The Reality Institute

Why-to take up hobbies:

In the rush to pursue activities, you might end up with a hobby. Usually considered an outside interest in that it does not relate directly to labor, a hobby can lay on a spectrum from the esoteric, such as building miniature ships in bottles, to the mainstream, like sports. Obscure or commonplace, what all of these activities share is their promotion of enjoyment not linked to an obvious extrinsic reward, like money. Imagine: some 7 billion people on the planet learning various skills for the sheer pleasure of keeping busy. Given the numbers, to think that hobbies are all for naught seems hard to believe.

Aside from allowing you to stave off the endless boredom that comes from living life, hobbies serve a social function.  The development of interests outside of work provides you with plenty of conversation fodder to bring up with people that you don’t know intimately. During a long commute on the bus or train, you can chat with a stranger by discussing your passion for the history of manufacturing.

Why-to advocate for Numerical Control over Record-Playback:

In David Noble’s Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation, Noble examines the history of manufacturing after World War II, arguing that, in many ways, industry sought to develop automation technologies as a means of dispensing with human employees, who were often wont to perform work stoppages and strikes in order to have basic needs met. As a result, businesses, the federal government and research institutions, like MIT, worked hand-in-hand, often using taxpayer funding, to develop computers and numerical control.

Before the advent of numerical control, trained workers were responsible for performing manufacturing tasks, such as operating a mill to cut a piece of sheet metal, by hand. Numerical control relied on engineer designs converted into punched tape that was fed to manufacturing equipment. The equipment would then cut the design out from the sheet metal automatically.

At the time of its development, numerical control was rivalling another computerized technology called record-playback. Whereas numerical control relied on extremely complex mathematical algorithms to generate designs as punched tape programming, record-playback was much simpler and incorporated the skilled worker into the programming process. The worker would have a specialty device attached to their hands as they performed the milling procedure. This device was hooked up to a device that would record their motions directly into punched tape. In this way, the worker still maintains an important position in the manufacturing process and, in fact, becomes a computer programmer in the process.

Noble argues, quite convincingly, that record-playback was forgotten in favor of numerical control because it dispensed with the need for any worker involvement, thus eliminating the prospect of a work stoppage or strike. Additionally, because the algorithms needed to create the punched tape were so complex that huge amounts of government funding were required to develop room-sized computers, giving researchers and businesses financial incentive to pursue costly technological development over a more straightforward approach to manufacturing.

When intercourse hits a dead end on a first date, bring up ancient burial rituals or collecting children’s action figures. At work functions thrown to boost morale and create a sense of corporate culture, it’s not necessary to divulge your darkest secrets or describe the effects of a negligent upbringing just to have something to talk about. Instead, use your recent interest in Mesoamerican culture and end-of-the-world prophecies to connect with your fellow workers.

More often than not, sharing a similar interest with others can cause a group to form and regular meetings to take place that use the hobby as an excuse for human interaction. You’ll often see this in regards to sports-related activities when a group of people meet weekly to either play a sport that they have a particular interest in or watch others engage in said sport on television. With televised activities, rooting for people or groups of people that you identify with will add much needed elaboration to your hobby so as to ensure the longevity of your interest. In the case that you have an arcane hobby that others have a difficult time connecting to, fear not, for the advent of the internet and social networking has allowed people to form niche communities surrounding almost any proclivity imaginable.

Why-to form a niche community:

It’s amazing to think that, before the advent of the internet, lonely white males had to meet each other in person in order to become integrated into a community. Since the rise of the internet, countless new communities have formed dedicated to particular interests. On the less politically extreme end of things, there are people who call themselves “furries” who dress up as cartoon animals, often to have unimaginable sex with each other. When it comes to groups that are more political in nature, we’ve seen the rise of so-called “men’s rights activists”, typically virgins who are uncomfortable with sexuality and dissatisfied with their inability to connect with women. This group has even grown to spin-off a group of neo-Nazi basement dwellers who, fueled in part by the rise of ex-reality game show host Donald Trump, complain about the loss of so-called “white identity” and “white culture” in America, presumably referring to such caucasian cultural classics as Paul Blart Mall Cop 2.

