This is an essay I wrote for one of my classes about software piracy. This issue is a lot more nuanced than many people realize.
World Rhino Day
Today is World Rhino Day. This is a day meant to raise awareness about the struggles faced by rhinos everywhere. There are five subspecies of rhinos and all of them are in danger. But the situation is the most dire for the northern white subspecies, the most endangered animal on the planet.
Only three northern white rhinos are left in the entire world. The picture below shows Sudan, a 40+ year old elderly rhino and the only remaining male. The other two, Najin and Fatu, are his daughter and granddaughter. All three rhinos have armed guards who stand vigil over them 24/7. These brave individuals are risking their lives to protect these gentle giants.
Just what are they protecting these beasts from? Poachers – cruel people who track rhinos by helicopters and attack them mercilessly.
Northern white rhinos used to roam Kenya in the thousands. Because of the relentless actions of poachers, Sudan, Najin, and Fatu are the last – their species is extinct in the wild. As you can see in the photo, Sudan’s horn was removed to make him a less desirable target to poachers.
How did it come to this?
Rhino horn is worth more than gold and cocaine on the black market. Among Chinese and Vietnamese buyers, rhino horn is a coveted remedy for many ailments, including cancer and hangovers. But rhino horn is no more a remedy than hair or fingernails – all three substances are made of keratin. Facts don’t deter poachers, however: they mutilate rhinos with chainsaws, either killing them outright or leaving them to an agonizing death.
Although efforts to rehabilitate the northern white rhino are underway, with only three closely-related individuals left I can’t help but be skeptical. When Twinkies were threatened with extinction in 2012, the media circus couldn’t stop covering it. People were outraged and saddened. But around that same time a white rhino died, bringing the species one step closer to today’s tragedy. Just a few years prior, Vietnam’s last Javan rhino was murdered by poachers who removed the creature’s head. Vietnam’s Javan rhinos were confirmed extinct in 2011, but in our money-sick society Twinkies are worth more than the natural world.
There is very little that greed has not decimated. Unless a drastic shift in consciousness occurs, the world will be silent except for the noise of cities. Earth isn’t for humans. Animals aren’t for humans. They exist for their own reasons, for their own purposes, and they have a value that money can’t define.
When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.
“Witness” is an attempt at writing something a bit gross with a touch of horror.
Grandiose and attention-grabbing – these are two words that describe much of pop music. But on the other end of the spectrum is a different kind of music: lowercase and drone. These two experimental genres might be thought of as miniature: they both use silence, repetition, soft sounds. Miniature music is an oasis in a world that is often noisy, chaotic, and overwhelming.
What is experimental music?
Experimental music is an umbrella term describing a cornucopia of genres, but what they all have in common is eccentricity, strange textures, technicalities, and more – the music equivalent to ergodic literature like House of Leaves, requiring more work on the listener’s end than the average mainstream tune.
Why work to enjoy something? The challenge is itself interesting and fun: think spicy foods or scary roller coasters.
Here are some examples of drone and lowercase music:
Drone: This type of music is characterized by long, sustained tones and repetition.
These first two examples contain soft, ambient sounds perfect for “wallpaper music.”
Don’t let these two pieces fool you: drone encompasses more than soft sounds. Here is another type whose mysterious choral segments combine with heavy guitars to create an immersive and compelling sound:
Lowercase: This unique genre, which is an extreme form of minimalism, is the auditory equivalent to ASMR. It is a type of ambient music where very quiet sounds are amplified using a computer. The defining lowercase work is “Forms of Paper,” where the artist Steve Roden recorded himself handling – you guessed it – sheets of paper. This genre is interesting because it reveals an acoustically tiny world previously inaccessible to human ears.
What does experimental music offer?
Music like this may not stick in your head like a song by Katy Perry, but it offers raw emotion, painting clear and vivid pictures using sound alone. We listen to pop songs and sing along to the lyrics, but experimental music generally doesn’t lend itself to that. Instead, it creates an atmosphere. It lacks catchy hooks, but it has textures, rare sounds, and breathing room.
Are you a fan of miniature music?
- 10 of the most interesting women in experimental music (www.flavorwire.com)
- Feminism in electronic and experimental music (www.syrphe.wordpress.com)
- Daily Post: Miniature (www.wordpress.com)
Would there be any benefit to reviving the archaic pronoun thou and its other forms? Originally a way of conveying familiarity, intimacy, or even disrespect in some cases, thou was the singular form of the word “you.” It provided a similar dichotomy that other European languages have: in French tu/vous can be translated as thou/you.
These days thou is archaic, but it persists in daily speech in some parts of the world: regional dialects in Scotland, for example, and among the Society of Friends (Quakers).
For most English speakers, however, it has completely lost the aura of intimacy it once had and instead seems stiff, formal, and ritualistic due to its use in religious texts. We still see thou used in some modern contexts: Thor in Marvel Comics is a regular thou-user, and we hear Darth Vader ask of Emperor Palpatine, “What is thy bidding, my master?”
With the increasing acceptance of non-binary third person pronouns [such as they or ke or ze], might thou also find new life?
The idea of alternate universes is mainstream, at least among laypersons. Some people even believe they may have experienced another world. From glitch in the matrix stories, to bizarre urban legends and the so-called “Mandela Effect,” there is enough anecdotal evidence that other universes exist that we can’t just dismiss the idea. One scientifically-backed idea supports what many have long suspected: that black holes do not culminate in a crushing singularity, but rather they are “portals to other universes,” or perhaps Farscape-esque tunnels to distant parts of our own universe.
A compelling urban legend is the case of “The Man From Taured.” Take a look at the video:
Whether these stories are more than stories is up for debate. But scientists have introduced a new theory called Many Interacting Worlds, a spin-off of other quantum mechanics theories such as the Many Worlds theory. Professor Howard Wiseman, a physicist at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, and one of the creators of the new Many Interacting Worlds theory, had this to say:
“In the well-known ‘many worlds interpretation,’ each universe branches into a bunch of new universes each time a quantum measurement is made. All possibilities are therefore realized—in some universes the dinosaur-killing asteroid missed Earth. In others, Australia was colonised by the Portuguese. But critics question the reality of these other universes, since they do not influence our universe at all. [emphasis added] On this score, our ‘many interacting worlds’ approach is completely different, as the name implies.”
This new theory is exactly what it sounds like: many worlds interacting with and influencing each other in the quantum realm. It could even open up the possibility that human adventurers could visit other universes.
As of yet, there is no experimental evidence to support this exciting theory. But lack of evidence doesn’t mean Wiseman and his collaborators are wrong. As the above anecdotes show, we live in a wondrous and mysterious universe. The more we know, the more we realize we don’t know. As Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman once said, “I believe I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” He could have easily said the same thing for our universe as a whole.
This was a lot of fun to write! “Spectrophobia” is a palindromic story: the ending is told in reverse, telling a slightly different tale.