When communism and chaos collide

30 01 2008

NewsRecently, China has been forced to face a conflict of its own interests. As a “communist” state, the government expresses a large amount of control over its people and attempts to regulate and censor every form of media released to the public. This has become increasingly important as the Shanghai Summer Olympics draw nearer and China wishes to create as good impression to the rest of the world as possible.

However, a meteor called the internet has crashed into the country and is wreaking havoc. China has nearly surpassed the U.S. as the country with the most people connected to the internet, and the business industry is realizing all the benefits of instant connection to resources and people. As we know, though, the internet is an uncontrollable monster. It can’t be regulated in the same way a newspaper of TV show can. Popular Chinese video upload sites, akin to YouTube, have made the government go ballistic as indecent and unacceptable videos are free for the world to see. It’s a nightmare of image control vs. economic growth. How does one find balance?

The owners of major internet companies in China are not as worried about the problem. That’s because they know (as well as we do) that the internet cannot be stopped once it has been set loose. They are hauling in loads of cash, laughing at the government as it chases after the beast with a butterfly net.

You can’t buy love, but you can sell it

30 01 2008

NewsAn extremely disturbing case of attempted murder in London was unveiled to the public recently. A 28-year-old homemaker plotted, with the help of friends and neighbors, to poison her husband on their anniversary. The poison of choice: anti-freeze. What could drive someone to even dream of such a barbaric act? Money, of course.

The wife had built up considerable debt, unbeknownst to her husband, and planned to use the payout from her deceased husband’s employer to help pay it off. The notion that a woman could “sell” her husband’s life is beyond comprehension in this day and age, especially in a city like London. The consideration that people knew she was going to follow through with the plan and didn’t consider stopping her is equally difficult to believe. One step backward for the human race, I’d say.

Her husband miraculously survived the poisoning, but it’s too soon to say whether or not he will wish he had died. He is presently deaf and blind with permanent kidney damage and an unknown amount brain damage. May God help him make it through this horrific ordeal.

Once in a blue moon

28 01 2008

Plugs“Once” in a blue moon a movie is released that reminds us (the viewers) that good movies don’t have to be made of million dollar budgets, superstar celebrities, and intricate plots. If you have not heard of the movie, Once, then you may be missing out on one of the best films of 2007. The movie was shot for on $160,000 (about 1/1000 of the cost of the recent films, I Am Legend, Shrek the Third, and Evan Almighty) and yet has rated in the Top Ten for 2007 of twenty professional critics (Top Five for eleven of them). These are the same level of critics whose reviews are compiled on RottenTomatoes.com and MetaCritic.com.

Even more impressive is the fact that the lead actor, Glen Hansard, and the director, John Carney, both come from the Irish rock band, The Frames. The lead actress, Marketa Irglova, worked with Glen Hansard on a CD titled The Swell Season, but neither had ever acted before. If the movie itself isn’t inspirational enough, the story behind the movie shows that certainly shows that you can do almost anything you put your mind to. Unfortunately, Once was more or less skipped over for the Academy Awards. They have one nomination for Best Original Song, “Falling Slowly,” one I hope they can win.


Because reality makes much less sense than it should

26 01 2008

ArticlesThat phrase was the spur-of-the-moment tagline for this blog, but I had not yet directly referred to it. While I believe the world makes much less sense than it should in multiple ways, here are solid examples of coincidences that test one’s capacity to believe. People themselves may be stranger than fiction (as is the title of my last post), but some of the things that happen to them are even stranger yet: Ten Strange Coincidences

People are always stranger than fiction

25 01 2008

ArticlesI came across an interesting article on philosophy in science fiction novels. The author considers the genre’s real-world value and the possibility that its the only place left to find big ideas and “brain-shaking” concepts in modern literature. Being a fan of science fiction myself, I enjoyed the fact that someone had actually published an online article about the often overlooked genre. However, I have to say that the comments at the bottom were possibly even more interesting.

