Archives for category: tickles

i was 13, going on 14 when i decided i knew all that is needed to be known and possessed all the wisdom of the world.   it wasn’t until my late 20s when i realized i was wrong.  i was so full of shit during that decade and a half that it ain’t even funny anymore.  i am sure i pissed off a lot of people during that time.  i still do.  but not as obnoxiously as i did then.

when i was 14, i thought i solved all the great mysteries of the world.  i thought i was a post-communist, post-politics, post-religion, post-everything sage.  i liked engaging my religion teachers (we had to take religion classes in those days, in turkey) in heated and provocative arguments, thinking i could challenge and shake their beliefs.  i would name drop, would fancy myself a philosopher, would come up with a half-assed and half-baked theories every five minutes or so, and argue, argue, argue.

and i would try to write.  in complicated sentences that would go for pages, using new found words i was not yet comfortable with.

and, my first serious piece was on leonard cohen.  can’t really make sense of what i wrote those days, but, i think i wrote something to the effect that “leonard cohen should be listened late at night, when your parents (or whoever is in the house) are asleep, in a barely audible volume, to give him the respect he deserves”.   the piece was about 800 words of pretense and bullshit, and, that was the gist of it.  i think.

then i wrote another piece on why i hated lennon’s “imagine” so much, and, why i thought it was a dystopia, not a utopia.   another 800 words of pretense and bullshit that was widely hated, but, i still think i was on to something there.  but, that is another story for another time.

those days, i was wearing out my copy-of-a-copy “songs from a room” album in an old 46 cassette.  god knows how many times i repaired that tape.

my journey to the “songs from a room” was a rapid one, accomplished through sheer luck.  and, to being in the right place at the right time.

i came of age right after the 1980 coup in turkey.  it was a terrible time, on hindsight, but, when you’re in the thick of it, you don’t realize how fucked up it was.

our apartment was right next to a villa in ankara, turkey, that was once the residence of an executed turkish prime minister.  when i was growing up, it was the indonesian embassy.

the late 70s in turkey were bloody years.  the left and the right fought viciously.  every night the one (and only) tv channel would report on the deaths, executions, bombings, so on and so forth.

and, every once in a while, usually a couple of times a month, one left faction or another, and, occasionally a right faction or another, would leave a banner with a little package attached to it on the embassy wall or fence.

my sister is 10 months and 25 days younger than me.  we could have been irish twins if i was born in january instead of june.

she and i knew a lot about those banners and those little packages.  because we saw tons of them.  we knew which ones only made a deafening noise, and, which ones would really hurt you.

the banners were usually left at the crack of dawn.  and, once they were spotted, our little corner of ankara, so called the embassy row, would become a fairground in no time flat:  first the neighborhood lookers, then the lookers from the surrounding neighborhoods, then the meatball sellers with their portable charcoal grills, then the journalists, and, finally the police.  the festivities would conclude until the police take the banner and disarm the package, or, let it explode if it was only a “noise bomb”.

there really was something called a “ses bombası”, or, a “noise bomb”.  not sure what it is these days.    but, those days, i knew what they were and what they looked like and what they could do.

in the summer of ’79, palestinian terrorists raided the egyptian embassy down the street from us, and took hostages.  we first heard the gunshots and the grenades.  and, then the hostage crises lasted about 2 days.  our neighborhood was again like a big country fair.  street vendors in every corner, people hanging out, watching, waiting for something to happen.  including the child me.

seems so surreal now.  as if all that was in an alternate universe.  sometimes, when i recount those days to new friends, i feel as if i am talking about somebody else’s experience, not mine.  but, that was the world i lived on those days.  and, unfortunately it is still the word millions of children still live in.

then the military coup put an end to all the left-right fighting in september 1980.  the military junta brought in a new kind of terror– persecutions, tortures, summary executions.  most of the left was persecuted, if they were lucky; or killed, if they were not, the academia was almost annihilated, most freedoms were suspended, and a very dark period began.

a few short months after the coup, in december, i was watching the news on our black and white tv with my parents.  after the list of the arrests, the names of the people who jumped out of third story windows while in gentle police custody, etc, the news of a british singer who was killed in new york city came up.  there was a memorial service.  there were thousands of people with shock and sadness in their faces, many crying.  i will never forget that footage.  it really moved something in me.

there wasn’t much music in our home.  both my parents loved music before we were born.  but, once we came around, with their work, with us, with everything, i guess there was no time left for music.  the only music in our house was the songs we sang, the music on tv, and, the music on our old transistor radio that my grandmother listened to during the day.  she preferred the radio plays, but, in between them, there would be music.

so, i had no idea whatsoever who that murdered singer was.  what he meant.  but, seeing the faces of his mourners, i felt that he meant a lot.  and i wanted to learn about him.  my parents told me that he had a band called the beatles, but that was that.  there was no place i could find more information.

so, i started to search the radio to find out more, hoping i would hear his music.  in those days, on turkish radio, there were 4 FM channels– three official channels of the government, TRT 1-3, and a fourth, local to ankara, of the turkish police.

ironically, the police channel, known as the “police radio”, in ankara, was the only one that regularly played western popular music.  it broadcasted after 6 pm till midnight, and, played a lot of rock’n’roll.  thursday nights, at 10 pm, they had the concert hour– they would play a live album cover to cover.  but, the signal in our apartment wasn’t strong, and i couldn’t get it at home (until my parents bought me a better stereo radio/ cassette player a few years later).

so, my only option was TRT 3, which, most of the time only played classical music, occasionally jazz, but, once a week, saturday mornings between 11 and noon, popular western music.   a one hour program named “stüdyo FM” by yavuz aydar and şebnem savaşçı.

saturday and sunday mornings were quiet in our home.  both mom and dad worked hard, and, we didn’t start the day early in the weekends.  so, every saturday morning, i would wake up before 11, go to the quietest corner with the best FM reception in our apartment, and, set up our transistor radio and the old tape recorder and its mono microphone, and, wait for stüdyo FM to begin at 11 am sharp.

i would record the entire show, flipping the 60 minute tape as fast as i could so i won’t lose much.  and then i would listen to that tape over and over again the coming week, until the next saturday morning, when that week’s tape will be recorded over.

i wore that cassette so much, repaired it with scotch tape so many times, until it finally was beyond repair.  that is when my parents bought me a new one.  and, i continued recording and listening.

one saturday morning, for whatever reason, i woke up late.  i wasn’t feeling well.  rushed to my corner, set up the radio, found the frequency, and started setting up the tape recorder.  i had to rewind the tape.  and, while i was rewinding it, this simple, but, to my 12-13 year old ears beautiful and sad, song was playing and i was cursing myself for not being able to record it.  the song ended, yavuz aydar said the name of the song and who was singing it, and, the name he gave sounded so much like “the beatles”.

i was excited and extremely sad at the same time– i had begun these recording sessions to find out about john lennon and the beatles, and, after numerous recording sessions, they finally played a beatles song, and, stupid me has missed out and not managed to record it.

i told my parents, and, my ever thoughtful mom bought me a beatles tape.  it was a compilation.  the beatles 1962-66.  i loved every song.  listened to it a million times.  then she bought me the 1966-70.  cassette tapes were very expensive those days.  not the blank ones– but, the official turkish releases with their cover arts.

those two tapes were my treasures.  i memorized every song in them.  but, the song i heard that morning on the radio was not in them.

those days, free access to western popular music, other than the aforementioned limited radio programming, was difficult, if not impossible at best.  the only exception was the small record stores, mostly down on tunalı street, in my neighborhood, and, some in kızılay, a world away for me in those days.

i slowly discovered three record stores in tunalı street.  i was curious, i was nosy, and i liked talking to people.  so i started spending lots of time after school in those record stores.

most people those days couldn’t afford many records.  especially original prints.  there were tons of turkish prints, but, they too were expensive.

so, the record stores made most of their money from compilation tapes or copies.  their windows were covered with handwritten lists of their hundreds of compilation tapes.  they added new tapes almost daily.  and, if you wanted, they would copy the albums to tapes as well.  one album on a 46 minute tape, a compilation usually on a 60 minute tape, and, two albums or one double album on a 90 minute tape.  and then there was the elusive 120 minute tape– but, i haven’t seen one those days– the record store owners would always say the tape in those long cassettes is so thin that it won’t hold proper recordings and would wear off and go to pieces very quickly.  they would either sell you the tape if you didn’t have one (and, there were cassette tapes for every budget), or, you could bring your own tape and they would copy whatever you wanted on it.  copying was reasonable– with my allowance, i could afford one tape a week.

inside a micro shopping mall called the “tunalı pasajı”, there were two record stores next to each other– jazz, ran by a man named deha, who we simply called deha abi, and, another one called “arşiv”.   arşiv was more balls out rock, where, deha abi was into more eclectic and intricate stuff.

first i made a nuisance of myself in the record stores.  loitering, bothering people.  asking stupid questions.

then, slowly, a few of the clerks and owners started accepting me as a fixture after school.  and, they started schooling me, including deha abi.

they were there in that record store all day, listening to music.  their’s was my dream job those days.  mind you, these were small stores in little shopping centers.  usually about 100 square feet, or less, crammed with records and cassettes wall to wall, with a few posters, a few music magazines,  one or two turntables, an amp, and a pair of speakers.  thus, my music education began.

first i went through the entire beatles catalogue.  i would sit there for hours, and they would spin me record after record, telling me tales of the beatles and the evolution of their music.  then, they would play me the artists that inspired the beatles.  and then the artists inspired by the beatles.  it was pure bliss.

