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On "Malevolent" Music

Music communicates an emotional experience through sound. Sometimes that experience is happy or triumphant. Sometimes it is sad, dreadful, or angry. Just like great fiction, music has happy and sad moments. I'm not going to define "music" here, but for now, I wish to include a broad range of works of organized sound, from songs to movie music to symphonies to pure percussion works. I'm talking about sound organized (composed) by people for human consumption. Such work serves lots of purposes, but the overarching purpose is to communicate an emotional experience to the listener. One can question why the particular experience is being communicated, i.e. why the composer/producer considers the experience important enough to communicate in a given context, but I hold that the greatness of music as such lies in how effectively an experience is transmitted through the sound. Quality music is integrated for the sake of the emotional purpose at hand. Anything that distracts t

Mission Unphysical

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In a famous scene from the first of Tom Cruise's  Mission Impossible  movies, disavowed CIA agent Franz Krieger uses a harness, a carabiner, and four pulleys (one of them is arguably better called a "pushey") and rope to lower agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) through the ceiling of a room at CIA headquarters in order to steal something. It's a fun and suspenseful scene to watch, but here I want to talk about how silly this pulley system is. Franz is lying down in a narrow air duct above the vent through which he is lowering Ethan. The vent is near his feet, and he's slowly releasing line through a pulley (kept out of sight) that is mounted above him, and closer to the hole. From that pulley, the line comes back toward him, through a pulley that is attached with a carabiner to a harness on his chest. The line then goes back toward the hole, but up again to a different (visible) high-mounted pulley, then it descends toward the hole and over a "pushey" mounted

Wonder Woman 1984 Is A Flawed Attempt To Do Something Great. See It.

I recently watched Wonder Woman (2017), and Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), both starring Gal Gadot. I remember when these movies came out. Everybody liked Wonder Woman, and most people did not like Wonder Woman 1984. Both of these movies have their share of silliness, and I admit that the first movie, Wonder Woman, stands up better. But even though Wonder Woman 1984 has some big things going against it, including a villain who is transparently a stand-in for Donald Trump (cheap shot, Hollywood), and some anti-wealth overtones, it has one surprisingly important thing in its favor: the theme is the danger of wishful thinking. It's a metaphysical theme. What's more, it's a true theme. The movie is a morality tale that uses a physical artifact to symbolize the human temptation to long for what is not over what is. In the movie, the artifact, in granting wishes, always exacts a hidden cost. It's hard not to salute such a well-conceived device to dramatize the theme that wishing

Should You Want To Live?

Should you want to live? Read that again. Should  you want to live? It's not an obvious question. It's a fishy  question. For Ayn Rand, the purpose of morality is enjoyment, long-range, i.e. life. The whole problem of morality is that we often want to do things that are bad for that goal . Moral thinking helps us discover the ideas and the courses of action that further our interest , as opposed to our immediate pleasure or satisfaction. If you don't want to live, then, according to Objectivism, moral arguments are irrelevant, because you've given up what moral argumentation  appeals to: the desire for durable joy . The choice to live is pre-moral. Morality is about how to live. Choose to live—to pursue happiness—then we can talk about morality. Some think that because "man's life" is the standard of morality in Objectivism, bare survival is all that Objectivist morality involves. They hold that any desire for happiness above bare survival, according t

Who Is God?

 Some people go to church every week. A church is a place where people go to learn how to live. People need to learn how to live. But the church doesn't really teach you that. Instead, it teaches you how to keep God happy—to do what he likes. Who is God, and why do people want to keep him happy? It's strange, but God is an extra-strong, pretend person that someone made up long ago. People want to keep him happy because they want a strong friend. Children sometimes have imaginary friends, but give them up after a while. God, though, is an imaginary friend that lots of people don't ever give up. Instead, they forget he isn't real. How can people forget they are pretending? It's sad. It happens when they become afraid of not pretending. People like God because he is big and strong. But God isn't always nice. People say that sometimes when God gets angry, he hurts lots of people, even if only some of them have made him angry. God, the imaginary friend, is also a bul

What Is Freedom?

"Freedom" is a term used to mean many different things, even when limited to the political context. To some, freedom means the ability to speak one's mind in public without being put in jail. To others, freedom means having affordable health-care, and gainful employment. To still others, freedom means the ability to take over the media or make demonstrations that disrupt private functions. However it is defined, freedom is something that all people want, and believe they deserve. This makes the term particularly valuable to politicians. By advocating "freedom," they can promise to satisfy each person's desire—while evading the fact that the desires of people often conflict. Why Define Freedom? Why define any term? To have a clear understanding of it, and to assure that people understand each other when they use it to communicate. When a term is misunderstood, confusion occurs, and bad things can result, ranging from hurt feelings to broken promises, to wars.

The Extraordinary Spirit of "Extraordinary Attorney Woo"

No spoilers here. I just finished watching Extraordinary Attorney Woo, a Korean legal drama/comedy, on Netflix. Actually, the season finale was released yesterday, just in time for me, since I saw the penultimate episode last night. I give this show my absolutely unqualified recommendation. I'm stunned by how great a show it is. I'm stunned that a show this good even exists in our world. It shows me that something once present in our world is not actually gone yet. Extraordinary Attorney Woo has an unabashed emotionality. It presents its characters, it shows you their tribulations and triumphs, and and it makes you care about them. The whole show is about high stakes, and the emotion of it all hits hard. Few characters in the show are repressed. They almost always show their emotions. There is no cool, stoic presentation of events. Every scene has emotional impact. The love relationships in the show may seem conservative or innocent by American standards, but to some extent th