14 February, 2024

Celebrity Crushes

At some point an indeterminate amount of time ago (the timestamp on a rough draft indicates early March of 2020, just before the lockdowns), I encountered a meme that involved posting pictures of your celebrity crushes to show if you have a type. It seemed like an interesting experiment (and who doesn't like spending time thinking about people they're attracted to?), but I refrained from participating because I wasn't interested in giving anyone an opportunity to make assumptions about me based on contemporary moral fads. But seeing as this blog is a place for me to testify to my own truth, and I was recently thinking about some old crushes I could add to the list (as well as some new ones), I wanted to revisit the concept.

But first, I had to ask myself, what counts as a crush? Endless is the debate over whether "love at first sight" truly exists. Whether it's love or lust or just a superficial infatuation, I can attest that it is a real phenomenon. And while magnetic attraction is not a sufficient condition for a successful, committed relationship (it may not even be a necessary one), it does play a meaningful role in the human mating cycle, and the associated feelings can bring joy and pleasure to a person even in the absence of reciprocation, as is the case when you crush on a celebrity whom you will probably never even meet. Indeed, that distance can serve as a kind of protective barrier, creating a playing field in which one can explore their feelings one-sided, free from the logistics of an actual relationship, and without risk of heartbreak (or any real threat to existing partners, provided a mature foundation of trust). Sure, sometimes people can take it too far, but that doesn't mean it's not healthy the rest of the time.

All of which is to say, there have been a lot of celebrities that I have found attractive (as is true of most people, I think), but having a crush implies somewhat of an obsession - usually with consuming the media they appear in, and/or investing in merchandising associated with them. And there are different levels of crushing, too. I have certainly had more crushes than I am about to list (like, can I really include Freya Allan, just because she's the perfect representation of my type - she's named after the Norse goddess of love, by the way - even though I've only ever seen her in The Witcher? [and yes, this parenthetical phrase exists just so I can link a picture of her intoxicating beauty]), but I've tried to focus on the most intense or longest lasting ones, that have made the strongest impression on my life, while also filling a convenient 9 square grid. Also, I'm excluding cartoon characters (because that's a whole different arena) - although it's worth mentioning that I had a humongous boyhood crush on Ariel from The Little Mermaid (the least dressed of all the Disney Princesses - unless slave Leia from Return of the Jedi counts now :-p).

Shall we get on with it, then?

Liv Tyler - Daughter of rock royalty, this had to be one of my earliest celebrity crushes, because I actually forgot that I used to crush on her! I think it's safe to say that seeing her portray Arwen in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy made a strong impression on me (I have a thing for elves). I feel like Ms. Tyler set the trend for my celebrity crushes, because I still have an old folder of modeling pics I searched out online (in an era long before Instagram was ever dreamed up); and in researching her past roles, I discovered the intoxicating (and often erotic) world of independent arthouse films, via a Bernardo Bertolucci picture (Stealing Beauty) starring Jeremy Irons - in which she appears topless!

Mischa Barton - I suppose most people who have heard of Mischa Barton know her from The OC (which I actually haven't seen), but I discovered her before she ever appeared on that show. My heart broke for her in Lost and Delirious, a story of spoilt innocence and doomed romance at an all girls' boarding school. By no means mainstream, I had fun tracking down her other coming-of-age movies: including the cult favorite Lawn Dogs, in which she forges an unlikely friendship with Sam Rockwell; the gritty Pups, in which an ill-considered bank robbery is foiled by Burt Reynolds; and Frankie and Hazel, in which she rebels against gender norms as a ballerina who dreams of playing baseball.

Michelle Trachtenberg - Aside from Eurotrip (which was a fun movie), and her adorable turn as Harriet The Spy, I never really went on a hunt for this actress' other roles, like I usually do with my celebrity crushes, but the extent of my obsession with her was apparent from the moment she turned up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Buffy's (surprise!) bratty little sister Dawn, radiating teen angst. Other Buffy fans I've talked to have told me they hated her and thought she was annoying, but that didn't stop me from harvesting an indecent amount of screencaps (I'd be truly embarrassed to tell you the number) for my computer's screensaver at the time (this was before we all started using static lock screens). You could say my obsession with her was not as broad, but it was pretty deep for a while.

Dakota Fanning - My gold standard for celebrity crushes. When I first saw Dakota in War of the Worlds, she failed to make an impression on me. But then, she was just a kid given little to do besides run around screaming while aliens destroyed the world. When she later snagged the role of Cherie Currie in the Runaways biopic (alongside Kristen Stewart's Joan Jett), I stood up and took notice. I hadn't realized what an accomplished actress she already was, but I made a concerted effort to educate myself. From her breakout role on I Am Sam (opposite Sean Penn) at the age of seven, to the dark coming of age drama Hounddog, in which she filmed a rape scene at the age of twelve (depicted with considerable restraint, mind you), this was a precocious child star with a maturity beyond her young years. I was beyond impressed.