[i never found that song that i listened to that saturday morning though- a few years later, i heard it somewhere else and realized, embarrassedly, that it was actually the “new york mining disaster 1941 by the bee gees.  i never liked the bee gees that much, and, when i found out that the song that turned me to the beatles was actually the bee gees, i hid the fact like it was a nasty VD.  oh, well…]

in our neighborhood, there was also an “american library”, ran by the now defunct United States Information Service (USIS).  i got my membership card when i was 13.  there, in tandem with my aural education at the record stores, i delved into the rolling stone magazine and rock’n’roll encyclopedias.   i started learning back stories, musical connections and heritages, etc.  i would read and read and read, and then run to the record stores, and beg my teachers until they let me listen to what i just read on paper.

it was a wonderful time.  like i said, i was lucky- i was in the right place in the right time and met the right people.

i escalated from the beatles to the kinks and then to pink floyd.  i don’t know how it happened but my first pink floyd album was “the final cut”.  i memorized the entire album.  in our english lit classes in junior high, i would recite the lyrics.  then came the rest of the floyd, then hard rock, and then, a thankfully brief period with prog rock (the archetypical ankara record store owners/ clerks loved prog rock– i tried, but never did).

music, that once drizzled in once a week on saturday mornings, started flooding my life.  it was sheer bliss.

one day, i walked into one of my record stores, and, they had a customer i had never seen before, and, he was listening to a really soft, acoustic record.   the singer had a baritone voice, and, was singing about a girl named nancy.  that was really not my style those days– i was listening to “the piper at the gates of dawn” that week, but, the song moved me a lot.  the grown ups in the store told me that the singers name was leonard cohen, and, the song was about a girl named nancy who committed suicide.  i bought a copy of the tape there and then.

that night, and for nights and nights, i listened to “seems so long ago, nancy” and the rest of the “songs from a room” over and over again.   trying to understand and transcribe the lyrics.  that was another one of my past times, transcribing the lyrics as best i could.  when i failed, i would run to the record store, and, copy the lyrics by hand from the album liner notes.

i realized these were not ordinary lyrics.  i did not understand most of the symbolism and the references.  so, when i saw that customer who was listening to cohen when i first heard him again, i started pestering him.  he told me everything that he understood, with the references, and, then i ran back to the american library to read and to read and to read.  that’s when i read the old and the new testaments.  that’s when i started reading poetry and about poetry.

i was a ferocious reader.  my hunger for books were as insatiable as my hunger for music.  and i loved to write.  in 7th grade, in our literature class, my teacher, having taught me at 6th grade as well, assigned me remarque’s “all quiet on the western front” in fall semester for my book report.   apparently he liked (or, most likely humored), all the excited bullshit i came up with in the report, he assigned me marquez’s “one hundred years of solitude” for the spring semester, warning me that it was probably to immature to assign me that book.  to this day i am grateful to him for that assignment.  i went back to “one hundred years of solitude” many times again since then, and, in each reading, i found something new to laugh or cry at, or, something new about me or my life that did not really resonate with me in earlier reading.  but, again, this is a different story for a different time.

so, the third time i saw the guy he turned me into cohen, i was better equipped, had listened to more of his albums, and was full of half-assed theories after half-assed opinions.  the man, like my literature teacher, humored me.  he ran an almost no budget music zine and asked me if i would like to write something about cohen.  would i?  does a fat baby fart?   so came forth the monstrosity i started this tale with.  about listening to leonard cohen in low volume after your parents go to sleep.

[then he asked me if i wanted to write something else, and, i wrote the abovementioned article on why i hated lennon’s “imagine”, and, that was that.  he never asked me again.  like i said, the article was hated by all of the perhaps 30 people who read it.  but, i still think i was on to something there]

leonard cohen’s poetry resonated deeply with me.  first, the raw emotions.  then his paradoxes, his symbolism, his references.  and, finally, his humor.

that’s around the time when i decided that i knew all that is needed to be known and possessed all the wisdom of the world.  i knew my lyrics.  remember, i was the guy who memorized the entire lyrics of “the final cut”.

i knew my dylan by heart.  i thought dylan was the pinnacle of lyric writing (and, he really is as good as it gets), but, leonard cohen was different and much, much better.  

first “nancy”.  how he described her.  how he described how he used her. how he made you feel her solitude, her facade.

then the “famous blue raincoat”.  a letter to a friend/ foe.  love and hate and gratefulness together.  “thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes/ i thought it was there for good/ so i never tried”.  signed “sincerely, l. cohen”.  how could someone write so well?  how could someone feel such conflicting emotions at the same time?

that’s when i had an epiphany–  an epiphany that changed my human interactions, the way i felt about myself completely:  we all feel conflicting emotions at the same time.  and, i was not the only one mixed emotions.  trust me, that kind of epiphany means a lot to a teenager.

but, most songs, till cohen, were too two-dimensional.  they were black and white.  cohen was grey.

that changed a lot since then.  cohen inspired many songwriters.   you will hear cohen tones and motifs in U2’s best album (in my opinion) “achtung baby”– such conflicting emotions.  and, when you read up on the making of the album, you will find cohen right in the middle.  you will hear cohen in nick cave, tom waits, elliott smith, radiohead, nirvana, you name it.  he (more so than dylan), took song lyrics from one or two dimensional to three, and, to the grey.

dylan liked surreal and avant garde symbolism and references.   cohen went biblical and visceral.  both had the same self-deprecating humor.  cohen was more sincere and humble.

i breathed in everything they did, but, cohen always resonated with me more frequently.  there is some dylan i cannot live without.  but, i cannot live without all cohen.

then the ’90s rolled around.  i betrayed cohen with first the screaming trees, then solo lanegan, nirvana, etc.  first i wanted loud, then i wanted more cheerful, then i wanted more complex.  people always say cohen is dark.  he is.  but, he is also light.  with his humor and hope.  but, i wanted pure cheer.

the beatles, floyd, stones, kinks, clash, radiohead, hendrix, purple, zeppelin, television, talking heads, waits, dylan, simone, zappa, beefheart, lanegan, screaming trees, nirvana, james carr, junior kimbrough, otis, cash, and everything in between.   i listened and listened and listened throughout the 90s.

but, don’t know why, didn’t go back to cohen.   every once in a blue moon i would hear cohen somewhere and smile.  but that was that.

then, one night, i was watching a nick nolte film called “the good thief”.  and this beautiful song started playing in the soundtrack.  and i immediately recognized that voice.  here was cohen, with a new song, singing about how the ponies ran, how the odds were stacked, how he was turning tricks, and how deep a thousand kisses were.

i fell in love all over again.  got the new album, got the live albums i didn’t have.  and never neglected him since.

i am 46 now.  the traditional length of a one single album.  and i still read ferociously and listen to tons of music, new and old.  i assume, or even impose, the teaching method of my record store owner/ clerk friends, playing song after song, mostly without finishing them in their entirety, to my friends.  i still read whatever i can find about music.  still search after the back-story of what i am listening.

i am not as obnoxious as i used to be, but, still manage to piss of people on a daily basis.  but, now, it is a little more intentional, and lots more fun.  i am still arrogant, but, have a little more to back my arrogance.  at least now i am aware that i don’t know all that is needed to be known and possess all the wisdom of the world.  i don’t write in long sentences any more.  i try to use words that i am comfortable with.  don’t name drop or pollute my immediate environment with half-assed half-baked ideas and theories any more either.  i bake them behind closed doors before unleashing them on unsuspecting victims.

but, i still prefer to listen to cohen late at night.  when there is no one around.  when i can have his music all to myself.  or, on headphones, as personal as it gets.  that never changed.

despite all my pretentious writing when i was 14, i guess i had one valid point– cohen’s music is very personal.  it is a form of meditation, a form of reflection. and not in a soaked in tofu new age bullshit way.   i learned his music that way, and, through his songs, i learned a lot about myself, my limitations, my emotions, humility, humor, and life.  he makes you think, dream, and ponder more than any other musician i know.

yesterday he passed.  as it goes, we are all born to die, and live to die.  you live however you want to (or can) live, and then you die.  when your time is up, your time is up.  and his time was up.

he finished his journey gracefully, like bowie did less than a year before him.    he said and sang that he was ready.  listen to his farewell album, “you want it darker”, or, read this wonderful new yorker article/ interview that was printed a few months before he passed if you don’t believe me.

he was 82 and his time was up.  that’s is unavoidable.  when your time is up, your time is up.  i hate cliches, but, i can’t avoid this either: what he left behind is immortal.  what he left behind is such a magical ouevre that it has the almost mystical ability to resonate differently with each listener.  a magical public body of work that is as personal as they come.

rest in peace mr. cohen.  and forgive my transgressions against you when i was young and foolish.  i betrayed your genius and elegance with my convoluted and pretentious prose.

but, i never stopped loving you.  you are in me. like you are in millions upon a millions.  and, i became who i am partially because of you.

and, for everything you have given me, and for everything that you will continue to give me, thank you very much.

sincerely,

a. beskardes

ps. i know “hallelujah” is over played. so is “dance me to the end of love”. or “everybody knows”.  still, listen to them.  and, it is impossible for me to say what my favorite cohen song is.  but, if you haven’t heard them yet (which is unlikely if you bothered to read this), here is a list, in no particular order, of what i would have played you if i had a record store today, and you stumbled in, asking about leonard cohen:

