Deranged Philosophical Outpourings

Friday, June 14, 2002

This game is called Rameses, and was written by Stephen Bond. (I have already noted to myself that Stephen Bond wrote something magnificent here, IMHO, so no need to point it out to me. Point it out to him if you wish.) If you're not already familiar with Interactive Fiction, it's not a prime example of the genre -- it's more of a novel that needs a little extra push. Reading this without playing it is going to make this sound even less focused, so please play it first if you're going to read the rest of this. (I'm fairly sure you can just type 'wait' at the prompts and still get through the whole game. You barely have to go anywhere in it; just pay attention to what happens. You can try 'talk to **name**', where you fill the name of someone in the room with you in for **name**, too.)

It would be an easy thing to say the game is about teenage angst and let it go, but the easy thing is not always the right thing. I think it reduces the game somehow, and that bothers me. It bothers me for plenty of reasons, but the foremost reason it bothers me is how closely this game mirrored my own angst, misplaced as it became.

I can't help but think, quietly, to myself -- perhaps nobody really grows out of that shit anyway. Perhaps, realistically, everyone has just found an easy way to not think about it. Some people do their level best not to think at all, in order to avoid it. Some pick a goal and dedicate themselves. Some apparently never had it to begin with, but I find that hard to believe, somehow.

It's too easy to call it teenage angst. It's something you see too often in the words of a killer or in the actions of a psychotic, this obsession and impatience, inaction and reaction. An inability to act at times combined with a disdain for normal actions at others.

If thinking in this fashion at a later stage of your life is called depression, what separates it from thinking this way at an earlier stage? Really, what is the difference? Is it something you're supposed to "grow out of", like wanting to fuck things ("Oh, they'll grow out of that,") or like wanting to steal things ("Oh, they'll grow out of that,")?

That statement, more than anything, pisses me off. Partly because it implies things that are distastefully hypocritical -- that somehow, by living twenty years, you're guaranteed to be more intelligent and more able and less given to base urges -- but partly because it is said with either a knowing, irritatingly condescending fashion, or else in the fashion of someone who desperately hopes it's true. Either way, it's an insult to the people involved.

Because, truly enough, there are plenty of people who don't grow out of jack shit. Get your head straight now, not later -- patterns of thought become harder to modify after they've had an extra twenty years or so, not less. If you're going to mangling someone's mental patterns, be truthful with yourself, and be as merciful as you can -- be fast, and be consistent.

The primary thing that bothers me about human beings is that -- along with everything else they are capable of -- they are capable of hypocrisy. Lies are one thing; lies are more of a directed action towards a goal. Hypocrisy is much, much worse; you're explaining what you believe in, and you yourself are an example of the opposite. If hypocrisy doesn't cause brain tumors, it should; such a schism between your actions and your thoughts should not go unpunished.

I am careful about my actions. I am careful about them because I'd like to live in a consistent manner; I'd like to say something, and have it jive with the whole rest of me. I feel that normally I manage this. Someone told me once that what they liked about me was that they never quite knew what I would think of a certain thing upon finding out about it. I wondered, to myself, if that makes me unpredictable.

Perhaps in the literal sense. Not in the sense it's used; in the sense it's used, it's applied to terrorists and CEOs, with varying degrees of "good"ness. In the literal sense, I am not wholly predictable. (That's true of everyone, though.) I'm really, really consistent, though. I'm really a very quiet, reserved person most of the time. I honestly don't think most people even notice me, if I'm not making a face or singing a Monty Python song out loud.

I've always been like that, though. I didn't grow out of something. If anything, my changes made sense when compared to what I was doing with my life to begin with. I still read a great deal (less than I'd like to), I try to learn new things all the time, I don't generally trust authority.

I haven't changed. I'm still me.

It's a relief, I tell you -- there were some doubts. I wondered if it was possible, really -- to become someone and preserve the person you became, despite time and people and money and change. To have a core that is you, and an adaptable interface, so to speak.

Tired. Thoughts derailing. More on this when it again seems appropriate.
posted by Gregory 1:52 AM

Sunday, May 12, 2002

It has recently been brought to my attention that I seem to lack confidence.

