Child playing with a remote. And that remote is the nature of morality.

I had an interesting discussion with some friends recently on the subject of morality. At the core of it was the question: could morality be described as objective?

There are of course arguments in the affirmative, provided by religion.  If God creates a moral code, then what is right and wrong is forever arbitrated by that code, regardless of the apparent societal norms of the people.  Without the existence of a God, would people just run around stabbing each other? Frankly though, for someone who doesn’t believe in such a thing, it’s kind of a non-argument. One way to develop this idea, for a secular perspective, is to look at whether or not the morality of a culture is determined by its religion.  They are of course fundamentally linked, but seeing how members of all religions reinterpret their respective teachings then it is tempting to say that a religion’s moral code, in respect to the things that matter, mirrors that of the culture it is in.  For example, most Catholics I know are ok with gays and contraception.  Regardless, this does not address the nature of morality itself.

The natural way to turn then, is that as morality has no meaning outside of human interaction, then it must be a completely human construct.  Completely subjective, and completely a result of society.  However this ignores two key points: where the morals came from in the first place; and why there is an apparent consistency in the moral codes around the world (that is, most cultures look after the weak and are against theft, and I would defy you to find one that thinks of murder as a good thing).

The view I took here was that morality was a useful product of evolution, a mechanism that allows society to live and work together.  This makes it no less real, and makes good acts no less good for preserving the society that they take place in, rather they act as an explanation for why moral acts can be almost instinctual.  Whether or not this makes them objective is a matter of semantics. They do depend on the mind of the individual, but they are a product of biological effects on the mind that are as fundamental as our need to reproduce. However, this would only be true for some fundamental moral points, and as the only way to observe what these were would be to see consistency across cultures.  In this sense, rather than objectivity, we would be looking for consistency, which might operate similarly in this context, but is a fundamentally different philosophical concept.  Orwell famously said “sanity is not a statistic” and that should be observed here.  Just because the majority believe something does not make it correct, and certainly does not help define the full nature of morality.

It should be noted here that I consider morality a real, tangible thing that affects my everyday actions.  In viewing morality as subjective in nature, if not in practice, I do not devalue it. Rather, I am inexpertly attempting to explore what it is, and how it works.  I am a child pulling apart a remote control to see what makes it do what it does.

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Splurge of thoughts…

Indeed it has been a long time since I last wrote anything on these hallowed pages…the reason being the glory that is the summer exam period!  It left me with little of any real interest to say, unless you are fanatically excited about inexpert views on calculus or chemical equilibria.  I suppose I could have said something about exam stress…but I doubt it would have got far further than “oh my god, I’m so stressed about my exams!”

Testing doth not a poet make.

Rather I’ll talk briefly about the things I’ve been getting excited about:
Prometheus: inferior prequel to Alien…though still visually remarkably and deeply engaging.  I does have an irritating subtext that you should ignore evidence if you think otherwise, pretty much all actors are pretending to come from somewhere else for no apparent reason, it gives the original xenomorph the most ridiculously convoluted life-cycle ever, and takes the original rape imagery a step too far. But it still manages to give the origin to the alien everyone wanted and has great 3D, so that’s alright.

Bear in Heaven: icy electronic majesty… Sinful Nature is not unlike what  having sex with a dream in space is like. Or something. Lovesick Teenagers is  full of joy and apprehension, which is kind of what it feels like being a lovesick teenager.

Amazing Spiderman: Better than the Sam Raimi films by several orders of 10.  It captures the angst, the awkwardness, the humour and the weirdness that I feel epitomises the character…as well as some pretty badass action and convincing soppiness.  It’s directed by Marc Webb (HA!) of (500) Days of Summer fame, and you can see the similarity. No, really! I wish he had more input in the mainly very conventional orchestral soundtrack though…

Howler: Cool, is the best word for this band.  They just are. I can’t ever meet them. I’d embarrass myself. Like a Joy Division meets Beach Boys meets Blink 182…er…but like, a billion times cooler.  Er… Listen to This One’s Different.

And some older stuff: inFamous (I loved it far more than I feel I should have); 99 problems by Jay-Z; Crank (have you seen it? No?! THEN DO SO)

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Not Bullshit: The Cribs, In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull quasi-review

Okay…It may have come out  a couple of weeks ago now, but I wanted to comment on the (now only relatively) new release by The Cribs: In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull.

I’m a big fan of the band of brothers, I’ve seen them live, got shirts, discussed them at length with my (cooler than me) Dad. However, this posed a problem with this album didn’t quite live up to the inevitably large expectations I had placed upon them.  Here, they return to the scratchier, fuzzier sounds of their youth, but with a notable absence of the catchiness present in their previous 2 (excellent, I should say) efforts.  There are no riffs like Men’s Needs, and no choruses like We Were Aborted….

