Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Today's Quote

"One of the conversations I had with Stacy concerned the generation gap: I can recall when checking a potential lover's bookshelf (as opposed to her medicine cabinet or myspace page) told me all I needed to know."
-Jim Peterson, who just compiled Playboy's List of the 25 Most Erotic Novels to Susie Bright



Please, tell me this was done in Photoshop! If not, it's pretty funny. Maybe he's mad at Rick Moranis. But, at least he's not expressing himself with paper mache!


Fill in the blank

Haha! Apparently, pro-gay folks use those astroturf programs as well. It's so silly. Can't anyone express their own opinions anymore?



Jesse Walker disagrees about bookstores- he says that there's plenty of serendipity in Googling information. True. But, looking around online is like wandering though a giant library in which 40% of the books are utter crap, and 50% are bestiality porn. And the librarians are drunk pedophiles. So, like the worst library ever.


America, Fuck Yeah!

From Toledo, Ohio, the classiest part of... well, pretty much just Ohio really, comes an answer to the problem of illegal immigration- a paper mache statue of liberty mooning cars. Take that immigrants!
Yep, this is the culture we're preserving... This and Red Lobster?... Fan-fucking-tastic.

(I think it should say "Kiss my French ass", actually)


Crack of Dumb

And now, here's what happens with double entendres go horribly wrong.



Well, after three months of searching for it, I finally found a copy of "Being and Time" in a bookstore. I have been to countless large bookstores in the last months, and none of them thought it was important enough to carry, apparently. I had considered getting it from Amazon, but then I sort of missed the fun of searching for something in the real world. Also, I've read that little bookstores are having trouble keeping afloat since everyone now shops on Amazon. Sure enough, a little bookstore had it, and actually knew why it was important.

I got the feeling that they're also having trouble keeping up in the era of on-line shopping. In a way, this seems counter-intuitive to me; don't most of those stores sell books online through Amazon? So, wouldn't they now have a much larger group of customers to sell to? It would make sense that they would be doing better in the online era. And yet, it does make a certain sense that they would be suffering. When I go to a bookstore looking for "Being and Time", I end up buying other books. Actually, I've gotten a stack of other books in my search for this one book. So, the focused on-line search cuts out the chance of me browsing. Sure, Amazon tells you books that supposedly relate to your purchases, but those are always silly, if not disturbing. A good bookstore worker would actually know what books are similar to mine- not a random list of books that other people who bought "Being and Time" also bought.

My point here is that the experience of shopping online can be easier, but it can also be lonelier. It also removes the element of chance and randomness that makes life in the ever-changing physical world so enjoyable. Just wandering around the world is pleasurable. I've said before that I've learned more in short walks than I have from entire books, and this is true.


Hat Trick

Well, I was close... A few days ago, I made a joke about climate scientists selling an "anti-global warming hat". Pretty dumb, I'll admit. But, I figured that nobody would actually be stupid enough to buy such a thing. Well, today I saw an advert:
"Protect our borders! Buy the cap!"


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Today's Poem

your life is your life
don't let it be clubbed into dank
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you
know them, take them.
you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life,
and the more often you
learn to do it,
the more light there will
your life is your life.
know it while you have
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight

-Hank, CrimethInk collective


School gays

In California, they're requiring that the positive contributions of gays and lesbians be added to history textbooks. Actually, though, there are already plenty of gays in history- it's just that none of the books mention their sex lives. So, I'm wondering if they fix the problem by working adding that...
"And incidentally, Frederick the Great was also great at loving other men!"
Or do they just add more positive gay role models? I'm thinking the gays they mean are men like Harvey Milk and not Senator Joseph McCarthy. But, you never know.

Meanwhile, in Utah, they're worried that textbooks aren't anti-gay enough. According to curriculum director Nedra Call, the requirement is simple: "Our policy is that (homosexuality) will not be taught unless it is teaching the negative consequences thereof." Because, you know, a state founded by polygamists needs to lecture the rest of us about the negative consequences of unorthodox sexuality.


Cannes News

Great news from Cannes! Roger Ebert says that "Bugs" is a fine return to form from the great director William Friedkin and an excellent horror film to boot. Also, Marie Antoinette isn't quite splendid, but it's not nearly as bad as has been implied. It sounds like the movie never quite reaches its denoument, but he says the reports of booing are very much overblown. It's playing in Paris, and I'll see if it's playing in Nantes this Sunday. The posters are great!
Au revoir!


Sunday, May 28, 2006

The map is not the territory

The map is not the territory.

This is a famous argument from Alfred Korzybski. It's also related to the section of the Tao Te Ching that I posted the other day. The idea that long and short are relative, for example, says the same thing as Korzybski. It says that these are two markers that reflect our abstracted language and not reality. Because our experience of reality is filtered through various abstractions, some linguistic and others perceptual, we never experience it directly. Korzybski disagrees here with Aristotle, who believed just the opposite about words, but agrees with Kant's argument in the Critique of Pure Reason. Kant said that even our perceptions of things are entirely limited to our a priori synthetic judgments of those things. Actually, Korzybski's idea is in line with most analytic philosophy. It's also in line with most non-Euclidean geometry and 20th century physics. Most arguments about relativity are phrased similarly.

Can we apply this in our daily lives? Well, it encourages us to be more aware of the abstractions that we think under. So, for example, I'll tell you that:
"My Uncle is a Republican."
And this means all sorts of things to you. Maybe good things, maybe bad things, and maybe indifferent things. The problem is that this statement is true in an abstract senseless, but philosophically worthless. The first problem is that it seems to tell us something about my Uncle while actually saying nothing. It helps in our daily lives if we remember that we've never met a textbook Republican. You've never met a typical Jew, or an ideal example of a Banker, or a textbook example of a vegetarian, or any other ideal either. The sentence is worthless information because the word Republican actually tells us nothing about my Uncle. And I think this is important when interacting with other people. Instead of taking the signifier for the signified, we need to take Korzybski's advice to take experiences and individuals with the attitude of "I don't know; let's see."

Here the word Republican leads us to certain abstractions, and the verb "to be" trips us up further. My Uncle does not equal the verb Republican. By using the verb "to be", we put my Uncle, a physical being, on an equal footing with an abstraction. We take the map to be the territory. In the French saying, we mistake the moon for the finger pointing at it. Of course, some will note that the words "my Uncle" actually don't help much more, although they are on a different level of being. The man is signified by the words in a different way than by the word Republican.

When we realize that people are not conterminous for any of the abstractions that we understand them by, and that even our sensory perceptions are abstracted (I am not white, or tall or short or even female or male outside of your a priori synthetic judgments- see?), we realize how unqualified we are to make many of the judgments we make about each other. These ways that we make meaning of the world, and give ourselves identities, they're nice and reassuring, but they tell us more about our abstractions than they do about the world.

The most important thing to take from this:

There is much more to be discovered in this world- everything, in fact.


Fashion Police

God: Okay, so hello religious fanatics, this is God. How's it going? So, I know there are a lot of really horrible things in the world; poverty, starvation, rape, war, domestic violence, murder, and so forth. And, you know, I'd really like to do something about all of those things. But, what can I do? I'm God. I work in mysterious ways. Whatever.
...But, there is something I really hate that I think needs to be fixed- shorts. No, seriously, I hate shorts; bike shorts, running shorts, you name it. Hate them. So, what I need for you to do is to kill anyone who wears shorts. Yes, that's right. No, I don't think that there's anything better you could be doing with your time. Now, I know people will think that you're bat-shit crazy sociopath wannabe fascists. But, they're probably wearing shorts. So, go get 'em. Praise me. Etc. etc. Over and out!


Apocalypse Watch

Okay, so what is the deal with global warming?

I'll be honest- I have little understanding of climate change. From what I can determine, there are a lot of people talking about it, some of whom understand it, and many of whom don't, and I'm the only one I know saying "I think I get it, but not really."

But, I will say that not everyone can be right here. One group claims it will be catastrophic for all life on earth, the sort of claim that I usually take to be a bit hyperbolic. From the other side, we hear that there is no such thing as global warming and, according to an ad campaign that was really made to be ridiculed: "Carbon dioxide is life!" Of course, this is from producers of carbon dioxide. I'm guessing Dave Thomas would have said that "hamburgers are life", and cows would have disagreed. It doesn't help me.

