Monthly Archives: February 2014

DOOM PORN

apocolypse

So here goes: Hi. My name is Carl, and I’m a Doom Porn addict.

I think with that admission, I’m on the road to recovery. I hope so anyway.

Doom Porn. I love this term. Doom porn. I’m not quite sure where I first heard it, but I love it. I’ll say it again….slowly “Doooooom pooooorrrrrrn.”

Unlike regular porn, or maybe just like regular porn, doom porn takes many forms. The list is virtually endless. Second-hand smoke will give us cancer. Eating eggs causes heart attacks. GMOs will corrupt our DNA. Obama’s gonna take our guns. FEMA’s setting up concentration camps. The local police are militarizing. An uncontrollable flu pandemic is right around the corner. Space aliens are already here and just waiting for the right moment to enslave us – or worse. Incandescent light bulbs are causing ocean levels to rise and so on and so on.

Titillating, isn’t it?

Like any addiction, I was hooked almost immediately upon my initial exposure. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was, hooked from the “get-go.

The “get-go,” my first exposure to doom porn was in the fall of 1977. I was a freshman at the University of Kentucky. During an Astronomy 101 lecture, the professor, one Frank Clark, PhD., told a class room of pimply faced undergrads two things, neither of which have come to pass. First, he told us that if the entire volume of our little sphere called Earth (he showed a graphic to illustrate his point) was filled with crude oil, this, coupled with the then current (1977) world-wide rate of consumption, we would be out of oil and back to the dark ages by 2025. Well, thank God he was wrong. Really wrong. World-wide consumption has increased – by a lot – and we have more oil reserves now than we did 40 years ago. He was incorrect. Secondly, he pointed out, that primarily due to smog created by said oil consumption, sunlight would gradually be snuffed out and we would inevitably slide into an ice age. (I’ve written about this before in a previous post.) Our collective breath quickened and I felt my face flush. I loved it. I began mentally fondling myself

Not too long after this, again, as I’ve previously posted, it became apparent to all “great minds,” that the propellant in my Right Guard (do they still make that?) was going to strip away the ozone layer causing us all to die of malignant melanoma. Again, thank God that was wrong. These are but a few examples of a common form of Doom Porn I like to call ”Scientific” Doom-Porn.

polar bear

 

Another genre of doom-porn could be called Economic Doom Porn. While in college, we were warned that soon the Japanese would own everything, EVERYTHING, in the U.S.. Well. They don’t. Either shortly before or shortly after that, it was the Arabs who would enslave us all. Didn’t happen. Right now it’s the Chinese. Soon, I’m told, we’ll be speaking Mandarin. As aroused as I am, I’m gonna hold off on buying Rosetta Stone.

The biggest purveyors of smut such as this are unquestionably the politicians and those that want to believe them. From the left we get all the environmental doom porn. Since it seems a lot of academics are of the progressive ilk, they help pimp this erotica. The right has its preferred sort of vulgarity as well. The aforementioned Xenophobia, Fema camps, and the unstoppable emergence of the police state are three such examples. So whether from the political left or the political right doom porn is out there, I love it, and given the right circumstances, I can be easily aroused by it. That’s what Porn is supposed to do, right?

Just like regular porn, Doom-Porn makes lots of money for a few folks. In this case, millions, probably billions and billions of dollars have been made. For instance, tons of money has been made selling wind turbines, like the ones that malfunction and produce less electricity than they cost to build and maintain in the fields of Indiana, or the ones they’re removing from the hillsides of Europe. We’re all now forced to buy really expensive light bulbs which have spawned a whole new industry made necessary for the disposal of the very poisonous mercury contained within them. Somebody’s getting rich keeping me safe from drowning in the rising ocean. Much money was made by the “clean” energy of Fukushima. More money will be made by it’s clean up. For some planet saving reason an un-manned oil derrick in South Dakota makes less sense than a 20 mile offshore 5 mile deep 24/7 staffed oil rig. Oh yeah and some body gets paid big time to clean up those occasional messes. Some Ph.D. Somewhere probably got a grant of few million to prove why all this is necessary. From the right, be clear, no one loves the “Obama’s gonna get your AK47” more than the folks who make said Aks and the bullets that go in them and the people who peddle all this stuff. So dear reader, if you consider yourself a proud Progressive or a Righteous God-fearing Tea Partier, know this, you too, might be an addict.