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to all the haters, or the uninitiated, or those who never really listened to mr. zimmerman’s songs with the attention they deserve. and, especially to ms. anna north, whoever she may be, who sparked a minor controversy by penning a poor op-ed piece in the new york times captioned “why bob dylan shouldn’t have gotten a nobel”, and then proceeded to list names de jour who should have been honored instead of dylan– names who will never stand the test of time, and, are only relevant for their political stance, personal histories, or some other gimmick. which, unfortunately, sums up the fashionable literature of 2016. ms. north was moronic enough to write:

“The committee probably did not mean to slight fiction or poetry with its choice. By honoring a musical icon, the committee members may have wanted to bring new cultural currency to the prize and make it feel relevant to a younger generation.”

really? awarding the nobel literature prize to dylan, who is over 70, will “make it feel relevant to a younger generation”? if bieber, with his mesmerizing poetic lyrics was awarded the nobel, yes, maybe she would have had a point (also, such a travesty would have meant, explicitly, “human evolution is complete. now let’s all hold hands together and jump from the grand canyon like lemmings”). come on ms. north, get back to 2016, from wherever la-la land you’re at.

dylan always saw himself as a poet. he even got his name from dylan thomas, arguably the most important welsh poet. his poetry started symbolic (rimbaud, verlaine) with a touch of the beats (ginsberg was a regular companion for the longest time), and, slowly evolved into his own brand of mayhem.

and, his poetry, aka song lyrics, are analyzed and studied like poetry. don’t take my word for it– ask any grad english lit student or look at modern poetry anthologies.

and, his poetry transcended generations and decades, and, always caught the zeitgeist. his poetry not only moves, but also revolts. he is not afraid to take chances and shed his own skin, change his style, world view, philosophy, and everything in between. i can’t say that for any modern poet today– most just preach to the choir of critiques, and, are only relevant for their political stance, personal histories, or some other gimmick..

yeah, he is known foremost as a musician– but, if dylan was only a musician, and not a poet, he wouldn’t be dylan. he would have been yet another musician. i know tons of people who can’t stand his voice but listen to him for hours and hours because of his poetry.

dylan is not a singer/ songwriter (a term i despise)- he is a troubadour (and also a raconteur, but that’s another essay for another time). a troubadour is a singing poet. writes poetry, and sings it. with its roots from andalusian arabs, in its latest reincarnation, the style actually goes back to the ancient greeks. it is a form of poetry.

with dylan, i always think music is actually incidental to the poetry. music is a medium to relay and sugarcoat the poetry. when the poetry changes, the music evolves with it– from simple folk to rock to experimental. in the true troubadour way. just like leonard cohen (who i believe writes better poetry, but was not as influential and diverse as dylan- attributes the swedish academy goes gaga over), or like tom waits.

very few still read poetry. since the late 19th century, poetry lost its allure, relevance and resonation with the masses. but, troubadours like dylan, cohen and waits sugarcoat poetry with music and enrich the masses. even that, by itself, in my opinion justifies the nobel prize for literature.

and, coming back to you ms. north, whoever you may be– if the younger generation would really listen to dylan, hell, it would probably be the only true poetry they will encounter in their lives, other than what was shoved down their throats in high school. face it, no one really reads poetry anymore.

at any rate, before complaining, one should pay attention to the man’s poetry. my favorite dylan album of the last few decades is “time out of mind”. take a listen to “not dark yet”, linked below. but, really, really listen to it– the word plays, the allegories, the visualization, the mood and the atmosphere— you will see a poet at the top of his game. and then, if you have the time, compare it with keats’ “ode to a nightingale” (which it is often compared to). then come up with your own verdict whether or not the man is a poet…

bowie’s back in berlin, and with a new song (first in 10 years) for his 66th birthday. way to go old man– you’ll still be glam, fighting the buff and sadistic orderly to have your hair spray back (and the community room tv on MTV, rather than the matlock reruns & lotto results all the other residents are insisting on), pounding the out of tune piano of the music room like a late-stage parkinson’s jerry lee lewis, humming old t-rex tunes, paying for a disco ball for the recreation room and convincing your senile shipmates that the best bingo is strip bingo under the flickering lights of the said disco ball, and grabbing the ass of your geriatric roommate’s 17 year old granddaughter and/ or grandson, when you’re 80, smiling your huge smile with your contraband viagra pill stuck between your two front missing teeth, relying on his alzheimer’s to escape the beating you rightfully deserve, kicking it around carelessly and in style in the nursing home…

breaking news– east village, new york city:

christmas got canceled once again this year after the early morning arrest of kris kringle, also known as “santa claus”, for breaking and entering and trespassing.  residents of an apartment building on east 8th street, ms. canyon comstock and her partner ms. jo livingstone, woke in the early morning hours of tuesday to what they described as “rummaging noises” coming from their living room. according to ms. comstock, “i walked into the living room and found an overweight elder white man sitting on our white eames chair with our little liia (the couples three year old daughter liiam comstock-livingstone) on his lap, feeding her a store bought gingerbread cookie.  my poor baby is lactose intolerant and we keep her on a gluten and sugar-free diet.  i mean, what kind of a sick person feeds a child such horrendous food?”.   seeing the situation, ms. comstock immediately called out to her partner canyon, who walked into the living room with the baseball bat the couple kept for protection and springtime softball games, and they promptly put mr. kringle under citizen’s arrest and called NYPD.  mr. kringle, age 1742, was arrested on the spot and was moved to the manhattan detention complex, also known as the tombs.  mr. kringle’s illegally parked sleigh was also impounded.

according to public records, this is not mr. kringle’s first brush with the law.  last year, around the same time, mr. kringle was arrested in a DWI checkpoint in macon, ga, with a blood alcohol level of 0.12%, above the state’s legal limit of 0.08%.  a search of mr. kringle’s sleigh, incidental to his arrest, yielded an open container, and an unopened case, of “arkansas lighting”, a whiskey distilled in the state of arkansas, which also resulted in bootlegging charges.  in his defense, mr. kringle stated that he was drinking the whiskey because of religious reasons and he bought it at a truck stop in west memphis, arkansas after one of the reindeers pulling his sleigh was killed over the white river national wildlife refuge in the state.  according to georgia state troopers, a visibly drunk and crying mr. kringle repeatedly slurred, “what kind of a sick fuck shoots a reindeer in christmas?  with an arrow and bow no less.  poor, poor blitzen”. further investigation discovered that a reindeer was indeed shot over the white river national wildlife refuge by an arkansas resident named william “zoot” branson, earlier in the day.  reached for comment, mr. branson stated that “hell, yeah i shot that reindeer.  it’s my god given right to feed the missus and the young’uns.  it’s huntin’ season, so fuck you”.  the federal fish and wildlife service confirmed that it is indeed archery deer hunting season in the white river national wildlife refuge.

even though mr. kringle’s bail of $7,500 was posted shortly after his arrest by his wife mrs. kringle, mr. kringle was promptly released into federal custody because of an immigration hold.  according to a georgia trooper who wished to remain anonymous for this article, the state law gives its state troopers the authority to check any person’s immigration status, and during his arrest, mr. kringle was not able to establish legal status in the united states.  according to the state trooper, mr. kringle, in his possession, had an expired mississippi driver’s license with his name, a valid new jersey state identification card with the name santa claus, and an apparently forged social security card with the name kris santa kringle.  the authorities were able to track down the social security card and the other identification documents to a known forgery operation in flushing, new york.

mr. kringle, at his deportation hearing, was able to produce a birth certificate from the republic of turkey, stating his full name as nikolaos of myra, his birthdate as march 15, 270 and his place of birth as patara, turkey.  with long time residences in demre, turkey, the netherlands, and the north pole, mr. kringle was not able to establish legal US residency.  despite legal assistance from the turkish consul general in houston, tx, which has jurisdiction over the turkish nationals in the state of georgia, and despite international and diplomatic support for his case, was deported from the united states on may 19, 2012.

at a press conference this morning, NYPD stated that they are putting an ICE (immigration and customs enforcement) hold on mr. kringle and even if he posts bail again, he will be handed over to the federal authorities for removal proceedings.  reached for comment, his wife mrs. kringle stated that “i ain’t bailing his dumbass again.  i told him at least a hundred times which zip codes the shmuck should avoid in NYC.  yeah, williamsburg and park slope is fine, with whatcma call it, irony and all, but east village?  gimme a break…  just stick to the red states i said.  lay of the booze i said.  would the shmuck listen?  santa, please…”.

new york city mayor mr. mike bloomberg, at a press conference earlier today stated “new york city will not tolerate such illegal and outdated intrusions to new yorkers lives. christmas infringes upon the rights and well being of all new yorkers of all ages.  we are introducing a bill for banning christmas in all public and private spaces in NYC and we issued statewide arrest warrants for the easter bunny and the tooth fairy as well”.  asked about the expectations of NYC children, mr. bloomberg commented “NYC is the capitol of shopping.  go to FAO Schwartz, go to toys’r’us in times square, go to your favorite apple store.  who needs old pervs like mr. kringle cruising our neighborhoods where there is an apple store right around the corner, or amazon, which we are taxing the shit out of, on your fingertips”.

as of the writing of this article, mr. kringle is held without bail at the immigration detention center in elizabeth, nj, his sleigh is impounded to the city pound in brooklyn’s navy yard, and his reindeers are being held as material witnesses at the bronx zoo.  the reindeers, which were first held at riker’s island, was moved to the bronx zoo after the protests of the american humane society.  according to the society, they became aware of the ordeal of the reindeers through ms. comstock and ms. livingstone, who are members, and the reindeers are well fed and happy at the zoo.  the authorities are still considering adding animal cruelty charges to mr. kringle’s arraignment.

