Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kiss My Disease

Is there anything these days that isn't a disease or disorder? Hell, does my eye-rolling skepticism toward this pop-psychology bullshit have a cool disorder name as well?

I am Tiger Woods, and saying the greatest golfer on the planet got married too young is a cheap cop-out that misses an essential point: that this is really about a man who has everything and nothing at the same time, a guy medicating with women to fill emotional gaps -- the way some people use food, alcohol, drugs, work and golf on television.

...That hearing words such as "dog" or terms such as "commitment issues" only serves to mask real issues. We use them so people such as Tiger Woods never take the time to Google "Attachment Disorder" or "Love Addiction" or look at how their old man treated their mom and what kind of message that sent to a gifted child who would grow up to respect a game more than his wife.

...When all three fell from pedestals -- and one of them paid the ultimate price for it -- that's not a dangerous trend of infidelity; that's disease.

...When married billionaires bring breakfast waitresses to the family home in the middle of the day after they've already hooked up in a parking lot, that's not sex; that's real affliction.

...When the world's most recognizable athlete uses his Blackberry to text a relative kid in Las Vegas about how much he misses her -- and she's but one of a dozen -- that's not sex; that's sickness.

...Tiger Woods has an emotional void in his life. This void must be huge. For him to be where he is today, this deep emptiness must have consumed him, must be something he has been living with for a long time. Moreover, he has to live with his emptiness while being fully aware that everyone in the world knows just what a manufactured lie his image has been.

Man, it's a good thing someone thought up profound terms like "Love Addiction" and "Attachment Disorder" to explain the heretofore inscrutable mystery of why men enjoy fucking as many beautiful women as they can get their hands on, or why a man would possibly choose the sensuous life of a postmodern king over a quiet life of bourgeois middle-class respectability. I mean, humor me for a moment here -- could it possibly be that people enjoy sex and drugs because they're pleasurable, not because they're actually immature attempts to cope with some hidden trauma that unconsciously motivates our every action?

If humans differ from other animals, it is partly in the conflicts of their interests. They crave security, but they are easily bored; they are peace-loving animals, but they have an itch for violence; they are drawn to thinking, but at the same time they hate and fear the unsettlement thinking brings. There is no way of life in which all these needs can be satisfied. Luckily, as the history of philosophy testifies, humans have a gift for self-deception, and thrive in ignorance of their natures.

- John Gray

We're naturally selfish, unreflective creatures. We enjoy things that make us feel good. We want to have as many of those things as we can, even if they cause us problems later on, even if some of them are mutually exclusive. We try not to think about that, vainly hoping that we'll successfully cross that bridge when we come to it. Tiger Woods is no different than anyone else insofar as he's prone to always thinking that the grass is greener somewhere else. It's just that he already has a life most of us would kill for. That's not a "disease", to never be satisfied with what we have, that's human fucking nature. The best we can do is be aware of it and able to laugh about it. I suppose there might be a few people in the world who just sit calmly, desiring not a thing, contemplating their perfect serenity and unruffled self-assurance, but the rest of us will go to our graves feeling inadequate, unfulfilled in some way, beset by fears and anxieties, wishing we could have had this or done that.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I have to partially disagree with Ed (and Heywood) here.* Not on the galling aesthetics of texting or Twittering, no indeed. I've never even read anything on Twitter, let alone used it, and I've never sent a text message -- what, as if having instant electronic mail and a tiny phone you carry everywhere isn't fast enough for all your communication needs? Regular readers know my opinion on the amount of care and attention that should be devoted to email correspondence. And I've had eleven people shot for not being able to tell the difference between "they're", "their" and "there"! So, with my literary snob bona fides firmly established, let us move along.

I think it was reading The Lexicographer's Dilemma by Jack Lynch that softened my attitude on this sort of thing. To wit:

Once again, traditionalists see in these messages a society on the verge of collapse -- young people can't spell, they don't know grammar, they don't know punctuation! But this misses the point entirely. Yes, the writers of these things violate the rules of spelling, grammar and punctuation -- but they do so intentionally. The comic effect comes not from an ignorance of the rules, but from a willful flouting of the rules. If the authors and their audience didn't know what proper grammar and spelling were, those passages would lose all their force. In a way, playful lolcatters and texters aren't ignoring the traditional rules of English; they're depending on the existence of those rules in order to raise a laugh.


