Mad Teddy's website: ...and so this is Christmas...

Mad Teddy's web-pages


(This page added on Sunday, 21st December 2008)


"...and what have we done...?"


What indeed. It's been a pretty momentous year one way and another, hasn't it? - and not always in ways which necessarily make us feel more comfortable about our world and our place in it.

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UPDATE, Saturday, 10th December 2011

I'm sorry, but I'm going to interrupt the normal flow of proceedings at this point. There is something I need to say right here, before going on - so please bear with me.

When I first found out, about three years ago, that my old Windows 98 computer could play YouTube videos, I happily began to put links to various music videos within my pages as appropriate. The link which appeared above was to a delightful version of John and Yoko's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" which, as I seem to recall, featured a simple and delightful picture of a young lady in thoughtful mood as the backdrop.

Well, over the last several months, I've noticed that that video - along with several other videos featuring music released by a certain music company - have been "pulled", in some parts of the world at least - apparently for reasons associated with copyright.

Okay - fair enough. No doubt there is a perfectly legal right for these people to behave this way, if that's what they see as the proper thing to do. I'm not challenging that. I'm a great believer in making a fair income from ones intellectual property. (Please note that I'm not being sarcastic here; I do indeed own intellectual property in some of my inventions, which - thus far at least - have not made me any serious income. I'm still hoping...)

I just think it's really sad that - after 30 or 40 years, when some of these great songs have become so much part of our culture, and the corporations have done very well financially out of them over that long period - some people can't see it as in their interests to allow humanity at large the right to simply enjoy the songs without their having to earn a dollar every single time they get an airing.

This somewhat fraught video, showing (as it does) scenes of war atrocities, is the only one I can find at the moment which features John and Yoko's original version of "Happy Christmas..." (I wonder how long that link will survive?) - and, of course, with the festive season upon us, no doubt some people will consider it to be in "bad taste" to call attention to the fact that out world is still run by greed, arrogance, and abuse of people's human rights. Well, TOUGH!!! I suspect that John and Yoko wouldn't have a problem with it; after all, the song was originally intended as an anti-war song - and wars (and other horrors) continue, as we all know very well. So the song is still prefectly appropriate in that sense - even if it makes us uncomfortable to be reminded of the fact at Christmas.

In spite of everything, I'd like to wish a Merry Christmas to the men in suits who make these momentous decisions - and hope that they might someday just possibly come to see that there are more important things in this world than simply making a buck at each and every opportunity, and thus obtain something for themselves that might reasonably be called a life.

A couple of days ago, in a Launceston "op-shop" I found (and bought) a copy of Poems 1972-2002 by Michael Leunig. I'd like to present just one of the poems (the fourth one in the book, actually) entitled "True Happiness":

How may a man measure his own happiness?
He must first go to his cupboard
and take out all his neckties.
Then he must lay them out on the ground
End to end.
Then he must measure the length of this
line of neckties,
And that measurement,
That distance,
Is exactly the same as his distance from
True happiness.

Rant over - for now! Back to my earlier discussion of the events of 2008...

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2008 started out as a year of dramatic change here in Australia. As I've already documented in my "new millenium" page, the year began with a new federal government making an official apology to the stolen generations of Aboriginal children and ratifying the Kyoto protocol on climate change, as well as beginning to address other issues which had become running sores under the previous administration.

Now, I don't want to get bogged down here going into a lot of detail about political issues. As mentioned in my "strange days indeed..." page, I have in mind to attend to that in an "e-report card" for the Rudd federal government, probably as soon as I finish this current page; and I don't want to steal my own thunder.

I don't really want to get too much into economics here, either, having had quite a bit to say about the subject in various pages within this website already - but, clearly, it can't be avoided altogether, precisely because that "dismal science" affects all of us profoundly, whether we like it or not.

What I'd like to do here is share something about myself and my motivations - to bare a bit of my soul, if you will. Nearly two and a half years after launching this site, the time has come to draw a few threads together.

