Tuesday, 26 October 2010

History and fiction

History has being one of my passions. I find understanding different ages, different thoughts, and how the shape the way we are in the present fascinating. For some the only value of history is to prevent doing the same mistakes on the future, I reckon it goes far beyond that, it’s about getting immerse in a world that is not ours, but is not far beyond. Human passions and vices can be encountered and tasted as we look into the past.

I want to dedicate this post to three books I just finish no too long ago, which circle the history frame, from different views, all based on fictional characters who are mixed with historical ones, when this intermix of fiction and history makes your mind drift away in wonder.

The first is “The last of the wine” by Mary Renault

Mary Renault, was an English writer best known for her historical novels set in Ancient Greece. In addition to vivid fictional portrayals of Theseus, Socrates, Plato and Alexander the Great, she also wrote a non-fiction biography of Alexander. Her dedication and research on the historical basis for her novels is tasted on every page of the novel, we can get immerse in the ancient Greek society, their uses and customs, without the need to read an academic book, but with a sound root that speaks of an author who did her homework before writing of a historical period only from imagination.

Alexias son of Myron, the main character, is a noble Athenian who speaks about his life from growing up to adulthood. He lives during the time of the Peloponnesian War, in an Athens that just adopted democracy as their form of government, dropping monarchy and giving the power to the citizens, and that is confronted in different military conflicts, being the main one the one with the kingdom of Sparta. As we see Alexias grow up, we experience some of the traditions of his world. War, power, heroism, love, loyalty, philosophy, all are present. We walk with him in his first training in the art of words, with Socrates himself, as well as the physical one to compete on the Olympic games.

Alexias find love in Lysis, another young man, but older than Alexias, according to the Greek customs, and their lives become united until the end. Even when there’s no obvious mention of Lucian (125-180 AD) we can see a lot of the ideas that he gives on his speech, Amores,reflected on the way that Renault shapes this relationship, there’s even a small wink on the Sacred Band of Thebes, when Alexias find a dying Theban soldier and his lover who won’t leave him. A same-sex love on which each lover looks for honour, pride and courage to show to his lover that he’s man enough to deserve him.

Renault also make a great emphasis about the Greek view on women, even though there’s no a feminine main character, women are present in the story, from the mother and the sister figure, to the prostitute who gives Alexias lessons on love. But most importantly the way Greek society thought of women as second class humans, of course not deserving the right to be citizens, and held as ignorant of philosophy and logic, and fearing of men, and in some cases, as expressed by some characters in phrases that could be so offensive today like “We will look as fools or women if we asked that”, in doubt of their value as human beings.

Perhaps the most important and interesting part of the book are the philosophy and politic dialogues, which reflect with great accuracy the thinking of the era, and a lot of the ideas that Socrates shared with his students and friends, as Plato, who have some interventions on the story.

Even though the content is extremely interesting and even educating of the ancient Greek time, the novel has a weak point on the narrative, which fails to trap its reader and wanting to know what happens next. All that taken into account, is a recommendable reading for those who like history and the classical world.

The second book is “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova

This could be labelled as “When Bram Stoker’s Dracula meets Brown’s Da Vinci Code”. But I think that the result is very synergic, and it’s better than just the sum of its parts, far better written than Brown’s novel, and far more entertained than Stoker’s one.

Kostova goes back to the basics, to tell a vampire story, without the vampires being the main active characters, but passive and ever present characters, that we don’t fully see until the end, and even then, their motives and true essence is not revealed. Where this mysterious and seductive character follow us through the whole story (and in this case history) without clearly revelling himself, making us wanting to know him, and to drop ourselves in to his footsteps. This Dracula is not the lover of Coppola’s film, is not the tormenting vampire of Anne Rice’s books, is not the juvenile hero of Twilight, nor is the vicious character of true blood. This is the basic vampire, the one of whom we know nothing but we can feel everything.

In a clear tribute to Stoker’s work, the novel narrative is being told to a great extent through the medium of letters and other memoranda, and how the unnamed main character explains them and interlink them. Although nearly everybody in the novel is a researcher of some kind, the 'historian' of the title is Dracula himself, as we would learn later on. They are all at one part The Historian, and they are part of the story.

The story goes in a parallel way, in one, we walk with the girl who discovers some letters that his father kept from his tutor, Professor Rossi, on which he describe his journey in trying to find the truth about Vlad Drakulya or Vlad III of Walachia, also known as Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaller).

The narrator's father, Paul, then gets involved in this mysterious journey, and his daughter learns of it in the form of Rossi’s letters, tales told by her father, and her own father letters. On the second way, we follow her own journey to follow Dracula’s steps around Eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire. We end up going back and forth trough history, from Paul's odyssey in search of Rossi (1952) with the intercut with Rossi’s search for Dracula (1930), the peregrinations of a group of Orthodox monks (1477), and the daughter's search for her father (1972). One of the weak point of the novel is that Kostova, even though creating scenarios, atmospheres and historic backgrounds in a very clever and credible way, fails into give the different writers of the letters, different voices. Her voice as a narrator is the same voice as her father’s or than Rossi’s, and even when some good attempts on trying to differentiate characters with some things as their accents and grammar structure when they were not English speakers, the main ones remain indistinguishable from each other.

The narrative, even when slow at first, traps you in wanting to know the mysteries that it involves, even though some are blatantly obvious, there are others who makes us think and even can surprise us a little bit.

The most plausible part is that Kostova introduce us to a character that somehow is unknown, the historical Vlad, the medieval tyrant and savage warrior, and at the same time the hero of his people and one of the most furious fighters of the spreading of Islam into Europe. It also makes a credible atmosphere of the cold war period and the cultural differences between Eastern Europe and the West.

The third book is "Pharaoh" by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

This is a typical bestseller, which follows the thriller / world conspiracy way, but in a prolific and entertaining way. Manfredi is an archaeologist, but his novels are much more a imagination exercise than a real sound historical basis. The plot goes around some mystery tomb that could have a big repercusion on the history of the abrahamic monotheisms, the tomb of Moses himself, in the traditional Egyptian style, in other words, implying that one of the main patriarcs of the Judeo-Christian and Muslim world was at the end a pagan. In addition to the religious-mystery formula, Manfredi tries to spice it up with a new element, namely the West-Muslim conflict.

