Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Language of Thought

     How much does language effect our thinking?
    The research is not exactly conclusive, nut linguists generally accept people have a difficult time understanding concepts for which there is no word in his language. There needs to be some sort of symbol to associate with objects and concepts in order to contemplate them. Words are the easiest method to accomplish this task.

"Strong Enough to Bend"--Tanya Tucker

There was what appeared to be true that went wrong in Alan Jackson's "Here in the Real World" Then there was life going completely wrong until finding true love in Marty Stuart's "Til I Found You." Now there is true love weathering the storms of life. Have all the bases been covered by now?

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Validity of Deeply Held Beliefs

    There is zero chance all your deeply held beliefs are true. With that said, which of your beliefs are the likeliest to be false and which are the likeliest to be true?
     I am working under the assumption the question is referring to spiritual or metaphysical beliefs taken on pure faith rather than deeply held moral or political beliefs. You can believe abortion is an immoral act, but someone else can offer up a counter argument without either side agreeing on a definite answer as to whether abortion is an immoral act. Likewise, there is not a definite answer as to whether a certain ideology is best suited for running a government. These arguments are intellectual exercises without a solid conclusion.
     After all that, my answer to the validity of deeply held spiritual beliefs is not much better. I accept all my spiritual beliefs on faith with an equal chance any or all of them could be false. Do I doubt? On some level, yes. On just about everything at one time or another. Faith without doubt is just sappy sentimentalism. It takes more courage to continue believing when you have questions than it does to never question at all.

"Til I Found You"--Marty Stuart

     Alan Jackson's "Here in the Real World" yesterday was all about life going badly after a failed romance. Today, Marty Stuart's “Til I Found You” presents the other side of the coin. It is a song about a guy whose life goes badly until he finds the right woman.
     For every point, there is a counterpoint.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018)

  Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post and regular FOX news commentator, has died after a long battle with cancer. Krauthammer ended his column and participation with on air panels with FOX in August 2017 due to his battle with cancer. He announced in an open letter a couple weeks ago his illness had returned, leaving him only a few weeks to live.
   Krauthammer was a first year medical student when a diving board accident left him paralyzed. After a 14 month recovery stay in the hospital, he returned to medical school to eventually graduate as a psychologist. His true calling was journalism. Krauthammer wrote a weekly column that was syndicated in over 400 newspapers. He was a longtime editor at The Weekly Standard. He is most famous as a frequent panelist on various FOX News programs.
     Krauthammer's ideological leanings changed dramatically over the years. At various points in his career, he was considered a hardcore liberal with staunch anti-communist views to a moderate republican and eventually a neoconservative. I appreciated his viewpoints were not allied to a partisan ideology. He regularly demonstrated he was a thinking man.
     Krauthammer and I did not see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I appreciate anyone who can argue a contrary position to mine using facts and logical reasoning rather than towing a party line. There are not many political analysts out there with the courage and intellect to do that. He will be missed.
     Godspeed, Dr. Krauthammer.

Koko (1971-2018)

     Koko, the gorilla who learned over a thousand words in a variation of American Sign Language, died peacefully in her sleep on June 19, 2018. Koko was just two weeks shy of her 47th birthday when she died.
    Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo on July 4, 1971. Koko suffered from a life threatening illness early in life and so was given over to Dr. Francine “Penny'”Patterson to be cared for by The gorilla Foundation. Patterson, an animal psychologist, began teaching Koko to recognize spoken English and a form of American Sign language. Patterson claims Koko could understand 2,000 spoken words and sign around 1,000.
     Koko entered the public's mind when she adopted a kitten in 1983. Koko has cared for many other kittens since then. She was also a fan of Fred Rogers and enjoyed a friendship with Robin Williams. When told of Williams' untimely death, Koko signed “sad.”
     There is some debate in the scientific community as to whether Koko truly understood language. She signed in single words. A sequence of words she signed were often open to interpretation as Koko had no grasp of grammar or syntax. Regardless, she was a unique animal. It is sad to learn of her passing.

Probably Not Wile E. Coyote

     How do you define genius?
     Genius is exceptional intelligence, creative ability, or natural talent in one or more endeavors to the point the subject matter or activity in which the genius is engaged advances with new concepts and/or manages achievements which are extremely difficult or nearly impossible to duplicate.

"Here in the Real World"--Alan Jackson

   Considering all that is going on in the United states right now, the last thing you probably need is a dose of reality. Today's country song is that dose of reality you probably do not need. For what it is worth, confronting the painful truth is better for you than being comforted. A lot of sad country songs do that splendidly.
     Many country songs touch on the harsh realities of life. This is true especially where romantic relationships are concerned. “Here in the Real World” is a melancholy comparison of the romanticised world presented in movies versus real life.
     “Here in the Real World” was the second single from his debut album in 1990. The song is in the style of the neotraditional style with a fiddle and steel guitar created a stripped down, somber mood. The quiet atmosphere is powerful, as Jackson is lamenting how a love he believed was headed towards a happy ending like on the silver screen instead failed to last.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Is There Anybody Out There?

