Trying to remember a good Moth story…

I’ve had this story bouncing around my head for a few days. I’d think about it and store it away in my mental filing cabinet for future reference. Thing is, that filing cabinet is notoriously unreliable, and I forgot it. Then I’d remember it, and try to tack a label onto it. But the idea is like the bar of soap in the shower – grab it for a second, and the force of your grab is what makes it pop from your grasp.

Stories with clear beginnings, tidy endings, and some sort of point of view or moral to make it bang around in the listeners’ heads for a while are rare. Mostly we have to fake it. I’ll try a story out on people, in a (mercifully) nano form, and listen to their reactions. Mostly, to be painfully honest (the pain is mine), I don’t even get through my story before someone starts talking about something else entirely. Which is itself a useful result, I suppose, if not ego-supporting.

  • There’s the story of my dad and the bogus VCR bargain, which has the lesson that your parents are flawed human beings.
  • There’s the story of Oleg in the bathtub, which I’ve used already. The lesson is what it takes to be an adult.
  • There’s the story of being coerced into typing a letter to my grandmother when I was 12 and had nothing to say, in Hollywood. This is the story of appreciating your parents even at their worst.

But this story, I have such a hard time remembering it. When I do, by the time I get to a spot where I can record it, it’s gone. I know, smartphones… I’ll try again.

Waze vs. Garmin vs. ideal GPS app

  1. I wish my Garmin device would use the Waze software. I like having a dedicated device (i.e., not my phone), but Waze is so much smarter than Garmin…
  2. At least on my Garmin, I can request the fastest route or the shortest route (I don’t think Waze offers me these customizations). But why can’t I request the simplest route (fewest turns), the straightest route (i.e., staying in the same direction; my wife hates feeling that we are deviating from the arrow of our travel), or even the prettiest route? Prettiness should certainly be a characteristic of roads.
  3. Waze, famously, will sometimes ask you to make a left turn at a stop sign onto a busy street, so you’re stuck there, waiting for a gap, peering around giant SUVs and sweating. God forbid you have a passenger asking why the hell you took this crazy route. Saying, “Waze told me to” is generally reacted to with an irritated snort.
  4. When I give Waze a new location, it reacts differently every time… I haven’t figured out the pattern yet. Sometimes it tells me that it has added it to my scheduled list (or something weird like that), sometimes not. Why?

An atheist thinks about… Who Created God?

Or (a better question) how was God created? Better because it may not have been a “person” but a mindless process of some kind…

Why is an atheist even thinking about this issue? Because I like myth and story, and exploring a logical construct that smart people have been fiddling with for thousands of years can only be a good thing. Like learning math.

As to the question, generally the question is answered by simply defining God as that which required no creator. But, come on, that’s lame. That’s just a way to shut people up and stop them asking questions. Bertrand Russel, in Why I Am Not a Christian, put it best when he said that if you assume the universe must have had a creator, why not the same of God? And if you insist God did not need any creation, why not assume the same about the Universe?

There has been some interesting thought in the last few years on the possibility of the universe being a simulation. In that case, who is the creator? The alien programmer? The alien kid who bought the alien TRS80 in the alien Radio Shack, and loaded up the UniverSim program and created us? Or do we have to go back to THAT universe’s creation?

Let’s face it – we are ill equipped to think about deep time and space and large numbers. We survived because we were good at selecting the less-poisonous berries, running away from saber-tooth tigers, and reproducing, not because we could ponder the nature of Time, Space, and Everything.

So our intuition that time is a line, has a Beginning and an End, is probably unreliable.

When I read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, I got the feeling (again, probably unreliable) that Hawking was claiming that the universe was boundless in the direction 90 degrees from time, and that the beginning and end were like the south and north poles. Asking what’s south of the south pole is merely a badly formed question.

But interesting to think about.

One Calendar to Rule them All…

On my Android device (made by Google) I could effortlessly add an Exchange (i.e., work) calendar and see my personal and work calendars ON ONE SCREEN, as god intended.

On Google Calendar (also, presumably, made by Google) you can not do this and must jump through all kinds of hoops with syncing apps or publishing Outlook calendars to WebDAV sites (wha?) or something, none of which work!

I call that broken. I want my work calendar on my Google calendar. And it’s 2015, so I should be able to get that.

Picture-hanging technology

I just hung 6 pictures in a pattern, and I have to say, picture-hanging technology needs to catch up with the rest of the western industrialized world. What you need is to arrange the pictures in the computer, and then using come kind of projector, project spots where the nails go.

And nails are terrible! They leave holes. I’ve tried those hook-and-loop 3M things, but if the weather gets hot, they just dissolve. Useless! Except maybe in New England… with global warming, not even there. It was such a promising technique – they came off sort of cleanly (not perfectly though – I’ve had a couple of them pull paint off), and you could reposition. Also, they show from the side, and are quite obvious. So, terrible.

Somebody, please figure this out. I’d pay for a solution.

Why does web browsing suck so much now?

