The Real Deal

Or a reasonable facsimile thereof

Advertisements

What does it mean to be authentic? We use the term authentic in many contexts to refer to people, places or things. How can they all be authentic? If one of us feels that a person, place or thing is authentic, does it follow that all of us agree on that authenticity?

The sense of authentic most closely related to its Greek origin is the sense of genuineness, the idea that the source or origin of something is indisputable. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is an authentic da Vinci painting, since the provenance can be used to indisputably trace it to the time of its creation. We should all agree that no one can question the authenticity.

The origins of the painting “Salvator Mundi,” a Renaissance-era depiction of Jesus Christ attributed to da Vinci, are far more disputable. The historical record of the painting, commissioned by the French king Louis XII, is a matter of record. But the painting disappeared from history in the late 1700’s. It did not reappear until 1958 when the “rediscovered” masterpiece was deemed a fake and sold for a mere $60.

Later acquired by a group of art dealers, it was restored, academically authenticated, and sold to a Russian businessman for $127.5 million. Is the Mona Lisa more authentic than Salvator Mundi? Is it possible to be less genuine and still be considered genuine? Does that mean authentic is subjective?

Another sense of authenticity is something that is created or performed in a traditional fashion, or that is a faithful rendition of an original. This almost seems to be the opposite of the original Greek meaning of authentic, since this meaning implies that the thing that is authentic is not in fact genuine.

Authentic Tuscan cuisine in Chicago is certainly not genuine, in the sense of food cooked by an Italian person in the Tuscan region of Italy. But because the ingredients or methods employed in preparing the cuisine closely follow those in Tuscany we consider it authentic. But unless you have had food prepared by a Tuscan in Tuscany, how can you tell if the Tuscan cuisine in Chicago is authentic?

And what of an authentic life? This sense of authentic, denoting an emotionally suitable, purposeful, significant existence, comes to us from existential philosophy. It’s when our actions and words stem from our values and beliefs. It’s being who we are, and not who we or others think we should be.

But this seems at odds with how humans develop. As young children, we develop our beliefs, values, and personas through imitation of those around us. And we tend to internalize and repeat those imitations that bring praise from the important people in our lives. Therefore, can any existence be authentic? I would argue that few of us would agree that we aren’t authentic in this sense, but are we really?

It seems to me that authenticity, as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

WARNING! Do Not Heed This Warning!

Question authority, it may not know the answer

Warnings surround us in this modern life. We should follow many of them without question. Most of these unquestionable warnings are made through the sound judgment of trained professionals assessing indisputable facts.

For instance, the warning against consumption of alcohol during pregnancy due to the statistical likelihood of fetal alcohol syndrome is an unquestionable warning. It’s based on indisputable scientific fact. You may be the one-in-a-million whose developing child doesn’t succumb, but the warning is still unquestionable.

Another is the warning against operating heavy machinery while taking certain medications. We know as a fact how these medications affect the central nervous system.  You may think that your metabolism or your operating skills will save you from any bad outcome. But this warning is still unquestionable.

The warning to stay away from the third rail of the subway is also unquestionable. As is the warning to cook that piece of raw chicken thoroughly. These warnings may seem more anecdotal, but the scientific facts behind them still make them unquestionable.

But there are other warnings that surround us in this modern life that we would do well to question. Most of these warnings are made through the flawed judgment of mere conjecture by pseudoscientists. And many of these warnings come to us through our social media and online sources. Your FaceBook or Twitter feed needs questioning.

One that springs to mind quickly is the warning about vaccines and autism. The science behind vaccines and the efficacy of vaccination is indisputable. But in 2008 the medical journal Lancet published an article, later retracted, about a flawed study that purported to find a link between vaccination and autism, a mere conjecture that internet pseudoscientists judged as indisputable fact. Vaccination rates plummeted as the pseudoscience spread through social media and the internet. Naturally, rates of childhood diseases once relegated to the dustbin of history went up commensurately. This is a warning that should have been questioned.

Another such warning that comes to mind is the purported link between Wi-Fi and cancer. Your smartphone is giving you cancer. Oddly, there is a grain of truth in this. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiation from Wi-Fi devices as a Class 2B carcinogen, right up there with cancer factories like styrofoam, aloe vera, coffee, and your Aunt Sally’s pickled cucumbers. I think life, in general, is also in this classification. The warning that Wi-Fi causes cancer should be questioned.

