Criticism 1: The Maxx

The Maxx is a comic book and animated show, both from the 90’s. The show is a faithful adaptation of the first 2/5ths of the comic, with a reasonably closed ending given it’s only part of the source material.

It deals with some heavy shit. Trauma, specifically of the sexual and/or childhood variety. So yeah, not light hearted. I’ll be honest and say I watched the show at a younger age than I should have. Which is maybe why it had such a profound impact on my psyche.

The story revolves around a homeless man who calls himself The Maxx and his social worker, Julie Winters. Maxx believes he’s a superhero who must protect people, especially his Jungle Queen, who just happens to look a lot like Julie Winters. Julie works out of her home and has problems with authority figures; whether it be the police or her landlord. The two of them form a codependent relationship, a very close bond of protecting each other (but never sexual).

Early on, she’s kidnapped and almost victimized by a serial rapist Mr. Gone. He’s a hard character to understand because he goes through radical changes as the story continues. He’s introduced as a rapist and attacks two women before Julie. Half way through the story a 10 year gap ensues and he reforms himself. You learn of his childhood, of the sexual abuse he suffered. He never claims it absolves him of responsibility but he sincerely wishes to repair the damage he caused. The one person he really wants forgiveness from (but never feels he deserves) is his daughter, Sarah.

That’s a bit of a spoiler because you don’t learn they’re related until near the end of the shows arc. Sarah is a troubled youth who speaks to Julie Winters as a counselor. She feels unattractive, she’s got very few friends and the one friend who is her age is an asshole. Additionally, she believes her father is dead; that he killed himself and murdered several others. As Julie and the Maxx help her deal with teenage problems, she learns that Mr. Gone is her father. 

This is the real side of what’s going on. Maxx’s “delusions” about being a superhero are actually correct. There’s a bizarre land he bleeds into and out of called The Outback. The Jungle Queen is there, and so is the evil Sorcerer Mr. Gone (as well as a whole host of strange creatures). What’s revealed by Gone is that this world is actually the mental landscape inside Julie Winters head. It’s a pseudo real place that can be traveled to by people who know how. Everyone has these Outbacks, but most are plain boring places. The only two we see are Julie’s and Sarah’s, and both have become “interesting” due to trauma or psychological illnesses. In Julie’s case, it was first because she had a mentally scarring incident as a child with a dying rabbit. Later on it was further changed when she was raped in college. Through random circumstance, this second incident pulled The Maxx into her mind, forever tying the two together. For Sarah, she spent her life coping with mental illness (not specifically diagnosed) and her inability to square her feelings about her father.

This melding of worlds, of the really harsh reality with comic book esque super heroes; it gives the show power. The unreality allows it to cut through the preconceived notions on these topics. Many stories these days use trauma, especially sexual trauma, as a cliched plot device. The Maxx takes it on and shows you perspectives from all angles. It doesn’t ask you to forgive Mr. Gone, in fact, Sarah refuses to. But one of the other characters, one of his earlier victims does forgive him. Forgiveness is always a complicated affair.

Julie shows coping with trauma as a long time thing, as something that doesn’t just get better. She uses denial and emotional barriers but it’s not just about breaking them down. She needs them at times. The Maxx wants to help her so badly but he truly doesn’t know how. He wants to be a paragon of virtue, to save women and punish villains. Gone and Julie teach him that he’s naive and must learn in order to help. All the while he’s struggling against a world that sees his life as worthless, that a homeless person is a failure by definition.  

So yeah, I recommend the show. It may be a bit dated and it may have some rough animation at times, but I haven’t seen anything like it since.

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The Mind of the Universe

I try to articulate this idea but I keep getting bogged down in details or getting lost down tangents. So let’s just dive in and see if we get to the other side.

It’s about Humanity… Hmm, I should say sentient life to be accurate. Humans just happen to be the species I’m aware of. But, I’m kinda starting at the end here so we should back up. We need to talk basics, which means physics.

Gravity makes the solar systems an inevitable fact. Mass attracts mass, it creates stars which burn and heat the planets that formed from the accretion disc surrounding the stars. It’s neither chance nor up to the discretion of some higher being; the planets and stars will form. Physics makes it so.

And likewise with biology. We may not have evidence of life on other planets but there doesn’t appear to be anything special about earth. It’s extremely likely that life will happen when it’s able to. Replicating chemical structures become persistent by adapting to changing environments. They are resilient because they adapt to their environment, while also maniputlating that environment. On a micro scale, it’s very, very hard to wipe out life on earth. 

