Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Friday, January 30, 2009

A Pack of Cards, A Moiety of Trolls, and Thou

Here is a brief post from a blog called The Baheyeldin Dynasty by Khalid...

Symbolism in Lewis Carroll's 'Trial of the Knave and The Queen of Hearts'

Submitted by Khalid on Mon, 2004/12/27 - 17:18

In Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll always made thinly masked critiques of the Victorian age he was living in. Once such criticism is the Knave's trial and the Queen of Hearts attitude: sham trials with guilt being pre-determined.

The Knave of Hearts is accused of allegedly stealing the Queen of Hearts' tarts, where in fact it was Alice who did so. The Queen of Hearts had made up her mind and wanted the Knave to be beheaded.

A trial is set, but it is only a sham trial. Those in power have pre-determined the outcome, and only having the trial to pretend that justice is being done.

Here is how the dialog goes, from Chapter 12:

'Let the jury consider their verdict,' the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

'No, no!' said the Queen. 'Sentence first - verdict afterwards.

'Stuff and nonsense!' said Alice loudly. 'The idea of having the sentence first!'

'Hold your tongue!' said the Queen, turning purple.
'I won't!' said Alice.

'Off with her head!' the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.
As you can see, the Queen wants "sentence first, verdict afterwards!".

Alice protests loudly, but the Queen now turns on her, and wants those who voice opposition and tell the truth to be the ones who are to be punished.

That memorable passage, from the closing chapter of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, is the last straw for Alice. She throws up her hands and exclaims, "Who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards!" (whereupon the whole pack rises up in outrage and comes flying down upon Alice).

The lesson, I imagine, is that it's rather pointless to extend one's empathy and concern to such shallow and unredemptive characters.

It's a conundrum that reprises itself in teh intarwebs when dealing with similarly unredemptive trollish characters who do not respond to good faith expressions of concern and guidance.

One longs for an I/Thou Relationship with authentic souls whose lives are changed for the better as a result of a chance online encounter. Alas it doesn't always have a happy ending. Like Alice, one just receives a rude awakening at the end of a Kafkaesque nightmare, wondering what the devil went haywire.

Some insights and epiphanies will just have to wait for a more auspicious day.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Wikipedia Fundraiser

Title: I Need The Dough
Artist: Jimbo Wales
Composer: Marc Anthony, Cory Rooney, and Barsoom Tork Associates
Midi: I Need To Know
YouTube: I Need To Know (Marc Anthony Music Video)

They say around the way you've asked for cash
There's even talk about you wanting ads
I must admit that's what I want to hear
But that's just talk until you cut my share - oh

If it's true don't leave me all alone out here
Wondering if you're ever gonna make me spare
Tell me what you're pitching cause I need the dough
Sue you've gotta let me know which way to go

Cause I need the dough
I need the dough
Tell me Tatoo Sue cause I need the dough
I need the dough
I need the dough
Tell me Saucy Sue cause I need the dough

My every thought is of Wiki being broke
It's getting harder not to become a joke
Sue I'm exactly where I wanna be
The only thing is I need you bear with me - oh

If it's true don't leave me all alone out west
Wondering if you're ever gonna make me rest
Tell me what you're feeling cause I need the dough
Sue you've gotta let me know which way to go

Cause I need the dough
I need the dough
Tell me Sexy Sue cause I need the dough
I need the dough
I need the dough
Tell me Saucy Sue cause I need the dough

CopyClef 2008 Marc Anthony, Cory Rooney, and Barsoom Tork Associates.
Resurrection Hackware. All expenses reimbursed.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Rules, Games, and Dramas

For thousands of years, monarchs, politicians, and organizational managers have sought to construct the ideal set of rules so as to achieve an orderly, stable, well-regulated system. This notion is subsumed under the popular meme, Law and Order.

Rules are also used to define games. Most games (think of Chess, Checkers, or Go) have very few rules which are easy to learn, easy to remember, and easy to abide by.

Given a set of rules which define a game, there is a branch of applied mathematics called Game Theory which studies the optimal strategy for playing any given game.

Some years ago, there was a movie called Colossus: The Forbin Project that revolved around a computer simulation game called Global Thermonuclear War. That cinematic parable, drawn from a key insight in Game Theory, was followed by a similar thriller called War Games.

For the past decade, one of the most popular franchises on American television has been NBC's Law and Order. The endless syndicated reruns can be watched almost any night on the TNT Cable Channel, where the advertising slogan is "We Know Drama."

The point of all this, of course, is to note that rule-driven systems are not inherently orderly, stable, and predictable. Rather they are the recipe for games and dramas. Mathematicians have known for over a century that rule-driven systems are mathematically chaotic. Within the broad scope of Chaos Theory, the branches subsuming Game Theory and Drama Theory are probably of most interest to the general public, who lap up games and dramas along with copious amounts of beer and popcorn.

Now mathematicians will tell you that it's also possible to design orderly, stable, predictable, and well-behaved systems, if that's what you really want. But the solution is not to be found in any set of rules. Rather, if one wants a highly functional system that operates gracefully and with minimum of suspenseful drama, one must evolve beyond mere rules and embrace the subtle mathematics of functions.

This is not likely to happen in my lifetime. At least not among Homo Schleppians, most of whom are hopelessly math-impaired.

If I were running Wikipedia, I'd go with a set of rules that intentionally maximized the dramaturgy. It's clear that Wikipedians crave heart-pounding, knuckle-biting psychodrama, and they might as well admit that and design their system to become the premier site for live-action post-modern scandal-ridden theater of the absurd.