There’s more. Another commonality of Doom Porn and other addictions is that it too, gets progressively worse. I find that as I aged – probably because I have more time on my hands less than any chronological reason – my passion for this Doom Porn grew. This age thing along with men generally liking Porn of any type more than women, seems to make middle-aged men perhaps most susceptible to my addiction. So what’s a middle aged – in this case man -addict to do? What should you do if you think you are a Doom porn addict? I once, long-ago, learned many positive life skills while dealing with another life-sapping addiction. I think I’m going to use those tools on this problem.

First – well I’ve already done the first thing,,,but – I admit I have a problem. Next I “put a cork in it.” Thirdly, I surround myself with folks who give me hope and work to do something about it.

So I have a problem – I love Doom Porn. I’m going to stop indulging myself of it. I Promise. But where is this community of helpful hopeful people that once saved me from something far more real and far worse than my present addiction? Well, they’re out there and I’ve run into a few of them.

The advent of my recovery came by hearing of a book entitled America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century by James Bennett and Michael Lotus. This book was the catalyst for my emergence from darkness. While this book doesn’t coin the term “Doom Porn” it certainly describes it and the fantastic (unreasonable and unbelievable) nature of most of these doom-filled prognostications.. It also makes a strong case for hope and change (wink). I mean real hope and real change. The book doesn’t just make its claims based upon what might come to be, but rather makes its case by pointing to things already underway. Things are happening, good things, that middle-aged cranky guys like me are just unaware of, even when they are looking us right in the face. Someone I love very much is involved with just such a thing.

My oldest daughter recently was awarded a fellowship with a group called Code for America. I was, shall we say, less than excited that she took this opportunity for a number of reasons. First, it took her away from me and Kentucky. It required her to move to gasp California. Even worse smh San Francisco. Nothing good comes out of San Francisco. Additionally, while a tech-type enterprise, and privately funded, they do work for the government, and I don’t likes gubments. And finally, I didnt much like her taking the job because it required her to move very far from me. Oh wait, I already said that.

But….two months after she has gone I think I have finally learned what she is involved with and it gives me hope, not just that I will recover, but hope for a better world for us all. She is working with the government, but it’s a local government, the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. She’s there right now. (I know, what a sacrifice, San Juan in February. Tough Duty.) What she and the other fellows in code for America do is work to strengthen governments ability to “do collectively what we cant do alone.” Their primary vehicle for this is open-source, citizen/user-friendly technical applications of soft ware. I suspect you might be getting bored, at least if you are my age you might be, but it really is the sort of higher power that is a solution for my malady. Younger smarter people actually doing something about something – as opposed to sitting in a cigar shop with a bunch of other old grumpy men grousing about things. (Just so you know, I’m still gonna do that) but I still go to parties with my friends who drink.

Through learning about Code for America, I watched a TED talk given by their founder, I forget her name, something “Pahlka,” I think. In the video I watched and nodded my head as she said something like this, (my words) “we may think we hate government, but what we really hate is politics, and politics is just the surface of the ocean that is government.” I think she’s right. Government isn’t the problem. Government keeps me safe. Government picks up my trash. Government washes away my poo. Government makes my streets passable in February and government educated my girls. Government, at least our form of it, is no more evil, or pornographic than Michelangelo’s David. Sure that’s a statue of a naked man, but it’s a wonderful work of art, a great human achievement. IT has never been perverted by the pornographers. Government is no more inherently perverse than the naked body, It is only when left to pornographers that it becomes something perverse. Politics and the doom pornographers that peddle their doom smut is the problem, That’s what I should hate. So that’s my cure. I’m gonna admit I have problem, that I am far too easily taken in by Doom Porn. I’m gonna “put a cork in that bottle” by not listening to the purveyors of such smut whether they have a d or an r after their name. I am going to be hopeful. I am going to pray (invoking the highest power of all has to help, right?) daily for folks like my daughter that still have the energy and dream of a better country and world. I am going to listen eagerly to what they have to say. When I can, I’ll help. (I donated $10 to CfA on their website www.codeforamerica.org this morning.) I’m gonna do all this, one day at a time.

