Thursday, April 20, 2006

Defending Western Civilization

In "The Camp of the Saints" by Jean Raspail, Western Civilization is destroyed by an invasion. Not by aliens, although the invaders were alien in every way. Not by military might, although the invaders resembled an army in many ways. Not by deadly disease, although the invaders had much in common with the plague. No, Western Civilization is destroyed in Raspail's harrowing book by teeming hordes of Hindu have-nots, an alien species of designated inferiors who take their revenge on the haves, the arrogant, educated and refined designated superiors of the world.

The plot is simple. It begins at a ship breaking yard where wretched laborers without hope or future find inspiration in the appearance of a charismatic mutant without arms or legs but possessed of a spirit that foments rebellion. As word spreads of this "least of the least," a sympathetic power reaches critical mass. The teeming hordes board a fleet of derelict ships, packing them with the filth of humanity and the simmering resentment and bitter anger that binds them together and drives them on a deadly quest.

The ships set sail, a flotilla of fetid wretches that blackmails "civilized" governments with the pity they prompt among the liberal, "humanitarian" types and the reflexive horror of conservative, "pragmatists" both seeking the ways and means of passing on this plague on to the next potential port of call. As the fleet enters the Indian Ocean, the Pope reminds the "faithful" that "the meek shall inherit the earth." Arabian governments send helicopters with food and water while "steering" the raft of riffraff south and east. Australia, in a bold preemptive move threatens military action if the ships come anywhere near its territorial waters. The "family of nations" condemns this posture while keeping its fingers crossed. The ships move steadily south and make their way around the tip of Africa, receiving "offerings of humanitarian aid" as ransoms of "reason." The Americas recoil with the thought of receiving thousands of refugees and dispatch hospital ships with Naval "escorts." But no one can predict the destination of these desperate and determined devils.

As the fleet turns into the Mediterranean Sea, the French are struck by a paralyzing "social conscience," unwilling to defend themselves from a pacifistic, yet potentially brutal, invasion. To make a longer, but fascinating story shorter, France is overrun, beginning with the beaching of the wretched on the Riviera. The teeming hordes take their revenge on the wealth of the Western World, destroying every vestige of civilization and setting the stage for a modern Dark Age. In the triumph of altruism and inevitability, Europe and America are dragged into the rest of the world's squalor and wretchedness.

The Camp of the Saints has been denounced as a "racist" book by reviewers who subscribe to the noxious double standard to which non-white and anti-white racism are inconceivable, or impossible, or excusable, or laudable...so their moral judgments are worthless and sickening. In fact, Raspail has written an allegory in which the actors and cultures are symbolic. Western life is depicted as science, industry, democracy--the real sources of its wealth and power--and culture, the fruits of our civilized domination of the world. The enemies of the Western World are white, non-white, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist, but embodied by the symbolic Hindu ship breakers, arguably the most wretched of the have-nots. He presents them with a leader in the form of the "Beast," a powerful Christian symbol of nihilism and damnation. Raspail never preaches his tale as a "lesson" with reasons why this invasion is happening. He poses many possible explanations along the way and leaves us to pick the one that resonates.

One is left exhausted and shocked by this book. No one who reads it will fail to substitute raving, radical, ruthless Islamic terrorists for the Hindu ship breakers. This fact brings a book written in the early 1970s right up to date. Read it at your own risk and pray you are gone before the teeming hordes mount their reclamation of the earth.

The stickler

Monday, April 03, 2006

WormTown Rich and the ARTexchange

Loving brushstrokes to all you artistes out there.

I am convinced no one is reading this except the Action Geek, who has no choice since he receives instant e-mails of every Stickler post to this blog. Of course, it is possible that there has been a tumultuous response to The Stickler Posts and they are all being sent to the Action Geer who has chosen to withold any sense of acclaim that might be due. But, I doubt this scenario. It is likely I am, as they say, pissing in the wind. Nevermind.

Behold the lowly art trading card

Art trading cards are 2.5" x 3.5" miniworks created for trading between artists. Inspired by the sports trading card, a Swiss artist introduced the art trading card in the mid-1960s. Since then it has been an open secret among artists of all genres and even taken the craft world (rubber stampers) by storm. Yet, the art trading card still has a relatively low profile outside of the starving artist community. Of course, the Internet has spurred awareness and participation in this unique exchange medium, but my take is the artist trading card, despite being a genuine original work of art, gets virtually no respect.

