Free Will v. Predetermination

Netflix is pretty much tapped out so while we wait for the final season of Better Call Saul and season 2 of Russian Doll, we have switched over to HBO, and over the last few days I have watched the first two seasons of His Dark Materials, which is a pretty good action adventure across parallel Earths. Our protagonist, a young girl (14 or so, I’d guess), comes from a sort of steampunk Earth, but with witches and prophecies and mystical talismans and stuff, where each person is accompanied by a ‘daemon,’ their animal spirit, and most of them can talk and they’re kind of reflective of the individual, since most of the bad guys have snakes, lizards, spiders, but the super baddie, who is our protagonist’s mother, has some weird, long fanged, orange monkey.
She (Lyra, the protagonist) doesn’t even make it to our Earth until the beginning of season two, and a lot of the action takes place on another world between hers and ours, where the only survivors are children because all of the adults have been killed by ‘specters’ who look a whole lot like the Death Eaters from the Harry Potter books.
At any rate, one of the burning questions seems to be ‘would humanity be better off if Eve had never eaten the apple?’
It ended abruptly, there are apparently a couple more seasons to come, and I want to know how they resolve it.
So now I’ll go back to watching Devs, which in a way focuses on the same question, but without all the witches and specters and talking ferrets. The bad guy, head of a huge internet company, believes in a totally deterministic universe, i.e. everything proceeds from its cause and could happen no other way, the path of the universe is fixed and all of our actions are completely determined. He’s killed somebody, an employee who was about to spill the beans, and his girlfriend is determined to find the truth.
Free will vs. Predetermination. It’s also the theme of the Matrix, with the whole red pill/blue pill question.

I’m on the side of free will. Here’s how I see it. First there was nothing (maybe- or maybe the materials for universe building are as infinite and eternal as existence itself, and there was no beginning and will be no end), but anyway, then there was energy, then there was matter, then there were suns and planets and then there was life. After life, then there comes complex life, life which can react to it’s environment and it evolves and evolves (and this is taking place in billions of places, over and over again) until there is intelligent life, self-aware life, life which actually wants a certain outcome and is capable of bringing it about and at that point the whole game changes. I’m willing to accept that chickens and gazelles don’t have a highly developed sense of free will, but people do, and we can make the world be whatever we want to.

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The Ed Sheeran Case

O.K., I am late weighing in on this controversy as the judge has ruled in Ed Sheeran’s favor and the very underpublicized case, obscured by the events in Ukraine and Will Smith assaulting a comedian much in the way that the light of the Sun obscures our view of the rest of the universe, is over and already forgotten by most.
Nonetheless, whenever there is a case of plagiarism, whether in print or in music, I like to look them both up on the internet, because that is what the internet is for, and compare for myself. Would I have made the same decision as the judge? In this case, I’m not sure, but I can see the judge (and Ed Sheeran’s) point, and respect the decision as having been made honestly, and explained sufficiently. The ‘Oh I, Oh I, Oh I, Oh I, Ohi I, O’ bit in Sheeran’s “I’m in Love With Your Body,” is remarkably similar to the Oh why, Oh why, Oh why, Oh why, oh in Sami Switch’s song “Oh, Why” but outside of that they are completely different songs.
I don’t think the lawsuit was frivolous, or unwarranted, and in a way it accomplished it’s goal. I’d never heard of Sami Switch before and was pleasantly impressed. I thought his song was far superior to Sheeran’s (I’m not a Sheeran hater, he’s written a lot of stuff I like, but I find that one to be a particularly obnoxious earworm).
Maybe that was his goal. Just to get people to listen.

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Gotham

Sorry for the spoilers, but this is not a program to be taken seriously, so I’m not going to worry about it too much. If you really don’t want spoilers, read no further.