So for now, that’s all. My name is Carl and I am still a Doom Porn Addict.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musings On Space Aliens and Other Unseen Things

aliens

Belief in Science. Belief in God. For the record, I believe in both. At the outset of this writing I want to say that every time I have seen this potentially polemic pairing, belief in science – belief in God, discussed, the discourse usually revolves around trying to harmonize the two, or worse, squaring the duo off in some God vs. Science death match. I’m not going there. I’m going to go somewhere else. It may take a while, but eventually we’ll arrive at some destination, but a Paul McCartney/Stevie Wonder Ebony and Ivory love fest isn’t a likely result. Neither will one discourse be seen standing on the ropes hoisting a championship belt into the air while taunting a jeering crowd. I will not try to persuade you, the reader, to choose between the two. I likes ’em both. So, let’s get in the car, fasten our seat belts, put ‘er in gear and get on the road.

 

I am friends with three scientists. By scientists, I mean honest to God, PhD totin’, University employed research oriented scientists. One is a physicist, one a biologist, and one social scientist. They have several things in common. They are all men. They are all – in my estimation – smarter than most. They’re all nice people. My life is richer for their presence in it. Also, none of them believe in God. That’s OK. No sweat off my back. I remain cheerfully agnostic about the eternal disposition of their souls anyway. What bothers me a bit, and it is just “a bit,” is that not only do they not believe there is a God, they believe there is not even the possibility of God. I would say that two of them, almost passionately, dare I say zealously believe there is no God, and that dear reader, to me, seems….well… just down-right unscientific.

 

I understand nothing about God, and little about science. What I think I understand about science is rooted in what I know of “the Scientific Method.” (That said, I have experienced both in a very real way.) but I digress….. As my physicist friend once explained it to me, the scientific method works sort of like this. We see something. We try to figure out what we saw, to name it, measure it, quantify it the best we can. Then we try to find out what caused said thing to happen. Once this is accomplished, we try to prove the truth of our observation by either observing the same things happening by the same ways in repeated different observations, or if possible, we try and cause the same phenomena ourselves – like in a lab or something. Once this is done, then the scientist can, with at least some degree of confidence, predict what something might do in the future. I think I got this right. It’s close anyway. That’s great. No problem here at all. I do that sort of thing all the time. People have always done this sort of thing. It’s a sunny day. We see clouds roll in, it gets windy and cooler, and then it starts to rain. We get wet. This happens to us a couple of times and….we see it clouding up, getting windy and cool, and we start looking for an umbrella. That’s a practical way to use our brains. It’s useful. It’s necessary for survival. But at the root of this is a wonderful sort of non-arrogance, an openess to all sorts of possibilities. The scientist in pursuit of her knowledge is open to observing anything, even stuff they haven’t seen before.

 

The best evidence of this sort of openess is ALIENS. Perhaps better said, extra-planetary life forms. Ask almost any scientist if they believe in alien life forms, to a person they’ll tell you something like, “given what we know of the conditions on earth – the size of our sun, our position orbiting around it, the elemental composition of the planets we’ve observed, what we know about how stars function – couple that with the (cue Carl Sagan) billions and billions of galaxies, stars and planets – there almost has to be alien (extra-planetary) life. For the record, on this I’m buying what they’re selling. Now, if they and I are right, and some scientist, some day does indeed discover alien life, I may have to find another illustration but here’s where I see more than a bit of contradiction. There is, to date, no evidence of alien life. No one has EVER scientifically documented such a discovery. Science has observed billions of stars and galaxies, and to my knowledge, scientists have now cataloged dozens, if not scores of planets, a couple of them speculated to be similar to our own dear Earth. Nevertheless, no life. None. But they’re still open to, even anticipating of, such a discovery. Again, for the record, I’m there too. So, it could be rightfully said, I think, that scientists have faith – you know, a belief in things not seen – in aliens. So why then, does there seem to be such a “religious” devotion to opposing the “possibility” of a God.

 

Admittedly, I’ve never seen God, but I’ve seen pictures of the Cosmos. It’s really big. I mean really really big. So big in fact I can’t get my mind around the Cosmos’ bigness anymore than I can get my mind around God. For that matter astro-physicists can’t really get their minds around the universe they study either. They kind of think they can measure it, to some extent, but that seems to get corrected all the time. It keeps getting bigger. To my understanding, they have a better handle on when it all began, and when it did, it was really really REALLY small. Beyond that moment when it all blew into existence (the big bang) well….there’s widely divergent views of what it was before that, and there also uncertain of what happens to it all in the end, or even if there is an end. Certainly, I don’t have a clue as to how to explain it and since they don’t either, or at least there’s nothing approaching a consensus, I’m not touching that subject either…..but let me take a little divergence on “Scientific consensus.”

