Consuming Inspiration

We eat food to fuel our bodies, but I read nonfiction essays and watch documentaries to feed my soul.  Every day I consume inspiration like a vampire consumes blood.  Inspiration keeps me alive.

A Powerful Punch in the Gut

The older I get the more aware I am of my inevitable fate of a long lingering death.  Few people like to dwell on this future.  Most hope they will go quickly, or quietly in their sleep, but it’s doubtful that modern medicine will allow that.  Last night I saw Life and Death in Assisted Living on PBS Frontline via my PBS Roku channel.  They reported that as much as 67% of assisted living residents have some kind of dementia, and although these facilities weren’t meant to be nursing homes, they’ve become essentially unregulated care for the dying.  The show attacks the big business practices of making fortunes off of end-of-lifers, but that’s not what inspired me about the show.  I watched its videos seeing the elders as explorers of territory I must one day travel myself.  To live with any kind of dignity while dying requires enough health to keep saying fuck you to fate.  Once you are condemned to a wheelchair to be cared for like an infant it’s very hard to find meaning in life.  Although I’m an atheist I’m praying like crazy for the acceptance of euthanasia by the time I get feeble.  At some point before I forget too much I’ll need to get a tattoo over my heart that says in big letters:  DNR.  But as long as we do live, we have to keep finding inspiration and ways to make ordinary daily living meaningful.

 

John Green, An Impressive Young Man Who Speaks to Millions

I’m very grateful to The New Yorker for publishing “The Teen Whisperer” about John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars, and for putting the full article on the web so I can link it to my friends.  I read The New Yorker via Next Issue on my tablets, and it’s always depressing to read an inspirational essay and not be able to share it with friends.  Next Issue is the Netflix of digital magazines offering 135 titles for $15 a month.  I wished Next Issue had a desktop web app, or Windows application like Spotify, that made sharing fantastic reads easier with fellow members.

But back to John Green.  Read the Margaret Talbot article linked above to see just how cool John Green is as young writer and internet entrepreneur.  Green’s web presence allowed The Fault in Our Stars to be a bestseller long before it was published and gave him the opportunity to autograph the entire first printing of 150,000 copies of his book before they went on sale, which cost Green ten weeks of time and a lot of physical therapy.  Green and his brother Hank also produce the Crash Course series on YouTube.  Between those educational courses and his Nerdfighter followers, Green has a fandom to make anything he writes an instant hit.

If you haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars then you’ve been staring at your iPhone way too much.  The book is magnitudes more powerful than it’s hype, so go get a copy if you haven’t.  By the way, be prepared to cry your guts out, and that even applies to macho moronic dickheads.  In Norway the book was titled Fuck Fate, so don’t think of it as just another YA teenager read.  I don’t know if Green has lasting literary talent, but he certain Babe Ruthed one out of the park with The Fault in Our Stars.

 

Worry Less About The Future

Right-wing conservative global warming deniers all cry in Chicken Little unison that doing the right thing about climate change will destroy our economy.  Well, Ramez Naam points out  in his essay “Reducing Carbon Emissions Will Be Cheaper Than Expected – It Always Is” that in the past after everyone ran around crying the economy would collapse, it didn’t. 

economy and environmental costs

We need to do something about CO2 pollution, and we need to do it fast.  Probably if we spent as much time and money on converting energy sources as trying to build the F-35 fighter we’d be mostly done by now.  We could fix the carbon pollution problem in a decade if we applied ourselves.  Much could be done with just conservation, and a tremendous lot could be accomplished by switching energy sources.  Anyone should be able to see that altering the environment is dangerous, and burning coal is stupid.  The goal should be something like converting carbon to coal and burying it, not burning it.  Coal was nature’s way of getting rid of CO2 in the first place.

Policy makers talk about making changes by 2050.  That’s bogus shirking the responsibility.  We should clean up our mess before we die, by 2025.  Besides converting to a new clean economy will stimulate the economy, not kill it.  Anyone who thinks otherwise lacks inspiration.

 

Makers and Robots

I find people who make things inspirational.  And the Maker movement is a nice antithesis to digital life.  Forbes covers “Maker Movement Fuels Apps, Robots, and Internet of Things.”  This is a movement that is growing so rapidly that I even hear non-Geeks are talking about it.  If I was a kid today I’d be totally into the FIRST Robotics Competition.

Building robots is becoming a mania.  Make Magazine even recommends “10 Ways to Make Your Robot More Humanlike.”  Building a robot teaches us about how bodies work.  Building an AI will teach us how the mind works.  If you aren’t paying attention, you might someday be shocked when humans are no longer the smartest beings on the planet.  Creating an AI mind should be possible but it’s going to be really hard.  O’Reilly.com says, ‘“It works like the brain.” So?’  Computers can already out-do us at many intelligent tasks now.

I expect someone to invent a cyber-cortex any day now that allows machines to learn and eventually become self-aware.  Maybe it will be a maker or one of those kids building robots.  Maybe they will be inspired by ODROID Magazine.