While all of the posters attempt to seem impartial, they can almost cleanly be divided into two groups: those who like science fiction and those who hate it. I’ve noticed this great chasm for a while now, but it never ceases to surprise me. We have the posters who say “sci-fi is stimulating because it’s different, and is asking some hard questions” and “[sci-fi] authors are frankly so much livelier, more colorful, and sometimes just better writers than a lot of contemporary fiction authors.” Then there are the ones who say “your piece is a bit contradictory and self-assuming. Ever heard the saying ‘life is stranger than fiction?'” and “for a ‘nerd,’ he’s pretty careless about categorical mis-labeling.”

Then, of course, there always has to be one person who simply doesn’t know what he (or she) is trying to say: “I wouldn’t say that sci-fi is the last bastion of philosophical questions. […] It has become increasingly difficult to write philosophical fiction especially as ideas become increasingly abstract. Writing in a real world context just does not work as efficiently as in a sci-fi novel where the author has much more control over the culture and times.” His support for the argument that sci-fi is not the last bastion of philosophical events is that philosophical fiction is found mostly in sci-fi because it works more efficiently. I think this is a good example of someone on the side of the chasm that dislikes sci-fi and doesn’t even know why.

I have trouble understanding the problem people have with different book genres. No writing I have I ever found is completely void of value or meaning. Value means something different to each of us. We can’t simply decide for other people what has value and what does not. I feel sci-fi and realistic literature both have their places in the realm of literature, and anyone who feels that their genre is superior needs to be reminded that no one cares. To each his own.

Article Link: Clive Thompson on Why Sci-Fi Is the Last Bastion of Philosophical Writing

First our clothes, then our minds

24 01 2008

NewsThe Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has released information on new clothing selection tools in development for business use. Essentially, shoppers at clothing stores will get the chance to enter a room with multiple cameras and screens displaying pictures of customer wearing multiple outfits. However, they will not be alone in that room. There will also be computer assistance, which makes suggestions to the customer based on popular styles and other recommended selections within the story. It “improves [a shopper’s] confidence in the decision-making process and improves their shopping experience,” says Wei Zhang, a student at Oregon State University.

Fitting Room

People may not feel confident, but at least their clothes are a reflection of decisions they made themselves. How far is too far? Will anyone say ‘no’ when future technology analyzes people’s tastes in food and decides for them what they would like to eat? I think the most human part of us all is our ability to make decisions, to know what we like and dislike. Every time we allow others to make decisions for us, we forfeit a piece of our identity.

There is also potential for abuse here. No store that I have seen actively advertises its least fashionable, out-of-style clothing. And last time I checked, it is normally the least fashionable, out-of-style clothing that costs less. I worry these computers and social networks will pressure people into buyinh things they don’t need and paying more just to fit in. Does our society really need to obsess more about appearance? Do the stores really need another little boost control over what we buy?

I recognize that a lot of good could come out of technology like this. I am just wary of our society’s many attempts at pressuring us this way or that. I prefer live my own life, thank you.

News Link

Heath Ledger: The shattering of reality

23 01 2008
Heath Ledger

NewsEvery person lives inside of a thin glass bubble we could call our sense of reality. Inside, we hold the things that make up who we are: the people we love most and the memories we have of them. Things happen outside the bubble all the time – people kill, earthquakes occur, rainforests are destroyed – but none of it really shocks us, because it doesn’t affect us and our sense of reality. We are content in knowing that this sense of reality is foolproof, and the bubble is safe from the outside world.

Sometimes we subconsciously let other people into our bubbles: people who write books we love, people who create music that inspires us, people who act in memorable movies. We accept that the books, the music, the movies will always continue coming because, without them, we are not the same. Without the things in our bubbles, we have to alter our expectations, our anticipation, our sense of hope.

I don’t know when or why it happened, but Heath Ledger had entered my impenetrable bubble.

He was not supposed to die.

But now it’s too late; the glass has been shattered. I’ll pick up the pieces just like the last time, because that is what is required of us. We must live with the hope that everything we need and everyone we know will always be there for us, even when we know they won’t, because otherwise we could never be happy and free. Any person who lives with complete recognition of the pain, suffering, and injustice in the world must truly live in Hell.

News Links:
BBC News

Horrific Links:
bestweekever.tv (part 2)