The whole album indeed seems quite old fashioned, from the 90s guitars (which are quite cool now, with Yuck and the like), to the startlingly unexpected ‘oohs’ in Anna, and an old trick of using a chorus for a solo in Chi-town.  This must be a result of Ryan Jarman’s recent taste in burying himself in old cassettes. And Retarded Fish (who, checking out, are pretty good).

I may be dressing this up wrong though, In The Belly of the Brazen Bull is still very good.  There are great songs on it, notably Pure O, Jaded Youth and the single Chi-Town.  Also, it hangs together exceptionally well…it works as a coherent progression of ideas, and is paced to merit listening to it in a whole sitting.  It even finds time for not one, but two distortion filled opuses! Back To The Bolthole, however, is the superior, having a dreamlike quality to it.

Overall, the band has matured musically, moving beyond the indie anthems of their past, and forging interesting and exciting guitar music, filled with witticisms and dirty guitars. But I like anthems! A couple more wouldn’t go amiss…

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Marvel At It All (& Avengers quasi-review)

Oh Joy of all Joys! The moment the geek brethren have been waiting for for upwards of 4 years is here! The Avengers film, or Marvel: Avengers Assemble here in the UK, is finally in cinemas.  By Lee’s beard.  It doesn’t really have a right to be quite as good as it is.  In fact, the whole series was far better than anyone expected.

Iron Man was  an absolute triumph, and in my eyes is up there for one of the greatest comic adaptations of all time.  Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Tony Stark was nuanced and note perfect, the script natural sounding and funny. And it was cool, very very cool.  There also was some genuine character development, which rare for a superhero film. Sure, the almost bitterly disappointing sequel does away with any of that, making you wonder how much of the first they retconned out when they made it, but whatever.  He goes from an almost evilly self-centered arms dealer and git to a vulnerable hero. Then back to git. He’s less git in Avengers, and they needed someone to make jokes, which he dutifully fills.  Still, the involvement in the Avengers (and 2) does reduce the value of the first as a film in itself, which is annoying.

Thor and Captain America, which both came out last year, were also surprisingly good. Thor did seem too small, despite its galactic backdrop. The risks seemed relatively small-scale, and the action limited in size and length (except for a brilliant opening scene with Frost Giants).  However, this was made up for by some excellent, very human, acting by the whole cast. It must have the only convincing superhero romance I’ve seen on film, and Loki (who returns as Avengers’ big bad) is eminently watchable. You do wonder on Odin’s parenting skills though.  Cap provided good solid adventure, and genuine warmth. It was relatively pedestrian, sticking to a well worn formula, but did it exceptionally well.  Like with Iron Man, the connection to the Avengers, though exciting at the time, seems to cheapen the experience in hindsight.

However, Joss Whedon’s final product is a thing to behold.  It brings together all these massive figures, and they balance out exceptionally well, even if it takes about 3 hours. The characters don’t get much developed, but hey! That’s what the previous films were for! It’s funnier than those that came before, it’s cooler too.  And the Hulk is finally realised in a way that seems right. I enjoyed Ang Lee’s Hulk (I think the psychobabble undertones made me think it was deep when I was 12), but even Ed Norton and Tim Roth couldn’t save the Incredible Hulk.  Mark Ruffalo, however, does him perfectly, and the epic final battle seems designed simply to apologise for all the previous films. At one point, Cap instructs Hulk to “Smash”. Oh yayeah.

You do need an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel Lore to get what’s going on half the time, but if you’ve got that, it’s a huge thrill.  And already it’s gearing to an (inevitably disappointing) sequel. But hell! You see the bad guy in the post credits sequence! And he is an exciting prospect.

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As In Poetry: an overview of the interpretations of quantum theory

I have been working on a report, which I have just finished.

As In Poetry: An Overview of the Interpretations of Quantum Theory

Bibliography

Thought I might share it with the world.

And if you try to plagiarise it, I think the Smiths quotes might get in the way.

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It’s Christmas-time, again.

Yes, it comes every year. I know. The day that celebrates the birth of someone who probably was not born on that day, but who would eventually grow up to be someone who may or may not be the messiah of a people in Israel.  Christmas. Yay.

I have a black Santa hat with Bah Humbug written on it.

Christmas seems to be a time where normal taste is abandoned.  Why would you eat Turkey? It’s like chicken. But worse. And bigger. And worse. And you want to eat it with jam? Decorations, too. Let’s simply forget taste, decency, and good sense, and just cover everything with something sparkly. Including the radiators. You cannot have dull radiators.

