Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Two or Three Things for Tuesday

Hey look! Two recent points of interest, each one in the form of a pointedly interesting sequence of words. These aren't short articles, but if you've 15 minutes or so to spare then I totally recommend you check them out:

1. Spectacular true story (via Wired) of a genius Canadian thief. (Do those last three words go together often, or rarely?) It's another great story from Winnipeg – how aboot that?

2. Okay, this one may be a bit intimidating, but repeat after me RIGHT ON I AM A HEAVY THINKER, I EAT YOUR PHILOSOPHY FOR BREAKFAST AND THEN I SPIT IT BACK IN YOUR FACE and you'll be cool.* This article is a fascinating metaphysical argument for justifying the existence of reality, via a big simple idea that I've never seen before.

And yeah, I think the existence of reality is definitely a problem – as in, "why does it exist?". I've never before known an answer that didn't fall back to "just because it does, that's why", or "a wizard did it", or else some version of the anthropic principle. But while this article's argument is not without potential flaws, it's still very, very intriguing. And it also provides a really nifty angle on the old "like, what if we're all being simulated inside a giant computer, like the matrix, like – how could we tell? Like, dude, whoa" chestnut.

If you can stand to read the whole article, please tell me what you think!

*Philosophy is all about intellectual confidence, remember. Why do think Socrates drank that poison? CONFIDENCE.

Also! Bonus Point of Interest! (if you haven't seen it already):

'night :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Night Tumbln' Tumblrweeds

When you tumbl your attentions across a numbr of tumblrs, a numbr of those tumblrs' pics are bound to fiercely tumbl themselves onto & into your memories (both electronical & neurological). Or something like that. Does that make sense? What about the spelling? It's got something to do with hipsters, apparently, but I try not to hold that against it.

So: can you guess the common theme for these images? It's a three-word phrase . . .


. . . it's a line of dialogue, i.e. a line you'd expect to hear spoken aloud . . .


. . . it would probably end with an exclamation mark . . .

If you can think of a three-word phrase that would be exclaimed aloud and is cryptically applicable to each of these pictures, leave your guess in the comments! You might win!

(Is that an intriguing game, or a completely annoying and pointless one? Or both? Please let me know – it's late on a Sunday and my good judgment isn't necessarily itself, I think . . . this morning I ate nachos for breakfast . . .)

Intriguing images, yes? The internet is a fine and lovely domain.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rule #1: Don't Go To Bed Hungry

I tell you what, I think those freaking Top 10 lists really took it out of me. Shortly after posting the final list, I succumbed to a mildly bizarre illness – a kind of feverish, throaty sleeping sickness – and it's taken me more than a week since then to move beyond "miserably ill" and back to mere "croaky ill-temper". What did I miss while I was out?

Lucky for you, wiser webfolk than I have been able to provide commentary on the world in my absence, of which I shall now reproduce a pertinent example:
No, wait – I think that happened before the last Top 10? Aw, whatevs. Let's just assume business as usual & no worries, then.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that you aren't reading this blog in order to receive commentary on current events. On the original hand – are you, actually? Should I be blogging more commentary on current events? Please let me know, if so . . .

Either way, more blogging soon. I've been collecting a fine swag of interesting images without any particular purpose, so I think I'm going to start posting the images without any particular purpose. Just to share, you know. The way all those fancy awesome tumblr kids are doing blog*, these days.

For example: this. I'm not sure where this came from, but apparently it's by someone called Michael Page, who would appear to be kind of awesome. (Click the image for a closer look, I think it's worth it.)
Nice and interesting, huh?
All right. And now: nachos.
Good night :)

*Yeah, "doing blog". That's what I wrote.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Top 10 #1: Top 10 Best Numbers Between 1 and 10

And so we come to the end of a particularly daft enterprise. But better to reach an ending than to abandon a program unfinished, right?

Hm. Either way, I've now finally reached the most profound and meaningful of my Top 10 Top 10 Lists That Don't Really Deserve To Be Top 10 Lists:

The Top 10 Best Numbers Between 1 and 10!

