Sunday, September 6, 2015

Narrative Cop-Outs: All Just a Dream

All Just A Dream is a perfectly valid plot point, but the moment you use it as the ultimate plot point, you have rendered your narrative completely irredeemable, and will be subject to righteous ridicule.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A motivational self-help hack that actually seems to work

I have stumbled upon a motivational hack that, as it seems, actually does the trick.

I encountered it on one of those (usually dreadful, I'm sad to say) TEDx talks. I don't find it in my history, so I can't share the link, but it's not so far out there.

I've only been practicing it for a few days now, so I'm not quite so sure yet, but anyway here it is.

It's the simple sentence "I have decided to do that."

I try to tell this myself every time when I realize I'm putting off some chore, or I'm afraid of some task. I tell this myself as if it was a legitimate reason for starting the chore. And of course, ultimately, it is... one could also say it's the ONLY legitimate reason for doing anything.

The fantastic thing about it, though, is that it is, of course, utterly true.

I mean, let's face it, all that positive thinking rubbish and NLP nonsense leads nowhere. Why? I've alsways felt that it is because you're trying to manipulate yourself, and your brain will instantly look through that and reject it. "Doing the dishes smells like the color of my shoes in my favourite dream." Sure dude. "After my inbox is sorted, I will be free to do what I want, which feels like the sound of the wings of the eagle." Yeah, dream on darling, I still don't want to do the dishes.

"I. Have. Decided. To. Sort. That. Frakkin. Inbox. Now." Yep. Totally logical!

It actually gets me off the couch and makes it easier to just start doing things. Funny how those things seem to work.

Again, it's only been a few days so far, so I might still be in for a surprise.

Addendum #1 Nitpicking Star Trek

Yet another conan-drum:

Whenever someone downloads data, it is inevitably erased from the source device. In short, they treat data as if it was a material thing that can only exist in one place at a time. Of course, everyone knows that this is utter nonsense, but it arguably makes for better drama, and when the series ran, it probably hadn't entered common knowledge yet.

Nitpicking Star Trek

For some reason, nitpicking is way more fun when it comes to Star Trek, compared to any other franchise. Just to clarify, I love most of Star Trek *), and none of the following will be breaking news to the involved trekkist, but I just have to get the following few picks off my chest:

1.) The holodeck

Not mentioning all the questionable physics of the thing - why was the holodeck not banned after the first few thousand fatal malfunctions? I mean, obviously they resolved the dilemma of the week in each episode, but Picard and Janeway were the top of the crop, the best of the best, so it is safe to assume that most of starfleet must have been wiped out by some variation on Prof. Moriarty or 11001001, not to mention all the safety-off and alien-intruder-caused malfunctions. There must also be an extremely addictive quality to the thing, as well as all kinds of exploits for ill-meaning humans. I mean, if they have those things on their starships, I'm sure they have them in malls and even their homes. Imagine a few thousands Xenomorphs from a casual Ridley Scott simulation program escaping into downtown L.A., or just a few thousand people ending up in a simulation that makes them think this happened, and then beams them back into real life, phasers akimbo.

It would be interesting, by the way, to explore the legal and ethical limits of the holodeck. Would otherwise illegal sex be allowed - e.g., interspecies sex, or sex with a simulation of a grown-up body, but the A.I.-simulated mind of a human minor, or the other way around? What about racially motivated genocide? How about abusing a holodeck character à la the Doctor to drive someone insane? I'm sure some of this has been done in some fanfic, but finding it might prove tedious, and in general, the aseptic tone of the franchise sadly prohibits trodding down those muddy paths.

2.) What's with the hairdo?

It seems to me that many female protagonists on Star Trek have quite elaborate hairdo. Basically, the rule seems to be: If they are female, and they have long hair, then it's always wrapped around their head like something created by a Sikh hairdresser with artistic ambitions. It must be woefully impractical in a job that frequently involves battle, operating heavy machinery, and other physically challenging tasks. I don't remember ever having seen a male protagonist with long hair - probably justified, in-universe, by Star Fleet Regulations... okay, okay, Worf does have them. Well, maybe there's an exception for Klingons - after all, they were allowed to evolve their foreheads in rather interesting ways in just a century. By the way, one interesting exception would be B'Elana Torres, who has short hair and still manages to look weird due to her Rubber Alien Forehead. Maybe all this is just born of some secret fetish of Gene Roddenberry?

3.) The measure of a life form

This is holodeck-related, too, but it's another perspective on the same issue.

There is an episode in which they debate whether Mr Data is a Thing or a Being, and another one in which we discover that the holodeck can produce a personality that arguably must be more intelligent than Mr Data. Now, the holodeck is part of the ship's computer. But nobody in the whole gorram series ever has any qualms about shutting down a starship, or initiating the self-destruct series because of it. If they worry about it, it's only because they're losing a precious asset or because of their sentimental clinging to some "captain's responsibility". In short, Star Trek's definition of "intelligent life-form" simply translates to being able to walk on two legs. So long, transhumanism, and thanks for all the Bald Going. I wonder if Romero zombies would count as an intelligent species, by the way.