I know the hyperbole doesn't help the global warming people- my father was told in school that New York City would be underwater by 1999! On the other hand, the scientific opinion doesn't seem to be nearly divided as the political opinion on this, and that's disconcerting. Since I don't know much about it, I tend to bow to those who do. Also, I can't see how the arguments against global warming make much sense in the case of meteorologists. I mean, we can't say that they're making this up because they've got a lot to gain. Now, if the world's scientists put out a statement reading:
"World's Scientists agree that Global Warming is Deadly- and that the only protection is the Anti-Global Warming Hats that they are selling!" I'd be more suspicious.

Anyway, here is a blog published by real climate scientists about climate science:
Their concensus? Well, I'm no scientist, but it sounds like they're saying we're fucked.

How fucked? Again, I'm not an expert here, but apparently, really fucked.

"Two papers appeared in Geophysical Research Letters today claiming that the warming forecast for the coming century may be underestimated, because of positive feedbacks in the carbon cycle. One comes from Torn and Harte, and the other from Scheffer, Brovkin, and Cox. Both papers conclude that warming in the coming century could be increased by carbon cycle feedbacks, by 25-75% or so."

And that's just the most recent post. Many of the others are similarly depressing. And they don't even sell Anti-Global Warming Hats.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

In the yard with my cat

Today I went walking around the back yard with my cat Lola, watching her chewing on the plants. I do a lot of gardening and we have a yard that is full of various plants, weeds and flowers. Generally, I like to let things grow wild and pull only the weeds. Too many borders and edgings and lines and the garden stops being aesthetically pleasing to me. It's hard to get the right balance between nature and my work, but it's getting there.

Lola spends a lot of time chewing, but she also likes to sniff the flowers. It's fascinating to watch her with the plants. Her eyes narrow and she gets really calm; this is a pretty rare state for her, believe me! She's in her element outside. walking around the plants. She's not very comfortable with other cats, but she has some sort of sympathy with flowers.

It's so easy for her to be in the world. For me, so much of the time, it's difficult to just do this. I get stressed out about my university work, or money, or the state of the nation, and I forget to just exist in the world. And then summer comes, and I walk around in the scents, and I feel loving again. I feel alive again.

This is who I am, this wandering, curious, engaged being. The rest is the flotsom and jetsom of social decorum. How to resist this? How do we strike the balance between self and society?

Someone once said that modern history is a war between Authority and Desire, and if Authority must demand submission, Desire will settle for nothing less than the attainment of its gratification. I think it's fretting really- the fear and resentment of it that forces us to side with Authority against Desire. Many times I've been in arguments with people about some stupid law or "government crack-down" and I've argued that the law was needless and paranoid, and they've finally given up and whined "But, those people are criminals!"

1) The law is just because,
2) if you break it, you're a criminal.

And yet, desire and authority seem to exist in a balance as well. My curiosity drives my scholarship, and yet the authority of the elder scholars shapes how that scholarship develops. Authority can be elevating, and not repressing. It is always rewarding to spend time with people who are smarter than you are.

But, is this authority, this authoritative wisdom that demands no submission? Isn't it something else? Is all order authority?

Or, is order an illusion? That's how I take this section of Lao Tzu:
For is and is-not come together;
Hard and easy are complimentary;
Long and short are relative;
High and low are comparative;
Pitch and sound make a harmony;
Before and after are a sequence.

These are not absolute states, but relative markers that exist within human understanding, and which cannot exist without each other. This is how we order the world. And so, Lao Tzu got here before Kant. Or even before Einstein/Heisenberg.

But, Lola didn't have to get here at all.


Repeat After Me...

Are you upset about the possibility of gay marriage, but too stupid to form a coherent argument against it? Would you like to write a letter to the editor against gay marriage, but are just too illiterate to write anything more than: "Them homos is..."

Well, have no fear! Focus on the Family has a letter generating program for you!

It's pretty fun to use, and thankfully, Christian activists pretty much believe any lame, manufactured threat, or argument they're given, and then mindlessy repeat it anyway. I mean, it's not like they're going to think for themselves as is. So, this pretty much just cuts out the middle-man. In the classroom, we'd call this "plagiarism", but we're probably a bunch of fags anyway.

Here's the letter I generated. Maybe I'll send it to Mad Magazine:

For centuries now, in every civilized culture, marriage as the union of one man and one woman has been the building block of society. But it may not be true in America for long -- unless Congress approves the Marriage Protection Amendment.

(Um, right. But, how is gay marriage going to change heterosexual marriages? Why would this "building block" cease to exist if gays were married? And isn't the implication here that society itself would crumble without heterosexual marriage? So, again, why would straight marriages cease to exist if John and Andy were able to register for china? And why can't states make up their own minds about this issue? Why do we need to rewrite the Constitution? I mean, this building block crap isn't remotely convincing, and it doesn't come close to explaining why we need a new Amendment. But, you know, carry on.)

Yelling 'discrimination' is just one strategy the left has used to defeat this amendment.

(Hell, those jerks have even resorted to making intelligent arguments against it!)

They also have argued that gay marriage is a civil rights issue akin to the African-American struggle for equality. No less a civil rights icon than Jesse Jackson has denounced that claim, noting that 'gays were never called three-fifths human in the Constitution.'

(Which means?...

Jessie Jackson now has some sacred knowledge that the rest of us lack? Mr. 'Hymie Town' is our expert? And what do you want to bet that quote, when in context, wasn't as anti-gay marriage as they're framing it? And isn't the point here to re-write the Constitution to make it more anti-gay. Also, sorry, but blacks were never de facto criminals either. So, what is the point?)

Think of the MPA as a shield between our traditional values and radical judges intent on forcing their politically correct agenda on our nation. Without that shield, it's only a matter of time until marriage loses all meaning -- and social science data indicate children will suffer the most when that happens.

(See? Science says so too! In the study "Fag Marriage is Bad for the Children" Dr. Pat Robertson...

Look, obviously crumbling marriages are bad for children. They still haven't explained how it is that Claire and I are going to see John and Andy registering for wedding invitations, and decide that our own marriage just isn't worth it. Can you imagine that? Us in divorce court... 'Well, your honor, our own marriage is great. But, if gay guys can get married, well that means our marriage is sort of gay. We want a divorce right now!" I mean, it makes sense- it's just like how I can't own a house now, because gays can buy houses! Right?

And I love people who are using a bullshit passive-aggressive victim status to force the rest of the country to think, talk and live in ways that placate them accusing other people of being too "politically correct"! Not to mention trying to rewrite the Constitution to suit their own religious beliefs and then accusing others of being too "activist".)

We must help our senators see beyond the liberal spin and demand they vote the will of their constituents when they consider the amendment in early June.

(Or the will of their consistuents' argument generating program)

Learn more about it!


Friday, May 26, 2006

More Lao Tzu

Since the world points up beauty as such,
There is ugliness too.
If goodness is taken as goodness,
Wickedness enters as well.

For is and is-not come together;
Hard and easy are complimentary;
Long and short are relative;
High and low are comparative;
Pitch and sound make a harmony;
Before and after are a sequence.

Indeed the Wise Man's office
Is to work by being still;
He teaches not by speech
But by accomplishment;
He does for everything,
Neglecting none;
Their life he gives to all,
Possessing none;
And what he brings to pass
Depends on no one else.
As he succeeds,
He takes no credit
And just because he does not take it
Credit never leaves him.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Smartest Guys in the Prison

Two incredibly guilty men found incredibly guilty. Wowee.

What does it say when the upper classes are anti-social sociopaths? Hell if I know,


The Way of Life by Lao Tzu

There are ways but the Way is uncharted;
There are names but not nature in words;
Nameless indeed is the source of creation
But things have a mother and she has a name

The secret waits for the insight
Of eyes unclouded by longing;
Those who are bound by desire
See only the outward container.

These two come paired but distinct
By their names.
Of all things profound,
Say that their pairing is the deepest,
The gate to the root of the world.

The Way is unnamed and can't be named. It is the normative and constant way of nature, and is indistinguishable from the matter that embodies it. The pairing of life with matter is the key to all existence. The names are human means for distinguishing between things, but not given by nature.


Sawing off the branch he's sitting on

Tony Long at Wired asks why nobody has any interest in changing the world anymore, or even participating in it really, and comes to the conclusion that they're well, wired.