Even as a little kid, I was fascinated by ideas. I can remember one bright, sunny day when, as a toddler, I was utterly intrigued by the fact that the sky was a deep blue, and wondered why. There was something of the scientist in me, even then.

In school, I was puzzled that most of my classmates found science boring - or, at least, not particularly interesting. Just another subject to pass, ho hum. Similarly for mathematics (more so, in fact).

To be sure, I wasn't totally alone. There were almost always one or two other kids in a given class who had that far-away look, and I could relate to such characters reasonably well.

But it was at university that I really felt in my element for the first time. Although I struggled academically (see my Mathematical stuff page for more detail), I absolutely loved the lifestyle. It was exciting to find oneself just one member of a quite large community of fellow weirdos!   

It was in 1968, my final year at high school, that I began to become politically aware. The Vietnam war was raging at the time; demonstrations against it were happening around the world, often at universities - and the mood was filtering down into the matriculation colleges and even the high schools. Of course, it all went hand-in-hand with the musical moods of the time - John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and others were singing for us all; and everybody was diggin' the blues, man. (Plenty of youngsters were into "substance abuse" too, but that was something which passed me by - fortunately. )

I can't pass up this opportunity to express my deep and profound admiration and gratitude for the many wonderful teachers we had in our high school and matric. college years. They trod a fine line between the necessity of being figures of authority, and quietly fostering our awareness of ourselves and our world. They taught us to think, and they taught us to feel. It's inadequate, but... thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Those were intense, heady years. In 1969, the first of my two years at matric. college (and, notably, the year of Woodstock, the Vietnam war moratorium demonstrations, and the first moon landing), it all became a bit much. By early 1970 I was looking for something steady to hang my life on - and it was in that year that I became what is now described by the hackneyed phrase "born-again Christian".

I found genuine meaning and stability as a young Christian, becoming actively engaged in church and fellowship life, right throughout my uni. years. I had found my anchor. However, life didn't necessarily suddenly become simple.

I found, to my increasing consternation, that my own views often clashed with those of other Christians, even beginning in 1970. For example, my own feelings about the horrors of war did not change; but some (many!) of my new circle of friends took issue with my utterances. For such people, "communism" was the big bugbear; it was anti-Christian and had to be crushed. From their perspective, the continuance of the war was justified.

Another example:

In the mid-seventies, before "the environment" had become anywhere near as big an issue as it is now, I expressed my concern about pollution. The view expressed by one of my Christian friends was along the lines: "Who cares? When Christ returns, He will cleanse the world. In the meantime, it's not our problem!"

Well, I begged to differ then, and I still do. It staggers me that there are still Christians who live in some kind of "right-wing fairyland" and who not only don't see themselves as being "of" the world, they don't even appear to see themselves as being "in" the world at all. In fact, from my perspective, such Christians - the "religious right" - now represent a very significant contributory factor to the problems which the world is currently facing, and which I am attempting to address via this website.

So, to repeat the line from John and Yoko's song "Happy Christmas (War is Over)":


“...What have we done?”


Well, in all fairness, we've done quite a bit. In Australia, just over a year ago (24th November), we threw out a federal government which viewed "the economy" as the only thing that mattered - until the business community actually began to understand, a couple of years ago, that our world really did seem headed for deep trouble as a result of a polluted atmosphere. Global temperatures were on the rise; and even the Howard government was forced to begin - reluctantly - to acknowledge the problem, if only because the "big end of town" was telling it that it had no choice but to do so. (Of course, there were other issues which led to the end of "Howard's Way" - most notably their abominable "Work Choices" legislation - but, one way or another, the government's number was finally up, and out it went.)

So we've made some changes down here in the land of Oz. Hopefully we'll continue to do so. What about elsewhere?