Crystal's summary is probably the wisest take on the whole phenomenon of extravagantly nonstandard English in electronic forums. "Some people dislike texting," he says. "Some are bemused by it. But it is merely the latest manifestation of the human ability to be linguistically creative and and to adapt language to suit the demands of diverse settings. There is no disaster pending. We will not see a new generation of adults growing up unable to write proper English. The language as a whole will not decline. In texting, what we are seeing, in a way, is language in evolution."

There's much more, of course, including plenty of humbling reminders that words and spellings and abbreviations we take completely for granted today as standard and proper were once similarly bemoaned as linguistic barbarities. I remember rules I was taught in seventh grade English that are pretty much obsolete now and would make me look bizarre if I employed them, and I remember some that I choose to pointedly ignore, such as the dispute over commas and periods inside quotation marks. Point being, I like to think I have at least an above-average facility with written words, but I'm sure a professional editor would find all sorts of things to cover with red ink on this blog. Who really cares as long as you get my meaning?

But I repeat: I'm not arguing that text messages or lol-speak are equal to well-crafted prose, obviously not. I'm just saying that most of those kids probably know better, and if they don't, they'll probably learn enough to get by, so relax already. Speaking of which: how much clear writing ability are any of us going to need when we're all working as slaves on Chinese robot farms? I mean, I'd personally love it if we all wrote and spoke like modern-day Shakespeares, but let's be real: most people just don't need that ability in order to succeed in the business world, which is increasingly the only one that mattters.

So it comes to personal taste, then, and like I said, I shudder at the sight of misspelled words and random, erratic punctuation and capitalization myself. I guess I've just gotten to a point where it's not worth the energy to pull my hair out over it anymore. Of course there are countless dolts out there with mundane thoughts and near-illegible ways of expressing them, but when has it ever been otherwise? I'm not usually known for optimism, but it seems like the glass can easily be half-full if you want: mass education and technology have helped create more good writers than at any other time in history. And as much as I'd love to believe otherwise, bitter experience does not show me any solid connection between a person's writing and thinking. Too many people can do one but not the other. Being able to construct a grammatically correct sentence does not necessarily imply an equal ability to think logically, or even sanely. Different parts of the brain involved, I suppose.

As for Twitter itself, it seems to me that the problem is the fact that someone felt it to be a necessary invention in the first place, not the fact that people have to come up with inventive shorthand to stay below the 140-character limit. Again, I say, complain about the fact that the pace of modern life is out of control and always mindlessly speeding up if you want to complain about something threatening to our civilization, not the cosmetic ways people attempt to adapt to it.

*I'm only addressing the parts of their posts regarding language and technology. As for She Who Shall Not Be Named, I couldn't care less what she said or how she said it. Her phenomenon, such as it is, has been exhaustively mined for all symbolism and significance, and seeing as how she seems content to remain a poli-celebrity, unlikely to bother with actually running for office again, I don't see any point in continuing to pay her undeserved attention. Yes, she's the avatar of fucking idiocy in this great nation of ours, but that constituency has always been with us and always will be. She just happens to be a charismatic, photogenic expression of it. There's really not much more to say about it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Six Feet Under

Cold is the hell that beckons onward

- dead horse

Easily up over my knees already, and we've still got all day to go. It's been nearly fourteen years since we've gotten this much snow.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

We Don't Need No Water

TBogg's hilarious even when he's being serious:

If Rahm Emanuel is all he was supposed to be, we can safely assume that the Obama White House either never gave a shit about health care reform, or they managed health care reform so horrifically and incompetently that they are now willing to settle for a “win”, no matter how meager.

I hope they enjoy their Pyrrhic victory because they just burned the base.

Yep, knocked me over with a feather, it did. Anyway, I guess it depends on what you mean by "the base". The people that matter are doing just fine, thanks, getting what they give and then some.

As for the simple farmers, the people of the land, the common clay, you know...let the motherfucker burn! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe a "Pyrrhic victory" means a disproportionately heavy price will be paid. What? Democratic voters are going to tell their abusive politician-spouses to fuck off and die? Go on, pull the other one! And this from a guy who can always be counted on to have a stale Nader joke near to hand!

