Thursday, May 20, 2010

Star Trek Ruined Me

Damn you, Gene Roddenberry. Damn you.

I’ve grown up with your techno-near-Utopian visions of the future and I’m miserable. They’ve caused me nothing but conflict. I hear people say our problems are too large. I say our thinking is too small. I hear poverty, war, and hunger will always be with us. I say we’ve never really tried to end them. I hear the Earth is running out of resources. I say let’s tap into the rest of the Universe. I hear people use artificial, divisive words like ‘race’. I say we share the same title: human. I hear people say the future is bleak. I say the future is what we make it.

Most people walk around thinking there is nothing they can do about the state of their existence, and therefore do nothing about it. Or, they actively resist all change, regardless of its merits, and therefore drag those around them backward in time. So here I stand in the midst of our wild, often tragic, world carrying an idealistic engine behind my eyes generating pictures of how much better people could live, how much untapped potential humans have, and what a brilliant adventure life can be.

So, to Gene Roddenberry and all the writers and creators and actors who made your vision possible, and in some cases, improved it: Thank You.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

iVon Daniken

iVon Daniken

A word about Erich Von Daniken. I am not a supporter or critic of his Ancient Astronaut hypothesis. I challenge you, gentle reader, to come to your own opinion on that subject. I do agree with his suggestion that anthropologists and archeologists may benefit by teaming up with experts in multiple fields when formulating theories about the past and objects from it. If you have ever gazed upon a three thousand year old carving and wondered just how anthropologists know it is a deeply religious symbol then you may well agree with me. Surely not every item crafted by human hands in the past had a deep, symbolic meaning, right? Is everything created today like that? Isn’t it just possible many items featured in museum displays are the work of boredom, not spirituality? How many “Goddess figures” might be the hormonally driven impulses of teens -a prehistoric Playboy- rather than an attempt to garnish the fertility favor of the gods? I’m just asking.

The spark that ignited this rambling is the technological correlations Von Daniken crafted his novels. Von Daniken fills page after page with parallels between the shape and contour of ancient objects and modern marvels… of the late 1960’s. The charm of CHARIOTS OF THE GODS? or THE GOLD OF THE GODS today lies in reading a book filled with examples of out dated technology. For example, he writes passionately about how a humanoid figurine wears a, “…ring with a number of holes in it like those we use for dialing.” A what now? You mean a rotary phone dial? How cute! It is unfortunate Von Daniken never made the leap inherent in his own logic: that technology is constantly changing and hanging one’s hat on the standards of the day means being classified ‘out dated’ by sunset.

So where is the new Von Daniken? Where is the brave soul postulating an mp3 player in the hands of a figure on a cave wall? Where is the rebel pointing to a tablet computer in a medieval tapestry? I’m over simplifying his work, of course. Von Daniken was like Charles Fort in his ability to collect data mainstream science would rather ignore. The point is those of the Ancient Astronauts camp he helped birth have Erich to thank for weeding out the error of using current technological standards as a measuring rod of theoretical validity. Technology travels at an amazing speed. And, if Einstein taught us anything, it’s that speed makes everything relative. Thank you, Erich, for inadvertently teaching us not to think too highly of our science and for pushing the common sense approach of using more than one perspective.