Across the Pacific, we've seen what can only be described as the beginning of the demise of the world's most recent empire. The current financial disaster, which is spreading around the planet like a cancer, got its start over there; and the good citizens of that country have finally risen up, and ditched their emperor and much of what he stands for. It will be very interesting to see how things develop over the coming months and years.


Just a little aside, if I may:

When I was a young kiddie, some time around 1960, there was a cheeky little poem doing the rounds. It went like this:


Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Jews,
Sold his wife for a pair of shoes.
When the shoes began to wear,
Nebuchadnezzar began to swear.


Of course, it's not really accurate from a historical point of view. Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon, not the Jews - or, at least, only insofar as he invaded Judæa and took many people to his own country (in present-day Iraq) as captives. (See this link for more information).

But recent events have prompted me to produce my own take on the poem:


George Dubya, the King of the Yanks,
Went to Iraq to receive their thanks.
When the shoes began to fly,
George Dubya refused to cry.


When Arlo Guthrie was touring Australia in 1984, he made a point of singing a song about an incident involving President Jimmy Carter. It seems that Mr. Carter was out fishing one day when he was dismayed to find a swimming, apparently very angry rabbit trying to climb into his boat. The incident was captured by a White House photographer; click here to read all about it and see the picture.

So what, you might very reasonably ask?

Precisely this: Arlo Guthrie made a point of mentioning, in his concerts, that real-life events like this are what history is really all about. It's not the political shenanigans that important people are remembered for, years and decades later, so much as the minutiæ of life that raise it above the humdrum, even if only briefly. - And, in the final analysis, perhaps that's not such a bad thing!

(If you'd like to see a video of Arlo and his backing group Shenandoah performing this truly momentous song, click here. Note that back then, in 1984, Arlo still had darkish hair. He's a white-haired old man now! That's how it goes; however, he's still got that magic touch - click here to see what I mean.)

So: Nebuchadnezzar had his trade-in; George Washington chopped down a cherry-tree; Jimmy Carter was scared by a bad-tempered rabbit; George W. Bush had a pair of size 10's thrown at him - and that's what makes the world go round, yeah?

Just one last observation about the Iraq incident:

After a US election, during the transfer period, the incumbent president is known, somewhat unfortunately, as a "lame-duck" president. Perhaps George Bush Jnr.'s main achievement will be to be remembered as the lame-duck president who wasn't too lame to duck a couple of smelly weapons of not-particularly mass destruction!   

I knew that something had to give, as far back as 2000, or even before. I really tried hard to think through what was going on in our world over several years, beginning around 1993; and by late 2000 I had written my song The Loan Sharks which summed up my thoughts thus far.

I didn't know exactly what would happen. I thought that the "third world" would in some way rise up in combined anger at the "first world"'s abusive behaviour, and that there may well be bloodshed on a massive scale. I wasn't too surprised when the 9/11 incident occurred about a year later.

However, it didn't really occur to me that the global economic system would self-destruct in quite so dramatic a fashion as it has done, over these past few months.

So what's my take on it all? Am I pleased that it's happened? Am I just an irresponsible lefty-radical type who jumps up and down in glee at the very real pain the world is going through, gloatingly yelling "I told you so!!!"?

Please - don't put words in my mouth. Do me the honour of allowing me to tell my own story in my own way. If it's necessary for me to make it a bit personal, I hope you won't feel the need to squirm too much.

It does affect me personally. I'm not a wealthy man; I know what it's like to be one of the "long-term unemployed". My last paid position ended, in less than totally happy circumstances, quite some time ago - and I haven't been successful in finding another. In spite of all the politically-correct talk at high levels about "equal opportunity", the fact remains that a bloke in his forties or fifties, down on his luck, does not find it easy to survive in what is increasingly a young person's world.

