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Interview of Johann Hari by Joe Rogan about the ‘Opioid Crisis’ in USA

February 22, 2019 Leave a comment

While I seldom link to YouTube clips or channels, there are times when one come across a clip (short or long) on a topic which I have either written on or wanted to write about. So.. here is a clip from a recent Joe Rogan show/ podcast where he interviews Johann Hari on topics related to drug use and addiction. The main points he is making are things which I have known for many years and are as follows: 1] Sustained and frequent opioid use, and drug use in general, has far more to do with the socio-economic environment and living conditions than drugs themselves; 2] Legalization and regulation is the only effective way to reduce mortality, morbidity and associated societal problems linked to drug use; 3] Reducing the harmful effects of drug addiction requires far more than a patchwork of inadequate and contradictory measures and 4] The way USA is trying to solve the ‘opioid crisis’ (law enforcement, strict regulations and incarceration model) is bound to fail and make the problem worse- though it may make a few rich parasites even richer.

What do you think? Comments?

Skeptical and Rational Look at Story of Loch Ness Monster on YouTube

February 13, 2019 1 comment

Over a year ago, I came across a YouTube channel which, among other things, has a decent two-part dissection of story behind the Loch Ness monster. FYI- the guy behind this YT channel is a rationalist (who, by his own admission, was once a creationist nutter) and likely has a tendency to go too far in whichever direction he is going. In any case, given my belief that everybody has some good ideas and insight- I will post links to both his channel and the two relevant clips.

So why am I not endorsing him unequivocally ? Well.. he has often let his enthusiasm for certain beliefs such as all dinosaurs- both Ornithischia and Saurischia having feathers or proto-feathers. To be clear, there is evidence that feathers (or more likely proto-feathers) were widely distributed among dinosaurs. However, it is also true that not all dinosaurs had them- especially the really large ones. Think of it as somewhat similar to situation with hair in mammals.

While most mammals, even large ones such as bears, have tons of body hair and fur- more than a few (elephants, hippos, rhinos, dolphins, whales, humans etc) have very little to no body hair. To make matters more complicated, animals (dinosaur and others) who lived hundreds of millions years ago do not neatly fit in our taxonomy which was originally devised to classify existent ones.

For example, animals such as the four existing species of Echidna do not neatly fit into current classification system, since they have many features that are mammalian but also more than a few that are not- such as laying eggs rather than giving birth to live young. Also, their brains, eyes, digestive systems etc are rather different from mammals (both placental and marsupial). But why and how do such animals exist, anyway?

The thing is.. existent mammals, reptiles and archosaurs did not start out on independent paths from day one of their divergence from parent species. Instead, there was once a whole spread of species with amazing mixtures of features. Those which became extinct left gaps which were usually not refilled. Think of it as luck pruning the tree of life to create distinct main branches by removing intermediate branches. But let us get back to the topic of this post.

Link to his channel- TREY the Explainer

Here is part I of the series.

and here is part II..

What do you think? Comments?

Understanding the Real History Behind ‘Wolfenstein’ Video Game Series

January 28, 2019 5 comments

Almost anybody who has played video games, with some regularity, over the past two decades has gone through at least one release in the long-running ‘Wolfenstein‘ game series. My personal favorites in that series are Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein: The New Order. Perhaps some of you might be aware that the overall plot and environment of most games in that series is based in a somewhat fanciful extrapolation of reality. While nobody is claiming that reanimated mummies, the raised undead or fire zombies are real, a lot of what is found in the most popular releases of that series (specifically Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus) are based in real events, facts, persons and possibilities.

For example, one of the central elements of ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein’ involves the player trying to stop attempts by Nazis (especially Heinrich Himmler) from resurrecting ‘Heinrich the Fowler‘- who also happens to be final boss of that game. It just so happens that Himmler was deeply into a lot of mystical BS and had a peculiar obsession with that particular Saxon king from 10th century AD. Similarly one of the mini-bosses in that game, Marianna Blavatsky, is a sendup of Helena Blavatsky– a real life “psychic” medium from late 19th century whose teachings had a major (if unintentional) influence of development of the belief system behind certain parts of Nazi ideology. In fact, here is a post which talks about some of this from 2006.

Himmler, when he was not planning mass murder, was into a lot of mystical stuff. For example, he was a big supporter of pre-ww2 expeditions into Tibet and other “archaeological” projects to establish the veracity of his beliefs. He was also a big supporter of what is now called ‘Nazi archaeology‘. It is also true that many senior scientists and engineers in that regime found Himmler’s forays into mysticism amusing, to put if mildly, but never confronted him publicly because of his position. Did I mention that Castle Wolfenstein is based on Castle Wewelsburg, though its location is influenced by that of Kehlsteinhaus. Furthermore, many of the advanced weapon systems depicted in the 2001 game are based in reality.

Similarly, later releases of that game such as ‘Wolfenstein: The New Order’ (2014) are based on pretty decent extrapolations of what might have happened if funny-mustache guy and his flunkies had been more competent. While we are unlikely to have seen giant robots driven by brains or super laser guns- the game does a pretty good job of capturing the type of society and world which would have resulted from Nazi Germany wining WW2 or achieving a stalemate that was equivalent to victory. In that respect they do a much better job at writing believable alternate history than ‘The Man in the High Castle‘ series by Amazon.

