Tuesday, March 13, 2012
You’re my ice-cream bar. You’re my gypsy dream visitor. You are my inverted control: the flow. I feel guilty liking you as much as I do—genuinely guilty. Why? Fuck if I know. Probably because I listen to people more than I should; but then again, it’s hard to tell when people are smart or wise until I’ve decided whether or not I disagree with them.
You are a sanction. You’ve got more confusing light switches than the others, yet you’ve “inspired” me less. You have the appeasing touch, the calming presence, the welcoming silence. I like you.
You’re kind of special. I’ve never spoken ill of you, just honestly, and that seems to be enough. Would I be happier somewhere else? Perhaps. Am I happy here? Yes.
I’m afraid of what I might do with you…
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Everyone I Went To Highschool With Is Dead...
Another summer rolls by
And I can't help but feel pain
All those familiar faces
Come back to haunt me again
Whether I hated their guts
Or hardly knew them at all
I always felt far away
Beside them there in the halls
My yearbook keeps me informed
My yearbook keeps me in line
It's an obituary
Gives me a concept of time
We've graduated and grown
From a real world once our own
Yet we have proven them wrong
By dropping off all along
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Funeral Homes. I noticed a new one a few months ago, maybe even a year ago, on a road much traversed. I thought it a bit odd given that there was a previous one but a mile down the road. Is business that good? When I thought about it a bit more (what else is one to think about when driving?), yes, I think so.
Ol' Bazarov here is the first generation or so in the USA that numbers less than his/her predecessors. Meaning, if you're in the funeral business, then business will only be getting better until my generation starts biting it. Then it'll start to dwindle. The baby boomers will probably provide the beginning of the golden era of death rituals. I'm guessing my generation will opt for the more eco-friendly form of corpse disposal: tissue digestion or other such similar method. It seems that cremation is becoming more and more popular given what a waste of space a graveyard is. Some European cities, and especially Japan, are feeling the pinch rather sharply now, so it's just a matter of time before some sort of change comes about. But the point is that given the growth pyramid charts of post-industrialized countries, I'm guessing that business is good for the undertakers as of yet, but will soon peak, reaching the golden age of corpse handling, and then tail off and undertakers, as we currently know them, may go the way of the telegraph operator. So, if you're in the market for investment, cash out before people my age start kickin the bucket. Though, I guess in this here country, incoming immigrants from pre-industrialized nations will keep the supply of eventual corpses high and steady, if I've read predicted population curves correctly. I, myself, plan on giving up the body to scientific/medical use and then allowing them to do whatever they want...I won't care at that point.
Blogs. I've been rather busy at work lately, so my reading and getting a grasp on what's going on in the world has been limited, to put it mildly. Finally got around to reading some of the e-mails I regularly get but hardly read.
One from Discover magazine (which I used to subscribe to until they started putting stupid ads like how marijuana leads to homelessness and heroin use) had a collection of blogs about scientific studies recently released.
Circumcision. The article/blog ran the same old circles the debate has run for atleast 6 decades or so I suppose. It's interesting to see all the various takes (two, maybe three I'm guessing from what I've seen). What's more curious is the number of women writing/chiming-in on the topic. Oh, do tell! I can't help but laugh at some of the comments, and how passionate the arguments are, on both sides. I even saw something new in the comments underneath the blog link: the accusation that the anti-infantile circumcision (pro-babyforeskin?) crowd is really secretly anti-semitic, and this is just another avenue for the jew haters of the world to bash that religion, specifically the followers of said religion. Interesting, given the majority of circumcised males in the world are muslim, but then again, they're so easily confused, aren't they, those jews and muslims. I could go on here, waving my dick, proverbially and literally, in the wind, take a side and argue, or just note how funny the entire debate is. I wonder how long it would be if a popular religion endorsed branding infants with a waffle iron before some medical benefits were discovered by such a practice. Funny how a big bang (an Inflationary Standard Hot Big Bang to be specific--nerd overload on the cosmology recently) can lead to heated arguments on infantile genital plastic/cosmetic surgery. Silliness.
Restless Leg Syndrome. Turns out a potential treatment is masturbation. Ha! The number of avenues opened up in the imagination by such a therapy proposal are too many to list. I've written a short story where RLS played a central part, knowing little to nothing about the condition. That certainly didn't keep me from using it. The one thing I did research though, because I didn't believe it when I first saw it, were the list of side-effects given for the medication being advertised. The list can be found within this wonderfully written story. I think I'd give masturbation a go before buying the medicine and dealing with all those side-effects...but it does beg some questions, doesn't it? Ha! Funny stuff.
Taint size. Who doesn't like a good bit on taints? A study was conducted in which researchers measured the length of a hundred some young men's taints and correlated it with sperm count I believe it was. They couldn't call that bit of anatomy a taint, of course, and opted for "anogenital", measuring the anogential distance, the length from the anus to the scrotum. Ahh, all those hard years in medical school. I think I'd rather jerk off in a cup and work on Restless Leg Syndrome preventative therapy and submit said cup before dropping trow and letting someone measure my taint. I guess the sperm count test is more expensive. Oh yeah, the correlation: shorter taints correlated positively with lower sperm counts. It said those men with taints shorter by more than two inches from the norm were 7 point something times more likely to have low sperm counts. I'm not sure the article gave a normal taint length (so I can't find out how I stack up against all my rivals out there) or what constitutes a normal sperm count. Apparently a shortening of the taint is an external feminization marker, since women's tend to be shorter, and might be linked to that ingredient in plastics, shampoo and everything else we douse our bodies with daily. Taint-science...it's an amazing time to be alive.