Most of my hobbies have sort of been in the artistic realm. Over the years, I’ve picked up drawing, painting, writing, making music, reading, and surfing the net. The problem is that I always find some practical application for the things that I’m doing. The art, or whatever it is, always ends up having some purpose and I think that the point of a hobby is to take your mind off things, to act as a diversion. But if everything you do ends up turning into work, something with a specific purpose, you’re always working and you never get a break.

Why-to be a 3D image enthusiast:

I recently took a course in holography, which could make me a 3D image enthusiast. The process is very interesting and most people wouldn’t even guess how holograms are made. Holography is like photography in that it’s the recording of an image onto film. In order to record the depth information of an object, however, a laser light is needed instead of natural sunlight or a flash, as is the case with photography. The laser light is more organized than sunlight and it takes a really stable light source to capture an image’s depth information. The photons from the laser bounce off of every surface of an object and back onto the film. Meanwhile, as the photons are returning from the object, they collide with the incoming light. Really, what’s recorded on the holographic film is the interference pattern of the incoming light and the retreating light. I can never quite fathom how those photons know how to do all of that shooting and bouncing without any explicit instructions. Since they can’t read any street signs to tell them where to go, it’s like their directions are programmed right into them.

I’ve never been that into sports, though I can see the appeal, and I can’t really hold my own in politics, but, now that I’ve become a 3D image enthusiast, I’ve got something interesting I can talk about at parties. I know that my reason for taking up a hobby shouldn’t be that it gives me something to talk about at parties and that’s not why I took the class, but it’s a sort of fringe benefit for me. If I want to talk to strangers, or just people that I don’t have much in common with, I can bring up holography when it’s relevant. The topic, because not that many people know about it, is sure to be intriguing so I don’t have to feel ashamed about bringing it up. The only problem is that, because other people don’t have much knowledge of holography, the conversation can only go so far.

In some maybe more important ways, having an obscure interest that involves what resembles a science, but also an art, could be appealing to women. I don’t like to show off because I know that that’s not all that alluring either, but, like an animal attracting a mate in the wild, I have to demonstrate to a potential partner that I’ve got something that really makes me stand out from the crowd. So, saying that I’m into 3D images might just be the way to showing off my figurative peacock feathers to tempt the right woman. And, if I find a woman who responds well to my interest in holograms, then maybe I’m on the path to a happy long-term relationship.

Why-to perform karaoke:

Karaoke started as a small, humble pursuit in Japan, but has since flourished all over the world. It’s a popular pastime in bars, arcades, and private homes that allows users to sing the words to popular songs as if to own the songs for themselves.

While the word may be a portmanteau of  “kara”, for “empty”, and “?kesutora”, for “orchestra”, the activity is far from empty for its participants. Not only does karaoke bestow the singer with a sense of empowerment, a small taste of fame, but it can also be a lot of fun. In most venues, the selection of karaoke songs on offer is filled with only the most popular songs, which almost anyone can recognize.

Karaoke can even be a way for introverts to break free from performance anxiety, come out of their shells, and really discover their full potential. You don’t have to be a great singer to do it. In fact, sometimes it can be more entertaining the worse you are.

Why-to perform karaoke in your own home:

Karaoke, watching it and performing it, used to make me quite uncomfortable. In some ways, it still does. I didn’t start to enjoy it until my best friend Ben joined a website where you could find a huge variety of songs and stream them directly into your living room. There was no need to go to a bar and embarrass yourself in front of a group of strangers; with this site, you could do it in the comfort of your own home. We’d throw parties and get drunk and sing songs. The living room aspect really created a casual ambiance, replacing a stage six inches higher than the audience with couches and rugs and dirty, hardwood floors. We all sang together and when someone didn’t know the words or lacked confidence, we could fill in and help them out.

That girl that I was in the awful relationship with was there. I have trouble even mentioning her name, but it’s Daphne. We weren’t dating any longer, but had what she referred to as a friendship.

Why-to learn about the democratization of Poland:

History is rife with revolutions. Though a majority of history classes in the United States seem to use wars as the anchors along our historical timeline, social revolutions could just as easily mark points in human chronology. In fact, revolutions might be more indicative of major shifts in a society than wars are, in the first place.

