Minefield

It occurs to me as I read memorials to Leslie Nielson this morning, [Link] that being an actor is rather like strolling in a minefield. The analogy is really rather logical.

Take the proposition: Any good actor wants to give a compelling, believable performance. Part of this is artistic compulsion, part is simple economics – the better the performance the more people who like it and the more likely the actor will get more roles and hence, more pay.

The counterpoint to this is that if the performance is too compelling, too believable, then the actor will not be compelling nor believable in other roles. In effect the actor becomes defined by that role.

Consider if you will, William Shattner and Leonard Nemoy. Both are defined by their Star Trek roles; their roles afterwards were unrecoverable despite the actors’ best efforts. The same may be said for Mark Hamil and Carrie Fisher.

It also seems that the more the actors’ roles carry the movie, rather than its theme or plot, the more likely this crystallization is to occur. This is why Leslie Nielson was not frozen in being Commander Adams. Simply put, Forbidden Planet had excellent theme and plot and all the actors did with their performances was enhance and resonate; their performances did not define the movie.

So what we have to mourn as much as the passing of an actor who got to express himself in many dimensions is the deterioration of the science fiction video to the sad state that it has neither theme nor plot that is believable and is only rescued by sacrificing good actors.

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Emotion and Education

Lovely morning. Rather a plenty of rain extending into this morning so the gym was fairly sparsely populated. Unfortunately several machines, including one I use, were dysfunctional and parts were strewn about all over as traps for the seniors and klutzes, of which I am both. One of the benefits of being the only game in town, over and above how dishonest you can be, is how you can get away with stinkingly lousy maintenance that would lose you business if there were any competition.

On which azimuth, I have an article [Link] that described research that is proclaimed to demonstrate that ‘higher social class’ people are less facile at assessing emotion in those around them than are ‘lower social class’ people. The only problem with this is that isn’t what they measured in their experiments. What they seem to have measured is how well people with varying amounts of formal education (degree counting) assess emotion, and what those experiments indicate is that the more education a person has, the less well that person assess surrounding emotion.

Having had a bit of education myself I have to admit that this doesn’t come as a big surprise. After all the academic world is supposed to be one where emotions are suppressed, so assessing them is not necessarily a useful skill. Certainly I have seen enough lecturers who had no idea of what the emotion of their classes were, nor did many of them care short of when the noose came out.

Education has a rather sizable component of socialization, of playing nice, never displaying emotion, and practicing circumscribed forms of violence. Further, since increasing education generally leads to increased specialization, and unless one is studying for the wrong reasons, that means greater interest in what one knows and learns. Hence, just learning more separates one from emotion. Even if the specialist area is people, rather than ideas or things, the study of people is dispassionate and emotion repressed in the interest of objectivity and rationality.

So it is not surprise that, in the mean, the more education, the less emotionalism and the less relevant emotion is to individual existence.

But this doesn’t support the thesis that higher social class people are less emotional. High social class may go to better shuls but that doesn’t mean they have more advanced degrees. But the thesis that they have more money and can thus solve their problems without emotional thrashing may have some merit. If they can figure an experiment for that.

I am not discarding the thesis that higher social class people are less able to assess emotion because they just don’t care about the emotions of others.

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RIP Science Fiction Movies

The inertia of good science fiction movies is passed. I am informed this morning that Leslie Nielsen is discorporated.[Link]

He acted the male lead in “Forbidden Planet”, the greatest, perhaps only great, science fiction movie.

And having achieved this perfection he degenerated into romance and comedy just as the genre of science fiction movies degenerated into kitsch and oater to the level that we now consider the derivative Star Trek series and all of Star Wars to have value and merit.

It is sad that the giant is gone, more sad that we failed to stand on his shoulders to improve. The movie that introduced Monsters of the Id set the theme for all future degeneration – Id parasitism.

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Northern Resonance

Monday at last! I had begun to entertain the hypothesis that the weekend would be endless or a closed temporal loop, mostly because it effectively started on Thor’s day last week. The gym was settled down this morning, not too many educationalists or weight bouncers and I was able to actually listen to my MP3 player without spill in conversation from people who evidently lack ‘indoor’ voices.

As is usual on Monday the episode was one of CBC’s “The Best of Ideas”, which was also, as usual, dated, and dealt with some environmental conference in Canada. I have to admit that I have nowhere near the optimism of these folks; I suspect that the citizens of the Yankee republic are going to cheerfully corrupt the environment until we start falling out in the street with water pollution poisoning (or dehydration) or from lack of oxygen. That’s why I live in Alibam.

But what really cemented my attention was a comment about the nastiness of Canadian government (yes, Qadgop, I know that is deeply redundant) in having run off all its competent scientists and not being able to hire any new ones because of the low pay and absence of career. I cannot, of course, speak with knowledge of Canadian government, but I do have experience of the Yankee government and I have to identify with that Canadian statement.