Elle Fanning - Originally scoring bit parts as an age-regressed version of her older sister Dakota's characters in various movies, Elle eventually broke out on her own as an actress, in a career that mirrors her sister's, with slightly more of a focus on "artsy" projects. Some of her more memorable roles include her first starring role at the age of nine, in a serious drama about a child with Tourette Syndrome (Phoebe in Wonderland), and Nicolas Winding Refn's at times surreal and Argento-esque voyage into the nightmarish dreamscape of the west coast modeling scene (The Neon Demon). Elle has even played a Disney princess! Albeit in a movie that was designed to showcase the villain (Maleficent), and not the princess (Aurora - a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty). More lately, she's been doing an amazing job as Catherine on the Hulu series The Great. It could just be my own focus, but as Dakota has scaled back her media presence, it seems to me that Elle has stepped to the forefront in her stead.

Chloe Grace Moretz - You probably remember her as the violent, trash-talking, wannabe superhero schoolgirl Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass (and its sequel). But she has a long list of horror and sci-fi credits to her name, if few of them have had the clout to propel her to A-list status. Nevertheless, as a little kid she starred in the remake of The Amityville Horror, as well as one of AfterDark Horrorfest's 8 Films To Die For (Wicked Little Things), and appeared alongside a pre-Winter's Bone (not to mention The Hunger Games) Jennifer Lawrence in a gritty drama about a single mother slash prostitute (The Poker House). She starred as Carrie in the Stephen King remake, fought off an alien apocalypse in The Fifth Wave, and more recently tackled alternate reality in The Peripheral. But it was Chloe's penchant for challenging, mature-for-her-age roles that initially captured my interest, from the American remake of the dark Swedish vampire romance Let Me In, to a serial killer drama about the Texas Killing Fields, and the hard-boiled coming-of-age road trip that is Hick. It's always a thrill to hear about what she's working on next.

Emma Watson - Not usually one to jump on the bandwagon, I was late to the Harry Potter fandom. I'm a huge fan now, thanks to my brother's recommendation of the books - and a spontaneous dream I had about Emma Watson, whom I recall catching my eye via sporadic scenes on TV from as early as The Prisoner of Azkaban (the movie in which she stripped off her house robe to reveal her blossoming attributes). For a long time before I finally sat down to watch the movies (in the year of the final one's release), I knew it was going to be Emma's natural beauty and charisma that would rope me in. Growing up through eight Harry Potter movies is admittedly a hard act to follow, but Emma shines in everything she does - including being the second actress on this list to star as a Disney princess! (This time it's Belle from Beauty and the Beast). I also enjoyed her participation in the true story dramatization of the Hollywood Hills burglaries, The Bling Ring. Behind the scenes Emma portrays sophistication, intelligence, and high fashion, while championing the cause of feminism. And I'll be honest, I love that posh British accent.

Miley Cyrus - I've written about this elsewhere [NSFW], but I'll summarize the highlights. Initially annoyed by all the merchandising for Hannah Montana, when Miley ended her relationship with Disney, and entered her rebellious teenage phase, I started to take notice. Shooting implied nudes for Annie Leibovitz; rumors of dancing on stage around a stripper pole; singing about liberty and individuality on the album Can't Be Tamed. When she posed unabashedly naked for Marc Jacobs to raise awareness for skin cancer, starred equally (un)dressed in the music video for smash hit Wrecking Ball, and then humped a foam finger while twerking on stage in flesh-colored underwear during the MTV VMAs, I was entranced by her confident, sex-positive attitude. A lot of what she does turns people off, but it's performance art. And this world needs more strong women willing to unapologetically embrace and take ownership of their sexuality. She's not just beautiful and talented, she's also kind, and a vocal supporter of LGBT rights. And though she produces pop music (helping me to break through the barrier and appreciate new genres), she's also covered some of my favorite bands in concert (including Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd). People are still surprised by it, but what Hannah sung all those years ago is true - "[she] really [is] a rock star."

Jordyn Jones - Being my latest obsession, who I've not just written about before, but recently, I should be able to skip a lot of the details. I've been aware of her for probably the better part of the last decade, and was an instant fan of her early music videos, which apply a cute, girly aesthetic to hip hop. Then for a while I was only really aware of her as a popular Instagram model, until my recent Dance Moms obsession brought her back into focus (via Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition). Seeing that she's released a ton of songs and videos on Youtube, as well as more recently started a podcast, I fell down the rabbit hole of her social media presence, absorbing just about everything she's done in the public eye that I can get my hands on. I stan Jordyn because she's pretty, talented, projects confidence, and has such a cheerful and bubbly personality (which is a nice counterbalance to my own characteristically gloomy demeanor).

21 January, 2024

No Sympathy

Moving out to the country has involved a lot of cultural adjustment. One thing I picked up on when reading the Kinsey studies, that I've found to be accurate, is that although some parents worry that sending their kids to college will open them up to more sexually liberated attitudes, the hard fact is that people out in the country (who are statistically poorer, and less educated) have more sex more freely, and at younger ages. It's something that we sometimes forget in our civilized society (and it certainly wasn't something I was ever taught, attending one of the best-rated high schools in the country), but teenagers are programmed to have sex. It's a natural law.