 

today our christian friends are celebrating the birth of their lord, the demi-god jesus.  a fictional and mythical figure who happens to share the birthdate of another mythical figure before him, mithras, who is no stranger to those of us who grew up with “conan the barbarian”… apparently because both jesus and mithras are capricorns, their mythologies and mythical arcs are extremely similar, as i explained in this blog about a year ago

the only jesus whose existence i can truly attest to is a mexican barback i know in brooklyn…  born in guadalajara (or was it colima?), and definitely not a capricorn, he is truly a wise man, like his fictional namesake…

he essentially embodies all the collective wisdom of mexican barbacks in one tiny and wiry body.  ask him about any of your woes, from the shiner you had two tequila shots ago, thanks to the misunderstanding (or was it miscommunication?) you had with the over-excited frat boys flooding brooklyn bars these days, to the hangover you’re sure you’ll have the next morning or your performance anxiety (thanks to the said tequila shots’ negative effect on the physical manifestation of your drunk libido) with the honey (who is sure to feel like tabasco the next afternoon when you wake up next to her snoring ass) you just met and told that you have ten finished manuscripts and are a misunderstood genius with daddy issues, he has the solution: “caldo de pollo, man.  it is good for you.  mucho cilantro, si?”…

the jesus i know is also known to deal in a little weed and colombian marching powder on the side, but i cannot personally attest to this rumor…  but, at least, he is also known to get you high and alter your mind like his mythical and fictional namesake before him…  since they’re not both capricorns, the reason of the similarity must be in their mutual name…

disclaimer for my loved ones: naturally i am reporting the wisdom i overheard jesus the mexican barback dispose to other patrons, not me…

getting back to the point, since it is the birthday of the mythical jesus (the new and improved version of mithras), i thought it is high time i explained his underlying myth to my readers.  there is already a “christianity for dummies” written thousands of years ago for the believers– it is called “the bible”…  i thought i should type away something for the rest of us…

“the bible”, as we should all know, is actually two separate books, written a couple of thousand years apart– the old testament, aka the hebrew bible, apparently mostly penned by mosey moses (though, according to revisionist religious scholarship, is written many centuries after mosey moses kicked the bucket), and its sequel, “the new testament” or “the new covenant”, written at least a thousand years later, based on the testimonies about the lives and times of jesus christ of nazareth (“JC” hereinafter, the mythical demi-deity whose birthday our christian friends are celebrating today), allegedly narrated by a select group of his apostles (from greek apóstolos, meaning “one who is sent away”, or in modern terms “groupies” or “fanboys”), who died a few hundred years before their narratives were penned down by unknown scribes…

collectively, these two books are known as the “christian bible”, whereas the first installment is also known as the “hebrew bible”, the users’ manual of judaism…

naturally, despite the fond belief of many american christians that jesus and his groupies spoke fluent english, the first installment was written in hebrew and the sequel in greek…  the english version is a loose (and very political) translation made in the time of a certain english monarch named king james I.  hence it is known as the “authorized king james version/ bible” (hereinafter “KJV”)…

king james, of course, to make sure his subjects did not get any stupid ideas, made sure the translation conformed to the teachings of the church of england with an absolute respect to the monarchy.  and most modern christians are stuck with his “authorized” version…

at this juncture, i think it is essential that we define what a christian is: throughout most of the world, christianity consists of three major sub-groups: catholics, protestants and orthodoxes with many other spin-off groups and cells…  throughout most of the the good ole US of A, catholics and orthodox folks are not considered “christians”– catholicism and the orthodox church are considered to be separate religions…   if you ask any good american christian, they’ll say only protestants are true christians…  it is a very american thing…

the main distinction between the protestants and the catholics come from mary, the biblical momma of JC, not to be confused with mary magdalene, the infamous escort (or “call-girl” for the lack of a more appropriate term) of galilee, or the original groupie, JC’s lady friend.  catholics and the orthodox see mary the momma as a demi-deity whereas the protestants wouldn’t have none of that feminist shit: mary was only the momma, nothing more, nothing less…

it is ironic to note that the mary worshippers, as known to many american protestants, happen to be the most macho and chauvinistic of all christian sub-groups, evident with their high concentration in italy, spain and most of central and south america.  whereas, the protestants, aka “mary deniers”, are a much, much less macho culture with highly respected evolved sensibilities, as is apparent in most of the protestant world, from the good ole US of A to the simply ole England– go figure…

anyways, the whole backstory of JC and his group is explained in the old testament, from our creation to our fall, and the life and times of JC in the new testament.  so let’s get back to the bible…

a caveat though– the bible is a filthy pornographic book.  it includes many perverse adult situations as well as assorted pedophilia and  bestiality.   therefore, taking a cue from king james’ translators, we will use gentler terms more appropriate for this blog while trying to shed light to this filthy book of perversion.  hence, we will use the below “approved” biblical glossary.

glossary:

knew: fucked

known: fucked

lay: fucked

laid: fucked

flesh: dick, or pussy, depending on the context

nakedness: dick

begat: procreated, or had offspring

just replace the biblical term with its modern equivalent and you’ll get the picture.  for instance, when you see “know”, just replace it with “fuck”– as in “men know livestock and wild animals like fervent bunnies”…

so, according to ole mosey moses, everything starts with genesis, the first book of the hebrew bible, which both the fundamental christians and jews take at face value (the same cannot be said for all chapters of the hebrew bible– christians like to pick and choose what they like from the rest of the book– a good case to point is the leviticus, with all that silly pork and shellfish stuff)…

genesis loosely goes like this:

1. roughly about 4,000 years ago, yahweh, the deity of judaism and christianity, creates the world and the universe we know in 6 days, and then rests on the 7th– which is the sabbath– depending on your allegiance, it may fall on friday, saturday or sunday, the good ole day of rest;

2. yahweh then gets lonely and creates the “man” from dust to dick around with and calls him “adam”;

3. designs adam as a completely loyal buddy with no freewill or anything, the perfect pet;

4. seeing adam, his loyal pet, is lonely, puts him to sleep, surgically removes one of his ribs while he is under, and creates a lady friend for him from this sparerib– the lady friend is named “eve”;

5. yahweh of course, requires complete loyalty from eve as well, so he reiterates his orders– “do not eat from the tree of knowledge, you may get some silly ideas”– hence the modern term “heaven forbid”;

6. the two pets, naked as jaybirds, know each other like fervent bunnies in the garden of eden and name their first litter cain and abel;

7. in the interim, a talking and walking snake enters the story and dupes eve to eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge, who, in return, has her husband adam eat the forbidden fruit as well;

8. yahweh is pissed off big time– his pets start getting ideas– so he banishes them from heaven, curses eve to bear children in pain, to desire her husband adam, and to be ruled by her husband- creating the central casting version of the obedient and submissive wife;

9. yahweh is not easy on the talking walking snake as well– he curses the snake to crawl on his belly from this point on and to eat dirt and to live as the enemy of humans– this is why snakes bite and poison us;

10. adam and eve continue knowing each other like fervent bunnies– they begat and begat like there is no tomorrow;

11. yahweh also takes on fashion design at this point, figuring out he should not banish his once-loyal pets naked– not impressed with the fig leaves eve fashioned for adam and her, yahweh creates a new fabulous clothing line for them;

12. cain becomes a farmer and abel a shepherd– but yahweh plays favorites with abel, liking his offspring more than his brother’s, which makes cain jealous, and he promptly kills abel and, yes, you guessed it, is cursed by yahweh– this time to wander around and be an unsuccessful farmer;

13. the first family, adam, eve and their offspring, all live around 900 years or so each, and begat many an offspring, knowing one and each other like fervent bunnies;

14. here, the story gets a little murky– adam and eve begat cain, abel and later seth and many other offspring, who in return begat tons of offspring– but who they copulate with is a little murky– the only logical answer is hardcore incest– the male offspring either had to know their mother (hence the original mofo’s) and their female siblings;

15. so we come from this incestuous first family, who knew each other fervently like bunnies many times over;

16. their numbers multiply and they become unruly– when their siblings and mothers are not enough, they know, known, knew, lay and laid livestock and other wild animals fervently like bunnies and engage in other perversions;

17. yahweh tries to establish order through many messengers, curses and fierce violence– killing and maiming tons, etc;

18. when yahweh figures out order is hopeless and that he fucked up the first batch, he decides to kill ’em all and tells his loyal servant noah to build an ark to save the righteous ones and enters into a eternally binding contract with noah & co, learning from his mistakes of the past, not having contracts with his creations before– this is the first covenant;

19. noah, with his sons shem, ham and jaspeth takes on the task with diligence– they build an ark of 137 meters length, a width of 23 meters and a height of 14 meters and they place one single window for clean air on the top of their vessel, roughly about 1 meter by 1 meter– the ark is much smaller than many russian oligarchs’ yachts;

20. then, on yahweh’s instructions, noah and his sons stuff in 7 pairs of all clean animals (including birds) and one pair of unclean animals into their tidy ark– naturally they don’t need to bother with fish, but i guess noah & sons had to cut a few corners given the size of the ark and that is probably why the dinosaurs and mammoths vanished;

21. then it rains for 40 days and 40 nights, flooding the world, killing everything and everyone, other than those on the ark (and the fish);

22. noah & family, as well as the animals they stuffed into their ark, cruise for at least 150 days, and they finally reach dry earth on mount ararat– that ark must have been really stuffy with hundreds of thousand animals and one tiny window for fresh air, but they somehow survive;