Ok, I’m being negative for effect. I love Christmas. I love spending time with my lovely (cough) family, I love the smell of the decorations, of cinnamon and orange, of mincemeat.  I even love the pappy decorations. Yay! But I reserve the right to get Scroogish whenever the mood takes me. Fuck tinsel.

There is one area which holds strange wonder for me though. The Christmas song.  There is of course the rubbish you simply have to listen to every year, without exception. Wham, Slade, Wizzard…As well as “classics”, like “Santa Baby” and just about anything by Bing Crosby ever.  As far as I can tell, nobody likes them, but we still inflict them upon ourselves year after year, in some sort of masochistic Sisyphean cycle. In addition there are the new songs. These come broadly into 3 categories. The anti-Christmas song, which tries to be rebellious through utter grinding misery but so many people have done it already it has become part of the tradition anyway. Like ironic hats.  The really, jolly, damn-I’m-going-to-be-merry ones, with bells and swelling strings and lyrics about “Christmas cheer” and awful, awful videos. And then there are the ones which are just songs. Boring, normal songs that happen to be about Christmas. No!

Two stand out Christmas songs for me though, are the Maccabees’ version of “Walking in the air”, and Blink 182’s “Happy Holidays, you bastard”. The Maccabees’ version is haunting, beautiful, and fills you with a sense of awe usually reserved for classical music and Arcade Fire. Blink’s is notable simply for how unchristmassy it is: “Christmas eve and I’ve only bought 2 fucking presents…I hate, hate, hate your guts, and I’ll never talk to you again unless your dad will suck me off…ejaculate into a sock”

Charming, guys. They don’t even try to justify it. They just leave it there right in the middle of Take Off Your Pants And Jacket.  Classic.

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English, Mother Ucka, do you speak it? Might well contain some proper swears

In college, on the street, on the television. Golly, even in that last bastion of good-clean-fun, the video game, there is swearing. Lots and lots of incredibly obscene swearing.

Fucking hell, it’s all a bit much isn’t it?

I swear an exceptional amount. It’s kind of crept up on me. I have been told I swear “like a sailor”, which is quite loveably quaint, but it does concern me that I swear a lot compared to other youths. Jesus Christ.  Generally, if avoid it in front of old people and little kids, it’s alright, I think. But still…

Swearing definitely has an important part in the English language, beyond punctuating my sentences like pauses in a piece of Shatner dialogue. People need insulting. Pain or disappointment must be communicated somehow. And there are few better ways of getting shock value humour than a well placed curse out of context.

Though that is just it. We’re getting densensitised. It’s odd, but the Inbetweeners is genuinely how my friends and I speak (well, Will and Simon. As of yet, I have never referred to women as “gash” in any other than an explicitly ironic situation.) In KickAss, when little Chloe asks the gangsters to show her what they can do, it almost slips your notice she called them cunts.

I did try for a while to just use fictional swear words, the best being Frak (from BSG), Drokk (Judge Dredd), Smeg (Red Dwarf), Zark (H2G2) and Tunk (Kick-Ass, the comic), but I stopped as I annoyed everyone. They were more offended to hear fake expletives than actual ones! Oh dear…

I can’t help but wonder which words will inevitably come to fill the gaps left by the hard hitters of today… “Hell’s teeth” is no longer a decent expletive today, any more than “retard” a medical term. I hope it’s something funny, like “cheese”, or something topical, like “Gideon”.  I’d call someone a Gideon. It might be a bit harsh though.

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What the Hell?

I was brought up in a lovely, Christian fashion, with a Methodist set of Grandparents on one side and an Anglican set on the other, but it was pretty soon when I started to question the existence of God.  I simply could not see how an all loving, all powerful, all knowing god could inflict hurricanes, mosquitoes and adolescence on his wonderful creations.

Now, I am sure that having a pretty cruel (but undoubtedly funny) sense of humour is not the widely accepted answer to this, so I have pursued answers from assorted Christians. I have been told that humanity falling to sin has unbalanced the world (causing earthquakes), that everything has good aspects (like mosquitoes), that God feels the need to test or punish us (hence adolescence) and most of all he’s big and powerful and always right. Basically, don’t question too hard, because it’s impossible that our puny human minds could comprehend the majesty of the Lord’s ineffable plan (praise be!).

However, arguments that require you to believe in them in the first place aren’t entirely convincing.Why would God create a world that was so easily messed up? Why would God create us with such a potential for disaster (free will or no)? Why would God, who is meant to be all loving and all forgiving, want to test or punish us? Is he a massive sicko? It’s difficult to simply persuade me that God’s ineffable by telling me that God’s ineffable.