The superannuation which I'd previously accrued as a working person is in a managed fund, with some of it in property, some in shares, some in this, that, or the other thing. I've never liked the fact that any of it is in shares; and in the middle of this year (2008), the opportunity arose for me to make some changes, should I wish to do so. However, I didn't feel totally free to do exactly as I wished. For complicated personal reasons which I won't go into, I made an ethical decision to leave things as they were, rather than making the moral decision I would have much preferred, to take the other course of action.

- And so, of course, with the collapse of the stock market, I've lost quite a lot, just as many other people have done (perhaps including you?). I'd dearly love to just get all my super money out of shares right now; but of course if I do that, I "crystallize" the losses. So I'm stuck with it - and it really sticks in my throat.

What I will do, if the stock market ever recovers to anything like its previous level, is to then make the change, come what may, and thus have the dual benefit of getting the cash back and - at long last - feeling free of something which I totally despise and abhor. Frankly, I can't wait.

So don't accuse me of being a communist, or any other such nonsense. It's no fun being hard up. I'd like a normal life, just like anyone else. (In fact, for the last year and a bit, I've had my own company, which - I hope - will get me some serious income in the hopefully not-too-distant future - but it hasn't happened yet. Wish me well...)

Okay. So having said all that, am I pleased that the global economic system is crumbling to pieces?

Yes, frankly, I am! It was inevitable that it had to happen, eventually. I'd rather it happens now, rather than later, in the hope that I may live long enough to see the garbage-economics we've endured for so long finally rejected, and something far better put in its place. I'd like to die knowing that my children, grandchildren, and any further descendants are going to have a far better system to serve their practical needs than the absolute crap our generation has had to put up with.

Clearly, it's going to be tough for everyone, you and me included. It's just a case of getting used to the idea. If the world really does learn a long-overdue lesson from the train-wreck, it will have been worth it. Even more to the point, though, is the fact that - at the end of the day - it's only money.

Time out; let's refocus. What was this page supposed to be about? Oh yes, that's right - it's about Christmas, isn't it?


Credit where it's due. During the Commodore 64 years, I was a frequent reader of "Ahoy!"
magazine, which often featured an art gallery of C64 graphics sent in by readers. In the
December 1987 issue, one of the featured images, by Canadian reader Robert M. Ellis, was
of Santa driving his sleigh in front of the full moon. I liked the pic, and produced something
very similar on my own C64 - and later put together a PC version, which you see above.

So - what is Christmas all about?

Family get-togethers? Presents? "Happy holidays"? Santa? Even South Park's Mr. Hanky, perhaps?

Lots of stress? Ultra-commercialism? Going into debt to pay for it all?

What's it really all about?

It's about the birth, some 2,000 years ago, of a baby who grew up to be a young man who, in his prime, would spend about three years teaching, leading, showing the way to a better world. A man who befriended the dregs of society, as seen by the "decent" people of his time. He associated with prostitutes, tax-collectors, even the hated soldiers of the Roman occupation - and he made a BIG stink by very publicly taking to task the religious leaders, not to mention the temple money-changers. But most importantly, he came to pay a huge debt.

A debt that was about life and death; and a debt that had nothing whatsoever to do with money.

How do you visualize heaven?

Do you see it as some kind of idyllic garden, with beautifully-manicured green lawns, tinkling fountains, and fluffy clouds in which angels blow trumpets and pluck harps? Perhaps with a Disneyland-style shining city in the middle distance, with a lovely big rainbow over it? - and when you get into that city, do you envisage that the streets will be paved with real, literal, gold (element number 79 in the periodic table)?

I dunno. Sounds pretty boring to me!