Speaking of taints...Douchebaggery. I've often thought a magazine could be started and a fortune could be made on the male dipshit chunk of the population. All you'd have to do is hijack the Maxim formula: find jokes people too lazy to search the internet didn't find (most if not all submitted by readers anyhow), put clothed hot women in it, and talk about shit in a dumbed down manner. I wonder how many english grads have sold their souls to write for such work, thinking to themselves, "It's just for money. Once my novel/screenplay gets picked up I'll get out of this racket," while secretly keeping every article they've ever seen in print, boasting at bars to prospective bimbos about their employment, all while thinking how to link the three column piece on what to do in a bear attack to the benefits of being an asshole to the recycled articles on the "secret" to providing sexual satisfaction (might be ancient and Chinese), all filler of course, just verbiage to put inbetween 80 ads for powertools, sextip tapes, girls gone wild, penis enhancement pills and whatever else men with 80-120 IQ can be duped into buying...meh. Anyway, some possible headlines or questions for the cover of such a magazine: Is there such a thing as too much product in your hair? Is it gay for men to suntan? Can one make too much money? Can you ever be too ironic? Are sunglasses capable of being too big? The answer to all of which is obviously, "NO!" Douchebags. Where's Ogre when you need him? Instead of growling, "Nerds!" we need ourselves a douchebag hating mascot to get behind!
(As an aside, I did google image search "douchebag" and far too many results came back, many of which I think promoted a narrower category than I'd use, and the thought came to mind that given all the douchebag hating going on out there, it's kinda douchey to be engaging in it, so I'll leave it at that...stupid meta-douchebags [and yes, they've roooooned that prefix turned word too :'( Once useful, meaningful prefix, you'll be missed].
Made a recent trip southwise. Giant crosses were seen atleast twice, if not thrice, but what tickled me most was that next to one, in that oh so supposedly more religious part of the country, was a giant Adult Store. That's what they called themselves, "Lion's Den Adult Store". I think the little logo was of a lion mounting a lioness, but I couldn't make it out. I guess where the internet hasn't been discovered in all its glory, Adult Stores still have some use. I'd think even the truckers have gone wireless by now...anyway, it gave me a good laugh and some hope for that oh so supposedly more religious part of the country...I noticed no fewer churches there than around here, that is just as many or entirely too many, however you wish to look at it. Segue...
Is that what happens to men when their dicks stop working? I've found middle aged to senior aged, middle-class married males can be quite intolerable at times. They no longer give a fuck how they appear or behave, I'm guessing because they've submitted to the idea that they're stuck in that oh so lovely relationship they've been in all these years so why bother keeping your shit together in a way that's not openly bothersome to others in your vicinity? (why is it so rare to see seniors holding hands when they walk together? It's so damned beautiful to see when it is witnessed, though the cynical part of my brain can't help but think it's because they're a new couple, enjoying the benefits of modern-day genital reviving medicine, not some 50 year long couple, but one can still hope. I should also mention not every married man or married person for that matter seems unhappy in their situation, and I myself certainly haven't ruled out the idea on principle. I've just heard too many times, "I don't regret it, but _________", fill in the blank as you wish. A lot of people aren't happily married, even though roughly 50% of them get divorced, I think a large portion just stay married for some other reason, happiness not being the main reason. But then again, what the fuck do I know?). These men sometimes become passionate about politics, and I've yet to hear an original thought in that domain from them. It's like they've become hapless meat-puppets that've latched on to the first talking head that whines, moans and bitches about all the shit they would whine, bitch and moan about if they had their own radio show: old, priveleged white-guy problems. I'm not even sure "problem" is the right word. Very annoying regardless, and a part of me fears I'll end up like that once the part of my brain tickled by women gets jaded or worn out...maybe not, as on more than one occasion I've been told I'll grow to be an old, lonely man, though I've yet to seen such a confirmation via fortune cookie. Back to dealing with these people...Biting my tongue and thinking how I'll outlive them is hardly doing the trick anymore. Need to find a new way from saying something I'd immediately regret. Which brings me to the final thought...
Complete honesty. Is it possible to achieve? I think almost certainly not. You just can't say every little thing that pops into your head, even if it's been a long held belief or conviction. We're all too weird, fucked up and fragile I think. I have, though, longed to start a new e-mail account, and with that begin a new blog, one with no theme, no motive other than to just be completely and utterly honest about every petty thought that passes through my feeble little mind. I often wonder about how if humans survive our species' adolescence, what a wealth of material future anthropologists and social scientists will have at their disposal. And floating out there, amongst the limitless sea of human thoughts will be a blog from some dude, opening up all John Doe, Seven style, but instead of filling up countless notebooks, I'd be aligning virtual zeros and ones, forming strings of run-on sentences in a way which might help enlighten some future, internet dredging researcher on how such intelligent people evolved from creatures such as ourselves. Makes me think of a well-liked quote: In the future there may well be a group of people who flatly deny ever having evolved from us. Or something like that...
But of course, the fear is always of being found out. How many stable social situations could be disrupted from such a venture? And what would be gained? Other than a beautiful place to vent. I'm guessing it'd be a public diary, of sorts. And now that I think about it, I'm guessing there's plenty of those already. I guess I'm stuck with the occasional, selfish, mischievous smile and secret thoughts. Could always be worse...now where's my ruler?
Thursday, July 8, 2010
There are times when I imagine myself an alien living here, a witness to the madness, separated from it all, whose sole task is to simply observe, ponder, revel, and for lack of a better word, brood. A giant, meticulously crafted clockwork is before me, created by itself, honed through time and flowing forward at an ever present pace, and here I am, foreigner on his own planet, watching it march on, tick away. It’s like a human zoo, or a history book called Present that I’m reading, quite apart and removed from the events taking place before me, as much so as anyone reading actual history is separated from the events recorded therein. But then there are those moments when I’m ripped from this perspective, this remote, unattached view—when beauty strikes.
Driving about, a simple ton or so in the megatons of steel, glass, rubber and flesh on the highway, I might be thinking some nasty thought about one of the vehicles in proximity when I’m dumbstruck by a skyscape, burning in royal reds, yellows and oranges, towering clouds, clearly the home of some beings greater than us, unaffected by the train of madness crawling underneath, majestic in its posture, bravely facing the sun and reflecting a beauty unique, yet likely to return in some different but similar form some other time. I must still be an observer if I’m noticing it; yet, I don’t feel like I’m on the outside looking in anymore. Engross, captivate, rivet and enchant: these are the things beauty is capable of doing. It can also enthrall, but for me, at least, that’s only brought about by the most limited form of beauty, that of the alluring female form.
Let us stay on the larger set of beauty though, the non-romantic or non-sexual kind of beauty. It’s quite easy to see why we’re drawn to the form of Michelangelo’s David, the countless oils of gods, goddesses and nymphs, the ripe flesh of Hawaiian Tropic models.