It's almost certainly true that some of those joy-popping hopey-changey types will let their disillusionment (to say nothing of their looming homelessness) keep them away from the polls in 2010 and 2012, swelling the ranks of non-voters from a rock-bottom 50ish% back to the normal 60% or so. The committed Donklebots, though, will spend the next year terrifying themselves with horror stories about how the next election is The Most Important One Ever (Until the Next One), and if the Rethuglicans/Repiglicans win, well, then this time it will definitely, certainly, absolutely mean the utter destruction of the nation and worldwide catastrophe, we're serious goddamnit, no refunds. Look, Yggy the Stooge is already riding herd, cracking the whip on anyone thinking about bolting. I haven't checked on the other half of the Wonder Twins of Sensible Liberal Punditry, but I imagine Ezra will get around to helping out sooner or later. Maybe Obama can give another speech, and send him into the sort of rapturous ecstasy seldom seen outside text messages between Edward Cullen fangirls.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Norma Scrittura

Even when you've got hold of it, e-mail—so often dashed off in place of a phone call—rarely achieves a high literary standard. And it almost never supplies the biographically useful details that letter-writing did back when the contents of a sealed envelope were the best means of communication over a long distance.


Although nothing stings quite like being "flamed" over the e-waves, Mallon mourns the passing of the handwritten, or even hand-typed, letter—whether loving or vicious. "The glaze of impersonality over what pops up on that computer screen" spoils what once was the thrill of learning to "recognize the quirks of a person's typing, and typewriter" or a new friend's handwriting, which "has an intimacy and force that can never be matched." Never mind biographers; all of humanity will lose something incalculable as letters—those "tactile couriers"—vanish, to be replaced with "uniform pixels on a monitor."

Mallon quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson's definition of the letter as "a kind of picture of a voice." Handwriting, even if simply a signature scrawled at the bottom of a typed page, has always been part of that picture. Some of Mallon's correspondents, like WWI poet Wilfred Owen, considered letters an embodiment of the letter writer. "It seems wrong," Owen wrote to his mother from the front in January 1917, "that even your dear handwriting should come into such a Gehenna as this." It's hard to feel the same way about e-mail, IM, or a text message. No matter how you receive it, an electronic transmission, with "Forward" just a click away, can never seem as personal, private, or real as a handwritten letter meant for you alone.

- Megan Marshall

I've written sympathetically before about the tendency to cling protectively to one's aesthetic preferences in the face of seemingly inevitable "progress", whether it be people who will always prefer books to Kindles, or hard copies of music to mp3s. So, sure, if you honestly get a tactile thrill from the idiosyncrasies of someone's handwriting on paper, more power to you.

But when oh when are we ever going to stop hearing this mindless romantic complaint about how email isn't as authentic as pen on paper? Why stop there? Why isn't quill and parchment more "real"? What about papyrus for all the anti-paper snobs? Cuneiform script on clay tablets with a reed stylus?

Once again, shallow romantics perceive essence where there is only form. There is nothing inherent in the medium of email that prevents users from creating interesting letters full of wit and personality, addressed affectionately to people they know well. I do it all the time with friends. And I also have old handwritten letters from friends that aren't all that interesting, written in that stilted, uncomfortable style of those who don't spend a lot of time cultivating and expressing interesting thoughts. It's not the tools you use, it's the effort you put into the work. Don't shoot the instant messenger.

Speaking of work, it bears repeating: one thing that has changed in the last few decades is the fact that more people have to work longer hours for declining wages at less rewarding jobs. Thus, all we do with our "labor-saving" devices is use the little bit of time we save to cram in more work in the vain hope of getting ahead -- or, as the case may be, just trying to stay level. And so we see thunderfuckingly stupid products like this made available. In that sense, I can't really blame people for feeling like they don't have the time to make emails into an entertaining event. While myopic aesthetes are sniffling about our declining literary standards, a ravenous all-business-no-pleasure culture is devouring and excreting everything of value it gets its claws into.

One thing you can fairly say about our emails, texts, cell phones, Twitter accounts, etc. is that they've done away with what I would call the formality and ritual that formerly accompanied letter-writing. You used to have to set aside a certain amount of time and effort to do nothing else; you couldn't exactly be writing a letter while cradling a kid under one arm and stirring dinner with your hand, all while balancing a corded phone on your shoulder. Now you can put on your Bluetooth headset and send quick messages on your iPhone, which is connected to the Internet and more powerful than the desktop computer you had ten years ago. Like I keep saying, it's not impossible to sit down and concentrate on nothing else but typing a worthwhile email. It's just that the ever-increasing pace of modern life makes it so that you have to dig in your heels to do it. Our gadgets have made it so that personal communication, something that used to require a little special time and focus, is now just another mindless chore to be done as quickly as possible so that we can chase the next shiny object. And even if you don't want to be that way, the fact that everyone else does it means that you either grudgingly join in or find yourself getting left behind in various ways, some of them financially uncomfortable.

