Breaking the Kyklos, part 1

People who are past a certain age tend to see everything around them more critically, leading to the (in)famous old age adage “This is not the way things were done in my time”, usually dismissed by claiming people are most likely to be defining any “Golden Age” when they actually reach  “the age in which they need to get golden teeth”.

However, looking at the society we live in, there are more and more indications that, after a few decades – or even centuries – of constant technical and material progress, things on the part of our planet we like to call “civilized” have been stagnating. Some places have even started to slip backwards.
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Not “islamists”, just human scum

A lot is being said about the Charlie Hebdo case, but I’d like to highlight a side comment by Jon Stewart: “Our goal tonight is not to make sense of this, because there is no sense to be made of this,” he said. “Our goal, as it is always, is to keep going.”

The problem with many commentators is that they are trying to make sense of this event. But that’s impossible. It was a mindless act of two lunatics and, as a friend said, if Andreas Breevik was never referred to as “Norwegianist” or “Christianist”, then the real offense to the Islamic world is not publishing caricatures of the Prophet, but calling the Kouachi brothers “islamist” while, in truth, they betrayed their faith and everything their Prophet spoke for.
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Into the New Barbarism?

ape-suicideI recently stumbled upon a piece in The New Yorker, European Science’s Great Leap Backward. The fact that Europe has begun to prefer politics to data wasn’t really a surprise nor a revelation, but it did provide some additional overtones to the nagging feeling that I’ve had for some time.

The Great Leap Backward is demonstrated by a job that is no more – the position of a science adviser to the President of the European Commission is history. Apparently/It seems/it has been suggested that Anne Glover, the last person to hold the title, stepped on too many Green toes. What were her sins?

The complaint against Glover was simple: when providing scientific advice to the commission on a range of issues, from nanotechnology to G.M.O.s, she invoked data rather than rely on politics or whim. Last year, at a conference in Scotland, for example, she said that there was “not a single piece of scientific evidence” to support critics’ claims that food produced from G.M.O.s was less safe than food grown in any other way.

(emphasis by Yours Truly)

Add the anti-vaccination movement, the “chemtrails community” and the increased interest in and practice of alternative medicine to the above mentioned issues and a trend emerges. One which will surely thrive in a Europe without a scientific adviser.

Don’t believe me? A few years ago the management of the University of Zagreb (sic!) hired an “bioenergy expert” to check their premises prior to interior decoration. Further to the West, Canada had a possible creationist serving as the Federal Minister of Science for five years. Meanwhile, creationism is gaining territory across the American school system. There are probably myriads of equally or more astonishing examples in everybody’s neighbourhood.

So, are we as a species really so diversiform, with smart people pulling forward and the stupid pulling back, that the best solution really is to separate? As in, divided we stand, together we fall?

Georgia on my mind

Up until a month ago, for me, Georgia was just a small country glued to the southern slopes of Caucasus Mountains, moderately known, most notorious as the homeland of comrade ჯუღაშვილი (troll allert!) and the home of the Georgian Tea. Recently also known for the Russian invasion and taking away parts of territory, and that was, basically, it.

And then, through mysterious and even more chaotic ways of the Net, this came onto my screen and, consequently, into speakers:

You’ve probably seen it; it became one of the viral hits in October. And it had every reason for it: beautiful voices, beautiful appearance and, most of all, beautiful music.

So I started researching.

It turns out that Georgians can be proud of probably the oldest tradition of polyphonic singing on Earth. There are some specifics regarding the scale and frequency ratios that I won’t go into right now, but what turned out to be the consequence of all this was very rich and deep culture of music. As I clicked on through YouTube videos, I became enchanted by the sounds that will take you into the ancient past of civilization, and even before civilization, the Dawn of Time itself.

And then I stumbled on something else: Georgian modern music. Naturally, with such rich tradition, the present can’t fail, but what I found here left me paralysed in my chair. It was a recording from a gathering of a few friends, recorded either by a hand-held camera or a mobile phone. No amplifiers, no mixers. Just a guitar and a voice.

The name, ladies and gentlemen, is Salome Tetiashvili. Remember it.

As a friend said elsewhere, this should be the illustration next to the term “voice” in an encyclopaedia. As I said elsewhere, a voice that can tear down walls and that you simply wish to hear more of.

For some strange reason, while “Apareka” managed to become a hit with over a million visits, this one is still below 100k which I consider to be an injustice of historic proportions. So please click, sit down and listen some more. It’s worth it.

Hello world!

So, howdy y’all. This is the place where I will be publishing my ramblings urbi & orbi, whether at the delight or the horror of my faithful audience. A topic spectrum may be wide, but I have a tingling feeling it may converge to a particular area of human endeavours, but let’s not jump to conclusions just yet.

So, what will be discussed (or, more accurately, preached) here, in a very roughly, but not completely particular order:

Science Fiction. As a semi-professional writer (meaning, I occasionally get some money, but would need to investigate if the amount covers the bill for the electricity I used while typing) OF COURSE there is going to be science fiction here. But even more, as a fan, SF is a significant part of my thought life; at one local convention (or, rather, after it) I have been proclaimed the King of Geeks (not my doing, it was spontaneous, well, ok, no crowd involved, but it was sincere). So, expect the unexpected.

Education. Not only because I’m professionally a physics teacher, but also because I’m an education fundamentalist. Education is the most important thing in the world and all world problems can be solved by education. (And if a particular problem can’t, the only remaining solution is usually repression, so choose freely, but wisely.) I’m an active member of a small, but active teacher NGO with reputation. (Do you want to know more?)

Politics. Hell, yeah, baby! If you’re gonna run away from it, it will chase you down, rip you up, tear you apart, happily wave to the audience and make you ask for more. So may as well stop running and show it your ugly side, you know you have it. Hiding will only make it worse.

For the record, politics is not only elections, candidates, parties, corrupt politicians (although those can also be fun sometimes; hell, you’re paying them, may at least have fun with them…) As someone at the Loncon said (maybe even Ken McLeod, don’t remember), politics is when you want a speedbump installed in your street, but you want it in front of your neighbour’s house, not yours.

Games. We all like to play games. Only, some play them with people where victory points are usually laughs or tears, while some are more adult and like cardboard or computers as intermediaries. Well, I prefer the latter two. Strategy and role-playing are the preferred kind, but you never know, the night is still young. Also, as someone said, it usually turns out that the people who say that there is time for work and time for play, usually never have time for play (while people who oppose them usually need to get a life, me included, but there you have it…)

Music. Rock, classics, rock classics, classic rock. Maybe some New Age, ethno or other stuff, if I like it.

Cats. As a friend said, the purpose of humans on this planet is to serve, cuddle and feed our feline overlords. If I’m not too lazy, may share some photos from my household.

To be continued.