The distinction is much in the same way we often use the word love. The first meaning that comes to my mind is the romantic meaning, the quality of emotion used when expressing feelings for a sexual partner or one would like to have as a sexual partner. This is the most limited use of the word though and the far more common meaning of the word is of another type, such as the bonds of familial or friendly attachments. Of all the things people ‘love’, the smallest subset is of the type I, and I guess most other people as well, think of when we hear the word in isolation—romantic love—whereas most forms of love are NOT of the romantic kind. A parent loves its child, the child its sibling, the sibling its pet, the pet its food, etc. And so is beauty: the vast majority of things we call beautiful are not things we want to fuck. Why?
I ask that question in all seriousness. Why should we find things we have no sexual interest in beautiful? Why would we lump them together with the same word? Why should we be enraptured by breasts or biceps and prose or poetry? Why would a mound of dirt called a mountain have any appeal to us? Why does the rich smell of a mature pine forest engross me? Why does a sunset make us stop what we’re doing and force us to marvel at its beauty? It’s difficult to think of reasons. Ripe titties and rippling muscles have all too easy explanations: sexual evolutionary drives. But why should I find some landscapes more appealing than others? Why should I prefer the sound of a Chopin melody over that of the random squeaking of a tree or the grating squawks of an annoying bird?
There are probably plenty of good books and articles discussing this but I’m too lazy to hunt them down and will rely on my own thoughts and what I can remember from lectures, radio stories and discussions seen on the internet. In fact, I’m certain there are a lot of worthwhile books and articles written by women and men who put a lot more time into this topic and certainly a lot more effort than I’ll ever commit to, taking painstaking efforts to check the strength of their hypotheses and theories through careful research and experimentation, whenever possible; but I’m lazy and need the distraction offered by blog writing. While I do consider this half-baked, lazy, incomplete and often incoherent, I'm posting it simply to be done with it so I can move on. Plus, there'll be lots of boobies, and boobies are nice. And butts...mmm...butts. AND THIGHS! DELCIOUS, SWEET THIGHS!!! BUTT...all in good time...moving on.
On NPR I heard a story about patios. I think it started with the real estate crash. They were talking about how homes with front patios fared better in the market than those without; and then they dug a little deeper: why?
The person they spoke with thought it had to do with an evolutionary bias present in most of us: we prefer wide open vistas, with a secure shelter behind us. That is, we like to see what’s going on without having to worry about not having eyes in the backs of our heads. Patios fulfill this function—they sit at the front of our homes, our shelters, and look out onto the surrounding neighborhoods or terrains. This makes sense to me. More generally, think about the sorts of landscapes we like, of all the settings that you find pleasurable and how many of them are conducive to easy living. Deserts and tundra hardly seem to make the landscapes we most cherish. (Sure, they might be beautiful in some sense, but I think in those cases it’s because of something more abstract, which I'll get to later.)
When I was in Sweden most recently, I noticed quite a common setup in the countryside: a clearing for fields with a house at the threshold where the woodlands met the grasslands, the front of the house on a hill, overlooking the field, the back of the house to the woods, enveloped in the embrace of a forest hug. Same idea as a patio writ large.
What about manmade environs? Fountains are often quite attractive—running water. Most major cities are near some sort of water source, be it a lake, river, or sea. But if it’s a sea, more often than not it’s at the mouth of a river. Running, fresh water is essential. Shaded areas have always been pleasing to me as well. One of my fonder memories as a child is of a setting that combined the two, that of an outdoor café patio, with a canopy of cross worked wood, ivy growing throughout, offering a speckled shade that allowed some light in, but only in patches, with fountains throughout, stone and tile flooring and walls. Settings that are pleasurable to be in offer a sense of beauty I think, and it’s because they’re so conducive to maintaining a desirable homeostatic condition: never too thirsty, hot, or far from whatever is needed.
Mountain vistas offer an extended epistemological horizon, which adds to a sense of security: you can see what’s coming long before it arrives. Mountain ranges offer a wall of protection, more so than an obscuration of what’s on the other side, I’m guessing, and valleys even more so.
Lush, verdant landscapes offer the promise of bountiful food. Puffy clouds and blue skies offer freedom from the tempest, but I think we must be careful here, because deserts can have nice blue skies as well, and the beauty offered by them might be working on another bias we have inbuilt.
Now what about ugly landscapes? Think of where the bad guys live in Disney cartoons. It’s often overcast, red and black, barren and jagged: not very supportive of life as we know it. Or how about where the witches live? in old, rotting forests, full of decay, with no openings in the treetops, just dark and dank, in need of a forest fire and rebirth.
What about the desolate landscapes or scenes that are still beautiful? The Badlands, the soft rolling sands of endless deserts, the uniform white sheets of arctic ice under a midnight sun, the awesome heights and displays of distant thunderstorms—many of these things people often find beautiful, but why? I think this is where we have a bridge between what may be instinctual appreciation of beauty, such as of environments conducive to our better welfare, and more remote forms of beauty, such as a well crafted poem or piece of abstract sculpture.
We often use words to describe things that really aren’t appropriate when we think about it long enough. Ramachandran uses the example of saying cheddar cheese is sharp. Everyone knows what he means by this; no one REALLY thinks he means that you ought to be careful with cheddar cheese because you might cut your mouth with it. Sounds can be sharp too, or flat. There’s a condition called Synesthesia where senses can get mixed, like certain tastes have an association with another sense, sounds may have visual accompaniments, or, as the case may be, numbers have colors associated with them, e.g. a black five on white background is tinged green whereas three is tinged red. Artists tend to be more likely to have this condition than the average person pulled from the population, as well as other conditions, like depression and bi-polar disorder. But what should be clear is that we’re all Synesthetes to some degree; the fact we use words like sharp for flavors and sounds displays this.
What does this have to do with beauty? I think many of the things that aren’t readily explainable, such as why we would find some series of sounds more pleasurable than others, operate by hijacking the neural systems used primarily for other functions, such as visual discrimination or language comprehension and generation. Hijack is a poor word, because that would imply those neural systems ARE for something, ONLY that something, and for NOTHING else. As I’m sure all thinking people are aware, we weren’t designed, so while eyes may be for seeing, if they should happen to serve some other useful purpose, such as attracting a mate, we can’t very well say they’re ONLY for seeing, even though most of us would agree that is their primary purpose.