If you've visited my Humpty Dumpty Book page, you've probably seen this graphic - one of my early attempts to produce a bit of artwork on my C64:

It came from somewhere deep down inside me. It seems to have elements of all sorts of religious symbolism all mixed up together; I like to think there's something mystical about it. I imagine people inside those buildings coming together to think - to debate, to throw ideas around, to engage in a bit of intellectual banter. Perhaps, over in a corner somewhere, there may be a couple of nerds enjoying a game of hyperspatial chess. (Use your imagination! Do a Google search on the word "tesseract", and let your mind play around with what you find! UPDATE, Thursday, 7-8-2014: I've just found a really neat web-page which features some excellent animated gif's showing how various things "work", including zippers, sewing machines, Wankel engines, and constant velocity joints. Fantastic stuff... but the one I'd really like you to have a look at, right now, is an animation of a "four-dimensional cube" - that's right, a tesseract. Go on - have a look, and be freaked out; and then see if you can think of a way to visualize playing chess on a thing like that... )


UPDATE, Monday, 20-10-2014

Well! Just today I've found that there is in fact at least one version of four-dimensional chess in existence - in fact, the one I've found was invented in the 20th Century (not sure exactly when).

Interested? You might like to check out these links:

http://www.chessvariants.org/parton/Cubism.txt

http://chessvariants.wikidot.com/hype:a-study-in-bs

http://chessvariants.wikidot.com/hyperchess

http://zillionsofgames.com/zilligames/pics/submissions/game1033_scr_Hyperchess.gif

I'll say no more about it here - over to you! Back to what I was saying about my quirky little picture, above, and some of my thoughts about what it might mean:


I suppose that, in some ways, it harks back to the "coffee-shop" atmosphere I remember from my bitter-sweet time as a university student, a third of a century ago.

Is it heaven? Probably not; but I venture to suggest that, to someone like me, it's a lot more exciting than the admittedly corny scenario I painted a few paragraphs back.

In the sky, over to the right, there's that stupid banana-shaped moon (I probably could have made a much better job of that if I'd tried a bit harder ). Also, there are quite a few single-pixel stars, whose coordinates were generated by the C64's pseudo-random number generator, giving a different result every time I ran the program.

But also in the sky, seeming to cast a radiant glow over the whole strangely comforting scene, is that big, shiny star.

That's Christmas.


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UPDATE, Tuesday 23rd December: With only a couple of sleeps to go before Christmas Day, I've been working fairly hard today to get a little extra feature ready to upload to this page. Have a look at this:


That's a reduced screen-shot from a program which was part of an "e-Christmas card" I unleashed on my colleagues at my last work-place in late 1995. While we're on the subject of stars in the east, the heavenly host, trumpets and what-have-you, I thought you might be interested to run my little program yourself. You can right-click here if you'd like to download it. It's a compiled DOS BASIC program, so it runs in a 640×480-pixel screen. (Usual warnings about possible viruses etc. apply, of course.) Enjoy!


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I'll tell you one thing about heaven. If I find that there's anything there remotely resembling money, a stock market, or an "economy", I won't be hanging around. I'll be out of there so fast, you won't see me for dust.

I know there has to be a monetary system, an economy, even (God help us) a stock market, perhaps - in this world, at least. I've already acknowledged this in my All that glisters page (toward the bottom).

I'm glad that the world does seem to be at least starting to wake up from the money-induced coma. German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück, quoted by Mike Whitney in his Global Research article The New American Century; Cut short by 92 years, said in Germany's Parliament:


The long-term consequences of the crisis are not clear. But one thing seems likely to me: the USA will lose its superpower status in the global financial system. The world financial system is becoming multipolar.


Is he right? I hope so!

So where does that leave us? Assuming that something worthwhile will eventually come of the financial mess, what sort of a world will we be left with?

Suppose we do succeed in constructing a new financial system which has the potential to be society's servant, instead of its master. All well and good; but what will be the point if our planet is so badly damaged that it can't sustain us? Having a viable living space is even more important than having a properly functioning economy! To see it the other way around is to put the cart before the horse.

Sorry about this - I'm going to be silly for a moment. The last sentence in the last paragraph reminds me of a riddle I heard a while back: "What's the difference between a cavalry horse and a draught-horse?" Well, a cavalry horse darts into the fray, and a draught-horse... (fill in the blanks yourself).