This is where we leave behind the nitpicking over technological minutiae and get into questions of human nature: why are we so easily bored, constantly seeking novelty and stimulation? Why is it so difficult to have a philosophical sense of when enough is enough? Why don't we see that, despite all the rhetoric equating increased consumer choice with freedom, it ironically traps us in different types of anxieities and status games we can never win? Buddhist writers talk a lot about mindfulness, the need to cultivate a sense of how to just be, how to exist in this moment. Focus on what's right in front of you right now, whatever that may be, no matter how mundane you think it is. Focus on the person you're having a conversation with, pay attention to them like you've got nothing else to do, don't spend your time craning your head to look over their shoulder, hoping to see something more interesting happening somewhere else. Carry that around with you, and you'll be surprised how you can find profundity and meaning even in the midst of what you've been conditioned to see as a sterile wasteland.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Everybody's Gettin' What They Need Behind Some Make-Believe

But I just can't bear it when so-called serious journalism twists itself into pretzel claiming that the story is really "important" because it violated some sacrosanct "value" and therefore it is in the public interest to show pictures of hot babes on a loop and endlessly ruminate publicly about sex. (After which, without a pause, they rend their garments over how all this will affect the children.) The Tiger story is particularly grotesque because they are having such a hard time justifying their overwrought, prurient interest that they are reduced to fulminating about how he is despoiling his brand like anyone in their right mind should give a damn about such a stupid thing.

- Digby

I would just note that when your "brand" is worth (according to one article I saw) a cool three-quarters of a billion-with-a-B, then it really isn't all that irrational to be worried about tarnishing it. And let me reiterate that I find this interesting for the fact that even that astronomical sum of money, worldwide adulation and an überfrau who looks like she was assembled to exacting specifications at some Nordic Hot Babe factory wasn't enough to make Tiger feel that the grass couldn't possibly get any greener. Students of human nature, take note.

But what's this? You think this tawdry spectacle didn't violate some important value? Au contraire, mon frère! Expecting hapless celebrities to serve as repositories of our projections or conduits for our feel-good affirmations is as American as cruise missiles! His job was simply to stand there and keep grinning that huge post-racial grin, a charismatic, young, mixed-race guy who succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations in the quintessential domain of stuffy old white men, a mirror to reflect our self-congratulatory vanity, a shiny symbol of our hopes and dreams, and now he's, uh - he's...um...

Whoa. Just had a particularly vivid sense of déjà vu. Sorry. Who were we talking about?

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Truer words...

"I'm spiritual but not religious," she once told me, and I was actually impressed. It sounded so smart. At the time. In the context. It's embarrassing to admit what a chump I was. But I was. A tool. A fool. An unwitting enabler of this grandiose self-absorbed bullshit. It wasn't until I encountered the book, Spiritual, but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America, that I -- suddenly, thunderstruck -- understood it was a context-free cultural meme, a buzzword, a badge of membership in some amorphous faux-community held together only by the vague belief of its members that they are "not New Age."

So I started Mystic Bourgeoisie to explore what else might be hidden under the hood of nicey-nice sentiments and trendy affirmations of the type that are common as dirt here in Boulder, Colorado. Of course, I quickly came to realize that Boulder and Sedona and Big Sur had long ago lost whatever lock they once may have had on the market for mystically rationalized narcissistic personality disorders. Such spiritual-but-not-religious not-really-New-Age notions and nostrums had been packaged, marketed and widely exported, such that -- thanks to middleware mediums such as Hay House, The Secret, and The Oprah Winfrey Show --- they now constitute many of the unexamined "core values" of middle-class, middle-of-the-road America: a.k.a. the Mystic Bourgeoisie.

Emphasis mine. This kind of thing is why I forgive him for taking six months in between posts. Not to mention that he, unlike myself, is willing to actually spend irreplaceable time reading page after page of drivel in service to this insight. I can barely make it through one woo-filled post by Deepak Chopra.

