“Boy, Have We Got A Vacation For You!”

"There is no threshold, that makes us greater than the sum of our parts, no inflection point at which we become truly alive..."  - Sir Anthony Hopkins as genius "puppeteer" programmer Robert Ford in Westworld

"Awake, wood inanimate, now you've got a soul!" - guess where this one comes from 😉

Italian novelist Carlo (Collodi) Lorenzini was a volunteer in the Tuscan army before becoming disenchanted with politics, thereby turning to children's literature (wait, what?)

"...every man, whether he is born rich or poor, is obliged to do something in this world...."  

"Never trust anyone who promises to make you rich in a day, they are generally crazy swindlers." 

If you don't recognise the quotes above, it's not your fault. Disney tortures nearly everything to death in the name of children's entertainment (and yet.... can't live with em, can't live without them.... Disney. Not... children.) Let's try another:

‘When the dead person cries, it is a sign that he is on the road to get well,’ said the Crow solemnly. ‘I grieve to contradict my illustrious friend and colleague,’ added the Owl, ‘but for me, when the dead person cries, it is a sign that he is sorry to die.” 

Still no clue? Not surprising, but you'll definitely recognise it after this next excerpt:

“'Are you not afraid of death?'
'I am not in the least afraid!... I would rather die than drink that bitter medicine.'
At that moment the door of the room flew open, and four rabbits as black as ink entered carrying on their shoulders a little bier.
'What do you want with me?' cried Pinocchio, sitting up in bed in a great fright.
'We are come to take you,' said the biggest rabbit.
'To take me?... But I am not yet dead!...'
"....but you have only a few minutes to live, as you have refused the medicine that would have cured you..."
'Oh, Fairy, Fairy!' the puppet then began to scream, 'give me the tumbler at once... be quick, for I will not die--no.....”

Am I the only one who thinks this is just hilarious - Pinocchio makes it his life's goal to be a Real Live Boy. Then he gets sick just like any real boy would. Then like so many other real children out there he refuses to take his bitter-tasting medicine and learns that to be alive is to also feel pain, face sickness and death and well, do stuff you don't always enjoy but is good for you in the long run (like, when did we get to thinking anything we want, covet, comes without a price or consequence?) It's like Newtons' Law Of No Free Lunch For Everything In Life right... 

 

(pics from Greg Hildebrandt art on Pinterest and ebay)

Oh, and I especially liked when the Four Rabbits of Death (what?) come to collect Pinocchio and talking to them so frightens him that he begs to take his bitter medicine. (Seriously, dis is good stuff. WHY would the Disney Powers That Be ever see fit to edit out the Four Rabbits. Like, do they have names like Pestilence, Famine, War etc? Well in Pinocchio they have jobs as undertakers (again - what?) but anyways) - Lemme try that with our own wabbit (whom, disappointingly, HN has named Tarrant (Hightop)) -

Study hard, kids. (Take my word for it, dis issa rabbit)

"B+ Again??  Incredulous

(On an aside, this also why I insist the kids spend some time cleaning up after their pets (though it drives me batsh*t to sometimes have to clean up after them cleaning up after their pets) - to have live pets rather than soft toys is to risk that they can die; to get to feed the pets all kinds of different fruits and veggies, discover the foods they madly love, is to also deal with animal poop; without having to do real work, there is no incentive to find ways to lighten the load.

The joy of a pet loving you is that it's a relationship you have to nurture, like any other real life relationship (except animal relationships tend to be without a "manipulativeness" that practically always comes with being human - humans often overthink, and sometimes it's just nice to have a few simplistic relationships as well) - and to do that is to take time to understand the pet... Which is about when HN learned to not insist her rabbit go out when he doesn't feel like it (usually when he can smell rain in the air, but sometimes Just Because). It's really not always easy to stick to things, but to "cheat", to break these rules, is ultimately to get something less out of the relationship..

Anyway, back to Pinocchio.

