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Rhett & Oracle

February 19th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

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Numbers Only – No Need to Further Elaborate

February 18th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

Ever since that horrific day of terror, I don’t believe a single day has gone by without my hearing someone alluding or referring to – 9/11; there is no need to further elaborate we know what those numbers refer to.   

This is not a blog about 9/11 but rather something monumentally more banal – numbers which can stand alone and perhaps evoke a memory of a certain event or just stand for something that is embedded in our subconscious; like for example 1492 – well of  course 1492, Columbus sailed the blue and discovered America. When I hear 1776, I think of the Declaration of Independence (I am from the U.S., I sometimes forget that this is the World Wide Web) 

How about something different, not related to historical events such as 24/7 – we all know what that means whether literally – the internet runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or figuratively – ‘I’m working like a dog- 24/7. The number 911 means help (wow! If you insert a slash you get 9/11 how apropos) and 411 is for telephone information. When I hear 401 I think of a 401k savings plan; 1040 and W-2 are dreaded tax numbers and 7 is lucky and 13 is unlucky. 

1929 is the year the stock market crashed and man landed on the moon in 1969 (if you’re a Mets fan this was also the year they won their 1st World Series), November 22 was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and on December 7 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor – “A day of infamy.” (For some reason the year doesn’t resonate with regard to the last 2 dates just the month and day like 9/11.) 

I think that’s about it for me; for NCAA Basketball fans you have the final 4 and sweet 16 and if you need to shop for something real quick one can always go to your local 7/11. There are 50 states in this country, 100 senators and one also needs 270 votes to become president (as for the last 3 numbers, I think I’m reaching a bit.) Oh how can I forget I was born on the 4th of July (really – ask my mother) and it’s also the birth of our country. 

So now it’s your turn, WHADAWETHINK ? Can you think of numbers or dates that hold some significance? Here’s one more ‘1984’ – the name of George Orwell’s classic futuristic book. Please contribute – there must be more.

If you like this site and you want to support WHADAWETHINK – click onto the widget shown above and shop at Amazon. Note: Any purchase at all will help WHADAWETHINK, so you don’t have to purchase the exact product displayed in the ad. Thanks and keep coming back.

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Sorbet

February 17th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

You can eat the words

With a spoon,

A sorbet of cool colors

Refreshing the senses.

A palpable blend

Of what is ordinary

And what is not,

To say it’s a lovely day

Is merely scratching

The surface.

Dig deeper.

Eat.

                                  Magdalena Tabor

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Man Vs. Machine

February 16th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

A friend of mine sent me this video   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyXHF3PyyWoIBM’s ‘Watson’ – a machine vs. man on Jeopardy; science fiction seemingly becoming science fact ; and the mere notion that man can actually create a machine with intelligence – meaning a machine which can think, conceptualize, reason and perhaps empathize is nothing short of astounding! (I know there are some science fiction that never materialized like flying saucers and robots mowing your lawn.)   

I remember back in college (this was long before the internet) my philosophy teacher talked about this very topic at length. Can and will man ever construct a machine with REAL intelligence? At that point in time our professor explained to us that the dumbest guy in the room was far more intelligent than the fastest and most powerful computer in the world. After all computers have no intelligence; the digital, analog or hybrid device merely stores, organizes and processes information and performs tasks and is even proficient at carrying out and solving highly complex mathematical and logical operations at incredible speeds that no human can match but nevertheless a computer is still dumber than a box of rocks. 

The reason for this is because a computer is a machine, it’s not alive and it’s capable of performing all sorts of incredible things because we – human beings – program it to do so. It is simply following a set of instructions we have given it and at a very elementary level all it is doing is executing operations based on zeros and ones, Xs and Os, and on and off. (I am not an IT specialist but this is just a very general explanation for lay people on how computers operate at a very basic level.) 

I began again thinking seriously about discerning, thinking, intelligent machines when I started this web site. As I mentioned earlier I know next to nothing about IT; I’m on the computer all day and I know as much next guy but I’m clueless when it comes to programming (I don’t even know how to use Twitter yet). When my web designer and other IT specialists began talking to me about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and building traffic, etc I was amazed to hear discussion about a machine gauging the content of the web site. Sure I can understand a site that gets an enormous amount of traffic appearing higher on Google; however I scratched my head when I was told that a search engine not only ranks a site by the number of hits, links to other sites, etc but also will rank a site with excellent content higher based on a prodigiously complex algorithm created by human beings. I am skeptical about the latter because as far as I know machines still have no real intelligence. (Not yet anyway). 

