Sign of Life: Lab-coat fallacy

Perhaps it already exist in one place or another.. but I am introducing a new fallacy called lab-coat fallacy. Lab-coat fallacy is created to me in disrespect for a person called John Morris Pendleton and actually in honor of Logicked who called him out for pretending to be a scientist on spurious credentials and wearing  a lab-coat for pretense.

Deductive logic
Scientists wear white lab-coats.
John wears a white lab-coat.
John is a scientist.

In movies of Carl Baugh Morris is even called a professor. I am amazed that people, professing to be guided by moral principles like the christian ones, just lie.
This should not be translated to: people who are christians lie by default. Just these guys like Pendleton and Baugh do.

Inductive logic
Scientists have been known to wear white lab-coat.
John wears a white lab-coat.
John might be a scientist.

Lying for jesus can, to my mind, only be done if one doesn’t belief that jesus or god exist. Hence, from my standpoint these guys might just be bad atheists in disguise, knowing very well that whatever they say will have no consequence at all in the after life, because there will be non.

Abductive logic
John is wearing a white lab-coat.
White lab-coats are sometimes worn by scientists.
John might conceivably be a scientist.

These people are far from honest and decent atheists like Amon Ra, Logicked,  Mister Deity,  Matt Dillahunty, Richard Dawkins, Darkmatter2525, Thunderfoot and the like. Some might want some kind of money, but they do not to lie to you because of it, but basically because they are passionate about people and need some money to do what they do.

Moronic logic
John thinks scientists are god deniers.
John pretends to be a scientist by wearing a lab-coat.
John becomes a god denier.

I have no specific favorite but if you want my opinion of the smartest atheist out there on you tube, my vote is for Tracie Harris.My second vote would be for Jen Peeples who goes down to the human level. I am happy that two women like them are on you tube showing that they can be as smart and concerned as any man.   Mind you, I don’t want to make Jen into a lesser version of Tracie. That would be very unfair to both of them.

 

Stefan Molyneux! Because paying taxes sucks!

freeloaders3

Philosophy is like lighting a room with cigarettes: not very practical and possibly unhealthy(and it makes you smell bad).  It is a bit of a forced statement, but it reflects how I feel after having seen some philosophical discussions. These discussions tend to become quoting contests in which the one who can quote the best or the most wins the contest. And I suck at remembering quotes, that is why I prefer to make them up myself.

I guess that philosophy might have it’s uses, but it can be used to reason the non-existent into existence and that is why it sucks as well. The apologist William Lane Craig gives a showcase example of reasoning a fictitious being into existence.  It his god of course, not yours(because only his god can be reasoned into existence). A philosopher isn’t required to give proof, he is just required to string words into sentences that sound okay. It is why religion likes to don the cloak of philosophy, because in philosophy, like in religion, anything can be said and nothing needs to make sense because nobody can agree on what sense is..

Another example is the ‘philosopher’ Stefan Molyneux. He is styled as an anarcho-capitalist or styles himself that way. Molyneux strikes me as a spokesman for the disgruntled members of the lower middle class and those teens who think Ayn Rand’s writings are pearls of wisdom. While the teens might eventually grow out of their fantasies, the disgruntled ones are condemned  to perpetual wailing because they have to pay taxes each and every year and everyone knows: paying taxes sucks..

In anarcho-capitalism the state is evil because it amasses wealth and power and gives that to a selected group of people who use it for their own selfish goals. These people are called politicians and they are as dangerous as the Illuminati are and probably in league with them! Therefore the state should be abolished. Those who hold to Ayn Rand’s writings will readily agree because Rand sees the state as parasite limiting progress.. And of course a lot of tax payers agree as well, because they don’t want to pay taxes and without a state you don’t need to pay no taxes. Cause you know: paying taxes sucks!

Of course, someone must have asked at one moment: “but who is going to take care of all the stuff that the state does?”
“Like what?” (insert condescending tone).
“Like education, research, exploration of the universe(nasa), firefighting, policing, health care, the furtherance of the common good, protecting the weak, feeding the poor, disaster relief, providing justice, maintaining the infrastructure, settling disputes, sponsoring art, protecting the environment, protecting historical sites, making sure that the coin in your hand is worth something tomorrow and..”
“Capitalism!”
And there is the solution. The free market will arrange everything through the never failing system of supply and demand all perfectly organized and overseen by companies who are, of course, pinnacles of talent promotion and efficiency. And so the people don’t have to pay taxes anymore because the free market will take care of everything that you paid taxes for. So you don’t need to pay taxes anymore cause: paying taxes sucks!

But even the likes of a Molyneux realize that unbridled capitalism might not solve everything and so they start reasoning things into existence. First they come up with voluntary organisations that will regulate the market based on voluntary participation and arbitration.  Next they give limitless self healing properties to the free market in which the consumer, well informed through the internet, will punish those companies that  fail to meet standards by no longer buying from them. Companies will deliver these services off course against cut-throat prices thanks to the power of the internet and all will be well, so we don’t need to pay taxes. Cause you know: paying taxes sucks!

Happiness becomes a commodity and profits and margins become the main principles for making decisions. And if you  fall by the wayside because you happen to be too poor to pay for education, too ill to work for your money, too crazy  to make sense or just someone who can’t keep up with the rat race: though luck, live is a bitch. I don’t  care as long as I don’t have to pay taxes! Cause paying taxes sucks!