23. yahweh is pleased with his work and blesses noah & sons to be fertile and increase like bunnies– so, taking a cue from adam and eve before them, they start knowing one and other incestuously like fervent bunnies;

24. but then ham goes and fucks it all up– one day noah gets drunk on wine and passes out– at that time he is hundreds of years old– while he is passed out, his nakedness springs out off his clothes like a jack-in-the-box– religious scholars are still debating whether the nakedness was erect or flaccid, but that is besides the point– ham stares at his father’s nakedness and tells his brothers– “hey, dad’s nakedness is hanging out”– shem and jaspeth cover their dad’s dick up, not making eye contact with his flaccid (or erect) nakedness;

25. but ham, because he stared at his father’s nakedness, is cursed indirectly by noah–  noah prays to yahweh that ham’s son canaan is to become the lowest of slaves to japheth and shem, and jaspeth to become larger– i am at a loss with “larger” here, but am guessing jaspeth’s nakedness was not as big as his papa and his brothers’ nakednesses, so noah asked yahweh to make jaspeth’s nakedness larger;

26. yahweh accepts noah’s curse and makes canaan’s offspring the slaves of his uncles shem and jaspeth;

27. canaan moves to africa and his offspring become the africans– hence the religious justification for black slavery (of course whoever wrote the hebrew bible was not much traveled and knowledgeable– he simply ignored to explain the rainbow of other races like brown, yellow, red and french– knowledge and an inquisitive mind is never the strong suit of believers);

28. the noah family reproduces like fervent bunnies with each other, begat tons of offspring and the offspring becomes unruly once again– knowing their children, their mothers and fathers, other same-gender offspring, assorted livestock and wild animals and are punished multiple times by yahweh through unbelievable viciousness, violence and torture, completely destroying city after city, annihilating people after people– the bible is very explicit about the mischief humans engage in– a sample list is as follows:

a. man know women, including the wives of other men, their mothers, sisters, daughters, etc like fervent bunnies;

b. man know other man like fervent bunnies;

c. women know other women like fervent bunnies;

d. men know children, including their own daughters and sons, like fervent bunnies;

e. women know children, including their own daughters and sons, like fervent bunnies;

f. women know livestock and wild animals like fervent bunnies;

g. men know livestock and wild animals like fervent bunnies;

h. brothers and sisters know each other like fervent bunnies;

i. men and women begat and begat litters of illegitimate offspring; etc, etc…

29. once again realizing he fucked up, yahweh enters into another covenant with mosey moses and his people, declaring them his chosen people, and sends the 10 commandments, resulting in thousands of years of persecution of his chosen people;

30. rest of the old testament is an explanation of this covenant and how one should act to protect himself from the wrath of yahweh…

this pretty much concludes our synopsis of the old testament. and now we move on to the new testament, as reported by JC’s groupies and fanboys centuries after their death:

31. about a few millennia later, yahweh realizes he fucked up once again– seeing how his creations have resumed knowing their children, their mothers and fathers, other same-gender offspring, assorted livestock and wild animals.  so, he sends his only son JC to earth to restore order;

32. because it would be suspicious to send JC to earth as a grown man, yahweh knows mary the momma in her sleep, living her virginity intact, and JC is born on december 25, 0000 through immaculate conception;

33. JC lives only 33 years, a short lifespan compared to the old testament figures (i guess the story had to be made more believable in the comparatively modern times of the new testament scribes);

34. JC starts off with judaism as a rabbi, but is then baptized by a schizophrenic aptly named john the baptist and starts preaching his dad’s true teachings;

35. JC attracts lots of groupies and fanboys, including mary magdalene, the escort of galilee, and matthew, mark, john, judas iscariot, etc, and performs many a miracle like walking on water and healing the dead;

36. JC becomes sort of a rock star in galilee and the romans and hebrews don’t like it so they decide to kill him and end his shenanigans;

37. JC’s fanboy judas iscariot the redhead snitches on him to the romans– therefore the redheads get a bad rap for centuries to come and are persecuted everywhere throughout history;

38. before he is arrested by the romans, JC throws a dinner party and instructs his fanboys to eat bread as his flesh and drink wine as his blood;

39. the morning after the dinner party, presumably with a hangover that could have been easily cured by jesus the mexican barbacks caldo de pollo with mucho cilantro, JC is arrested, tortured and crucified;

40. suffering on his crucifix, JC rightfully asks his daddy yahweh “why he had forsaken him” and left him to die torturously; and, despite his miraculous powers such as healing the dead and walking on water, he simply cannot free himself from his predicament;

41. eventually he dies on the crucifix, is taken down by his groupies and placed in a cave and three days later his cadaver comes back to life, or is resurrected, and then he says he’ll come back 2,000 years later and vanishes off to the sunset, whistling besame mucho (or, according to dan brown, he vanishes off to the sunset with mary magdalene, the escort of galilee, whistling besame mucho, and relocate in southern france, presumably starting a family and a bakery, living happily ever after);

42. his groupies and fanboys spread all around the world, telling tall tales and testifying of JC’s exemplary life and miracles, recruiting more christians;

43. most of the said fanboys and groupies end up in violent deaths, and judas iscariot the redhead hangs himself in shame;

44. hundreds of years after the groupies are dead, a group of anonymous scribes record their testimonies, finishing the first draft of the new testament and polishing up JC’s story; and

45. according to this new testament, today, december 25, which also happens to be mithras’ birthday, is JC’s birthday, and his crucifixion is celebrated by a christian festival called easter, which happens to have similar traditions and falls on the same dates as the jewish passover…

this, boys and girls, is the story of our creation according to judaism and christianity, and the life and times of jesus of nazareth, the myth (not to be confused with jesus the mexican barback of brooklyn)…

islam, on the other hand, repeats most of this myth, including the JC story.  but argues that yahweh fucked up once more with JC and JC was not a true god, but only a messenger, and mohammed is the last messenger sent to clean up yahweh’s mess…

so, most of monotheist teachings agree on creation and the first 3,000 years.  of course, it never made sense to call christianity, may it be the protestant, catholic or orthodox churches, monotheist– especially the protestants, who see JC as god, or the lord.  mono, after all, means “singular”…  seems to me there are way too many swinging dicks up in the christian heaven to qualify it as monotheist.

i don’t know about you, but this creation story is slightly less acceptable to me then the theory of evolution that our religious friends dismiss as hogwash…  they find it easier to believe that man is created from dust, the sparerib and the talking/ walking snake theory that expediently created us 4,000 quick years ago than the scientific evolution theory, that took billions of years to happen…

but who am i to argue?  you simply can’t argue with a believer.  after all, “god moves in mysterious ways” is enough of an explanation for ’em no matter how implausible the story is…

let them believe that god created the entire infinite universe only for life on earth, not even a tiny spec of dust in the bigger scheme of things, and the universe and earth is only 4,000 years old.

let them also believe that they come from the incestuous fucking of adam, eve and their offspring…  though this one is a little hard to swallow for our religious friends as well– most would find it scandalous and shameful if you approach them with the literal reading of the genesis– instead they prefer to buy into revisionist religious doctrine to explain the incest– wherein yahweh created many other unrelated females for adam and his male offspring to fuck.   it is funny how they take some parts on face value and revise others as it suits them.  but, that there is belief for you….

thanks to the old testament, we also know how the dinosaurs became extinct or how the people separated into different races and colors.  of course whoever wrote the hebrew bible was not much traveled and knowledgeable– he focused only on white and black, explaining the black race and their justified slavery through ham committing the mortal sin of his staring at his dad’s flaccid (or erect– the jury is still out on that one) dick.  he simply ignored to explain the rainbow of other races like brown, yellow, red and french– knowledge and an inquisitive mind is never the strong suit of believers.

i always suspected that this “oops, we forgot about all the other races and people” part was one of the primary reasons why christians promptly destroyed any non-christian knowledge they can find after their conversion, including the burning of the library of alexandria.  by destroying historical human knowledge, they protected their version of history and creation…

and, of course, they believe that the talking/ walking snake, who is cursed to crawl and eat dirt, was the devil- mr. lucifer himself.  they believe he planted seeds of doubt (and inquisition) in the minds of adam and eve, and continue to do so, by tempting us to freethinking and ideas…  an inquisitive and free mind simply won’t stand with believers…

of course there are alternative theories on how lucifer, or the talking/ walking snake, operates.  my favorite, and the most logical explanation of religious doctrine, comes from the manicheans.  you see, the manicheans, and many other similar groups, believed that god created everything.  but they did not believe in a wrathful, capricious god who wanted to be worshipped and praised every second.  they also believed that the creator did not need to send its creations, ie. the humans, life’s users’ manuals and messengers to explain them how they should live their lives righteously.

they believe, instead, the devil, to corrupt god’s creations and diverge them from the true path, gave them religions..  they believed the religions are evil and distract people from godliness and righteousness.  they believe religions sow the seeds of hate in humans and we have thousands of history to back this theory up: would the inquisitions, the holocaust, 9/11, the crusades, and anti-semitism happened if there was no religion?  the answer is obvious.  ergo, religions must be the work of the devil.