Sentience/consciousness is a byproduct of the mind. It’s maybe not a necessity but it’s very useful to the creature in question. That’s a variable, but what is a logical progression of physics is Memetics. The same way self replicating chemical structures persist in surviving, so do mental replicators. Where larger animals exist, minds exist, and where minds exist, the ability to learn will be hugely important. The first species to create internal memetic structures in their mind will dominate their planet (whether it’s good for the animal in question is debatable). Communicating thoughts to other minds, whether through sound or writing or even some form of telepathy, will create a new branch of evolution. The Meme.

Our growth in technology, in power, is Memetic. Therefor, it is an inevitable conclusion of the universe. Another step in the progress of the universe. It is not the “purpose” of the universe though. One must not fall into the trap of egoism, we are not the endpoint. Merely the furthest step we’re aware of. The universe will always be far bigger than our meager rock.

It is also not to say we will continue to our currently imagined future. We may not have found evidence of life because it never breaches the light barrier. Given that limitation, it’s incredibly unlikely to create any civilization larger than a solar system. Communication is nearly impossible from one habitable planet to the next. So most life lives and dies on its homeworld.

Some would say it’s sad to accept that. But really, it’s the same as accepting your own mortality. The earth is mortal just the same.

In Defense of Taxes

We agree there are “social goods” which require a collective effort to complete (like roads, hospitals, infrastructure, etc). If not, we must have a different conversation before this one, probably about the issues surrounding anarchism/libertarianism. It doesn’t matter what in particular needs this effort, simply that there is something is enough. We must then form a body to collect resources, in a fair way, from everyone. That’s taxes.

We vote in a flawed, yet democratic way, to decide how that money is spent. Even in the most idyllic of democracies, people will have a portion of their money spent on things they disagree with. Accepting compromise is a necessity of any democracy. That doesn’t mean we’re completely stuck with this situation, there’s a partial solution.

The government allows you to choose which social good your money goes to but then charges you a premium. You agree to put more money into society in exchange for having some control over its usage. This is charitable donations. The idea is that all charities perform a similar social good as the government. Many focus on alleviating the effects of poverty on specific groups, tending to the sick/injured, dealing with disasters, or foreign aid. These are all things the government would have to do if a charity didn’t. A tax deduction on donations allow you to claim a percentage of your donation. You have diverted some of the money that would have gone to the collective pool into your chosen social program. So long as it’s always just a deduction based on a fraction of your donation, you’ll be paying more money into the ‘social good’ then you would have with straight taxes. Additionally, the government can encourage certain charities by modifying what that percentage is based on the type of charity.

This is also why voting is important, regardless of your political affiliation. Your money is being spent by people and you really should try to influence how it’s used. Whether you believe in starkly honest voting or strategic voting, you definitely can’t sway the usage of those funds by not voting.

I’m well aware donations can be gamed by the rich/corporations to reduce their taxes. False charities and loopholes allow abuse. This isn’t a flaw with the idea itself, merely a facet of any human created system. There are always cracks in the machine.

Letters Home #1

Dear Ana,

Ah, finally, a moment of peace. I survived the voyage, obviously, and am generally well. It’s taken me a week to finally start writing you (I know I promised I’d write as soon as I arrived). It’s just so… different here; I’ve been agog at the culture shock. This letter won’t get to you for weeks, if not months, because of travel time. Sorry.

But it’s so worth it. The people, the Beltoshee, have created an amazing culture. I’m sure you’ll get sick of me explaining their ways; *I’m* the anthropologist of the family. It’s just impossible to talk about anything without the cultural perspective. For example, where I’m living (and currently writing this letter). Approximately it’s an all women college dorm. But that’s inaccurate on many levels. “College students”, “dormitories”, and especially “women” are all conceived of differently here.

The first one is easiest; college students. A Beltoshee life is divided into 5 stages, 4 of growth and the final lasting until death. The fourth stage is from age 9-12, which is actually 18-24 by our count because they use a double lunar cycle calendar. Bizarre, I know. So this fourth stage is when they have become what we would call a young adult. They spend those 6 years studying their career path. This is how it’s approximately like college, the way it differs has to do with the social pressures. They’re very strict in the roles individuals must adhere to. One does not change careers mid life, you’re stuck with what you studied in these early years. No one out right prevents you from changing careers, but you’re shunned and looked down upon. Sure, it’s difficult to change jobs back home, but no one insults you for it.