“But uh…, what happens if  that someone then is going to get a gun and rob you or goes on a killing spree? To get the things through violence?  Who is going to prevent him or her from doing so?”
And now Molyneux turns into an advocate of the  extreme interpretation of 2nd amendment: everyone gets to have a gun. And he sees firms and organisations of armed people protecting each other, protecting of course, not robbing or blackmailing or racketeering.  Not like those gangs do, but benevolent voluntary organisations of the kind that you have never seen in the course of history.  Thus society becomes an armed society in which anyone can be shot by anyone, especially when they suck or nobody is watching or they are outgunned a hundred to one. Is that the wild west? Yes.. But who cares… as long as I don’t have to pay taxes. Cause paying taxes sucks!

“But what happens when a foreign country makes use of the now largely disorganized organisation of this country?”
“Army!”
“What?”
“We have an army of volunteers to protect us against foreign aggression.”
“Just like they had at the start of the American Revolution?”
“Yes!”
“Like that army made up of local militias that was unable to defeat the English until it was reformed into the continental army?”
“Yes!”
“So why would that work now?”
“Because of the internet.”
“Say what?”
“Because the internet makes everything different.”
“I see.”
Of course anarcho-capitalists will play the internet card again and again.
“Who will prevent those abuses that unbridled capitalism caused in the 19th century such as working days of 14 hours or more?”
“The internet!”
“What about the abuses that now occur in some countries where some people and even children are treated as no better than slaves?”
“The internet!”
“What if a company pollutes a place and pays off people or just moves elsewhere rather than cleaning up or changing their production methods?”
“The internet!”
“What if companies form a monopoly?”
“The internet!”
Monopolies are a cause for reasoning things into existence. Both Molyneux and Ayn Rand follow two tracks:  they attack government and babble. Rand goes on a tangent arguing that it is governments that cause monopolies and she finds ample proof in history.  Of course she does. History is full of bad behaving governments(and companies). When however she has to argue how this not will happen  with a truly free market economy she has only on thing to offer: trust me on my word.  And so does Molyneux. You see, as much as Rand and Molyneux give examples of how monopolies were caused by states or the law,  they can not give you any proof that a free market prevents them, because there has never been a free market economy such as they want: one without state interference, and therefore they have no proof to offer. And if they can argue a perfect system into existence based on zero proof then any system, including those that did exist and failed(communism, absolutism and fascism) can be declared to be perfect by downplaying the parts that are not.  So just take their word for it because when you do you no longer need to pay taxes. Cause you know….Yeah, you know the drill.

It is funny that the internet actually started out as a government project. Would a company have been able to do it? Let’s have that answered by Neil deGrasse Tyson when he is talking about space exploration.  He is asked in his reading about his book on the video: The History and Future of NASA and Space Travel: Neil deGrasse Tyson – Space Chronicles (2012) whether private enterprise could have done it and he answers that private enterprise requires investors who want to see a return of investment that can be quantified. And the frontier of (space) exploration poses unquantifiable dangers to investment and therefore will scare away investors.  Exploration has always been something  that governments have done and  companies come in after to reap the benefits.  Nothing wrong with that, but that is the way it has worked and not the other way around. Be sure that anarcho-capitalism will not be a way to the stars: there is no profit in it. But who cares about the stars anyway.. as long as you don’t have to pay taxes.
Would the internet have come about without the state? It might have, but it also very likely it wouldn’t.

There is no perfect system because every system can be abused, twisted and corrupted because every system is a system made by fallible humans, but people want to find this self-healing perfect system(so they don’t have to pay taxes) and the likes of Molyneux  cater to that desire by dreaming up perfect systems out of thin air. It is perfect, because it hasn’t existed and thus has not been tarnished by reality. And it will never exist. It is a philosopher’s stone.  That is the power of philosophy. It creates things that do not exist: gods or stateless non coercive societies based on market capitalism.  And history be damned! For history sucks. Just like paying taxes does.

Did I tell you I was an historian?


molyneux

Black Peter(Zwarte Piet): Intolerance and popular politics

opa
SantaMonkey and….

On  the evening of  the fifth of December Saint Nicolas and his helper Black Peter(Zwarte Piet) bring sweets and presents to children(small and large!).  Of late this ‘tradition’ has received criticism because of the depiction of Zwarte Piet.  Some people feel that his blackness combined with his servile role towards the white skinned Saint Nicholas creates a negative image of black skinned people. In addition Black Peter is often portrayed as a bit silly and sometimes even dumb character. This criticism has eventual resulted into a court hearing and the following verdict: Zwarte Piet is, indeed, offensive due to the character’s continued role in perpetuating negative stereotypes of black people(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwarte_Piet).

When I heard about the criticism of the role of Zwarte Piet I wanted to see if it was possible to argue both sides of the argument. So asked a few people their viewpoints and  proposed that I would make a case against Black Peter and we would look at arguments for Black Peter.To my amazement it was fairly hard to discuss this argument in a reasonable way.

