Friday, October 30, 2009

Uncanny Valley Effect - or Why You Might Hate Gays

One of the more interesting theories out there in regards to robotics is called the Uncanny Valley Effect (UVE). It holds that our perception of a robot becomes more and more positive until it hits a certain level of almost human likeness at which point that positive response turns into repulsion, until it finally improves to a totally human look at which point the positive response returns.

There are a number of thoughts behind why this is, but one of them is that at a certain point the robot looks human enough that we stop judging it AS a robot and start judging it as a human. At that point it strikes us as wrong, because it is NOT QUITE human, and we are repulsed because it is a natural reaction to humans who are either diseased or have genetic defects that make them unfit mates.

What struck me the other day is that I think this may tie somewhat into why people hate certain groups of people so violently.

Take gays for instance and the recent battle over gay marriage in California.

Now a typical response to something that you don't care for is relatively mild. Say your best friend loves asparagus and you hate it. They say, "I love asparagus," and your reasonable response is, "Ugh, I hate that shit, but you enjoy yourself!" Obviously another person loving asparagus doesn't take anything away from you, so why should you get upset, even though you find it personally distasteful.

Now suppose a gay friend says, "I love sucking dick." A reasonable heterosexual response, even one repulsed by the idea of men sucking men's dicks, would be along the lines of, "Yuck, I hate the idea of a dude sucking a dick, but you enjoy yourself!" After all, a man loving the taste of some dick on his tongue doesn't take anything away from you.

But that's not how people react. They react as though this thing they don't like is a disease. Something negative and infectious that will spread and destroy what they love. They act as though homosexuality, for this particular example, DOES take something away from them. And so they actively fight it.

The vigor they put into the battle against gay marriage becomes the same sort of energy they would use to fight the idea that people carrying smallpox is normal and healthy.

So what is the explanation for why people would look at homosexuality as a pathogen. It certainly doesn't make any logical sense. It's neither infectious, nor can it be passed on through traditional mating. The answer may be in the Uncanny Valley Effect.

Stereotypes by their nature paint a certain group as less than human. Just like a robot is less than human. And to a point stereotypes can be useful in that we cannot know every person in the world, so having some way to quickly judge the outlook and culture of a group of people helps us to organize a very big world. But as we apply those stereotypes more specifically to a person, instead of keeping them as a broad stroke way to know a group, we begin to merge the depersonalization of a stereotype with the personalization of interacting with an individual human.

It is at this point that the Uncanny Valley Effect could apply, for we begin to have the same repulsion that we have for a robot that looks almost human, but not human enough. We recognize an individual member of a stereotyped group in the same way - almost human, but not human enough. The repulsion then becomes attached to the stereotype and it could be argued leads to the desire to fight the spread of this "type" of person.

In seeing the group as less than human because of a stereotype, our one theory behind the reason for UVE discussed above, a disease model, would indicate that we start to see that stereotype as a pathological model.

So a group that views homosexuality as distasteful because of religious, cultural, or societal upbringing, finds itself repulsed and warps a simple disinterest in, or distaste for something, into a need to end it and label it as wrong.

If this is the case, the basic model can be applied to many cultural issues, as this is likely why there remain problems with racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc. In every case, an other is judged as almost, but not quite human. And when the UVE takes hold, fear and anger lead to hatred and violence. A desire to end that other.

Treating it not like asparagus, but cancer.

Probably only through further personalization can this be ended, forcing the disapproving party to see the stereotype they hate as a real person through specific interaction. Not a particularly realistic solution, but certainly a path worth exploring for those who wish to actively supersede their prejudices.

Baring that, since it is an emotional, not logical reaction, there's no real use trying to argue someone out of their UVE induced hate. The focus should then be on educating others, and illuminating the illogical hate and fear in arguments against a particular group instead of pretending that both sides are presenting equally valid arguments.

When it comes to stereotype driven perspectives, especially in regards to law, it's like one side believes the sky is blue, and the other believes it's made of pudding.

As a species it is in our best interest to evolve past the pudding, and get into the blue when dealing with issues such as immigration, racial profiling, gay marriage, etc. Just be aware, that those on the pudding side of things seem to really love their pudding.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Mechanics of Joy

I waited on some friends of a co-worker recently, and she shared today that one of them said, "It was kind of sad, he seemed to think he was funny, but he wasn't".

Kind of an ouch for sure, definitely rude, and overall a big "Who gives a fuck?" because I don't know this person at all so really it doesn't much matter what a stranger thinks of me be it positive or negative.

Except that it bugged me, because people are structured weirdly.

We are emotionally built to feel pain more intensely than joy. Perhaps from a survival standpoint this has some benefit, the focus on avoidance rather than pursuit. But given where we are in the evolution of the species, it's a curious thing that we're so negatively driven.

In regards to money it's called "Prospect Theory" and holds that the loss of a set amount of money is twice as painful as the pleasure of gaining that same sum.

