Category Archives: Thinking and Pondering: Science, History, Analysis and Over-Think

Vaccinate Against Stupidity

I don’t feel that there is any reason to debate an Anti-Vaxxer when it comes to the Science of vaccines. At this point, if someone still believes that vaccines cause autism, no study, no research, no rationality will ever cause them to bend. But, let’s be honest here, vaccines do not cause autism. At all.

No, the point I wish to debate is a new crop of folks that seem to think that vaccination falls under a rights issue; that parents should have the RIGHT to determine if they should vaccinate their children or not. Because this is the new argument I see cropping up online. I see people arguing that, individuals should be allowed the choice of whether to vaccinate their children or not, that no-one has the right to tell them to vaccinate little Billy or little Susan from the measles or the mumps.

Now, I am all for people being free from government intervention in their day-to-day lives. I believe that the State has no place in determining what is marriage. I believe that the State has no place in determining what God we choose to worship (or not worship). I believe that the State has no place in our day to day interactions with each other, so long as those interactions do not harm one another.

The point of a society, on a very basic level, is to ensure a basic level of security and happiness for the individual. Otherwise, we’d be living in the wilderness, huntin’ deer and choppin’ wood and growin’ crops and surviving as individuals alone and free. Society protects us, helps us, keeps us safe on a fundamental level. It provides infrastructure. It provides security. It provides a basic level of support.

We have a lot of laws that protect us from individuals that act in ways that harm the majority. You cannot rob banks. You cannot steal. You cannot blow up buildings. You cannot act in a way that hurts other people. That is the strength of a society. It protects us from the selfish, single-minded, obtuse, moronic and absolutely stupid individuals who believe that they, for some reason, know better than scientists and professionals who make their bread and butter from studying human illness.

So when an anti-vaxxer says that they have the RIGHT to not vaccinate their children, I get a little angry. If you do not have the RIGHT to rob a bank when you need money, if you do not have the RIGHT to speed down the highway when you’re late for work, if you do not have the RIGHT to endanger CHILDREN and PEOPLE in every other instance, what the fuck makes you think you have the right to risk epidemic death and disease just because you are stupid enough to believe fraudulent studies that were disproved years ago?

We have reached the point where we are so afraid of confrontation, of debate, that we are allowing people who have no position, who are arguing a point with no scientific evidence, who believe something with no basis in reality; to determine how the rest of have to live our lives. We are now living in fear of diseases that were wiped out generations ago, because our society has grown so afraid of causing offense, so afraid of dismissing stupidity out of hand, that we have become ineffective.

There is no debate here. There is no argument. There is no discussion. Anti-vaxxers are hurting us, hurting ALL of us, by refusing to vaccinate their children. And every moment that we refuse to shut these people down, every moment that we  allow them a podium where they spew their idiotic and mindless rhetoric, we are allowing them to continue hurting us all.

Society only works when we work together to protect the weakest among us. When we allow morons with loud voices and baseless opinions to hurt our children, which is what happens when an un-vaccinated child spreads disease in a public place, then maybe it is time to re-evaluate the society that allowed this to happen.



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All Our Gods are Demigods

In American culture, ancient mythologies and folklore passed from generation to generation have been replaced by cults of celebrity. We rely on musicians, artists, athletes, actors and writers to show us the way. They stand above us and apart from us and demonstrate what we can achieve if we are truly great. They are inspiring and they are Gods Among Men.

Ted Williams hitting a ball out of the park in his last game when any other player would have been well passed their prime Muhammad Ali dancing around the ring with cheerful bravado as a lesser man tries and fails to beat him to a pulp; Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show all loose limbed cockiness smirking at the camera; Janis Joplin breaking out with a throaty growl fill with promise, raw and primal; Martin Luther King speaking so that angels would weep and devils would change their mind.

But our gods are temporary gods. Struck down by their own success, by cowardly men, by drink and drug and bullet. In that final moment, in the moment when they prove that they were human all along, they show us the greatest truths.