One argument for Zwarte Piet is that is an old tradition. I was curious if that was actually true and therefore I looked it up in the wikipedia.  As you can read for yourself: the tradition of probably started with a book in 1850 and in fact it took a while before it became the fest it now is. I. It might even be less older than that, because the way the celebration is portrayed nowadays(sage old kind man brings gifts from Spain by boat helped by a score of Zwarte Pieten) might be even less than 50 years old.  Perhaps you don’t agree but this hardly seems like an old tradition to me..
But is tradition  an argument in itself? If something wrong has been done for a long time, should we therefore keep on doing it merely because it is an old tradition?

Another argument is that other things are worse or equalyl bad, but we don’t do anything about those things. One example that I was given is that there is slavery in India and China.  This kind of argument I saw recently being discussed in a youtube movie by DarkAntics in reference to the ice bucket  challenge  to collect money for ALS.  People argue that there is a more worthy cause to pursue. In other words: first make the rest of the world perfect before dealing with our imperfections. It is hardly an argument, as DarkAntics showed in his movie(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDGu33F-mCY&list=UUTERzzbGZopw5SXJJr0tPyQ).

Another argument is that it will cause the celebration to be abolished. As far as I know few want to abolish the whole fest, but some want  to change  the role of the Zwarte Peter character. Changing something is not the same as abolishing it. Can things be changed?  Well, festivities and celebrations pop up, change and disappear over time. Take Valentine’s day for instance: “The rise of Internet popularity at the turn of the millennium is creating new traditions. Millions of people use, every year, digital means of creating and sending Valentine’s Day greeting messages such as e-cards, love coupons or printable greeting cards. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day).

Another argument is that the fest is not meant to discriminate. Unfortunately the court verdict says otherwise. It therefore is no longer a good defense.

Arguments against Zwarte Piet are that the character basically makes silly funny person of a black man who is also a servant of a white man. It might not have meant to depict this relation, but it seems to do so and some people feel offended by this.  And here is the human side of the equation. Let’s assume that a small fringe group feels insulted.. a very minor group. Should we keep on maintaining a partly fabricated tradition just because they are a fringe group? As said before.. culture changes all the time.. Carnival, for instance, was mostly a south Netherlands fest, which has spread towards the north. Things change and we could change things ourselves if we want too. We could change Zwarte Piet and still keep the celebrations.

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What I found annoying was that some parties immediately used this discussion in the recently held municipal elections. One of the examples is the OPA party.OPA is also the Dutch word for granddad(NOTE: this is the local party, not the national organisation for older people called OPA). The OPA party is a local party in town of Alkmaar, that produced the poster above. The text says: Zwarte Piet is allowed to stay.  The poster is a wrong statement because a local party has hardly anything to say over such things, unless it is during the hiring of the people by the municipality to play out the characters. It is also a minor point for an election that is going to determine the political power structure of municipality of Alkmaar for the next four years and it would be really sad that people vote for a party partly because of  such a trivial point. In addition the party has maneuvered itself in an awkward position considering the court verdict. The key word in the text is ‘mag’ which translates as: is allowed to or can.  In other words this party tries to make politics by making a vague statement which promises nothing. And in fact they can’t hold their promise as the court has ruled otherwise. It all becomes even more silly considering that a simple background check would have told them that the issue was up in court just prior to the elections.  It sounds like this party made a on the spur of the moment decision to jump on  a popular bandwagon by making an ill-considered statement.  Not only is the whole decision ill-considered but the sole argument they supply in their election statement is that it is an old tradition that should be maintained. As another simple background check would have told them: it is at best a dubious claim.
The last straw that actually makes this argument shameful is the implicit bad joke,  which might be intended or not(and if it is the latter it is certainly a bad one)  Zwarte Piet, a black man coming from another country is allowed to stay, instead of those  that come from other countries and who have to leave(because they are not wanted). That is morality at the bottom of the barrel: brings us gifts.. and you can stay. It is sad that some people can stoop this low.

It seems however that it didn’t prevent OPA from becoming the largest party.

The picture that head the post show my Vel’s colorful Pete(I think Pete sounds better than Peter) and my SantaMonkey.

 

 

Someone I used to know(a post about little stories)

I like story telling and using pictures for them. I am working on a various stories which I hope to put out now I have some more time on my hands and less stress. I make these scenes and stories using Second Life, which takes a lot of time to put together. A friend of mine says that it is probably faster to draw it myself and I guess he would be right, but somehow I like to do it the hard way.
I like to show you some of them and tell something about them in the way of story telling that hopefully inspires you or even entertains you.

2nekos-someone-i-used-to-kn

I ran into the song “Somebody I used to know” on you tube by Gotye featuring Kimbra. It inspired this picture of Dreary and Krisp. I wanted to capture the mood of the video and especially the puzzle feel of the painting. This painting is a crucial feature in the movie.
The song is a profound short story and is an nice example of how you can tell a story in under four minutes by using music, a few lines of text and imagery. The video is made by Natasha Pincus and it is in my opinion it  a great piece of art.
Here is the lowdown. You first see the lead singer Gotye singing about how their relation(between him and the person Kimbra represents) started off and then ended and that she suddenly broke off all contact after they split up despite she saying that they would remain friends. The movie starts quite intriguing by showing Gotye’s… foot.

Starting of with a foot
Starting of with a foot

He then sings his side of the story.

Gotye
Gotye

Gotye’s painting appears and he becomes part of the painting. The lines making up a puzzle like structure that engulfs him.

