entertainment, general silliness, Lighter Things, Things We Should Know

From the Blevkog Archives – April 21, 2006: Cultural Relativism: An Example

Note to readers: I’m not entirely sure why, but this has always stood out for me as one of my favorite pieces of writing that I’ve done on Blevkog. This particular frivolous item comes from the prior incarnation of the blog. I may have written better entries since then, but I don’t think I’ve ever written anything more memorable. It has been edited slightly to remove what must have been evidence of a sale on commas and to add a photo at the end. Fortunately I am no longer so prone to being Captain Subordinate Clause. Enjoy.

Apropos of nothing except the spirit of Friday afternoon, I present the following.

As regular readers may know, in a rather lengthy comment to my compadre kevvyd’s item here, I made reference to the concept of cultural relativism. Simply put, it is the unfortunately rare ability to judge a culture or its members on its own merits, and not on the basis of another country’s cultural norms. The opposite of cultural relativism could therefore be called ethnocentrism.

Other cultures are different, that’s pretty much why there are other cultures. It makes the world an interesting place to live, all too often in the sense conveyed in the Chinese curse.

Japan, as a culture, has some interesting and unique qualities similar to our own, but just different enough to make us cock our heads sideways like a dog when you make a funny noise. For example, comic books are for the most part intended for adult consumption, and many cartoons are also so intended. The output of the anime culture, as it is called, is immense.

For quite a while, different business interests have made deals to bring some of these products to North America – the comic books are experiencing an unprecedented surge in popularity, for example. The cartoons have enjoyed a longer history, with Astro Boy closely followed by Speed Racer. Japanese cartoons, as a rule, have often seemed badly animated and poorly dubbed, which is partly true: often the dubbing is a result of the stories needing to be changed to more appropriately, shall we say, North American values.

Which leads me to this: many of my generation look back with an embarassed fondness on a show called Battle of the Planets. You know, the one with the flaming spaceship. In said battle of the titular spheres, Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop and Tiny save the world each weekday (or whatever) from the forces of the evil Zoltar, from the planet Spectra.

With me so far? Great.

Not long ago, I was excited to find at my local library a copy of the Ultimate Collection of B.o.P. (if you’ll excuse the acronym). What intrigued me, however, was the inclusion of the original Japanese episodes of the series that became, after the meaty paws of Sandy Frank was finished with them (anybody else thinking about the ‘Sandy Frank’ song from MST3K?), Battle of the Planets.

Originally, the series was entitled ‘Science Ninja Team Gatchaman’. In this series, Ken, Joe, Jun, Jinpei and Ryu battle the forces of Galactor (from somewhere on earth, not from space), represented by the evil Berg Katse. In this series, the characters, particularly Joe (the moody one), swear a fair bit, using the ‘S’ word more than once, per episode. As I said, these things were relatively easy to remove, since the dubbing process would change the language anyway.

Further to this, the show is considerably more violent – in one episode, we are shown the corpses of victims of one of the monsters, and people obviously die by the hundreds in some of the attacks on cities. This content was cut to reflect the North American culture at the time, and since it resulted in a considerable amount of material being cut, the U.S. producers hastily animated the robot 7-Zark-7 to act as a narrator and time waster.

This is going somewhere, honest.

As I watched one of the original Japanese episodes, I was completely surprised by something. We open the episode in a fictional country, in which there is a large peak, Blue Mountain. Upon said mountain are carved the faces of three of the country’s past presidents (sound familiar?). The work has taken three generations to complete, and the young lady is just about to finish the fourth head, that of Jesus. Yes, Jesus.

The Gatchaman episode is, in the original translation from the Japanese, “The Magma Giant: Emperor of Hell”. One of the heads from the mountain is used by Galactor as the head for the roughly 500-foot tall lava monster. Can you guess which one?

Cultural relativism: the ability not to totally laugh your ass off at any culture in which this phrase is even possible:

500-Foot Tall Molten Lava Jesus.

GATCHAMAN_VOL_5-9

Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to discuss YOUR FIERY DEATH?

general silliness, Lighter Things

The Sound of… Silent?

It occurs to me that the use of the phrase “silent majority” implies some sort of misguided supposition that the person using the phrase is correct and others who constitute the more vocal (and generally ‘liberal’) constituents are really uninformed and in reality only have small numbers behind them despite the significant number of voices speaking out on an issue.