But what does that mean, exactly? I think lots of people use words with only the vaguest notion of what those words mean. ("Self-esteem", particularly, seems to get bandied about a lot.)

If I watch a cluster of people and they seem fairly sure that something will happen, then I am confident to some degree that it will happen. If I trust their judgment little, it may not be much of a degree; if I trust it a lot, it may be with the certainty that the sun will shine down on me tomorrow.

I base my confidences on the confidences of others.

People don't generally assume, or believe, that I have skills, AFAICT. Most of the time people seem to treat me in one of three ways: Don't Know You (most people don't), Aren't You Something! (usually when I can program their VCR for them) or Careful, Doofus (usually when I'm driving my car into a garage or attempting to purchase something). None of these inspire confidence. DKY is really just what people get passing you on the street if you don't stand out, with pink hair or somesuch. AYS! is kind of like watching your dog roll over. CD is just insulting.

Sure, people treat me differently sometimes; I'm just classifying perhaps 90% of the interactions people have with me on a regular basis.

This has come to a head recently because -- as my brothers pointed out to me -- I could be making some money with some of the things that I can apparently do. However -- when you explain to most people what you do in a day and they get a blank look, you can't trust their judgment.

When you don't have any colleagues or collaborators -- just people you rarely, rarely help with the easiest things -- you either end up with fawning admirers or acquaintences.

Maybe I should just ask one of my previous classmates to sit down with me, give me the once-over intellectually. Just so I have some idea of whether or not I'm actually competent.

Then again, perhaps this is a long-thinking defense mechanism: If I never work with anybody, they'll never find out that I'm bad!

Perhaps. It's worth thinking into, anyway.
posted by Gregory 11:55 PM

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Late Night Musings: A Look Back

Years. Memory fails me on how many, but a little mental legwork can provide a rough estimate: Seventeen...count count count, twenty or so. At least three years.

I have never, ever had to deal with something like this. Maybe never will again.

I don't know about the rest of the world; I don't know what goes on in other people's heads most of the time, although I pretend to occasionally. I know what happens in me, that's about it.

I know how one love felt; like it would kill me if I didn't hold it down and beat it occasionally, with all-night talk sessions until the daylight came, with discussions of things most people can never discuss, with mindblowing sex and strange little rituals. Constant contact.

There are those who would say I describe an emotional dependency. Perhaps. I have seen emotional dependencies in people for other things, though; who is to say what is worse, emotional dependency on a needle or on a person?

Not I, not yet. I have very little experience with what comes through needles.

It always hurt. God, did it. It hurt so much sometimes, and less others, but it hurt 24/7 in some way, shape, or form. It always did.

Perhaps it always will.

But I can see that it's gone. My eyes had been blind for so long, but they aren't any more. I can say to myself, "I know better now."

But what do I know?

Nothing. I wouldn't have done it any differently. I have to believe that I did the best I could, managed the best I could, did what I could. Could not have done any more.

I don't know if I would ask the person why. I don't know what kind of answer I would get. I don't really know any more.

I used to think I knew what went on in their head, no matter what, all the time. That escaped me at some point, and a communication barrier popped into place. They had a name for it, the "Wall".

I'm on the other side of the wall, and I don't know if I like it or not. I only know that I can't do much about it.

There's a chance they read this. There's even a faint chance that this has caused some reaction within them, or clarified some reaction of mine to them.

See, but they don't have a wall as such. They have a filter Their filter blocks things coming out of them from going to other people. It's a handy filter to have, I suspect.

I don't have it, though.

I have a different filter. I always had it, it's always been in place, and it filters things going into me from other people. My laundry -- I believe -- is essentially out for the world to see, if only it will look.

However, now, there's a blank space. A nonfeeling. An antifeeling.

I don't know that I like it; but, on the other hand, I cannot do what I previously did. The difference between a stalking and a love affair is whether all the people involved are willing participants, nothing more. I don't wish to become a stalker for any reason, legal or moral or otherwise.

But God did it hurt. Perhaps it still does, and it's just hurt so long that it's like cutting scar tissue, where the pain receptors are mangled and shifted and misfiring. Perhaps it's changing into something else. Perhaps it's all of the above.