10. 9
9. 5
8. 1.01
7. 3
6. e
5. π
4. 6
3. δ
2. 2
1. φ

Why these numbers, you ask? Hypothetical reader, I am glad that you ask (or in fact, that you allow me rhetorically to ask you).

It's the biggest numeral we have: after 9, all we have left is 0 again. Also, it creates a hypnotically symmetrical square, which is kind of neat, don't you think?:
Symbolism, magic, political power: that's 5. It crops up surprisingly often, if you look for it.

This should be an obvious choice, shouldn't it? It's 1, but it's a bit more than 1. It's a symbol of improvement, of education, of progress. Doesn't it make you feel better, just looking at it?

The smallest number that's big enough to be genuinely numberish. 3 things are enough things to create a whole bunch of problems that literally can't be solved. 3 contains enough complexity to generate a universe.

It's a bit more than 2. It's all natural. It's a pleasantly fractal concept to base your logarithms on, if you need some logarithms. And hey, who doesn't need logarithms? Who doesn't like logs? Who doesn't like rhythms? Answer: nobody! (FACT.)


For making us happier, and in particular for giving us the best opportunity to giggle at New Zealand accents.

By which I'm talking about the Feigenbaum constant, 4.669201609etc. This number emerges at the heart of complex systems like the weather, or the economy, or pretty much every system of interacting relationships in our world. This constant is our sublime proof that chaos theory is not chaotic. So, you know; it's kind of important, and it's kind of neat.

The loneliest number, next to number 1. (So, it's not so lonely.) This can still be problematic, but it's also pretty nice.

By which I'm talking about the number of the Golden Ratio, 1.6180339887etc. (And yeah, the Silver Ratio probably also deserves some respect, but that's another story.) This number is the ratio of ratios: it's everywhere, even when it's not, and it's the reason that most nice architecture and design looks so nice. For services to aesthetics, recognised & unrecognised: thanks, φ.

--the listless thoapsl

Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women's Day

is today, how about that.

I think I'd like to say something about it, but I'm not sure what. Feminism can be difficult to talk about (Gosh, really?). If you agree with me, then I'm (uselessly) preaching to the converted; but if you disagree, then our disagreements are probably fundamental and/or quite subtle (& so, either way, probably v difficult to discuss intelligently via interweb). And anyhow, why should you care what I think about it?

But this is my blog, so I'm going to do it anyway.

What I think "about women" – uh, politically speaking – has spiralled around in different directions as I've grown up, I think. As a kid of leftish-lowermiddleclassy parents, I internalised the status quo of 1980s-90s political correctness: there is sexism in the world, women are treated badly and unfairly, this is bad and unfair. But as a teenager it dawned on me that being male wasn't all steak and glory, either; there were unexpectedly bad aspects to being a man in the modern world, too. For example: pop culture seemed to be telling me that boys were foolish and troublesome and evil, most of the time. And I felt like I was being told that girls could do anything, but simultaneously that boys could not. When you're adolescent, any potential unfairness (towards yourself) is a red rag, so this apparent "stupid boys will be stupid boys" meme bugged me a lot. Were girls now getting the best of everything, and always the benefit of the doubt? Had feminism "gone too far in the other direction"?

No. No, it hadn't, and I feel kind of stupid now for even considering sentiments like that. But it took me a few more years to see the world clearly from a few more sides, other than my own. And I had been privileged to grow up in an environment where sexism against women was sometimes less than obvious, I think; maybe that was why it took me a while to see and understand all the things that other people were thinking, the ways that they were acting, the ways in which they were being affected. Actions and consequences, assumptions and beliefs – these aren't always obvious. (Obviously.)

This is what I assume and believe, now: that the similarities across gender are nowhere near as significant as the differences between individuals. I've never known a woman who was more of a woman than a person. But I know most people don't agree with me, they don't believe this; instead, most people think that there are a bunch of crucial, essential commonalities to men and to women, and that these gender-commonalities are more significant than anything else. And to me that's the essential problem of sexism, because I believe that gender is not actually as significant as we make it – or at least, it doesn't have to be. Sexism, like racism, is bad because it's essentially untrue.