"Believe it or not, my introduction to scary literature was Pinocchio. My mother read it to me every day before nap time when I was 3 or 4. The original is terrifying." - R.L. Stine, author of Goosebumps

In the 1880s, Adventures of Pinocchio had a storyline meant as a metaphor on the human condition, and the work still holds the record for Most Translated Non-Religious Book (second only to the Holy Bible), that runs roughly like this:

Celebrated Master Carpenter discovers Block of Talking Pinewood. Freaked out by Talking Block (everyone knows blocks of wood should just shut up and be carved into whatever suits our purposes), he dumps "Problem Block" with Down-On-His-Luck Puppeteer.

Thus begins the journey of self discovery for Pinocchio and his adoptive dad Geppetto - one filled with irony as the puppet pulls the strings, fraught with an exquisite pain of the sort only a parent might know, as penniless craftsman sacrifices repeatedly to provide for his unexpected dependant who grows ever more stubborn and selfish even as he grows more "human" (pics from spiderwebart.com and Pinterest):

 

'The Marionette, as soon as his hunger was appeased, started to grumble and cry that he wanted a new pair of feet.

But Mastro Geppetto, in order to punish him for his mischief, let him alone the whole morning. After dinner he said to him:

"Why should I make your feet over again? To see you run away from home once more?".....

"I promise to go to school every day, to study, and to succeed--"

"Boys always sing that song when they want their own will."

"But I am not like other boys!.....

Geppetto, though trying to look very stern, felt his eyes fill with tears and his heart soften when he saw Pinocchio so unhappy. He said no more, but taking his tools and two pieces of wood, he set to work diligently.

"To show you how grateful I am to you, Father, I'll go to school now. But to go to school I need a suit of clothes."

Geppetto did not have a penny in his pocket (but managed to fashion a satisfactory outfit for the puppet)...

"...in order to go to school, I still need something very important... An A-B-C book."

"And the money?" ...When poverty shows itself, even mischievous boys understand what it means.

"What does it matter, after all?" cried Geppetto all at once, as he jumped up from his chair.....

After a while he returned. In his hands he had the A-B-C book for his son, but the old coat was gone... and the day was cold.

"Where's your coat, Father?"

"I have sold it."

"Why did you sell your coat?"

"It was too warm."'

In the original, Pinocchio eventually dies by hanging, for his many crimes and transgressions. That includes killing Jiminy Cricket with a hammer (OMG!!) And then publishers thought that was "too scary" for little children (no!) and author Collodi was asked to add about 20 chapters of the Fairy With The Turquoise Hair.

pic from wikipedia (but you can also search Collodi on kids.net.au)

This "fairy" grants lonely Geppetto's wish to bring his puppet to life, and appears at critical moments in Pinocchio's transgressions, admonishing him and eventually keeping him from bad or risky behaviour. But along the way are many misguided attempts on both sides, including the fairy in some versions saying "study hard, you are almost ready to become real," and even with blue hair and magic, learning to be good, understanding the consequences of being bad, takes time. 

Just as Pinocchio has been "almost good enough" to get to be real, he runs away to Toy Island and he and his bad friends get turned into donkeys by some kind of child (or donkey) traffickers (CAVEAT - there are several comments on the Transformationi Videos Youtube channel that say this is like the scariest scene in a little kiddie movie ever haha)

 OK - caveat for the rest of this post because of the TV series described bel0w, which carries a strong MA (Mature Audience) rating...

Imagine an amusement park in which for USD 40,000 a day you get to live with no rules, be as cruel and selfish to your fellow man, woman or child, as your hidden heart desires.

In this high-end cowboys-and-indians theme park filled with life-like androids indistinguishable from humans, sits layer upon layer of role-playing story loop. None of the androids can hurt a paying customer, but you, the customer, get to hurt all the inhabitants of this world with no apparent consequences. You get to play Mass Murderer, or Town Hero, as you wish. "Everyone" ultimately chooses Black Hat over White, it's the most exciting game (that turns out to be not really). The clip below is for general audiences, but I did not let the kids watch the actual series, not because of the themes, but because of the visuals:

Now, storylines of malfunctioning robots wreaking havoc AND/OR becoming more human than the humans, are not new. Who they are, what they look like however, is. The choices casting directors and writers make when they create characters, pick the right faces for, is telling, re how our world is changing. 