Sex-based Cults

This is just too funny not to post, and it goes along with my post about the FDA becoming a faith-based, puritanical administration think-tank.

As you may know, the FDA is stalling the approval of the emergency contraceptive Plan B because it prevents fertilization and every sperm is sacred. Anyway, lest you think that the FDA is irrationally overstepping its bounds here, let us listen to the very serious fears of Acting FDA Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Janet Woodcock. And yes, that's her name.

In regards to an FDA memo released during the discovery process, Dr. Curtis Rosebraugh, an agency medical officer, wrote: "As an example, she stated that we could not anticipate, or prevent extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an 'urban legend' status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B."

Proving once again that government officials are more interested than NAMBLA with the genitals of adolescents. Does anyone know what a "sex-based cult" is? Is the administration such born-again wackos that they think anyone having sex outside of marriage must be in a cult of some sort? And do kids really need FDA approval to be horny?

And who says that government shouldn't try to regulate the sexual morality of adult women?

Actually, the truth is that a Conservative is someone who believes that the state should regulate morality, and a Liberal is someone who believes that the state should regulate the economy and race relations. And me, I believe that the state should stick to regulating itself.


Patrick's right- The Wall is Good for Mexico

Over at the Pagan Temple, we've been arguing about the wall. Anyway, the argument's probably getting pretty moot, since there's going to be a wall whether I like it or not. But, I would like to point out that Patrick is right about something that I've generally been skeptical about- the wall will likely be good for Mexico's economy. But, it looks like he's right and I'm wrong. Today's NYTimes has an article in which Mexico's immigration reformers say that this wall is actually good news for Mexicans.

"Outside his government, several immigration experts have even begun floating the idea that real walls, not the porous ones that stand today, could be more an opportunity than an attack.

A wall could dissuade illegal immigrants from their perilous journeys across the Sonora Desert and force societies on both sides to confront their dependence on an industry characterized by exploitation, they say.

(This is basically Patrick's argument as well)

The old blame game — in which Mexico attributed illegal migration to the voracious American demand for labor and accused lawmakers of xenophobia — has given way to a far more soul-searching discussion, at least in quarters where policies are made and influenced, about how little Mexico has done to try to keep its people home.

"For too long, Mexico has boasted about immigrants leaving, calling them national heroes, instead of describing them as actors in a national tragedy," said Jorge Santibáñez, president of the College of the Northern Border. "And it has boasted about the growth in remittances" — the money immigrants send home — "as an indicator of success, when it is really an indicator of failure."

I'm still pretty skeptical that the wall will actually keep people out, but Patrick is really on to something here, and I'm starting to see the potential benefits of the wall that he sees.

I'll also say that I think Hiromi is right about everyone misusing that "Good fences" line!


Today's Quote

"La soif de connaître est une noble soif."
-Jane Dieulafoy


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Good News

Okay, so the FDA still won't acknowledge the health benefits of marijuana because they say it's as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes. Mmm, apparently not.

"LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marijuana smoking does not increase a person's risk of developing lung cancer, according to the findings of a new study at the University of California Los Angeles that surprised even the researchers.

They had expected to find that a history of heavy marijuana use, like cigarette smoking, would increase the risk of cancer.

Instead, the study, which compared the lifestyles of 611 Los Angeles County lung cancer patients and 601 patients with head and neck cancers with those of 1,040 people without cancer, found no elevated cancer risk for even the heaviest pot smokers. It did find a 20-fold increased risk of lung cancer in people who smoked two or more packs of cigarettes a day."

Don't expect the increasingly faith-based FDA to acknowledge this either.


Legal defense

Okay, I am completely tapped out right now. Paid for France, sort of. Still in debt.

Anyway, if anybody's got twenty bucks, or hell just anything, the subgenius who is fighting to hold onto her son needs about $20,000 for her legal defense. Please make contributions here:

Rachel Bevilacqua
c/o Christopher S. Mattingly
Lipsitz Green LLP
42 Delaware Avenue
Suite 300
Buffalo, New York 14202-3857



Missouri Hates Company

Black Jack, Missouri is kicking out a couple for having children out of wedlock.

I think the city wants to send a clear message that they don't want children born out of wedlock," the evicted mother told AFP in a phone interview. "It has become a moral issue for them.

"They see family in a certain way and that's the only acceptable way."

Did you know that Missouri's state motto is "Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law"?
This is an example of irony.


Lost in Translation

Sophia Coppola's film about Marie Antoinette apparently got booed at Cannes, where they know a thing or two about Marie Antoinette. I've only seen the trailer, and it looks gorgeous. But, I kept thinking to myself "What the hell is with the indie rock?" Also, why do they keep letting Kirsten Dunst act in real-people movies? Anyway, it could be worse; at least they didn't decapitate Ms Coppola.

Incidentally, Claire and I are going to Versailles this summer and we're over la lune about it.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bobsy Twins

For those unfamiliar with the Church of the Subgenius, they are followers of the man on the right, who is named "Bob" Dobbs. Incredibly, the man on the left is also named Bob Dobbs. He is the President of the University of Cinncinati. I'm guessing he has no idea about the Bob Dobbs on the right.


Make a joke, loose your kids

Apparently, members of the Church of the Subgenius are too funny to have children.

Here's the actual headline:
"Mother pokes fun at religion; loses son"

The cosmic irony of a man named Judge Punch not understanding satire is pretty incredible.

But, apparently the Judge from Western New York (the dumber half of the state, believe me) decided to suddenly strip Rachel Bevilacqua of all parental rights. "This after County Judge James Punch learned of her involvement in a satire performance group that pokes fun at religion, called the Church of the Sub-Genius. Court transcripts back up her claims."

"I've read through the transcripts a million times and he just said it's obvious that I shouldn't have my son. Obvious."

A better headline, tweaking the Sub-genius motto a bit might be:
"Judge Fucked; He Can't Take a Joke".

If you're one of those nut cases who thinks that the state shouldn't actually punish people for making fun of religion, you can make a donation to Bevilacqua's legal defense HERE or paypal HERE.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Even More Heraclitus

Here is yet another translation of that startling Heraclitus line:

"They do not understand how, though at variance with itself, it agrees with itself. It is a backwards-turning attunement like that of the bow and lyre."

I don't read Greek, but supposedly this is a more literal translation. It changes my understanding of Plato, which has always been pretty weak, to think that Heraclitus was a major influence on him. It makes his "forms" a bit more coherent, as a sort of ideal that things stretch towards.

I should go to bed.


More Heracitus

"To God all things are fair and good and just, but men hold some things wrong and some right."


Harmony of Opposites

"Men do not know how that which is drawn in different directions harmonises with itself. The harmonious structure of the world depends upon opposite tension like that of the bow and the lyre."
-Heraclitus, 475 BCE

Other translation:
"What opposes unites, and the finest attunement stems from things bearing in opposite directions, and all things come about by strife."

The harmony of opposites is an ideal in both taoism's shen and kwei, and in western alchemy, as well as coming up here in Heraclitus, the first greek philosopher. Actually, Heraclitus has a lot of taoist ideas in his writings- change is constant, opposites find unity in balance with each other, etc. Hegel uses the same idea in the dialectic- thesis, antithesis and synthesis. And Jung uses alchemal ideas in his picture of spiritual wholeness, which is both male and female. Derrida talks about words being elusive because of this slippery relationship with their opposite.

I talk about these things here not because I want to show off what I know, but because this is something I don't know. It's something I've tried to understand. This idea that opposites form some sort of balance eludes me- I try to understand how kindness harmonizes with cruelty, for example, and I can't do it. The classic example is night, which when it reaches the point of total darkness starts to become day. This is a bit easier to understand. But, the idea that death and life form a balance is difficult for me to accept or understand.

Education is humbling in this way- every time you learn one thing, along with it you discover three other things you don't know. At this point, I have learned thousands of things that I don't know. By the time I am out of grad school, I expect there will be millions of things I don't know. If I am ever old and wise, there will be billions of things I don't know.


Today's Koan

After Bankei had passed away, a blind man who lived near the master's temple told a friend:

"Since I am blind, I cannot watch a person's face, so I must judge his character by the sound of his voice. Ordinarily when I hear someone congratulate another upon his happiness or success, I also hear a secret tone of envy. When condolence is expressed for the misfortune of another, I hear pleasure and satisfaction, as if the one condoling was really glad there was something left to gain in his own world.

