Guy no Logical Gibberish V


We’ve discussed the idea that the human inferiority complex could drive our belief that aliens from another planet are intelligent beyond our comprehension, but we’ve never discussed the basis of our comprehension. The natural instinct when discussing intellect is to gauge it by comparing it to our own. We could achieve some level of comparative analysis by giving the aliens an I.Q. test, but we might consider that an unfair standard by which to judge someone or something from another planet, depending on the test. Another definition of intelligence might be the ability of a being to harness their surroundings to use them for a designed purpose. An example of this might be when humans use every natural and manmade element at their disposal to create a product. When an alien aircraft lands on earth will the product that transports them be born of greater intelligence or just different intelligence, based on different elements from their home planet?  

Abbot and Costello vs. The Alien Amazons

Are individual, modern comedians funnier than the comedians of, say, the 1930’s? Or are they just different? When we watch Abbot and Costello today, we probably don’t find them as hilarious as we once did. A current teen, who has an altogether different frame of reference, might not even find them humorous. Some comedy is timeless, such as the Who’s on First? routine, but Abbot and Costello had a different frame of reference, a different base, and a different mainframe from which they operated.

When a radically new comedian, such as a George Carlin, a Andy Kaufman, or a Jerry Seinfeld take the stage, they’re so different initially that we consider them brilliant and ingenious. Are they that brilliant and ingenious, or do they just change (sometimes radically) the landscape and language of comedy?

Is a Jimmy Fallon that much funnier than Jack Benny was, or is the comedy of a Jimmy Fallon more of a product of a different era that Jack Benny helped define in some ways? If we were able to flip them around on the timeline, and Jack Benny was everything the modern Jimmy Fallon is, would we regard Fallon as funnier than Benny? This switch would have to incorporate the time and place elements of comedy, the influences that led Fallon to the stage, and all of the prior comedians who changed the face of comedy prior to Fallon. If we incorporated all that into a more modern Jack Benny, would we regard him as funnier than a 1960’s Jimmy Fallon?

When the aliens touchdown on our planet, will they be superior intellects, or will their knowledge be so different that we don’t know how to comprehend their intellect? Will they be carbon-based, as we are, or will they be silicon-based, as some science fiction films theorize? Some scientists deem that impossible, as a Scientific American piece suggests that “silicon oxidizes, and it cannot support life.” What if the aliens introduced us to their line of alien products, our intrigue would initially lead us to believe that they’re intelligent beyond our comprehension, but what if their home planet operated from an entirely different periodic table. We assume that all life, comes from a shared mainframe, and when we find out that’s not the case, it will shock us, and lead us to marvel at whatever they do outside human comprehension. When, and if, we find out our assumption that all life operates from a shared premise was incorrect, we’ll be shocked into believing that they’re better and superior, when it could be as simple as just being different.

***

If you’ve read as many interviews with musicians as I have, you’ve run across the one-more-song phenomenon. I’ve read numerous musicians say they sweat blood and tears to compile enough songs to complete an album, only to have some record executive say, “It’s great and all that, but there’s something missing. We need an oomph song to put it over the top. Do you have one more song in you? We want another song to help unify the album thematically. Put simply, we want a hit.”

The musicians greet this directive with resentment and disdain, as they regard the exec’s request as flippant, as if it’s so easy to just write another song, and a hit song at that. The idea that the record exec would approach the main songwriter in such a flippant manner builds resentment between the two, until the songwriter approaches the other musicians and the producer with the request, “It looks like we need to go back to write another song,” in tones that mimic and mock the record exec. “We need a hit, so let’s go back to the studio and write a hit, because we obviously didn’t do that the first time out.” If you’ve read as many interviews as I have, you know that this musician eventually reconvenes with the other players in the studio, and they resentfully write “another song to appease the masters of their universe” and they haphazardly, and almost accidentally, create a song that ends up defining their career.