So what should you do when we’re confronted with warnings from people on your FaceBook feed, or when that Twitter god you follow tweets some dire warning about some heretofore unknown danger? Well, you could do what I do. Think. Read. And most importantly of all: Do Not Heed This Warning!

Oh, but you should heed my warning, to never heed those questionable warnings. That just makes sense.

Just Another Day in Paradise

Back on the chain gang

It was my anniversary today. No, not my blog anniversary. My anniversary at work. I’ve been with the Soul-Sucking Mega-Corporation, Inc. for 12 years now. I didn’t realize it had been that long. It seemed much longer.

When I got to the office this morning there was an email from the receptionist. It was sent to everybody in our little sphere of the organization. No sense bothering corporate, they wouldn’t know me from Adam. It said I started working there 12 years ago today. Hmm, news to me.

This anniversary email thing is a new bit. It came in with the last reorganization. When I started you would get some actual verbal recognition from an officer of the company at a quarterly employee meeting. Now you get an email. This was the first work anniversary that I remember since the new email anniversary recognition scheme was enacted.

Apparently, the drill is for everyone to forward the anniversary email to the person who is being recognized so that their inbox overflows with emails the have the same subject line, each with a little impersonal message that needs answering. There was the barrage of forwards to me, some from people I work with and know well, some from people I don’t know and have never seen, except in those little Lync avatars. The corporate level avatars look like professional glamour shots. Mine looks like a mug shot. I spent the first hour this morning digging out.

In my 12 years with Soul-Sucking Mega-Corporation, Inc. there has been three reorganizations. You can read about one here. We’re about to embark on the 4th, or so it seems. The Head Mahout just announced he’s not going to reenlist after his contract expires. This announcement should make the business press happy, so the stock price should bounce up, and he can cash out his stock options on the upside and float happily away on his golden parachute.

I, on the other hand, will dig in for my next 12 years. That should come sometime around the 8th reorganization, give or take. That’s two quartets of reorganizations. I guess that’s actually an octet, right? Woohoo!

A Most Inefficient System

Explaining the 2016 U.S. elections to Commander Data

USS ENTERPRISE BRIDGE – STAR DATE 2938.73 – DARK

COMMANDER DATA stands next to the empty Captain’s chair observing stars whizzing by on the forward viewing screen. The bridge is alive with the usual Star Trek bustle. RUDYBLUES materializes, transporter style, on the other side of the Captain’s chair.

DATA

data2Hello, Mr. rudyblues. Thank you for responding to our request signal once again.

RUDYBLUES

Yeah, hey, no problem Commander Data. I saw the episode of you writing cat poetry again and I figured you needed to see me, so I zipped right over.

DATA

Thank you for using your WordPress time travel powers again to join me here to discuss the 2016 elections in the United States. We find your society’s system of governance most fascinating.

RUDYBLUES

You’re welcome, Commander Data. Man, I can never get over this. I’m on the bridge of the USS Enterprise! Woohoo! Imagine if they could see me now back at C2E2!

RUDYBLUES reaches for a multi-colored touchpad on the arm of the Captain’s chair.

RUDYBLUES

(Curiously)

Man, I can never get over all these gadgets. What’s this one do?

DATA

(Reaching to keep RUDYBLUES from the touchpad)

Please, Mr. rudyblues, I must ask you to remember to refrain from touching any of the gadgets, as you call them. Your curiosity is understandable, but it is also most inadvisable. That controls the forward weapons banks. I do not think you wish to launch a photon torpedo at this time.

Read more ruminating

I Can’t Swallow That

No, it’s not what you think

What can that mean?

It could mean I hate “that”, like some terrible tasting food or foul drink, and I won’t allow it to pass down my throat.

Or I could have a sore throat, and the act of contracting my esophagus to move “that” from my mouth down my throat is so uncomfortable that I can’t perform the act.

Is “that” something that is unwelcome, or perhaps insulting, and I refuse to tolerate it any longer?

Maybe “that” is a lie, a fib, a tall tale, and I’m just not going to believe it.

Perhaps “that” is something I want to say, but shouldn’t, but I’m not going to suppress my feelings any longer.

As I was about to swallow the last swallow of water in the glass, the swallow swooped down from the cloud that had swallowed it and swallowed the bee that was causing me to swallow hard in fear.

