A ‘Rip’ in Time

A childhood favorite author, Madeleine L’engle, most known to the likes of us for her “Wrinkle in Time” series, died–or as she might put it, Xed–last month at the human age of 88. I only know this because I started re-reading the series last month–for the first time since Aziz reminded me of it almost ten years ago–and looked her up out of curiosity. A more incredulous person would attribute it not to mere coincidence.

To anyone who’s never read this series, I urge you to do so. Yes, they are children’s books, but like many, they are packed with timeless scientific, philosophical, and humanistic principles. Space, time, creation, destruction, love, loathing, existence, perception, consciousness, identity, communication, interconnectedness, personal significance in an infinite cosmos…it’s all there, the intangible made tangible in these stories and characters.

The entire Quintet (I only thought there were three books!) was re-released this past May, so there’s no excuse. They include:

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wind in the Door

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Many Waters

An Acceptable Time

Judge Zaphod

If anyone else has been playing Final Fantasy XII for several hours, you might have noticed that the voice of Judge Ghis is unmistakably done by Mark Wing-Davey–otherwise known as Zaphod Beeblebrox. Given the “bad guys” all have English accents, I suppose it’s not too surprising that at least one of the cast from H2G2 should play a part (one wonders how many British voice actors there are these days).

If you don’t have the game and/or don’t plan on playing it, watch the trailer on the FFXII website. Turn up your volume. About 1:15 in, after you see the party in a cave, an older man says, “We’ve found it at last.” That’s him. Don’t watch beyond that if you don’t any spoilers (probably nothing major, but I like to experience all content as it comes).

Most of the time (so far) he’s in a full suit of armour, so his whimsical voice has an almost Darth Vader echo to it. Quite amusing, so it’s difficult for me to take his otherwise majestic and threatening character seriously. When he captures the heroes on the Dreadnought Leviathan, I half-expect him to quip, “I can’t help it if I’m lucky” or “zero out of one million points for style.”

In a month when everyone’s posted all the videos from this game on YouTube, someone should take all his scenes and insert clips from H2G2 in there.

Save the Meme

We all know the meme meme. Even if you are not familiar with memetics, you have probably been infected by it. I find that to be part of its elegance, as memetics is a system subject to its own rules, not above them. Therefore, just as the meme meme itself has longevity, frequency, and fecundity, it also mutates and plays piggyback to other memes. Since meme and memetics are successful memes–part of the same memeplex–abuse of them as memetic devices should be expected.

Here are a few ways in which I’ve found them to be abused*:

  1. Expanding memetics into standard models of learning and memory. Classical conditioning (drooling when you hear a bell) and operand conditioning (acting based on reward and punishment) have nothing to do with imitation/memetics.
  2. Taking analogies with genes too far. The concept of memomes comes to mind.
  3. Taking analogies with viruses too far. You can’t infect me with a meme by speaking magic words or injecting me with a serum (though each could soften my memetic defenses).
  4. Hijacking memetics to support hare-brained, new age, cosmic theories willy-nilly.

However, instead of finding this disagreement and distortion of memetics as evidence against it, I find it satisfying, if tautological. Any successful meme will accumulate freeloaders; the meme meme is no exception.

Is the meme meme dying? Can it survive its own selection? If it dies, does memetics go with it?

If these questions are of concern to you, there is something you can do to help! Yes, the meme meme has conjured within me the following message: mind your meme meme.

* Even–no, especially–if you disagree, my point is made.

Comedians and Dicks

I’ve commented before in my self-proclaimed classic Shut Up article that miscommunication is not the cause of all conflict in the world, in spite of what our teachers often say (in fact, quite the opposite). Nonetheless, it is a cause, and I do fear that it grows worse every day, in part because our society’s value systems (or memes, memeplexes) are becoming increasingly ill-equipped to handle it. I might touch on that more later, but my main goal this time around is to show by means of example how our increasingly advanced methods of communication as a society is actually undermining our ability to communicate, and is thus helping to cause conflict.

Continue reading “Comedians and Dicks”