In the old days, ye olde ancient times, humanity created gods that were petty, jealous, bickering things that lived above us, but still fell into predictable patterns of human behavior. They were powerful, they could do wonderful, terrible things; but they were, tragically, so much like their worshipers.

And now we have come full circle.

We select those chosen few: the geniuses, the artists, the performers, the entertainers, the writers, the poets, the athletes and the leaders. We select them and place them so high up and aspire to them. We put them so high up and out of reach; the Platonic Ideal of Humanity. And then, when they fall, when they prove that they were just like us all along, they continue to show us the way.


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A Restful Walk

I took a walk through the Mount Auburn Cemetery today.

That’s not as weird as it sounds. It’s a landscaped cemetery; as much a park or a garden as it is a place for the dead. In general, I’ve noticed a kind of casual acceptance of cemeteries in and around Boston. Within the city itself, you can turn a corner and find yourself walking passed another secluded little graveyard tucked away in some urban corner. The city just grew around them and kept them carefully hidden away.

Anyway, Mount Auburn Cemetery.

I am not a religious man, nor a spiritual one, but I still tread lightly in a graveyard. There’s a certain respect that’s demanded by the almost uncountable memorials. So many names and dates and statues and crosses, rows on rows and, after awhile, it just becomes part of the landscape. You’re just walking in a garden that has a certain obsession with statuary. It’s quiet and peaceful and it’s an easy walk with nothing to really distract you and soon you’re deep within.

And then, midway on your walk, you stop. The only sound you hear is the wind cutting through the trees and a hawk’s cry and the cars and the people and everything else is muted. It hits you that you’re in a cemetery and no matter where you look, you are completely and utterly surrounded by reminders of the lives of people who are now gone. There is no escaping it short of sprinting down the path and down the road and out the gate, ignoring the signs that say no running (or skateboarding, for that matter).

You take a deep breath and you read a few tombstones. A major here, the tiny marble step with a single date on it, the giant cross made from celtic knots and whorls with the lion and the lamb balanced by a cross-legged man; dates and names and sometimes a brief message.

And then, gradually, that freakout ebbs away and it passes and it’s ok again. After awhile, it just is what it is. You walk the long walk out and don’t look back and go to the store and buy hot dogs and go home and let it fade away.


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Historical Subjectivity

I think I mentioned a while ago that I signed up for a few courses on Coursera, an site that has a multitude of classes available cheap as free. My first class, which started about two weeks ago, is History of Rock (Part One) taught by the University of Rochester’s Professor John Covach. So far, I’m really enjoying. This is not a class I would have ever been able to take in college because I would have been far too busy trying to cram one more comparative literature course into the semester. And, for some reason, I love seeing how any art form evolves, shifts and borrows from its past.

There’s also something to be said about watching how history unfolds from multiple different viewpoints and not just from the grand scale of politics and war. For the most part, any history class breaks everything into moments; those pivot points where it all changes. But with a class like this, or an English literature class or anything that focuses on day-to-day minutia of our past, it becomes possible to view history from a different angle.

When you view history through the lens of the culture, you can get a better idea of how those pivot points, those grand moments, are felt by people who do not make the policy decisions and do not make laws and great decrees. It’s an emotional and subjective view of history by the people who experienced. Examining how the culture (popular and sub) reacts to an event can tell you a great deal about how the people felt and thought, rather than just getting a bird’s eye view of history and sometimes it’s a good idea to dive down and examine those emotional snapshots.

Anyway, back to learning about Doo-Wop.


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Culture Defined by Pop

Alan Lomax was a folklorist who spent the majority of his life preserving small, local folklore traditions. He believed that globalization was encroaching on the traditions of countless subcultures and slowly but surely pushing them toward extinction. He was also, potentially, a manipulative, manifest destiny toting jack-ass, but that’s not important here.