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There is a dramatic pause in which the camera backs off to show the two singers standing at opposites of the screen while the music switches kind of pauses to in giving you a kind of jazzy  music. Now the painting extends to include Kimbra who is at the other side of the picture. Notice also how they have totally different color schemes to denote their differences.

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Then Kimbra sing a few lines -just a few lines- that makes clear why she acts in the way he describes. She explains how being with him – even as friends – reminds her of all the bad things that they had together and his wrong doings.The crucial moment in the movie is at then end of the pause when Kimbra turns to Gotye and sings the first of her lines. She does something very distinctive. She loosens her shoulders, which communicates two things: it breaks the pattern and it is a movement people make to signify that they are ready for a fight. Then she moves towards him as if to confront him.

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Crucial moment. Kimbra breaks free from the constraints(put there by Gotye?) and is ready for a showdown. This is iconic imagery.
Kimbra confronts Gotye
Kimbra confronts Gotye

In the final scene, the painting is removed from Kimbra.. showing that she is free.

Final scene.
Final scene.

Nathasha Pincus is the director of the video.

 

Natasha Pincus
Natasha Pincus

If you wanted to find out the one person behind the video, you will probably never find him or her. The reason is that such a project is a combination of having the right people at the right place at the right time. It is like a jigsaw puzzle in which all the right pieces come together to create this video. In my opinion that crucial person is either Nathasha Pincus or Gotye himself(remember that the painting is made by his father).

 

My Picture of Dreary and Krisp was to capture the mood of this video and I want to show the distance by the gun and the connection by the hands, like that one from the painting:

The creation of Adam.
The creation of Adam.

 

 

 

liz-elf-corvus

This picture I used for another post previously and it actually shows Merit. I wanted to have beach scene and I happened to have a few zombie statues there so I just rearranged them. I wanted to have a beach scene with a sun in it.   There had to be something happening.. as a kind of story.

I am no atheist!

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Some days ago I lost a post I was writing about ‘my’ atheism.  Strangely enough it was a wordpress article and normally wordpress saves your work, but I can’t find the post. I did find the picture I uploaded.  Perhaps I lost the post when I turned of the computer while traditionally ignoring all the warning signs that pop up on the screen when doing so. Seems you can’t shutdown your pc anymore without warning signs and alerts popping up all over in such abundance that you ignore them.

Because I put a lot of effort into it I felt spent, so I probably wouldn’t have written this it if I hadn’t been watching a video made by Logicked(see below: the relevant passage is at 16:00).

Logicked is the identity for someone who says of himself: (I am an) Atheist / anti-creationist “debunking entertainment” videos with a top hat.
At some point in the video he tells that he was not raised with religion and this struck a cord with me as I can’t actually recall to have grown up with religion either. My parents had grown up with ‘religion’. She come from a group called Nederduits Hervormd(impossible to translate well but here we go: Lowergerman reformed)My mother told me once that her parents were looked down upon by some distant family members because they were related(they were nephew and niece), which according to those family members wasn’t allowed according to the bible(figure that for a book that has incest at the core of it’s writing). My father’s parents were vaguely catholic. I can’t recall my grandparents ever mentioning church or going to church.
My father was the most dominant of my parents by far, and a firm believer in science, so he ‘acquired’ books from the then popular Timelife series. This covered an extensive range of subjects in history, art and science and geography. He also liked science fiction novels and had a subscription on a popular science monthly. I always got the feeling that he wanted to give his children all the advantages he never got. I think he was very proud when I got my masters in history. It is all conjecture on my part, for my father died suddenly, so I never got around to ask about these things.
Religion was for me something on par with Tolkien and the Norse gods. I name these in one sentence because the time life series had a book called the early middle ages, basically the period of 400 to around 1200, which was mostly about the vikings and early England. It is that time in which the legends of Arthur are set. It has some very beautiful pictures in it. I don’t have those pictures of course, but here are a view similar ones I found on the internet.

Germanic_bracteate_from_Funen,_Denmark_(DR_BR42) copy
Germanic Bracteate
nordic art
Nordic carving
c78d661a2e50128513b6e391d8c23cc8
Coast line in scandanavia(not sure where)


For me these pictures speak of a vibrant society.
It might be one of the reason I like to make landscapes like these:

Book of summer
Book of summer(an inspired bit of nonsense I made on Veleda’s sim).

Religion was only talked about in our family in the way people talk about dwarves or orcs. Or, perhaps, like in role play games, where you have to pick a god as a trait, such as other people like to collect stamps.
Later on I joined the young humanists, not out of a conscious act against religion, but simply because I had a friend who invited me to join. Again, religion never played a part, nor did we ever think of religion as being a valid source of ideals that could only be supplied by religion.
When I went to university to study history, I did get to study religion, or to be more specific, Christianity, but it was like reading about the Scandinavian Gods(Hence the picture at the top). Some kind of religion that once held sway but has no relevance in our world. Of course there were people who killed in the name of religion, but these were to me nutcases belonging to a very small minority.
It is therefore that I don’t feel like an atheist even though other people might describe me as such. For me atheist supposes  that there is something valid to differ from, but in my world there was never something else. Besides, I don’t like be part of a group by default. I fact I have problems with belonging to groups regardless.
So I never felt like an atheist simply because religion(or perhaps I ought to say theism(which Is not the same I know)) is something I wasn’t  much aware of in my day to day life. Perhaps there were people who believed one thing or another, but probably my world is mostly populated with secular people or people who see religion as something personal.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the state of affairs in the United States. I actually started to find this out via Steve Shives, who  posted a video about five stupid things about Ayn Rand(a proponent of way of thinking that has led to some very objectionable ideas).  From Ayn Rand we got to Ayn Rand and Jesus and then from Jesus to the Logicked.

