Archive for October, 2006

Eat this liver


In Persian there is a saying, and please don’t ask why it exists. Its literal translation is “May I eat your liver!” Note the punctuation, which is essential to its expression. It is not a question, it is a statement. And believe it or not, it’s highly affectionate and a very nice thing to say, especially to children or to those whose cuteness or cuddle-ability you find endearing.

Well now there’s an appropriate rejoin should a kind elderly Persian thrust this phrase upon you. Rather than the vague, mentally disorienting moment that would generally ensue, now you can reach your hand into your pocket, and whilst extracting a small glass vial, demand “Eat this liver instead, I harvested it from my own umbillicus.”

Scientists in the UK have made the medical breakthrough of producing miniature livers which can hopefully repair damaged ones, and one day develop into full transplantable livers. Not drinking alcohol, I hope that I should never need a liver transplant. But no doubt I will find this adjunctive use of tremendous value.

Metamaterialism

I can just see the signs now: Be alert (but not alarmed), invisible missiles ahead.

Though I shudder at the thought of invisible military operations, the development of “metamaterial” cloaks, which can render objects invisible by making light flow around and past them, would certainly make surprise parties more interesting.

What other applications could come from this? Up close animal documentaries? Invincible martial artists? Street salesmen you can’t dodge? Leave your suggestions.

Science tripping the light fantastic
Ian Sample, London
October 21, 2006

IT WON’T help you sneak around Hogwarts without being seen, but scientists have unveiled the world’s first cloaking device, a technology designed to make solid objects disappear.

Cloaking devices are coveted by the military, which can see a new age of stealth technology that hides planes and other vehicles from radar.

More advanced versions could ultimately be good enough to make objects or people invisible.

Pick a tall spouse otherwise your great-great-great-great grandchildren will be dim-witted goblins

According to the predictions of an expert, humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years. The evolutionary theorist behind the call expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge, falling in line with HG Wells’ The Time Machine.

In a nutshell, smart, bare, coffee-skinned tallies with chin-receded manikin figures will be naturally selected, creating an evolutionary chasm from the miserably shrinking and neuronally-challenged shorties. For every inch the tallies make on their outer temple, they will pass up from their inner temple - losing all virtues such as empathy, love, trust and respect. And they’ll be hopeless at teamwork.

We will have a “super” race of micrognathic power forwards who can’t play for the team.

To say all this is a far cry may prove to be an astronomical understatement, it being based on limited information and extrapolation from transient, conditioned trends. But it’s a great read and some elements of it do make a little sense!

Human species ‘may split in two’
BBC News Oct 17 2006

Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.

The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said - before a decline due to dependence on technology.

People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added.

Hey Delusion!

Yesterday on a blog I frequent, a certain Neocrat going by the alias Mogogo posted commentary about a pet topic of mine (ask my wife, I get quite animated by it): Why it is that everyone thinks what they think is right? So I had to add my thoughts. Called Hey Delusion! it has sparked some interesting discussion.

We don’t know nothing

This phenomenon of delusional faith in one’s own grey matter is something that i have pondered on since being a wee lad. Why, I’d ask myself whilst musing over Roald Dahl or body slamming one G.I. Joe into another, is it that everyone believes in whatever it is that they think?

The world was flat, definitely flat. And no doubt of its physical centrality in the scheme of all created and no-created things, for why else would Christ grace it with His presence? Those with a hint of melanin in their skin were savages, primitives, sure they were and no buts about it. A woman with a stance was a witch and fit for naught but the infinite abyss of hell (which of course, was and is, a very very hot place), for why else would she display intellect or an opinion? It’s a war we had to have, for sure. And no, no way is poison bad for the earth or for our children. Of course it isn’t. Computers are for NASA, no one will find a use for one nor fit one in a normally proportioned house. And this internet mumbo jumbo will never come to any use.

And yet, with a whole history of ludicrous “definites” behind us, we persist: My god is better than yours, and when he comes back it will be in a pyramid led by white horses on the backdrop of a melting sun, and then you’ll be sorry. This molecule is what causes disease, and that’s that. And I’m sad and that’s why God doesn’t exist, for why would a white man live in a cloud anyhow? Objects travel in straight lines, and why would you be stupid enough to challenge that?

This is why my virtue of patience is challenged when someone says “I don’t believe in that, fullstop.” “If everyone just thought as I do there would be no wars.” Or “I believe in science.” As if I don’t - Science believes in its expanding frontiers, not only in its current self.

Friends and fellow humans, let’s learn from history and hold our horses on closed conclusions. Let’s admit that the 10% of a brain that we might use, with our own limited experience and sub-universal perception, cannot know all. This is why I agree with Mogogo, that a common code beyond our own selves gives us something to work towards.

But on the question of whether we all act according to what our conscience dictates as good, I’m not so sure about that. Sometimes grave evils and injustices are committed by minds that either pretend that it’s good, or get a kick out of harming others, feeding their own insecurity. In the corporate world it’s a daily occurence for people to deceive to get ahead of others. Competition driven by jealousy or want cannot be driven by conscience, rather desire.

Hurting others inadverdently whilst we mean to do good is another matter. It is not just that one person commits the act, but that another finds offence. Life is too short and our taking offence a waste of precious time. As it has been said, “Life is a dwarf, don’t be offended.” Okay, so nobody said that.

You can join discussion on this topic here.