Has this ever been proven to be true? Why, if you are in the majority, are you and your compadres not speaking up, given you have the supposed moral high ground? Why stay silent? Are you sneaking up on us? Are there secret armies of right-wing ninjas out there somewhere? (geez, I hope not)

I suspect the opposite to be true: “silent majority” actually means “I recognize that nobody else agrees with me but I’m going to pretend to be on the winning side anyway to make myself feel better.” It’s actually the verbal equivalent of thumb-sucking.

education, evolution, Lighter Things, running, science, Uncategorized

Full Esteem Ahead

This morning, as I was making my way through my email, I caught a short news item in Academica Top Ten about a school in Calgary discontinuing awards and competitions based on the work of Alfie Kohn, an author who writes about child behaviour and parenting. The theory is that, “awards eventually lose their lustre to students who get them while often hurting the self esteem and pride of those who don’t get a certificate.” In essence, if I understand the idea correctly, when someone excels, rewarding them makes them complacent, and if they fail to excel, they suffer loss of self-esteem and pride; therefore, competition shouldn’t take place at all.

With all due respect, that’s total crap, in my opinion.

As usual, George Carlin said it best:

Now, all of this stupid nonsense that children have been so crippled by has grown out of something called the “self-esteem movement.” The self-esteem movement began around 1970, and I’m happy to say it has been a complete failure. Studies have repeatedly shown that having high self-esteem does not improve grades, does not improve career achievement, it does not even lower the use of alcohol, and most certainly does not reduce the incidence of violence of any sort, because as it turns out, extremely aggressive, violent people think very highly of themselves. Imagine that; sociopaths have high self-esteem. Who’da thunk? – From “Life is Worth Losing” (2006)

The self-esteem movement has led to such ridiculous acts as not having winners or losers in games – everyone is special! The problem arises once we realize that if everyone is special, then nobody is. To me, that sounds like a psychological theory created by wimpy scientists that always lost at sports and secretly harbored a grudge for many years until they could start influencing educational policy. Admittedly, this is somewhat of a generalization; I apologize to any athletic scientists out there (all three of you).

What bothers me about the self-esteem movement comes down to two key things: I have learned more from my failures than my successes; and some people are better at some things than others – that’s the nature of humanity.

The reason my Dad was an absolutely brilliant parent (whether he actually knew it or not) was that when the time came to give me advice, he shared his own experiences with me, then gave me the freedom to make whatever decision I felt was right. He trusted me enough that he knew I’d make the right decision, or if I didn’t, that I’d learn from having made the wrong one. It was the freedom to decide, and in truth, the freedom to fail, that made his guidance so valuable. Honestly, I’ve screwed up more times than I care to admit, including one massive failure in the field of marriage; even that experience has value if I manage to walk away having learned from the experience and changed my behaviour to adapt and try to prevent the same mistake from happening again. I certainly don’t rule out getting married again, I just won’t go about it in the same way. I learned, and at the risk of using a sickening cliche: I grew.

Of course, failure in this context isn’t the same as failure in sports, so let me use another example: I started running just over a year ago, and during that time, I’ve run several races – mostly 5K, but I have one 10K under my belt as well, and I consider that to be my maximum racing distance. Just my personal choice. I don’t enter these races with any expectation of winning – I generally finish about halfway through the pack for my age group, and I do keep track of my time for some races, with an eye to improving and getting faster as I do more of them. There are clearly winners of these races, and there are the rest of us who do not and will never win, but that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment and pride at having participated. Realistically, I am competing with myself – striving for personal best. This is the first time in my life that I have undertaken athletic activity in any sustained way, with the exception of doing some fencing a few years ago (which I also thoroughly enjoyed and failed to excel at), as during my childhood I was incredibly uncoordinated and generally somewhat overweight, so any such endeavor was doomed to fail. However, despite the lack of a `Mr. Congeniality` medal at the end of the soccer game or whatever, I survived and became a (somewhat) functional adult. In fact, I think I benefited more from losing that I would have from winning.