So we get from I an no atheist to I am one.

Damm, how do I hate to admit that.

—-

Logicked on himself(https://www.youtube.com/user/logicked/about).
Logicked: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J91d9hBisMg).
Steve Shives on Ayn Rand(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0CyunRUJmc).
Steve Shives on Ayn Rand and Jesus(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeRAnNvyk5c).
Steve Shives on Jesus(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FLEnBK7s7o).

Vending machines

The employees trickled into the room by the twos and threes depending on who shared an office with whom. A few went out again to form a short line in front of the vending machine in the hallway. But eventually they all gathered into the windows less meeting room with it’s yellowish walls at the appointed time. There were only two noticeable pieces of furniture in the room. A large table surrounded by chairs in the middle of the room and a whiteboard against one of the wall full of intelligible scribbles .

There they were joined by two managers. These were so called mid-level managers: men already too high up the ladder from them to speak to on a daily basis, but still low enough to be encountered in the corridors. Sometimes even greetings were exchanged during those awkward moments in the morning when an employee had a run in with one of those managers at one of the three vending machines in the building. Mid-level managers also used vending machines.

The men -there were only men-  had been informed by mail to attend the meeting on a short notice, the trigger being the removal of their direct superior, the news of which had arrived earlier on the day.   The highest manager took a seat at the table. Then the employees choose theirs.  Finally the other manager sat down at one end of the table and although he did not sit exactly opposite the other manager, he also did not sit next to him. There was a certain reserved distance between the two. The highest manager, a small man with hair as grey as his suit, was going to break the news, the other manager, a man with glasses and a pensive expression dressed in a buttoned shirt like the employees, was there because he was expected to attend, The hierarchy of the company positioned him in between the higher manager and the one that was leaving.

“Your manager will join us in a moment,” the highest one remarked, “In the mean time I bring you the news that he will step down from his current position.”

None of the men said a thing..

“At the moment we will have no replacement for his position. Instead we expect the foremen to take care of business. We will have individual talks during the week with some of your key people about the future of this department and its reorganization.”

The men accepted these words in silence as well, but they did look at each other, not entirely sure who of them were considered to be the mentioned key people, but also uneasy about their prospects if they were not  considered to be part of the group of key persons.

The highest manager, triggered by the uneasy stares,  tried to get a feel of the mood, but also avoided to look the men straight in the eye.   “Men, the company needs you all and we need you in the future as well. Some important projects are coming our way. Especially we will be needing you to work on the desktop replacement project. That will be some ten thousand desktops that need replacing, urgently. An important job which has been delayed far too often.”

At that moment there was a short interruption when the leaving manager arrived. He nodded to the men and sat down at the other end of the table. He didn’t say a thing, but folded his arms across his chest. It was a posture that was familiar to them all. employees and managers alike. It meant defiance, the kind that he had showed towards the other managers when it had been announced, earlier in the year, that the department was being considered for outsourcing to external interested parties.

One of the men asked the question that was foremost on their minds: “Does this have anything to do with the outsourcing project?”

There was another moment of silence before the highest manager braved himself to look the questioner straight in the eyes and deliver his answer, “No, this has nothing to do with it.”

“Then why does he leave? He has been our manager for twelve years!”

The manager looked away while he reacted with a lot of words. But those were simply meant to obscure the lack of a proper straightforward answer to the first question, which would have been very short and it would have sounded like: yes.  After the flood of words he stressed again the importance that the men would continue working as they had done before and mentioned their importance for the future of the company.

“Remember.. we need you.. for we got some important projects ahead of us.”

But who would believe a man that could not give a straight answer to a simple question everyone knew the answer to already?

Between real and depiction of real : Coca Cola, identity and avatars

nerit-insilico-5 copy
Merit at Insilico: The blue ant bar.

 

“Dick’s stories typically focus on the fragile nature of what is “real” and the construction of personal identity.” (Wikipedia: Philip K. Dick)

A few week ago I borrowed some books from the public library. It has been a long while that I visited a library, but of late I found that I sleep better when I read. Even though our library is small, it is still a fascinating place, for you can roam around and run into books that I might have never rented or bought, but captured my interest and can be read without any extra cost. One of these books was a book about  the coca cola. Now I am not interested in coca cola as a business, but I was interested in its use of imagery.  Coca cola is a product, or even more: it is the concept of a product. And it uses pictures to bring this to your attention.
I have always been interested in pictures, when I was young a drew landscapes devoid of civilization. It is still something I like to make. When you see a picture, it invokes a certain feel or an idea. A dark forest gives you a certain feel, a busy street another. These feelings are almost universal, which is handy for that allows us to communicate via images.
Some time ago I made a post about Magritte’s pipe. He said it was not a pipe, because it was a depiction of a pipe and not the pipe itself.
I think this is a rather restricted idea in that the thing is just a thing and there is nothing more to it.  If this were true, advertisements would have no use for they  try to invoke a certain feel and in that way get you to buy the thing that is advertised. Although it is true that an advertisement is also a means to tell that a certain product exist and it  is more then a way to present the object for sale. That is the task of a catalog and not an advertisement.
There is a gap between a thing and how it is presented. But not only between a thing, but also between people and how they present themselves to be. Advertisments are a way to bridge that gap, but stories are another way. And in another way is the use of avatars in Second Life.