Look, I understand hormones. I challenge you to find somebody who's more sex-positive than I am. But we're not just animals. Our intellect is what separates us from the beasts of the field. I have little respect for teenagers who go around spraying and praying without using the tools we've developed for ourselves to enjoy sex with fewer life-changing consequences, only to inevitably end up in dire straits. How am I supposed to sympathize with their plight, when they lack the common decency to put off their own immediate gratification in deference to those of us who have had to struggle more than half our lives, in some cases, to even find companionship with the opposite sex?

I know it's not really their fault. They aren't taught the things they need to know, and they're not given the resources they need to win the battle against their own evolutionary instincts. We live in a backwards, regressive culture that glorifies ignorance and demonizes science. And it's a vicious cycle where parents make poor, impulsive decisions, and then teach their kids (against their own intentions) to make the exact same mistakes they made. And so it goes, on and on.

I know it's easy for me to say this, standing here on the outside, but if missing out on a normal life imbues me with any advantages, it should be this. All you need to break the cycle is the awareness that you're in a cycle, that the cycle isn't doing you any favors, that there's something outside of that cycle, and that you CAN step outside of the cycle. All you need is the will to do it. But I don't know how to impart this knowledge to someone who thinks they're invulnerable and already all-knowing, and who treats any form of perspective as insidious "lecturing", before which they suddenly and invariably suffer a temporary bout of acute deafness.

Fine. I get it. The kids are alright. Figure it out for yourself. But don't expect me to have sympathy when you crash into the brick wall I've been trying to warn you about all these years.

24 December, 2023

Jordyn Jones' Top Ten Music Videos

If you haven't heard of her, Jordyn Jones is a minor celebrity pop star/model/influencer. Born at the turn of the millennium in the vicinity of Kalamazoo, Michigan (yes, it's a real place, and I've been there :-p), she journeyed to Los Angeles as a preteen, already trained as a dancer and ready to pursue her dreams of pop stardom. I first became aware of this rising young starlet when she started releasing music videos on Youtube circa 2014, juxtaposing her pretty white girl looks with a confident hip hop swagger. Over the years, she transitioned to a more traditional pop star image, and with age and maturity, has steadily grown in popularity as an Instagram model.

After having the privilege of attending a local cheer competition two seasons ago, I started watching Dance Moms to steep myself in the subculture. When I started season 1 of the spin-off Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition, I recognized with excitement a young Jordyn Jones just at the start of her career, and it reignited my interest. I devoured her Youtube content, including an adorable series for Awesomeness TV, in which she tries out various summer and winter jobs. Meanwhile, I put together a playlist of songs she's recorded, so I can listen to it in the car.

I'm currently in the process of catching up on her podcast What They Don't Tell You, in which she interviews her peers in the social media sphere. Being in a different generation, with no experience of the LA lifestyle, it's mostly conversations with "influencers" I've never heard of; but Jordyn's bubbly, happy-go-lucky personality is positively infectious, and I enjoy putting it on and occasionally checking in while I work at my computer.

I know Jorydn's a pretty white girl with all the privilege in the world, but she's genuine, kind-hearted almost to a fault, and surprisingly grounded for somebody who came of age in LA (I give her mom a lot of credit for that). She's also a bit of a teetotaler - which I can relate to - despite basically living in the fast lane. She tragically lost her dad a few years ago in an alcohol-related accident, and maintains a warm and hilarious relationship with her mom. She can dance. She can sing. She's funny. She's pretty - and she's never been afraid to market herself on that point. I'm not ashamed to admit that I stan her.

And so I wanted to celebrate the sunshine her web presence brings into my life (also because it's only fair, given that I've honored two other young starlets I've stanned in the past, right here on this very blog) by sharing with you ten of my favorite music videos she's released on Youtube during the last decade. We'll go in chronological order, starting with the earliest one (because that makes the most sense to me, and I hate ranking things).

Banji (Sharaya J cover)

Not the earliest music video Jordyn appeared in (she was briefly part of a girl group called 5 Little Princesses, or 5LP - search for the song Sugar and Spice), but her debut as a solo performer, and likely the first I ever saw. Whether you think it's the bomb or cringey AF (personally, I'm in the former camp), it makes a strong impression. Admittedly, there's a discordance between Jordyn's ultra-cute aesthetic and the darker stylings of hip hop (albeit not quite to 5LP's level of tween girls rapping about staying up late while wearing pink tutus and glittering tiaras), but I think it's adorable and it gives me something to appreciate about a music genre that doesn't normally appeal to me.

"Where did this, where did this chick come from?"

If you like this video, Jordyn's cover of Fancy by Iggy Azalea provides more of the same, with a steady bass beat, and a video that manages to make laundry day look chic. And if you're digging that schoolyard nostalgia, Jordyn and friends layer on the Lip Gloss in an unforgettable cover of Lil Mama's song by that name, decked out in cheerleader uniforms and dancing in front of an ice cream truck. If I have a lot to say about this era of Jordyn's career, it's because this is how I was introduced to her and it brings back fond memories.

"Hot girl, hands off, don't touch that."