Let’s look at the case of music. Why do we like it? Why are some series of sounds considered harmonious and others not? What purpose does music serve? If it can relieve stress, then why? What was the initial purpose? Did our ancestors once serenade one another with songs? My inclination, and it’s not my idea but one I heard suggested, is that it’s a byproduct of our language capacities. Our brains have developed certain modules for language comprehension and generation. All music falls in an audible range by definition; if the pitch is too high or low we don’t hear it. Tempo ranges are important too. If I were to play any melody, no matter how well known—say Three Blind Mice—slow enough, no one will hear it as Three Blind Mice. If you slow a melody down too much, which I’ve heard professional musicians do from time to time, you kill the cohesiveness of the piece, the flow. Same thing applies to going too fast. My guess would be that it’s because language and words follow the same rules. Given the limitations of our vocal and auditory apparatus, our regions for comprehension probably honed in on a certain range of pitch and tempo.
Melodies can even be described in ways that are usually reserved for human behaviors, using words that have very specific meanings. To stick with just one composer, listen to these Chopin examples: playful , thoughtful & flirtatious, mournful, distraught...all without saying a word! (If you've never heard his first ballade through to completion, find a comfy chair, close your eyes and enjoy. It's absolutely amazing the entire time. Brilliant!)
Imagine a musical scale that moved in increments of a few Hertz per note, instead of the 12 note scale Western music uses where octaves double the frequency of the tone. If you get the steps too short between notes we cease to hear individual notes. The term in Psychophysics is Just Noticeable Difference, or JND. They tend to be logarithmic if I’m remembering correctly. The point is it’s a bias for certain things and not others…an aside is necessary…
Most of psychology is about biases, a word used often enough now to justify this aside, I should think. One of the tragedies of humanity is that we outgrow our evolutionary makeup. We prefer some tastes over others, which seems easy enough to explain. We still like sweet things even though they’re in overabundance, a simple quick trip away. No, that in itself probably isn’t tragic, but other biases are. Take mass communications for example. Never in our history have we had to deal with anything like it. Without trying to sound too much like some Orwellian dystopia, we must acknowledge we have certain weaknesses when it comes to mass communications. Large portions of the population can be persuaded through the use of propaganda and selective displays of information. The 20th Century taught us that, among other things like how our technological capabilities have succeeded our tribal mindsets. But we’re straying, even for an aside this is too much; we must get back to the point: biases. Humans, given their seemingly endless variety of behaviors, are rather routine creatures. All of us are the product of breeding, so that’s been going on for quite some time. We all need to eat. And when we think no one’s looking, something rather interesting happens: we find we’re rather uninteresting. Almost any good psychological experiment needs to include deception of some kind or other, lest the subjects change their behavior. We’re not blank slates; we come into the world full of biases, biases that led to our ancestors making us and not some other creatures; we behave like cracked records because we were tailored for a certain environment we’ve quickly outgrown to do one thing: reproduce. Since we can pretty much create our own environment at will now, you find we do the same things over and over again: satiate our biased desires. If it's too hot we make it cooler; if it's too cold we make it warmer—we want to eat this but not that, fuck her but not that other her. There’s a reason why McDonalds pop up the world around but putrid, rotting toes never seem to make the menu; why attractive, beautiful people are used to sell products and films while the rest of us pay for the products or films; why people pay for massages and sex but avoid torture; why people spend substantial amounts of money to travel to tropical getaways in secure areas, politically or geographically, while the brochures for Somalia remain untouched. Sure you might find the occasional person who thinks shit smells great, gets off on physical pain or psychological abuse, but it’s unlikely, and our knowledge of such exceptions can often lead us astray—that whole mass communications thing at play again. But most people, no matter their race, sex, height, whatever (I’ve left creed and culture out intentionally) pretty much like the same things. They prefer bubble baths over sand storms, orgasms over pain, etc. Pain is a great example of a hardwired bias. Sure, some things can be learned, but all that is doing, in my opinion, is adding one more leg in the journey from Stimulus to Response, the ultimate goal or ending being the same neural systems that give the feeling of something being good versus bad, those same neural systems more or less hardwired for the more obvious stimuli, like the sight of a Venus or David; the smell of shit, death, decay; the feel of cool water, warm breeze, lover’s caress; the taste of sweet fruit; the sound of a humming mother, and so on. If someone finds the smell of shit enjoyable, there’s some history there, a series of conditionings that most likely had to overcome the initial repulsion to the stimulus. The closest example I can draw upon personally is that the smell of skunk no longer bothers me much, at all if it’s noticed while driving. If I were to get sprayed I may be repulsed, but because of the habits of my not too distant past, I’ve encountered a similar enough smell enough times, followed by rather favorable sensations that that particular stimulus no longer has the response it once had.
So, the biases, of which beauty is but one, are more or less inherent. And the reason more abstract things can be considered beautiful or not, is because they are pushing the same buttons the more obvious stimuli are. It’s not like there’s a gene that makes a neural region in the brain whose only job is to like bits of rounded flesh with targets at the centers, or a discriminating zone that prefers lithe or muscular flesh over formless, flabby flesh. The parts of the brain that get turned on by such stimuli are probably more general than that (though in the case of sexual attraction there needs to be, in some sense, a higher order level of discrimination or we’d see much higher numbers of homosexuality and/or bisexuality than we do, like witnessed among the Bonobos; and don’t let our own biases make us think males and females really are that much different looking; just think about other species: are the sexes that easy to identify in all of them, such as fish or the more ordinary looking birds?) The study that usually gets touted to make this point is the case of the feeding behavior of chicks from a certain breed of bird, which I can’t remember. Normally the mother has some red dot on its beak at which the chicks will peck to induce vomiting behavior from the mother. Now, if you present a mock, replica beak, and a stick with three red rings on it, the chicks will actually prefer the three red rings and peck more vigorously at that instead. The rule of thumb in the chick’s brain is probably operating on the red and background color contrast, but since it never encountered other such stimuli in nature (only when those curious apes get a hold of one and start manipulating variables) the rule of thumb stuck and worked fine, generation after generation.