"In all my experience, however, Bankei's voice was always sincere. Whenever he expressed happiness, I heard nothing but happiness, and whenever he expressed sorrow, sorrow was all I heard."


Lola Home Alone

We spent the holiday weekend in cottage country with the in-laws. It was very relaxing sitting in the cabin, playing board games.

Since we've been home, Lola, our intrepid cat, has been following us around the house purring. It's funny because we've been home for five hours now and she has not let us out of her sight.

It's as if she missed us. Is this possible?


Torture Awareness Month

One of the things I've learned about politics from my time in the trenches is that you basically have two sorts of people in any political organization:
1) People who support certain policies and have certain positions on things and so side with the party, and
2) Authoritarians- people who basically believe the party should have power.

It's like this in any organization. You have the people who work with others to further specfic goals, and those who simply want to further the hegemony of the party. To give an example of this on the left, Sartre was someone who eventually accepted the idea of show trials for the enemies of the Soviet state. So, excessive state power wasn't really a problem for this old member of the resistance, as long as it was his state and his party.

But, you have the same authoritarians on the right, albeit usually in fascist parties. Currently, there seem to be two sides in the debate over the methods of the war on terror. As usual, the left has no say in the conversation. And the right seems to be split between the more libertarian right, who have a problem with increasing state power, torture, rendition and so forth, and the authoritarian right, who generally don't.

It's heartbreaking to think that we're arguing over whether or not we should use torture. But, alas, we can do it. And that seems to be the argument for doing it.

The argument against torture is here, and here, and here. The pragmatic argument against it from CIA agents and ex-agents is here.

June is torture awareness month, although honestly, the people who are unaware of all this are willfully so. This information is in newspapers, all over the Internet, and readily available in book form. So, the "few frat pranks" at "Club Gitmo" people are willfully ignorant. The list of homicides during interrogation are here. Locations of torture here.

And so it goes. I hope that posting this helps. But, what I'm starting to understand is that the thing that made the KGB the KGB wasn't any particular ideology- it was that they could be the KGB. And what made apparatchiks support them wasn't any ideology- for all of his talk of ideology, Sartre could have cared less. They simply supported power, and the right of power to do as power wishes. And, in the end, if you are willing only to support this, you lose the right to support anything else, or oppose anything at all.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Where Do You Want to Go Drop Acid today?

Here's your anti-drug PSA:

From Reason Magazine:
"Missing from the slate of speakers were, arguably, LSD’s two best-known “problem children,” Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs. As John Markoff, author of What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer, told a D.C. audience at a December event hosted by the Copyright Clearance Center, both have acknowledged the formative effect of dropping acid, with Jobs going so far as to call it “one of the two or three most important things that he’d done in his life.”

Just say "No" to LSD kids. You might turn out like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.


Howard Beware

Okay, well just like I eventually got tired of bitching on this blog about working for Mall University, I have now officially gotten tired of hearing myself bitch about pol'ticks.

So, in order to change the subject, here's a picture of a man named Howard. He looks pretty good considering that last week his wife ripped off his testicles with her bare hands.

I think that pretty much changes the subject, no?


Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Prostitute Crisis

I think we all agree that the prostitute crisis is out of control. Right?

I mean, you see them in every major city, standing on street corners, loitering, breaking the law, and generally degrading the neighborhood culture. Think of all the social ills that are related to hookers- divorce, STDS, drug abuse, family breakdowns, AIDS. Not to mention the fact that they break several Biblical laws.

Even worse, they make their living doing something illegal. You and I have to work our asses off, just so they can peddle theirs? They take (blow)jobs away from American women! And they give next to nothing back to society, aside from a few happy endings.

Now, some people might say that hookers have existed since the beginning of time, and that they will probably always exist. Those people will say that no law has ever stopped certain men and women from selling sex. Moreover, they will say that we can make prostitution safer and eliminate every social ill related to it simply by legalizing it. Oh, sure, they will point to examples like Nevada, where the hookers have no STDs because they recieve regular health examinations, and pay taxes, and work just like anyone else. And they will say that this is the "rational" answer to a problem that will never go away. That it's just dealing with reality in a level-headed way.

But, again, I say that this is a crisis! And how do you know that I am right that this is a crisis? Because I have now said the work "crisis" four times!! So, it must be terrible!

These people might compare the hooker crisis to the marijuana crisis. They might say that the government has been trying to wipe out pot for several decades now with no real success. They might even suggest that, as ugly as it is, most American teenagers smoke marijuana, and go on to lead normal lives. They might say that the "reefer crisis" is a media-fueled, completely irrational public hysteria that creates bureaucracy, a criminal underclass and creeping state intrusion into our private lives.

But I say CRISIS!!

And then, these degenerates will point to the example of illegal immigration, and say that this too is a problem that has existed since the beginning of time, and which will likely never be solved, and which has never actually been solved anywhere in human history. That people have always crossed borders they weren't supposed to in order to gain access to better labor markets. That smuggling is as old as human history, and that the greatest Empires in history have all failed miserably in trying to stop it, and in some cases, destroyed themselves in doing so. That not even totalitarian countries have been able to stop illegal border crossings.

Oh, sure. They'll say that illegal immigrants, as well, provide a service to society that makes some people very uncomfortable, and yet they do not destroy society by providing that service. They will say that breaking a law out of economic desperation does not make a person a wanton criminal. They will say that this too is a manufactured, bullshit, media-created, fake crisis that distracts people from real problems caused by their shitty politicians and their failing wars.

Then, some of them, the very brave, might point out that an open-border policy, in which people who have passports could cross to any NAFTA country would actually be good for business, good for culture, and good for national security because it would allow us to actually regulate people who otherwise are hiding in the shadows of darkness outside of the law. They might even say that NAFTA should, logically, allow the free flow of workers, as well as widgets.

Some might even say that "unassimilated" Mexican immigrants pose no greater threat to our culture than any city's Chinatown or hassidim. Or prostitutes.

And they might conclude by saying that an open-border is the only rational answer to a problem that will never be solved, no matter how high a wall you build. That this is the only level-headed answer that honestly faces the reality of the situation, even though that reality is not pretty or reassuring.

To those people, I say CRISIS!!! CRIIIIISSSSIIIISSS!!!


My Day

Speaking of being wrong, here's a series of doozies on my part. I calculated my students' grades a few days ago at the university. But, I did something wrong in Excel that screwed up the grades. So, I had to calculate them with a hand calculator.

Then, today, the professor called because she had found that I had calculated one kid's grade wrong. I gave him a 55, when he should have had a 73. Eeek! So, I had to get out my grade book and fix them all.

But, I found that I had mistakenly left my grade book in my office. So, I had to make the hour and a half drive back to work to get it. And get someone to teach me how to use Excel. And redo the entire batch of 65 grades. And now, I think I'm done.

But, I'm checking them again tonight, because I'm sure I've done a few wrong.

Please, no jokes about History students and our inability to do math.


All apologies

Doug Mcintyre says that he was wrong about the President. It's a strangely moving article because it's really off-putting to hear a radio talk show host admit to being wrong about something. It's also worth clicking that link to see if I'm not right that he looks like he's wearing a Halloween "nerd" costume. Anyway, to err is human. It's interesting how many people are now saying they were wrong about the war, and the President, and all sorts of other things. Most of us are wrong 99% of the time. And we find that we were wrong for most of that 1% as well. When you realize just how little you actually know, you learn to forgive.

For some reason, it makes me think of a scene in a R.A.Wilson book in which the main character looks in his wallet and finds a forgotten note to himself reading "You have no enemies". It would be nice if everyone realized that the people who disagree with them about "fundamental" issues are people, and not enemies.


Purloined Letters

I'm sure it's not tremendously interesting for most of you, but if you would like to read the report on Ward Churchill's academic misconduct, here's a link.

The plagiarism charges are fascinating. In one case, Churchill published an article under a pseudonym, which the committee found was not plagiarism. But, what's really bizarre is that his pseudonym was the name of a well-known scholar in the field! So, it's as if I published a work of history under the assumed name "Simon Schama".