On a slightly more serious note, I think the holodeck was one of those flashes of genius that gave the writers seemingly endless possibilities, so this is exactly where we get to witness the limitations of genre, format, and TV economics at play. Some things just don't fit in with the light-hearted entertainment format that is Star Trek, and some things would need way more space than a 45 minute episode.

Of course, the list of possible nitpicks is long and endless (aliens don't have last names, technobabble, time paradoxes, etc. etc.), but this here is just for our amusement, and 3 is always a good number, so this is where it ends.

*) To the exception of Deep Space Nine, which never appealed to me, some of the movies. Well, and the Abrams movies are forbidden by global consent of all intelligent species, so they don't count.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Dream Symbols

For almost 20 years now, I have kept a dream journal. Somewhat sporadically, and I lost it all about halfway through, but I guess I can rightfully claim to have more of an overview of my dreams than most people I know.

For much of that time, I tried to decipher them, to find some kind of meaning, symbolism or the like, inside them. I even kept lists of "symbols" to be able to do a little bit of statistics on them.

Ultimately, what I came up with was precious little. Nothing, really, that I wouldn't have come up simply by looking over my journal once in a while.

For quite a few years, I kept dreaming about elevators that failed in all kinds of dangerous ways. I also dreamed a lot about public transport crafts. Invariably, those drove around the whole town in all the wrong directions, and I never reached my goal. This was a time when I was rather insecure and pretty depressed, so it made sense.

I dreamed a few times about an ex girlfriend, where the breakup had been rather dramatic. Understandable.

And a few years later, at a new job that made me the most money I had ever earned, I dreamed about very big and respectable houses, such as museums and the like.

When I was out of a job or concerned about my professional future, I tended to dream about my very first profession (as a bookseller).

I had the usual dreams about flying, which were fun, and very few, but rather intense, nightmares.

A few times, I dreamed about uncanny twins, and it seemed to coincide with upcoming big decisions.

People from my past and present show up in my dreams, of course, and there seem to be certain (very odd) rules.  For example, I never dream about my current girlfriend, I often find myself with an anonymous "group of friends", etc.

And that's about it. It's not an awful lot, certainly no prophecies or clairvoyance. No out-of-body experience or astral projection. In all those years, despite some efforts, I had exactly one lucid dream, and one that was somewhat semi-lucid. I was never able to find any "special" meaning. My dreams never told me anything I didn't already know. They never offer any guidance or insight or spiritual experience.

So, my conclusion is that there is nothing to dream symbols, and there is nothing supernatural going on in dreams. Dreams can be fun, they're certainly interesting, but they have no meaning.

Most probably, they are just a way for the brain to reorganize its internals.

It's a bit sad, perhaps, but that's how it is.

Simple Mindfulness

Interesting - just to imagine how it would feel to be completely conscious, evokes a state of intense bliss, as if inner worlds were opening up and unfolding to the mind.

Sounds like weird wacko NLP, but it's just what happened this morning.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

My Enlightenment

I distinctly remember the moment. It must have been 8 years ago, and I can still remember the subway station and the escalator I was riding.

I was deeply into buddhism and self-improvement back then, and I was trying to meditate or at least working on my mindfulness every second I could spare.

That moment on that escalator, I was enlightened.

Of course, a few moments later, the experience was over. I tried to get back into it, but to no avail. On the other hand, I couldn't quite shake the feeling that this was actually it, the real thing. It had lasted a little longer than those experiences usually used to, and it had felt as if it actually were to last this time.

There is a certain humor in buddhist books when they talk about enlightenment experiences, a kind of humor I tended to enjoy, and which I still think provides a certain safeguard against fundamentalist idiocy. They talk about how nibbana is not a state of being, and how reifying it is itself a block on the road to nibbana. They revel in the paradox, and that's fine and very appealing.

But still, I did believe that enlightenment was a real possibility in some way, a goal to be reached at some point.

Looking back, I think that this is a huge problem, but nog quite in the way the buddhists say. It is a problem because, from what I have read in the meantime, and from what I see in the world and in my own life, I gather that enlightenment is just not possible. Our brains just don't seem to be wired in a way that would allow them to overcome their own illusory self. The oh-so-bad discoursive monkey mind will always kick back in.

Looking back on what you might call my "spiritual journey" (blargh), I think that this change of mind has proved to be a good thing. Very good indeed. Now I judge my mindfulness - and boy, do I judge it! - based on whether it is useful to myself, my life, and probably the lives of people around me.

I think that this is way more down to earth, realistic and mature. It certainly has me use less of the jargon, even in my internal monologue (I always tried to avoid it in public anyway). Less attachment to enlightenment. It was an act of letting go, disentanglement, un-identification, de-attachment.

It has me pretend less, see more of how things actually are. And that's ultimately what enlightenment is about, isn't it?