The reading is quick, but the characters are too topical, and the plot itself not really deep. I will only recomend it if you like nice and light readings, to pass by time. I was a little bit disapointed, since Manfredi's trilogy on Alexander is a good work, and the Last Legion is a very entertaining book.

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Delusion of the Western Society

Delusion: an idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder. - Oxford Dictionary

To call someone a delusional can cause offence, well, then I’m going to offend you all, because we are all delusional, in one way or another, in one moment of our life or another.  We, humans like to avoid reality, like to deny it, we live happier in a denial state, or in an ignorance state, that is human, all too human.

One would thought that in the age of information, in the age on human history when more people (at least in the west) have access to education, to the sources of information, to knowledge than ever before; this delusional behaviour would be less than in ancient times.  But that is not the case.

I’m not the one who will claim that I’m free of that sin, in many parts of my life I have being victim of my own delusions, and some of them still linger in the shadows of my subconscious mind. 

Juana de Asbaje, a Mexican poet and philosopher of the XVII century, said on her beautiful poem “Let’s pretend that I’m happy” (finjamos que soy feliz)

How happy is the ignorance
Of the one who, un-eruditionally wise
Finds on which he suffers,
What he ignores, sacred!

Our delusions, most of the time, are not consciously trying to deny reality, nor necessarily malicious, or even explicitly anti-science. They are a way to shield us from the things we see as out of our control, to shield us from the pain of uncertainty and protect ourselves of whatever threats important aspects of our lives.

But I see that these delusions start to gain more and more power in public opinion, and permeate every single social stratus, and like a virus go on through the internet and the mass media, and they are showing, as the definition of the word says, symptoms of a social mental disorder.  Perpetuating the idea of perpetuating a lie:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” – Joseph Goebbels

And it’s not as difficult as it seems, nor it’s just up to the State to use its powers to maintain it, the whole society can self maintain it if the truth means to change the status quo, to move itself from our comfort zone, through an unknown or difficult territory. We lie to ourselves over and over again in our lives:  I can quite tobacco anytime, I need alcohol to have fun in a night out,  I need to have a partner to be happy, and a big etcetera.  We lie in group, we think that the best thing that could happen is that our national team wins the world cup, that the important things to discuss are the latest celebrity gossip, or we disconnect from the real world to watch “reality” on the telly with any reality show broadcast at the moment, instead of open our eyes to the reality that is out there.

All those little delusions, makes us victims of manipulation of the media, and keep us calm and clueless of what is happening, without the will to learn.

The delusion of nationalism.

That idea that the artificial lines that man create to divide are real, that there’s “them and us”, that we have to protect our “identity” and fight the ones who are not like us.  Those ideas that make people fear or even hate immigrants, who make people fight about languages instead of recognizing the beauty of each, that make people want to impose their ways to others, that make people oppose to work together. And that have caused wars, dictatorships, terrorism, etc.

The delusion of religion

And I’m not talking in the terms of Dawkins’ “God delusion”, which, in my opinion oversimplifies reality blaming faith of all the bad things in the world. No, I’m not talking about personal beliefs that are totally respectable, being in one or thousands of gods, or none at all. I’m talking in the delusion of organized religion, in the belief that certain group holds The Truth, and everyone else is wrong. 

But biggest delusion is not that the hierarchy of those religions keeps or try to keep the control; the thing is that people continue denying that there’s a problem, making excuses for them and their religions, denying reality and saying that is not that serious, in the best case; supporting that bigotry in the worst.  Becoming denialists of science, and facts.  Evolution is a lie, they say; homosexuality is a sin and is unnatural and a mental sickness.  People keep their own delusions to avoid the reality: organized religion is harmful to society. But the alternative will shake the grounds of their comfort zones, and the social structures and power interests involved.   It’s unbelievable that people keep defending organized religion and became accomplices to the very things that murder faith.  I want to take this little paragraph form this article to summarize it:

You murder faith same way you murder love: one bruise at a time, with small, daily cuts, with grinding contempt, with neglect. You murder faith by exposing it to bullets inscribed with Bible verses that kill Afghan and Iraqi children. You murder it by separating an elderly lesbian couple in a hospital because their union is considered "unnatural." You murder it by linking it to greed, to the "God wants you to be rich" movement which marinates in loathing for the poor and needy, in defiance of Christ's commission to care for them. You murder it by exposing it to any number of atrocities wrapped up in an inviolate nationalism that claims divine authority as its basis, with no room for dissent, and no mercy for dissenters. You murder it with self-righteous, violent militarism, with intolerance, with lack of compassion, with lack of humility and, most importantly, with lack of humanity.

The delusion of the middle class.

The middle class in the west is perhaps the social group that like to lie to themselves more than any other, our status as not as poor to suffer greatly and be concern only in how to survive another day, but not as rich as not to have economical worries, makes us more dependant of our status quo, our comfort and secure zone, that we struggle to keep day to day, working to gain little luxuries that make our life “easier”. 

One of the biggest topics on which we live on denial is about our responsibility with our environment, and one of the biggest delusions is the climate change denialism.   Even when there’s consensus on the international scientific community about the antropogenic global warming, the general public still doubts it. 

They believe that it’s just an exaggerate point of view or even blatantly argue against it and say that is a global conspiracy of obscure powers that want to impose their ideas.

Let’s be clear, scientific consensus is not about democracy, is not decided on vote of the most popular theory just because it sounds good. Is not about faith, because scientists don’t believe that a theory is true, just because they feel inside that is right, nor is the election of the Pope, and they scream “habemus theoria” when the half plus one agree.  Scientific method works differently.