Decades ago, "malfunctioning killer robots" looked like this (pics from vox.com and hollywoodreporter.com):

The latest AI going rogue (and yes killing people) however, ie what-writers-decided-would-have-a-greater-effect-on-audiences today, looks predominantly like this (pics from Hollywood Reporter and Hello Giggles):

(Also to be contrasted with the female androids in various versions of Stepford Wives (I only watched the not-at-all-meant-to-be-funny 1975 version, not the Nicole Kidman newer version) where husbands decide to replace their real wives with beautiful and compliant robots who never get angry, always dress nice and cook and clean - obviously NOT AI or any 'I' :D):

Also, apparently they can do all that in high heels. Obviously robots 😀 pic from BBC

Someone made a tv series titled Stepford Children too, in which kids "always do their homework" (pic from Wikipedia) 😀

I tried to be fair and put up a Stepford Husbands pic but Googling SH gets you the men who turn everyone else into robots (oops) so instead, how bout Hairy-chested Helicopter Pilot From Inside Out (gif from weheartit.com):

Anyway back to Westworld. I got the pic of Evan Rachel Wood in character (blue dress several pics up) from hellogiggles.com, but I have no idea why they call their website that, her interview is erm, not at all "giggly." She is quoted:

"The greatest lesson I have learned is that there is always more to learn." 

"Don't pretend to know things you don't - just ask. If people give you sh*t, it says more about them than you. You have nothing to prove."

...at which point I should probably put up a pic of her when she's not in character as Babyfaced Android Built To Be Abused By Park Guests, Who Eventually (Maybe) Becomes Sentient in Westworld:

(Y-eah a bit like Captain Marvel's latest look in Endgame) pic frm hellogiggles.com

In real life, Wood has a black belt in taekwondo 🙂 She's also testified at the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations as an abuse survivor and is a single mom of a young boy. (In Westworld she put on such a powerful performance as an android "victim" built for mistreatment that I went to search for where the acting chops could've come from...)

SPOILER ALERT

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A further elaboration on the are-they-aren't-they "sentience" of the robot inhabitants of Westworld - the series teases you not a few times into thinking the "geniuses" of engineering and business acumen have succeeded in creating life - true AI that eventually rebels at their mistreatment - while milking a cash cow of a lucrative business idea for adult entertainment... but then you catch ever more glimpses of saboteurs at work - they actively alter the code that dictates each host/android's ability to rebel, "improvisation" of speech and facial ticks being also programmable conditions in their personality - like, how sarcastic a robot is can be marked on a scale of 1 to 18.

One host appears to go completely rogue, enlisting other hosts in a jailbreak, killing many employees in the labs in the process...... only to be told she was coded to do so. Then right when you think there is no such thing as free will, on the subway ride into the outside world she changes her mind and turns right back into the park she has just escaped, to look for the child host who once played the part of her daughter, back when a VIP customer requested the experience of murdering a mother-and-daughter (Yeah. Gruesome entertainment that shines a spotlight on the desensitising effect of screen/ entertainment violence (you can tell I'm still mad at Deadpool producers, right? Such brilliant wit and humour. Such unneccessary gore and sex)).

One of the most brilliant hosts, in between being programmed and re-programmed and therefore half the time not remembering he isn't human, creates a "maze", metaphorically like a child's educational toy "worthy" hosts are meant to solve, but really a journey of empathy based on life's trials and tribulations, set around the park whereby their artificial minds ultimately achieve sentience if/when they manage to complete it.

In some of the Westworld clips compiled below, major characters with fulfilling work and/or personal relationships appear to kill each other and/or themselves and if you followed the series, you would be absolutely horrified/rivetted/ horrified/rivetted .....it's only later that you'll learn practically everyone killing each other and themselves are androids who can be brought back to life, their memories wiped clean or inserted into other bodies. Most of the time, they don't know it either.

The point is this: When you thought they were real, was it not horrifying..... and then horribly desensitising? Then when you realised they were not real, were you able to turn off how you felt or reacted to watching it just like that <snaps> Your own reactions to this powerful drama should tell you whether such concepts for entertainment should be produced for real. 