What I’m really wondering and getting at – is will we ever create a ‘Hal’ – you know the machine in Stanley Kubrick’s – ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (one of my all time favorite movies – released in 1968 – the whole movie really is about this very topic, evolution, technology gone crazy) or will the movie ‘The Terminator’ become a reality? 

I can write 10,000 pages on this and still not address all the issues surrounding this very thought-provoking topic. So now it’s your turn WHADAWETHINK? Do you think man will ever create a machine with emotions? Let’s say we can develop an intelligent conscientious robot sometime in the future, should it/he/she have the same rights as we – human beings? Do you think it’s a good idea to create these intelligent, thinking machines; after all it would be capable to easily wipe us out if elected to – how many human beings do you know who has read every single book ever written and who also has a perfect memory with the ability to retrieve any information instantaneously? Lots of ethical considerations here; please contribute and we would love to here what you think about this or WHADAWETHINK?

If you like this site and you want to support WHADAWETHINK – click onto the widget shown above and shop at Amazon. Note: Any purchase at all will help WHADAWETHINK, so you don’t have to purchase the exact product displayed in the ad. Thanks and keep coming back.

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Is MMA a Legitimate Sport ?

February 14th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

I personally have watched nearly every single UFC event since its inception back on November 12, 1993. Having been a life long student of the martial arts, I waited in eager anticipation for this new sport (initially it wasn’t called a sport and rightfully so) to finally be introduced to this country (United States).

UFC 1 was as ugly a spectacle as one could possibly imagine; it was formatted as an eight man tournament (including the brackets just like the NCAA basketball championship but starting with the “elite” eight) in which the winner would move on and fight the next winner and the loser would be eliminated. I can honestly say that it was the most surreal event I have ever witnessed.

To begin with, you had 8 martial artists or fighters (there was one professional boxer who entered the cage wearing only one boxing glove) and there were no rules except for no biting and no eye gouging (wonderful). Furthermore, there were no weight classes and no time limits and the fight would end only by knockout, submission or simply just quitting and throwing in the towel (literally – the loser’s corner would throw a towel in the ring, oops sorry cage). This event was on pay per view and it was LIVE! Many people were wondering if someone was going to actually get killed on live TV.

The first scheduled fight was between Gerard Gordeau, a very tall and thin street fighting thug from the Netherlands weighing just over two hundred pounds and Teila Tulli – a supposedly undefeated 440 pound Sumo Wrestler from Hawaii. My first thought was – this can’t be real; this is just going to be another form of fake wrestling (Professional wrestling.) Well, to my great surprise, there was nothing fake about it; it was so real it was surreal. The 440 Lb. Sumo wrestler charged after the tall thin man and before you knew it the fight was over in just in 26 seconds. Gordeau merely stepped to the side of the prodigious charging bull, pulled down on Tulli’s head which caused him to fall to the ground and followed with a right roundhouse kick to the face (teeth and blood flying into the audience) and a right cross to the face. The fight was over and Gordeau was proclaimed the winner; he went on to fight that same night winning his next bout and then losing in the grand finale against the only legitimate fighter – the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu expert Royce Gracie.

UFC 1 was a very ugly affair and the truth of the matter was there were only two real fighters that night – Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock. (Gracie faced Shamrock in the 2nd round and won in under a minute by submitting him with a gi-choke.) The other fights were sloppy and painful to watch; this was no sport – it was something you would see at your local watering hole – two stupid men fighting over nothing. I considered the event to be a colossal failure and I never thought there would be another. Well, I was wrong!

Everyone was talking about this new phenomenon – no-holds barred real fighting. This was not professional wrestling it was the real deal. And the talk of the town was the new fighting style displayed by Royce Gracie – Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Not only was there another UFC event, there was another after that and another and the last one took place just last week at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas – UFC 126.

Not only did ultimate fighting not go away, it has become the fastest growing sport ever. MMA (mixed martial arts) makes more money now than professional wrestling and pro boxing combined. There are now dozens of rules, the combatants wear protective gloves, and there are weight classes and excellent referees to ensure the safety of the fighters. Additionally, there are dozens of MMA organizations other than UFC – Ultimate Fighting Champion (such as Strikeforce, Cageforce, Dangerzone, Pride – merged with UFC, & others), a hugely popular reality show on cable fittingly called ‘The Ultimate Fighter and big household stars like Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Georges St. Pierre. (Even legitimate magazines like Sports Illustrated cover the sport and named Georges St. Pierre as the 2010 Fighter of the Year.) They even have women in MMA which is also growing exponentially.