One scientist or group of scientist postulate a hypotheses, and then they test it, collect evidence, analyse it and give some conclusions, but that doesn’t end up there, the theory has to be verifiable and reproducible, so other scientist independently can follow it and reach similar or the same conclusions. Nearly all hypotheses will fall by the wayside during this testing period, because only one is going to answer the question properly, without leaving all kinds of odd dangling bits that don’t quite add up. Bad theories are usually rather untidy.

But the testing period must come to an end. Gradually, the focus of investigation narrows down to those avenues that continue to make sense, that still add up, and quite often a good theory will reveal additional answers, or make powerful predictions, that add substance to the theory. So a consensus in science is different from a political one. There is no vote. Scientists just give up arguing because the sheer weight of consistent evidence is too compelling.

So, it’s not a minor thing that the scientific community agrees on something, usually means that there’s at least a reasonable truth behind it, of course being theories and not laws, there’s no 100% certainty, nor is a unchallengeable fact, but to break down a scientific consensus the contenders have to present a big and solid case. Put it simple, Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence. 

So, why people keep distrusting the scientific consensus in global warming and others like evolution, the lack of effectiveness of homoeopathy, or human same-sex attraction? I think it’s very simple, because accepting reality will shake their comfort zone.

Let’s think about it, accepting that we have created a big problem in the equilibrium of our planet will require that we change our way of living, stopping big consumerism, using rationally energy sources, finding alternative energy sources, taking care on what we eat, and in the day-to-day life will mean, sacrificing our little luxuries, not using electricity as it were everlasting, walking or using public transport, washing our dishes by hand with cold water (but god forbids the middle class of the first world use cold water and use their hands! so let's lie to ourselves and say that washing machines are the solution) using heating systems as little as possible, and a big etcetera.  Similar things imply to accept the other examples I gave, in personal and social level.

So, do you live in a delusion? Are you afraid of breaking that delusion down? Would you dare?

Friday, 13 August 2010

Is tolerance allowing everything without restrain?

I have the right to criticize and protest.  A post by my friend Zulma, and some discussions in the previous days with other friends inspire me to write this.

Apparently, in this day and age, to express a critique to a system is being intolerant.  Apparently traditions are more important than protect another life form from torture, Apparently cultural relativism is more important than human rights. Apparently people don’t have the right to criticize and protest.  Apparently tolerance means everything is valid,  Why is that?

As an immigrant, the only way I have to express my discontent about the policies of the government and/or society of the country I live is expressing that in the form of critiques and protests, since I don’t have the legal right to vote.  But, does that mean that I don’t have any right whatsoever to express my opinion and disagreement to certain political and social issues?  I think not, since I work here, pay all my taxes here, contribute to the economy of the country, and even more, I will protest and disagree wherever in the world human rights are attacked, even if that country is thousands of kilometres away.

Also as an immigrant, people in my home country want to deny me the right to protest and criticize the problems back home.  “You decided to leave, what do you care if you’re so far away, you just want to criticize us because you’re ashamed of your roots” and similar things have being said to me. Sorry, but what happens in my country still hurts me, and I have my family and friends living there, and also being far away allow me to see some vices of the society that are not so clear to the insider. 

Someone said to me once that people have their chance to express their voice on the elections and that they should stop complaining after a government is formed, and that public protests are only a way to impose the point of view of a minority.  Well, I disagree with that, the rights of the minorities, the human rights campaigns, the anti-war campaigns; are necessary beyond the elections.  The majority is not always right, actually the minorities are the ones that make the social changes and have shaped the history of this planet, are the ones that have fought bravely and fiercely against the establishment.   Yes, sometimes the results have not being the best, but then when the claims are hand to hand with the universal human rights, then is when the positive transformative force of the minorities have created a better world.

 The majority opinion can be  (and should be) ignored when this opinion goes against the fundamental human rights.  History has shown that the majorities can abuse and be responsible of big injustices and crimes, slavery, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, etc .  When they are not controlled, they first attack the minorities, then they target the ones inside the majority that have an independent and critique voice, and finally against anyone who wants to move away from the norm.  Yes, being normal can be dangerous.

And then we have this new tendency, under the post-modern point of view of “everything is valid and everything is relative” there are people who want to put cultural relativism above human rights.  And don’t get me wrong, yes cultural characteristics, history and social habits are needed to understand why a society behaves the way it does, and most of the time needed before making a judgement against a country or society.

However, there are certain principles that are meant to be valid to human integrity, regardless of our social, cultural, economic or any other background, they won the name of universal human rights, because they are supposed to be applicable to any human being, anywhere.

So, if people say that Indians are savages because they eat with their hands, or that Muslim women are backwards because they cover their head; yes, I will say that a understanding of their culture is necessary, and that we have to try not to judge under our western world glasses.   However when women are clitoris-mutilated, gay people sentenced to dead or prison just because of their sexual orientation, women are stoning to death for adultery,  when immigrants are persecuted and hunted to death, when gay and bisexuals are denied rights in the name of religion, and many other, since sadly the list is very long, then I will not be silent, and I will not make excuses for that atrocities in the name of cultural relativism, and I think that none of us should tolerate that behaviour, nor as individuals, not as countries.

So, when does being tolerant became, do as you wish with no restrain whatsoever? And do you agree with that?    I certainly don’t.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Eurovision 2010

I probably will not be able to see the final, but Ok, here my 5 favourites. (alphabetical order by country)

Let's see if any of them make it to the final ...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Oak

Live thy Life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
Living gold;

Then; and then
Gold again.

All his leaves
Fall'n at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough
Naked strength.

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Bisexuality, the last frontier

How is it different to say, I will not date you because you're Mexican, to I will not date you because you're bisexual? Would you date an openly bisexual person?

Is it prejudice and discrimination or is it a matter of taste?

 The western society has advance a lot in the last decades, new laws to ensure diversity and inclusion, even some traditionally conservative countries have issue some kind of law in that line.  But society still is far behind for acceptance of the other without prejudice.

 The comparison I made I think it's fair enough, your nationality is not something you choose, but something you are born; your place of birth doesn't make you handsomer, taller, skinny, or ugliest and fat; it doesn't affect your personality, since there are people of all different characteristics in a country, quiet, talkative, funny, serious, religious or atheist.  It doesn't even means that you are of certain race.  To generalize about a nationality is basically the same as generalize about your sexuality.