It also seems to be true in other emotional matters, and make no mistake, anything that elicits a pleasure/pain reaction is strongly tied to emotions. For instance, a loved one tells you that you look really good today. You probably say thank you, and go about your day without giving the compliment much further consideration. But say you're in traffic and someone cuts you off, flips you off, and or screams at you for no apparent reason. You'll probably steam about that for the rest of the day.


Why do we allow the random opinions or actions of people that are nothing more than a flash in our life to effect us deeply while often missing out on the opportunity to cherish positive vibes from those closest to us?

I don't have an answer to that.

I do know that I'm trying to focus on enjoying, consciously enjoying the positives in my life, and letting the bad stuff slide. At the very least I hope that I can continue to be amused at myself when I let some anonymous Internet feedback to one of my articles, or some tactless customer wielding the maturity of a high schooler, bother me. 'Cause I may not be funny, but that shit is.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Cleavage of Parenting

It seems weird in the new millennium and all, but in my experience stay-at-home dad's are still viewed as more a curiosity than a legitimate child rearing force. In fact, many women seem to have an active prejudice against the idea that men could be as good at the job as nature has made THE MOM!

Which is mostly fine. Socially and stereotypically the area of family runner has long been perceived as ya'lls bailiwick. But there is a creeping irony as more and more dads opt for time with the kids over a strict business focus and find that the glass ceiling that women have fought for so long exists in all sorts of environments. Of course the currency of parenting isn't currency, it's acknowledgement and respect.

Talking to an educator, a doctor, a nurse, really any professional who deals with your child, is often similar to getting a lecture from someone who thinks you're as adorable as Corky (LIFE GOES ON, not ROMANO). The predominant image of a dad raising kids appears to be Michael Keaton in MR. MOM, which was so long ago that Teri Garr was still hot.

All of this is pretty much part of the game though, and I certainly didn't decide to stay at home to win awards or get seduced by marginally attractive neighborhood women (although I'm slightly disappointed that no one has even tried!) I did it because it makes financial sense for our family, and because given the likelihood that when the boys turn 11 or 12 they probably won't want to talk to me for a decade, I'm greedy for all the time I can get with them.

When we decided to have kids we wanted to make sure that WE raised them. We are fortunate that we had that decision open to us.

BUT, the one thing that drives me nuts is anytime a conversation comes up about the kids when my wife is around. I love her and she's a great mother, but ladies, you know how much fun it is to talk to a guy or an aggressive lesbian who won't look away from your chest during a conversation. That's what you make us dudes feel like when you totally ignore us in favor of the woman's opinion when child stuff comes up. I work hard to raise my kids to be polite, educated, charming little sociopaths.

So as adorably incompetent as the romantic comedies of the world want to make us, there are competent men out here doing a damn fine job of raising the kids. Just thought you should know.

Check out my review of the single disc WOLVERINE release and see if the movie and/or the DVD are worth your time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

GLEE drops the ball on HS popularity advice

GLEE is fast becoming a new favorite show of mine. It started off fairly uneven, but the more they embrace crazy, the better it gets. And I'm definitely a fan of OCD cutie Emma, the high school guidance counselor, played by Jayma Mays.

In tonight's episode the school quarterback and head cheerleader find their popularity compromised and go to Emma for advice on how to be cool. She tells them that they should just be themselves and anybody who doesn't appreciate them for who they are isn't worth their time.

All well and good, but completely insufficient advice for a fragile teenage psyche. I mean c'mon, being told the people you want to like you aren't worth your time helps to allieviate the desire to be liked BY them about as much as telling someone who's just gotten dumped that time will heal the wound. It's a nice platitude, but is cold comfort at a time in life when every moment feels as though it contains the entire and everlasting truth of the universe in it.

So, for the sake of my sons one day, and for anyone who has a child struggling with popularity issues, here's the truth of the matter as I see it -

The people who are mean to you in high school are, for the most part, not bad people. But many of them are small, scared animals who lack vision beyond the hallways they currently walk. Which won't help right now, because there is little pain in life more difficult to manage than the insecurity you feel right now, the thought that some how you are not good enough. The good news is that this will fuel you to dream big, it will force you to explore deeply who you really are, it will teach you how to survive the scorn of the uninformed, and how to make the right decision instead of the popular one.

Unfortunately you're going to have to find a way to survive the next few years on grit and stubborn determination. Things WILL get better, though it's unlikely to feel that way in the near future. But when you come out the other side, you're going to be well on your way to being a confident, imaginative individual who lives the rest of your life unintimidated by fear, comfortable with failure, and driven by the pursuit of sustainable happiness rather than the fickle judgements of others. And while you will eventually morph into someone who doesn't take pleasure in the misfortune of others, for now take heart in the fact that those who are currently cruel to you will most likely jail themselves in a life of compromise, undreamt or unpursued possibilities, and a crippling need to protect a status they lost at 18.

I know how much it hurts now, but please believe me that I can see your future, and you will be more than you dream possible.