The conditions of the creation of this throwaway song are such that the artists involved often end up despising it throughout their career. Almost every musician wants the deeper cuts they spent decades compiling to define them and their brand, yet every audience member wants to hear “the hit” that the band spent three days writing, composing, and singing. The song has no meaning to them, yet they’ll spend the next twenty years playing it in concert so the audience will feel like they got their money’s worth. 

I’ve read about this happening so often that I think there’s something to it. It can be as simple as the difference between writing a complicated song about the fall of the Roman Empire and a simple ditty they write about their walk to Burger King. For some reason the Burger King piece hits, and their artistic dissertation on the Fall of Rome falls by the wayside. I don’t think it’s breaking news that most silly, little ditties about love and rocking every day and partying every night sell well and the important pieces usually do not. It might have something to do with the fact that people work so hard in their daily lives that when they get off work, they don’t want to think anymore. It might have something to do with the messenger, as opposed to the message. “Who’s this guy, a rock star? I’m not going to take the views he develops between bong hits too seriously.” The difference might also have something to do with the artist, as they try so hard to write an important piece that they try too hard, and it shows.    

It’s so difficult to predict what will hit, and most of my favorite artists often say they don’t even try anymore. They probably started out trying to appeal to our interests, but they realized that the best course of action is to create the best art they can, and if the audience loves it that’s gravy. When it happens with a song, story, etc., that didn’t require any effort on their part, the artist can feel the frustration in their answer. The complicated, brilliant works required them to jump through all the hoops of creative expression, and it was as difficult for them to be covert as it is to be overt at times, so they seeded and spruced their creation through the gestation cycle, until they decided it was ready to enter the birth canal. Pffft. Nothing. Then they wrote that little ditty about something interesting that happened to them on a walk to the local Burger King, and everyone went crazy. Writing the former was hard, as the perspective changed six different times, and the artist went through as many as twenty-five edits before they finally reach some form of satisfaction. When they wrote the Burger King ditty, they did it in a day, and they didn’t care about it as much. They’re all their babies, of course, but the artist works so hard on some of their material that they find it depressing when no one recognizes them for how important, intelligent, and well-informed they are. What does any of this mean? No one knows, and fewer care. As I wrote, it might have something to do with an artist trying so hard to write important and meaningful art that their effort shows. It might also have something to do with the fact that these simple little ditties, filled with silly and stupid lines, are more pleasing to hear, and read, because all we really want in life is to hear/read is a number that has a danceable rhythm.  

Guy no Logical Gibberish IV


“Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fattest of them all.”

“Not you, ma lord, for you still have a rock-solid chin, and it’s normal for a man your age to have bosoms.”

I believed him. I saw that picture I took ten years ago, and I believed my mirror when he told me that not much has changed since. Then the hair stylist spun me around to face a brand new mirror and a brand new form of reality.

“Hey, who’s the beer guzzling, Cheeto lover doing the Jabba the Hut impersonation?” The stylist pretended she didn’t hear what I said. I couldn’t tell if her delicate response was a result of her dealings with the mirror phenomenon, or if she didn’t know what to say. Whatever the case with her was, she found that the best response was to say nothing. Don’t add to the joke, don’t sympathize. Say nothing. 

The little, square sunglass mirrors in department stores don’t tell us anything either. I used to think the mirrors were strategically small due to the limited space their manufacturer’s rented in department stores. If you think they want to display as many sunglasses as they can on the spinning rack, that’s what I used to think. The more I look into those mirrors, the more I think their manufacturers designed them to help us avoid seeing our double chins and everything else that a pair of sunglasses cannot fix.    

***

Waste drives me batty. I’m not just talking about the more customary concerns we have about the amount of food we waste, or the amount of water we use. I’m talking about little things too. I’m talking about an obsessive quality that focuses on doing things like hanging your coat in a closet in the dark, to save electricity. I’m talking about finding something I love (as opposed to need) in a department store and putting it back to save money. My rule is if I still want it two days later money, and I think it’s worth the drive back to the department store I purchase it. I’m also talking about cleaning my plate, no matter how full I am, because I won’t waste food. Most of my obsessions, save for the latter, are quite healthy, but they also evolve some admitted obsessive traits. If I drink a bottle of water, for example, and someone else throws it away with some remnants of water sitting at the bottom, I might think about that amount of water for hours, sometime days.