The main crux of his beliefs were that the important local traditions and stories and music of Americana would be subsumed by the mass media and rendered meaningless. Instead of the local storyteller, we would listen to radio programmes. Instead of being taught by the local wise-man, we’d be taught by a Federal mandated school curriculum.

Cultural individuality would be gone and we would be left with one, big, happy social identity.

He was, for the most part, correct. Television and the Internet have become one of the primary means that we identify with one another. If I mention Grumpy Cat to an individual who lives on the opposite end of the county, he will know what I am talking about, even if we were born and raised in completely different regions and sub-cultures.

If I talk about Game of Thrones with someone, we will connect. If I mention Downton Abbey, we will bond. Culture is rapidly becoming defined by popular culture; state-wide, country-wide, world-wide. It is steadily and irrevocably moving toward this one, great global culture.

I don’t think this is a scary thing or an arguable thing. It’s just a thing; an inevitable consequence of a communication network that binds together every corner of the globe instantaneously.

What is interesting is the fact that there are still sub-cultures and sub-sub-cultures that are forming and blossoming within this new global identity. Even with the ability to unify everybody under one pop culture umbrella, there are still individuals who huddle under their interests and beliefs, separate and isolated from the main culture.

The difference between then and now is that these people have self-determined their own sub-culture. While in the olden days, Appalachian musics and stories were determined by geographic isolation and blues music and the Harlem Renaissance was determined by socio-economic political subjugation, the various sub-pop-culture interests and traditions that are starting to flower are solely determined by the interests and desires of the individual wishing to define themselves.

And that is not nearly as bad as Mr. Lomax feared.


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The Magic in the World

Instead of writing my movie review, I’ve been sitting here watching episode after episode of Fool Us, a British show where various British magicians try and fool Penn and Teller with their magic tricks. It’s just forty-five minutes of magicians trying their hardest and I can’t stop watching it.

I have a fascination with magic shows that can best be explained by why I also love found film horror movies: I love the idea of trying to convince your audience that the world they live in is not all that it appears to be.

It’s one of those things that constantly gets ahold of me. The idea of being able to forgot for a second that there is no magic and accept what your eyes are showing you, that’s a powerful thing to me.

I keep having ideas of how to accomplish it, but it’s a little harder than just writing a story. You have to dress the stage and make sure that there are no seams where the flats don’t mesh together perfectly.

I doubt I’ll ever do it, but I do have some ideas.

One or two.


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My One Word About Chick-fil-A

I am not good at not being angry. I am not good at not letting my emotions run away with my words so by the end of an argument, I’m spewing inarticulate venom at the person I’m arguing.

And, at the end of things, I’m just tired and sadder and unable to understand and empathize.

Let’s start slow and let’s see if I can keep my temper.

Let’s say that you have misinterpreted this whole Chick-fil-A thing as a First Amendment issue, which it’s not. It’s about the restaurant donating money to anti-gay groups. Groups that are AGAINST human beings because they have a specific kind of CONSENSUAL sex.

Let’s say that you see how upset and sad and angry people are who are being singled out because of this one difference. Let’s say you notice that there are millions of people who are affected by this, who are hurt by this, who are feeling like they are treated like second class citizens.

If your response is to immediately go to that restaurant and buy Chick-fil-A’s food specifically to say, “Ha! Your problems and worries and fears are inconsequential! I’m going to turn this into a I’m right, and You’re Wrong argument that I clearly just won”, then you’re an asshole.

You’re not fighting for rights. You’re not championing free speech. You’re not sticking up for the little guy. You’re giving money to a fast food chain that donates to groups that hurt people.

There’s no way to dress that up. There’s no way to polish that turd.

You’re an asshole.

Let me repeat this: You gave money to a fast food company and you told yourself you were protecting free speech. You told yourself you were a hero.

Really what you did was contribute to the severe, nationwide problem of obesity and helped to contribute to a company that actively works to restrict freedom.

Good going.

You have our eternal thanks.

You asshole.


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