Now let me ask you a question.. Have you ever wondered about the convergence of personalities, zeitgeist and events which ultimately led to the Nazi Ideology? As it turns out the answer is not straightforward and it all starts about 50 years before they came to power. To make a very long story short, the original impetus for popularity of mystical beliefs which would one day become Nazism started out as a reaction to socio-economic displacement caused by Industrial revolution in Germany. The initial popularizers of those ideas, such as the Helena Blavatsky, were probably into it to become famous and make a few bucks. In fact, this moment should be seen as German equivalent of the spiritualism craze that swept Britain between the 1870s-1930s.

Racism and belief in Eugenics were also not unique to Germany, during that era. Some of you might know that Nazi Germany got a lot of its ideas about Race and Eugenics from USA. Social Darwinism, too, had its roots in Britain and USA. Which brings us to the next question- Why did Nazism develop in 1920-145 era Germany and not.. say.. in USA or Britain? The answer to that question requires us to understand something important and relevant, even today.The precursor to Nazi regime, aka the Wiemar republic, was fine with then contemporary levels of racism, anti-semitism, eugenics etc. But they slowly lost, over a period of over ten years, all of their credibility with most people in that country. Also the rich in Germany preferred fascists over socialists.

And that is how funny-mustache guy and his flunkies got in power. It certainly helped that were able to combine all those new-ish currents of belief and ideology into a somewhat coherent ideology. While a lot of videos on YT suffer from YouTube face, overenthusiastic presenters and poorly researched bits by idiots with a British accent, some are better. So here are two long clips (unfortunately containing poor quality footage) which do a very good and objective job of explaining how various streams of Nazi ideology combined into their final form. They are a bit on the longish side, but totally worth the time.

Clip 1 (about 51 minutes long)

Clip 2 (about 54 minutes long)

What do you think? Comments?

YouTube Recording of a Recent Standup Set by Louis CK: Dec 31, 2018

December 31, 2018 1 comment

Here is the long version of Louis CK’s new standup comedy set.. you know, the one in which he said something about the scammers who use the untimely death of their schoolmates to enhance their careers. Two warnings: first, the full recording is almost 50 minutes. Second, download it because I am not sure how long it will stay up on YouTube.

The allegedly ‘controversial’ part starts at around 23:00 minutes into the set.

What do you think? Comments?

Halloween Movie: Night of the Demons (1988)

October 31, 2018 Leave a comment

In my opinion, Night of the Demons is a good representative of horror films made during 1985-1993 time period. It has also become somewhat of a cult movie over the years. The movie has a pretty decent story, reasonably good acting and production values- which is surprising when you realize that it was made for about 1.2 million. I actually enjoyed watching it.

The very short version of the story is as follows: Ten teenagers party at an abandoned funeral parlor on Halloween night. When an evil force awakens, demonic spirits keep them from leaving and turn their gathering into a living Hell. Find out who lives and who is killed..

Enjoy! Comments?

NSFW-ish Music Video: ‘Cream’ by Tujamo and Danny Avila

October 26, 2018 3 comments

Here is a NSFW-ish music video (on both YouTube and Vimeo) which I came across earlier this week. The quality of music is mediocre, but a couple of the dancers really caught my attention. In my opinion, the video is NSFW-ish rather than definitely NSFW because of what the dancers are wearing or not wearing. In many parts of the civilized world, a woman wearing only a thong in public (e.g. at the beach or pool) does not cause the same “moral outrage” that it does in sad puritanical countries such as USA. Will post something more intellectual tomorrow.

Also, this video does not start until you deliberately click on it- so don’t complain that you were not aware that it contains topless dancers playing around with whipped cream.

Enjoy! Comments?

Interesting YouTube Channel: Rambalac

October 3, 2018 Leave a comment

As some of you know, the majority of JBloggers and Jvloggers are white attention-whores using Japan (and Japanese people) to build up an internet presence- especially on YouTube. Did I also mention my disdain for click-baity content? There are only so many times you can watch a white guy or girl visit japanese restaurants, traditional hotels and nightspots before it becomes boring.

But once in a while, you do come across a YT channel which actually has unique, interesting and well-shot content. The channel linked to in this post contains a number of long walks through various locations in Japan. It helps that the videos are well stabilized, without commentary and have footage of locations that are normal rather than touristy.

Link to YouTube Channel: Rambalac

Clip # 1: Backstreets of Japan at Night. Not sure about the precise locations shown in this sequence, but the photographer displays a high degree of familiarity with this area. Two things struck me about this video: a] Even the low-rise parts of Japanese cities are pretty crowded with buildings and b] Even these less busy mixed-use parts are really clean and well maintained.

Clip #2: Morning Walk through Yoyogi Park. Contains footage of a large and picturesque park during the cherry blossom blooming season. It is interesting that they can build and maintain such nice public places in Japan, especially when you compare it (and others like it) to the dismal state of equivalent public spaces in USA. Says a lot about the priorities of both cultures.

What do you think? Comments?