15 December 2005

Last night's (December 14) The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.

Dismissing Jim was a no-brainer. I think that dye had already been cast even before the interviews, where I must say Jim was more nonsensical then usual. The editors made some decisions that also cast some doubt on both Dawna and Bethany’s answers in the interviews. “How do you see the Martha brand?” was one of the questions, which is a no-brainer. A soft-pitch. Bethany then says, “I don’t know.” How ridiculous was that? Fortunately, there is one more competition and the interviews alone do not decide it, as Dawna might have been the hire.

I am baffled by Bethany’s choice of teammates. Jim and Ryan made perfect sense to me. Ryan was always correct until the last task, and even then he might have been bang on correct had Song Airlines made a different demographic the targets. Jim does beautiful work it is only when he has to interact with others that his value becomes suspect. Carrie is forgettable. So much so, that I do not remember a thing about her. Leslie, however, is a wonderful salesperson and she would have been my third choice. Leslie also strikes me as professional enough, or is it caring enough about her reputation and her portrayal on national television, that she would not hold a grudge. Carrie is neither professional nor concerned about being petty: it seems the definition of petty is characterized best by Carrie, not caring about how she is perceived instead opting to act out on a grudge. So, Bethany may be ruined by her poor hiring choice. But I think Carrie gave her a way out. When asked about the conflict in the car, Bethany should have immediately realized what was happening and fired Carrie. That would signal a level of professionalism to Martha that is normally hard to come by, especially in an interview format such as this. It would also provide a buffer for a close loss to Dawna. Bethany could then claim some staff troubles and also claim that she took some action, unfortunately not soon enough. The best candidate is not always the one that has the victory but the one that performs best, and firing Carrie might win some Martha points.
I am beginning to think Iranian President Ahmadinejad is being quite brilliant with his campaign against Israel. Please note that brilliance is not always accurate. It seems by ratcheting up the bellicose impression of Iran that is held in the West actually helps Iranian goals. In this current geopolitical climate there is no risk of an invasion against Iran. So, Ahmadinejad knows that if the West fears Iranian nuclear developments they will not result to a military option leaving only a diplomatic solution. In order to gain more concessions from the West he is making the Iranian threat as large as possible. See also the new Iranian action which solicits American contractors to help build nuclear facilities. This helps point the way to Ahmadinejad’s goal, nuclear power and the cheap power which fuels economic growth. Western concessions are also key to achieving this goal, as the nations can send the technology to Iran in an effort to maintain some control and surveillance over illicit reactors that could also be used for nuclear developments.

07 December 2005

The critics are for once unanimous and correct: Aeon Flux is a bad movie.

Besides the problems elaborated by the critics, there is a larger problem with the story and one that hits closer to home. Cloning is not bad, at least not for the reasons argued. The movie is a polemic against cloning, which is weird: MTV doing a movie that has at its core a message the Republican Party has at its core (does this answer the ‘liberal biased media’ hypothesis?: a Nader-esque answer that the disputants are both so conservative that any disagreement is really whitewashing?)

Conservatives and MTV think when a person is cloned, there is something else that transfers into the younger besides the elder’s genetics. This something is the X Factor, which some will call soul and others consciousness. In this movie the X Factor is manifest in dreams of previous incarnations and an accelerating unraveling of reality because those dreams are becoming worse.

This is nonsensical. Dreams spring from the brain and the changes that occur to the brain over a person’s life and not from a wellspring of data in the brain at birth. Dreams are the effect of environment and not of genetics. If dreams were genetic then they would be common to a species and not a specific DNA pattern, at which point they would not pose a threat to people. Dreams are material, the soul is not. What makes the soul so special is its immateriality, which then begs the question of how a copy of genes can also replicate a soul? A genetic copy could co-exist with its parent and they would still be unique individuals. They would have different ages, different memories, different experiences and even different souls. If the soul is so special and powerful and immortal then how can it be effected by mere mortals?

But there is a larger issue with this cloning problem. If it is true that cloning can capture the soul then that is exactly what makes cloning inevitable. The main villain of the movie shows that he wants to preserve the cloning procedure precisely because of its ability to capture the X Factor. The preciousness of the X Factor makes people want to capture that power. So, either way we have it, cloning will happen, either because it does reproduce the X Factor or because it does not reproduce the X Factor.

Once we come to a realization that cloning is inevitable then we can move beyond this debate and instead figure ways to make cloning safer and more ethical in its treatments of others.