At the start of the advertisement you see a picture of my avatar in Second Life. Here are two more:

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Taubie
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Shared look…

In Second Life you can change your avatar as you feel fit and with each look another way of yourself is presented. These static picture do not even show the effect of the way a avatar moves. This can have an even bigger effect. I second life I have to main avatars: one is called Merit, the other is called Taubie. They have each a distinct look, but they also have shared looks.  Each looks creates a new kind of identity.
Nowadays the looks are more and more shared looks.

A company like Coca Cola has to establish a idea of itself, to cloak itself and it’s product in a look. Let’s have a look Coca Cola identity.

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One of the first ways to advertise was to paint you advertisement on a wall. They were ready bill boards. This is what you see above. There is an old picture to the top left. And the lower two are more recent pictures although this does not mean that they were newer. Many wall paintings were walled or plastered over, to be rediscovered decades later because of renovations. Very early Coca Cola used a certain color scheme: red, white and green.  Red stood for energy, white for purity and green for freshness. This is what the book I have says, it is called: The sparkling story of Coca Cola:an entertaining history including collectibles, by Gyvel Young-Witzel). It seems to me that green was dropped after some time, the books does not mention it, but you can see that in the pictures.

Notice another interesting detail that you see on the wall. It lists the price. For about five decades the price of a glass or one bottle of Coca Cola was fixed at  five cent. This means that any rise in cost could not be covered by a rise in the price. A sudden increase in cost had to be covered by the Coca Cola itself, which could only reduce costs by producing less and firing staff. There were even moments in the history of the company that it almost went bankrupt. In the first world war there was a great shortage of sugar because a lot of merchant ships were needed for shipping soldiers and supplies to Europe. Sugar was mostly imported and without the ships to transport sugar Coca Cola could not meet demand. Another moment was in the thirties when the price of sugar rose at a rapid pace.

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Coca Cola was a soft drink and in the early days of it’s existence it was sold via what was called soda fountains. This was the name for the softdrink dispenser as well as for the establishment itself. The syrup extract of Coca Cola was put into this machine to which water and carbon dioxide was added. This was served in a glass for the price of five dollar cents.
Soda fountains as establishment disappeared towards and after world war II. Or rather, they turned into dinners and lunch rooms. At the time of the prohibition they became more popular and Coca Cola profited from that development as well.
A soda fountain dispenser was the center of the soda fountain establishment. There were therefor often embellished.
Next to Soda fountains bottles were developed to sell soda drinks somewhat later.

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The reason why bottles started to become important can be seen in the pictures above. It was not uncommon for people to stop at a soda fountain to have a glass of Coca Cola. However with the introduction of the automobile more and more people wanted to take such a drink with them on the longer rides. Hence people wanted to have a bottle. Note the signs: a glass or a bottle costs five cents.
Another interesting this is the amount of text that was used in early advertisements.

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We now come to Coca Cola’s identity. Coca Cola displayed their product with women. From very early on Coca Cola published a calender showing women. Sometimes they did not even drink Coca Cola. A sample of this can be seen above.  Apparently Coca Cola was convinced that displaying women had a positive effect on the sales. One of the nice side things about the above pictures is that you can see how the clothes change. This was not only because of a change in clothing style, but also a change in morals. The one on the right is actually not from Coca Cola itself, but one of the bottle companies. The writers of the books remark that this was probably not endorsed by Coca Cola and done by the bottling company on their own account.

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Over time women get a more equal depiction. To the right we see a picture of Aretha Franklin.

Now the depiction of Coca Cola with healthy and young women was no doubt a conscious advertisement strategy. Associate a product with attractive, young people and people might be more inclined to drink it. Mind you.. this does not say they did not use other depictions to advertise their products, one should have a look at Norman Rockwell’s works. Here is one example.

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Rockwell came to work for Coca Cola in the thirties and he introduce a kind of Tom Sawyer look. It was an idyllic world. Although the boy figure looks poor, it also breathes the mood of the countryside, with is’t slow easy pace of live, with nature and people relied on each other through good and bad times. The dog was a symbol of loyalty.

Rockwell’s influence was no doubt remarkable especially when he was hired to paint Santa Claus. The combination of the two, and the use of the colors of red and white was a great find.

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Santa Claus was another welcome concept used to advertise Coca Cola. After the 1929 crisis any good news and happiness was welcome. And Coca Cola is not shy to admit it helped shape Santa Claus into what it is nowadays. From the angle of advertisement it was perhaps a brilliant find. Well maybe too brilliant, as Santa Claus has become disconnected from Coca Cola and stands now on his own two feet. Still it was a great find.

A company like Coca Cola exist of make belief. It has to conjure up an idea that make their product attractive to you. One set way was to link their product to young, attractive and popular people. In the thirties Norman Rockwell had a roll in developing another vision: the Tom Sawyer look and Santa Claus. The image of Santa Clause has become so defined nowaday that we can hardly belief that he was more or less developed in the thirties and mostly by Coca Cola.