many, naturally, were burned on the stake or persecuted because of this logical theory.  last major persecution because of this theory was salman rushdie’s because of “satanic verses”: a book explaining islam in manicheans terms…

manichaeism, if one believes in a creator, makes perfect sense: instead of a creator who constantly fucks up and has to go back to the drawing board each time, it establishes a very logical alternate theory with a cool and confident creator and an evil nemesis who knows the humans’ weaknesses all too well…  the god of monotheistic religions, after all, is extremely insecure, capricious and jealous…   yahweh of the bible simply does not fit in to the job description of an almighty creator…

that is if you believe in a creator of course.  if you don’t, then no need for justification…  if you’re an atheist or an agnostic, you are already at peace with yourself and a better and more moral person by definition…

there is, of course, a very good philosophical case to be made for being an agnostic.  after all, it is next to impossible to prove the existence of a negative– ie. a creator does not exist.  but, it is very easy to philosophically (and logically) explain why all religions are prime, unadulterated bullshit..  hence, being an agnostic is a logically more educated choice than being an atheist…

but, no matter how you slice and dice it, being an agnostic or an atheist makes you a better, more moral person– you’re not corrupted by the filth and perversions of the bible and you don’t find justification for your hate in its pages and the teachings of its messengers.  the only hateful people i know are hardcore believers.  and don’t give me the bullshit about hitler being an atheist– he simply wasn’t..  if you want to send the invoice for his actions, send it to roman catholics…

so, there we go boys and girls– here is the pisses.me christmas special, explaining the myth of creation and the life and times of JC…

this being christmas and all, we naturally focused on christianity.  besides, it is the only safe religion to poke fun at in our politically correct age.  any criticism of judaism, in our day and age, is labeled anti-semitism and you can only criticize islam when it comes to jihad– otherwise it is not PC, especially among the modern day “freethinkers” and “liberals”– it is so sad that the flags of freethinking and liberalism are carried by modern thought nazis in this day and age.   fortunately christianity is still safe to fuck with though– like rednecks…  everything else is off-limits subject to very narrow exceptions…

what did we learn today?  we learned about men’s creation from dust, women’s creation from the man’s sparerib, the talking/ walking snake and noah’s dick.  we also shed light on the extinction of dinosaurs.  now we should be clearer about the roots and doctrines of christianity and be armed with a decent synopsis of the bible.

of course there are good morals in the bible.  but those are natural morals– inherit in humanity, hardwired to our moral compasses.  like jefferson before us, with his famous bible, we don’t need to swallow pages and pages of bullshit to learn the morals.

and, if you find the bible to be a hard and intolerable read with revolting perversions, i suggest, as an alternative, “one hundred years of solitude” by marques– it is a better book of genesis, with jose arcadio buendia cast as adam, ursula as eve, and macondo as the “earth” where they are banished to.  there is also a flood.  trust me, it makes more sense than the bible’s version of genesis.

anyways, this concludes our christmas special for 2011.  if the world doesn’t end in december 2012 as mayans concluded, we will pick up where we left from next christmas.

hope you enjoyed it…

this will make sense mostly to NYC denizens, sorry…

just saw this ungodly abominations the other day.   genetic testing on subway cars.   old D-R subway cars interbred with A-C cars by the unethical hands of a mad MTA scientist.  DR chromosomes mixed up with AC results in this freak of rails.

subway genomes, kawasaki car DNA helixes, where will the buck stop?  we need a new geneva convention on human experiments custom designed for subway cars.  this needs to stop.

call up your rabid preachers, vicious republican representatives, religious groups, etc and petition the president to stop genetic experiments on subway cars.  your protests and self-righteous evangelical dogma worked for stopping stem-cell research, which would have had scientists play god and mess with _____’s (insert the name of the deity of your choice: yahweh, allah, zeus, keith richards, whatever) intelligent design only for the paltry ends of curing cancer, epilepsy, spinal injuries, blah blah– it should also work for genetic tests on subway.

go, pen up and write your petitions!

ah, the media is full of photos of north koreans mourning kim jong il, or, as that late rascal jesse helms used to call him, kim jong 2, mixing up his roman numerals with korean names, later ascending him to kim jong the third– ole jesse was not one to let knowledge and intelligence get in the way  of good demagogy.  oh, how i miss ole jesse but enough on him already– besides, hitchens, who i am really mourning, already told the kim jong the third story much better than i can….

i think i’ll miss kim jong il as well.  like i miss dubya.  when 0le kim died, my first comment on facebook was “the international relations and global politics lost its nabakovian humor, amisian slapstick and kubrickian political leadership… rest as the MC of hell mr. kim jong-il!” and i stand-by my original comment.  he was the 21st century version of chaplin’s immortal adenoid hynkel, in flesh.  team america did him justice, transposing him to ole hynkel with less chaplin grace, but decent humor…

let’s face it– we’ll always have tyrants.  it is a natural byproduct of being human.  we don’t have tyrants, we’re not human anymore. same for psychopaths, same for greedy motherfuckers who suck out and dispose of all our resources, etc.  i love lennon as much as anyone, nonetheless “imagine” was nothing but unfettered utopia and gets on my nerves each time i listen to it– “imagine all the people living life in peace”– my ass..  what he calls for is nothing but the end of being human– without the bad we can’t have good, sans hate, no love…  good ole yin and yang…  it is the human nature.  c’est la vie…

humor is what gets us through that whole process of life.  when we lose our humor, take everything too seriously, this earth becomes hell.  pure and simple…

that’s why we need to laugh at our tyrants.  and some make it too easy– like kim jong il, or like dubya and his sugardaddy cheney before him.  if all tyrants were like mugabe, zuma, milosevic or ________ (fill-in the blank with your favorite dictator without anything to poke fun at- north, south, east, west, past, present doesn’t matter), our collective sanity would be in jeopardy.  hence political parodies, hence saddam on SNL, hence ole kim in “team america”…  chaplin, of course, was the granddady of it all, like rabelais before him, with his political satires…

and that’s precisely why i’ll miss kim jong il…

now, back to the mourning part of this rant– the media prints the photos of north koreans mourning, like the one below.  of course then they say “it is all crocodile tears and the photos are nothing but propaganda”…

tell you what: i really believe they’re sincerely mourning.  they’re mourning because now they’ll have to housebreak a new tyrant, junior… kim jong-un (or, kim jong one, if ole jesse helms was alive, with his southern drawl, he would have called him, like his young ‘uns)  just when they got used to living with one devil, as much as you can get used to living with one, now they’ll have to start all over again.

i am mourning for them north koreans as well…   and nothing i can do for them.  but, at least for the collective sanity of the rest of us, hope junior proves to be as eccentric and nuts as his daddy before him…  and i sincerely hope we don’t get stuck with a reversed bush, sr and dubya situation…  hope it is dubya and dubya junior…

keep mourning north koreans and my sincerest wishes for more power to you… you’re starting over like you did 63 years ago, again with a puppy tyrant, on his way to becoming the supreme leader…

…a puppy tyrant hellbent on proving himself is always much worse than a lazy old fat tyrant…

finished reading umberto eco’s “the prague cemetery” recently.  was great as expected.  and made me feel how little i know of history once again.  that’s inevitable with any eco novel.  i consider myself an educated person.  nevertheless, i was only able to get about 30-40% of all his historical references.   yeah, the general stuff about garibaldi and his expedition of the thousand, the french-prussian conflict, references to dumas and hugo, france’s third republic, the dreyfus trial, the anti-jesuit and anti-freemason movements and anti-semitism in france and russia, i already knew some about.  ditto the protocols of the elders of zion.  but what i knew was only the tip of the iceberg as well as “the prague cemetery” is concerned…

same goes for every eco book i read.  my favorite, still is, “foucault’s pendulum“– the ultimate conspiracy theory book, less goofy and better constructed than “The Illuminatus! Trilogy” …   but more on the pendulum and its connection to the headline of this post, “where is dan brown when we need him?” later..

my second favorite is “the island of the day before“, the perfect book about regret.  it utilizes perhaps the best metaphor in modern literature as far as regret and past mistakes go– a 17th century man is stuck on a ship, swimming distance from an island.  he believes the island is on the other side of the international date line.   the “date line” is almost a science fiction concept for his 17th century enlightenment mind– he believes, if somehow he can reach the island, he will travel to “yesterday” and will be able to stop the ship from wrecking.  unfortunately he can’t swim.  in this conundrum, with the 17th century enlightenment version of time travel eating up his mind, he reminisces about his past mistakes and everything he would have changed only if he could.  like i said, the perfect metaphor for regret and past mistakes.  who, among the living or the dead, did not fantasize of traveling back in time to fix at least one mistake?

eco is a curator of obscure and esoteric knowledge.  he is also a master of unreliable narrators, memory and longing, past mistakes and conspiracy theories.  he is addicted to memories, or their transformation with age, and nostalgia (from greek, compound of nostos, “returning home”, and algos, “pain, ache”), best showcased in the island, mentioned above, and “the mysterious flame of queen loana“– books chuck full of artifacts triggering memories like proust’s madeleines…

and all his books make you want to sign up for graduate studies in history, philosophy or comparative religion.  i am yet to read an eco book without hitting 20 other books and sources simultaneously or sequentially to quench my thirst for knowledge.   they all make you realize that this late in the game, may you be 25 or 40, even if you dedicate the rest of your life to reading and research, your chances are slim in catching up with eco…

he is, and i guess that would be the ultimate compliment to him with his constant shout-outs to the great blind librarian of argentina, is the 21st century borges; or borges if he wrote novels instead of short stories…

the cemetery, as anyone who follows up on literature knows by now, is a satirical novel about the fictional creator of the infamous “the protocols of the elders of zion“, perhaps the most important anti-semitic conspiracy theory, and the biggest literary forgery of all time.   no need to delve into the protocols now– everyone has heard about them, but i am sure few on the western hemisphere have read ’em.  it is grotesquely shocking that they are still read and preached about as true texts in the eastern world and select neo-nazi circles, here and elsewhere.  but, like they say around my lovely brooklyn, “whaddaya gonna do?”– every conspiracy theory, no matter how frivolous it is or how well documented that it is a fraudulent, has a buyer…  people thrive on conspiracy theories.  no wonder the X-files was one of the most popular tv shows of all time…

captain simon simonini is our narrator.  actually one of our three narrators– the second narrator, a jesuit priest, is actually the alter ego of our captain and a third narrator jumps in only to correlate the often conflicting and confusing testimonies of the captain and his alter ego.

