Saturday, September 10, 2005

You are the world

A game the whole family can play

This is a mind game: Imagine, if you will, the state of the world if you were the ultimate arbiter of good taste and success. It's a simple game, inspired by the gobsmacking stupidity of who is famous and what is popular these days. Ready? I'll go first:

Reality television programs? Off the air, each and every one, including Survivor (never watched it) and Nanny 911 (every program is exactly the same; I suspect drugs are used to tame the monster children quickly enough).

Organized sports? Bankrupt (I mean even more than they already are). While this may horrify people, remember that I am the one playing the game this time. You can let the football teams prosper when it's your turn. I, on the other hand, have never in my life been to a professional football game or watched one on television (and I've been to only one pro baseball game, when my father dragged the whole family to the Oakland Coliseum; actually, I was the only one who had to be dragged). ESPN could be used for chess tournaments.

Paris Hilton? Gone already. Remember, I ditched the "reality" stuff first.

Health clubs? Abandoned. I'm not opposed to health, but facilities devoted to sweating and straining are noisome. I'll go for a walk instead. Maybe I'll get a bike, but not a stationary one.

Math and science would become much more popular majors in college. Astrology, creationism, homeopathy, and other frauds would vanish for lack of practitioners and clients. Tarot cards might survive as a party game (although there will probably be a lot fewer parties). I'm a little worried about medicine, since I'm too squeamish to be a doctor yet would sure like to have a few good ones around.

Cultural events would do okay, and movie theaters would survive. However, there'd be dismal sales at the concession stands (I don't like to eat at the movies) and Mel Gibson would probably be out of work (although I did see his Hamlet, so there's hope for him). Peak hours would shift, too, since I usually prefer to see movies in the early afternoon on weekdays because it's not as crowded. (See the flaw here? If I set the standard for public taste, then everyone else will want to crowd into my favorite time slots with me. Damn.)

Alcoholic beverages? Gone. Churches? Shuttered or converted into museums. The Republican Party? Stuffed and mounted for display in those ex-churches. The various Bushes? In the rogues' gallery.

Are we having fun yet?

Yes, it's a game everyone can play, but it has only one winner at a time.


Lynx said...

Hmmm...what would the bestseller novels/books be in your world?

Anonymous said...

While purging reality TV, could we please spare America's Next Top Model, the best train-wreck on television? Much obliged.

Also, I don't know if you would put The Vagina Monologues in the category of cultural events. Either way, I'd like to see it purged. That prose such as "

I had always perceived my vagina as an independent entity, spinning like a star in its own galaxy, eventually burning up on its own gaseous energy or exploding and splitting into thousands of other smaller vaginas, all of them then spinning in their own galaxies"
has survived for close to a decade is all the proof I need that the free marketplace of ideas ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Zeno said...

Books I like best (a partial list): "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", The Player of Games (and other novels in The Culture quasi-series by Iain M. Banks), Cryptonomicon (and no, I wasn't disappointed by the ending like so many others were), Invader (C. J. Cherryh was almost unreadable until she hit her stride; I like all her recent stuff), The Handmaid's Tale (I hope to hell Atwood isn't a prophet), the Hornblower novels (haven't started in on the Aubrey-Maturin novels yet, but probably soon), Mathematical Cranks (about time to cite a math-related work; Underwood Dudley's compilation is a riot and sometimes eeriely matches what I see my students doing), Topology (the one by Munkres, one of the most readable math texts ever, not the one by Dugundji, although I slowly learned to appreciate the latter more), David Weber's Honor Harrington series (Hornblower as a woman, with spaceships! [and occasionally intrusive right-wing subtext]), Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (Martin Gardner's debunking classic), Dune (Frank Herbert's original, but only a few of the his sequels [and none of his offspring's]), Ever Since Darwin (or other Stephen Jay Gould essay collections, but probably not his book-length efforts), and the occasional scholarly book on the Bible, Christianity, or other religion (but only for self-defense purposes). Plus, I love to browse style manuals and books on English usage (and grumble over the items I disagree with!).

MS, I don't think The Vagina Monologues would fit into this list as either reading or cultural event. Tant pis! Just for you, though, I'll leave ANTM on TV as a guilty pleasure.

algorithmic_art said...

Welcome to blogging! I've seen your comments on Moebius Stripper, and followed the link from Panda's Thumb because I recognized the name. Small world. I bought Mathematical Cranks just recently, after seeing it in the library of The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles - which is worth visiting just for the book store.

Zeno said...

Thanks for dropping in, al_art. Dudley has written a separate book on angle trisectors, too.

Lynx said...

Like your booklist--Feynman's someone who I've been reading for a long time. Have you tried out China Mieville? His style may "jibe" with you.

I could never be a social arbiter. Frankly, I love seeing what other people come up with too much--I'm an imaginitive person, but I'd be bored only seeing my point of view. I would, however, reserve the right to be a social gadfly--making fun of the things that work so hard to deserve it.

Zeno said...

No, Lynx, I haven't read any of Mieville's books yet, although I've seen reviews in Locus that make me think I ought to. Right now I'm enjoying Susanna Clark's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (my living room book), The Unfolding of Language by Guy Deutscher (the nightstand book), and Ken McLeod's Dark Light (the paperback in the car, which usually makes it my lunchtime book).

C. J. Cherryh invests a lot of effort in creating her alien races. In the beginning she larded her text with too many italicized alien words (see Brothers of Earth or, rather, don't). She's now written a series of novels in a sequence beginning with Invader, whose backstory involves the establishment of an isolated human colony on a world that already has a dominant intelligent life form, the atevi. The humans are refugees from a lost colonization mission to an uninhabited world. After armed conflict with the atevi, the humans arrive at a truce with them, accept exile to a single island which the atevi turn over to them, and live under an awkward truce in which the humans are tolerated in return for gradually introducing more advanced human technologies to the feudal atevi culture. The protagonist in Cherryh's books is the paidhi, the human ambassador/translator who lives among the atevi and serves as the sole authorized link between the two cultures. He is lonely, of course, conflicted, and exasperated by the myopic policies of the human government back on the island. I love the political intrigue, Cherryh's imaginative design of the atevi civilization, and wonderfully bizarre characters like the atevi Dowager (who hates the influence of human technology on her culture but in her realpolitik recognizes its potency and will intrigue to ensure that her family uses it to stay on top). Sometimes I wish the paidhi didn't get something broken or end up unconscious in every book (it seems that atevi tea is poisonous to humans), but of course he has a difficult job. Start with Invader and see if you like it.

P.S.: I think it's pretty clear I could never succeed as a social arbiter myself. I'm too much of an outlier.

Anonymous said...

I would live in your reality, but I could not stand prohibition ;_;
Robots need alcohol to fuel their power cells (as evidenced by bender the robot)