The more abstract works of art might be operating on similar mechanisms. Indeed, some visual or audible forms of art may actually be BETTER at stimulating our pleasure zones in the brain than the stimuli they were selected for are. It might just be that when an idea is expressed in words one way as opposed to another, we like it better than had it been presented in another way, because it conforms more closely to how our brains developed to deal with the various problems of language. We might have a bias for certain metaphors over others too, and people like Shakespeare found a way to tickle that part of our brains better than his counterparts.
This might also explain why we think some landscapes are beautiful even though they aren’t conducive to our better well being. Plus, seeing a documentary about the Antarctic is one thing, being stranded there might give a different impression all together. Perhaps the color schemes of the Grand Canyon or Painted Desert excites a region of our brains that overrides the other parts thinking, What an awful place!
We need to be careful in thinking that we have a gene for, a brain region for, or that natural selection had a favoring for any particular thing. To say we like Van Gogh because of our evolutionary history can run the risk of saying too little or implying too much; we don’t want to fall into the trap of assuming too much. However, we don’t want to dismiss a good idea either, or more importantly, fail to acknowledge it, lest we become the moth that flies into a flame. What was once a good preference for moths—flying at a certain angle in relation to a strong light source at night—became distracting in the presence of light bulbs and deadly around candles. Just because something was once beneficial doesn’t mean it will always be that way, like religion or a sweet tooth. In relation to beauty, thanks to mass communications, we see billboards, posters, TV and movies filled with the people whose forms stimulate us rather strongly, and if we don’t pause to think we might believe they’re more common than they really are and our expectations may rise to where disappointment is almost a guarantee, or we may starve and exhaust ourselves in attempts to attain a similar appearance. Learning, or cultural influence, can play a role in what we think is beautiful, but I’m afraid only within a certain range. Should you show a group of faces to just about any culture of people and ask them to rank them in terms of attractiveness you’ll notice they all arrange them rather similarly. Deformities, while speaking nothing about a person’s personality, agreeableness, or other such traits, have huge effects on visual attraction. [Coming up with universals when dealing with humans is quite tricky though, just think of the tribes in Africa that practice facial scarring or the insertion of giant plates into piercings; or, closer to home, the people who put giant holes throughout their bodies—in all likelihood there is someone out there who finds them beautiful.] Same goes with body forms. The most basic traits our brains are picking up are probably some ratios, such as shoulder to hips or height to width.
The rarity of beauty would go a long way in explaining stories of old. In reading stories from long ago, somewhere in the story would inevitably be a girl or woman whose beauty caused all sorts of mischief and scandal. Well, when people lived predominantly in small, agricultural villages, a beautiful woman would indeed be quite the rarity, something men in power would do all sorts of things to get at. I was constantly left with the impression that the narrator or whoever was involved in the story seemed to have been happy just to have seen such a beauty in their lifetime. Without the internet or magazine covers—before pictures, of any way of realistically and easily duplicating images—truly remarkable beauty would certainly be something noteworthy, a bit to tell a tale about.
If you look at our brains and know a little bit about which regions handle which sorts of stimuli or problems, you’ll notice something rather telling. The regions responsible for vision are ginormous. Other telling bits of anatomy are our olfactory bulbs: they’re tiny. Many mammals seem to go basically on smell when it comes to sexual attraction. Sure, there may be other cues, some even visual, but smells are what gets them all worked up and randy it seems. We’re the seeing apes though. For some reason or other, probably the ability to spot ripe fruit from a distance and making trees a point of habitation, our visual areas in the brain are quite advanced. And being the social beings we are, much to my chagrin at times, we add the component of people: being able to separate one another. It even seems as if we have special areas of the brain responsible for being able to distinguish faces, Prosopagnosia being the condition when this ability is no longer present. Our ancestors lived in small hunter-gatherer groups for the longest time. This seems to have instilled us with some biases that have both been good for us and a hindrance. Xenophobia is probably the easiest to think of on the bad side, and coupled with an overactive visual cortex, racism seems almost too easy to come about. Skin color is a lot more obvious than eye color; body type much more obvious than blood type; hair type more apparent than ear lobes: attached or not. I can’t help but wonder, what would we be like had we been more of the smell oriented type instead of the visual kind? Plastic surgery, gym time, and dieting seem the only ways to alter appearances, minus the occasional make over, and even then the results are hardly as dramatic as we’d often like. How much easier would it be to just come up with a fragrance, a synthetic form of what the attractive-smelly people emit? Think of how level the playing field would become if all it took was a dab of fragrance to get people sexually attracted; all that would be left to consider would be the traits many feel more noble to select from: personality traits such as kindness, intelligence, meekness, sense of humor, generousness, whether or not someone’s laid back or a go-getter, and so on. That is not who we are though.
One last point on this, one which tempts me to go erase a previous phrase in parentheses: I warned that men and women may not be as distinguishable from one another as we readily think, that there may be specialized parts of our brains dedicated to making the distinctions. Well, since we’re predominantly visual apes, we may in fact be rather distinguishable based on appearances. In the modern Western world, with our habitual bathing and dressing, smells are pretty much covered, and those that are noticed tend to be off-putting rather than stimulating—BO or bad breath. So perhaps we need to have more distinctive visual differences between the sexes. Anyone who has studied the human forms, such as in an art class, can quickly appreciate these differences. Many women have the famous ‘hour glass’ shape, while many men can simply be thought of as a large inverted triangle on a smaller, right side up triangle.