No wonder English is so hard to learn. My kingdom for a synonym!

Just Another Face in the Crowd

The kid’s are alright

I think many of us want to be a “face”, in the 1960’s British “Mod” subculture sense of the term. In 1960’s England, a face was a right proper Mod; the right fashion sense, the right scooter, the right taste in music. A face was recognized on sight as such in the Mod subculture. A particularly good Mod was an ace face. Maybe even THE ace face.

Mods_Vespa_GT
Mod Vespa, photo by Paul Stevenson.

That desire for recognition that the faces in the Mod subculture displayed could also be attributed, at least in part, to social class. Many of the seminal Mods were working-class male youth, whose semi-skilled manual labor or low-paying white-collar clerical jobs did not offer much professional prestige. After hours social recognition made up for a lack of professional recognition.

Humans can crave recognition, just like humans can crave sweets or narcotics. The “rush” some get out of recognition comes from the same physiological phenomenon as any addiction, the release of endorphins in the brain. We’re hardwired to repeat these endorphin producing behaviors. It feels good, so we do it.

We can all recognize a modern face. Some are like the mods from the 1960’s, the right clothes, the right car, the right house, the right schools. Some seek their recognition through other means, such as social media status. If your anonymous Twitter account has lots of followers, you’re recognized. I recently came across the social-media marketing term “micro-influencers,” for those social media users who aren’t widely known but who are faces in their limited spheres.

Even if you’re faceless, you can still be a face.

Invisible Man

With super powers come super risks

This is a reworked redux of one I posted a couple of years back for a Daily Prompt. It fits right in with today’s Daily Prompt. Hope you enjoy it.


“Wadda ya mean you can’t see me? I’m right here in fronta yer face!”

“I said I can’t see you! My ears tell me where you should be, but you’re not there. You’re not here! You’re not anywhere! There’s nothing where my ears tell me the sound of your voice is coming from.”

162px-Invisible_Man“Aw, come on, quit foolin’ around. Look. I’m wavin’ my arms around.”

“Yeah, maybe you are, but I’m not seein’ it because you’re not in the room.”

“What, have ya gone blind? I told you that you needed to go to the eye doctor. Now maybe you’ll listen to me.”

“I’m listening to you right now and I can see just fine! I’m in the living room of our house, but you’re not! There’s a ceiling fan in the center of the room with an oiled bronze finish and dark oak blades. It’s turning on low speed right now. It has two chains extending down with oiled bronze finials, one for the light, which by the way is on, and one for the fan. The couch is a muted floral print in tan, green and rose, with rolled arms and three green accent cushions. The chairs are upholstered in a solid rose color and pick up the rose in the couch pattern …“

“Oh come on, you could do that from memory. You bought all this stuff anyway. You really need to go to the eye doctor if you can’t see me here!”

“…and the cat just walked into the room carrying her favorite stuffed mouse toy. There, how’s that?”

“Ah, that cat always carries around that mouse around. It’s like a security blanket. That’s true any day at any time … oh, sorry kitty. Didn’t mean to step on you.”

“Yeah, you see her, and it looked like something spooked her, but there’s nothing there to spook her! Because she can’t see you either! And now she’s really spooked!”

“Mrreeooow! Hsssss”

“Oh come on. You’re going crazy here. There I just touched your hand.”

“Yeah, I felt you touch me, but I didn’t see you touch me because you’re not there!”

“Ok, I’ll prove it to you, come on with me and let’s stand in front of the hallway mirror. Jeez, you’ve really got to make that eye appointment.”

“There you go smart ass, I see me, but there’s no one else in the mirror!”

“Oh, holy crap. The WP people gave me a superpower today. I could disappear and reappear at will. But they didn’t say how long it would last, and I forgot to ask. I must have disappeared and forgot to reappear before the power wore off.”

“See, I told you that you weren’t here! What are you doin’ messin’ around with superpowers anyway? And especially superpowers from the WP people! Serves ya right.”

“Yeah, I guess it does. But there’s a bit of a problem here.”

“Oh, and what would that be, Mr. Invisible Man?”

“Well, they won’t repeat the prompt for another couple years, so I won’t get the superpower back till, sheez, 2018?”

“Ha! Guess I won’t be ‘seein’ ya around’ then, eh?”

“Yeah, I guess not.”

“Now you see what I’m talkin’ about!”

“Yeah. Invisible