell she's talking about on this one.

Anyways, my biggest issue, overall, is she struck me as kind of angry, baseless and dumb. All rage and no substance to back it up.......kind of like O'Reilly and his pals. "Here's my opinion and fuck all of the facts!" Of course, I realize I'm probably just overanalyzing a blog entry because I have nothing better to do.... :)

#5 - Female; Detriot, MI
We are all screwed when in comes to relationships, men
and women alike. You just have to find someone that
is the Yin to your Yang and hope that it's enough.

The End

#6 - Male; Columbus, OH (an ER doctor)
Probably once a week I see a woman who got the shit kicked out of her, or more specifically, ribs 10, 11, and 12 broken on the left side with a nicely displaced nasal fracure to boot with a bitch of nosebleed that finally stopped just short of getting ENT involved to take her to the OR. Yet, all my attempts, the nurse's, the social worker's, my attending's, to get her pulverized ass to a women's shelter were futile and she walked out to go back home, saying, "I'm safe at my mom's." Okay, that's where it happened this time. He showed up on the porch and she went out to "talk to him." What the fuck did she think was going to happen this time? It was at her mom's that's where it happened last month when she showed up by squad after he threw her down the stairs. She still had healing rib fractures on the right from last month's visit. Who knows how many other ED's she's been to. She refused our attempts to call the police even to let them know, saying, "I called them last time." Bullshit, we all know she didn't. Yet not once in her five hour stay in the ED could she give us ONE FUCKING reason why we couldn't help her. So we did all we could do, gave her the phone numbers, some pain meds, and let her go.

Here's the stat of the day for you: fifty percent of domestic violence victims who actually COME to the ED come back DEAD the next time. They just don't get it. Maybe that writer is on to something. Quit wasting my time in the ER if you don't want my help.

#7 - Male; NYC, NY
Thanks for that. It was a good "no-need-for-hands-beating" to a couple of the women in my life. Hit the nail right on the head!


That's where it is so far. I had a few verbal comments, as well, which amounted to "This is why I don't read blogs, a lot of complaining and not any doing," and "This was annoying, do not send me shit like this." I started thinking NO ONE would agree with Ang, but she does have a small but dedicated following, and from people I didn't necessarily expect to come out on her side.

Now, it's bugging the hell out of you to know where I stand, right? Personal experience leads me to agree with some of it, but again, generalizations are hard to stand behind. I don't know for sure that all women want the bar lowered, but I'm sure some do. Just looking around my college classrooms a few years back at all the sorority sluts who couldn't be bothered to wear anything but their jammies to class and moaned about having to do actual WORK for once when their looks and cute demeanor have gotten them everything for free up to that point....those people piss me off, and THEY are the ones I think Ang was talking about. Also, I have seen in my life several examples of where the woman is clearly given free reign over the man, and she abuses it to no end. It's not exclusively a problem of women, but it DOES happen. In case you didn't notice, Ang DID comment on why she didn't include men at the bottom of her post, but I'm not sure everyone bothered to read that far.

At the same time, while there are enough women acting this way to make broad comments (because we hear about it so damn much), it's certainly not ALL of them, and the problem cannot be fixed with broad strokes. It's got to be handled by the individual. People wonder why some minority groups continue to pervade negative stereotypes. I lived in smalltown Massachuesetts for a while where every black man I saw wore a suit (not a P. Diddy suit), carried a briefcase, and was well spoken. I'm certainly not going to lecture HIM on fixing urban gang violence. He works for a living and is not part of the problem. Do we want to make the issues of his race HIS problem when all he's tryin to do is feed his family and make a decent name for himself? No. But that's the kind of stupid shit the KKK or the Skinheads might do. Blame everyone of that base criteria, right?

Each and every woman needs to take a good look in the mirror and see if they're part of the problem or part of the solution (as do men) and make changes appropriately if they want the situation to improve. I do not befriend weak, needlessly clingy women; they simply bore me. Thus, it's good to know that the ones I do spend my time with won't come to me with a broken nose, or at least if they do, I'll know the guy who did it is probably DEAD.