I venture to suggest that we have a golden opportunity, right now, to get the issue of global warming onto the table and dealt with in a way which actually addresses it from a "let's fix it" perspective. With a world which is starting to wake up and use its collective head, there's no time like the present to try to get our leaders - political, financial, and scientific - to start to give some serious consideration to practical, technical solutions, using whatever money may be available in as effective a way as possible. On the other hand, if we let this chance slip away, old ideas will simply remain entrenched and become even more so. There's no time like the present - but we need to act fast if we are to get a good result.

Politicians like to address these issues in monetary terms. They seem to think that such things as carbon credits will somehow magically make the problem go away; that financial carrots and sticks are enough to get people to do the "right thing".

However, experience now shows that this sort of thinking doesn't work. It's all too much like allowing "market forces" to sort out the problems. But now, even Alan Greenspan admits that he was wrong on that score. Can we really rely on thinking which has failed so miserably in the financial world to have any chance of fixing a scientific problem? I don't think so!

There are new technologies which look set to help, right now, if they are given some incentive. New solar cell technology, other ways of harnessing the sun's energy by large fields of reflecting/focusing mirrors, hot-rock technology (the "heatsinking" described by Isaac Asimov in "Forward the Foundation"), harnessing wave power - all of them, and other new methods, are worth a serious look.

Also, of course, there's the exciting prospect of harnessing zero-point energy, about which I've had a lot to say already in this website - and there will be more, quite soon. I'm one of an internet-based community of people around the planet who are trying as hard as they can to come up with working models, with which they hope to prove to the world that it's not nonsense.

I don't want to say a lot more about this here, in this page, which has already grown quite long and addressed a number of issues. Let's not muddy the waters. For now, I'll just give you a teaser. Here's a photograph of my first working model, which is not "over-unity" but which does seem to hold the promise of exciting things to come. I built it two or three months ago. It's a little motor whose rotating element features four small, pill-size neodymium (rare-earth) magnets, and which rotates at a very respectable speed even on an old, sick nine-volt battery (even one which is down to about seven volts):

Go ahead - laugh if you like! It does look comical (deliberately so, I might add). But it illustrates a principle quite well. When you've picked yourself up off the floor, click here to see where this thing draws its inspiration from - and then, get involved and build one yourself! Something to keep you out of mischief during the Christmas break.

Let's wind this up. (If you've still got a bit of last-minute Christmas shopping to do, far be it from me to hold you up.)

One thing I'd really like to do, before finishing, is to draw attention - again - to the plight of Schapelle Corby, who is currently languishing in a Bali jail, having been convicted of drug-smuggling a few years ago, but whose case raises lots of burning issues about natural justice. There's been a page in this website dedicated to her case since I launched the site in July 2006. I've recently updated it with more up-to-date information. If Christmas isn't about mercy and justice, what is it about? Please, click here to read that page - and perhaps consider getting involved.

                      Finally:

I've taken John Lennon and Yoko Ono's song, "Happy Christmas (War is Over)", as an inspiration for this page. John and Yoko's original version, in 6/8 time, is intense - even a bit "fraught"-sounding, in common with so much of John's work. There are other versions of the song around, which take a slightly different approach - although there will always be that "edge", simply because of the nature of the song and the character of its writer.

This picture added Friday, 21st January 2011 (I bought the T-shirt only this morning!   )

<=        Fine print says: "IF YOU WANT IT"

One other version of the song which I like is that by Celine Dion. It's in 4/4 time, and has a different mood as a result. There's a lovely YouTube video to watch while you listen to the song; click here.

Really finally:

The following graphic, which I composed on my old Commodore 64 many years ago, has also featured previously in my Humpty Dumpty Book page. If you'll permit me to say so, I think it's good enough to warrant another airing here, because I think it captures the joy, and the pain, of Christmas as well as anything I've ever seen!

A very Merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year.
Let's hope it's a good one,
Without any fear...

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