Losing with grace is sometimes more difficult than winning with it. What it does is it teaches perspective, and teaches you that yes, there are people better than you at certain things, and that`s not unexpected given that little thing we call evolution. Human beings come in many varieties, and some would be better adapted to chasing down a gazelle than others; when that was the means of survival, the ones who couldn`t were less likely to procreate. Now, however, there are a greater number of options as to how you win bread or bring home bacon or what have you – those people who kick the hell out of the ball may not be those who are good at manufacturing or selling said balls, or speculating on how many balls will get kicked; that`s the skill and talent the rest of us have, and some people can be scary good at all of these. Losing is learning about yourself and how you relate to the world; in that way, `losing`is in no way the same as `failing` – losing is not crossing the finish line first, but failing is not taking that experience and making it into a positive learning experience.

the difficulty that arises when someone is literally unable to fail because they are cocooned in a bubble wrap of `self-esteem`is that they don`t learn the coping skills necessary to make loss meaningful, because they don`t experience it. The child who is unable to lose becomes an adolescent and an adult who is baffled by the fact that they cannot realistically expect to be rewarded for everything they do – and yet they do expect it. I have been fortunate not to experience it myself, but I have friends who teach in post-secondary education who constantly encounter students with huge egos and unbelievable feelings of entitlement – self-esteem has, for these individuals, whooshed right past `confidence`and careened madly into `arrogance`. In the same way I can`t ask someone to hand me a zarf if they have no idea what it is, they are unable to recognize the true value of failing and trying again because they`ve never had to.

Image

A zarf. Don`t say I never learned you nothin`. 

Eliminating the possibility of losing also takes away the ability to potentially excel, and both of these are critical in the development of a real, whole, genuine and might I add empathetic individual adult. We have been far too focused on not making kids sad and not nearly focused enough to see the long-term effects of character building experiences on the adults they eventually become. We take away the ability to stand out, and we actively deny the process that in the broadest sense makes us human in the first place.

Anyway, I`ve never been a parent, and the odds against my becoming one grow greater every day, so I can only speak from my own experience and knowledge – which makes me a lot more like my Dad than I ever realized, now that I think about it.

And that`s rather awesome, actually. Thanks, Dad, for letting me make mistakes. I think I`m better for it.

Lighter Things, Stephen Harper

Happy Halloween

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Happy Halloween. Or Solstice. Or whatever it is that you call Free Candy Day. For those of you who still haven’t decided on a costume yet I offer this simple, easy to throw together suggestion.  You probably don’t have enough time to make the Death Star accessory  for this year though.

general silliness, Lighter Things, media

Random Petty Annoyances, Part 1

Ok.

So, most of my freinds, including my co-authors here, would tell you that I am generally a laid-back individual. Not much really gets to me… at least not all at once. No, I have to see the same stupid-ass behaviors several times before they really manage to annoy me sufficiently to write about it. So, for your enjoyment, and in the spirit of catharsis, I offer the following random sources of unreasonable anger:

  1. Your headphones should not ever be larger than the device playing the music. At least certainly not by several orders of magnitude. I see a woman nearly every single day with a tiny iPod, and gigantic headphones. You may as well walk around with a couple of Victrolas strapped to your skull. Unless you are headbanging vigorously, listening to music should not tone your neck muscles.
  2. Pressing the button at the crosswalk 3,000 times will not make the light change faster. Here’s how it works, folks: press the button, and at the appropriate moment in the cycle of light changes, the ‘walk’ sign will appear. Standing on the corner pressing the button repeatedly like a monkey on methamphetamines will not make a lick of difference – it will change when it changes. All you’re doing is making yourself look like a fucking idiot, but fortunately the beeping noise makes it easier to tell where you are.
  3. There’s a lot of noise made about courteous driving, who is teaching courteous walking? Nobody, that’s who. To the morons who can’t walk and hold a conversation without taking up an entire pedway, move the fuck over. When stopping to figure out where you are, please don’t randomly stop and aimlessly move from side to side – if you do, there will be at least one person behind you with a red face and a bulging forehead vein who will gladly take you the fuck out. Which, I suppose, would solve your problem as your location would then be irrelevant. Finally, old people at the mall and elsewhere: I understand, you’re old and close to death, and want to savor every moment, and that’s wonderful, circle of life, whatever whatever. Just remember that some of us are not retired, some of us have deadlines and meetings and family obligations, and would appreciate if you could step aside, or, alternately, drop the fuck dead, you slow, wrinkly ass old motherfucker.
  4. Why is it not ok to portray a woman as unintelligent, but every man on television, particularly commercials, is a barely functional retard? Granted, some of us men are morons – I used to be in retail, so I am very familiar with the concept. However, every man on commercials should logically be starving to death, wearing horribly stained clothes, sitting in a pile of his own filth in a decrepit house except – thank goodness! He’s married, and his super sensible wife will save him from himself! Think about it, though: how competent and caring are you, little missy, if you married this helpless ape in the first place, and had offspring with him? How good does your infallible judgement work when you remember you have fucked this man-child at least once, and allowed him to pass on his genetics? Thanks for spawning another generation of drooling muttonheads (unless it’s a girl, of course). Look smugly at your clean counters all you like, somewhere your idiot hubby is lighting himself, or possibly others, on fire. Good thing you are so goddamned smart. Enjoy your life sentence chained to an orangutan! Mazeltov!
  5. Seriously, who the fuck besides you cares if you can dance? Singing, or other types of talent, I can, if only reluctantly, understand – but dancing? That’s gotta be a limited job market. Don’t be wasting the warranty on my television inflicting your spasmic flailings on me and my loved ones. Consider for a moment before you answer the following: how many famous dancers can you name? Let me be more specific – not actors, like Gene Kelley or Fred Astaire; not singers who dance well, like Paula Abdul; and not ballet dancers, like Baryshnikov or whoever else, but hip-hop style modern dancers. I can’t think of any. Perhaps I lead a sheltered life, or, maybe, just maybe, there ain’t too many of ’em. You can shake your fat ass and move your feet to some awful music: congratulations, sunshine. Enjoy poverty. Rhythmically.
  6. Additional volume does not make English magically translate into a universal language. Folks, I been hanging onto this one for a while. It’s Summer, 1992. I am spending the final week of my exchange program to Germany at a hostel in Frankfurt. I’ve been there for three and a half months, living with a German family in a small town, and eating nearly all of my meals with them. I’m ready for a change, so I head for a McDonald’s sign… And end up in line behind a couple in their mid-30s (I refrain from naming a nationality, but it rhymed with Camerican) who are screaming at the top of their lungs in an attempt to make their order understood to a unilingual German girl behind the counter. They are getting more frustrated, the young girl is about to cry. The woman, in true douchebag fashion, asks the poor employee, at full volume, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?” Which is where I stepped in. My first instinct would have been to inflict critical wounds through the forceful introduction of tourist skull to counter, but, curiously, I stepped in and calmly translated (yes, I speak German). The couple looked surprised, the employee looked at me as if I were like unto the Second Coming. The couple went away grumbling, I got a big smile and some free fries from an appreciative fraulein. So, next time any of you out there feel superior to someone because you speak the Queen’s English, remember just how many languages it is stolen from, and how many great works were written in other languages. Calm the fuck down, and try to understand – believe me, you may not enjoy the fries, but the smile makes it worthwhile.
culture, International News, Lighter Things, Lying douchebags, media, religion, Self-righteous asshole, Skepticism

Baba… Oh, Really?*

Interesting story from India in which a well-known skeptic, Sanal Edamaruku, responded to the outlandish claims of a self-proclaimed guru or baba (holy man) who, it was said, could kill a man using only his eerie mystical powers.  Mr. Edamaruku simply challenged the guru to go ahead and kill him right then and there, on television. To the surprise of no-one with a nickel’s worth of sense, Edamuruku remains alive and kicking, and Pandit Surender Sharma, the outed ‘guru’, goes home without a cookie. I must admit to loving the description of the events that occurred, live, on a talk show:

Mr Edamaruku had been invited to the same talk show as head of the Indian Rationalists’ Association — the country’s self-appointed sceptic-in-chief. At first the holy man, Pandit Surender Sharma, was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to perform a series of rituals designed to kill Mr Edamaruku live on television. Millions tuned in as the channel cancelled scheduled programming to continue broadcasting the showdown, which can still be viewed on YouTube.

First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic’s hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man.

Below is Part One of the ‘attempted murder’… the video is in Hindi, but it’s certainly easy to catch the drift – I recommend watching the videos in their entirety, or availing yourself of one of the ‘condensed’ versions:

All credit, honor and respect to Mr. Edamaruku and the Indian Rationalists’ Association. Well done.

*With apologies to The Who.

business, general silliness, Lighter Things, maritimes, Sites of Interest

Supervillainy – Only $1.4 Million Away

Giant Golf Ball Included

For only one low payment of $1.4 million, you can own a former NATO satellite station. This comes complete with “…backup power, a sterile work environment, top-notch security features, an exterior workshop and living quarters that include a kitchen, deck and four sleeping areas.”

This is a great buy because, as we all know, the most defining feature of a supervillain, besides his choice of matching costumes for his henchmen, is his lair – it is absolutely crucial in order to gain the respect you deserve, not to mention facilitating world domination. All you’d need is a bit of paint to make the satellite dish cover in the photo look like a skull, and Bob’s your uncle.

Property listing is here. I, for one, am going to start saving my pennies.  Excuse me while I go work on my hideously eeeevil laugh.

Mwoooohahahahaaa!