  Would it be more frightening for humans to be the most intelligent species in the universe or far from the most intelligent species in the universe?
     It would be far more frightening to learn there is a more intelligent species out there somewhere in the universe. Less intelligent species tend to become dominated—and often slaughtered—bu more intelligent species. I would rather that not happen to humans. It is one of the reasons I am skeptical NASA should send messages from Earth on these expiration probes. Those messages are just as likely putting a bulls-eye on earth as it is making friends.
     All the above assumes there is anything out there period. I may be a huge science fiction geek, but I remain skeptical alien life exists.

"You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma"--David Frizzell and Shelly West

     We continue with the theme from yesterday, but move a little further east. Instead of compromising with a meeting in Montana like dan Seals and Marie Osmond, David Frizzell dream of Oklahoma with them back together. West, like Osmond, is an aspiring starle jaded by the urban cowboy craze sweeping Southern California. She has a real cowboy in Frizzell back home in Oklahoma. He wishes she was back there with him.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Man is a Unique Creation

    Assuming evolution is correct, if humans went extinct, could another species as intelligent as humans evolve?
     It is theoretically possible, but not likely. There is no animal species that needs to adapt to be as intelligent as humans in order to survive. Science and philosophy still do not understand exactly what makes human consciousness happen, but do know it is far beyond any animal species' ability to demonstrate.
     Bear in mind I personally think Humans were created in the image of God and are therefore unique among animals. There is no animal which will evolve to take stewardship over the Earth as God ordained humans to do.

"Meet Me in Montana"--Dan Seals and Marie Osmond

     Elvis Presley was a little bit country and a lot rock and roll. Here is Marie osmond, billed as a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, performing a duet with Dan Seals. It is probably fair to label him a lot country. Montana is romanticized often in country music for noth cowboys and lovers. In 'Meet Me in Montana,” Big Sky country is a compromise between aspiring singer songwriter and a Hollywood starlet.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Animal Self-Awareness Revisited

     How conscious do you think animals are?
   Animals are not very conscious at all. Only some higher primates, dolphins, and crows can recognize themselves in a mirror. Some individual animals within those species will still fail the mirror test even when other individual members of their species pass. So even this low bar test for conscious cannot always be met by species recognized as having at least some level of self-awareness.
     I am trying not to be a cynic and say not all humans appear to be self-aware, either.  But you may run with that statement on your own, if you so desire.

"Gentle On My Mind"--Elvis Presley

    Country music has a long history of embracing crossover artists. It is especially true if said artist started in country music, but moved on to bigger success in anther genre. Witness the deathgrip country still holds on Garth Brooks and Shania Twain in spite of their respective journeys into eccentricity. Country also likes to claim artists from other genres who do well on the country charts. Witness Darius Rucker, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, and most definitely Kenny Rogers. Elvis falls firmly in the latter category.
     It should also be noted country music fans can be brutal to artists from other genres who do not perform well on the charts. Just ask Mike Nesmith and Jessica Simpson about their short lived Nashville experiences. How many are even aware of their efforts these days? They have been pretty much blotted out from the history books.
     Elvis was a product of Southern musical roots, which meant he was a mix of gospel, country, the blues, and rock. It was only natural he would fit well within country music when he made the effort to do so. As mentioned above, country music remained loyal to him even as the King of Rock and Roll.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Cogito Ergo Sum...Forsit

  Is it possible to prove other people besides yourself have consciousness?
   It is not possible to definitively prove I have consciousness, either. Consciousness is defined as the awareness of self and one's surroundings. I have the perception of myself and my surroundings, but I cannot prove either are real and not just a virtual reality simulation for instance. I assume I and my surroundings are real, but I cannot prove them to be so.
    The problem doubles when it comes to whether I can prove someone else's consciousness. Not only may we both be part of a simulation, but the other person may lie about his awareness of himself and his surroundings even if we are not in a simulation. So who really knows the validity of consciousness in yourself or others?

"Look at You, Girl"--Chris LeDoux

     Garth Brooks claims 'worn out tapes of Chris LeDoux” as one of the only friends he has while traveling the rodeo circuit in yesterday's "Much Too Young" LeDoux was a true modern day cowboy who rode the rodeo from the late '80's until his retirement in 1986. He self-release a number of albums during his rodeo career, but did not achieve mainstream success until Brooks brought his name into the spotlight. LeDoux sang mostly about the cowboy life. Most of his songs on the subject are great. But my favorite song of his is the ballad embedded above.
     When LeDoux required a liver transplant in 2000, Brooks offered to donate part of his own liver for the procedure. He was deemed incompatible, but that is some dedication to fandom and friendship. LeDoux located another donor and went on to release two more albums before succumbing to liver cancer in 2005.
    “Look at You, Girl” may be my favorite LeDoux song, but his duet with Jpn Bon Jovi on Jpvi's "Bang a Drum" is a close second. Bon Jovi has been trying hard since 1987 to convince us a New Jersey boy can be a genuine cowboy. I do not know if he truly succeeded, but singing with leDoux certainly boosts his credibility.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Defining Consciousness