Perhaps ATCs, (accepted acronym) are considered "amateur" since they are generally traded not sold. Or, maybe they get dissed for being tiny since there is a bigoted view that art must be larger than, say, 16" x 20" to be considered "serious." It is also possible that ATCs are not taken seriously because artists trade and collect them like kids with baseball cards. They store them in binders with plastic protective pockets and they trade in organized swap meets or subscription swaps on the 'Net that require the submission of 16 to a central administrator who divvies them up and returns 16 different cards from other ATC artists. Very cool and fascinating since you never know what you will get.

As a recent ATC aficianado, I was struck by the commercial novelty of an ATC vending machine that dispenses ATCs for, say, a buck each. Most people will blow a buck on a chance. Just look at the lottery lovers out there. Investing a dollar in an art card doesn't hold the possiblity of winning big money, but, who knows, that miniature original might someday sell for thousands at a Sothebys Auction. It could happen should the starving artist catch on with the trendy art mavens out there.

Interested in ATCs? Google "art trading cards" and check this out for yourself.

The Stickler

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Monkey in the Middle

Marat Guelman owns an art gallery in Moscow that frequently provokes and embarrasses government officials, bureaucrats and enforcers of correctspeak. He recently put up a show of Illya Chichkan's work to uphold his upspoken principle of offending as many people as possible.

Entitled "PsychoDarwinists," the exhibit consisted of large paintings of monkeys wearing Russian, American and Palestinian military uniforms. Chichkan explained his theme by pointing out that evolution is not the result of natural selection but rather a by-product of lust and hunger for power.

During the opening for the show, specially selected monkeys and chimps bounded through the crowd snatching tasty hors d'oeurves from the attendees and spilling drinks. Rented from street vendors and photographers, the simians seemed right at home with the human primates.

While not presented with malice of any type, the exhibit did catch the eye of at least one sensitive government. The Palestinian embassy sent Guelman a letter objecting to Chichkan's "highly unethical attitude toward Yasser Arafat, the late president of the Palestinian National Authority, in a portrait of an ape dressend in uniform and checkered kaffiyeh.

Guelman kept his cool. He pointed out that Chichkan had not depicted the grizzled Palestinian, but a monkey named Mikki. He offered to soothe any hurt feelings by putting a sign under the painting: "This is not a portrait of Arafat. It is a portrait of a monkey."

The embassy gave no response to the offer. Russian and American interests were apparently unfazed by the portraits, much to the disappointment of Guelman. "Either they have no respect for their national uniforms or they misunderstood Chichkan's work. I am offended by no response."

But who speaks for the simians?

The Stickler

Monday, March 13, 2006

The 5-second Rule

Say you drop a chunk of chocolate chip from your cookie. How long does it take bacteria and germs to hop on it from the time it hits the floor?

In the absence of any scientific information, I used to go by the "5-second rule" that states you have 5 seconds to pick up the fallen crumb. After that, the creeps start to invade your wayward morsel. Knowing that the only functional purpose of my "rule" was to provide a sense of safety and propriety when I snatched back the broken piece of cookie, I recently set out on a search of the Internet to find the truth.

And the truth is, I cannot find any authoritative information on how long it takes for germs and bacteria to invade a target of opportunity. But I can't believe this hasn't been studied. There are all sorts of fascinating questions prompted by the issue: (1) Does the bit of food have to fall on top of the germs or can they move quickly and contaminate it. (2) If so, how fast and how far can germs move in response to a nutritious windfall? (3) Does this imply thinking or volition on the part of the germs or do they have some sort of autonomous sensor array dedicated to locating food? (4) Let's say germs do invade the morsel fairly quickly. In what numbers? (5) Does the risk increase with time?

This weekend, I observed the nearly instantaneous migration of water to a paper towel and wondered if this is a potential model for germ movement. But then I realized it was the absorption of the fibers in the towel that were "taking up" the water molecules. The paper towel was active, not the water. So there goes another theory.

I'd like some help with this. If anyone is reading this blog and has knowledge of this subject, please contact me.

Thanks
The Stickler

Monday, March 06, 2006

What if the quantum crowd is right?