Between pop-up windows, prevention of pop-up windows, hideous ads featuring skin diseases, creepy little animations, videos with sound that you can’t stop, video ads that crash, crashing your whole browser, inappropriate sexual clickbait, advertisers who have no concept of “appropriate”, and constant software updates, simple web browsing has become a hideous chore.

Mention of Peter Basch in Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletin Dec 1970

Can’t believe I found this! Thanks to the Marvel Comics Bullpen Bulletins Index, and my editor’s eye (astigmatic, but indefatigable), see it below (thanks to the folks who compiled this index for their permission). You’ll see my dad mentioned in the left column. And see my prior post for the picture of Stan Lee he shot on that occasion!

I didn’t notice it at the time (that is, when I was 14), but Kenneth Koch, the famous poet, is mentioned at the top of the column. I have a poem in his book, Rose, Where Did You Get that Red. He came to my school, the Lycée Français de New-York, and taught a workshop where we wrote poems in both French and English, inspired by Verlaine’s Voyelles.

Marvel Bullpen Dec 1970
Marvel Bullpen, December 1970

My dad’s photo of Stan Lee

Back in the day, in what we now call “mid-century,” my late father, the photographer Peter Basch, would glance quizzically at me and what I was doing and wonder what was going on in this strange foreign country that was his son.

He saw that I was enthusiastic about Mattel toys, such as Creepy Crawlers  and Vacuform, so he bought stock in it. (He liked to buy stock in individual companies, and even liked to keep stock certificates. Fun for him, but kind of a pain later…)

He saw that I enjoyed Marvel Comics, especially X-Men and Spiderman, so he thought, huh, maybe other people like that stuff, too. So in his energetic and entrepreneurial way, he went over to the Marvel offices and took some pictures. I remember how excited I was to see a mention of my dad in the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins (I think that’s what it was called). I had heard that my dad was well-known, but seeing it the pages of The Fantastic Four made it real for me. You can see the Bullpen entry here.

Here’s the picture I have of Stan Lee (with our brand-new registered trademark, a Peter Basch Image®):

Stan Lee in December 1970
Stan Lee at the offices of Marvel Comics, December 1970. Photo by Peter Basch

Mad Max (1979) after seeing Mad Max: Fury Road

I just saw Fury Road with my stepson. He wanted to know about the George Miller oeuvre, so I suggested we watch the movie that spawned it all, the 1979 Mad Max.

Very interesting to see the little hints that remain in the current movie, such as guys using high bendy poles to land on top of cars. Anthony Lane speculates that the notion comes from Buster Keaton. Cool!

The most hilarious part of the old Mad Max is the terrifying biker gang. What, apparently, is so terrifying about them is that they are slightly fey. Homoeroticism seems to be code for deviancy, which is code for danger. I mean, my god, some of them seem to be wearing eye shadow! Who knows what a man wearing eye shadow is capable of! But the way they caper and dance after getting off their bikes, or pose artistically while setting up for a victim, rather undercuts their supposed deadliness. My stepson said that they seem more like a traveling theater troupe than any biker gang he ever saw. They reminded me of the Anglo Saxon Messenger in Through the Looking Glass.

Hey, for $2.99 on Amazon, and at 90 minutes, it’s worth reviewing.

A Modest Proposal re Abortion

The 20 weeks about foetuses seems to be that they can survive… or maybe just that one has survived… outside the womb after only 20 weeks’ gestation. Somehow that has led to proposals to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks.

I don’t get it – if the baby can survive outside the womb after 20 weeks, then shouldn’t it be perfectly okay for a woman to end her pregnancy? Let her end her pregnancy, and let the medical establishment do their best to save the feotus for eventual adoption.

This rule – that the woman can end her pregnancy whenever she wants (up to a month post-partum, if you ask me; after that, they assume full parental responsibilities for the usual 18 years plus) and, if the newborn survives, it can be adopted, and if it doesn’t, there can be mourning; but in either case the foetus’s survival is not the mother’s responsibility – this rule solves everything. The mother has all of her privacy rights intact, the doctor can be portrayed as in the business of saving innocent babbies’ lives (instead of just saving the mothers’ lives, which doesn’t seem to garner many cheers on the ‘pro-life’ side – after all, she’s an icky grown-up person).

In fact, let’s retire the term “abortionist” and call them “baby-savers”. When they fail, they can shrug disconsolately at god’s mysterious plan, and when they succeed, pro-lifers can cheer. No more will their lives be threatened by heavily-armed zealots. Now those same heavily-armed zealots would protect the Baby-Life Clinics™.

We’re not dealing with the question of Who Pays the Bills, of course. If it were up to me (and, again, it doesn’t seem to be), every pro-life organization would have to put their money where their mouth is and pay for all that wildly expensive premature neonatal care. They’re pro-life, aren’t they? The should cheer at the chance. Right? And then they should insure adoption of the few actually living babies who emerge from the new chain of Baby-Life Clinics™.