Lips Are Movin' (Meghan Trainor cover)

Without breaking continuity from her previous videos (all of which so far have been directed by Nayip Ramos, and feature the familiar faces of some recurring backup dancers), Jordyn gives us a taste of her pop star aspirations and gets a little playfully jaded with what is probably the most popular song she's covered yet. And if you prefer this style over Jordyn's hip hop phase, you won't want to miss her cover of Katy Perry's This Is How We Do, in a video that gives off major beachy/urban California vibes.

"I know you lie - your lips are movin'."


I'm already regretting limiting myself to 10 videos, because I would be remiss not to mention I'm Dappin'. Notable in that it's Jordyn's first original song, it displays a somewhat more mature style while giving her an opportunity to show off her rapping skills. Although still playful, it's a bit darker (literally - with lots of indoor and night time shots), with a steady rhythm and a catchy chorus.

"I'm dancing, I'm snapping; my swagger is splashing."

But I've chosen to highlight Fiyacracka from this stage of Jordyn's career instead, because I think it's an even stronger offering. Many of the same things can be said about it, but the glamor is dialed up to eleven, and you can really begin to see the mature pop star Jordyn was becoming, as distinguished from the cute child star she started out as. This is Jordyn, barely 16, literally manifesting her dreams.

"When that bass drops, I can bang ya like a fiyacracka."


This is one of Jordyn's most imaginative music videos (once again featuring director Nayip Ramos), in which she and a couple of her cohorts play inmates of a girl's correctional facility, exploiting some of the tropes from women's prison flicks. It's so much fun! And if you've ever stalked her Instagram (just between you and me, I may have gotten my account suspended for running a page-loading script just to get to the start of her timeline - what's the point of having those pictures posted if it's humanly impossible to pull them up?), then you'll know Jordyn's faux crime ("too many selfies") isn't stretching the truth. Obviously, the slang term "bruh" was in use long before Jordyn got a hold of it, but I can honestly credit her for getting me to start saying it... sarcastically.

"I'mma let you, I'mma let you finish, but... bruh!"

All I Need

In this sunny video, Jordyn sings a pop ballad to young love - deep, yet fleeting - perfectly encapsulated in the chorus (which I catch myself singing in my head from time to time). The lyrics are poignantly prescient, as time casts a wistful sheen over the proceedings, in light of the fact that the video co-stars Jordyn's then boyfriend who is now her long-time ex.

"We're gonna be together forever... for right now."

For another song that portrays romance with an underpinning of melancholy, take a beach vacay with Summer, and view an even more mature side of Jordyn. If, on the other hand, it's more upbeat pop covers you want to hear, I can recommend Starving and The Middle, as well as an angelic duet with Sam Bruno singing Ariana Grande's No Tears Left To Cry.

New (Daya cover)

For this video, we once again take a darker turn, with a glamorous-looking Jordyn in the back seat of a car riding through the city at night, agonizing over a messy breakup, and realizing only too late the value of what she's lost. Although it's a cover, the emotion is palpable, and I enjoy the play of the lyrics. In fact, I prefer it to Jordyn's cover of another, more popular Daya song - Sit Still, Look Pretty (although that one is also good, and I appreciate its message of empowerment).

"Messing with someone new, thinking I wanted to;
turns out I don't want new - I want you."

Ain't My Fault (Zara Larsson cover)

"It ain't my fault you came here lookin' like that."

I love the way this song sounds. I also love the video. I think it's really cute the way Jordyn repeats the word "nope" in the chorus. I love how it's shot in a single take, while Jordyn moves around the studio. I love how the backup dancers come in and out of frame at different points during the song. I love the way Jordyn whips her ponytail around. I don't even care that the lyrics sound rapey; fair or not, when it's a pretty girl singing them, I'll let it slide. If you like the sentiment, but want something a little less problematic, check out Can't Say No from Jordyn's 2019 self-titled EP.

"Can't say no when you're lookin' like that."

Think About U

"Every time I think about you, I just think of making love."

This is my choice of videos from the aforementioned EP. The song is pop, but the video has a bit of a grungey aesthetic, and features Jordyn practically dripping with desire. Also of interest is the video for More, another track from Jordyn's EP, featuring Jordyn with cotton candy blue hair. Notable in that it co-stars Jordyn's more recent ex, I daresay the wound might still be too fresh to properly enjoy it.

"More of your touch, more of your eyes, more of your tongue..."

That said, it's not as raw as watching Jordyn and her ex play-act a fight in the video that portrays her ending up on the beach at sunset with duet partner Wesley in Intimate.

"I'm trying to keep it intimate, so let me know if you are into it."


"I fall deep, take the pain till I can't breathe."

Released in April of 2020, this is the epitome of "quarantine" music videos - featuring Jordyn rolling around alone in bed in a thin crop top and ripped jeans. You'll either love or hate the video's unwavering commitment to its retro VHS aesthetic - personally, I think it's spot on. I prefer this one precisely for its raw quality, but you might also like to check out Jordyn's somewhat more polished-looking video covering Hayley Kiyoko's Curious, in which she also appears in bed looking scrumptious. It doesn't have the heart-aching quality of Blind, but it's very flowery, white, and sweet-sounding.