Now for dormitories. Life is communal here, people seem to rarely live alone. Families have their own dwellings but they’re small and grouped closely together. I’ve yet to see something like a “living room” because everyone just goes to a communal space to lounge or be entertained. Ahlnaan (someone in their “fourth life”) sleep in a communal room to save space. Many who have spouses choose to continue to live in the dorm to help them focus on their studies.

And lastly the one that will be most confusing for you, although I imagine you’ve heard some rumours about this. Their definition of women has nothing to do with body physiology. At the end of their second stage of life (so 12 years by our count), they choose if they are male or female. As I stated earlier about their culture being very role oriented, their concept of gender is also very strict, it’s just not tied to biology. Men deal with things away from home, women with things at home. Unlike the sexist societies we’re used to dealing with though, they consider politics a part of house business. Running of the communities and all levels of government is restricted to women. The only political role done by men is diplomacy (cause, you know, it’s away from home). In this way, they are far more strict than we are with gender roles. And from what I’ve gathered it’s incredibly taboo to want to change that decision later in life.

Have to say that I admire the option to choose, but can’t imagine picking something so important at that young age.

Oh geez, I’m almost out of paper and I’ve been rambling about culture this whole time. I’m good, I swear. I’m making friends and not sticking my foot in my mouth too much. Say hi to the gang for me, and give mom and dad my love. Actually just show them my letters. I can only write one person, very limited paper. Must save most of it for my actual reports to the Anthropological society.

Your loving sister,

Catalina

Angles

GEB

The cover of Godel, Escher, Bach is a shape which shows three different letters from three different axis. It’s a visual metaphor for a cardinal point of the book: truth can be viewed from different angles without each one contradicting the others. The shapes exists in a solid form but viewing it necessarily flattens it (whether shadows, or printing it to a cover or viewing it from your 2D optical nerve). We know the flattening happens so we shouldn’t ignore the differing perspectives but combine them into a greater image.

Reality itself is the same but to the nth degree. There are countless dimensions to see the shape of the universe, not just 3.

I came across an instance of this recently when reading a book on human society. It defined religions as a system of human norms & values combined with a belief in superhuman order. Non-theistic/Pan-theistic Buddhism is then a religion, as are modern political ideologies. Contrast that with the definition you’ll get in a basic philosophy of religion class; that it’s belief/worship in a superhuman power. It would reject (some of) Buddhism because it lacks gods or other supernatural powers. Both definitions have merit depending on what you want to discuss. This new (to me) view is very helpful when talking about the social usage of religion. It provides a useful contrast when analyzing the evolution of dominant memetic structures. The power, control, and divisiveness of modern politics is sensible when compared to early Christianity. The political left has been as schismatic as early catholicism. 

Nazi Punching

There’s this meme I’ve seen going around about punching nazi’s. Some use Captain America comics from world war two, others explain it from the antifa punk side, and the rest are more general arguments in favour of using violence against fascists.

I’m a pacifist. Well mostly, I don’t have the absolute conviction of some pacifists. I feel that violence can become necessary, but it’s something we shouldn’t celebrate. Hurting and killing people over ideas is never good. At best it can be an unavoidable better option than being passive. So I’m not going to claim an absolute argument against “punching a nazi” but I definitely think people are making a mistake in arguing in favour of it. Here’s three reasons

You’re not good at Violence:

Violence is an easy option because it’s simple. It doesn’t require the nuance that dialogue does. The problem is that it doesn’t convince anyone of your point. The best you can do is silence your opposition. So if you advocate violence, realize that’s the end goal you’re seeking. And getting to the end is what I see as problematic. See, imagine this idea you have for a “Nazi”, try thinking of what their sensible response would be. It’s violence. Once you bring violence to the table, that is what will be passed back and forth. They will not respond with more talk, they will fight back. And what you now have to ask yourself is, are you prepared to win that fight? The vast majority of the ‘progressive’ movement are people who prefer talking to fighting. The punk/antifa groups are the exception but I’ve seen way more people not associated with them arguing for it. These people are good at talking. The fascists are the ones more likely to be good at violent intimidation. So if you bring violence, you’ve helped them. You’ve made it easier for them to win.