Women also have large breasts, possibly even the largest in the animal kingdom in relation to overall body size. What’s more telling is that only about 30% of the average sized breast, by volume, is for milk production, leaving 70% to do what they often do best: get attention. The average male penis size is huge too, when compared to the other great apes. Testicle size is moderate, but the size of testicles are thought to be an indicator of something else, the same thing male-female size differences indicate: breeding habits. If a mammal has large testicles, it is thought to copulate a lot, with multiple mates, versus a mammal with smaller testicles breeding less often. Species that have large males compared to females tend to be of the kinds that keep harems; monogamous species tend to be more equal in size. Since the average human male is larger, but not by much, it would indicate humans aren’t exactly the most monogamous species to be found, though there's a tendency for it—if that’s what we were interested in discussing we could focus on many other observations, but we’re not, so we’ll get back to the point. Could these size differences also be what our brains cue in on to differentiate gender differences? Why not? If you had nothing but a set of physical attributes of a random male listed in front of you to go by and had to pick the one trait that would best predict how a random female would judge him on physical appearance you should pick height, as studies have shown. Of course this grossly simplifies what stimulates people, what turns women on physically and neglects many other factors, but if you only had one trait, height seems to be it. Now, what about men? Countless studies have been done, measuring hip-to-waist ratios, breast-to-height ratios, etc, but either nothing’s been found as simple as height or I was simply distracted by all the talk of breasts that I never remember what the findings were. One study I do recall, though, was where men were allowed to vary the proportions of a virtual model in a computer to their liking. What’s funny is that while, yes, some men preferred women with uncomfortably large breasts, most preferred a size not hard to find on many women. What makes it funny is if you put a woman behind the computer and ask her to make a model she thinks men prefer, she’ll often make the breasts larger than what most men prefer. Men, of course, suffer from the same sort of self-consciousness type behavior. When men are asked to choose a model type they think women prefer, they often choose a model type that’s very muscular, like a body builder type frame. When women are asked to choose the model they prefer, they usually pick a slimmer model, such as that of a baseball or tennis player or gymnast.
Giant breasts and penises: could these be there in part because it helps differentiate us? Men, on average, tend to be far more angular, boney, and muscular than women too. Secondary sexual characteristics, such as facial hair might serve the purpose as well. So, while there may be some non-visual cues humans operate on, we seem largely to be visually stimulated. Women have that whole synchronizing of menstrual cycles thing going on, and can actually rank males in visual attractiveness based on smelling shirts of unseen men, but those are results of controlled experiments and have, in my opinion, little external validity: smell as good as you want, but if you’re a poor, one eyed, syphilis scarred guy, your chances aren’t going to be so good with women that have fully functional visual apparatus.
A final point before moving on to the aspect that inspired this posting to begin with. In early ‘90s, a man by the name of Levay published a controversial paper. He had dissected the brains of heterosexual and homosexual males and found a brain region to be different between the two, in a subsection of the hypothalamus if I’m remembering correctly. Heterosexual males’ region was twice as large as that of homosexual males’, and the homosexual males’ size was comparable to that of women, presumably heterosexual women. Without getting into all the unknowns and potential hoopla such a finding could imply, the point is there seem to be differences in the brain that contribute to who we fancy. When said like that it hardly seems surprising, because if not in the brain, where else? And we all know men and women produce different hormones in different ratios, so the brain and other glands should have different receptors to make use of these differences, right? I want to keep this point as short as possible and only skim the surface of the findings, because it’s wrought with controversy, difficulties and did I mention controversial? But let the lesson be learned, we probably, whether or not it’s this region in the hypothalamus, or more likely in my opinion, a large collection of regions in the brain working in concert, that makes us go after one body type/form versus another. Anyway, enough on that, and let us move on to the good stuff. Women be warned, you may wish to finish here…
...to be continued.
Monday, June 21, 2010
I saw this banner today, advertising what I'm guessing is some sort of social website tailored more for one night stands than online dating websites, many of these things being hawked off as "the Facebook of sex" or whatever it is they say. Oh, before I forget, I have a more substantial post in the works, but I had to comment on this. Right, where was I? Yes! For those curious, the site was called seekbang.com. Oh, the world internets! What shall the website address now be for people who want to see videos of exploding Ks? Hmmmm?
Anyway, the banner had this written on it: "MEET SLUTS WHO FUCK ALL! MEET HORNY SLUTS THAT WILL FUCK ANYONE: EVEN IF YOU'RE A MIDGET!
First off, kudos for the correct usage of "you're". I can't tell you how many NON-pornographic ads I've seen on the web that have made that or similar such mistakes in spelling. In general, the pornographic world must have a lot of well educated people, because I tend to see many more grammatically correct sentences in that sector of the webworld than elsewhere. Unless, of course it's the user comments, which like any other site with user comments only takes a few before FAG, COCKSUCKER, or I FUCKED YOURE MOM LAST NIGHT (see what happened there?) makes an appearance. That part of the web is like any other part. And what's sad is the comments aren't relevant, like it's not a homosexual male blowing a dude while fucking a MILF video that the comments are underneath, though I'm sure you could find it if you wanted to.
Secondly, is the midget market that negligible? I mean, can you risk blowing off all your potential midget customers in order to make all other potential customers feel like they have a chance of scoring with some hot, midget fucking sluts? Might not midgets take offense at being used in such a manner for the sake of advertising? Or, am I looking at this the wrong way? Are they tapping into both markets, getting all the people who think, "Yeah, I might be fat, sweaty, acne ridden, have no job, and smell real bad with no concerns about who I stick my dick in, but if she'll fuck a midget, then SURELY she'll fuck me!" AND the midgets who want to score horny sluts that fuck all as well?
Shall I make a prediction? Will the next one be?: MEET SLUTS WHO FUCK ALL! HOT HORNY SLUTS THAT EVEN FUCK CAVEMEN! Then you could see one of those actors that plays the caveman in that commercial series that just needs to end getting blown by some horny slut who fucks all, but not really, because she's getting paid to do it. Oh, did I forget to mention that in the middle of the banner is a midget getting blown by a girl many beer drinking men would probably find attractive? Well, there is. And you know what? I bet she's less likely to kill herself than that caveman-insurance-actor would be out of embarrassment or haunting sense of having accomplished nothing worthwhile in life. I could be wrong. But I'd still prefer to be stuck next to her than that guy on a plane.
One thing I'm rather certain I'm not wrong about, though, is you can't have a video titled: Hot tranny does ________________. Fill in the blank with whatever, because you can't have hot trannies. If you can, what makes a tranny hot, as opposed to not?
Hypothetical Tranny Video Enjoying Consumer 1: Man! Did you see that hot tranny!? What a man-babe!