I spilled enough ink on MMA for now and certainly will be writing more about it. I am now a fan of the sport although I am not without some ambivalence. I’ve trained in MMA for a number of years and I can honestly say that I’ve met some of the nicest people one will ever meet in and around the sport. I will say this however – it’s a violent sport and it certainly is not for everyone. Still there have been no reported MMA related deaths and the sport is no more violent than football, hockey and certainly not boxing.

So WHADAWETHINK ? Are you a fan of MMA? Did you know that New York of all states has banned it – now that there are rules and it’s safer, should they now sanction it?  Would you allow your child to partake in it? And finally in your opinion, is MMA a legitimate sport?

If you like this site and you want to support WHADAWETHINK – click onto the widget shown above and shop at Amazon. Note: Any purchase at all will help WHADAWETHINK, so you don’t have to purchase the exact product displayed in the ad. Thanks and keep coming back.

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Sailors Valentine

February 13th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

Adrift at sea,

Dropping anchor

Into Thalo Blue,

Watered down

To match your eyes,

Bleeding on paper.

Thoughts of you

In fancy script,

Penned and blotted

As in days of old,

Initials pressed

In candlewax

Sealing the sentiment.

Magdalena Tabor

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Joyce Carol Oates is Alive and Well

February 13th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

Joyce Carol Oates is alive and well and I am glad to hear it because much to my dismay, I heard a rumor that she passed away yesterday. A friend of mine called and said that Ms. Oates died; I quickly picked up the NY Times glanced at the obituaries and saw that Chuck Tanner died, mostly known for managing the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 1979 World Series title (remember Willie Stargell and their theme song by Sister Sledge –“We are Family”), Fred Kirby, (whom I didn’t know) an heir to the Woolworth fortune and former chief executive of a title insurance company died at the age of 91, and Tom Carnegie an announcer and known as the voice of the Indianapolis 500 (Is auto racing a sport? Another blog) died as well at the age of 91. But, no mention of the death of Joyce Carol Oates; a relief but maybe she died in the wee hours of the morning. 

I surfed the net and found nothing; I wound up on Yahoo and in the upper right hand corner of the page  saw her name posted under Yahoo’s Trending Now news stories and  nervously clicked onto Joyce Carol Oates’ name. Phew! Ms. Oates is not dead after all, she is 72 years old and has just come out with yet another book. (Oates is prodigiously prolific indeed; she has written at least 50 novels, 22 collections of short stories, 8 novellas, 8 plays, 15 non-fiction essays, 5 young adult novels,  and 3 works of fiction for children. This is just a list of her published works; she has tens of thousands of pages of mostly autobiographical material that she simply has not publically released.) This latest release is a memoir and is said to be quite different from anything else she has ever written. 

How do these rumors start? I called my friend back and asked him where he heard this and he said, “A bunch of people were discussing it at an AA meeting this morning,” (another blog) and that he just assumed it was true. I was going to write about how rumors start but I decided instead to spill some ink on the great Joyce Carol Oates. 

The memoir deals with the death of her husband, Raymond Smith, and her bout with severe depression afterwards. Her husband died unexpectedly in the hospital (he was admitted a week earlier diagnosed with pneumonia and at that time the prognosis of recovery was good; certainly not death) and on February 18th of 2008 he did in fact die from complications due to a strain of E-Coli in his lung. 

The book is more than 400 pages long and Ms. Oates writes with awe-inspiring detail about their 47 year marriage, how they grew in love, the week they spent together in the hospital right before he died, how she survive widowhood – especially the first year,  and how she eventually picked herself up and learned to live again. 

Joyce examines their life together and shares with us how much she loved him but also painstakingly writes about how much she did not know about her husband; the fact that Raymond Smith, her husband never revealed to her that he was once in love with another woman. Prior to my writing this blog, I read an article online in The New Yorker in the 12/13/2010 issue; this article vividly describes what the week in hospital was like for Joyce the last weak of her husband’s life.   