Sir Anthony Hopkins plays a master genius programmer and designer who decides to end his own life not with the whimper of being ousted from the Board of Directors due to corporate intrigue, but the bang of being assassinated by one of his greatest robot creations. (Unfortunately, he decides to take most of the Board with him.)

"These violent delights have violent ends....." - originally from Romeo & Juliet

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END SPOILER

 

Sir Hopkins, aged 81, has joyously described how he doesn't understand technology but that he wants to "move out of (his) comfort zone or (he) may as well die". Thus he gleefully merges his considerable acting skill first with the latest developments in CGI (Transformers), and now the layer upon layer of artificial personality and the constant question of what humans really might be able to create, and what is truly beyond us. (And by "really might be able to create" I don't mean simply the ability to do so, but the cost attached..  Y'know, as in there are so many things we already wish we could "un-create".)

At some point in the series you realise there is no such thing. Lack of consequence. 

Supposedly, as long as you can afford the hefty price tag, you are free to perform unnameable acts of violence and cruelty towards "people" who are literally programmed to not be able to defend themselves. They are also coded to believe that the pain, fear, and anything else you choose to inflict on them, is real. It's their realistic suffering that makes your role-playing game vacation come to life.

An army of programmers divided into several corporate teams cross-checking each other, debating the extent to which the artificial intelligence before them are keeping to their storylines/ "loops," whether their diversions are "malfunctions" or acceptable variations their programming has allowed in order to make them more "human," ensures the hosts' are "convincing". (I think they could've added a bit more detail to the discussions between the mainstream programmers and the quality assurance programmers who cross-check the conditions written for each "host" android and the choices said "host" then makes as their story loops unfold with the paying customers, within those constraints. It is a very interesting trade-off - the more autonomy and "freedom" the android is allowed in making decisions, the more life-like they seem to park guests...... and the more risk that the AI's consciousness evolves in ways their corporate "masters" can no longer control.)

This raises all kinds of moral arguments and divides the board of directors and majority shareholders (some of whom would rather not "give (a) life (of suffering)" to AI, believing old fashioned bots to be more than adequate for the park, in the name of not creating every damned thing "just because we can". The existence of and blurring between good and selfish intentions gives rise to corporate intrigue - and then they start reprogramming the robots... The robots also reprogram each other. (If ever there was a verdant playground for scriptwriters, this is SO it. Maybe hissa robot. Maybe shissa robot. Maybe POTUS Donald Trump issa robot...)

Some park hosts learn to hide precious memories and encounters from their programmer keepers, so as not to risk having them deleted, thereby making the cross-checks against malfunction meaningless but for a false sense of security. Some of the most mistreated hosts form alliances. The host searching for her repurposed host "daughter" is theorised to have "awakened" within her conditional programming that allowed improvisation of narrative, because the trauma of having her "daughter" killed in front of her sets off a condition in her permanent coding that eventually causes her to keep recalling her "past life" as an ordinary homesteader mom. Is that true AI consciousness? We are yet to find out...

At some point along the way, you, the vacationing customer, lose your humanity and meaning for your existence. Whether or not robots are "real," the point is we are, and somewhere at the back of all the made-for-screen-entertainment theatrical violence, intrigue and sheer decadence of the entire park project is the overriding message:

We were not meant to live without boundaries and rules. This is a theme that gets revisited over and over by writers through the decades (though not always with malfunctioning robots) - one lo-tech version is Lord of the Flies. We cannot do cruel or decadent things with impunity, without consequence, for our own sanity and wellbeing. 

It was TS Eliot who said "love between human beings" was only explained and made reasonable "by the Higher Love, else is it a mere coupling of animals". You lose your humanity when you stop behaving like a human being.

