I wish it weren’t so, but I’m going to have to go to a weekly posting schedule for the foreseeable future. Starting this week expect to see a new post on Fridays and for the site to remain quiet the rest of the week.
Archive for October, 2007
So I started to tell you about my conversation with God where she asked me what I thought about Harry Potter, but then I got sidetracked on the issue of magic versus miracles.
Most of the conversation isn’t really worth repeating but I had one insight that I’d like to share. One of the most interesting things that Ms. Rowling managed to do, I think, is to preserve the sense that Harry is the underdog. Through his sort-of-captivity with the Dursleys and his status as Lord Voldemort’s primary adversary he gets to have the audience rooting for him as the underdog while still managing to cement his position as the most powerful student that Hogwart’s has hosted since Tom Riddle went there. He achieves feats the likes of which legends are made on, and still gets to be the long shot bet. It’s a pretty neat trick.
God allowed that it was a pretty good bit of literary legerdemain. She did however take the time to point out that there was precedent for such a feat. She pointed out the New Testament. Jesus Christ comes along. The direct son of God. The Messiah. The savior of all mankind. Yet he gets taken down by some mid-level bureaucrats who just want to stop the yammering of their subjects. A hero’s journey indeed.
So out of the blue today, God asked me what I thought about Harry Potter. Now I’ve seen all the movies and I’ve read all the books, but I’ve very much avoided bringing them up in my conversations with God. After all, there’s an awful lot of religious folks out there who have refused to let their kids read them or see them, because they deal in magic and clearly, to them, magic is the devil’s work.
So since she was the one that brought the subject up, I felt free to ask about that.
Her attitude boiled down to magic or miracles, what’s the difference, as long as they’re used to tell a good story.
Today I saw the movie The 11th Hour, so that was what God and I talked about. At the risk of grossly over-simplifying, the movie is a documentary that makes the case that “global warming” is not the problem, it is just a symptom. The problem is that we are not living sustainably, and if we don’t make an all-out effort to change that it may soon be ultimately too late.
One of the points made early in the film is one that I’ve made myself a number of times. Global warming, or more properly, global climate change, is not a threat to the Earth, it is a threat to humanity. Earth will go along just fine whether or not we make it so inhospitable to ourselves that we become yet another in the long long list of extinct species. Most likely life itself will survive and some other species will take our place at the top of the food chain.
God’s take on the film seemed to be that it was yet another example of the Hollywood elite preaching to the rest of us.
Of course, he also pointed out that that didn’t mean we shouldn’t listen.
One of the widely discussed incentives that are provided to Islamist terrorists to help convince them to blow themselves up for their cause, is that when they get to Heaven, as martyrs, God will give them seventy-two virgins.
God told me that this doesn’t work for the simple reason that it assumes either she is making virgins out of whole cloth with which to populate Heaven, or that women are being brought into Heaven not to experience it for themselves, but rather as chattel for the men in Heaven.
But ignoring that, we then tossed around some ideas of why the Islamists had come up with the number seventy-two. Obviously the number is not the result of some specific formula; it’s not a calculated result, but, rather, an approximation. So what might it be an approximation of? We decided that whoever came up with the number probably figured that the odds of a virgin being any good at sex was about one in seventy-two. So you give a martyr that many and figure they’ve got a pretty good shot at having one that’s worth having.
God was ribbing me the other day about my grumpiness on the subject of George W. Bush. We were watching a clip from an old speech, one of the many where Bush was spouting the nonsense that the terrorists “hate us for our freedom.”
God asked me to think about it like I was a poorly trained Freudian analyst.
When someone is irked by the foibles and traits of someone else, as often as not, it’s because they either know or fear that they have that trait themself. Quite often we’ll even ascribe to other people our own failings, because it’s easier to examine it if it’s their problem, not ours. So if we take these tendencies and apply them to the neo-conservatives, we might realize that while it may be absurd to say that the terrorists hate us for our freedoms, maybe it’s not so absurd to say it about the neo-cons.
So taking that as our supposition, if the neo-cons hated us for our freedoms, what would we expect them to do while they were in power?
Take away our freedoms.
