Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A New Blogging Innovation...

The problem with blogging is there's no easy way to produce a filler episode. I mean, you might get busy, or need to spend more time at work that month, but does the blogging world slow down? Nope. Unlike television shows, however, there's no easy way to produce a flashback episode. You know- an episode that consists mostly of old footage with, perhaps, ten minutes of new material added on for flavor. Sure, it's the audio-visual equivalent of a plate of leftovers with tabasco sauce thrown on top, but it's still a meal. Of sorts. Yes, it is indeed a shame there isn't a way to do this with blogs.

Or is there? I do, after all, have lots and lots of archives. I do, after all, have a distinct paragraph structure. Maybe there actually is a way to do a flashback episode. You wanna find out?

Well too fucking bad, because we're going to anyway.

Before we begin, I'd just like to thank Brayden King for his welcome to the world of blogging. Then again, I guess it's only fair since he's the one that talked me into this.

As you all know, I'm a grad student in Sociology. Or, well, as you all should know if you keep reading this crap, since it says so right up there in my profile. Now, Sociology is perhaps not one of the most respected of sciences, probably owing to the fact that our models provide quite a bit less predictive power than the models used by other scientists in other fields. As such, we frequently seem to take shit from our bretheren in the sciences about whether or not we're a "real" science.

Of those fellow scientists who mock us, probably the worst are the physicists. We've all had the experience, encountering one of those paragons of physical law with their "strong nuclear force" and "gravity" and "thermodynamics" nonsense. Well la-dee-dah! Whatever our level of annoyance with them, however, we must concede that they have developed a very impressive science with considerable explanatory power. Or, so we've all been led to believe. It has recently come to my attention that, perhaps, physics is not in as strong a position as it would like.

In short, our ability to feel and express an amount of conflict is a unifying, rather than divisive, force because it allows different and largely incompatible people to exist within the same social structure. Further, on a more fundamental level, conflict is itself a type of social relation thus implying engagement. Such engagement is necessary for any social structure to endure. Conflict, in a sociological sense, is then likely preferrable to indifference, which signals a lack of engagement. A very similar argument is made in Simmel's essay on money, in which he observes that money both unifies a society (by allowing wider and more intricate commerce) and divides it (by making exchange relations impersonal). Such a dual view of something that is often considered intrinsically bad seems to me to be more scientific than perspectives that prejudge an outcome in moral terms. The relevant issue is to figure out what functions a given thing has, and what consequences are generated by its normal functioning. Decisions as to the desirability of those elements can come later.

As a side note: This may actually be something of a problem in certain cases. My mother used to teach 1st grade and once had a child who would zone out in class. This, by itself, was not all that strange. What was strange was the series of hand movements he would make while zoned. The entire situation was confusing since, besides this behavior, he didn't exhibit any of the classic signs of autism or other similar disorders. Eventually she realized, and confirmed via the boy, that he was playing Nintendo in his head. The hand movements were essentially replicas of what his fingers would be doing on the controller if he were actually playing.

Many, many people seem to access their faith, and god, through fear of doing something wrong. These are the people that constantly search for wisdom in the bible, who obsessively pursue scripture, who seek to erradicate those who believe differently from them, and who determinedly avoid perspectives other than their own. These people see their salvation as stemming from an unthinking, unwavering devotion to the authoritative structure of the church and their religion. Questioning and divergence are unacceptable because they are afraid that by questioning, or doing something not explicitly condoned by religion, that they will offend god and damn themselves. These poor people are like the child who has been beaten repeatedly: their every action, their every thought, is bent to avoid the wrath of a powerful other. They live to assauge their own fear of making a mistake. They are locked into a prison of their faith, and feel constantly insecure because their own moral worth is dependent on adhering to a set of boundaries that are marked in invisible ink. It is, then, no surprise that my questions about coloring on canvas were slapped down- I was doing the thing that is not permitted above all others. I was suggesting we do something a different way. Yes, I was asking about crayons and canvas, but habits are habits, and for some questions are always bad.

The funny thing is, though, that I have another reason for loving Halloween. I refer, obviously, to candy. Halloween is a night when we are supposed to pelt children in costumes with all manner of sugary treats. One wonders how this ever became popular, since each piece of candy likely translates in some linear, or even curvilinear, fashion into hours of lost sleep and frustration for parents, but what would society be without irrational passive-aggressive holidays? Now, I love pelting children with things as much as the next guy, so this is one practice I can really get behind. When I was a camp counselor, I was once told by the camp nurse to pelt the crap out of my charges with a sock full of cornstarch to prevent heat rash, so I know how cathartic a solid pelting can be. Yet, in four years at my current apartment, I have come to understand that there aren't any kids around here. Seriously. Usually, I only see a few kids belonging to other grad students. This year I saw but a single child, dressed up as a witch, and was otherwise undisturbed the entire evening.

Now, I agree that the apparent disinterest in facts present among the general population is of concern, but I don't agree that facts are not helpful in a battle against misinformation. People, indeed, seem to be powerfully concerned about whether or not they are being lied to. If you ask a random person, "Do you mind being lied to," they will likely answer, "yes." The prevalence of sensationalist talk shows in which men and women take lie detector tests to uncover infidelity shows that there is a powerful public interest in what is fact, and what is fiction. A battle between misinformation and facts is tantamount to a battle between lies and truths.

Since returning home I have gone shooting with one of my good friends, who might safely be referred to as a "gun nut." During this trip to the range I had the chance to fire off six different types of rifles (ranging from a bolt-action .30-06, to a semi-automatic .223) as well as three different pistols (ranging from .45 caliber to 9mm). If we had more time, my friend doubtless would have brought along his two black powder smoothbores, which start at .55 caliber and go up from there. Needless to say, it was an exciting day in which we discovered that I am a better shot with a pistol than many of the security guards who practice on my friend's range. Since this was the first time I had fired a pistol, none of you should feel particularly pleased about this.

So, did everyone enjoy this little bit of potpourri? No? Okay. That's fine too.

And you thought I was incoherent before!


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