HTVEC2: Ehh, he/she's alright. Nice boob job but her scrotum was a bit too wrinkly for my tastes.
HTVEC1: Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me, Mr. Perfect, I guess you didn't care much for her highlights either then, huh? You're so picky! I don't know why we hang out sometimes, man.
And so on...
Anyway, funny shit. You tend to see that in the porn-realm: funny shit. And literal shit, which I don't understand. Talk about exposing some weird interests in what piques humanity, huh? Who would've ever guessed there are enough people into scat, self-mutilation, bestiality and the like to make profitable websites? I don't know, but one thing's certain, they have an advantage when it comes to advertising.
I think Hicks had it right, if Coke could get away with it, they'd do this:
And so, let this be the first of many, short thoughts on this. I'm sure there are stand ups talking about this shit, but I'm not aware of many of them (Again, Hicks' bit on motel porn is a classic! But I can't find that particular one!). Too many people watching and not enough commentating I say. Time to change that.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Unfortunately not. I can even sidestep the whole messy problem of defining an "idiot"; it's a bit like jazz: if you have to ask then you'll never know. You see, most people can easily be idiots, well more than half the population (as I suspect is the case) because being an idiot is like being dead: the varieties in which the matter of your composition can be arranged and you still be you, i.e. alive and like you in all matters important, are far, far fewer than the ways in which it can be arranged and not be you, i.e. dead or someone else. So, while there are a few ways not to be an idiot--such as holding opinions and views about the universe reasonably close enough to actual reality that can expected from someone living in the era they happen to find themselves--there are far, far more incorrect perspectives, viewpoints and opinions to hold: hence, the possibility of there being more idiots than not. While 2+2 has only one correct answer, it has an infinite number of incorrect answers; and no, two and two make five is not also a very fine thing.
And as more and more peoples find themselves in lands where they're free to be as stupid as they can be, more and more people make full use of these newfound rights and privileges.
Think that the planet is younger than the last iceage? Guess what! No problem! You can still get full use of modern medical technology and your little mouth breathing progeny survive to carry the idiotic memes one generation yet! Think man descended from an imaginary (for a lack of a better word) MAN? Hey, no hard feelings, feel free to use that cell phone and flat screen! Still ignorant about the inherent shortcomings of human credulity and the outpacing of technology to human evolution and are taken by any idiot with a microphone and radio tower or communications satellite? Come over here you big hairy ape and have a beer, watch the endless left-turning race and have a vote while you're at it!
Что делать? Shto dyelat? What to do? Well the good news is idiots are people too. The bad news, idiots are people. Most are benign and harmless. I'm an idiot much of the time, yet I don't hurt anyone; well, a few feelings may be hurt from time to time, but nothing too bad I'd like to think; nothing lasting anyways. You see, when it comes to many facets of life, ol' Bazarov here is as clueless as the rocks under his feet or the dramatic yokels he calls neighbors. What's the best way to paint a bridge? Fuck if I know. What's the most aerodynamic shape for a passenger plane? Beats me. Most efficient use of natural resources? Ain't got a clue. I have little interest in finding out if it means personal resources being spent without financial compensation either. Which is the nasty side of idiocy; complacent ignorance. But the human mind is rather limited. We can't all write sonatas and build rocket ships while being expected to maintain healthy social relationships or be great parents. Some few people seem to pull it off from time to time, and the best we idiots can do is try not to ruin their days. The point is just because we're idiots in most things doesn't mean we're all idiotic with everything. Free countries exploit this and excel because of it. There are prices to pay though. I'll leave it to the reader to think of some instead of proffering some partial list which would only demonstrate the preferential workings of the author's sometime idiotic mind. So we needn't worry about many idiots much of the time.
What is worrisome, however, is when some delusional idiot convinces other idiots they have some Great Idea or Great Ideas. These have led to our species most spectacular bouts of suffering. If we were to separate ourselves from natural disasters that have befallen our lot, we clearly are the better at producing longstanding and wide, over-arching suffering. Hell, I'm guessing it's a safe bet that most people alive on this planet today still behave as if humanity were a diverse collection of separate species, with different inherent wants and desires, that we're not all the same apes in different wrappings, all thinking desperately about sex and our position in the social pecking order.
These idiots, the ones with Great Ideas, are only taken seriously by others because, most often by chance, the idiots with Great Ideas have happened to exploit one of our species' vulnerabilities: the assigning of emotional responses to various convictions or opinions. When someone says something we don't agree with hostility is usually the first response, much like calling someone an idiot :) We have this tendency, this instinct to assume bad things about one another. It is far easier to walk into a room full of strangers and get them to dislike you, without spending any resources other than your breath, than it is to get them to like you. We're usually suspicious of outsiders, be they literal or figurative. Once we've bought into something, we often seem that we'd rather go down with the investment rather than admit to anyone we were wrong and switch ship. And if we do switch ship, the first thing we usually try to do is set the same course the previous one was on.
The question remains: What to do? Nothing. You can't force people out of idiocy. I'm not sure it's all that ethical even if you wanted to. People are the way they are because of the genome they got in the environment they find themselves in, both of which no one gets to choose for themselves. I suppose tolerating it is a different question, but trying to force the stupidity out of an idiot is a bit like trying to get the stink out of a fart: you're best off just waiting for it to go away. When the last human has perished it'll be safe to breathe again. I plan on cashing in my chips well before then, and I think you'd be an idiot not to. I'm but one of the many idiots this Century is revealing via the internet. A whole ocean of ideas, comprised of a few precious drops of reason, the rest a furling, bubbling foam of utterly oblivious ignorance and vile, loathsome, petty and apish ways.
But hey, it's fun to point fingers and name-call.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Could it be that somewhere on the property of the apartment complex some light is turning on and off as curiosity drives the muscles in my arm to flick the switch back and forth? Through some awkward, convoluted wiring is another tenant’s sink disposal turning on and off? Why is it there? I don’t know, but I know I keep it in the ‘off’ position, just in case, lest I get an unexpected, expensive electric bill.
I’ve wondered about this switch. Certainly I’m not the only one with such a switch. How far will fantasy allow me to go with this mystery residing in my abode? Could it be some experiment, carried out by super agents of some secret government group or aliens, planted there in order to measure the flick rate of a useless switch by the current resident?