Captain America was fighting a war:

All these memes showing the Captain fighting Nazi’s; it’s war propaganda. We have a general agreement that it was a justified war. I’m not arguing against that. What I want to point out is that by sharing these, you’re advocating war. Few of us have directly experienced the tragedy that is a war. We experience it through books and movies and games. These are notoriously bad for glorifying war and glossing over the horrendous acts. Acts committed by both sides; the allies killed many, many civilians in their bombing raids. Some would argue they were all necessary to win the war. Some would argue against it. Either way, people in charge of the war were deciding to kill innocent people. That’s never good. When you forget that, that’s when you lose your soul.

Furthermore, what many are forgetting is that Nazi Germany was a country. You can effectively wage war on a country. The fascist groups we’re opposing are not foreign nations, they’re internal groups of people. If you use world war two as your shining example, realize you’re advocating for civil war. That’s an even uglier situation, more brutal and tragic than a standard war. The death toll and damage to your country would be catastrophic.

Talk to people who’ve survived these wars, ask them if it’s worth it. If you don’t, you may have more blood on your hands than you want; your opponents, your allies and all the bystanders caught between you.

Why are you listening to Hitler?

The worst meme I’ve seen is this quote, attributed to Hitler, about the rise of the Nazi party: “Only one thing could have stopped our movement – if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement.”

On researching this, I found the original version of the quote too: “Only one danger could have jeopardised this development – if our adversaries had understood its principle, established a clear understanding of our ideas, and not offered any resistance. Or, alternatively, if they had from the first day annihilated with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement.”

The larger context was that he believed they could have been stopped with violence OR if they hadn’t been attacked in a mild fashion. They were hurt mildly and that allowed them to grow, to feel they were being persecuted. So with full context, no, Hitler wasn’t telling you to cheer on petty violence.

But really, I don’t want to engage in this.

I don’t give a fuck what Hitler thought. Why do you think it’s a good idea to listen to Hitler? At what point did you decide violent sociopaths were full of good advice?

Understanding ones enemies will help you defeat them. That is not the same as taking their opinions as fact. He was a violent sociopath. He believed he could have been stopped through violence. Of course he said that! To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Violent people believe in violence. Don’t become them. Don’t quote their stupidity.

Stop quoting Hitler.

A final note.

Bayard Rustin was a gay, african american on the forfront of the the civil rights movement. He was also pacifist during world war 2. He protested the internment of japanese citizens and he went to jail for refusing to fight the nazis. That man was incredibly brave. We need pacifists like him.

Collectivist Artwork: A Mobius Conversation

Here’s a little art project I tried with some friends during my Discordian holiday. Over a number of hours send people into an isolated area to create art. No instructions on what to make, just a piece of paper and some drawing/painting materials. Each person has a square of paper to do their art, with all the squares made into a strip of paper. The person is only able to see half of what the previous person drew and must integrate their own piece with that, but they may never see the whole piece (well until the end).

The group of people who are not drawing may not speak of what they drew, everyone only sees their square and the previous half. The group can discuss their own rules if they so choose, but not before the project starts. Since the artist in question is isolated, there’s no way to enforce any rules. Or no rules are made. The conversation in the group will grow and change as the strip is being made. It will influence the person who is chosen to go and make the art. What they are making is an inscription of that particular moment. Little slices of the conversations lifespan.

When the end of the strip is reached, the whole group draws a second time, this time on the back. The first artist doesn’t start a new piece, but uses the last drawings half. Repeat. Now the very last person takes the previous persons half, and the front half of the very first drawing. They see two halves and get a square between them, to connect the two. When this is done, the two sides are connected with a twist in the middle, creating a mobius strip.

The piece has one continuous side with no definite beginning or end. In reality it did have a beginning that progressed as the drawings were made. The final act of merging the beginning and end creates the infinite loop, so the last artist is the keystone of the piece.

Due to this being a chaotic art project devoted to Eris, my original intention was to burn it as an offering. With my first one I chose not to, but I realized a better system. Burning it must be a democratic decision. It’s a synthesis of artistic talent so no one person owns it. It’s beyond intellectual ownership. Collectivist artwork. After creating it the group decides if they want to send it to the gods by burning it. It’s a sacrifice to inspire the participants to do better in the future. As all good pagan offerings to the gods should be.

PS: I will not be putting a photo up of our one because it has far too many dicks for this page. Also fully 3D art doesn’t transcribe well to a screen.