The other two cases of plagiarism were more straightforward. In one case, he was sent a pamphlet by an environmental group and asked to write an article about their campaign. So, he basically copied the pamphlet and put his name on it. This reminds me of a girl I caught plagiarizing recently who had borrowed her friend's essay and copied it, and claimed that she didn't see the problem because everyone was writing on the same topic, so their essays would be "pretty much the same anyway."

The fabrications are pretty interesting as well. As somebody who encounters plagiarists regularly, it's interesting to me what a pattern there is to their behavior. Churchill plagiarized and falsified on academic work. But, he's also been accused of art fraud and passing himself off as a member of various native american tribes that say otherwise.

So, I find this all fascinating. And, since I've read the report and said that Churchill should be fired, it seems fair to link to it, so that others can decide for themselves.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Today's Quote

"This affair is a disgrace for our country and for all of Europe. Voltaire and Erasmus are turning over in their graves."
-Afshin Ellian, Professor of Legal Philosophy at the University of Leiden.

He's speaking of the recent Dutch decision to strip Ayaan Hirsi Ali of her citizenship, nominally for having lied on her citizenship application years ago, and honestly for having stirred up the local religious fanatics. Holland was, of course, one of the key bastions of free thought during the Enlightenment. Sad to think that's changed.


Another Prick Gets a Wall

They got their wall. And citizenship for the people who are here already. It seems like a rational and humane compromise. I don't like the idea of a wall myself. But, I can learn to live with it, if it means that the nuts stand down. So, will they be happy with it? Mmmm.... we'll see.


The Chickens Have Come Home

Okay, well the big academic gossip for today is that Ward Churchill got nailed.

"In the end, the faculty panel assigned to look into the Ward Churchill mess at the University of Colorado found plenty of guilt to go around."

"It found repeated, intentional academic misconduct — plagiarism, fabrication, falsification and more — by Churchill, an ethnic studies professor at Colorado’s Boulder campus, and documented those instances in a 124-page report released Tuesday. But the panel also faulted the university, noting that allegations about Churchill had been known for years in the scholarly world but had not been deemed worthy of inquiry at his home campus."

Okay, so why did this not come up years ago? The faculty panel is going to be screwed here because the guy really shouldn't have tenure, and yet they wouldn't have looked into him if it wasn't for the Fox News panic attack over his comments on 9/11. So, they should get rid of him, and then he'll likely sue.

Basically what happened is that Churchill wrote this article entitled On the Justice of Roosting Chickens about the victims of 9/11 and why they don't deserve our sympathy. If you remember, I thought it was gross and dreadfully written to boot. Like something a 14 year old would write for a zine. Also, I said it would be nuts to expect that the trustees and public at large wouldn't freak out over the article. Anyway, the right wingers freaked out because he's a professor at a public university, and so gets money from the taxpayers, although honestly, I'm not sure why the taxpayers should get to dictate what opinions you hold for their investment.

Anyway, I've also said that I have yet to meet a professor with attitudes like those of Ward Churchill in seven years of academic life. Of course, the hysterics don't want to hear about that. Hysteria doesn't seek relief; it seeks release. People who are hysterical want to proved right. So, for half of the blogosphere, Churchill proves that we're all anti-American fanatics, right?

The university caved to public pressure and set up an investigation into Churchill's academic work, much of which had been questioned for years. And, they found the aforementioned plagiarism, fabrications, falsifications, and something to do with disrespecting native American oral traditions. So, what to do now?

Fire him.

Sure, he'll sue, but what does it say to the students of the university if a professor is allowed to plagiarise? I'm personally getting sick of plagiarism. Every semester, I get one or two students who think that it's okay to copy an entire paper from the Internet. And then, when I confront them about it, they half-heartedly give me these lame excuses. "Sure, I know it's wrong. But, I was short on time." None of them actually do seem to know that it's wrong. Even worse, Mall University won't bring them up on charges for it. I know. I've tried to get charges going. The University is afraid they'll get sued. People today think that academic work is worthless anyway, so why do it honestly?

Because it matters. Because this is what we do. Honest research is the heart of our profession. Ward Churchill attacked the heart of the profession that we love. Sure, the right wingers hate academia, and that won't change no matter what happens. But, they're wrong. Academic inquiry is more precious than gold for a free society. And we must defend its right to exist from both the anti-academics and the dishonest academics.

Fire him.


Monday, May 15, 2006


my friend matt linked me to this. it's awesome. make sure you look at all three pages.

my favorite is the dragon eating the dude who is making the castle. teehee. and the elephant, it's just "awww" material. enjoy.



On a related note

Okay, so now we're militarizing the border. This should please anyone who was freaked out by the immigration marches, and maybe boost the Decider's poll numbers a bit. I guess he has to worry about how this immigration "issue" effects his party. I actually prefered his old stance on immigration, which was rational and humane. But, people don't want rational and humane, I guess.

I guess my first problem with this idea is that it's just a collosal waste of money and manpower. It might please l'électorat conservateur, but probably won't. They want a wall, and generally believe that the President is doing too little too late since 9/11 happened nearly five years ago, and by now, millions of Mexican terrorists are in the coutnry, planning to take over America one landscaping job at a time, and the sky is falling and they want their mommies!! The pandering won't stop their panic attacks. Nothing will, short of a police state. And without a draft, we can't afford to use the guard to solve every problem we have.

My second problem with the idea is that it isn't clear why we need a military buildup on the border of a country that we aren't going to war with in the first place. The problem with having a war on terror is just this- you have to be prepared for a threat from every country on earth. So, we have to take a tough stance against Mexico for Christ's sake. But, what about the border up here? Anyone forgotten about Canada? And, who's to say that Mexicans won't save up for the flight to Toronto and then simply walk across this largely undefended border? Scary, eh?

My third problem is that I don't like the idea of the military being used to enforce domestic law. It should be obvious why this is a bad idea, but sadly, it isn't for most people. When the military takes over domestic law enforcement in a territory, that territory falls under martial law. In this case, the territory in question is just the border, but does this include all of the American border towns? Do they now come under military law? Outsourcing police matters to the military is problematic for just this reason. And, at this time in our history, the distinction between military and police matters should be more strongly maintained, not weakened.

The antithesis of fear isn't security- it's reason. And this just isn't reasonable. I don't honestly think we're going to wind up with martial law- the administration is too incompetent for that. But a lot of things have happened that I didn't expect.

Matt Yglesias:
"One thing the Bush administration says it can do with this meta-data is to start tapping your calls and listening in, without getting a warrant from anyone. Having listened in on your calls, the administration asserts that if it doesn't like what it hears, it has the authority to detain you indefinitely without trial or charges, torture you until you confess or implicate others, extradite you to a Third World country to be tortured, ship you to a secret prison facility in Eastern Europe, or all of the above. If, having kidnapped and tortured you, the administration determines you were innocent after all, you'll be dumped without papers somewhere in Albania left to fend for yourself. Once you start in with this business, it's a widening cycle of lawlessness with almost endless possibilities for abuse."

But, at least, it'll be home-grown abuse, right?


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Book Notes: The Mass Psychology of Fascism

What shall we do with Wilhelm Reich?

A one-time student of Freud's, Reich made his mark on psychoanalysis with his first study Character Analysis, which is still influential in gestalt treatments. The development of character analysis is perhaps his greatest achievement, and certainly it is his least controversial one.

Reich became a Marxist in the 1920s, and actually travelled to the newly-formed Soviet Union. He ran afoul of the Soviets due to his calls for sexual liberation for adolescents. Actually, he was a rather early advocate for full sexual liberation and considered sexual repression to be the key to all other sorts of oppression, especially political. This is perhaps the key to understanding all of Reich's work, but especially this study.

The problem is, Reich evetually came to believe that the Orgone was the key to all of his work. He felt that this energy was the key to all health, was contained in the atmosphere and all living material, and could be easily measured, especially in the human orgasm. Cosmic Orgone energy was therefore the key to health, and Deadly Orgone Rays were the key to all disease. Eventually, Reich believed that he was battling aliens, that he could produce rain with a 'cloudbuster' he had invented, and he could cure cancer with his Orgone Box.

Most governments did not take kindly to Reich. The Soviets expelled him, and he eventually became fervently anti-Communist, the Nazis burned his books and forced him to flee from Austria, and eventually the US government went after him when he settled in Maine. In a classic example of state overreach, the FDA (yes, the FDA) brought an injunction against his orgone therapy, and burned several tons of his books. He violated the injunction by moving his equiptment across state lines and was then arrested and died in jail two years later. The procrustean sentence made Reich something of a counter-cultural hero, and his pro-sex views didn't hurt much in that area.