DVD Review - Staunton Hill

Usually it's a good thing to say a horror movie was difficult to sit through, but is that statement a compliment when it comes to STAUNTON HILL? Read my review at AITH to find out!

Creativity and poop

Two of the biggest things you need to be a good parent in my estimation are creativity and a willingness to deal with poop. This requires humor, a strong stomach, and any number of household cleaners. In fact, poop can become such an ever present annoynance in parenting that it becomes almost sweet when you only find it in places that make sense - like inside a dirty diaper. Here's an ode that I sing to my boys in celebration of those days.

Feel free to make up your own melody!

You Look Kinda Funny -

You look kinda funny with your balls covered in poo,
You look kinda funny with your balls covered in poo,
You look kinda funny with your balls covered in poo,
But that's okay buddy 'cause I love you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vasectomy (or Oh No! They're cutting my balls!)

[This is a slightly edited repost of a Note I wrote on FB a few weeks ago]

Well I just had a vasectomy a few weeks ago, and to all those people who act as though the procedure is no big deal - I will offer a sane, but slightly different perspective.

First off you're talking about an in office procedure, though much to my relief this does not mean the doc snips your nuts on top of his desk. You'll be in and out in an hour or less most likely.

Be prepared to give a urine sample when they ask you back, and if you're me, be prepared to find out you have trace amounts of blood in your urine that should be checked out with an X-Ray to verify that you don't have bladder cancer. Less than 2% chance according to the doc, which means I have a 2% greater chance of having cancer diagnosed by the end of the week than I would have thought. Apparently a lot of dudes have a little blood in their urine, so don't be surprised if you get the bladder cancer talk too.

At this point you'll go in to the typical examining room and be told to take off everything below the waist. I'd recommend you not look around too much at this point, because the needle that contains the stuff they'll use to numb the boys is somewhere nearby, and you don't really want to see it.

When the doc comes in you get to lay back and press your legs together to create a "table" for the doc to work on. Surprised me since I expected to be in some sort of gyno position. He'll take the time now to check out your junk, in a manner than has all the subtlely of my 3 year-old playing with his dinosaur. If like me, you have sensitive balls, this is only slightly less painful than purposely slamming your nuts in a heavy book.

Next comes the dry shave of the area. Seriously, if anyone had clued me in that my scrotum would be a standin for Charles Bronson's face in the Dirty Dozen then I would have shaved the fucking thing myself ahead of time. Hell I'd have gladly taken the pain of a sack and crack wax over the brutalization my tommyknockers endured.

Now comes the anesthetic, which more or less feels like an injection of liquid hot magma. Fortunately things numb up quickly, and you really don't feel anything other than pressure as your sack gets cut open so that the important tubes can get dealt with in a situation that's like a mix of playing Operation and attending a spaghetti dinner. If like me, adrenaline has caused massive shakes which then require intense focus and breathing to mitigate, the time seems interminable though is likely only 5 - 8 minutes.

After the unsettling feeling of indistinct tugging, followed by the sound of snipping, you also get to enjoy the smell of your own internal burning ball flesh as the ends of the tube are cauterized.

But thankfully it's almost over ... wait, what?! Time to do the other side? Oh sweet fucking Twizzlers I thought you were taking care of both sides at the same time!

Go back to the shot and repeat on the other side.

Then get up, wash off your own junk, and hobble out of the doc's office to go home and sit around all night watching MNF while alternating a bag of frozen corn and greenbeans on your sliced sack to avoid a hematoma.

Overall I really have no doubt this'll be well worth it, but all I saw when I checked into vasectomy info was stuff about how easy painless it is. Not entirely my experience as you can see.

Oh, and your pain meds will likely be Vicodin or Oxycodone, which is essentially a mildly effective pain reliever for me, but given that it's nickname is Hillbilly Heroin, ymmv.

Top 10: Land Monsters

Like being scared by things that could actually crawl down your shirt at night and end you? Check out the first part of my Top 10 Land Monsters over at Arrow In The Head!

Here we go

Guess I'm finally a blogger. I've resisted it for quite awhile because I didn't see much point given all the white noise out there. After all, if I'm simply blogging for myself and the odd friend who checks in occasionally, then what's the point? I can just chat with them indivdually about what's going on in my life.

But I've been a semi-professional writer for going on 5 years now, and "they" are right when they say that writers write. In other words, I don't suppose it matters much if anybody else has much interest in my musings here, because the exercise of creating it will be its own reason for being.

That said, I hope you love every fucking word I put down and find yourself unable to resist telling all your friends and loved ones to read Red Gumbo like it's non-addictive heroin for your brain.

I picked Red Gumbo because I'm a red head, and like gumbo, this blog will be filled with all sorts of stuff. I'll share my views on being a stay-at-home dad, thoughts on movies that are coming up or that I've reviewed (since this is what I write about for cashola), general essays on things like the efficacy of assassinations and why ultra hot chicks are about as satisfying as PG-13 horror films, and whatever the hell else happens to pop into my very profane, relatively smart head.

Guess that's it for now. Let's see where this goes.