 

ps: (On an aside, TS Eliot created some powerful literature while struggling in his search for meaning of life and love, writing some graphic poems about horrible encounters of the flesh, sterile and empty spiritual practices...... before he became a Christian. Whereupon I observed somewhere in my A Levels essays (before I became Christian) that he arguably stopped producing anything "good" (ie angsty and tragic) thereafter - if you look at what he wrote in his deepest darkest despair (Hollow Men) vs what he wrote after he accepted Christ - some happy stuff about Cats having 3 Secret Names (FINE so it's in the Cats musical and personally I would much prefer to feel strongly about cats' names than that the world has no hope, but.... Anguished It Iz Not. I mean, I'm happy for Eliot, he found faith, but like Bon Jovi once said, "Like the Roses Need the Raaaaaiiin.... Poets Need Da Pain.... 😀 ) 

 
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More Asians In Da White House. Or At Least In Standup.

Blog been getting way too serious lately... Let's lighten it up, shall we?

"Robots are causing all the Robot Crime in Robot Chicago..." 

Ronnie Chieng, Johore (Malaysia) born, Singapore and Aussie-educated standup comedian, recently went on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show with a case for an Asian President in the White House, how every Asian-American child "no longer has to aspire just to be a neuro-surgeon."

We first came across Chieng when he played the status-chasing cousin/ Poser Dad coaching his 3 sons to freeze at "optimal angles" for photo ops and dictating his wife's dress labels (Bottega Veneta, anyone?) in Crazy Rich Asians...

Dis is him (pic from news.com.au)

 

... though Chieng has a day job as a senior media correspondent on The Daily Show, and recently he interviewed Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang about his 2020 run (I'll add that I think many candidates get in the race to make themselves heard, bring up  issues they care about in the debates, not just say, bid for nuclear launch codes):

Gotta be a little impressed Yang managed to keep a straight face what with Chieng just... bloviating everywhere, Robert Greenstein, Founder/ President of the Center On Budget Planning & Priorities, a Washington D.C. think tank focussing on fiscal policy that affects moderate and low income households, kinda lets a few smiles escape when declaring I Am Not A Robot.... But I Could Be... Y'know, in case you thought this blog segment was all about Big Birthday Parties With Ulterior Motives Serious World Domination.

Greenstein nonetheless affirms Yang's plan for Universal Basic Income - putting USD 1000 a month into the pocket of every American citizen - as a beautiful way to allocate funds, with a big qualification that it costs so much the US Govt would never be able to afford it. (How to pay for it is addressed in the clip further down)

(On an aside, Yang is a father of two boys, the elder of whom he mentions openly in interviews is autistic, and in his elaboration below about Universal Basic Income, he highlights how his wife stays home to care for the kids and among others UBI "pays"/ incentivises vocations or jobs that are difficult but not acknowledged as actual "jobs," like that of the Stay At Home Mum/ Dad who can't make a 9-to-5 (but can start an online business/ take some refresher courses etc). Also that the majority of Americans who receive UBI aren't going to quit their day jobs, but need a little extra help paying off student debt, paying for kids' education...

As for the Who's Going To Pay For It, I also view it as a play on time. An investment expense today that goes towards retraining to keep from existing skills becoming obsolete, ultimately funded/ repaid in the form of a better skilled, better educated, debt-free workforce, paying back the government in future taxes on higher earnings. Someday those Jobs and Employment economic numbers gonna show real results. (Not say, Issa Election Year We Need Fewer Poor People Let's Adjust The Poverty Line/ Minimum Wage etc Calculation So We Call Fewer People "Poor'. (Even if they're making exactly the same amount they did before we changed the definition of "poor" or "unemployed"..))

More cashflow, higher spending power, a cash injection, to be spent on more taxi rides, eating out, shopping, various other consumer "luxuries"... Yang highlights job creation et al... and a 10% value-added tax (not unlike Singapore's GST) and forgoing of Welfare Benefits to pay for it (not to mention shifting some of the tax onto companies like Amazon.):

While this post was more about Asians killing it at Standup (before I got a little carried away), the diverse candidates and plans that American presidential candidates will discuss in upcoming debates are a real wealth of entertainment and education - not just because of the many ideas they are floating in order to solve America's (and to some extent the world's) problems, but because of who they are. Incredibly diverse. Talk shows are gonna get so much more exciting than the Kardashians.