 

Scientists have reached consensus on many things many times. For instance the scientific consensus, or at least broadly held opinion, which I was taught in my college astronomy class in 1977 was that we were headed for an ice age. It was told to me and a classroom of about 100 others that the increased cloud cover caused by carbon dioxide would obscure the sun to the point that the earth would cool. That apparently, was incorrect. Those scientists were wrong I am now told. The carbon dioxide clouds are now overwhelmingly believed to be warming the earth. Time will tell if that’s right. Remember the ozone hole over the antarctic that was being stripped away by flouro-carbons? Remember that? We were all going to die of malignant melanoma by now weren’t we? Well…that didn’t happen. The hole’s gone now. Turn’s out it was caused by a volcano not my right guard. California was going to fall in the ocean…..probably….well…maybe. It was predicted that the last three years were going to see more hurricanes than ever. There have been less than ever. For the record not one, zero, zilch, nada, made landfall in the U.S. this last hurricane season. Smoking tobacco was once prescribed to treat lung cancer (admittedly a long time ago, and that just doesn’t make sense does it?) But the best scientific minds of the 18th century counted this among their “best practices.” Remember the atomic structure we were taught in the 1970s – a bevy of electrons circling a star of clustered protons and neutrons….well…it ain’t that simple after all. Not even close. I could go on. You get the point, I hope. The point, though, isn’t that science is bad or flawed or an unworthy pursuit. It’s great. I love what science has given me….personally. I flip a switch. Bang. Hot coffee. I turn a dial 70 degrees. My doctor sticks a probe up my hind end, looks around, sees a little polyp …oops…a little cancer in there…snip. It’s gone. That’s why we do that little scientific procedure. I get to write this a year later. Science is great!! On a practical level, at least, it does a real good job explaining our immediate situation and a pretty good job of predicting what might happen if we do, or don’t do, something. But, wonderfully useful as it is, when it comes to the big things, at least to me, the big things, I’m afraid it fails. Not because there’s anything wrong with science, but, as long as I have my coffee and I’m warm and cancer-free there’s much more I want to know that science can’t begin to explain.

 

To begin , let’s start small. I want to know why my friend’s child, Henry was born with a debilitating disease that took him before he was 4. Why that? I want to know why I once wanted only to drink myself to death. I want to know why I can’t hear Handel’s I Know My Redeemer Liveth without crying. Why do leaves blowing in the wind give me a sense of peace? Why does my wife look more beautiful to me now than when we first met? Why did I fall in love with her in the first place? Why did she stick with me through thick and thin? Why can’t I look at the clear night sky or stand at the edge of the ocean without becoming almost certain I’ll see God? Why? Why? Science can’t tell me any of the “whys.” I’m sure science doesn’t really want to tell me why, but the fact that I am a child of the scientific age well it just seems a natural part of the process. It seems that even these scientists would want to know why. Maybe they don’t have the same set of “Whys” as I, and it seems they’d want to know that answer also. Maybe they don’t. However, if this is the case – if all that matters is the what, how , when and where – if why doesn’t matter, it follows, to me, that nothing matters. But if they do matter, it seems there must be a reason why they matter.

 

As for those things that matter to me, well, since science won’t even begin to take those questions on. I’m left to seek those answers somewhere else. I haven’t yet seen the source for these answers but it seems almost certain to me that there must be a source for all this wonder. The wonder of this world, this universe, these feeling and questions, they are real and observable, so there must be something behind them, at least as much possibility as…say… Aliens. At the very least, wouldn’t there be a “possibility” for an answer to all the “whys?” Why not God? Is even the possibility offensive to logic? I think not.

 

To answer all of our questions regarding the unknown, whether it be a scientific question or a theological question, in the end, a big dose of faith in the unseen is required. Answers to both will come in time. They will be interpreted differently as time proceeds. But whatever the time or the interpretation of however, or whatever, faith is required in something to make it through.

 

That’s it for this trip. I hope you enjoyed the journey.