This manipulation of ideas is probably something to be impressed by, but also a bit daunted to.  It seems that it might be possible to create imaginary things and make them part of culture. We have Santa Clause, shaped by Coca Cola and Norman Rockwell. And we have a thing like Valetin’s day. Things that were developed partly in a desire to increase sales. Of course this only works when people accept the idea. Still it is a sobering thought how fast something can become part of culture.

Signs of Life: affluence

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“I used to get off the train here.”  She nodded her head towards the platform. She was sitting on one of the folding chairs that were fixed to the side of the train wagon. She had asked to sit down, because she said she was  wobbly in the morning. I could imagine she was as she was a very tall and slender girl walking on heels that made her even frailer. Her ankles seemed almost too thin to handle the stress her body put on them. .

“Oh.. not anymore? It did not go well?” Her companion said. She was a much smaller and more broader girl in build. She had long black hair that fell over her shoulders, glasses with a thick frame and a pink knitted cap. She was standing and holding to a pole to keep her steady against the movement of the train.

“I did finish the internship, but I was glad to leave.. it wasn’t a fun job.”

“Because of the patients?”

“More the work environment. I didn’t get any proper guidance. The school just told me to go there and I had to join in without any proper supervision or introduction. They were too busy because they were too short on people. “

“Must have been hard then.”

“It was, but mostly because they seldom told me what to expect. I think they couldn’t even because anything could happen at any time of the day. No day is the same in psychiatric healthcare…”

“I bet.”

“..Some could be nice at one moment and cruel the next. Depressive silent at one time and screaming their heads off at another. ”

“It is probably much easier where I work.. Elderly people are much easier to handle.”

“Yeah, unless they are demented. They can be as unpredictable as those inmates of the psychiatric hospital. Even to each other. There was once this fight we had to intervene. One wanted to escape all the time and one day she was screaming from a window. One of the others came and hit her. They started to fight. Slapping and scratching each other. A catfight.. “ She laughed.

“Sad though. Did nobody intervene?”

“We did, but it took some time before we knew what was going on because we just don’t have enough people to do all the work. Like we don’t even have time to help them shower or bathe every day.. Some even get angry at that. Calling us names. Hitting us.”

“Oh my.”

“Yeah, awful. I wish it was otherwise.”

“It is the same with us.. not enough people to get everything done. Like they fired a lot of the kitchen staff to save costs. Now people get basic meals..Very basic.” She seemed to shuddered at the thought.

“It is the same where I work now. I work with homeless people. There is just enough money for a basic meal. We focus on keeping the rooms clean, but they need new paint and a lot needs to be fixed or replaced. The television broke down the other week, so we invent games or other activities for them to do so they can socialize a bit.”

“You’ll have to do whatever you can do.”

The tall girl nodded.

“So any idea where you are going to work when you finished school?”

“I think I’ll try working with mentally disabled people. They can be selfish and nasty, but they are also very sweet at the time and funny. And I seem to get along with them well. And what about you?”

“I haven’t yet decided for myself. There is a need everywhere, but never enough money. ”

For some time they were silent. The movement of the train shaking us about.  Everyone retreated into their own shells, thinking their own thoughts or listening to their own music with their private headsets in the morning train that would transfer them from the reality of home to the reality of work or school.

“I wonder if there has been a time when it was different.” I wanted to remark.

Was there a time when there were enough people and there was enough money for everyone. I couldn’t recall such a time and I was twice their age.  It is strange considering we have now seven billion people on this planet and this is probably the most affluent period in the history of the world. Yet it seems that after the eighties everything went downhill?

Perhaps I should ask my mother?

She would need that help soon enough.

Signs of Life: dominoes

When Harold returned from the doctor his wife Janice asked ”How did it go?”

Harold was both taken aback by the abrupt question and in a quandary about a the answer. He had not expected that question so soon, but he knew she would ask it eventually. He knew he had to say something as that was the proper thing to do. Janice was his wife, with whom else should he be honest, but with her?  But he also felt that if he answered truthfully things would fall apart and then other things would topple over: dragging the next one down in turn. Events would be out of control, like a series of falling dominoes.

“Well, okay.”  Harold said and he quickly added. “We had a good chat.”

Perhaps he should not have added that last line. For with the first line he signalled to Janice that he did not want to talk about it (yet), but by adding the second he poked up the fire of her curiosity.

“A good chat? What then did you chat about?” Janice said.

Harold felt he was in a trolley put on a single track that just went into one direction: down a black hole.

“About me mostly.” Harold mumbled. Think she would let him off the hook if it was about himself. As if he was saying: this is private.

“Oh. Good! It was time you had one.” Janice exclaimed. The ‘me’ in Harolds sentence  meant ‘us’  to Janice.  Us  because it did concern her too.

“But what did you talk about exactly?”

“About my feelings…. toward others. You know..Those feelings.” He waved his hand as if to dismiss the matter.

Janice nodded. She knew: it was about sex.

“You know we haven’t had much intimacy of late.”

“Yes.” She nodded firmly. Of course she knew. She knew all too well.

“ I asked the doctor for a reference to a psychologist,,, because… you see.. I think I might be gay.” He blurted out that last line. He felt the first domino fall.

“Gay?”

“Yes?”

“Oh.. but that explains it.” Janice smiled.