 

JWH – 6/4/14

Being the Peacock

It is the male peacock that wears the fancy dress and struts his finery to attract the less flashy lady peahens.  In the animal world it generally appears to be the male that gets all dolled up to catch the female, so why in our species are the females the disciples of Vogue?  With animal courtship the males do all kinds of crazy things to show off because it’s the females who get to make the final decision.  Human females also get to make our final decisions on mating, but it also appears they get to do all the gaudy displaying too?  Or is that true?

Males of our species do show off by making money, showing strength, doing dashing deeds, while only using a modest amount of flashy color and huge tail feathers.  Hell, suits are in by the young men again.  You can’t get less flashy than a suit.  Last night I saw a rock band all wearing black coats, white shirts and dark ties.  Their looks were dull but they were making a big noise to attract women.

In our species it appears that the males are still the ones that show off, but somehow the role of preening was giving to our ladies.  From fashion runways to Vegas shows to Miss America pageants you can see the extremes of female plumage.

I think this biological programming has had a tremendous impact on female behavior and psychology, making women very different from men.  Okay, I can hear all the protests now.  Yes, I know some men love to show off their costuming and some women don’t.  But I think this programming subroutine goes far deeper than outfits.  Women are a thousand times more concerned about their looks then men.  Why is that?

Let me give an example.  Among my lady friends, and I’m mostly talking about women in their fifties, I’m starting to hear the same story repeated independently from all of them that makes me worry.  They all hate to see themselves naked.  One friend said she holds her hand in front of her eyes when she gets out of the shower to shield her vision from the image of her naked body in the mirror.  When she says this I’m thinking I’d loved to see her step out of the shower and towel off, so it’s not that she’s bad looking.  But why has she become so hideous to herself that she won’t look at a mirror until she’s dressed and ready to hide her face in makeup?

If this was an isolated comment I wouldn’t have much evidence for my case, but I hear stories like this over and over again.  We’ve reached an age where my women friends are horrified by their bodies but I’m not, not by mine or theirs.  I still want to look up their dresses and down their blouses to catch whatever glimpses I can.  And another common thing I hear from these women are gripes about men wanting younger “firmer” women.

They seemed obsessed with the word “firmer” too, because they say it with such resentment.  And no matter how much I tell them I’m still physically attracted to women my age and even a bit older they don’t believe it.  They say I’m an oddball and 99% of normal men only want to look at twenty-something women.  Sure we like looking at younger women, but I’ve talked to my fellow boomers, and the consensus is older women can be just as hot.

Women may blame their resentment on men, but I’m starting to wonder if the problem isn’t theirs.  Sure there are men obsessed with sweet young things, but none of my pals are like that.  I think a lot of men have to chase younger women because as they get older the females of their generation stop wanting to be caught, forcing those guys to go further afield to hunt.  But this isn’t the point of my story.  I want to focus on the psychology of being the peacock.

I think both sexes are cursed by their biological programming.  Personally and culturally we’re possessed by the drive to reproduce.  This is understandable from a biological point of view, but why doesn’t the sex drive shut off when the baby making years are over?  When women go through menopause, why don’t they suddenly wake up and think, “Gee, I feel great.  I don’t have to preen anymore for those goddamn males always chasing after me.”  And then relax into a new lifestyle.  Why should women hate their bodies just because the sign “Great Babies Made Here!” gets turned off?

From the male side of things I wished my thoughts weren’t constantly befuddled by my cells urging me to go make babies.  Obviously, the reason why I still want to see fiftyish women get out of the shower is from residual programming to reproduce.  I’m already hearing all those people thinking, “Well men can make babies until they die.”  Just because we can, and just because we have the drive, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.  Evolution designed us to live long enough to reproduce and then die.  Our brains helped us beat those plans and  we live much longer than evolution planned.  At a certain point in both the lives of men and women we get to an age where babies aren’t wanted.  But the damn baby making programming inside of us doesn’t shut off.

Woman feel angst about losing their younger bodies and men feel angst about not getting laid as often.  It appears that the women who looked the best in youth hate themselves the most while aging.  Of course this is well illustrated by Hollywood starlets pursing plastic surgery till they have faces that look like rigor mortis of death.  The nature of women playing the peacock was well illustrated in an old movie I saw the other night, Mr. Skeffington, with Bette Davis as a beauty obsessed woman constantly courting marriage proposals even after she was married.

I feel sorry for my women friends.  Why can’t they accept wrinkles and sags?  Firm tits and ass are only signs that say, “I Make Babies.”  Why can’t old guys understand that the urge to chase young women is your cells tricking you into fatherhood?  In the end, I think the burden of the peacock syndrome on women is far harder than left-over horniness in men.  I don’t hate my body because I can’t get laid.  Being a peacock when the feathers fall out must be painful and pathetic.

I have a long running argument with one of my lady friends.  She says who we’re attracted to is mental, and I say it’s biological.  Well honey, I think if it’s mental you would be able to rationalize yourself out of the peacock syndrome.

Jim

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