The problem is that his experiments have been replicated and people have gotten the same results, but have found more clear-cut explanations than the existence of healthy orgone and negative orgone. Einstein believed that Bernard Harrer, who actually recreated all of Reich's experiments in the lab came to the conclusion:
"After many years of scientific pursuit with the main focus on life energy, I personally believe that Reich’s orgone theory is antiquated. In this theory, I see a dead end which one can easily drive into if there does not exist enough precision in the scientific research and the ability to criticize."
So, we can abandon the orgone. Unfortunately, Reich though the orgone important enough to re-write all of his work to include his new discovery, including the Mass Psychology of Fascism. For this reason, it is difficult to fully endorse the study.

And yet, the orgone material is actually very little of the reworked manuscript. In fact, it doesn't come up until about 3/4 of the way through the study, and is fairly easily ignored. If we replace terms like "biopathy" with the more common "psychopathology", the work reads as a standard work of psychoanalysis. Actually, it's a first-rate work of psychoanalysis that should not be overlooked.

Reich begins with that old mystery- Why did German workers vote Nazi when things got really bad for them? We can understand why the rich voted for an authoritarian government that would preserve their interests. But, why do workers vote for an authoritarian government that will preserve the interests of the rich? Reich sees this as a clear indication of irrationality, although it's hard to say if it would have taken a certain resentment to vote socialist in the 1930s, especially in light of the dictatorship of the proletarait that had formed in the USSR by this point.

Reich, rightfully I think, details how strongly authoritarian the USSR was, and amazingly enough, quotes an American conservative who travelled the USSR and found it to be further to the right than most of the United States. Cleverly, Reich insists that the Soviet animosity towards the US was due to ill conscience in light of how repressive their own society had become. As for Germany, it doesn't seem that they had much of a choice in the 1930s elections.

Reich feels that workers have little real choice in authoritarian societies, but because he defines authoritarianism as based in the sexual repression of the patriarchal family, finds all modern societies to be repressive, and most of the older ones as well. He excoriates Christianity for its unhealthy sexuality, and feels that this produces populations that are sick and miserable. His thesis then is:
1) Authoritarian societies produce sexually repressed and neurotic individuals,
2) Religious movements channel this sexuality towards ecstatic religious experiences, while repressing its healthy expressions,
3) Nazism, as well, was repressive of healthy sexuality, but channeled eros towards mass rallies, and transgressive political experiences.
Reich writes:
"The sexual effect of a uniform, the erotically provocative effect of rythmically executed goose-stepping, the exhibitionistic nature of militaristic procedures, have been more practically comprehended by a salesgirl or an average secretary than our most erudite politicians. On the other hand it is political reaction that consciously exploits these sexual interests."

This is an interesting explanation of the strange character of fascism- at once highly authoritarian and rebellious, homoerotic and sexually repressive, transgressive and condeming. Reich's central idea: If you control their genitals, you control the world" continues to be relevant, even now when sexual compulsion is used to market shaving creams. Reich understood that the flip side of sexual repression isn't compulsion, mysogyny, rape and so forth, but actual sexual liberation, that elusive dream that always seems an inch out of reach.

So, should we forget Reich? Well, taking him with a large grain of salt, I think he still bears fruit.


Secret Societies: The Hashshashin

Hassan i-Sabbah was a 11th century Ismā'īlī Nizārī missionary. The Ismā'īlī are a branch of Shi'a Islam, the Seveners are a branch within the Ismailis, and the Nizāriyya are a sect of the Seveners. They broke off because they believed that the successor Imam to the Fatimad caliph al-Mustansir should have been Mowlana Nizar instead of his brother Al-Musta'li. Hassan i-Sabbah was the leader of the most notorious group of Nizari, the Hashshashin. The Hashashin were generally known for terrorising the Abbasid caliphs, among others, through targeted political killings. The English word "assassin" comes from the sect.

Hassan founded the group in 1090 in the mountains at Alamut, south of the Caspian Sea. He is best known to the West through the writings of Marco Polo in 1279. At this time, Hassan was remembered by the name "Old Man of the Mountains". Marco Polo's story has become famous:

"Recruits were promised Paradise in return for dying in action. They were drugged, often with materials such as hashish (some suggest opium and wine as well) then spirited away to a garden stocked with attractive and compliant women and fountains of wine. At this time, they were awakened and it was explained to them that such was their reward for the deed, convincing them that their leader, Hassan-i-Sabah, could open the gates to Paradise."

The story is likely more myth than reality, but what is most interesting about the group is how feared they were, given their small numbers and limited geographic range. They were eventually all but wiped out by the Mongols, but for a secret society, their power at its height was equal to that of the caliphs. They were a very tightly knit, semi-mystical group whose members gave their utter devotion of Hassan, generally killing the person who they were assigned to kill, and then waiting to be killed themselves.

Also likely just a myth are the reported final words of Hassan i-Sabbah:

"Nothing is true. Everything is permitted."


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Smoking for Better Health

At last! Here's a good reason to smoke cigarettes: they prevent Parkinson's Disease.

Actually, they've known this for some time, but nobody has been able to explain why it is that cigarette smokers are less likely to develop Parkinson's.

Apparently, a compound in tobacco that is a derivative of naphthoquinone, preserves dopamine by interfering with an enzyme in the brain known as monoamine oxidase (MAO). MAO typically breaks down neurotransmitters - including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine - as part of normal chemical activity in the brain.

I'm guessing they'll find another way to get the useful compound, but for now, smokers can tell everyone else to shut-up, for once.


Eyeballs, testicles, vaginas, etc.

Here's a nice article on Georges Bataille, a writer whose work is difficult, but worth the trouble.

"Shunned by mainstream surrealism for his attraction to all that is "soiled, senile, rank, sordid", Bataille saw that we can no more be healthy without embracing darkness than a tree be loath to dirty its roots by placing them in the ground. In a world moving further away from the shadowy yet nourishing earth, this insight is more urgent than ever."


Identity Politics

Dave Hill states something that has been in the back of my mind for some time:

"I'm wary of accidentally joining in with the dreary right-wing drone about "victim culture", "multiculturalism" (whatever they think it means), "political correctness" and so on, which some "hard liberals" seem in danger of doing. Yet it has long been very clear that while identity politics can be a rational and affirming response to prejudice and oppression they can also be deeply reactionary: racial essentialism, inward-looking nationalism, cultural purism and a general suspicion of difference and change too often become integral to them."

That's the word I've been looking for: reactionary. It's fascinating, isn't it? At their best, identity politics are a stirring response to an "us-or-them" monoculture. But, at their worst, identity politics assert another us-and-them dichotomy that in no way threatens the dominant culture, as much as gives a new way to consent to it.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Cannibal Man (1971)

Sort of a strange movie- it reminds me of the clasics of Italian neo-realist cinema with murder and mutilation thrown in for good measure. You can feel the grit and squalor of eary 1970s fascist Spain in this story of a poor slaughterhouse employee who develops a taste for killing everyone who enters his hovel. There's a strong indictment of Franco hidden here, with a main character who is dirt poor and on the run from the law, and vaguely homosexual. Director Eloy de la Iglesia went on to direct a number of films with more overt gay themes. This one is subversive in that it's picture of Spain is just as bleak before the killing starts. We start to wonder if his capacity for violence is a result of his environment. Worth watching for students of the era, and fans of strange horror films. Not for most other viewers. Also, a warning for animal lovers- the slaughterhouse is shown doing what it does. And, not to be pedantic, but the title is a bit misleading because the killer throws some people into the meat-grinder for the stew, but doesn't actually eat anyone.


Quicksilver Highway (1997)

One of my less academic "projects" is my current mission to watch all of the horror videos at our local cheapo video store. I think I can pull this off because they don't get any new VHS tapes and I've already seen half of them. The downside is, there are some movies that I have never rented because I'm pretty sure they're terrible. Do I really want to see Octopus?