Are bisexuals that different from heterosexuals and homosexuals? are they mentally sick? are they just confused?  No, is the answer of all those questions.   There are a lot of common misunderstandings about bisexuality, let's review some:

Myth 1, Bisexuals are confused

No, it's people's attitudes to bisexuality that are confused.  Now a days, everyone can accept without big problems that a person can be attracted to another regardless of his/her height, weight, hair colour, race, etc.  So, how is it so difficult to understand that gender is just another quality.

 Myth 2, Bisexuals are promiscuous
Yes, so do heterosexuals and homosexuals.  Promiscuity is something about your personal values and what you decide that you want of a relationship, as their hetero/homo counterparts bisexuals are capable of being in a loyal long term relationship, or not. The sexual orientation doesn’t change anything about it.

Myth 3,  Bisexual guys can’t be masculine and bisexual women can’t be feminine.

If you take a closer look around, you will find that there are more than a few heterosexual guys who are a little bit camp, and homosexual guys who can be very masculine. Role genders are diluting little by little and people are learning to be free and express the way they want.  Bisexuality is not an exception, you surely would find camp and masculine bisexual guys, and feminine and butch bisexual women.

Myth 4, Bisexuals have to be equally attracted to men and women

You don't have to be equally attracted to red-heads and brunettes to be attracted to both, and preferring lettuce to liver doesn't make you a vegetarian, so why do some people insist that "true" bisexuals are exactly and equally attracted to men and women?

Myth 5, Bisexuality is a mental sickness

Several decades ago psychiatrist around the world take homosexuality and bisexuality out of the mental diseases, there’s no evidence or scientific proof of that whatsoever, that remark speaks only of ignorance.

Myth 6, Bisexuals are just homosexuals in denial

Sadly, that remark is very common in both, the heterosexual and the homosexual community, mainly due to the fact that some homosexuals use bisexuality as a façade, to help them through the coming out process.  That has affected a lot people’s opinion about true bisexuality.  But that is not true, bisexuals are not in denial, more than homosexuals are in denial of being heteros, or vice versa.

Myth 7, bisexuality is the “easy option”
As noted before, it isn’t, bisexuals face discrimination from both, the gay and hetero community, even when in some people’s mind there’s the idea that it can be more socially accepted being bisexual, reality and statistics show that is not the case.  Take a look at some statistics as the Stonewall's Workplace Equality Index questionnaire in 2009, to see the reality.

Myth 8, Bisexuals have to date both men and women

Some of us are in happy relationships with one partner, others have multiple relationships and some swap to dating the other sex whenever their current fling ends. Some bisexuals are happily married and raising children. Some bisexuals are single, some are celibate. You do not need to have ever have had sex to be bisexual. Some bisexuals enjoy casual sex, others don’t' have sex outside committed relationships.

Myth 9, Bisexuality is just a phase

Is heterosexuality just a phase?  Why people want to describe the things that they don’t understand as minor mistakes? 

Myth 10, Bisexuals is just to be indecise

There's no indecision!!, Sexuality isn't black and white, the world isn’t black and white, as soon as we can get rid of that silly dualistic mindset that oversimplifies reality, the better

Now, people would still be wondering , what if my Partner Is Bisexual, What Should I Do? Should I leave him/her?  Do I dare to date a bisexual?
Probably one of all of the above myths would cross your mind, is he/her going to be unfaithful, is he/her going to leave me for someone of a different gender?

Well, nothing is for certain, since each person is different, but being bisexual doesn't mean these things, bisexual people can and will be as committed and faithful as any other person with different sexual orientation, no more, no less.

So, if you fancy a boy or a girl, you like his/her character, if you are attracted physically to him/her, then why to miss the chance to find a perfect partner for you, just because some prejudices and myths.

Do you dare to give people a chance regardless of his/her race, nationality or religion? Do you dare to give people a chance if they happen to be bisexuals?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The heart asks pleasure first

In the gardens of life, there are times where the sun is reflected in a spring to give a beautiful shrine with one sun above and one below. Those moments fill our senses with pleasure, pleasure that we share with our loved ones, because after all, the heart ask pleasure first.

Let me share these two suns with you:


The heart asks pleasure first
And then, excuse from pain-
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering;

And then, to go to sleep;
And then, if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor,
The liberty to die.

- Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

San Patricio

1846, Mexico became invaded by the USA army in the first of many unjust and thinly veiled wars of aggression that the States have held in their blood thirsty history, driven by the Manifest Destiny.  Captain John Riley and a battalion of Irish soldiers abandoned the US army to join the Mexican defence. They fought until the end, when Mexico City was captured, and find their final end in the Battle of Churubusco, alongside the Mexican army , capture only after all their ammunition has been exhausted, and General Pedro Maria Anaya said the historic phrase "If we had ammunition, you will not be here" when asking to surrender their ammunition to the invading army.

Held as heroes by Mexico, St. Patrick's battalion, also known as Los San Patricios, is honoured every St. Patrick's day on the ex-convent of Churubusco, by the Mexican Banda de Gaitas del Batallón de San Patricio (St. Patrick's Uillean Pipes Band).

Some say they united the Mexican side when they realise that the US was doing the same than Britain did to Ireland before, some say it was because their shared religion, others said it was just aventure. But the fact remains that a small Irish battalion try to help Mexico to defend itself from a foreign invasion, the one who cost it half of their territory. And for that Mexico is always grateful.

The chieftains release a new album called San Patricio, on which they tell this story, and honour it with 19 tracks with collaboration of Mexican and Irish musicians.  Lila Dows, Linda Ronstadt, Carlos Nuñez, Chavela Vargas, Los Tigres del Norte, Liam Neeson, Ry cooder, Moya Brennan, the Banda de Gaita del Batallón de San Patricio and the Chieftains deliver us a wonderful piece of music who mixes mexican and irish rythms, songs in spanish, english and gaeilge, mixture of feelings and cultural common ground.