Oh wait, you also need to see who some of the other Asians in Standup (besides Ronnie Chieng) are... Like Dr Jason Leung (hang in there for the "Everyone fears Chinese bit..")-

(Forgive him, he went to medical school. Yes he is a real doctor.)

AND I saved the most interesting and thought provoking for last - Joe Wong, who performs regularly for audiences in both China and the US, and tries to make it all a little bit better with a laugh (this one didn't go to med school. He just has a PhD in Biochemistry):

The world truly is changing - and it's not all bad.

 

ps: Want more Ronnie Chieng? He's also known for hammering Fox News for the so-horrendous-it's-almost-funny-but-only-Asians-get-to-maybe-laugh-in-the-same-way-only-black-people-get-to-laugh-at-racist-black-jokes (and sorry white people looks like you don't get to laugh at anything) car crash of stereotypes that the current mayor of New York then came right out and condemned. Here's Chieng's clip which includes respectful interviews of Chinese Americans at the end - sorry 'bout the language (BIG CAVEAT); and I almost liked when the Fox guy tortured Asian martial arts categorisations completely to death, BUT I did not like when he put very old people on camera who obviously had no idea what was going on - nothing justifies that disrespect.

(And I say this as someone who speaks nothing else nearly as well as English - either I'm super blur, or I really haven't encountered a native speaker of any Asian language who behaves like I'm stupid just because I don't speak their language well (not counting those who might think Imma plebe - ay, I got an A on that Sun Tzu elective I took in Uni okayyy - wait for it - which I wrote in English <sheepish>) OK anyway):

For the younger folk who might miss the Alfred E. Neuman For President reference by the Cantonese-speaking interviewee who didn't want to choose between the two candidates in the last presidential election:

This is Alfred E. Neuman (pic from Comic Vine)

For real though, Fox Guy Trolling Chinatown probably made more American Chinese raise their kids to run for POTUS someday... I'm just sayin'..

     
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How To Lose.

Ok, you win. You get what you want. I lose, I fold.

The next two words are a game changer. What are they?

"What glorious fun!" said the wicked sprite, for he had created a mirror that failed to reflect the good and beautiful in people, that magnified only the ugly... Yet if a good thought passed through a man's mind, still it appeared as a grin...

The Devil's Mirror (pic from fairytale.fandom.com)

When the sprites had had their fun on Earth they decided to cause trouble in Heaven, to use the Devil's Mirror and make the angels see as they did. But the closer the mirror got to Heaven, the more it grinned. Higher still, and higher, grinning ever wider, until it shattered into thousands of shards and fell back to Earth, there to be lodged in people's hearts and eyes... 
- adaptation of The Snow Queen, Hans Christian Andersen  

Did you like the story of Kai and Gerda in the Snow Queen - Kai, with shards of Devil's Mirror lodged in his eye and heart, who can no longer see the good in things. Gerda, who befriends the river, the birds, the flowers, each helping her just the little they can, toward her goal?

pic from dara3299.blogspot.com

Author Hans Christian Andersen created many fairytales - Snow Queen, Emperor's New Clothes, The Tinder Box, Princess and the Pea..... How many can you name - 5? 10? 50? He wrote 3,381. For which we can only name a handful. He was also mocked for wanting to be a writer, likely dyslexic, and abused in childhood. He had a penchant for falling for unattainable women, thus taking a vow of celibacy and sparking all kinds speculations as people pored over his writings that became his outlet. He created all these enduring stories and is mostly hailed as a Danish national hero.

Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert failed often, receiving rejection after rejection for 6 years straight, before the success of EPL. Then on the (arguably inevitable) failure of whatever she wrote immediately following EPL she said, "I had to make sure my creativity survived its own success... I found it by how it had once survived its failure. You have to find your way home again... Your home is whatever you love in this world more than yourself. ...It's what you can dedicate your energies to regardless of whether you fail or succeed. ...Whereby the ultimate results become inconsequential..." (THANK you, Cathay Pacific and Dragonair, for having all those TED talks in your inflight entertainment!!)