"I'm just curious - is it serious?"

Love You Less

We finish this list with the last video Jordyn released before pivoting to podcast host, and probably the most imaginative one since BRUH! (once again featuring director Nayip). Jordyn embodies the role of a bad girl (somewhat ironically), dressed in scandalous outfits and (gasp!) smoking a cigarette. She's speeding down a desert highway, emotionally detached from the destruction she's leaving in her wake. With explosions, flashing cop cars, and even a flamethrower, the production mimics that of a Hollywood blockbuster. It's all a great deal of fun.

"I'm a train wreck for ya, I'm a mess;
God, you're such a heartbreak takin' off my dress."

And there you have it! I hope you've received a fraction of the enjoyment I get from viewing these videos. And Jordyn - thank you for sharing your talent, beauty, and positive energy with the world. I am in your corner, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what you do next. #teamjordyn #jjswag

14 December, 2023


So, I just watched a new show titled Encounters on Netflix, and it's got me thinking about UFOs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm fascinated by the concept, and love to watch both fictional entertainment and speculative documentaries on the subject, because I have a curious mind. But I don't believe in UFOs. Which is to say, of course people experience unidentified aerial phenomena, but I remain skeptical that any of it ties to extraterrestrial intelligence, in the absence of any kind of convincing scientific evidence, which as yet remains out of our grasp. Pretty much the same way I approach religion.

We don't understand everything in the universe - not by a long shot. But we can make educated guesses about certain things, and the claims people make about aliens in spaceships clandestinely visiting Earth far exceed a rational analysis of the empirical evidence available to us.

There could be other intelligent life out there in the vast reaches of the cosmos - scientifically, it's not impossible. And even though it may be rare, on an astronomical scale, who knows? It could even be likely. Whether it's even possible for them to visit us, assuming they can find us and have the desire to make contact, considering the cosmic scale of both space and time, is another question entirely.

In the even more vast expanses of the human imagination, it may even be plausible - though not probable - for alien life of some kind to visit us in a manner demanding and capable of the utmost secrecy that documented encounters would require in order to be interpreted in this way. That said, like with extraordinary claims of religious phenomena, Occam's Razor instructs us to pick the simplest explanation that fits the data available to us.

It's not that my mind is closed to any reality that is unfamiliar to me. If a flying saucer landed tomorrow, and a green-skinned, one-eyed, tentacled monster gave a speech in a national address standing next to the president, or if impossible ships with impossible weapons started devastating the planet and enslaving mankind, I wouldn't reject what was going on before my very eyes. There just needs to be verifiable evidence for it first.

Consider how illogical it is for a society, having recently struggled through a pandemic, to be skeptical of what science tells us about how germs behave, while simultaneously defending the outrageous belief that the presence of flashing lights in the sky proves that our government is talking to beings from beyond the stars. On second thought, maybe those two superstitions are linked.

I don't doubt the visceral feelings and sometimes traumatic emotions that people endure. But I know a little something about how little our brains can be trusted to accurately interpret our sensory perceptions, and it's not solely because I took a few courses in psychophysics in college. I was able to experience it firsthand, during an isolated bout of sleep paralysis that occurred 17 years ago, in which I was convinced that I was awake, and that there was a malevolent humanoid figure beside my bed - until I opened my eyes to an empty room. It was the most terrifying moment of my life, but though I would not want to repeat it, I consider myself lucky to have experienced it once, as a powerful demonstration of the fundamental fallibility of human consciousness.

What I'm saying is, it's possible to remain skeptical about UFOs, while still being sensitive to the accounts of people who claim to have seen them. There are more stances than outright denial and unwavering belief - and, as always, the truth is most likely to lie somewhere in the middle. The way I see it, there are a number of different possible interpretations of any given UFO sighting (or abduction encounter). They're not all going to have the same explanation. Ranging from the least sensitive to the most outrageous, this is what immediately comes to mind:

Possibility 1: The Lie. There was no encounter. Either the witness knows this, and is engaging in willful deception, or has been made to believe - perhaps through the power of suggestion, or a fault of memory - that it happened. This interpretation isn't very sensitive to the witness' perspective (#BelieveTheAbductee, anyone?), but it has been known to happen.

Possibility 2: The Hallucination. There was some form of encounter, but only in the witness' mind. It is the nature of the event that has been misinterpreted, rather than the fact of an event occurring. For example, during my bout of sleep paralysis, there was nobody standing beside my bed, but it sure as hell felt like there was.

Possibility 3a: The Hoax. There was an encounter. However, it has a man-made explanation, and was executed as a prank - either with the witness' knowledge or not.

Possibility 3b: The Weather Balloon. There was an encounter, and it has a man-made explanation. The witness has merely misinterpreted a fairly normal phenomenon. I daresay this is the most common explanation for an alleged UFO sighting, especially among people not overly familiar with the appearance and behavior of aircraft.