I have always feel that traditional Irish Music and Mexican music, specially the called in spanish "sones" have a lot of common, I will go as far as to say that the sones are the Mexican interpretation of Celtic music. So it was not that hard to me to visualize this mixture, which was really great to hear it at last.

This is wonderful album that should not only be heard by Mexicans and Irish alike, whether with a Guinness or a Tequila, this music celebration is worth to listen for all the ones who like eclecticism in music, and like a good story telling.

"We are the San Patricios, a brave and gallant band
There'll be no white flag flying within this green command
We are the San Patricios, we have but one demand,
To see the Yankees safely home across the Rio Grande

But when in Churubusco we made our final stand
No court of justice  did we have on the land of Uncle Sam
as traitors and deserters of all we will be shot or hang
far from the green green gentle shore across the Rio Grande

We've disappeared from history like footprints in the sand
But our song is in the tumble weeds and our love is in this land
But if in the desert moonlight you see a ghostly band
We are the men who died for freedom across the Rio Grande".

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

What's wrong with Mexico?

There's a recurrent problem with Mexico, and it's that we don't face the truth, we don't like to expose our mistakes and feel ashamed when they are exposed, specially out of the country.   Mexico is a very complex society, with too many good things, but also too many vices that come from generations ago, and are still present.

Probably I took the easy way, in going out from there and try to find a better professional opportunity in the UK, I felt very disappointed with the mexican society after the 2006 elections, not only with the politicians, that never have gain any of my trust, but how society itself reacted. Yes, the mexican government has a lot to be blame in the current state, but also the citizens and the prevailing mindset in a great percentage of the population. I basically left because a very good job opportunity was ahead, but also because I felt depressed of the current state of the country, granted, we are not in the fringe of the third world, we are a developing nation that has a future, we are even rich if compared with other latinamerican countries, not to mention african or asian ones, but things are not changing in the rate I would like for me to have the life I wanted.

So, taking into account that and other personal factors I decided to leave.  But even in the distance it hurts to see the problems of my country, a country that has the potential to be a successful and rich one.

There are some problems on which the mexican society are not really to blame, as the drug traffic issue, who is a combined problem between the corruption of mexican governments and the USA society and government. We can not hope to finish with that problem when the USA keeps being the major drug consumer of the world, and when they sell all the weapons to the drug cartels, that most of the time are even better than the ones the police in Mexico has.That is a share responsibility that it seems it's out of sight for the people in the north of the border, even when there is some hope if one want to believe the Obama speeches about it.

But many other problems are indeed responsibility of the Mexican society itself, not to blame others on it, the corruption from the common people who prefer to give money to a police man than face the repercussions of braking the law, either in the form of driving in alcoholic state, going beyond the speed limit, or do not obey a traffic light, from the student who copy on their exams as if nothing was wrong with it, or the common citizen that buys pirate music and films from a clandestine industry that is related to other more serious criminal organizations. From there to the highest level of corruption in the government.

This video is one of the best portraits of Mexican reality, the problems it has, the possible solutions, the challenges it face. And I would like to share with my readers, who may be interested in that.

I would like to have a sense of hope, and think that our generation and the ones below will be able to change this, we do have some things that are changing, but still, I'm not quite optimist about all the matter, I'm rather sceptical about it.  But I do want to be able to see change happening in my life time.

Do you think there's hope? Do you think things are going to change? What do, us, common people can do to help this happen?

Friday, 12 March 2010


These days it is rare to turn on the telly and catch up a series that is not just more of the same bollocks.  I watched the complete series of Battle Star Galactica and find it quite good, refreshing and funny, with a weird end though. But after have seen that series, I’m now into  Caprica, the prequel series that take place 50 years before the events on BSG. 

Battle Star was good, full of adrenaline, good effects, interesting plot, and fun; but Caprica is becoming even better.   In a world where is not trendy to question things, and where polarities are becoming alarmingly big, and both theists and atheists call the other idiot, if not something worst, Caprica dares to go and talk about religion, about terrorism, about Artificial Intelligence, about xenophobia, about moral issues. 

The story develops in a polytheistic society, a refreshing view TBH, which of course is not perfect, but that has to face the thread of the emerging monotheism.  A monotheistic cult, and terrorist group, called the Soldiers of The One, is responsible of a big terrorist attack that starts all the events that will, as we know, end on the Cylon wars.

One of the worst legacies of monotheisms on this planet has being intolerance. Not that intolerance would not exist without it, but it has rise it up and legitimize it in a very dangerous way.  Before monotheisms people did not wondered if the other’s God was real, or if they had the responsibility of get rid of their ignorance and false idols to the rest of the planet, since the The One and only God is the only valid belief. Ironically, in today’s world, it seems that militant atheism is the inheritor of that, now they want to “save the believers from ignorance” and deny that any other possibility that is not an absence of gods can be valid.  Caprica acknowledge this fact, and portraits the dangers of monotheism:

The man investigating the bombing looks at the dangerous philosophy he sees lurking within monotheism:
It doesn’t concern you, Sister, that kind of absolutist view of the universe? Right and wrong determined solely by a single all-knowing, all-powerful being whose judgment cannot be questioned, and in whose name the most horrendous of acts can be sanctioned without appeal? 

But not everything in Caprica is about monotheism vs polytheism, there is much more, and obviously being a Sci-Fi series technology is the centre of action.  A.I. is the big player here, not a novelty to listen to the premise of A.I. rebelling themselves against the humans and trying to eliminate them, we have Terminator, the Matrix, etc.  It is not Asimov’s Robot series, and the paradoxes and behaviours of the perfect servant; what it makes Caprica a little bit different is that it goes into the question of what Consciousness is, what a person is, and how we can replicate/create a new consciousness:

The human brain contains roughly 300 megabytes of information. Not much when you get right down to it. The question isn’t how to store it, it’s how to access it. You can’t download a personality. There’s no way to translate the data. But the information being held in our heads is available in other databases. People leave more than footprints as they travel through life…. medical scans, DNA profiles, psych evaluations, school records, emails, recording, video, audio, cat scans genetic typing, synaptic records, security cameras, test results, shopping records, talent shows, ball games, traffic tickets, restaurant bills, phone records, music lists, movie tickets, tv shows… even prescriptions for birth control.