“Why don’t you drink that?” I asked a friend who was prepared to throw his bottle away with remnants of water at the bottom.

“Because I don’t want it.”

“So, you’re just going to throw that bottle away with perfectly good water sitting at the bottom?”

“Yes, yes I am,” they said before throwing it away.

***

Friends of mine who watched Buggs Bunny as often as I did know that I’ve been ripping that show off for decades. Those who haven’t find me somewhat, sort of funny in a peculiar way. 

Those of us who have watched at least 4,000 monster movies know that if we have the correct worldview, savage monsters will not attack us. We also know that when it’s not convenient for the plot, they won’t attack.

When aliens attack, I suggest that we try using bullets and any other technological artillery available to us on them. Our leaders might try to achieving some sort of peace accord with them, and our scientists might suggest a methodical approach based on reason. If the aliens are as intellectually superior as sci-fi movies suggest, however, the nature of beings suggest that they evolved into intellectual beings at the expense of their physical strength. If that’s the case, we should introduce them to brute force to see how they react. We can be sure that most of our moviegoers, and other creative minds, will insist that bullets won’t work, but what if they do? What if, in our exhaustive search for their vulnerabilities, we find that they’re just as susceptible to bullets, and all of the technical artillery, as we are. Would we pursue that? We might in the streets, as those battles would involve personal confrontations that lead to survival of the fittest, but would our world leaders follow suit? If they eventually did, and we achieved victory would it ring hollow for us? In the immediate aftermath we might celebrate our victory. We might hold parades for our heroes, and one of the heroes for a day might take to the mic and drop a Ghostbusters’ phrase on us “We came, we saw, we kicked their butts,” and we might repeat that glorious phrase for a day or two. After the glory of victory dulled, and we all returned to our daily routines, many of us will recharacterize our victory. The idea that we were able to devastate their inferior forces will leave many of us feeling disillusioned, and we will experience survivor’s guilt. They will recharacterize our victory as primal in nature, and they will suggest that, as a species, we haven’t progressed much since Genghis Khan. Some of us might even start campaigns that focus on asking the aliens to give us another chance, and the alien’s second planned assault will capitalize on that sentiment to divide and conquer us. 

*** 

The Machine is a sci-fi flick in which a team of scientists devise a mode of communication to help us remember. They do not have the technology to develop internal mechanisms that could be inserted biologically, and even if they did, they decide that they won’t pursue it, because that might create some form of compulsory participation. These scientists are wary of anything having to do with compulsory participation that could lead us to characterize their intentions as ominous. They simply want to develop a intangible means to help us communicate in a way that we never forget.

“This might not be such a good thing,” Paul says. Paul’s team of technological scientists are devoted to the communication platform of the program. Paul’s concern addresses the programs of the remember team.

“Why,” Paul asks rhetorically to deflect any suggestion that he is jealous of what the remember team is creating, “because the power to forget is almost as vital to mental health as the power to remember. Some psychologists say that if we weren’t able to forget our worst memories, or our worst thoughts, as we grow, it might stunt mental and emotional growth in such a way that we might all become basket cases forever trying to correct the past. 

“I saw a documentary that interviewed people with a memory syndrome that is the opposite of amnesia and other forms of memory disorders listed. It’s called hyperthymestic syndrome. Sufferers suggest that they remember everything that ever happened to them so well that they relive them in real-time with real-time and acute emotion. Some of them are miserable, and some of them are basket cases because of it,” Paul adds. “If our program allows people to never forget, I submit, they never will, and they will pay the cost for it in ways we cannot foresee.”

“Perhaps, we shouldn’t have bad thoughts then, Paul,” the lead scientist proposes. “Perhaps the collective can teach other people not to have bad thoughts.”

Taken aback Paul says, “With all due respect sir, I don’t think you recognize the totality of what you’re saying.”