What’s been going on since the tragedy of 9/11?
The everyday freedoms of American citizens, and even the citizens of other countries over which the U.S. is able to extend their influence, have been being curtailed, abridged, and attacked at an alarming rate.
I just hope the electorate has caught on and throws the bums out while we’ve still got the freedom to do that.
Once again last night, I noticed a pickup truck with some “in loving memory” message stenciled onto its rear window.
This goes along with all the little roadside memorials you see on the highways these days and with the impromptu shrines that spring up whenever a celebrity is killed or a school is shot up by one of its students.
God gave me the go ahead to deliver the following public service message:
Get over it. People die. Untold billions of people have lived and died, it’s great that you cared for someone but leave the rest of us out of it.
Okay, two posts in a row were about L.A. traffic, and now I’m going to make it three. Today God asked me how HOV lanes figured into my theories about what lanes to drive in. Recall that my revised theory is that while traffic is heavy, but not too heavy, the number two lane seems to counter-intuitively move faster than the number one lane. Not steadily faster, but on average faster. See, if it moves steadily faster then a lot of people that are in the fast lane because they really expect it to be the fast lane will jump from the fast lane to the number two lane. When they make their lane change they not only add to the number of cars in the number two, but they make people react to their often sudden appearance and that cause a ripple of brake lights in the local traffic stream which adds even more to slowing down number two, often giving the number one lane a temporary boost into actually being the fast lane.
For the record, here’s what I think about the HOV lane:
(For the record, because I hate writers that use acronyms and just assume that everyone reading knows what they mean, HOV stands for High Occupancy Vehicle. The HOV lane is also known as the carpool lane and is only to be used by vehicles containing two or more live and already born persons, or by vehicles with a special sticker only issued in limited numbers to vehicles that have hybrid drive trains and an EPA mileage rating of at least, I think, 45 miles per gallon.)
(Oh, EPA stands for Environmental Protection Agency.)
Now when we talk about the “fast lane” I’m not sure if the HOV lane, being the number one lane, is excluded from the calculation so that the physically number two lane is “the fast lane” or if the HOV still gets to be the fast lane since it was designed with the intent of allowing good, carpooling citizens to drive faster; so I’ll try to stick with lane numbers here.
Now, as I was trying to say, the HOV lane has a somewhat unpredictable effect at the traffic loads at which the number two lane theory seems to operate. Sometimes the HOV lane seems to take the place of the fast lane and most of the “I don’t want to think about my driving” crowd hops into it and moves along oblivious to the agenda of anyone behind them. Sometimes the HOV lane just doesn’t really figure into it, so the number two lane acts as the fast lane and gets all the driver-only cars that want to just be in the fast lane and not think about their driving. Sometimes, probably most of the time, the HOV lane siphons off half of those people and the other half get into the number two lane making the number three lane act like the number two lane for purposes of the theory, but not as much like the number two lane as a real number two lane.
And now I’m just lost.
So in my last post I was talking over with God my theories about why the number two lane seems to make better time than the “fast” lane. Today God was pointing out to me that there’s a certain “confirmation bias,” not to mention selective memory, in my theory and explanation. She pointed out that I noticed when the number two lane moved faster because it seemed to go against conventional wisdom, but when the fast lane went faster, well that was expected, so not worth noting or remembering.
So I took some time to think more carefully about it and for once God was actually helpful; she did something to help me remember more completely and more vividly.
Of course, I only have her word that I was accurately remembering, but if you can’t take God’s word for things, well, you’d have to rely on your own intelligence and then where would most of us be?
But anyway, what I realized was that there’s a threshold. My theory seemed to hold true as long as there was little enough traffic that the lanes could move pretty much freely. So once the traffic gets heavy enough that you generally have to wait for an opening to change lanes, rather than just move up or back a little to get away from the car next to you, then all bets are off. When traffic gets that heavy, and in L.A. that’s a lot of the time, then you just have to evaluate how traffic is moving on a case by case basis.
And you’ll usually get it wrong. Or is that just confirmation bias again?