What is that makes us sentient beings, what is our personality, character, soul? And, can it be emulated?

And this A.I. is very special, and is precisely how we know that is not just a very smart avatar, but really a conscious being,  Zoe, the Eve of the Cylons, hopes and believes.  She have faith, she have hopes and she believes that there is a purpose on her existence, is not just that she’s self aware, is that she has gain consciousness and creativity.  If an A.I. can reach faith, love, hopes and dreams, then is it just a machine, or is it a new kind of conscious being that we create?

There’s also other side themes, as minorities and xenophobia, on the portrait of the Tauron and Gemenon societies that basically are portraits of the third world in the series. And the moral issues of virtual reality and games.

In one phrase, I think that Caprica is Frakking amazing! I’m enjoying it very much

Have about you?  Are you following Caprica? What do you think of the themes shown on the series?...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Inteligent Design and Self-aware Universe

It’s always refreshing to read intelligent people that give you food for thought.  THIS ENTRY on Divine Caesar’s blog was definitely one of those cases, and I would like to dedicate this post as a response, and to share them to all of you as well.

The topic of Intelligent design is a picky one, since is often associated, wrongly, with the fanatic creationist ideas of some Christians.  Science and religion do not need to be necessarily opposites, actually both are daughters of the everlasting mother philosophy, and they can find ways of stand on common ground.

A lot of scientist have refuse to see the Universe (or should I say now the Multiverse) as a random system that is only there by chance.  Even if they don’t embrace the idea of a personal God, they acknowledge that the Universe is a very complex system, actually a group of complex systems that is so fine-tuned, that has so many connexions and coincidences, that is very likely that the universe is doing something purposive.

Science has focus too much and too many times in a materialist point of view, that has loose that from sight, it seemed that there was no need of a transcendent reality, since everything could be down to matter.  However, as theoretical physics go forward, and quantum physics are better understood, it seems obvious that a purely material world has too many paradoxes, and in few words, things that don’t make sense if we only consider this. On the spiritual side, some philosophies tried to get along with this materialistic view, and some pantheistic world views emerge, God is the Universe, and everything on it, but then is limited to the material world, and then again there’s no purpose on it and do not explain things that go beyond matter, as creativity, or love, not  to mention the spiritual transcendence ideas that have being present in almost every culture of the world.

But quantum physics can’t be understood on a materialistic point of view, since things on a quantum level, are not things, they are just possibilities, everything is just a possibility wave, Alain Aspect made an important discovery about this and the action that two photons can have over each other instantly, without depending of time and space.

Of course before him we have Schrödinger's cat principle and we have Everett’s Multiverse based on the creation of different realities by our will.  Just to mention a few.   So reality is not matter, reality is a bunch of waves of possibility, and therefore they have the potential to be transcendent, that is beyond matter.

That leads to a possible conclusion, is not the interaction of matter and energy what shapes the universe, is the consciousness what shapes it.  However given the interaction between consciousness and matter, we really can make the traditional western separation of matter and spirit, we will need to see them both as part of the same.    That could mean that the Great Spirit of the Universe is contained in all the Universe but at the same time it transcends it, what is called panentheism. But to be connected will means that this Spirit will need self interaction, a self aware universe, to be able to shape itself, to shape the reality and pass from a potential one to a factual real one as we perceived it, where there’s time and space.   So probably the big bang was a time when one part of the Multiverse have self-feedback and awareness, and that the expansion, the movement, the evolution of planets and life, is just a process of self-awareness and shape, and this process needs to follow the rules of this fine-tuned machinery, called reality, on which every part, every action, every thought, every creation of the mind or the body has a purpose, a reason.

For example, one of the big mysteries of evolution is what is called the Theory of punctuated equilibrium,  on which there are times where evolution jumps its usual time patter, to rapid epochs of evolution.   If we see consciousness as the primary source then we could explain or at least see a phenomena of creativity, that is shaping the reality to a different path.

This approach, which I favour, not only conciliates spirituality and science, but make them interlink into a common source.   No more the dualism that separates spirit-matter as the usual western monotheistic approach, neither the pantheistic materialistic one who limits the spirit to matter,  nor the atheist materialism who denies any transcendence, but a way to understand different our world, which is also consistent with the way it works in reality.

So, do you think matter is all there is?  Do you think that science and spirituality can get along?  What do you think that an intelligent design that embraces reality and possibilities?

From the disbelief to the distrust

Science do not require belief, actually science try to fight belief most of the time in favour of trusting what can be proved and demonstrated, and the things that can’t be proved or demonstrated as religion and philosophy, are just taken apart, out of the scope of science. However every day I see more and more people refusing to trust science, to some extremes that are frankly alarming.

I just read this excellent article who discusses the topic: The trouble with trusting complex science, and I recommend its reading, it talks about a lot of problems that science and the general public face in this day and age.

The first one is about the access to the information. Let’s face it, science is not easy to be understood if you don’t have a basic scientific training, in could be confusing and boring to the “lay” people, and even if all the scientific knowledge was open to everybody, just a few will understand it for real. However, the alarming thing is that people who can have a basic understanding do not read the scientific studies for two main things. First laziness, except for some science geeks like myself, people don’t want to spend hours reading papers about science if it is not their “homework”, and second, availability, most of the primary sources of information, the first hand knowledge is published solely in scientific journals, that sadly, are not for free. So spending 20 quid to read just one article that may interest you, is out of the question for many. I think that information, specially this important information should be free, why to keep the firsthand knowledge in the hands of just a few?

After this, people then rely in second, third or fourth hand sources to inform themselves, in this era of information, disinformation is equally powerful and disturbing. Some popular books and media articles use pseudoscientific vocabulary to, ironically, attack science and it’s facts.