“Let’s not forget the primary directive of [the machine],” the lead scientist deflects, mentioning its temporary name. “It’s communication. Communication in a way Alexander Graham Bell couldn’t even dream. The acute memory function of our [machine] is not its sole purpose, but I think everyone here, except Paul, will admit it will be a wonderful byproduct.”

Paul does not concede on the issue, but he agrees to shelve his concern as they devise a way to pitch it to corporate leaders. “I don’t like the name The Machine first of all,” Paul says. “We need to develop a name that suggests that The Machine can bring communities together. A grandmother can keep tabs on their grandkids without having to call their estranged children, long distance friendships can be maintained, and a number of other communications of the sort. We need to focus on that. We need to describe how people can use this utility to gather together in intangible ways that supersede the telephone.”

“I take it you have an idea for a name,” one of the other scientists says.

“I don’t,” Paul replies humbly facing down the challenge, “but I think the name should involve properties equivalent to a net or a web that brings people together.”

“A worldwide web?” the scientist asks. “That sounds a little ominous, like if you step into the web you’re trapped there.”

“I agree with Paul though. The idea of a worldwide gathering sounds compulsory,” a fourth scientist says, “it can lead one to think if they’re not interacting, they’re missing out, which has its own marketing possibilities, but it can lead, as you suggest, to a more ominous sound. How about we focus our presentation on the idea and power of two people interacting? You can interact with your grandmother in a way different than by phone. Interacting, interweb, or internet?”  

***

Why did one group of people separate from the primary group of their day and eventually start speaking an entirely different language? When one ancient tribe splintered off from the primary society of the time, their language began to deviate from the primary language. The idea that they developed different customs is not as remarkable, because they did so to adapt to the climate of their new land, but why did they develop a different language? The initial deviations were probably subtle at first, but some began to deviate so much, over the course of hundreds of years that they sounded nothing alike. English and German, for example, might have some similarities, but for the most part the sounds are so different, they almost sound like communication from different beasts. Then, we have the stark differences in sounds from the neighboring countries France and Germany. French sounds fluid and poetic, and German sounds anything but. This is to say nothing of various forms of communication heard in countries that speak Mandarin, Arabic, and any of the other guesstimated 6,909 + languages now spoken throughout the world. Were the initial transitions so gradual that the communicators found them unremarkable at first and thus not noteworthy, until they incrementally evolved into a different language?

As we spread our search our search for answers out, we eventually find ourselves back to some point of origin, or the initial, primary form of communication heard throughout the relatively small world of communicators. There are a number of theories regarding the when, where and how various languages started, including the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, and it’s Greco-Roman parallels, but at this point in history, linguists have no definitive, documented history of transitions people made to other languages and other forms of communication. The history of languages is well documented, of course, but in my research there are no definitive answers, and I must admit I’m almost as uninformed as I am curious about the transitions in language that led to the phenomenon of so many variations people around the world have for describe the nouns around them and the verbs of their every day life. 

***

If I ever achieved some level of notoriety as an artist, I would learn to pick my battles. In the beginning, I would probably view every battle as germane, as people questioned everything from my art to my integrity, but after a while I’m sure I would learn to disregard some pot shots. 

A popular artist has to deal with many battles, on many different fronts, on a daily basis. As we see in customer reviews on Amazon, and elsewhere, every piece of art is either too something or not something enough. Most artists would say, as Don Schlitz once wrote, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” Pick your battles, in other words. One battle I would draw up troops to fight is the ‘fake’ charge. When discussing artistic works, or artists, the ‘fake’ charge is often the last refuge of a critic who cannot express themselves well. Fake is such an arbitrary charge, and it’s subjective, but once it begins to gather moss, it’s so hard to defeat. Music aficionados probably hear this charge 100 different times about 100 different artists when discussing music. The contrarians often say fake and sellout in conjunction with one another, and most of just roll our eyes and walk away, knowing that the person actually knows little to nothing about music, but there are times when it sticks. A friend of mine said he thought the music bands Green Day and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) were fake. I never enjoyed the music of Green Day, but I did like the RHCP at one time. I probably considered them susceptible to the charge, but after that man dropped the ‘fake’ charge on RHCP, I couldn’t listen to them without thinking how artificial they were. I didn’t consider them fake over night, of course, but with every listen I became convinced that if they were more organic in the early years, but they lost it over time, in their efforts to prolong their career. Saying that an artist is fake is so arbitrary and impossible to prove, of course, as anyone could say as much about any artist who ever created more than one piece of art, and it’s almost as impossible to disprove. I don’t know the legality involved, but if an influential critic from a major magazine levelled such a charge against me, I would probably expend all resources to challenge that assessment. I know the man’s opinion would be protected by the First Amendment, and the critic could say that it was just his opinion, but I would take that fight to the stage, in the media, and anywhere and everywhere I could to defeat that critic’s charge in the court of public opinion. My motto for this fight would be, we just can’t let this go, because once it sticks we’re done.