“Eh?”

“The not-having-sex. I thought you found me ugly or fat.”

“Oh.. I.. well.”

“But you are just gay.” She smiled and walked over and hugged him quickly before he could say or do anything else.

“So tell me when did you start to have these feelings?” She laid a kindly hand on his arm.

“I.. I have them for some time now.. feelings.. vague feelings…”  Harold said. He felt her hand warm and clammy  on his skin.

“All these nights that you pushed me away. It all makes sense now.” Janice remarked. She smiled happily and wanted to hug him again.

He took a step backwards, out of her reach.

“Janice? I just told you I have gay feelings and you start to hug me.” Harold said.

“Because I am happy you found out. It must be such a relief for you. But also for us. It explains so much.”

“But Janice.. it means you and me…. us..  there is no….”

“I still love you, Harold.I always loved you even when you pushed me away.” She stepped forward as if to hug him.

“Janice…Don’t you understand.. If I am gay that won’t change. I don’t feel like being intimate with you.” He stepped out of her reach again.

“Oh, of course..” She said. Her eyes showed hurt. She was still moving towards him, but slower now.

“When I am gay  I love men, not women.. Janice. You are a woman.“ He said

“Oh.” Janice’s eyes filled with sudden tears. She stopped right there..

“I am sorry.” Harold imagined the second domino toppling.

“But what about us? I can’t live with someone who doesn’t want to be close with me, Harold. We share a bed..A double sleeper. We share a house. We have kids. A life.A married life.”

“I know..We might have to sleep in separate beds..” Another domino fell over.. the next one would follow suit.

“For how long? And what are we going to tell our family? Our friends?” She started to cry,

“I don’t know, really. I had hoped it would go much slower than this.”

“I can’t live like this, Harold. I can’t live with a man who doesn’t want to be with me. Who doesn’t love me.”

“I know.”

“You know? It sounds like you planned it all. Like it was all part of a scheme you set in motion. The ruin of our life.My life.” She started to cry more and become angry.

“I did not plan this.. although.. I felt one thing would lead to another.” Harold said.

“You ruined my life.  You ruined the  lives of our kids, Harold.  What are you going to tell them?  Daddy loves men, not mam?” she laughed sarcastically, “You ruined everything..  Years ago. You could have told me earlier. Why now? Why so late? ” She ran out of the room sobbing. He could hear her footsteps on the stairs fading away.

Harold walked over to the window and went over the what had happened in his head. He looked into the dark garden of their suburban house with three storeys, two children, three cats and one dog.  Their car was parked in front and his motorcycle parked in the alley at the back. He had only considered being gay: he felt a vague attraction to men, but he actually couldn’t say if that was the truth of it.

Whenever he looked at other people. men or women, he felt nothing. A dead feeling possessed him.  It was what he meant to find out to therapy. When Janice had cried he had just felt distant and cold, like when someone in the papers or on television was crying. He sympathised, but he no longer felt that pain in his heart, like a hand squeezing it hard,  when Janice was sad. He felt sorry for her, but no longer sorry enough to stay with her. He felt like a different person had taken possession of him, but he knew it was just himself, but differently: colder.

He wondered what would happen if he found out he wasn’t gay at all, but just repressing his feelings because that was the only way he could deal with her. He knew he was sure he would not want to go back into a relationship with her. Any relationship for that matter.

He knew that was probably going to change at some later date for he had two friends who had been divorced and had felt exactly the same. Perhaps that is how you dealt with a divorce, only he needed another excuse, a bad excuse.  He could also have said he did not love her and wanted a divorce.

Perhaps that was all that had been needed.

Signs of life: the last voyage

The last voyage
The last voyage

She caught my attention because she was so there: standing tall with her arms folded in front of her chest and her defiant gaze that seemed to say to everyone around her: ‘I dare you, I dare you  to say something about it, I  dare you to assume; dare to conclude, to judge’.

He was wearing shades, a black jacket on blue jeans and a big brown leather bag that made him lean sideways.  He was next to her, but also behind her at the same time. Like he neither wanted to be next to her nor following her, while she didn’t want him to be either and certainly not in front of her. So she paced with long steps to keep ahead of him and he had to keep up dragging his heavy load. A reluctant chase.

Suddenly she halted a few meters further on the platform, making him stop as well after a minimum exchange of words. The bag thudded on the concrete. I  imagined it  to be bursting with voluminous books containing hundreds of pages made out of frail paper filled with miniscule lines. Like a pocket bible. Books filled with all the words they would ever need, but would never say to each other if they could help it. Words that would no longer see the light of day.

He turned towards a bicycle shop that was at one side of the raised platform and a few meters lower. He lifted the shades to put them on the top of his head and then put his hands in his pockets to stare at the rows upon rows of cycles inside the shop.

She looked the other way, with her back to the shop and staring at nothing in particular because she was mostly focused on looking away from him. Her arms were still folded in front of her chest.

When the train stopped she moved towards the doors  without giving him one look. He put on his shades, lifted the bag and followed her. When the doors opened they both stepped inside at the same time. Just before she was inside she stopped for a brief moment and gave me this intense gaze. There was a bit of defiance in it, but also – deeper – a sense of resignation. A resignation about  having to put up with someone you want to be miles away from, but you had to be with for this one trip. Just for this one last trip.