So our status quo is messed up, I think. And everyone in our society is disadvantaged by the false assumptions of sexism – that's what I was confused to learn as a young teen, that men (i.e. me) were sometimes being disadvantaged too. But that's not to say that men have it worse overall, because they don't. You can't see the world honestly without seeing that it still disadvantages women far worse than men, I think. (There are so many examples, I'm not even going to get into them; not today, anyhow.)

So. To me, this is International Women's Day: it's a reminder that things are still bad. (Though thankfully much, much better now than they ever used to be; & people sometimes underestimate just how much better, I think.) There are still a whole bunch of big fat sexist problems, all over the place. It makes me feel like I'm always needing to think hard and pay attention and act bravely and behave well, to do my part to make things better. Be fair. Don't be a dick.

International Women's Day: Don't Forget.

So that's what it means to me and what I think about it, I guess.

But, ah, what a serious and humourless post! (Not to mention, possibly patronising, stupid, facile, self-indulgent, myopic, wrong? I don't even know . . . but please tell me in the comments.)

Sorry, folks. To cheer us up, here's a picture of a pony:
Right on.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Top 10 #2: Top 10 Actors That I Can't Remember The Name Of, But Then When I See Their Faces I Go "Oh Yeah, I Know Them"

I knew this list would be tricky. How do I list the actors whose names I can't remember, when by definition I can't remember their names? Luckily I must be some kind of genius, because I've done it. Take that, logical paradox!

I had some strict conditions for this list: they had to be actors whose identities I honestly didn't know, but whose faces I definitely knew. I also wanted to avoid the big-time character actors whom I know well enough to almost remember the names of, like the great J. T. Walsh or Jeffrey Jones. So! The latest of my Top 10 Top 10 Lists That Don't Really Deserve To Be Top 10 Lists:

The Top 10 Actors That I Can't Remember The Name Of, But Then When I See Their Faces I Go "Oh Yeah, I Know Them"!*

I almost never watch TV crime shows, but this guy has been a judge a bunch of times, hasn't he? Or maybe I'm just thinking of Ghostbusters II. (Loved that movie.)

Oh man, how the hell do I know her? She's so familiar, but I have no idea.

Oh yeah, it's that slightly-chubby-supporting-actor guy. Man, he's been in a ton of things.

Yeah, that guy! The guy who won't shave his big scraggly beard, so he always gets cast as "old biker" and "guy with beard"! That's a niche and a half.
Also, he was the drummer on Bob Dylan's 1966 world tour after Levon Helm quit. (True!)

It's really hard to find a distinctively recognisable image of her face, but I know who she is when I see her – and according to IMDb, she's had supporting roles in a ton of films that I've liked. Red Riding, Hotel Rwanda, Birth, Adaptation, American Psycho, Dancer In The Dark ...
With great credits like that, you'd think I would remember her name by now, huh?

Yeah, this guy! He was in Carnivale, and he had a small part on Lost, and he was in Starship Troopers? And some other things? And also he looks a bit like that other guy, the one who played that alien guy on The X-Files.

You remember, she was in that creepy-but-very-good Happiness film? I can almost remember her name, but not quite. And she always seems to be in things with that other guy.

You remember this guy? He's been in a whole bunch of things: gym teacher in Nightmare On Elm Street II, deformed freak in Total Recall. Bunch of tv shows, too. Ring any bells?

I am absolutely on the verge of remembering her name in the future. She's charismatic as hell. (Also: what did you think of Synecdoche, New York?)

Oh, man. This guy. This poor guy. I feel like I've seen this guy playing a geeky "Loser Guy" in movies and on tv forever. I feel like I should be feeling sorry for him, and I don't even know who he is, let alone why. (Though, maybe I'm getting him slightly confused with somebody else who looks a bit like him?)
Man. How odd.

*PS: I know it would be better to say "actors that I can't remember the names of" rather than "name of", but for humour's sake that entire sentence is a clumsy and inelegant construction in the first place, so get off my back, grammar pedants! Settle down! :)
--the Editorial Thoapsl