If you can only see the win, if your yardstick of measurement is only a string of As on your report card, your actual learning journey is that much weaker. (Not... that "only As" can ever be construed as a bad thing, but I think that "- and what else?" could go with. Like... Fish and chips. Burger and fries. Steak and fries. Grilled salmon and fries. Sushi and fries. (I eat them sparingly, but darn do I love my fries - everything tastes better with fries))

Ok but seriously. Years ago I met an intern who had always been a good student, she had a strong second-upper Law degree from the UK... then she said very honestly that coming out to work she had no idea how to translate that into doing well at a job/ career and it was terrifying. I know how she feels, I once had no idea what I was going to do with an Accounting degree**, possibly from initial lack of imagination though -

Take these two nerds. (pic from businesswire.com)

Economists Levitt and Dubner made "Freakonomics" a real thing. After these guys, people said things like "If Indiana Jones were an Economist".  S-o let's try that again -

A tad much? Nahhhhhhh.

<ends aside, begins another>

In some of the more rural areas of my childhood, every now and again the monkey population would swell, and the animals would start coming out of the jungles to steal food, attack humans especially little kids with snacks... The villagers fix monkey problems with a narrow-necked heavy glass jar and a handful of nuts.

The monkeys close their fist on the nuts at the bottom of the jar and in so doing can no longer remove their fist. Escape is hampered by the heavy glass jar around the monkey's fist, it's what makes him easy to catch. At any time if Alpha Monkey had simply let go, he could have removed his hand from the jar. The more aggressive the Alpha, the less likely he is to yield in time to escape. 

"Ok, you win. You get what you want. I lose, I fold. So what."

Aggression and ego have more than a healthy correlation to insecurity and envy. Take this guy -

Mark Strong's Dr Sivana in Shazam! (pic from tvandmovienews.com)

SPOILER ALERT...

Shazam The Movie's latest super villain is, as the story goes, born after Dr Sivana, as a tween boy, cannot live up to his father's expectations and remains resentfully in his older brother's shadow. When vying for the role of the wizard Shazam's Champion, the demons of the 7 Deadly Sins tempt him with power enough to finally impress his dad. When he easily succumbs, the wizard dismisses him as unworthy of inheriting his magic (not that there ever turns out to be someone truly worthy). What Sivana hears ONLY, is "You will never be good enough."

And then he starts on this whole self-important, self-pitying rant re Does Age-old Wizard Know what it's like to be a child and have this said to him???

Thus is a super villain born - Sivana makes it his life's goal to find the portal and seize the Evil Eye so he can finally impress Dad and throw older brother out the window, right before feeding Dad to a demon. Sure. We've all been there. <shrugs> (NO, ok... NO WE HAVEN'T. Someone gonna say the Crazy Blogging Lady is at it again - lemme put the proverbial Not A Toy, Do Not Eat disclaimers on all kinds of very obviously non-edible not-meant-to-be-played-with things) There is however a real reason the demons say they've found their champion in Sivana, why they keep pursuing him - so many mortals tested over the years in the wizard's search, but it is Sivana's particular weakness they like best. Ever thought of that? Oh, and if you have a weakness people love to exploit, that is a helluva motivation to um, not have that weakness anymore 😀

Wizard on the other hand never finds the "perfect pure-hearted mortal"and settles on -

This Dude. 14yr old Billy who morphs into Big Guy With Cartoony Face (pic from tvandmovies.com)

Anyone get the irony? Sivana grows up "privileged and accomplished" - his father owns some large company with swanky offices and Sivana himself achieves enough to attach the prefix "Dr" to his name. His father, despite the scorn he receives (some of which seemingly Dad's misguided attempt to get his "whine-y" son to stop well, whining), is still supportive enough to fund the research that goes towards finding the wizard's cave (regardless he obviously doesn't think very much of it). Yet Sivana can see only his father's lack of approval and preference for his older brother, and his brother's disrespect towards him.

Billy Batson, "Chosen One," is by contrast an orphan bouncing from one foster home to another, as he searches for his birth mother because of what he believes to be a terrible mistake, that they simply got separated one day at an amusement park when he was 3 years old. When the wizard abducts chooses him, he says "I'm not sure anyone (pure of heart) exists." Also, he doesn't want to talk to strangers offering him "super powers" (kids! take note! 😀 ) Remember Sivana has this whole rant about how he made it his life's goal (paid for by Dad - and then he says Dad Not Respectin'  him?! Like, no kidding.) after some... stranger tells him he is "unworthy."