If the quantum mechanics theorists are right, it changes everything. For instance, if we take quantum mechanics seriously, we cannot think that objects have ever a definite position. They have a positions only when they interact with something else. And even in this case, they are in that position only with respect to that "something else": they are still without position with respect to the rest of the world.

Yikes! That means Newton and even Copernicus had it wrong, at least at the nano level and below. Right now, not too many people take quantum physics seriously. They explain it away by saying it applies only to atoms." But, you have to say, if it applies to atoms and all mater is made of atoms, well does this baby scale? And the fact is that the vast majority of mathematics geniuses say quantum mechanics is accurate. Do you hear that? It computes. It all adds up. Could that possibly mean its a fundamental fact of physical science? And, if it is, what does that mean in terms of how we interact with the physical world. Oh, how about other dimensions? The electrons that sometimes disappear are sad by the quantum guys to be in another dimension. Does that provoke some thought, bucky? It does with me.

Here's something else to ponder: Einstein's Theory of Relativity. It has to do with what, precisely, is right now. If we say, right now in reference to what we see up in the night sky--stars and stuff, well, it is complete nonsense. That light is millions of years old! There is no right now elsewhere in the universe. So, what the hell, we keep saying "right now," even though a bit of think time will throw that concept out the window. I guess we can do the same thing with quantum mechanics, right?

The thing about that is that it is really "small minded." And I'm not referring the small stuff of the quantum world. I'm thinking of our insistence on using the rules and regulations of our very limited, infinitesimally and insignificant existence to describe things universal. So, when the math guys agree on quantum calculations, are they based on this "small thinking?" Probably not, but they are quite possibly limited by the physical barriers to our comprehension.

So I don't blame the physicists and the mathematicians. I blame us--the questioning, wondering, small-minded ordinary folk who expect the brilliant scientists to know what the world is like and explain it to us. So they try. And, being proud of their genius status, they don't remind us often enough that it just might all be a crock of shit.

The Stickler

200 channels and nothing on

While the Emmys and Oscars hubristically celebrate their genius, their audiences are left scratching their unstimulated heads. There is precious little worth watching. Repetitive genres (cop, lawyer, hospital, sit-com, re-make, action SFX, leftist propaganda) have all but wrung the creativity out of their vehicles. And PBS only broadcasts interesting material when it's fundraising, during which it interrupts frequently for fervent shilling, ruining any viewer enjoyment.

Cable television promised to solve the problem with specialized programming, in effect a channel for every interest. It was a laudable, but naive, proposition. It turns out the so-called specialized channels are also quite prone to piling on when the next hot gimmick catches on. There was the Trading Spaces phenom and the "Extreme" take on any theme. And, of course, the forensic crime shows. There are the top-10, the most, the least, the best and the worst "list" type shows and, of course, the "reality" mash-ups that lack even a hint of voyeur titillation. That's about it.

So where are the arts and culture in all of this? Pretty much where they have always been--shoved in the dusty corners of cable, broadcast and film, if you can find them at all.

Where are the concert specials? Non-existent probably due to the objection of touring groups who want fans to buy exorbitantly priced tickets to stadium shows where the sound is awful and the seating worse.

Where are the variety shows? We're stuck with American Idol, a gussied up talent show, rather than a showcase of true artistry.

What about the arts? The visual arts are banished from television as boring and film only wants the tortured souls of the art world. Orchestral and chamber music is pretty much Sunday morning filler. Just ask any major symphony about the interest in broadcasting performances. Once upon a time, you could get a pop music fix by watching music videos, but today you have to sort through pouty pubescents bemoaning their sweet sixteen miseries or rap-wanna-bees belting out their exploitation, drug and violence dreams. If you stick with it, you will notice that the remaining videos appear to be produced for the soft porn industry.

Personally, I was thrilled when BET started its jazz channel, but not any more. What passes for jazz is amazing--soul, do-wop, r&b oldies and "smooth" jazz pablum. Even when you find some choice classic film of the jazz greats, it's interrupted so frequently by infomercials that they forced to cut off performances in mid-solo. That's not jazz, but greed.