I’m currently binge-watching Gotham, probably somewhere in the middle of season three, and it is getting a bit ridiculous. Virtually every villain has died at least once and been re-animated, or left for dead and somehow miraculously survived, or sent to Arkham where you just know they are going to escape because that has to be the lowest security mental asylum ever, and every good guy has either had an evil clone (evil Bruce Wayne, who felt no pain, and evil Jim Gordon, who was exposed when Barbara Kean slapped him and his face stayed that way – I though that was a pretty cool touch) or somehow been taken over by an evil entity at least once, some twice. Fish Mooney seems to have more lives than a cat, even though Jada Pinkett Smith is so sensitive she can’t take a joke.
The epitome was when brainwashed Bruce Wayne (not to be confused with evil clone Bruce Wayne), ran Alfred through with a sword, like all the way through, but immediately snapped out of his spell and rescued him with the magic water from the fountain of Ra’s al Ghul, or however you spell that.
A bit ridiculous, but a fun ride nonetheless. It’s fast paced, full of action, witty one liners, and extremely beautiful women. Barbara Kean, Lee Tompkins, Valerie Vale, Tabitha Galavan, Selina Kyle (my personal fave) and post-mutation Ivy Pepper, who has to have the lamest super power origin story in comic book history. A straggly haired, skinny, pre-pubescent 14 year old falls (well, is dropped) into a sewer and comes out as a smoking hot 20 something who is irresistible to men. Seriously, this happens to lots of girls, just not overnight.
Anyway, I’ll probably watch it through to the end. Ridiculousness is expected. It’s a comic book, after all.

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The Smack

Sometimes something happens that doesn’t matter, between people who don’t matter, and yet it grabs the public attention for a day and that’s all people can talk about but you know perfectly well it will be old news by tomorrow, and pretty much entirely forgotten in a month or two, and that’s the only reason I am blogging about it now.
I am referring to Will Smith ‘slapping’ Chris Rock at the Oscar’s last night after Chris told a joke about his wife. I put slap in parentheses because it looked like a closed fist punch to me, and on the other hand because some people are saying it was completely faked, which I wouldn’t put past them, actually, because every person involved is an actor.
I am a big fan of Chris Rock. I think he’s one of the funniest people around. I am also a pretty big fan of Will Smith. He was in Hitch, and Hancock, and that film where he was an organ donor, and lots of other stuff. Some crap, for sure, but generally entertaining, enough so that if I see he’s in a film, I’ll at least give it a shot. Jada Pinkett Smith is a lower tier actor, but I am currently enjoying her as Fish Mooney in Gotham, who (after dying once and then reanimated by Dr. Strange) can get anybody to do anything she wants just by touching them. That may have been what happened last night, because Will Smith laughed at the moment the joke was told, before walking up to the stage and smacking Chris Rock, who reacted as well as can be expected. Brushed it off and went on with the act.
The joke? O.K., Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia, which is a fancy way of saying she’s going bald, and she has been public about this, and shaved her head, which seems a reasonable choice, and Chris Rock said “I look forward to seeing you in G.I. Jane II.” It was kind of funny. Some people online have called it bullying and said Rock was punching down, but I don’t see it that way. She is well known, famous and rich, and was attending a gala night at the Oscars. Playing the victim card is bullshit.
That’s how I feel about it. If you feel differently, that’s O.K. It doesn’t really matter, and we’ll have forgotten about it in a week.

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The Fierce Determination of the Ukrainian People

Sure, some people are looking at the global political ramifications, and seeing this as a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia, and they’re not completely wrong. Certainly, in retrospect, the American involvement from Maidan onward has been unacceptable interference. But what Putin did, and is doing, is monstrous and totally unacceptable.
But, American interests and Russian interests have nothing to do with it. This is about Ukraine. They are the victims in this, and to say their reaction to the crisis has been admirable is an understatement. The words the spring to my mind are ‘heroic,’ ‘awe inspiring,’ and ‘incredible.’
But also understandable. There are two types of people in Ukraine, as in all of the Warsaw Pact countries and former Soviet Republics. Those who are under 40 or thereabouts, and those who are older. Those who are under 40 were at most 7 or 8 years old when the Soviet Union collapsed, so they have lived their lives in a European nation, from which they could travel freely and in which they were exposed to Western ideas. The idea that they should suddenly become a vassal state of Russia must seem completely surreal to them. Then there are those who are older, who have memories of living under Russian subjugation, and they are all saying “Oh, fuck no, no way are we going back to that shit.” I am thinking of the photos I’ve seen of 80 year old women holding assault rifles and ready to fight the Russians to the death. It is not a bluff. Their determination is evident.
The irony (well, one of the ironies) of the whole situation is that this isn’t even the same Russia as in 1989, although Putin would obviously like to go back to that. Russia, as well, has had 23 years of relative freedom and access to the rest of the world.
And now they are blowing it. The only positive ending to this is if Russian troops are removed from Ukraine, and Putin is removed from power.

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