Possibility 3c: The Stealth Jet. There was an encounter, and it has a man-made explanation. However, the witness' confusion is justified, because it involves experimental technology. For obvious reasons, an explanation is unlikely to be forthcoming, and other possibilities may be proffered (especially Swamp Gas or The Weather Balloon) to defer speculation.

Possibility 4a: Swamp Gas. There was an encounter, and it has a natural explanation. The witness has merely misinterpreted a fairly normal environmental phenomenon. However, in many cases, there may simply not be enough evidence (especially if all we have to rely on is witness testimony) to provide a satisfactory explanation.

Possibility 4b: Ball Lightning. There was an encounter, and it has a natural explanation. However, the witness' confusion is justified, because it involves an unexplained environmental phenomenon. The fact that science has yet to provide an explanation does not mean it is truly supernatural.

Possibility 5a: The Flying Saucer. There was an encounter, and it involves some form of extraterrestrial intelligence. The technology is so far beyond our understanding, that it will be a long time before we can adequately explain it.

Possibility 5b: The Chariot. There was an encounter, and it involves a truly supernatural phenomenon that defies logical explanation, whether it be extradimensional beings, or some kind of spiritual manifestation (e.g., angels, or human souls).

Allow me to conclude with a quote from the series, followed by a few lingering remarks:

"What the story's about is that re-enchantment of the environment. People used to believe in all kinds of weird stuff. In modern times, we don't believe in those kinds of creatures, but... weird stuff is still here. Obviously, there's something - whether it's in here in the landscape, or in people's minds - they're having the same sort of weird experiences, but they're expressing them in the pop culture of the time. Whether it was supernatural, or natural, something happened that literally changed people's lives. And that, in itself, to me, is what's important."

- David Clarke, Journalist


I mean, even if it were true that the universe is teeming with life, either there would be observable evidence of that, or its reach or our understanding wouldn't enable us to observe it. In that case, it makes little difference what people believe. We can keep an open mind, in anticipation of the future advent of further evidence, without tying ourselves to beliefs that aren't corroborated by observable reality. And there's nothing wrong with that approach. In fact, it can be very dangerous to believe in things that are not backed up by empirical evidence.

As an example, germs existed before man discovered them. And though it would have benefitted us to have behaved as though germs existed before we had evidence enough for us to understand them, I wouldn't expect man to have done so. Because without evidence, how could we have known that germ theory (if anybody had even conceived of such a thing) - and not miasma or "bad humors" - was a true and accurate representation of reality?

If we blindly follow the wrong theory out of some arbitrary decision, instead of whichever is the best one our current knowledge offers us, then we'd be in trouble. This is exactly how religious faith leads us astray, by artificially inflating our confidence in the myths we've chosen, while blinding us to a reality the complexity of which is often hard to parse initially, but is constantly being rendered in greater resolution by the magnifying glass of science (the use of which religion often objects to).

There's nothing - except the evidence we're able to collect and interpret - to tell us which among all possible paths is true. And that's what science does, performed correctly. It doesn't have faith, it doesn't have bias. Humans have these things, and they sometimes taint their experiments with it, but science itself remains pure. It evolves as our understanding evolves, and always reflects reality to the best of our ability to perceive and interpret it. Or else it isn't science, and it needs to be replaced by science.


Like, people claim a relationship between UFO activity and nuclear power, and you don't think that it might have something to do with splitting atoms and the ionization of the atmosphere? Even if it's a phenomenon we don't currently understand, it's a heck of a lot more plausible than immediately jumping to "extraterrestrial entities are monitoring the progress of our technology."

Also, like, of course the FBI, the CIA, and other national security agencies are going to be monitoring unexplained aerial phenomena. It's partly their job. That doesn't mean there's a conspiracy to cover up contact with an alien culture. But if they're dodgy about transparency, it's because much of what they do is confidential, and if they can't explain something, it's better to keep it under wraps. You don't want the people you're protecting thinking you can't do your job, and you don't want your enemies to know what your limitations are, either.

05 December, 2023

My Solipsistic Nightmare

"Am I stranded on an island?
Or have I landed in paradise?"

- Paradise by Miley Cyrus

The list of social media sites I've voluntarily left keeps growing (who knew mainstream platforms like Reddit and Twitter were no less cesspools of immaturity than 4chan?), and the list of places that are left, for me to interact with people and express my ideas in a way that helps me feel like I'm not living in a solipsistic nightmare, continue to dwindle. Under normal circumstances, this would be the point where I would question whether the problem is me. Am I a toxic human being? But isn't that an overly harsh assessment? I know I have some pretty serious personality flaws, but I've spent my whole life working on them. And while I can be very judgmental of people (I believe this is a symptom of my OCD and perfectionism - I hold myself to impossibly high standards, and it bothers me when other people fail to do the same), above all I want to be liked, and I strive very hard to be diplomatic in terms of seeing different sides of an argument.