So cable and film celebrate and the rest of us wonder what could have been. But, I have a solution. Turn off the TV. Cancel the cable contract. Forget about $10 movie tickets and $5 popcorn. Instead, read a good book. Write a blog. Take up drawing and watercolor painting. Take a class at the art museum. Try dancing lessons. Get into digital photography and Photoshop retouching. Buy a music instrument, take lessons and play to music-minus-one CDs. In other words, get creative. Hey, pick up that dusty camcorder and make your own damn movie.

The Stickler

Friday, February 24, 2006

Cobwebs of the mind

I just realized I clicked on the Recycle Bin instead of my e-mail and spent the last ten minutes reading stuff I intended to trash. So that's where I'm coming from today.

So I'll just quote Albert Einstein to bask in a bit of reflected brilliance:

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."--Albert Einstein

How do you view the world? Some see the world as a battlefield, where good and evil are pitted against each other and the forces of light battle the forces of darkness. Others see the world as a proving ground or series of tests, a type of moral gauntlet to teach you lessons and make you a better person, eventually admitting you to nirvana. Still others will tell you they see the world as a horrible trap or cage from which the goal is escape to a higher, transcendent state of being. Then there is the machine or scientific view that the world is a collection of inanimate objects that interact in predictable ways based on natural laws that dictate a discontinuity between mind and matter, the subjective and the objective and ultimately between science and religion.

There are many world views, perhaps as many as there are distinct cultures on planet earth. Western Civilization can be divided by world views: First was the Classical Age of Gods and Oracles, then there was the Medieval Age of Faith and Superstition and, finally, we have our Modern Age, the so-called Age of Reason and Science.

World views exist to explain the mysteries of life and how we interact with a seemingly disinterested, unfeeling "Regulator" who governs nature and being. Very recently, the new field of quantum physics has proposed new principles governing life, the universe and everything else.

For example, there is a very smart guy by the name of Seth Lloyd, an MIT professor by trade, quantum mechanic and author of the book, "Programming the Universe." His world view is that of a cosmic computer. "If I have one new message to convey in my book, it is that the universe is a system where the very specific details and structures in it are created when quantum (sub-nano) bits choose one path out of multiple possibilities and that this process is identical to quantum computation." He tells his kids the universe is made of tiny bits, not chunks of stuff, but chunks of information--ones and zeros. When his kids correct him and say, "No Daddy, everything is made of atoms, except for light." he tells them, "Yes, but those atoms are also information. You can think of atoms as carrying bits of information and you can think of bits of information as carrying atoms. You can't separate the two."

Whew! All this makes my brain hurt. But it is all worth pondering. Fascinating, in fact. Want to know more about this quantum stuff? Check out your Cable TV listings for a program called "What the Bleep Do We Know?" It's a fascinating combination of movie and documentary. Entertaining and stimulating. Thought-provoking and disturbing. It will clear out those cobwebs!

The Stickler

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Go with your gut

"Go with your gut!" That's the advice many of us receive when we are perplexed over a decision. It turns out this familiar admonishment is rooted in physical and neurological fact. You may think with your brain, but you may well make decisions with your gut--in other words, your bowel. I'm referring to the "enteric nervous system," known to anatomists and psychologists alike as "the second brain." The Enteric Nervous System is now getting the attention it deserves in the study of all sorts of vexing medical/psychological conditions such as epilepsy, nervous ulcers and depression.

The Vagus Nerve
No, that's not "vegas" in the gambling sense, but the name of the longest nerve in the body. Vagus means wandering in Latin and that is precisely what the Vagus Nerve does in the body. It's about two feet long, starts in the brainstem, goes down the neck (next to the jugular vein) and into the abdomen. Along the way, it affects the vocal chords, acid content in the stomach, frequency and rhythm of the heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing rate of the lungs, sweating and operation of the bowels. In the brain, it connects to areas believed to be responsible for seizures, mood, appetite, memory and anxiety. Strangely enough, the Vagus Nerve does not have many pain transmitters, a quality that may make it the miracle highway for many sufferers of depression, eating disorders, nervous conditions and even Alzheimer's disease.

The Vagus Nerve is the connection between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system (ENS). There are, at least, 30 chemicals that transmit instructions in the brain. All of these chemicals are present in the enteric network as well. There is ample evidence that the ENS is not just a collection of relays, receptors and transmitters, but a complex integrated brain in its own right.