     How do you define consciousness?
     I am relieved I am asked to define consciousness rather than explain exactly what it is and how it works. Philosophers and neuroscientists spend their entire careers pondering those questions and come up with nothing concrete in the end. If you would like to endlessly wax poetic on a nebulous subject hardly anyone understands, you have stumbled across. Happy contemplating.
     Consciousness is awareness of yourself and your surroundings. The definition makes consciousness sound like a simple concept, but, as previously mentioned, the brain is greater than the sum of its parts. No one really knows exists. I think it is from a Divine source and cannot be duplicated, but that is my subjective theory. You can wrote some large books about other possibilities. Many extremely intelligent people have. But the odds you can find and prove the true answer are remote.

"Much Too Young"--Garth Brooks

     I made a tongue in cheek reference yesterday to Shania twain and Garth Brooks largely deserving either the credit or blame for the surging crossover success of country music in the early '90's. It seems only fair to offer up Twain and Brooks songs back-to-back to help guide one through making the judgment.
   Long before Brooks become a full fledged weirdo with his Chris Gaines act and even longer before becoming the Las Vegas lounge act he is now, he actually played a little country music. Over his skyrocketing career prior to going off the deep end, Brooks evolved from a country singer to a rock star in a cowboy hat. I actually like much of his songs through the mid-'90's. But his older stuff feels much more traditional.
   “Much Too Young” is a fine example. Brooks is an aging, beaten up rodeo rider—a common theme of his—whose wife has left him because of his obsession with the sport. He drinks too much and has an old Chris LeDoux tape for his only company. No wonder he feels old before his time. But do we all not feel that way at some time or another? Chalk it up to my disabilities or jaded soul, but I been much too old for my age for a long, long time. The song speaks to me more than it reasonably should.
     It would appear Brooks has expanded his war against bootleg recordings of his songs to online hosting sites, because the only version of “Much Too Young” on YouTube is the live performance embedded above. The sound quality is not that great, but it is a blast from the past 1989 television appearance, so there is that.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Animal Self-Awareness

     Is it possible some animals are self-aware and contemplate their ability to think?
     This question sets the bar too high. We cannot tell for certain what any animals is truly thinking. But it is safe to say even the most advanced primates do not ponder deep questions other than humans. If you set the bar a little lower, such as whether some animals can recognize they exist separately from other animals and the environment, then yes, some animals are self-aware.
     Higher primates, dolphins, and some magpies are generally able to recognize themselves in a mirror. Yes, the animal identifying a mirror reflection as itself is the test for self-awareness. When I noted the bar needed to be lowered in order to consider animals self-aware, I was not kidding. Even individual animals of the animal species named above may still fail the mirror test.

"From This Moment On"--Shania Twain

    After two cheating songs ending in murder, perhaps a palette cleanser is in order. How about a country that has become a wedding standard? “From This Moment On” is a beautiful song from the equally beautiful Shania Twain. Twain, along with Garth Brooks, gets a lot of the credit or blame, depending on your viewpoint, for the surge in crossover success for country starting in the late '90's. I have never been a music purist. I like what I like. So I feel comfortable in considering Twain my favorite female vocalist in country music.
     Twain has performed “from This Moment On” with as a duet with a number of artists ranging from Bryan White to the Backstreet Boys. I have yet to hear a bad rendition in any of the performances, but her solo version is still the best. It is the one embedded above. Wow. “From This Moment On” is twenty years old now.
     I like “From This Moment On”, but I am mostly posting it in stark contrast to the previous two songs. You cannot get much further apart from jealous murder over adultery than a pledge of lifetime devotion. But I am more in favor of "Forever and For Always". It is a more upbeat, catchy song. It all really depends on your mood.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Spark of Life

     If every neuron in the human body could be simulated by a compter, would it result in human consciousness?
     No. the brain and the computer function differently. Both can compute, but only the brain can understand. While there are still many unsolved mysteries about human consciousness, it is absolutely a biological process of biochemical reactions and electrical impulses. Even if the process could be simulated by computer, it would not function as the actual process. A simulation cannot causes anything real to happen.
     The bottom line is the human brain is greater than the sum of its parts. Regardless of what that extra something is—a Divine spark or the soul, if you ask me—it cannot be duplicated by a computer simulation.

"She Wore Red Dresses"--Dwight Yoakam

     Yesterday's song, "Pocket Full of Gold" by Vince Gill, was all about a man cheating on a woman. Today we have a woman cheating on a man. The results are exactly the same. It really does not pay to commit adultery in country music, folks. You will only wind up on the wrong end of a gun.
     Along with Gill, Dwight Yoakam is right up there among my favorite male vocalists in country music. I am not normally a big fan of rockabilly, but Yoakam does it so well, it is hard not to love it. He has had some great acting roles in the past, too.