I’ve got an observation about driving on the freeways in L.A. It’s not earth shattering, but it is slightly counter-intuitive. Not always but fairly often, on a freeway with at least four lanes in each direction, the number two lane is the one to be in.
In case you don’t know, in California the lanes are numbered, or counted, from the inside out. The centermost lane, going in either direction, is the number one lane for that direction, often referred to as “the fast lane.” So if number one is the fast lane, why do I say number two is the lane to be in? Well, I don’t really know, but I’ve observed it, again, fairly often, to make better time.
I tried to get God to tell me why it was so, but he just kept playing little pseudo-psychiatrist games with me, taking all my questions and turning them around. When it comes down to it, it wasn’t much different than a little kid that just says “why,” again, after each new explanation that you give them, but God can do it so skillfully that you don’t really realize that’s what he’s doing until a few hours later when you think it back over. Anyway, the best that I was able to come up with is this: The number three and four lanes are hampered by having to accommodate and react to all the traffic getting on and off the freeway, so there’s a constant give and take that slows things down. The number one lane is full of people that don’t want to have to think about their driving. They figure that nobody has to go all the way over to the fast lane so it will have the least total number of cars passing through it and even when cars do come in or out of it, they only do so from one side. They may or may not want to go as fast as the rest of the traffic, but what they want most is to not be bothered and if they’re the ones going slower, well they don’t get in their own way so what do they care.
So that leaves the number two lane. Fewer total cars than most lanes and fewer people not paying any more attention than they have to to what’s going on around them.
Now did God tell me that my analysis was either right or wrong? No. Most of the time God really isn’t as helpful as he could be.
Sometimes you overhear something that just sticks in your mind. For Lewis Black it was the sentence, “If it hadn’t of been for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.”
I was having dinner last night and sitting near the salsa bar I overheard one woman say to another, “Where are the limes? I’m addicted to limes.”
It’s not all that impressive as overheard lines go, but it caught my fancy, so I told God about it. Just for fun I asked her if people could actually be addicted to limes.
She told me they could. That’s why she invented tequila. She said nothing cures an addiction to limes quite like having too many margaritas.
So God and I went out to a movie tonight. This is not a normal thing and certainly wouldn’t work if we were going to a sold out show, since God sits in a seat that technically is not taken.
So why did this happen? Well, I go to a lot of movies but Hollywood puts out so many in a year that there’s always more that I don’t see than that I do. So I have to be at least somewhat discerning. Well, if not actually discerning I do at least have to decide what films to see and what films not to see. Sometimes that just means seeing the only thing at the local theater that I haven’t seen yet, but more often it means picking amongst several things that are playing nearby.
Tonight’s movie was “Superbad.” That’s the title not a critique. In actuality the movie was very good, though it was somewhat painful in how realistic it was at the start. Painful in the empathic sense of watching somebody do something they are absolutely bad at, but knowing that there’s nothing you can do to help.
But anyway, back to the question of why did I see a movie with God. Well, because he asked me to. He said that he knew I wasn’t planning to see the movie and he felt that I should. So we went.
As I said, I liked the movie, I liked it a lot, but when it was all said and done, I wasn’t sure why it was that God thought I should see it. Other than, of course, just wanting me to have a good time.
So we were driving back home after the movie and I asked why that movie.
God told me that he knew I’d want to be able to say I’d just seen a mainstream movie with more visible penises than even most porn films. And, okay, I’ll admit it, he was right.
Well, it’s October first. I’ve been talking to God and posting about it for one year now. We’ve covered a lot of subjects. We started out talking mostly about religion, because, well… because that’s what I thought of when I thought of God. But we’ve gone on to talk about all sorts of things and have gotten more into the things that interest me and less into just what I expected God to care about. In some ways that mirrors how I relate to anyone. So I guess it’s also how I’ve been with you readers.
I’m sure I’ll get back into religion later, and I’m sure I’ll keep touching on the other subjects we’re all warned to be careful of in polite company, sex and politics. But for know I’d just like to thank everyone for reading along.
And God says thanks, too. She says it’s nice to have a place where she can get out some of her opinions on really trivial things.
I wonder if that’s her way of telling me that I haven’t always been a very insightful interviewer?