But Why? I mean if someone would publish a book saying that in reality the planets, sun and moon orbit the earth, and that all the satellite, telescope and books about the heliocentric nature of our planetary system is just a conspiracy and that there are no facts to sustain it... what will you think about him/her? My first thought will be, why do you believe that? Why are you refusing to see the evidence? And who benefits with you and your friends questioning some accepted facts?

Well, there are a lot of examples of people doing this: there are the creationist who call evolution a “laughable theory” and think that everything happened as the Bible said. There are the climate change deniers, who refuse to take the evidence into account and shout that everything is just a conspiracy, there are the ones who believe that sugar pills and drops of water can cure people even when evidence says that they don’t; there are the ones who believe that they daily horoscope is going to give them hints of their future, even when it’s just psychological discourses so open to interpretation that anyone can relate to them, oh and by the way they don’t even acknowledge that the star map on our skies is so different from ancient Greece. And the list goes on and on, and on.


Well, I have not all the answers of course, but I have some clues of what are the ulterior motives. And we are not talking about conspiracy theories of a New World Order in a magnitude as you can see in youtube. But realistic economic and political interests that move all that along. Information means power, disinformation means much more power, if you are able to confuse people to the extent that they don’t know what is real and what is not, to the extend that everything becomes relative, then those people are easier to manage, to keep them consuming without thinking of the consequences, of saying any lie enough times so the public think is true, to gain the war against critical thought, against rational and honest scrutiny, and therefore have free road to do as they want. This is no conspiracy is a reality that has being in use for centuries, mastered by many people from the Roman Emperors, later the Roman Popes, the Kings and Queens, or the dictators and the people behind them, from Richelieu to Goebbels.

It seems that people don’t care about facts and the truth, I was amazed when I read on the article I mentioned before this: In 2008 the Washington Post summarised recent psychological research on misinformation. This shows that in some cases debunking a false story can increase the number of people who believe it. In one study, 34% of conservatives who were told about the Bush government's claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction were inclined to believe them. But among those who were shown that the government's claims were later comprehensively refuted by the Duelfer report, 64% ended up believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It looks that even when evidence is thrown to their faces they refuse to accept it. And here we are not talking about the “interests” behind, they just put the trail of bread-crumbs, but is the people the one who enter freely and on their free will to their game.


Because it is easier. Let’s take the example of climate change deniers. Accepting that there’s a climate change and that man-generated pollution is affecting it to a great degree is not easy to embrace, because there’s then only two options, either you become a cynical person that cares for no-one but himself and continues consuming and wasting energy, and on a consumerist way of life, prey of fashion and false needs. Or you realize that the only way of fighting this challenge is that everyone of us, not only our governments, make a change in our lives, attitudes, habits, etc. So the easy stance is “I’m not going to change”. But since most of people don’t want to feel like insensitive selfish bitches, then, deny that there’s a problem, hence embrace those theories. Like an alcoholic who refuses to accept his problem and says that you are limiting his freedom to drink if you say to him that is wrong. Another example, the horoscopes and homeopathy. People usually can bare the thought of not having control of their lives, not knowing what is going to happen next. Let’s face it, people need certainty and stability, one way or another, they need also hope, those things give people that, even when it’s a false sense of it.

So what can we do? Is there any solution to this?, or are we going to live in an age where science is less and less trust, with a big risk of getting ahead to a new age of obscurantism, a new middle ages, but now fuelled by relativism, and disinformation.

As I said, I have no answers, but questions. I firmly believe that education is the key, real education, teaching people to be honest and critical, to think for themselves, to reach for the truth, to get their own information instead of third or fourth sources, I think is the only way, although sometimes I think is not enough.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Patience Taught by Nature

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

'O dreary life,' we cry, ' O dreary life ! '
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven's true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle ! Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land, savannah-swards
Unweary sweep, hills watch unworn, and rife
Meek leaves drop yeary from the forest-trees
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory: O thou God of old,
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these !--
But so much patience as a blade of grass
Grows by, contented through the heat and cold.

Monday, 8 February 2010

It's sad but it's true....

I’m at less than a month to enter my 30s. For a lot of people that could mean start buying anti-ageing creams, and start saving for Botox and liposuction treatments, or any other middle age crisis symptoms that you can imagine. Not for me, I find that too superficial.

Although your 30s are not, considering the life expectancy, really the middle of your life, they are the middle of your productive life, and the end of your youth in social patterns. You’re not longer a young adult, you’re just an adult entering the race to reach the old age.

It does, however make me think about two things. First of all the goals I have in life and that it seems that I’m running out of time every day. Not long ago I was asked of what I wanted to do before dying, and end up with a list, that includes doing a PhD, publishing a couple of books, record a proper studio based music albums and make some music for a film or documentary, buy a house, adopt a child, travel around the world, and the obvious, have a proper an steady relationship.

To be successful, a lot of those things have to be made in my following decade, but it seems that I don’t have enough time! And that worries me.

It also seems that since I didn’t had a very crazy youth, I have the temptation of doing that kind of stuff now; but on the other hand, if I didn’t do it when I was more immature, why should I go for it now that I’m more aware of the consequences, and the things that give me real joy?

There’s also the society pressure, where it seems that you are doomed to became a single forever if you didn’t manage to get a proper relationship on your 20s. On words of Lily Allen, “it’s sad but it’s true how society says her life is already over”. So, living in a society which focus on looks, age and things like that, statistically my chances seem to shrink with every passing day.

So here I am, in the verge of ending my youth, and wondering what I have done with my life and asking myself what is my reason to live? They say that it's not enough to just live. You have to have something to live for. The easy answer will be to achieve the goals I stated before, but to be honest, most of the time I find myself still figuring out which is mine.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Climate change, a business opportunity?

I got an email from a dear friend, asking my opinion about this article: Is a Stringent Climate Change Agreement a Pot of Gold?

I did find it interesting, although I think it misses a very important point.