So WHADAWETHINK ? Do you like Joyce Carol Oates? Did you realize how prolific she was? What is your favorite Joyce Carol Oates book? Why would anyone spread a rumor about someone dying ? I have read many articles which she has contributed to the New Yorker but the only book I’ve ever read by her is surprisingly a non-fiction essay – ‘On Boxing.’  Believe it or not Joyce Carol Oates is a prodigious boxing fan (Norman Mailer was a great admirer of Joyce). This is easily the best book I’ve ever read on boxing; but it’s not just about the sport (if you can call it that) rather it’s an intensely personal intellectual journey and metaphor on survival. Thank God Joyce Carol Oates is Still with us.

If you like this site and you want to support WHADAWETHINK – click onto the widget shown above and shop at Amazon. Note: Any purchase at all will help WHADAWETHINK, so you don’t have to purchase the exact product displayed in the ad. Thanks and keep coming back.

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Rhett & Oracle

February 12th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

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Life is Nasty, Brutish, and Short

February 11th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

The actual full Quotation is “Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” By Thomas Hobbes – 1651 from perhaps the most profound philosophical book ever written – ‘Leviathan’. 

I have thousands of great books in my library, one of which is the aforementioned – ‘Leviathan’. I remember reading this in my 20’s and being astonished at how penetrating, profound and insightful and apropos the themes regarding the human condition were stated regardless of the fact that the book was written 325 years ago. There are eternal truths and there is an old adage that proclaims that Plato has written everything there is to know about life and the human condition and any other thing written or said is merely a footnote. So if you believe in this then even this masterpiece, ‘Leviathan’, is just another footnote to the great works of Plato. 

One can argue that ‘Leviathan’ is a treatise on political theory and Hobbes was writing about the state of affairs in England, circa 1588-1679 during the English Civil War. Hobbes believed in a powerful monarch and an absolute authority and therefore he supported King Charles I and was against the forces led by Oliver Cromwell.

 To put Hobbes’ convictions and conclusions into a neat nutshell it goes as follows: He believed that life was a constant struggle and there would always be war inasmuch as man was continually at odds with each other because we are all pursuing the same things – food, shelter, wealth, safety and security. (It’s the old argument that there are too many people and not enough natural resources; I personally think this is not in fact the case, I believe there is enough to go around for everyone and it’s really just an issue of greed. People think that they are special and therefore are entitled to more than their share. Go ahead call me a Socialist.) So not unlike Darwin’s ‘Survival of the Fittest’ (Darwin actually stated it was not so much the strongest who survived but one who was the best at adapting to one’s environment) and of course Karl Marx, Hobbes believed in the Common wealth.   

So if you accept the premise that man is a greedy, primal species, Hobbes viewed Commonwealth as a social contract analogous to a giant social organism. He concluded that if we didn’t have this contract and if we didn’t have an absolute authority and a powerful monarch we would have total chaos and individuals would not attain the shared goals of safety and security. The human species would be no different from any other animal. 

I’ve attempted to give a synopsis of this very complex concept of Thomas Hobbes and it’s impossible to not to sound somewhat facile but I strongly recommend everyone to read ‘Leviathan’ and just read the classics period. I love current events and I read the newspaper, magazines, surf the net, read other blogs (btw – if you’re not familiar with  Arts and Letters Daily you should check it out, it is probably one the best sites on the Web  http://www.aldaily.com/   but don’t forget to come back here) However I do read the classics as well and I go back to the original source. So read Plato and instead of reading a book about Charles Darwin, why not just read Darwin – read ‘The Origin of Species’. There is nothing wrong with criticism and I love Harold Bloom and Clifton Fadiman but there is nothing like reading the real thing; it’s like going back in time and getting into the mind of the greatest thinkers who ever lived. 

So WHADAWETHINK ? Have you read Leviathan ? Do you read the classics? Have you read Plato ? What are your favorite books of all time? Do you prefer modern literature? This blog could be 1000 pages long.

If you like this site and you want to support WHADAWETHINK – click onto the widget shown above and shop at Amazon. Note: Any purchase at all will help WHADAWETHINK, so you don’t have to purchase the exact product displayed in the ad. Thanks and keep coming back.

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Fox Hunt

February 11th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor
Paw prints
Embroidered on the snow,
Leading to places
I can’t go.
Remaining
With my thoughts as though
To contemplate direction.
But I linger
At the fox’s gate,
Reluctant
To give up the wait.
In turning round
And making haste,
I’m up for his inspection.

                                                   Magdalena Tabor

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