The implications of the ENS for diagnostic and therapeutic applications are strong. For example, the brain and the ENS are subject to lesions found in Parkinson's Disease and thought to be identified with Alzeimer's disease. It is conceivable that Alzheimer's disease, so difficult to diagnose in the absence of autopsy data, may some day be routinely identified by rectal biopsy. Hence, the statement that one's bowel is as important as one's brain. The Vagus Nerve is the highway between the abdomen and bowels and the brain. And, the reason we say, intuitively, go with your gut feeling.

VNS Therapy
This is what gets me excited, as a person who has struggled with depression for some twenty years. Researchers have found that a small electrical stimulation of the Vagus Nerve affects mood. They discovered this when using electrical stimulation of the Vagus Nerve to treat epilepsy. Some of the patients, who had suffered from depression, were remarkably improved. After numerous studies, the FDA has approved VNS therapy for the treatment of depression. It involves the implantation of a battery powered Pulse Generator and lead to the Vagus Nerve. It delivers a small electrical charge intermittently on a 24/7 basis for ten years or more.

The FDA agrees the therapy works. Most insurance companies, however, will not cover the implantation procedure and associated costs of VNS therapy. A petition drive is underway to convince health insurers of the efficacy of VNS therapy. For more information, go to: http://www.vagusnervestimulator.com.

There is also a book on the subject: "Out of the Black Hole." That's where I got the idea for this post.

The Stickler

Go with your gut

"Go with your gut!" That's the advice many of us receive when we are perplexed over a decision. It turns out this familiar admonishment is rooted in physical and neurological fact. You may think with your brain, but you may well make decisions with your gut--in other words, your bowel. I'm referring to the "enteric nervous system," known to anatomists and psychologists alike as "the second brain." The Enteric Nervous System is now getting the attention it deserves in the study of all sorts of vexing medical/psychological conditions such as epilepsy, nervous ulcers and depression.

The Vagus Nerve
No, that's not "vegas" in the gambling sense, but the name of the longest nerve in the body. Vagus means wandering in Latin and that is precisely what the Vagus Nerve does in the body. It's about two feet long, starts in the brainstem, goes down the neck (next to the jugular vein) and into the abdomen. Along the way, it affects the vocal chords, acid content in the stomach, frequency and rhythm of the heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing rate of the lungs, sweating and operation of the bowels. In the brain, it connects to areas believed to be responsible for seizures, mood, appetite, memory and anxiety. Strangely enough, the Vagus Nerve does not have many pain transmitters, a quality that may make it the miracle highway for many sufferers of depression, eating disorders, nervous conditions and even Alzheimer's disease.

The Vagus Nerve is the connection between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system (ENS). There are, at least, 30 chemicals that transmit instructions in the brain. All of these chemicals are present in the enteric network as well. There is ample evidence that the ENS is not just a collection of relays, receptors and transmitters, but a complex integrated brain in its own right.

The implications of the ENS for diagnostic and therapeutic applications are strong. For example, the brain and the ENS are subject to lesions found in Parkinson's Disease and thought to be identified with Alzeimer's disease. It is conceivable that Alzheimer's disease, so difficult to diagnose in the absence of autopsy data, may some day be routinely identified by rectal biopsy. Hence, the statement that one's bowel is as important as one's brain. The Vagus Nerve is the highway between the abdomen and bowels and the brain. And, the reason we say, intuitively, go with your gut feeling.

VNS Therapy
This is what gets me excited, as a person who has struggled with depression for some twenty years. Researchers have found that a small electrical stimulation of the Vagus Nerve affects mood. They discovered this when using electrical stimulation of the Vagus Nerve to treat epilepsy. Some of the patients, who had suffered from depression, were remarkably improved. After numerous studies, the FDA has approved VNS therapy for the treatment of depression. It involves the implantation of a battery powered Pulse Generator and lead to the Vagus Nerve. It delivers a small electrical charge intermittently on a 24/7 basis for ten years or more.

The FDA agrees the therapy works. Most insurance companies, however, will not cover the implantation procedure and associated costs of VNS therapy. A petition drive is underway to convince health insurers of the efficacy of VNS therapy. For more information, go to: http://www.vagusnervestimulator.com.

There is also a book on the subject: "Out of the Black Hole." That's where I got the idea for this post.

The Stickler