It's kind of funny, the phrase I used above - 'solipsistic nightmare'. In philosophy, solipsism refers to the belief that you are essentially the only conscious being in the world, and everyone else is a figment of your imagination. It's a fascinating concept, but a potentially dangerous belief. I more commonly like to use it symbolically, to refer to a world where you're effectively alone - there just isn't anybody else around. Like a post-apocalypse where you're the only survivor. Obviously, this isn't a technically accurate description of reality - all you have to do to disabuse yourself of that notion is look at the people all around you. But emotionally, there are times in a person's life where they really do feel alone, even if they're surrounded by people. Like how you can sometimes feel "alone in a crowd". This is especially true in the internet world of broadcast platforms and the interminable quest for likes, and exponentially moreso if you've ever had the subtly traumatic experience of being shadow-banned.

The reason I think it's funny that I've described solipsism as a nightmare, is that as a sufferer of crippling social anxiety, I can empathize to a certain extent with Sartre's claim that "hell is other people". I usually consider being alone to be my own personal form of paradise. It's not that I hate people, it's just that social interactions cause me existential pain. And the most direct escape from that pain is to be detached from other people. (Not exactly the Hedgehog's Dilemma - where you avoid opening up to people in order to prevent getting hurt - but very similar). I learned long ago that whenever I talk to people, I tend to frame my responses in a way that's optimized toward ending the conversation. In the back of my mind, I'm thinking "this is a stressful experience and I want to end it quickly." It's instinctual; I don't do it consciously. It happens even when I don't WANT it to happen.

"I've been one poor correspondent;
I've been too, too hard to find;
but it doesn't mean you ain't been on my mind."

- Sister Golden hair by America

So I have a complex whereby I've convinced myself that I don't deserve to have other people in my life. Because I'm not a good friend. I don't correspond, I don't stay in touch - honestly, I dread doing those things because they legitimately terrify me. And if that's the cost of not being alone, I'm not even sure it's worth it. The problem is - and this is something I've learned over the years - I can never be truly happy alone. It's stupidly obvious when other people say it, but in my case, it's no less true than it sounds counterintuitive to me. Although living alone in a post-apocalyptic wasteland sounds like heaven in my head, I know I would hate it. Because even sitting in my room by myself, I find that I crave interaction with other conscious minds. I just mostly can't stand getting it...

So I'm in a bind. I can either be lonely and comfortable, or I can be stimulated and stressed. And I know social media isn't the greatest place to be social - but you have to also consider my handicap. I can't talk to people. Maybe I could learn, if I had the right training - but I haven't a clue how to go about getting that. I talked to a therapist once and we both agreed that I would benefit from in situ therapy, but it simply wasn't a service he was able to offer. You have to realize, the only reason I can express myself to the extent that I do now, is because I've trained myself through relatively low-risk online interactions. Being face-to-face with someone, hearing the sound of their voice - these are triggers that turn me into jelly. It's not even a reaction I choose out of fear; my brain literally functions differently in the presence of other people (I mean, I don't have scientific proof of this, but I'm confident that I could get it if the right experiments were performed). I used to be scared even to post a text reply on a crowded message board, but I've gotten over that, through years of experience.

One thing that's stuck with me, though, is that I am incredibly sensitive. I'm not proud of it - although it does, ironically, help me to empathize with other people. I know how much it hurts to be in emotional pain, therefore it's something I hate to think of causing other people, and when I see it being inflicted on someone by a third party, I feel sympathetic, even sometimes when the assault is justified and the victim "deserves" it. For example, #cancelculture and toxic Twitter. Yes, people should be held accountable for their behaviors as well as their opinions (just because you're entitled to have one doesn't mean I have to respect what it is). But there are a LOT of people being bullied online without justification (not any real one, anyway). But even the people who DO deserve it, I feel like the punishment is often cruel and unusual. And it just creates this "shoot first" culture that glorifies abuse and harassment and creates far too much collateral damage, where words are habitually taken out of context, and innocent people are tarred and feathered merely by guilt of assocation (or for committing the crime of "non-condemnation" - which is the rational approach to a situation you don't possess sufficient knowledge of).

"The time is gone, the song is over;
thought I'd something more to say."

- Time by Pink Floyd

You know what? This is getting a bit long, and I don't feel like talking about how much it hurts when rude people say mean things on the internet right now, so I'm just gonna end it here. I may or may not continue it later. And if you couldn't be bothered to read even this much because there are more than three sentences to a paragraph, and the paragraphs all exceed Twitter's 288 character limit, well then... I have no words for you.

19 November, 2023


I'm humble enough to admit that I don't understand NFTs - neither how they work nor even what they are (consider the part in the video about "deliberate obfuscation" - 8:36-9:12). But I'm open-minded enough to have given them the benefit of the doubt, while networking with artists on Twitter. And I'm future-minded enough to buy (although not literally) into the promise of change, because the system we've got right now - it's not working.

But I'm also not dumb, and I can tell you that NFTs have never passed my own personal sniff test, and they're not something I ever felt compelled to mess with. I also just watched the Wolf of Wall Street, so the idea that people can make millions of dollars scamming the gullible and the diseased (i.e., suffering from gambling addiction) by selling the IDEA of something that is in fact worthless - well, that's real.