Then again, maybe it's just four in the morning, and I'm feeling a sickly nostalgia for something you can't have twice with the same person.

I'll know before I die, I guess.
posted by Gregory 12:47 AM

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Okay -- we're going to have an experiment here. First, read an analysis of a Law And Order episode.

Now, say this word out loud in response to the last question: "Lawyers"

It just feels right, doesn't it?

It may, but it's not quite accurate.

Let's get something straight here: The legal system, like any system, has avenues for abuse, ways that the system can be twisted from its intended purpose and made to fit another. One of these ways, one that amuses me to no end during L&O, is legal jargon wrangling. "But is this the correct definition of the word alive" is not a question that enters a regular lawyer's head. They've abandoned -- read carefully -- abandoned the concept of "moral" and embraced the concept of "ethical".

This is why it's so hard for most people to follow Lawyerspeak; it requires that you abandon all notions of English, word meaning, etc., and embrace definitions for words and concepts that have been created by people long dead. Law is archaic in this sense; it has no inherent overhaul system. Nobody put a clause in the constitution that said, "Oh, and we're throwing all this horse hockey out in four hundred years, so don't get too friggin' attached to anything."

Woe is us that few laws were built with inherent expirations. The assumption is that law is law. It operates according to the paradigmatic model: "The law was right before, and now it's a little more right." Which is a nice way to get through life for a single person; for a body of rules meant to operate on people, it causes problems, not the least of which is the current intellectual property mess.

People change. People change so much faster than law, and they always have. Now the change is more noticeable, perhaps even accelerated; but law has been playing catch-up since it became too hard for one person to comprehend.

And what was invented on that dark day? Say it with me again: "Lawyers!"

They're not the problem. They're part of the cause. The cause, as always, is people willing to abuse a system, not the system itself, or everybody within the system.

If there were no law, there would be no order. But because there is law, a certain amount of abuse is guaranteed.
posted by Gregory 11:14 AM

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Well, this is hybrid philosophy/law, but bear with me.


1. You made it, it's yours until you sell it.

This rule is violated in the most careless fashion by almost any corporation (which attempt to protect their interests and nothing but after they reach a certain size, merely because trying to protect such huge interests takes up all their think.) You sign a contract (casually), and suddenly your brain is an indentured servant. You write something at home, it's the company's. You write something completely unrelated, in Paraguay, on linoleum with a Magic Marker, it's still the company's. This is possibly the most obscene thing I have ever seen! Imagine you're a small company (not a person, but a group of people) working on something as a contract job for another company. You would NEVER in a million years sign a legal agreement that stated you just gave up all the rights to anything the whole company was working on while you worked for these people! It would be insane!

Why would one person do it?

That's the good part -- if it's yours, it's yours. Here's the bad news.

2. If you create it from something else, the fact you created something from it has to be yours too.

This means that -- were I so inclined -- I should be able to take a full print of the Mona Lisa, scan it and print it as though it is toilet paper, and sell it as a piece of art. (This is something I'd never bother doing, mainly because you can't print toilet paper.) And you know what? That's really what creation is. There's a finite amount of things to be created. Unless we get a much shorter memory, soon, the Disney effect (where the public domain keeps getting held off so Mickey Mouse doesn't end up public domain) is going to destroy art as we know it. Nobody will be able to use anything else, and "creation", while a nice way of putting it, boils down to new takes on old things. Like it or not, we have limited sensory capability, there are X number of colors the human eye can distinguish, etc. Art has a limit, and unless you want art to die a slow, choked, bland death, please, let copyright expire! For fuck's sake, when you DIE, you're DEAD. To hell with your estate. Fifty years is way too long, and the Mickey effect must be stifled somehow.

3. If you wrote it, and you post it publicly, your government has a right to screw you with it, unless they said otherwise.

This is pretty simple. The US Constitution ensures a right to privacy and free speech. You speak here, it's supposed to be protected, whether it's unpopular political beliefs or slashfic or discussions about anuses. This comes under the "If You Don't Like It, And It's Not Yours, Shut The Hell Up And Go Away" rule which is really an easy one to come to.