First I would like to state that I’m in favour of entrepreneurs, either persons or companies that search for innovation, and that manage change in order to succeed. I do believe that that is a fundamental part of development, and also that we should all be able to manage change successfully, since all our life, environment, society, working conditions, and so and so forth, are in constant change.  This become of utterly importance to developing countries, where taking the risk and opportunities to find successful business areas is very needed.   There’s nothing wrong in supporting and encouraging entrepreneurs’ projects and ideas.

However the author of the article loose his compass when he sees the climate change agreement only as an opportunity to make money.  It is precisely that ideas, what have driven us to the need of that restrictions and emergency measures that we need to put into action now to ensure that we, as species, have a future.  The idea that everything is just a business opportunity to make more money is just wrong.  Granted, we need economies to grow, we want and need our personal welfare to grow in order to satisfy our needs and be comfortable, but the idea of seen everything in terms of profit is a distorted one.

A lot of that entrepreneurs’ projects have being useful, but there’s also a lot of rubbish around. Ideas and projects that only induce consumerism and fabricate needs, illusionary concepts that make us believe that we need them when it is not.   We can’t go around consuming and consuming more and more, without any idea of why or what are the consequences.  We need an economy of sustainability, not a more consumerist one. Full stop.

One of the core policies of the company I work for is: “nothing is more important than safety—not sales, not production, not profits”.  On a similar way I would propose that this climate change agreement is indeed an opportunity, an opportunity to change our mindset, to change the way we do business, and that the global core policies of every company and nation will be “nothing is more important than sustainability—not sales, not production, not profits.” 

We just can’t continue growing and growing, and consuming the world’s resources, and getting the third world country deeper into poverty to satisfy the needs of the highly consumerist first world, and not even the increasingly consuming developing countries.  The big problem is that the developing and emerging economies, as India, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, etc. are looking to the USA as a model to reach, which is totally flawed! Do we all want to consume and behave as the States??  Blimey no! That would only collapse our world.  The rampant capitalism leaded by the people, companies and economists of the USA have proved that their model, even when it seems to be successful in short term, is a big failure to long term.   Why not looking for other models as many European countries, as Finland, etc. that without being so loud about their success have sustainable good living standards.   Of course they are not perfect and still that countries have a lot of work to do.

This times are indeed a big opportunity, moreover, they are a big business opportunity; but not to make money just for the sake of it, but to start a new economic model that do not extract resources and creates proverty in the third world to support the first and the developing economies, that is aware of its long term responsibility with the whole planet we are living in, and basically put sustainability as the top priority; for our own sake.  Is it enough space there for entrepreneurs and business success?  Yes I think it is, but only if we modify our priorities and kept behind that flawed ideas, otherwise there will be no future, not to mention no business opportunities, for our grandchildren.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Nature, the Gentlest Mother

Emily Dickinson

Nature, the gentlest mother,
Impatient of no child,
The feeblest or the waywardest,
Her admonition mild

In forest and the hill
By traveller is heard,
Restraining rampant squirrel
Or too impetuous bird.

How fair her conversation,
A summer afternoon,--
Her household, her assembly;
And when the sun goes down

Her voice among the aisles
Incites the timid prayer
Of the minutest cricket,
The most unworthy flower.

When all the children sleep
She turns as long away
As will suffice to light her lamps;
Then, bending from the sky

With infinite affection
And infiniter care,
Her golden finger on her lip,
Wills silence everywhere.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Avatar, a good pagan film

Avatar is one of the greatest films I have seen in the last few years.  It may not have a deep argument or award winning acting, but still it's wicked!.

It's as far as I know the most expensive film ever, and in the ironies of life is one that preaches anti-violence with a war a main plot, and anti rampant capitalism, with a budget that could feed an entire country, but hollywood is not know for its congruency.

I has put computer animation to a whole different level, and the experience of seen it in an IMAX 3D cinema is just brilliant! The time passes flying and you don't feel it like a 3 hour film.

It's technically a great achivement, it almost felt like it was really filmed in Pandora and not just computer animated, it's truly a good hybrid between full live action, computer-generated characters and live enviroments, you can experience every breath of the fantastic creatures of the planet, and the movement of the plants, and the lights all around, and the sights of the planet are breath-taking.

As for the sci-fi, whilst is not hard core sci-fi, I think it made a very good work, there's no great violations of  the laws of physic in it, well maybe the flying mountains, even when they could be feasible, but not very likely to happen.  The space ships at the beginning are just great, they use Charles Pellegrino's concept of the Valkyrie which is sound science based. 

Just a minor thing I didn't like, Pandora supposed to be a atmosphere satelite (moon) of a gas giant, who resembles Jupiter, like Titan on Saturn; and the background planet is always seen on the sky, which I think is not possible since in rotation, there has to be a point where you will not face the planet if observing from Pandora.

The plot even when can be seen as a futuristic dance with wolves or pocahontas one, is nice, since it makes direct critics to war-based states, and greedy wars (as the Iraq one) you can see it with quotes like:

"when someone is on top of something you want, you make them your enemy, then you take it from them"
"Our only security is in a preventive strike"
"We will fight terror with terror!"
"I was a warrior who dreamed he could bring peace, Sooner or later, I had to wake up."

Being against that kind of state behaviour myself, I like it very much.

The plot is centred on natural balance and the spiritual side of it, with a pantheistic or even neo-pagan flavour that give me a good taste of the movie itself.  Even when Sigourney Weaver character says that "We're not talking about pagan voodoo but something that is real biologically: a global network of neurons." it really shows the concept of a web of life and a earth goddess in a fantastic way. The Na'vi had a connection beyond sentimental to the world around them, it's a real one.  And many other pagan concepts as the Tree of Souls (Tree of life), the ancestor veneration, the life force that flows in everything and everyone; that we're all connected by some unseen and wonderful spirit, nature is sacred, and it's our duty as the created to care for the rest of creation.  It was for me the ultimate pagan film.

Although it uses the typical concept of industrialized civilization vs primitive one, which I don't like, since I think that a balance can be achieved, it's plot really move me in some parts emotionally.

I really recommend it, I think is so far the best work of Cameron.

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