The only useful thing I picked up from geometry class was the fact that every attempt to prove a point has to rest on a given, an unexamined assumption. Somewhere around the time that I discovered a love for philosophy, I realized that this could save one a lot of time in arguments, by looking at what the other person's unexamined assumption was and starting from there. And if there's one common thread running through New Ageism, it's a blissfully narcissistic unawareness of why they believe what they believe.

As an aside, let me reiterate that this also reminds me how much I despise the word "spiritual". I do my utmost to use the terms "reflective", "contemplative", or good old "philosophical" when asked about my non-religious views of the big picture. I think I'm also going to start calling myself an "aspiritualist" to go along with being an atheist. After all, more people seem to believe in some vague, amporphous "Ultimate Creative Force", to use one variation on the theme I recently heard, than in a Big Daddy God anymore. These people need a sharp poke in the eye as well.

But anyway, yes -- it seems to me that this no-man's-land, where pop philosophy/psychology and declawed religion meet, doesn't get enough attention. And I guess I can't blame people with actual brains for considering it beneath contempt and refusing to subject themselves to it. But I do wholeheartedly agree that you have to be somewhat au fait with this stuff to really have a sense of where the average middle-class American gets their values from.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Your question is: why am I so interested in politics? But if I were to answer you very simply, I would say this: why shouldn't I be interested? That is to say, what blindness, what deafness, what density of ideology would have to weigh me down to prevent me from being interested in what is probably the most crucial subject to our existence, that is to say the society in which we live, the economic relations within which it functions, and the system of power which defines the regular forms and the regular permissions and prohibitions of our conduct. The essence of our life consists, after all, of the political functioning of the society in which we find ourselves.

So I can't answer the question of why I should be interested; I could only answer it by asking why shouldn't I be interested?

- Foucault

But why do you write? - A: I am not one of those who think with an inky pen in their hand, much less one of those who in front of an open inkwell abandon themselves to their passions while they sit in a chair and stare at the paper. I am annoyed by and ashamed of my writing; writing is for me a pressing and embarrassing need, and to speak of it even in a parable disgusts me.

B: But why, then, do you write? - A: Well, my friend, to be quite frank: so far, I have not discovered any other way of getting rid of my thoughts. - B: And why do you want to get rid of them? - A: Why do I want to? Do I want to? I have to.

- Nietzsche

Yes indeed. And yet, and yet... I find myself bored of reading and writing about politics.

I don't mean "bored" in the sense of a spoiled consumer whining for a new shiny object to play with, I mean in the sense of having nothing penetrating or worthwhile to say about it in any event, and being unable to keep away from the Ecclesiastes-style suspicion that all of this is a predetermined farce. A conservative Democrat does exactly the sorts of things he said he would do if elected President, and a bunch of liberals progressives who refused to believe their lying ears are now upset at him for failing to live up to the fantasies they harbor about him. The wingnuts I know are hooting that global warming is now proven to be a hoax, and I simply have no desire to try to argue against confirmation bias. In fact, misanthropy relieves me of the burden of even giving a fuck. Go ahead, deny there's any such thing. Maybe now this ridiculous species will seal its fate.

Hell, I even lack the ability to enjoy the quick sugar rush of lamenting the stupidity of mass culture. Yes, yes, the majority of people are unreflective, maybe even stupid, if you want to be harsh. They always have been. Now, due to exploding population numbers, there's more dimwitted people than ever before. You can only notice this fact a limited number of times before shrugging and moving on to salvage what you can. The Tiger Woods story is only amusing because of how it reveals the universal, irrational mindlessness at the heart of human nature: no matter how rich, famous or unjustifiably venerated you are, you're still going to think, "If only I could have that, live there, stick my dick in him/her, then I'd be happy." Other than that, who gives a fuck? This asshole is famous for playing golf, for fuck's sake. If you want to actually make golf interesting, put some Sarlacci in the sand traps.

But I digress. All I'm saying is: I need to make more of an effort to find more worthwhile topics to comment on. If I don't post very much for a while, I'm not dead, I'm just trying to avoid wasting time, watching the same old clown cars driving by.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Unraveling

Before the hand
protects the heart
with its tight fist again

- Sam Hamill

Your presence was a thread that kept me connected to my youth, winding back over so many years through the maze of our lives, a constant in a world of ephemera. Now severed, I stand helplessly, feeling lost and old.