captain simonini is the ultimate unreliable narrator.  and he is despicable and evil to the bone.  he may be the most evil and despicable narrator created in modern literature.  the most evil literary creation in modern literature, in my humble opinion, is mccarthy’s judge holden in the “blood meridian“.  simonini is not as evil as the judge was.  but he is up there.  besides, judge holden was not the narrator and simonini is far more despicable: the judge was far more evil but had some sort of an honor code and dignity.  simonini has neither…

the captain is a career fraud and master of forgery.  he will forge any document, from wills and trusts to any old political document. he is an equal opportunity/ affirmative action hater– he hates anyone and everyone…  the book consists of his forgeries, leading up to the protocols and its many prior reincarnations, and how he self-justifies his skills as a forger and a fraud, gently reminding me of welles’ “f is for fake”, discussed elsewhere in this blog

his alter ego, the jesuit priest (don’t make me type his name here– i’ll have to look it up somewhere and copy/paste, too much work) is much more reliable and a slightly more decent person.   he initially thinks that he is a good man.  but, as the story unfolds, he realizes that he was just another instrument of evil from the captain’s toolbox…

eco had to make the captain this despicable– after all, the book, in the wrong hands, may be taken too seriously.  don’t get me wrong, almost everything in the book, except the narrators, are real historical characters.  but, a reader who doesn’t understand eco’s humor and satire, or who reads it as face value, can find the book a great anti-semitic text.  suffice it to say, eco had balls to publish it…

and this brings me to the post’s “pisses” tag; everything else i wrote before could simply be tagged “tickles”.  eco’s american publisher, on the other hand, did not have the same balls– they had to include a blurb in the back cover from cynthia ozick, without citing where the blurb is from (obviously written by ms. ozick only to grace the back cover of the cemetery), as a disclaimer.  ms. ozick’s disclaimer (gracing the back cover as a “blurb”) is sad to say the least.  she expounds:

“A J’accuse is always timely, but there has rarely been anyone to write it– until the advent of the falsely demonic Umberto Eco, a Zola posing as the devil.  His is a satanically dangerous novel, as are all ironic tales, especially if they should fall into the hands of a naive reader.  So: naive readers, country bumpkins, gullible gapers, keep away!  This magnificently sly, scarifying, circuitous, history-besotted jape is meant solely for the wise, the intrepid, and (if one may nowadays dare this biblical note) the righteous.”

“naive readers, country bumpkins, gullible gapers”?  really?  this is the first time i’ve seen a disclaimer on a work of fiction, as a blurb sans a source, on a book’s cover, which is designed to sell it.   even the “satanic verses” did not have such a disclaimer on it.  this blurb reminds me only of the “disclaimers” in high school science books agains “evolution”, shamelessly stating that “evolution” is just a “theory”, not proven, and is one among many other theories of our miserable existence, including creation.

why, oh why, put a disclaimer like this on a great book?

did the publishers think that the racists, anti-semites, and other assorted hate-mongers will decide not to read the book because of the disclaimer?  or not take it seriously because of it?  will a neo-nazi decide to leave it on the shelf when he sees the disclaimer, mumbling “thanks to ms. ozick i will not read this book– she made me realize i am not wise or intrepid enough”?  please– it is just a worthless cover your ass by the publishers– like the DVD CYAs sony and their ilk make us watch– nothing in this film represents the opinions of sony corporation or its employees.  please, have some balls if you’re publishing art– may it be literature or film– grow some balls and stand behind your artists and the freedom of speech…

enough ranting though– let’s get back to the subject line of this post: where is dan brown when we need him?  well, i am sure he is on a private island somewhere, waiting on the publication of the cliff’s notes to “the prague cemetery”…

dan brown’s stupid, stupid “the da vinci code”, and most of his oeuvre, is umberto eco’s “foucault’s pendulum” for the “naive readers, country bumpkins, gullible gapers”…

so ms. ozick and mr. eco’s US publishers need not fear– i am sure, as soon as the cliff’s notes to “the prague cemetery” comes out and mr. brown finally reads its watered down summary, there will be a bestseller written out of the cemetery for the “naive readers, country bumpkins, gullible gapers” with a tom hanks blockbuster following.  mind the cemetery was a bestseller in most of europe. we don’t need to fear the same happening on this side of the pond ms. ozick: only a watered down version, with enough built in disclaimers so you don’t have to write any more “blurbs”, will eventually hit our great nation’s grocery stores and walmarts, most likely from the hands of mr. brown’s assistants and ghostwriters…

so, ms. ozick and the great publishing house of houghton mifflin harcout, fear not of the “naive readers, country bumpkins, gullible gapers”, i am sure your remedy is right around the corner…

the times, in its style section this week, which usually gets me to rant incessantly with their shameless promotion of commercial trends as uniqueness and their neu hipsterism, packaged as faux individuality, but in reality is nothing but pack mentality, designed specifically for bored soccer moms, printed a true article of hope: a report on the rising number of black atheists in america.

congratulations times style section, now this is refreshing– mostly you give us nothing but what was cool a year ago, or sap stories reading almost like treatments for oprah’s book club manuscripts and/ or showtime romantic comedy series, or rants of social nazis…  unfortunately, i must say, the only consistently interesting thing in the times’ style section is bill cunningham’s street photography…

the report, in a nutshell, is about the rising number of atheists or non-believers (obviously huge difference there) in the black community.  the numbers are encouraging:

In the two years since, Black Atheists has grown to 879 members from that initial 100, YouTube confessionals have attracted thousands, blogs like “Godless and Black” have gained followings, and hundreds more have joined Facebook groups like Black Atheist Alliance (524 members) to share their struggles with “coming out” about their atheism.

of course the times had to drop a sentence like “african-americans are remarkably religious even for a country known for its faithfulness, as the united states is” and then continue with:

According to the Pew Forum 2008 United States Religious Landscape Survey, 88 percent of African-Americans believe in God with absolute certainty, compared with 71 percent of the total population, with more than half attending religious services at least once a week.

the american faithfulness is, by itself, sufficient to trigger its own rants, as it did time and again…  the us of a, despite its self-proclaimed pole position as the leader of the free world, is an extremely religious country.  which is mind boggling: it is very hard to reconcile “the free world” with religious fundamentalism.  but, given the americans collective depression and discontent, the poverty and lack of solid public school education in most of the flyover states and dysfunctional families, it is really not a big a surprise. the formula is very simple:

poverty + lack of good education + dysfunctional families + depression/ discontent = religious fundamentalism.

take any of the two causes out, for instance poverty + depression, and you are left with simply religious people.  factor in at least three of the symptoms, you can easily add “fundamentalism” to “religious”…

this rings truer in marginalized communities– like the black or the hispanic community.   the last bastion of catholicism in the united states, in its most medieval form, is the hispanic community.  sames goes for protestant faiths in the black community.  and with also the rise of islam in the black communities.  the poorer, the less educated a community is, the more religious it will become.

religion in the black community is the last major artifact of slavery still standing.  the slaverunners not only took the black people’s freedom, but also poisoned them with their hardcore religion.   slavery was abolished in 1860s, but the de facto end of state sponsored racism was the civil rights movement in the 60s, a hundred years after the emancipation proclamation.  racism, however, still hovers like a spectre over this nation, haunting us in the form of poverty, sub par education and other forms of marginalization.   the question of racism, in this day and age, is not much different than the proverbial chicken-egg question…

adam clayton powell, jr, back in the heyday of the civil rights movement, declared “to demand these god-given rights is to seek black power”.  hence, the concept of “black power” was defined.  now, only when the black community can take the “god-given” out of the equation, then their power and their freedom will be absolute…

the old mantra of “religion is the opium of the masses” still holds true.  especially in this country.  in the third-world, in developing nations, religion is inevitable.  their poverty and non-existent value of life attracts religion to them like the plague.  in the united states, how religion infiltrates the society is a little more complicated.  and it is more true in poor communities, especially the black community.  hence, this times report is most encouraging.  obviously there is always hope– but the study goes on to show that there is a movement backing up the hope:

i simply hope that the movement will grow, groups like the african-americans for humanism will gain more momentum and will end the last bastion of slavery left in the united states, the religious dogma injected to once freemen during their atlantic crossing, and the corrupt power of black church organizations, which are seen and endorsed as “political machines” by the rich and the powerful, will diminish in influence, resulting in free people once again…  when the al sharpton’s and jesse jackson’s find themselves without any true power, when the church of god and the southern baptists move back their mega-churches to strip-mall offices, when rappers give little or no shout-outs to JC and his once estranged father, freedom will reign and racism will dwindle…  at least i can only hope…

and the rising number of atheists or non-believers in the black community is the most powerful indicator of this movement towards freedom.  it was interesting, but not surprising to read that for black families it is easier to accept their children coming out as gay than it is to accept them as coming out as atheists or non-believers.  religion is the only salvation and hope of poor or uneducated people.  a lifestyle choice such as coming out as gay is more easily swallowed than turning your back to the only form of salvation or hope you can imagine.