Anyway, Quicksilver Highway was apparently shot for television and later released on video. It stars Christopher Lloyd as the creepy narrator and has one story each from Stephen King and Clive Barker. Actually, I wanted to see it because the Clive Barker story, "The Body Politic" is fantastic, a tale of a revolution of severed hands trying to escape "the tyranny of the body". Very clever.

So, if you rent this one, fast-forward past Christopher Lloyd, and actually skip the Stephen King story "Chattering Teeth", which is really stupid, and go straight to the Clive Barker story. I think there are two kinds of horror stories that work well- the first is ones that are geniunely scary. But, if they're not scary, then the really bizarre and over-the-top stories work well too. Barker's story is pretty strange- a surgeon's hands decide that they want to be free of his body, so they stage a coup, and attempt to recruit other hands for their revolution. It's a great example of surrealism, and pretty entertaining. What more can you ask for from a $1.25 video rental?


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Normal Behavior for Cats

Did you know that cats are insane?

Seriously. Watch this...

Yesterday, I watched Lola stalking these two low-flying bumblebees. It was the cutest thing I've seen in ages. She crouched down behind a flowerpot and leapt for them.


Corporate Rock Still Sucks

Ever wondered why you hear nothing but corporate rock on the radio? The reason is "payola", and it's actually illegal, although rarely prosecuted anymore.

But, it can be. Universal Records is being fined $12 million for forcing Lindsay Lohan on America by paying radio stations to play her music.

Of course, for a crime like that, no fine is really high enough.


The Wades

Here's the charming webpage of The Wades: Chris and Ali

Chris Wade used to be in a band I liked called hose. got. cable.
And they were both in Orlock. And, actually, they've been in more projects than I can keep straight.

Now, they record music together as husband and wife, and raise their adorable children.

Like me, they're transplants from Planet Virginia to a foreign land.

For me, it was Canada, and for them it was Wisconsin. But, they mention the same stares they get when they say "y'all". I like their page because they're very creative and open-hearted and they're clearly happy and love each other. And I like their music.


A Quote for Today

"To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides"
-David Viscott


Demanding Salon Critiques WP's flaccid reporting

So, Salon also has a problem with the Post's limp reporting.

Rebecca Traister writes:

"Perhaps (and I realize this is pie-in-the-sky thinking here) the leveling of the sexual marketplace Stepp writes about, in which women and men enjoy and pursue sex with comparable vigor, could be good for both sexes. First, it could deflate some of the frequently unearned but long-held stereotypes about guys who'll have sex with anything that moves, who consider each conquest a notch on their bedpost, who are more turned on by the pursuit than by the physical pleasure of union. Perhaps, if sex with women is something that they didn't have to finagle and tease and chase their way into, if it was just a fun activity that two people who liked each other chose to engage in and that often felt really great, everyone would have a better time."

Well, that actually sounds really boring. But, I see her point. The WaPo article has no better solution...

"It all falls into the John Tierney school of thought that says that all these overachieving college girls are going to end up single. All the libidinous ones are going to go sexless as well. Why don't we just buckle up our chastity belts and give those boys something to focus on unlocking already? Because lord knows, our eager, aroused bodies are totally harshing their hard-ons!"

Again, I'm not sure why people can't write articles defending young women without going into full-tilt passive-aggressive freakout mode. The Post article is massively stupid, but is it really attempting to market chastity belts? I just see it as being dopey, poorly thought through lifestyle reporting. Not a reactionary attack on women.

So, what do we know?

1) Young men, especially macho young men can't get it up.

2) The Washington Post says this is because women are too horny and available.

3) Salon says "nuh-uh".

How about this (and I realize this is also pie-in-the-sky thinking)... young people are already having plenty of sex as a "fun activity", without any repression. The sexual revolution has been won! The squares lost, baby! The Post and Salon are both wrong- the zipless fuck is already the norm for young people. The levelling of the sexual marketplace is a fait accompli.

And yet... they still have hang-ups. Not about sex, but about emotional vulnerability. They stick to one-night stands and fuck-buddies because they don't really know how to trust other people. Maybe Mom and Dad got divorced (which, frankly, is fucking devastating for a child), or maybe Mom and Dad just hate each other, and they've been innoculated with an ultra-competitive mindset in which other people are there for whatever you can get out of them.

I went back to school at age 26 and was shocked by how emotionless these kids were. What I saw at my university wasn't a fear of any sexual freedom. Zipless fucks, anonymous encounters, threesomes, foursomes, you name it- they were game. But, my classmates in university were terrified of caring about each other. I knew nobody who was looking for a relationship, and the couples I knew all wanted out. I think the most depressing thing I heard in four years was when I asked a friend if she was ever going to find herself a mate, and she replied "I have no time for a relationship! I'm 19- I have to think about my career!"

Maybe I was just lucky. I always had sex with feminists when I was a kid. They had their issues, but none of them saw sex as something that I gave them, or that I performed for their benefit. It wasn't divided into "my job" and "your job". It was something that we did together, usually while smoking pot and watching cartoons. If I couldn't get it up, we took a nap. It wasn't this sort of compulsive, joyless, desperate "hook-up" bullshit. It wasn't like a job interview for a corporation consisting of the opposite sex. It wasn't so emotionless and selfish and stupid.

I mean, I don't think the problem isn't that so many young people can't get it up. And it certainly isn't that they're sexually repressed by the patriarchy. It's that they can't really love other people. And that doesn't seem to worry Salon or the Post very much.


Soft News

Call out the national guard! Young men are having problems with their boners!

At least, according to the Washington Post.

Incredibly enough, they found a handful of College boys who were willing to be quoted in a national newspaper as having trouble getting it up.

One of them, a seior at UMD, "bench-presses a respectable 280 pounds. He fights fires in Howard County as a volunteer and plans to join the Secret Service in the fall. In short, he's a man's man."

(The last person you would expect to have a floppy dangling wang...)

"Or so he thought until last fall..." (When the boner train left town!)

"when he hooked up with a sophomore -- at her urging." (At her urging! O my!)

"The girl really wanted to make a go of it with him. On learning earlier that he had no interest in pursuing a relationship, she had offered to be his "friend with benefits," and he had agreed. In his mind, that decision was a no-brainer."

But, alas, it was a no-boner. So, anyway, the man's man can't get it up, and the Washington Post is having a really slow news day. So, why not invent another crisis?

"It seems that for a sizable number of young men, the fact that they can get sex whenever they want may have created a situation where, in fact, they're unable to have sex." (Yes, the Post is really arguing that young men are turned off by horny girls!) "According to surveys, young women are now as likely as young men to have sex and by countless reports are also as likely to initiate sex, taking away from males the age-old, erotic power of the chase."

Connect survey A (Boys are having trouble getting it up) to survey B (young girls are horny) and run the story! Throw in he-man who can't perform and stir well.

"I know lots of girls for whom nothing is off limits," says Helen Czapary, a junior at the University of Maryland. "The pressure on the guys is a huge deal."

(We all feel terrible for them, right? Right???)

"Statistical evidence is difficult to assess because surveys are few and vary in definition, from the occasional problem to the long-term condition."

So, it's tough to tell what the deal is, so let's throw in some crapola about the age-old, erotic power of the chase and call it a day. But, let's hedge our bets with some other possible factors.

"In certain young men, impotence can be a result of diabetes, cardiovascular disease or other organic problems. But for students such as the ones Brodie and other mental health professionals see, experts point to lifestyle. An increasing number of students arrive on campus taking antidepressants, some of which reduce libido and sexual function. They consume larger amounts of alcohol at one time than in years past, killing performance. Smoking, lack of exercise and anxiety also may be factors."

Antidepressants, stress, binge drinking, caffiene, drug abuse and cardiovascular disease... Yeah, those could play a role... Or, we could go back to the original thesis...

"One can argue that a young woman speaking her mind is a sign of equality."

(Well, one could say that, if'n they was a witch!)

"That's a good thing," says Sawyer, father of four daughters. "But for some guys, it has come at a price. It's turned into ED in men you normally wouldn't think would have ED."

Let's get that straight- a young woman speaking her mind leads to Erectile Disfunction! A young man who can't get a boner unless his mate doesn't speak her mind isn't already screwed up in any way, right?

That damned women's movement! It's led to a generation of horny willing babes who want to try kinky sexual practices... and everyone knows that that's a young man's worst nightmare!

So, the thesis of this story is... are you ready?