Your life and mine were woven together with the thread of countless shared experiences. Now wide asunder, loose stitches hanging uselessly, revealing the emptiness at the heart of existence that our feeble tapestries are meant to hide.

Blurry eyes, bitter hands. Needle and thread, begin again.

Nights of Gethsemane

I never wanted to outlive you. What do I do now?

Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb,
the wind sucks the world from your senses
like withered leaves.

- Rilke

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Keep an Idiot Busy for Hours

Would comment be superfluous? Couldn't I just sit here and smirk?

But aside from politics, there is the question of whether people who pray the Psalms in this manner stand on any kind of solid theological ground.

Oh, what the hell. There is the answer, too: there is no such thing as "solid theological ground". It's an oxymoron. You can worry, if you like, about some sort of internal consistency within the text (and good luck with that when dealing with thousands of years' worth of writing from countless different authors), but you should keep in mind that you're doing so within the larger framework of a ridiculous fantasy world. There is no deity, let alone one who smites enemies, and especially not one who gets enraged about people performing abortions when he designed a "natural" system that allows fewer than one-third of conceptions to result in live birth, with the rest ending in early gestation or by miscarriage.

So by all means, encourage these people to pray their empty fucking heads right off.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Le Mot Juste

From the comments to an Onion A.V. Club review of Wolfmother's latest, the best one-sentence review of a band ever:


27 Oct. 2009 | 6:12 PM CDT

Fantomas sounds like a drum kit chasing a retard down a steep flight of stairs.

Now, I do love Mike Patton in all his weirdness, but goddamn, that's funny.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Space Ghosts

Oh noes!

WASHINGTON — America's once clear dominance in space is eroding as other nations, including China, Iran and North Korea, step up their activities, a panel of experts told the House subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Thursday.

"China is laying the groundwork for a long-term space program with or without us,'' said Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington. "We should worry if we're not out there with them.''

Last year, China launched a Venezuelan-owned communications satellite that "enabled Venezuela to extend its influence throughout Latin America and the Caribbean,'' Williamson said. The satellite broadcasts Venezuela's TeleSUR channel, which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has styled as the alternative to U.S.-based news broadcasts.

Why should we be so worried, you ask? Take it away, Noam:

An even greater threat is posed by expansion of the arms race into space; the term "race" is inappropriate, because the U.S. is, for now, competing alone. Its goal is to achieve "full spectrum dominance": a monopoly of the use of space for military purposes. These plans have been available in government documents for some years, and the projects outlined have been under development. They were expanded in the first months of the Bush administration and again since September 11, in a crude exploitation of the fear and horror engendered by these crimes.

It is conventional everywhere for attack to be called "defense", and this case is no exception: the plans for militarisation of space are disguised as "ballistic missile defence" (BMD), only a small component of what is planned. That is understood by other countries, including close allies, and has been clearly articulated and sometimes warmly applauded by strategic analysts, who point out that "missile defense isn't really meant to protect America [but] is a tool for global dominance," for "hegemony."

It is well-understood that BMD, even if technically feasible, must rely on satellite communication, and destroying satellites is far easier than shooting down missiles. That is one reason why the US must seek "full spectrum dominance," such overwhelming control of space that even the poor man's weapons will not be available to an adversary. And that requires offensive space-based capacities, including enormously destructive weapons that can be launched with instant computer-controlled reaction, greatly increasing the risk of vas slaughter and devastation if only because of what are called in the trade "normal accidents" - the unpredictable accidents to which all complex systems are subject.

The goals of militarisation of space extend far beyond, however. The US Space Command is very explicit about this. Its Clinton-era publications announce the primary goal prominently: "dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment." This is presented as the next phase of the historic task of military forces. Armies were needed "during the westward expansion of the continental United States" - of course in self defense, against the indigenous population. Nations also build navies, the Space Command continues, "to protect and enhance their commercial interests." The next logical step is space forces to protect "U.S. national interests [military and commercial] and investments." But US space forces will be unlike "navies protecting sea commerce" because there will be a sole hegemon. The British Navy could be countered by Germany, with consequences we need not discuss. But the US, somehow, will remain immune -except, of course, to the narrowly circumscribed category of "terrorism" that is permitted to enter the canon.