Mateship fails ‘values’ test for Aussies

Following my posting on ‘Aussie values and mateship’ recently, here’s an interesting update of Australian public opinion on how these values rate. It proves that people have become disillusioned with recent takes on the word, and value tolerance of different cultures and religions as more important.

Mateship fails ‘values’ test
Michelle Grattan, Political Editor, The Age
October 10, 2006
PEOPLE put freedom of speech and tolerance of different religions and cultures much higher in their lexicon of “Australian values” than mateship or a fair go…

Be young, retire or bust

Wherever you fit into the growth and decay spectrum of life, tradition has it that you are only as young as you feel.

If that rings true, then send a shout out to your Kenyan brothers and sisters. In Kenya, a recent proposal in government is to change the legal definition of youth to anyone aged from 15 to 50. This is a two-decade jump from the current ceiling of 30 years. If passed by parliament, that would put youths within five years of Kenya’s official retirement age of 55. Hmm…

The cup of immortal life, the chalice of immortal youth, the receptacle housing skin-with-that-just-face-lifted-zing; whatever the promise of youth is, it seems that for one reason or another, we all seek it. We all want to be forever young. In this case that reason is the aged’s attempt to access government treasury through youth funds.

Nonetheless this leaves us with some food for thought: In an age generally confounded for identity, what’s the draw-card of the already identity-challenged youthdom? Why does one seek it so desperately? When is one ready and fit to ascend its throne and finally, when does one retire from it? Can it be a gracious stepping down or is one necessarily dragged kicking and screaming away from its allure when one’s optometry prescription overtakes one’s shoesize? One one ders.

At the end of the day, the exact age and role definition of youth is cultural and circumstantial. In some cultures you’re leading the ox and cart down the harvest in your nappies whilst in others you’re 45 and still doubling your head mass with hair product and having commitment issues. But it does seem that in our West, we are far too obscessed with looking and acting young to actually live life as though we are.

A random fiction excerpt: Vignettes of Arms and Legs, Pt. 1

I thought I’d post a random excerpt from a story I’m working on. If I’m brave enough I might post more in the future!

26 October 1994.

Dear Ardeshir,

How is your end? I hope your family is good. How is your mother? How is your father? How is your sister? How is your brother? I hope they are all well. I am so glad to be writing in English to you. It has been a long and turning road for me, and it is remaining like this even in this country – I will explain to you later why. But I am hopeful for a bright and peaceful futures in Perth – am I too hopeful? Is it really very good?

It does not matter that your Farsi is not good. I believe you because I can read it, even though it is not always easy to read it. It does not have the meaning of your English prose at all – is that the correct word? But you have very beautifully handwriting, like a true poet. You are from Shiraz after all, correct? I am very surprised your handwriting is beautiful.

My end is good enough. Woollybutt is a strange place to live. Believe me, my friend has red hair on his head. He is very excellent in his grades and studies with me, but he smokes hashish.

Khoda Hafez,

Felipe

P.S. Please do not be offended when I ask if your sister is doing well. I am just enquiring into her health.

Narcissism and the adventures of wanna-be-stars

Stardom, that elusive and non-descript rank that millions confer upon a select few whom they know so little about, is a strange thing. A recent study of stars, who are often difficult to access for study due to their living in a bubble of publicists, agents and managers, addresses the question of whether stars are narcissistic (though this blogger must admit this would pose too gross a generalisation), brought to light some fascinating discoveries.

Researchers distinguish between normal or healthy narcissism and excessive narcissism, sometimes called narcissistic personality disorder, which was not studied here. They also caution against conflating egotism and narcissism. Researchers say that narcissistic people have low self-esteem and are compensating for it, whilst egotists genuinely love themselves.

Interesting findings included the fact that the least talented of the star categories (reality television stars) displayed most narcissism, and that narcissistic tendencies predisposed people to seeking stardom and becoming stars, whilst stars did not necessarily become more narcissistic:

“The study — soon to be published in the Journal of Research and Personality — confirmed that celebrities are more narcissistic than average Americans. And — surprisingly — they seem to start out that way, leading Pinsky and Young to surmise that narcissistic people seek out careers in the limelight, rather than becoming narcissistic when they earn fame. Young thinks this nugget may prove useful to the increasingly popular course of study known as entertainment management.”


Celebrities are their own biggest fans
By Robin Abcarian, LA Times Staff Writer
September 12, 2006.

The average Narcissism Personality Inventory score of Americans — as demonstrated in a previous study — is 15.3 out of a possible 40. Celebrities averaged 17.8. Contrary to what occurs in the general population, women celebrities, across the board, were more narcissistic than males (19.26 versus 17.27). Musicians — who have the highest skill level — are the least narcissistic celebrity group, while reality television stars — the least talented or skilled group — are the most narcissistic.

“Female reality show contestants,” Pinsky said, “are off the chart.”

Society has always had narcissists, and before the tragic Greek mythological figure, those persons existed by another name. What I’m more interested in is why our contemporary society is so endlessly obscessed by stardom. It seems a fuel constantly spued onto the fire of narcissism, giving those prone to it the promise of attention. Wouldn’t it be great if there were no such thing as “stars” but just actors, singers, dancers, writers, etc. And perhaps the great work of scientists, mums, teachers and the un-famous ranks of artists could also be cared about?

A few months ago I wrote about “Stardom” in Mr. -Ed’s column in Australia’s Baha’i youth publication. Click here to read it.


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