OK, how do I put this? In the fashion of Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga*, DIS... IS... AN EXCUSE. He wants to be this way. Evil villain, for the power. And then the dad, the wizard, the bro, the childhood, the french fries, the magic 8 ball are all excuses (*Kishimi and Koga, Japanese Philosopher who also specialises in Classic Western Philosophy, and award winning professional development writer respectively, wrote The Courage To Be Disliked, based on Freud rival Alfred Adler's work.) Broadly, that we are not determined by our experiences but the meaning we give them, how we see them. And that these are largely choices we make (Here's a summary). Broadly, places the age point at 10 years. Around 10yrs old is when we can start to actively choose who we want to be.

When 14yr old Billy finally finds his birth mother, she tells him she was 17, and chose to abandon him with police authorities in the park because she had no idea how to give him a better life. Billy experiences what must be a most wrenching let-down for anyone, let alone a 14yr old orphan who made reuniting with his mother practically his only goal in life - only to learn she deliberately abandoned him and does not want a relationship. 

Instead of turning to a lifetime of super villain-ry fuelled by Shazam! powers though, Billy wishes her well, hands her the dinky little toy compass keyring he's been holding on to his entire childhood - the last thing she had given him 11 years ago (she doesn't remember it btw) - then he lets go - and returns to his real family, with a "real" mum and dad, also former foster children at least one of whom also did a lot of running away from foster homes.  

So yeah there's a wizard and some magic spells. What. Ever. The "perfect human" may not exist, but tell me that ole' wizard didn't know a thing or two when he picked Billy over Sivana to morph into an action figure superhero.

Our society at large prizes winning. Adulation to the victors, correspondingly communicating the extent to which everything else matters less. We remember the name Neil Armstrong.... n-ot so much the army of engineers, health professionals and what-not who also had a hand in putting him up there.

Now, let's imagine if families, workplaces, teams, were made up ONLY of people who always had to come in first, who always had to have their way. Like, if everyone just wants to be the first letter of the alphabet then we would just have no words 😀 Yet it is the humble, those who do not need to prove something, even to themselves, who hold families, societies, teams together.

**What I ended up doing with "that" Accounting degree - in the end my "big break" job was to do the "gofer" and seemingly very boring task of printing thousands of financial statements off the Bloomberg and typing the numbers into a default probability calculator. But I loved the noise and activity all around the dealing room (even though most of it had nothing to do with me haha) - accounting and auditing by contrast is mostly in quiet offices - until today I still prefer to work or write with lots of noise and activity around me... After some time, one of the older quants on the project (who btw could debate anyone brave enough as readily on further maths topics as on Christian theology, he attended church regularly) mentioned that the research papers behind the default probability calculator's methodology were (at the time) freely available online. He was also the guy who taught me the term "gofer" and set me to inputting those financial statements btw 🙂

 

So I took out a gym membership in the building next door so I could have shower and sauna privileges (and the occasional Hip Hop dance class) before returning after dinner to read the research papers. Auditors (in Singapore where I graduated, and I'm guessing here too) famously work very, very long hours and I figured getting a night or two off a week was already a huge step up. The rest of the time, I only went home to sleep (also very privileged - I remember former classmates who only went home the next morning at 6am to change their clothes). Because I didn't have nearly as much further maths in my degree as the engineers did, sometimes it took me a whole evening to understand a half page of research paper. But it was enough to follow what was discussed in meetings when I was allowed to be a fly on the wall. After a couple years (and the first merger of my former career), I managed to pick up enough to get through a several months-long interview process at a large international bank. That's how I ended up the only zero-honours local grad and classified as a "junior but experienced hire" in a dealing room where the few other people my age were first class honours grads. We viewed each other with absolute respect. Bearing in mind I came from Accounting, I couldn't imagine being a first class hons grad... and they couldn't imagine getting in to the bank dealing room the way I had 😀

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