The need for total dominance will increase as a result of the "globalisation of the economy," the Space Command explains. The reason is that "globalisation" is expected to bring about "a widening between 'haves' and 'have-nots'," an assessment shared by US intelligence. Planners are concerned that the widening divide may lead to unrest among the have-nots, which the US must be ready to control by "using space systems and planning for precision strike from space" as a "counter to the worldwide proliferation of BMD" by unruly elements - a predictable consequence of the recommended programs, just as the "widening divide" is an anticipated consequence of the preferred from of "globalisation."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Defense of Bimbos

After her appearance in which she dubbed King "inappropriate" and attempted to exit the set, Prejean accused the staffer of lying to her, saying King's producers promised no phone calls. She belittled McAusland saying, "Is the intern talking to me? Oh look at the little intern, look at the little intern trying to explain!"

"I've never been treated so poorly in my whole life," McAusland, who recently accepted an executive producer position at Newsie.com of Media Convergence Group, said.

(via Digby)

Huh. A shallow hypochristian who's been treated like royalty most of her life because of her looks has no time for the little people. The hell you say. Well, I'm convinced. She's the lowest of the low. I fart in her general direction and all that.

The thing about the intern reminded me of something else, though...

Eric Alterman
WHAT LIBERAL DICKWAD? Milhouse is all grown up: He has a goatee, a PhD from Stanford and an online diary where he proclaims his love for Jackson Browne. Liberal bloggers are holding it up like the fucking Alamo, but his run-in with Dennis Miller last month left Alterman looking like he was about to get his head dunked in the toilet for the third time. Even if you agree with him about Ann Coulter and Alexander Cockburn, it's hard not to root against this smirking, center-left prick who likes his dinner dates rich and famous and his fois gras seared. "He constantly wants to remind you that he's Eric Alterman," one of his interns revealed in a rumor-confirming Village Voice hatchet-job, "[and] that he knows a lot of important people, and that you're a lowly intern."

Goodness gracious! And as far as I'm aware, Carrie Prejean hasn't knowingly repeated baseless slanders against Noam Chomsky, or resorted to bullshit Nader-bashing the way Alterman has. And I doubt she makes Bruce Springsteen (or is it Bob Seger? John Mellencamp? All those nostalgia-rockers run together in my head. Their songs all make me think of middle-aged men, Chevy trucks, and shots of prairie grass waving in the wind against a sunset. Anyway, he slobbers all over one of them.) an object of cult worship either, so that's another point in her favor.

I also had to laugh, given that Digby had just posted something a day or so earlier fawning over the great pwoggie hope Al Franken. Guess what Dennis Perrin can tell us about him?

I've seen Franken in action up-close, and he seems to revel in being an asshole. Plus, I've been told all sorts of stories about his abusive behavior from various sources, including those who worked intimately with him, his ex-comedy partner Tom Davis chief among them. Tom probably knows Franken better than anyone other than Franken's wife, and while some of the stuff he told me about his old partner didn't surprise me, I did wonder how Tom put up with it for as long as he did. Still, the two of them produced some really funny bits on the original "SNL", so I will give Franken that. But a Minnesota Senator in the mold of the late Paul Wellstone? Don't make me laugh.


Well, obviously, she didn't get it. In fact, the experience rattled her in a way I'd never seen before. And who was her main tormentor? Al Franken! Sharon said that she would begin a character monologue as requested, but before she got 15 seconds into it, Franken would shout in that annoying voice of his, "NEXT." Franken also talked to other people while Sharon tried to perform, telling jokes and not paying attention to her efforts. Then he would stop, clap his hands sarcastically, then grunt "Got anything else?" After maybe 10 or so minutes, the audition was over, and Sharon was led out while Franken completely ignored her. She got her first serious taste of the pricks who run much of American comedy, and it deflated her.

Good thing we enlightened liberals progressives know how to keep someone's personal churlishness separate from their thoughts and ideas, huh?

The point is this: Prejean was asked, for some incomprehensible reason, what she thought about gay marriage. She gave her opinion --

"I'm a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

D'oh! My mistake! That was Barack Obama in an interview with the Chicago Daily-Tribune, so, uh, that makes it totally different! Anyway, Ms. Prejean gave her opinion --

"Well, I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And, you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman."