Defeating the Aliens


“The aliens are not evil, but they are here to eat us,” our main character replies to the first question the talk show host asks him. This contradiction draws some laughter from the studio audience, as they don’t understand the difference. “Do we consider the lion evil? Of course we don’t. When lions eat cute, baby antelopes, they don’t do it to satisfy some perverse love of violence. Anyone who thinks lions are evil is assigning their thought process to the primal actions of the lion, or they might watch too many cartoons. I agree with those who say that the aliens are not evil in the same vein, and I disagree with my colleagues on this note, but I can only guess that the lion’s prey don’t care what their intent is. We know the only reason lions kill is that they’re hungry. I think the aliens who landed on our shoes are desperately hungry, and they know we have meat on our bones. They just want to eat it. If you consider that evil, that’s up to you, but my bet is that the baby antelope doesn’t suffer their fate without, at some point, mischaracterizing the lion’s motive.”

The reactions the various players have to the main character’s appearance on the talk show ends up saying more about them than it does the main character, or the aliens. When the scientists and reporters attempt to interact with the aliens, soon after the shock and awe of their arrival subsides, they do so to understand why they’re here. They want to befriend them, and we follow their lead on the matter, because we want learn everything we can about them, so we can learn from them.

The aliens know their arrival is the greatest thing that has ever happened to us, and they know how much it excites us. They operate in good faith, in the beginning, and they focus on public relations to build trust with us to hide their real motives. When one of the reporters, assigned to cover the aliens, disappears, the aliens’ approval ratings suffers a dive. The public begins to suspect that the main character might be right when he suggested that the aliens captured her, filleted her and refrigerated her to take her meat back to their home planet.

“They had their eyes on that reporter,” the main character suggests, “because she had right combination of muscle and fat. My friends and I have studied all of the people who have gone missing since their arrival, and we’ve found no discernible patterns, other than they’re not too fat or too muscular. We think the aliens are eating those of us of a certain body mass index that contains a quality mix of fat and muscle. We think there are so many humans on earth that they’ve developed a finicky preference. They prefer those of us with a little fat to add flavor to our meat, in the manner a little fat flavors a ribeye steak. 

“Their initial landing was awe-inspiring,” our main character says on another talk show, “and I was as affected as anyone else by their initial messages, and their attempts to help us advance our science, but the number of missing people that followed alarmed me so much that I began studying them. It’s them, I’m telling you, they’re the reason we now have so many missing people. They’re filleting them, and refrigerating them to feed the starving population on their home planet. I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to accept this idea. Our water supplies have not diminished, nor any of our other natural resources, and I don’t think they’re here to build friendly relations between the planets, as they suggest. There’s no evidence to suggest that they’re here to breed with us, or any of the other things we’ve guessed aliens might want over the decades. So, what’s their motive? I don’t care what their public relations team says, we should still ask why they came here in the first place? We’ve heard them say they had the technology to come here decades ago, so why now? Why are they here? I think they regard us as food, and I’ve been trying to get that message out before it’s too late. As we sort through all these complex arguments regarding their intentions and motives, we forget Occam’s Razor, “All other things being equal, we may assume the superiority of the demonstration that derives from fewer hypotheses.” Simply put, the best answer is often the simplest.”