the movement is gaining momentum and atheism is not the only solution– simply being a non-believer or an agnostic is good enough.  after all, atheism is much harder to swallow– for an educated person, it is impossible to prove the existence of a negative– hence the hard to swallow part.  logical and intellectual thinking precludes a full on denial of a deity’s existence– the impossibility of proving the existence of a negative.  nevertheless, simply rejecting religion, is a good enough and healthy start towards freedom and towards being a better person.  enough said…

adam gopnik had a decent book review in the new yorker about artificial intelligence and intelligence in general last week.  the gist of the review, published in the april 4, 2011 issue, and ain’t available in full unless you’re a subscriber, is simple: the machines are still eons away from catching up with us.  however, contrary to the popular opinion of the academicians, and in line with the opinion of anyone who writes or appreciates dystopian literature, he concludes that the silicone bastards may catch up before we even realize, and, perhaps, the only reason we’re ahead is because we constantly change our definitions of “intelligence” and “being smart”…  well, this is something i’ve been thinking about a lot since i learned how to tie my own shoes myself and figured i should take his analysis a few paragraphs further and vent my two cents worth…

mr. gopnik starts off with pointing out the obvious: “for centuries memory was intelligence”, which even though is as out-fashioned as doing the can-can for any reason other than irony, is still true for the idiots that make up mensa.  mensa, which, by the way, means “table” in latin, as in “we’re the knights of the intelligence round table, where all of us are equal in intelligence but we’re still engaged in an eternal pissing contest”, is an organization of idiots who believe IQ can be measured by how much trivial knowledge a particular jerk-off possesses and can display on cue.

that maxim, and all the underlying IQ tests supporting it, sounded like utter bullshit to me.  being able to store volumes of disassociated and trivial knowledge in your mind for no practical purpose is not intelligent at all.  it is of course good not to forget what you hear, see and read, and utilize it whenever needed, whether when in trouble or when in company, but it sure ain’t intelligence.  as a matter of fact, refraining from such stupid behavior may be a sign of true intelligence per se.    nevertheless, the morons of mensa preach otherwise– because they jammed more in their otherwise dull brains, they think they’re “intelligent”.  such folly.

i met quite a few mensa members in my time, either directly, in conversations and socially, or, thanks to their mensa bumper stickers, but i am yet to meet one “intelligent” mensa member: they’re all world class idiots…  in my experience with mensa members, the stereotype of the “comic book guy” holds true: unintelligent morons full of trivial information giving them a delusion of superiority.  none would survive if intelligence was a requisite for modern human survival.

now, to give them the benefit of the doubt, i am sure mensa started off as an organization of intelligent people but withered down to the morons full of trivia.  just like sca, which had some smart founders in berkeley way back in 1966, but now is a clearing house for comic book guys and their female counterparts, whatever the fuck they’re called…

well, that is the current state of “smartness” in the US of A.  we have mensa morons, who sincerely believe that cramming up knowledge into your cranium makes you smart, just like scientists believed in the 18th century, and we have this paranoia that the machines will get smarter than us and clean us out in a fairly near dystopian future.

i beg to differ in both counts: smartness, or being intelligent, has nothing to do with how much information you cram into your gray cells and the machines cannot be intelligent– unless we define “intelligence” as the mensa crew do.

intelligence is about how you use information, not how much information you retain, and how you react to information, events, emotions, etc.  it is how you tackle problems and solve them.  it is about creativity.  it is about thinking outside of the box.  show me how a machine can see the venetian light like monet did and create its impressions, i’ll concede.  show me how a machine can create “ok computer”, i’ll concede.  show me how a machine performs a long con, and i’ll concede.  show me how a machine comes up with the mastercard priceless campaign, and i’ll concede.

machines can break code faster than us and play chess better than us.  that is a no brainer.  you can program that that way.  but, like mr. gopnik states, machines can’t play poker better than us.  unless they’re playing other machines and you programmed how other machines “think” into each other.  then they can play.  the only way you can perhaps program a machine to play poker against humans better is by programming their tells, their styles, etc into the machine and then running a facial/ body recognition software so that they can track the tells and other signs.  even that, by itself, may not be enough.  but, even if you figure it out, go program the same data for 6 billion human beings.

and that is where the fallacy of artificial intelligence lies: all current artificial intelligence work relies on enormous data entry (the mensa model of intelligence) and stereotypes.  let me explain: to create “intelligent” machines, engineers and scientists cram all the data they can think into the machines.  then write code showing the machine how to index (or catalog), use and select the necessary data.  the more data you can enter and the more efficient your code is, the smarter your machine.

for choosing what data to enter and how to write the code that maps out how the machine will “think”, they rely on cognitive psychologists and linguists.  the holly trinity of modern artificial intelligence is computer science, cognitive psychology and linguistics.

the cognitive psychologists do their studies and come up with both quantitative and qualitative data about how people perceive, recognize, react, solve, feel, etc.  there we are venturing into stereotypes.  the cognitive psychologists and linguists do most of their studies on students or other closed groups.  what they come up with are nothing but generalizations, stereotypes.  what they’re programming into the computers is nothing but a coded version of the “reasonable person” standard discussed elsewhere in a different post.

programming the machines this way is called “learning” and in theory it is no different than human learning, where, as humans, we slowly accumulate lots of data, catalog and learn how to use it.  in theory it is similar but in practice it is eons apart.  this is because no human being is the same as another.  even though the methods utilized to teach us may be the same, we all learn differently.  and we all use our knowledge differently.

mr. gopnik eludes to the “turing test” as a qualifier of machine intelligence– turing test purports to hide a computer behing a curtain and have a real human being enter into a conversation with the computer without knowing it is a computer.  if the human being is fooled that he or she is talking to another human, then the machine is smart.

this, in my opinion, should not be very hard to achieve given the acceleration of technology we are enjoying.  with entering enough data and writing the correct code, it should be possible to con a human being into believing that he is conversing with another human.  albeit a very, very standard human.

as i discussed above, because of the uniqueness of human beings, the programmers and their linguist and psychologist pals will only be able to program one person at a time into the system.   and that person’s character traits will be dictated either by the data the psychologists and linguists have gathered (a stereotype), or programming the character traits of one (or more) individuals.

the human being behind the curtain will believe he is, let’s say, having a pleasant conversation with a middle aged midwestern woman but he will never believe he is shooting the shit around with his uncle hank.  now, you can program the computer to emulate uncle hank, but then the discussion will be limited by uncle hank’s mental facilities.  you can program many different people and personalities into the machine but how is the machine going to decide which personality to activate?  also, we human beings know how to take different tones with different people or in different occasions.   we all do it differently.  again, you can teach a machine how some people change tones but not all people.

at the end of the day, all you’ll program will be either stereotypes (like mr. gopnik’s well-intentioned but ill-conceived attempt to emulate how teenage girls speak) or will be very specific, based on individual’s character traits.  either is a losing proposition.

however, if you go with the former, you can create a wonderful cast for a soap-opera or a horrendous direct to video film with all kinds of stereotypes.  it wouldn’t be any different than a D-list actor playing a teenage girl (or uncle hank for that matter).

if there was a way to program all 6 billion residents of the planet earth into one single machine and make it pick the right person for the right occasion, then it would have been a little bit closer to success but that is a practical impossibility.

this is the goal of artificial intelligence but i don’t think what they will achieve, if they achieve it, will be intelligence.  not in the real sense.  in mensa sense, yeah, they should have it.  but not as humans are intelligent.

here is a way to achieve it: maybe someday technology will advance enough to create a chip that can transmit human brain activities in its entirety.  that way, by implementing chips on every new born, perhaps we can create a “shadow drive” or a “back-up” of our human brains.  as we learn, from infant to adult, everything we learn, feel, react to, etc is copied on a shadow drive.  by processing that information, perhaps the machines can finally “imitate” all human beings.  however, even if that nightmare happens, it will still be an “imitation”.

it will be an “imitation” because all that is achieved will be storing, indexing and applying data.  human intelligence is more than that.  as long as there is someone who is able to think outside of the box, as long as there is someone with some creativity left, as long as we have our instincts, we will still be smarter and more intelligent.  granted, the machines will know more than us, we will still be smarter.  unless we continue to underestimate what “intelligence” and “being smart” really means.

the only real threat of a dystopian future where the machines rule us is not coming from the machines– at least not directly.  the threat is us: by relying on the machines and overestimating them we are actually losing our smartness and intelligence.  perhaps the most cliche example would be simple calculations and our inability to perform them because of our reliance on calculators.  if we keep it this way, if we rely too much on the machines and what they offer us, then yes, the machines can overtake us.  not because they’re better but because we are worse.

it is easy to envision human devolution– if we’re using less of our brains or limbs or etc we may start losing them.  slowly but surely.  from a purely logical stand point, as quickly as we evolved and advanced, we can turn the clock and devolve.   science always said that because of our intelligence we do not need to rely on our physical powers that much and future humans will probably need less power and perhaps our bodies will evolve that way.

however, if we do not challenge our intelligence and our brains, if we rely more and more on machines, we can lose both our physical and mental powers.  now that would be a devolution in my book.  we may rely on the machines so much that we may even forget that it was us who designed and programmed them.  and then the machines will win.   otherwise, if we keep on thinking, creating, challenging our gray cells, using our instincts, staying aware of our emotions, we have nothing to fear mr. gopnik– the machines can only do a small percentage of what we can and cannot be human…

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