The apartment has certainly had a lot of tenants, me being only the most recent. It’s one of those common apartments where the carpets bear the scars (or stains rather) of age. The maintenance crew slops on a new coat of paint after each tenant either leaves or is evicted (or arrested)—when the denizen departs—never removing the previous coat. This goes on and on, the volume of the apartment diminishing, decreasing as time increases, always moving forward, positively correlated with an increase of stains, negatively correlated with the volume. The walls swell and the apartment shrinks. Doors get stuck, not functioning as they were designed to when they had but one coat of paint on them, when they opened and shut smoothly. Now they stick, the door jambs only remotely resembling what they once were, all their contours blended and smudged over by countless layers of paint, killing any form they once had in their youth, like an old fat person of whom you can no longer determine the sex—is it some old dude with man-tits or a geriatric woman who has lost her shape? But the layers aren’t countless, are they? Certainly not, for when you’re stupid enough to force a door shut and then open it again, patches of old paint come off, revealing layers, like a geological dig site, or tree rings if you’re more inclined towards thoughts of botany. You can count them going back, the history there before you plain as day, so apparent even creationists must admit their existence, the rainbow of off-whites stacked one upon the other, so popular in those apartments, the slight variety giving clues as to what was on sale at the time of painting: egg shell, beige, cream, camel skin, smokers teeth, coffee stained, dead man’s nails, jaundice, baby phlegm, mayonnaise, sandstone, khaki, oatmeal, albino yak taint, and so on towards the infinity that is the list of names people with too much time and pride have bestowed upon, at most, five shades of one color. Real history is lying therein and one cannot help but think of the lives of those who lived in that imperceptibly larger chamber, they who never got the privilege of living in this ever-so-slightly smaller apartment.
Were they nice people? Did they live quiet lives when this area of Dayton was perhaps a nicer place to live? Did some have dirty secrets that only that pale mocha on the walls witnessed? What sort of sex was had within these very same walls? Could that explain the switch on the wall? Was some long ago used electrical device once installed for the pleasure of the tenant or whoever they brought home? Enough of the fantasizing.
My apartment also wields a mail slot, even though there’s a communal box outside the front door for the four apartments served by said mailbox. My guess is that my apartment was once that of the landlord, hence my door being the only one equipped with a mail slot which I quickly plugged and taped over to prevent any forbidden smells from escaping, or, even worse and more relevant given my change of habits, to keep the smells outside from breaching in. (That is but one of the unfortunate side-effects of quitting smoking--I can now smell the stench of the wretched). I’m also guessing that this mysterious light switch at one point served some purpose, most likely related to the former role my apartment once played, back when it was just a bit bigger and a whole lot fresher.
But now that switch is useless. It serves only as an instigator for flights of fantasy, sparking chains of thought and streams of consciousness, more like a drippy faucet than a stream really, which gladly eats up a few calories that would otherwise have been spent churning around neurotransmitters in the brain of an evolved ape with almost as much time on his hands as those pathetic folk who come up with more names for off-white. Now, instead of thinking about matters of his day, matters of the future, he’s stuck writing in the third person (how did that happen?) about purpose, and the useless switch has become fixated in his mind, stirring up all sorts of musings. I’ve used that word--useless--carefully, planned this sentence selfishly (in order to reduce by two the third to first), and have begun to spin that word, ‘useless’, over and over again. What does it produce? If I were to flick that switch the other way would it turn out the light bulb hovering over my head?
Road kill is useless. What purpose does it serve? Of course one could claim it feeds scavengers and bacteria, our ancestral cousin we feel we’re too good to acknowledge anymore, let alone invite to the reunions. But that’d be missing the point. They were going to get their meal sooner or later. I saw, recently, a dead raccoon, followed by a dead ground hog and deer not far beyond. These creatures, these mammals, these warm-blooded critters took over 3 billion years to come about once life got started. The process was long, grueling, haphazard, and, ultimately, pointless. Darwin could save them if they reproduced before finding their end at the front of a car travelling at highway speeds. But few, if any, are given much comfort by the idea of a gene line supporting purpose. The reader can look ahead as well as I can and see where that leads.
Telos is an idea that gets tied up with all sorts of things in which it has no place. Humans put great worth and emphasis on purpose, on telos. Shouldn’t the species reliant on tools and artifacts? It’s so instilled in us that it’s blinded many of us from seeing what is readily apparent. Telos doesn’t exist until you have humans, humans that paint it on everything, slopping it on poor things that don’t need it, layer upon layer of it, until the world, like the apartment, gets smaller and smaller. Maybe they get comfort from it, but what’s that leave the humans that think? Just more shit to scrap off, like a bloated deer carcass on the side of the road. That thing lying on the side of the road has an unbroken chain of ancestors, of parents, linking it back to the first replicating entity that is ancestor to us all. Should it have died before replicating, its end, its telos was to get hit by a truck? Really? It’s not human some may claim. Those people need a switch, one with purpose, on the back of their necks; maybe it would shut them up until they’ve thought a bit more. Roadkill is a modern thing. Sure, maybe you had the occasional critter getting crushed by some chariot or horse drawn cart like Marmeladov in Crime & Punishment, but never before has purposelessness, has anti-telos, been on such prominent display for so many people whizzing by full of purpose and intent.
Humans maybe didn’t invent purpose, but we’ve definitely got a fascination, if not an obsession, with it. We can’t help but ooze it onto everything we handle. Intention was a late-comer in the universe. It took a big bang to create matter, a few generations of stars and supernovae to create the heavier elements of which we’re composed, another series of stars with accompanying disks of dust which coagulated into pebbles and rocks that collided with one another until planets were formed, whirling around a star some five billion years old in a universe some ten billion years old, and countless generations reproducing with no purpose, only because the conditions permitted it and the laws necessitated it, spawned some beasts with the rudiments of foresight and imagination that managed to take the 14 billion preceding years and yoke them into a mindset that put them on a path to us, a mindset that has made its existence there for us: ass backwards. Yet, every once in a while, these creatures saturated with intention and purpose, filled to the brim so that it spills over onto every thing else that has no purpose, those same beasts can make something so useless as a light switch with no function.