Most moviemakers line “alien attack” movies with hints of the adversary’s high-minded intelligence. The aliens, in these productions, are required to be of an intelligence we cannot comprehend, and they are of unfathomable strength and power. Our production would state that evidence suggests that power and strength usually counter balance one another in most beings. Is the lion smarter than the human is? No, but that wouldn’t matter in a one on one conflict. Is the body builder smarter than the average person is? Most are not, because we all focus on one pursuit to the usual detriment of the other characteristic. Thus, the alien cannot be of superior, unfathomable intellect and superior strength and power. Not only is it a violation of what I consider the natural order of things, it’s not very interesting.

Yet, even productions that try to have it both ways, be they sci-fi novels, movies, or otherwise eventually begin to train their focus on one of these attributes. If they depict the aliens as the literary equivalent to the bloodthirsty lion is this nothing more than a slasher flick? If they focus on the superior intellect, do they do so to achieve a level of complication that might lead to more favorable critical reviews? Whatever the case is, we now require our moviemakers to provide subtle hints of alien intelligence. The more subtle the better, as that makes it creepier. The moviemaker, as with any storyteller, might be feeding us the entertainment we want, but I don’t think so.

I think the quality moviemaker modifies his material in such a way that it provides subtle hints of the surprising and unusual intelligence of the aliens. They spool out hints of the aliens’ intelligence in drips to further horrify and mystify us. They do this to mess with our mind in a way that a slasher flick doesn’t bother doing. They want to creep us out and scare us somewhere deep in our psychology.

In our production, the aliens have developed powers that we cannot comprehend, but as with any decades-long reliance on a power, it comes at a cost. To explain this theory, the main character says, “Imagine if we could emit super gamma rays from our eyes, in the manner these aliens do. It would be a superpower to be sure, but it might lead us to neglect the intelligence we might otherwise employ in tactical and militaristic conflict. We might rely on those powers so much that it could result in a deficit of our intellect. I submit that even though these aliens employ some war-like tactics, they’re as intelligent as a lion and not as smart as we are. I think we can defeat them with our intelligence.”  

Every alien/monster movie eventually also eventually turns into an allegory about our inability to accept outsiders. In our production, the aliens would use our compassionate approach to outsiders against us. They are intelligent enough to put together a seductive war-like plan, and in doing so, they purport to support a cause that most humans adore. They don’t have a cause, but they know that we’ll follow them to our own demise if they cater to our heart correctly.

The reporters and scientists in every alien/monster movie are always correct in the designs they create for how we should approach and handle our relations with aliens. What would happen if they operated from a faulty premise? Everyone who employs the scientific method to resolve a crisis, approaches the situation with a question, does background research and eventually reaches a hypothesis. At what point in the attempts to prove or disprove that hypothesis, do we troubleshoot and find out if we approached the issue from a subjective or biased view? At what point, do we arrow back to the beginning on our algorithm and correct the question that led us to an incorrect conclusion? 

In our production, the reporters and scientists are operating from a flawed premise they develop as a result of their own biases and subjective viewpoints. The aliens enjoy that premise and begin building upon that narrative to sell it to all earthlings. These useful idiots inadvertently aid the aliens’ public relations campaign to soften us up. They discover, too late, that the less worldly main character’s simple truth that while the aliens are not as evil as their detractors suggest, they’re also not hyper-intelligent as the reporters and scientists theorized. The idea that they just want to eat us bears out, and we realize that if we all agreed to these facts earlier, we could’ve saved a lot more people. We all had a difficult time agreeing to the idea that we were of superior intellect, but once we did, we used it to defeat them. We used our intellect to nullify their superior force. We were elated with the victory, of course, but once life returned to normal, there was that sinking feeling that if we just ignored the reporters, the scientists, and all of the people who believed we should be more accepting of the aliens sooner, we probably wouldn’t have been victims of the worldwide slaughter that ensued. If we listened to the main character, and all of the people who supported his view, and we followed his simple strategy for attack, we could’ve saved a lot more lives.