4. If you wrote it, and it was never made public in any way, it is your private document, and the government has no right to screw you with it, unless they said otherwise.

(I do want to point out that some countries make it explicit. "Oh, yes, we forgot to mention we'll be monitoring everything you ever type in. Is that okay? If it isn't, we can kill you and dump your body in a shallow grave somewhere." Those countries have their own goddamn problems, and frankly, I'm not concerned about countries. I'm concerned about humanity. People concerned with nothing but shallow, we-should-be-first-just-because patriotism can feel free to express it, but they should not be free to inflict it. I'm a member of the human race first, and an American second, and then only because I like the place. I'm a human because I have to be.)

This is pretty simple. You should have privacy. It's a right that I firmly believe should be afforded every single human being, the right to freedom of thought and freedom of personal, quiet, in-my-own-damn-house expression. Therefore -- even if I thought that someone was a criminal -- they shouldn't be hacked by the government. The government has a very simple role in this whole mess, and it keeps screwing it up: Be The Good Guy. (Instead of Be The Corporate Toady or Be The Self-Serving Pay Increaser.) That's all government has to do, be the good guy, and it keeps screwing it up. Being the good guy isn't even that hard! Leave most people alone, stop people when they do something bad. Accept that you're not going to win them all, and try to lose gracefully -- but try never to lose, either. (I would add, 'Kill all the lawyers,' but I realize I'm an extremist on that one to some.)

Honestly, I think if those four tenets could somehow be integrated into the modern legal system, things would shake out in fifty years.

But, hey, if you disagree, let me know.
posted by Gregory 10:36 AM

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

(emphasis added)
O'REILLY: How would you -- you know, for people who want to put you in perspective, how would you describe yourself politically? You voted for Nader, right?

MOORE: Yes, I voted for Nader. I don't know. I'm a person who believes that everybody should get a fair shake. And I think that most Americans believe the same thing.

O'REILLY: They do, but it's just a matter of degree. I mean, do you believe that the government should take money from the wealthy and give it to the poor? Or do you believe that, income redistribution?

I would love to know what the hell a degree of a fair shake looks like.

Part of the problem I have with any political discussion is that they tend towards the discussion two ancient Greeks might have about the nature of the surface of a star; the discussion could be right on the mark, could be way the hell off, but it's so far removed from any actual experience of the situation that it's pointless to discuss it. A Republican cabinet member and a Democratic senator going at it would be interesting, but actual discussion of politics by those in politics is so rare that it's not worth looking for, imho.

Most of the people who actually land in a political office won't talk about politics; they talk in shit-speak, discussing programs and happy words like "beneficial" and "benevolence". You know that you've found an honest politician when you see one who has nothing to gain from holding any specific view, and those are either dead or so far removed from their former posts that people claim they're being bitter.

Now, just hear me out. I have a plan. It's a bad plan, but it couldn't possibly be worse than the current system, so what the hell?

What if every elected office carried a death penalty?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear you. More impetus to get elected to other offices, blah blah blah. Yeah, maybe -- maybe not. There's already huge impetus to move up the ladder; now there would be an impetus to move down the ladder if you weren't sure you could win in a higher office. Rich shits with time and zero ethics are all too willing to throw money at a campaign; would they be quite so callous with their very life?

No, of course not.

Only people serious -- or extraordinary risk-takers -- would go for high offices. Frankly, that's who I'd like to see there, instead of these chinless fucks the US has had the habit of electing the last, oh, thirty Presidents or so.

I want to get bumper stickers made that say, in full patriotic glory, "Elect Schmuck". That way I wouldn't have to change bumper stickers every few years. (Not that I do; I'm being figurative.)
posted by Gregory 12:07 PM

Sunday, February 17, 2002

I try to avoid watching/reading the news for many, many reasons, not the least of which is its wretched repetitiveness. Horrible shit happens day in and day out, and for some deranged reason some people like staying on top of horrible shit.

I like staying on top of horrible shit only if I can laugh at the same time; hence, I read Rotten, not CNN.