Young men are not sexually aroused when they encounter nubile horny young girls!
And why not?
Because there's nothing less arousing for a young man than a nubile horny young girl who wants to have wild sex with him!

Anybody buy that?


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cola Wars

My wife teases me because I call Pepsi "soda".

She says it's clearly called "pop", and only fools call it "soda".

I think North America is divided, and this division runs deeper than any red state-blue state nonsense. Some freaks even call these drinks "colas".

Here is the map detailing the lines in the Cola War: Pop Vs. Soda

God help us.


Course Work: Check

Okay, I'm off to turn in my last two essays for this semester. After this, I'm done with coursework forever. (Well... or until I start German)

But, the point is, I've now jumped through the first hoop of grad school, a hoop entitled "Hey, let's have you take two years of graduate seminars when you probably only need a semester of them!" In England, a history PhD shows up at the university, says 'ello, Guv'nor, and heads directly to the archives. Here, we do two years of courses to make sure that we really know what history is before we start doing it. Historiography is dangerous, you know. Someone could get hurt.

But, as of today, I am done with that hoop. Next, I have a year of exam readings. I'm actually looking forward to that, although it is known for being hell. Throw in another language exam and I'll be ABD. Maybe I'll rename this ABD Madness. Honestly though, I am so ready to write this freakin' dissertation, and get out of here. You have no idea.



Ontario is trying to hold its universities accountable for what their students learn, and some professors don't like it.

I tend to think that exit exams are a great idea actually. They would focus the students and give them some goal to work for aside from graduation. And, of course, they would also focus professors and universities.

I understand why profs are worried. Universities end up with a good number of students who see higher ed as being largely perfunctory. They sort of float through for four years and try to avoid all work. I think profs are irked about being held accountable for the academic progress of people who, ideally, should be accountable for their own progress.

But, I think that a big part of the students' problem is the sort of amorphous blob of course offerings and four-year booze cruise that most universities call an "education". It's hard not to get jaded. And the profs are often as jaded as the students. It's sort of easy to see why they're unmotivated.

So, I say, bring on the exams! They'll focus the students on an achievable goal and make them feel that they're not jumping through hoops for a meaningless piece of paper. A degree could be a sign of accomplishment, and not a bill of sale. Imagine that.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Di, Di, Di My Darling

Okay, so I'm still having fun reading Dr. Di's Blog. It really is very funny. She's hit that perfect combination of silly new age fluff and very high self regard that you just can't get on the East Coast.

But, I've got to say, as silly as she is, there's something really creepy about designing a whole chunk of a website dedicated to taking her down. I mean, they do discuss other issues there, but after reading about four or five of their Blaine Chronicles, you start thinking that there's just something really sad and obsessive about all of this. I've said this before- the alienated loser usually aims no higher than ruining someone who they feel is undeservedly successful. In this case, they seem to be making it their life's work.

I think they went nuts because she apparently wrote a hysterical editorial for the school paper about rape on campus, and they consider this to be anti-male bullying. So, they're apparently dedicating their lives to "holding her accountable" which, as always, seems to mean getting her fired.

What pipsqueaks! God, if there's anything sillier and more trivial than a self-absorbed new-age- fluffy academic, it's the sort of sheltered loser that obsesses about how unfair and tragic it is that they have to encounter a self-absorbed new-age-fluffy academic at some point in their lives. Both the Dr. and the losers are totally paranoid, convinced that they're martyrs to their own quixotic causes. Sheesh! It's like watching two chihuahuas in a fight.


Have a Nice Day (Copyright, TM, All Rights Reserved)

Wall Mart wants to trademark the Smiley Face in the US.

Not that it's a problem for them that someone else invented the smiley face (and should therefore be shot, but not sued). They're taking him to court.

This is actually good news for me because I can't stand either Wal Mart or Smiley Faces and now they will both be centralized in one location. Now if we can just get Wal Mart to copyright the phrase: "Have a good one!" and the word "Dude" so I never have to hear them again, I'll have it made.


O Books, Where Art Thou?

Alex Golub has advocated digital scholarship in the past, but make no mistakes, he loves paper books! Well, that's good. This passage is nice:

"It is easy to see that paper will continue to be used by academics for a long time to come purely on the basis of its utility as an information technology. But we are not passionate about paper because it is a good research tool. We are passionate about it because of the way that it smells and feels. Our love of paper springs from the way it insinuates itself into not only our career, but our souls."

Alas, the problem isn't that academics have forgotten about the joys of books. It's that we're not good at prostelytising for books. At Mall University, our computer labs are packed from 8:00 am until about 9:00 pm. But, when I am exploring the stacks, I am alone. Always. The study booths get some use. But, I never see anyone in the shelves. There's never a line at the checkout table. When we assign less than ten pages of reading a week in our classes, almost nobody ever does it. Even our MA students are convinced that "books are gay".

It is good that academics don't see the digital world and the world of books as being fundamentally at odds. Unfortunately, I think they're wrong.


Oh God, Do I Sound Like This?

Well, the latest bit of academic gossip involves Dr. Diana Blaine, an assistant professor of Women's Studies who got sucked into a tiny media whirlpool over the topless photos of herself that she posted on Flicker. Before you think that this is the sort of fluffy American controversy that the French would snicker at, remember that she linked to them on her website, which includes a number of poorly written articles on being topless in public. "It was the most intense spiritual connection I have ever experienced. I felt my god, big time." Awesome!

Okay, well the French would probably still snicker at this manufactured controversy. Remember, these are the people that invented the French marriage. And they'd probably also spit on her God in a very snooty way.

For me, I'm equally amused by the wimpy students who felt they needed to tattle on her topless twaddle to the TV talkers, the News program that felt this was a serious issue (hubba! hubba!), and the doctor herself, whose next penetrating scholarly work is going to fill the crucial gap in academic literature over the issue of whether or not Diana Blaine is going to get breast implants. What? Seriously? Yes way! Totally awesome!

Which brings me to the topic of academic blogs. All I could think when I read her blog was: "This is why I use the fake name!" Because, trust me, I know how stupid I sound most of the time on here. I can't imagine being narcissistic enough to use this drivel to promote my academic career. Sure, I would love to write sparkling and brilliant gems here on a regular basis, but I'm not that clever. And also I have to write things out by hand if I want them to be anything but pure merde. So, I post silly ideas here, and then let them die.

I see a blog as a place where you can toy with ideas that aren't part of your professional life. What's embarassing about Dr. Diana's blog is not that most of her writing comes of as Bridget Jones goes to College. To quote: "Didn't these women do the right thing by surgically altering themselves so that all the men stare after them like salivating dogs? What if getting all that male attention is the key to happiness? How dare I think for myself and flaunt these little floppy titties?" Although I have to wonder why feminists so often thrive on female weakness. It's sort of a gendered slave morality.

But, again, I realize that most of the stuff I post here is dreadful. Just silly rambling nonsense. What makes me cringe about Dr. Diana's blog is that she doesn't seem to know the difference between serious academic work and teenage diary entries. The culture so often rewards triviality, frivolousness and self-absorbed frippery that she sees these things as being just as important (gosh darn it!) as those farty old academic virtues- clear writing, serious and penetrating thought, and patience. Is there any question that she'll probably wind up adapting this tripe into a book?

Is this our culture's curse? Total discomfort with anything serious or sincere? Do we have to dumb everything down just to communicate with each other? Is this what we're going to start getting from academics- pretending to be Gidget? It's all so depressing.


Monday, May 08, 2006

The Deflator

The Decider's approval rating is down to 31%.

Which means? Well, that 69% of the country are terrorists.

Democrats are apparently planning to take over the Congress... just like they were planning to win the Presidential election. In a freezer somewhere, there is a very moldy cake with "Congrats Democrats!" written on it in icing. The big question is does it make any difference which party wins at this point?

I mean, we're stuck with the war either way. The democrats can't end that without getting accused of being quislings. They'll have to take a similarly "tough stand" on immigration, so that they don't seem too "liberal". We're pretty much up a creek as far as fossil fuels go. So, don't expect any big relief there. And, I'm not expecting anyone to catch the Old Man of the Mountain in Afghanistan any time soon. So, why exactly does it make a difference if we wind up with a corrupt moron in the Bush mold or a corrupt moron in the Hillary mold? Does it make a difference to anyone but the writers for Saturday Night Live?