What’s more, the foundation of faith itself is fundamentally flawed: why believe at all?  I have been told time and time again (by evangelists) that there is firm evidence for God, but they don’t seem to understand that if it was firm enough to be fact they wouldn’t have to believe in a God. It would be a universally accepted scientific fact. Then there is the argument that faith is worthless if the believers know that God exists. Now, apart from the obvious point on how depressingly needy that makes our Heavenly Father sound, there is the small matter of “why believe in the first place”. Because of a book? Because your parents did? I know this sounds awful but I honestly cannot find Christianity or Islam any more logical or convincing than Ancient Greek Mythology or Unicorns. I’m sure with concerted effort they too can be justified in a pseudo-scientific sense, the most inconvenient stories described as metaphors.

I’m not saying religion is necessarily a bad thing. Far from it, it can make many people very happy, give people a reason to live, and justify morality in a way pure logic sometimes can not.  I’m not saying that religious people are stupid. Like humanity as a whole, many are exceptionally clever (though like humanity as a whole most are exceptionally stupid). However, the way people’s beliefs are treated as sacred (apologies), as somehow separate to standard philosophy and science is wrong. The matter of religion is fought on a very different field to any other source of debate, and that needs to be changed.  By all means believe what you like, Jedi or Judaism, but if you’re going to try to convince someone else you’re right and they’re wrong, make damn sure that your argument is irrefutable.

I think it is that sort of attitude that really throws me off on religion.  The arguments can be made for and against, and no one really gets anywhere because religion is seen as a subjective thing. In my eyes I don’t see how that is possible. It is not an opinion that gravity works, it is an observation. It is not an opinion that evolution happens, it is an almost universally accepted, peer-reviewed theory with enormous evidence and scientific backing.  However, if more evidence or observations came that countered them, new theories would need to be written. That is the scientific process. If religion had a basis in fact, it would be observed under a scientific process, and a conclusion could be brought.

Probably not going to happen though. Here’s hoping I don’t burst into flames soon.

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“List your favorite ways to procrastinate.” Er, ok…

It might not come as a shock to anyone visiting this site at this point, but I’m relatively new to the whole blogging thing.  Perhaps sensing this, the lovely people at WordPress decided to give me a prompt, a few in fact:
1)List your favorite ways to procrastinate.

2)Describe your earliest experience of death. How did you feel?

3) What topics do you like to debate?

It seems interesting that, with an internet already filled with so much meaningless bilge, Worpress feels a need to encourage people with no original ideas to write.  That said, I have used this as a jumping off point myself, in a way that is probably far less metatextual than I imagine, and in fact makes me look sneery and lazy. Which is bad.

Still, anyone who’s ever used facebook or twitter will know simply how boring people are. The most often repeated topic of any facebook status is how bored that person is, and to be frank, I’m not surprised. If when you’re bored your solution is to tell similarly bored people that you are bored then you will always be bored.  Twitter is similarly content-free. Lady Gaga (singer, self-publicist), the most followed person on twitter’s most recent tweet was “It’s always, and forever will be, about the work.” With no surrounding context. What does that even mean?!

I suppose it’s the democratic nature of the internet that means that everyone gets their say, but in the same vein, the sheer amount of such people doing just that means that no one gets their say, because we can’t filter out the crap.

And here I am, typing as if anyone reads this or cares about my opinion. In my own little comfortable bubble.

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Panic on the streets of London, Panic on the streets of Birmingham…

The London Riots, eh?

I think what most people think when posed with such situations is “Why?”.  My first thought was a sense of disbelief.  Not because of the disastrous scale of it, that came later, but because there didn’t seem to be any clear cause, motivation or reason behind it.  This wasn’t a protest that got out of hand, not really. Protesters would try to make their message clear wouldn’t they? Rather, than just breaking things in a cryptic and completely unhelpful way, akin to babies’ crying or the riddles left to ‘help’ heroes find the MacGuffin in lazily plotted adventure films (I mean, why?).  Last time I looked, we weren’t in a socially motivated Indiana Jones film. As was widely stated, Footlocker hadn’t stopped EMA.

The next thought that the Telegraph, our Prime Minister (the Right Honourable David Cameron), and every outraged old person within earshot had was that it was motivated by greed.  It’s probably very likely that this was a factor in the riots, you don’t steal a laptop just because you’re cross, or as a grand political statement. However, if these people had the attitude that if they wanted something, they’d steal it, wouldn’t they have done this earlier? In a subtler manner? As in, not in broad daylight, in front of CCTV cameras?  It jars somewhat, and I think it’s skirting the issue to place it simply on personal self interest, even if they thought they could get away with it.

It has to be more complicated than that.  A combination of desperation from poverty, undirected anger at the government and those around them, and mob mentality.  I am not saying that people should not be dealt with, rather that the roots of the problems are faced.  These riots that weren’t thought out at all. Trumped up charges (16 months for stealing some doughnuts!) will not prevent future problems.

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