However, there is a certain trend -- and it's surely not that recent in America -- of people complaining about schools. The complaints can mostly fit in the sentence frame of "I can't believe the school is teaching X!", and fill your own damn X in. I don't care. X is everywhere and everything. "Teaching kids about sex?" "Teaching kids about science?" "Not teaching kids about religion?" Whatever.

Now, when complaints come from all corners, that makes me think one of two things: A:The Situation Is Intractable, or B:Something's Very Wrong Here.

Option B is an easy way to go. "The school system should be destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up!" goes the cry. I'd be all for it, but it isn't going to happen, not unless the entirety of the MEA is destroyed in a freak meteor accident or something. These people have way too much stock, mentally and financially, in a shitty, shitty school system. If the school system were turning out well-educated people, fewer people would be having children, and schools would have less funding. Simple math, the kind even teachers can do. It's a who-you-know system to the exclusion of ability and innovation. Teachers teach teachers, and the teachers tend to be the lowest-common-denominator types who couldn't do anything interesting to begin with. Scrape the bottom of the barrel, have them teach the next generation, repeat. What the hell is that?

What about Option A?

Let's think about this for a minute. Whenever any service system gets large enough, it can no longer keep its customers happy. The school system is a huge, sprawling mess, approaching the level of government. Government will already tell you about this problem if you only ask them. The customer mass -- once at a certain level -- is viewed as an infeasibly fickle, impossibly difficult child. It's an accurate view.

What's my point?

Well, frankly, there's an old saying that "if you don't like the country, get the fuck out." In a lot of cases, this isn't possible; you can't get the fuck out because you're so damn poor, or what-have-you. Such is life.

But having children is something you do on purpose. There are a very, very few people who actually have children that they had no option abou having; they're very unfortunate rape victims. The rest of people say cutesy little things like "he was an accident", which is like calling a nuclear explosion "a little bomby thing". It's a gross scale distortion.

You cannot have kids accidentally. This is like saying you lost money in a casino accidentally. No, you took a calculated risk, and you lost. That means either that you like losing (wanted to have kids anyway) or that you made a noble risk and failed (you knew the odds). Sure, there are exceptions, but most of the people you see in a day aren't those exceptions.

Having said that, then you can fucking sure well make sure you have kids at a time when you can afford to deal with homeschooling them. And if you mentally respond with "But I don't want to have to deal with my kids all the time!" then please, here, here's a clue, see if it attracts another to you, because you're in desperate need of one. Shut the hell up. If you didn't want to cope with the fucking things, shouldn't have been FUCKING. No fucking = no kids.

And if you could have had them when you could afford to homeschool, then you sure as hell don't get to bitch and moan because the fucking government isn't doing as good a job as you'd like for you. Are you drunk or something? "I can't be bothered to educate my children! Why can't you fuckers do a better job of it?" It's like bitching that the welfare system is hard to get into or something.

How about because those aren't their kids, asshole? If the kid's own parents don't give a warm shit about how well the child is educated, why should random strangers, chosen because of their butt-kissing abilities, give a warm shit about said child? Right -- they shouldn't.

Love is a fickle thing. Love is a supposedly guaranteed thing. Don't feel guilty if you don't love your kids, I say; that's really not required of you.

The only thing that is required of you is a certain decency and respect for a human being whom exists because of you. You made 'em -- you take care of 'em. There is a fresh human being, and they do not know that you're stupid and unable to plan and therefore are running late; they are trying to figure out what peanut butter is. Let them. You will have plenty of time to fuck their minds up later; give them some time to see how the world works first. They do not know whether pouring a glass of water down the front of your blouse is an appropriate response to a laugh; they might try it.

You can be a dumb asshole and hit and yell at your kids, or you can shut the hell up, act polite, and try to deal with what you did.

If you're very lucky, the kid will turn out likeable, and you'll have created a whole new person who's actually worthwhile. This is part of what having a kid is; it's a person who doesn't know you were a slut in high school, or killed rabbits with a soldering iron when you were twelve, or embezzle money. If you're a good person by the time you have kids, your kids will probably like you. Lucky you, you made a new friend.

Try to have kids after you have some money, though.
posted by Gregory 7:51 AM

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