It's also a poetic irony that the artists I was networking with on Twitter sold this shimmering idea of an artist's retreat where creatives would meet and collaborate, and it seemed like it could be the first time I'd ever have any real world contact with another human being involved in the controversial niche I've dedicated my life to - nude photography. So much so, that I canceled my summer vacation plans (this was two summers ago) to leave my schedule open, and then in the weeks leading up to the trip, the retreat evaporated into thin air with barely a mention. At that point, the community organically dissolved. The artists are still out there, but the camaraderie I thought we had simply vanished.

I think it's valuable to cultivate the ability to consider both sides of any issue (and if there are any issues I sound one-sided on, then you need to think long and hard about why that is). I get why people WANT to believe in NFTs. Aside from the "get rich quick" scheme which is never anything more than a scam, I heard a lot of talk about decentralization, and taking power out of the hands of the establishment. But seduction is a form of manipulation. It doesn't mean the ideals are flawed. But you have to be careful that you're not being strung along - and for who's benefit? Not your own.

So I also feel gratified listening to what sounds like a competent takedown of the whole phenomenon. I'm hesitant to sign onto anything that could be labeled close-minded or regressive. But what can you say about a concept that literally nobody is able to explain in a way that's simple and makes intuitive sense? It's almost humorous - if it weren't so alarming - how common the mantra "I don't really understand NFTs, I just want to get in on the ground floor" was among the artists I interacted with.

For better or worse, when I don't really understand something, I try to keep an open mind, but I'll take a step back and lurk more. Do my research. Maybe that approach isn't really better - I'm fairly risk-averse, and I will never be successful because in order to reach the top you have to take a leap of faith that will lead nine out of ten people into the gutter. But caution and rational examination of a situation - these are useful skills, too. They could even save your life someday.

07 November, 2023

Chains and Things

I'm not superstitious as you know, but in a lifetime, your mind is bound to wander. I'd just as soon curse God for the handicap I was born with, than view it as if it serves some greater purpose. The important point there is that it's a matter of perspective. Whether I'd be happier believing in a divine purpose isn't evidence for God, it's just psychology. And what if I simply don't have enough of an impaired conscience for that kind of self-deception? Do I then deserve to suffer?

Even if there WERE a God and hardship served a valuable purpose, more good could be accomplished in a two-way relationship with this all-powerful being, instead of one-way devotion to a negligent and absentee guardian, whose divine bounty depends on the uncharacteristically petty demand for blind faith without acknowledgement.

I don't pray, and I don't go to church, but if you don't think I've spent most of my life aching for a God-like being (that doesn't exist - because I would know if He did) to guide me and console me, then you're being offensively ignorant of my circumstances (but no surprise there). It's not *really* God I have a quarrel with, because God is just a fictional character invented by man. It's the men who follow God that I truly can't stand.

Anyway, that was a bit of a digression. I've considered many times whether my handicap is an obstacle I was meant to overcome - one that's supposed to make me stronger, or perhaps more sensitive - or if it's a kind of restraint holding me back from going on a rampage through this life. I often wonder what I might have accomplished if my situation had been different.

Maybe it's egotistical to think things would be significantly different. Maybe I'd just be a little bit happier, living a normal life, raising a family, working a decent job. But I am ambitious. I'm not ruthless, but I'm not lazy, either. I want. When Kramer asks George, "do you ever yearn?" - that's me. I just wish I wasn't held back by forces that - and I hate to admit this, but it is demonstrably true - are even stronger than the limitless reach of my desires. What's the point? Why was I born into these psychic chains?

But in reality, there is no meaning. No purpose. Other than what we invent for ourselves. The universe doesn't care if we live or die. All that we have and ever will accomplish will one day be dust in the wind. And a few millenia after that there won't even be dust or wind because the planet will be gone. All life will be gone. There may be other life at some point. In the vast expanse of time and space, there might even be separate sources of life that meet.

Or there might not. Regardless, nothing is eternal. The only thing that matters is the here and now - which, in a cosmic sense, extends beyond any one person's lifetime. There's no sense in squandering the limited resources we have, and accelerating ourselves toward our inevitable end. Our existence may be a tiny blip on the scale of time, but it's all we have.

The universe is a harsh and apathetic arena. Pain is inescapable. We should bless the fact that we are able to experience joy and pleasure - and we should not overextend ourselves to create further suffering over that fact. The void of space doesn't care which dog eats which dog, because all dogs will be consumed by it in the end. Why should we not, then, strive to create a puppy paradise in the interim?

If killing you would make me happier, and I had the power to do it, who's to say what would happen? The disadvantaged stand intrinsically upon higher moral ground, simply because they have not been exposed to the corrupting influence of power. We would all like to believe that we'd have the restraint to put the One Ring down, but I think it's better for our conscience if none of us were ever confronted by that choice.

Democracy is ideologically equivalent to socialism. There is no such thing as equality so long as power imbalances persist. The only good ruler is the one who doesn't want the crown - and such a ruler would hand the crown off at the first chance, likely to one of the many clamoring to wield the power it represents. I think about all of these things when I think about my chains. But it doesn't get me any closer to a resolution.