I am not sure what the policy is in Yankee government, but I do know what the practice is in the army apparat, and it is to build a Potemkin facade of science. Most of this follows from the military dedication to the mission assigned. Army ethics and morality are defined in such terms, not in terms of relevance to science. As a result, any integritous scientist must be run off, run over, or lobotomized. The latter seems to be the current plan of action.

Nowadays science graduates are hired by the army and immediately divorced of any real opportunity to do science. The only training they are permitted is superstitious mumbo-jumbo, like Six Sigma, or instruction in how to be a second rate procure clerk. Nothing about maintaining scientific competency is permitted. No substantive research is permitted, nor publication. Indeed, the very atmosphere is more like a concentration camp prohibiting scientific thought than a research organization.

So the good and strong leave, and the others quickly atrophy into performers in an opera. Scant wonder we are a descending country. And I shan’t even mention the political wranglings.

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Wanna Buy A Bridge?

Admittedly, there is some contradiction about a holy day being secular. After all, religion is a component of government, at least originally, and I am not complaining. That’s one of the reasons I am trying to discipline myself away from calling the next holy day period ‘christmas’, since that implies the religion aspect of it, which is not even historically accurate insofar as I can tell from polluted sources.

Being an introvert and a nerd I am not all that fond of complicated things. I once had a professor who was fond of saying that “once solved, this problem will be simple.” to which I have learned to silently add “until I forget the solution!”  A lot of my life has been spent rediscovering how I solved a particular problem because my notes either got lost or cold.

But the point is that part of what nerds do is work to make complicated things simple. This works somewhat with the real world of physics and even engineering but it tends to break down with constructs of human society because all too often they are not systematic. Yes, I know that sounds horribly Tayloristic but that’s because, if you think that, you’re using the wrong meaning of system.

Simply put, a system is something that is separated off from the rest of the universe by some sort of boundary. Inside that boundary is what we sometimes call a system and it is distinguished by activities (processes) that are stronger (weaker) or faster (slower) or more (less) intense or … than on the other side of the boundary. Most bogs thing the boundary has to be physically blatant, like the paint and glass and chrome on a motorcar, but it doesn’t have to be and when we are considering a social (as in human) system then there isn’t usually paint or chrome or glass. But the things that usually distinguish the system by being larger or stronger aren’t so much so that the system is almost not there. Sometimes we call these ‘cobweb’ systems since you don’t know they;re there until you walk into them and then you’ve torn them up.

Christmas is one of those systems. Supposedly it started out as a plagiarism of winter solstice celebrations by an imperialist religion organization. That right there is one of the cobweb aspects of the system since one can’t tell very easily whether the attempt to squash other religion organizations and add new members is due to questionably righteous evangelistic goals for the individual or ordinary organizational growth efforts. Anyway, christmas started out with secular components and over the years those components have been increasing and enlarging. Today, it is hard to separate the secular from the religionist which is the source of some kultur konflict between those who want to enjoy the secularity without the religionist propaganda overwhelming and the religionist stormtroopers who want to rid the system of all its secularity. This often gets trivialized in the heated rhetoric over whether the greeting should be “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”?

Given the density of religionist fanatics in the Old Confederacy/Nawth Alibam/Greater Metropolitan Arab, my desire to distance myself from the fray should be a bit clearer. This is not to say that I do not consider the philosophy of Joshua ben Joseph, admittedly only available to us in hideously corrupted secondary (at best) sources, to have merit but I do often find that those who swallow the organizational corruption aintelligently to be lacking such. And all too often these folks, ever bit as fanatic as the most rabid of those who slavishly attend college football but are not alumni, cannot be relieved by the application of a topical ointment, the social analog of Preparation H (R). Avoidance is often the best anodyne for these people, although one is sometimes tempted to call them by their own term, golems, for surely this brain washing has to be a form of manufacture?

Along which lines, I was pointed the other day, by P. Z. Myers, Pharyngula, to this poll.[Link] Admittedly, the instrument was in an English newspaper and one of the things they took with them when they were evicted was religion sanity, and the results have been corrupted by Myers’ influence, which is itself pseudo-religionist, but are still amusing if not instructive as shown in this graphic

This seems almost deterministic, which gives an indication of how different things are here in the third world of Amerika.

So I shall keep my head down while all the righteous and their religionist colleagues attend services today, which will in many cases be bridging between the appropriated joys of harvest celebration and the appropriated miracle of astronomical turning points. But please do not entrain me in the debate over social semantics; celebrate as you will and intrude not on how I celebrate as I will so long as neither harms the other. And no inclusion of superstitious harm, please.

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