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Burnt Offerings

Burnt Toast#12, 1992

The human brain is a wonderful thing, though if you put five billion of them in one place you're liable to end up with a helluva mess (still, a good freezer, a couple of chips with a chisel, and you've got yourself a conversation piece ski-slope...)

Sad to say, however, the wetware (as the computing people call it) is not quite as perfectly programmed as we might like.

Take the case of the short/long term memory interface. Generally speaking the short-term grabs any sensory input first, and a check is then run on long-term to see if the impression is a familiar one. But the brain can get confused -- at times the signal meets up with itself and a message is reported back that the memory has been found, the brain not realising that the memory was in the very act of being created.

It is, as I believe Richard Grant said, déjà vu all over again. And once you know such a thing is possible you can, at times, actually trace its process. It's a weird feeling. Our reality is based on our memories and our perceptions -- and to step back and watch reality change itself is, well, a weird feeling.

The Soviet Union no longer exists. Recently I was given a bit of plastic and it took me a while to realise it was a five dollar note. There has been a lot of talk about the change in public morals. Europe seems to be uniting itself.

The face of horror is changing, blood and guts have all been done before. Did Silence of the Lambs really mark a turning point in attitudes? Certainly the actual process of film creation and rating has evolved dramatically in the years I have been paying attention.

And as for our favourite television show? The death of Doctor Who left the fans in a strange position. (And what's with all this Kate Orman bashing? C'mon guys, check your egos in at the door, puh-lease.)

Even the constants change. Stephen King's latest is out, no surprises there. But in Gerald's Game he shows that working within society's limits can be far more unpleasant than any gore dripping monster (or, at least, he did until the last fifty pages. Interesting, that. Perhaps not brilliant, but interesting).

What is more truthful, watching the news or spending Sunday afternoon in the Botanical Gardens with someone you love? Man creates both beauty and horror, but perhaps in the end he only creates. The end product becomes unimportant.

Will he create something that pushes his society over the edge? Will he make a television set or a set of morals that will finally distract himself from his animal nature?

Step back and watch it happen.

It's a weird feeling.


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