The democratization of Poland is of particular interest because of the marketing and the distribution of underground newspapers used to fuel social change. The Solidarity movement—made up of revolutionary laborers, students, and intellectuals—created a brand for itself by forming a logo out of the group’s name in graffiti letters.  This logo, placed on newspapers distributed among an underground network or spray-painted all across the city, was a powerful image for the movement, a symbol around which the people of Poland could unite.

Why-to examine minor factions of a social movement:

The Orange Alternative, a small faction of anarchist students also fighting for Polish freedom, relied on eccentric symbols and methods of protest to fight the totalitarian government. In the middle of the night, the Polish police would cover up Solidarity’s graffitied declarations of protest with grey paint. And trailing behind the police, the Orange Alternative painted over these grey blobs with their own orange dwarves.  At “happenings”—street protests thrown by the group while the country was under martial law— members would come dressed as silly, orange dwarves and hand flowers to police officers, chanting phrases like, “There is no freedom without dwarves!”  In turn, the costumed protesters were arrested and beaten.  The absurdity of police officers abusing dwarves for handing out flowers drew international media attention and exposed the cruelty of the Polish government to witnesses abroad.

It seems that the social conditions under which a person lives can really affect his or her whole belief system, mindset, and way of living. Under strict totalitarianism, the oppression is more obvious and gaining the support of the people may be easier to achieve.  Social movements in countries with less apparent repression, lacking martial law for instance, may have a more difficult time obtaining the critical mass of the people because the elite in such countries rely more heavily on ideological control, creating factions in the public so that achieving common ground is nearly impossible. But, whether you live in a totalitarian state or a modern democracy, learning about social movements can teach you the various methods used to create freedom and egalitarian relationships throughout any society.

The point is: Daphne would be there during karaoke. So, while she howled the mournful lyrics of Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces”, I would feel an obligation to watch, to mumble “good job”, and to even sing along when she thrust the microphone into my face. If I didn’t, it meant, according to Daphne, that I didn’t care. And if she could tell that I didn’t care, the jig was up and I’d have to hear Daphne’s accusation that I was a selfish person, a bad person, just another American or just another human being, the problem with the world and the problem with her world, the problem with every possible world, and the reason why life wasn’t worth living in the first place. I just couldn’t handle that sort of responsibility.

But, really, the point is that Ben was there too and he had brought this little piece of nirvana into my life, sometimes literally. He sang songs with such fervor that it wasn’t like he was the artist himself, but something better. He had more energy and enthusiasm than Steven Tyler ever had singing an Aerosmith song, the same way that that one Prince impersonator in Vegas had more fun pretending to be Prince than Prince ever had actually being himself. Ben took the ordinary, such as the same pop song you heard a million times, and reminded you of why anything was extraordinary in the first place. The reason he’s probably my best friend, and maybe always will be, is because he kept me company with these really simple miracles during this very dark time in my life.

After the casual living room affairs, we went on to live performances, sometimes doing duets, in bowling alleys and bars all over. I think I got pretty good, but I still think Ben will always be the best karaoke singer I’ll ever know.

“Why-to take up hobbies” Recap:

  • The promotion of enjoyment not linked to an obvious extrinsic reward, like money
  • Staves off the endless boredom
  • Performs a social function
  • Provides conversation fodder
    • Dispensed with the need for any worker involvement,

    • Eliminating the prospect of stoppage or strike
    • To obtain government funding
  • An excuse for human interaction
    • To conform to the status quo
    • Have unimaginable sex with each other

Why-to be a 3D image enthusiast:

  • Very interesting
  • To talk about at parties

  • Appeal to women

Why-to perform karaoke:

  • As if to own the songs
  • A small taste of fame
  • Can be fun
  • Discover your full potential
    • There’s no need to go to a bar and embarrass yourself
    • You don’t have to be a great singer
    • It’s comfortable
    • Has a casual ambiance
    • We can all sing together
      • Major shifts in a society
      • Marketing and distributing underground newspapers
        • Eccentric symbols and methods of protest to fight totalitarianism
      • Methods to create freedom and egalitarian relationships throughout any society.
    • Ben was there too
    • These really simple miracles
    • I got pretty good

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