-- which, to my coarse sensibilities, is so mundane and anodyne as to be worth no further attention. Last time I checked, beauty contestants didn't influence anyone's politics or make decisions regarding public policy. All people really want to do is watch them sashay around in bikinis. No one gives a fuck what they think about anything. No one would even remember this if a certain gossip-blogger, notorious for being a gigantic asshole (and a dishonest one at that) hadn't gone ballistic about it. And here we are, still hearing about this trivia like it matters, and hearing about her personal behavior as if it has a fucking thing to do with civil rights for gays. She gets to look like a victim of uptight p.c. bullies to those who follow politics, and after her nude photos and videotaped self-diddling, she could probably run for president and win with the 18-24 year-old male turnout alone.

Bravo, everyone. Bra-vo. I take it it wasn't enough you helped make Sam the Plunger a fixture in the news for months on end by dissecting his every inane utterance? Well, at least this shiny object is easier on the eyes, I guess.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Haunted by the Laughter of Silenus

There is an ancient story that King Midas hunted in the forest a long time for the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus, without capturing him. When Silenus at last fell into his hands, the king asked what was the best and most desirable of all things for man. Fixed and immovable, the demigod said not a word, till at last, urged by the king, he gave a shrill laugh and broke out into these words: "Oh, wretched, ephemeral race, children of chance and misery, why do you compel me to tell you what it would be most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you is – to die soon."

- Nietzsche

Terrible news in German football:

Robert Enke, the Germany goalkeeper, lived with the daily dread of his depressive illness being exposed and the fear that it could end his career, his widow said yesterday.

“He didn’t want to seek professional help any more and he didn’t want it because he was afraid that it would all come out and that we would lose Leila,” Enke’s widow said. “It was the fear about what people would say about a child with a depressive father. And I always told him, ‘Don’t worry.’ Right to the end, he cared lovingly for Leila.
“I tried to be there for him, said that football is not everything. There are many beautiful things in life. It is not hopeless. We had Lara, we have Leila. I always wanted to help him to get through it.”
Her tears flowed when she accepted that her husband’s suicide was a kind of personal defeat. “We thought that we could do it all, that with love everything was possible,” she said. “But sometimes it’s not enough."

Love, fame and fortune -- none of it ever is. And for someone filled with insecurity and self-doubt, performing on a world stage in front of an often-fickle, judgmental audience is a level of immense pressure most of us can't even imagine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

U.S. Out of North America


"We are glad that Barack Obama broke up the white male monopoly on the White House, but we were not looking for a change in the occupant of the White House from white to black, we were looking for change in foreign policies and domestic policies," he added.

I'm glad to see that naïveté, at least, truly is colorblind. What a great country it is, where we're all free to dream that a solitary great man, or woman, or transgendered developmentally disabled person of color, will somehow get elected and proceed to act in opposition to the system that nurtured and produced them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I Tried This at Home

Aside from a fascination with the idea of killing women, Rammstein has another thing in common with Manson: Both were linked, however dubiously, to the Columbine massacre because the shooters were believed to be fans of their music (although that turned out to not be the case with Manson). In the genre of puerile, unimaginative, attention-seeking rock music, the dead woman motif seems to be experiencing a revival, so to speak. It yanked Manson out of cultural irrelevancy for a fleeting moment of media attention, and last month it helped Rammstein's album hit No. 2 in Europe and No. 13 in the U.S., a groundbreaking success for the band. Apparently dead women don't hurt record sales.

- Tracy Clark-Flory

Uh, more precisely, over-the-top pictures of women pretending to be dead on the cover of an album by a band known (by those who have devoted more than two minutes to learning anything about them) for not taking anything seriously, least of all themselves, don't hurt record sales. I suspect a few actual dead groupies discovered on the bus would put a serious dent in the band's touring plans, to say the least.

But leaving that aside -- the album cover "helped" them get to the top of the charts? How do we know this? Could it be that their fans, who pretty much know what to expect with each new record, just bought it anyway, and would have bought it even if they had pictures of rainbows and unicorns on the cover? And how does one picture constitute a "fascination" with the idea of killing women? Dear gawd, don't anybody let her hear any Slayer lyrics.

Most of all, I like the gratuitous way she brings up Columbine apropos of nothing while grudgingly allowing that they don't deserve to be tarred with that; it's just, you know, she's just saying. Okay, you might not share my disgust over this sort of thing, so, um, what about this, huh? A couple of psychotic teenagers liked their music too! Who cares if that's utterly irrelevant? Misogyny and, um, other bad stuff, booga booga!

Monday, November 09, 2009

More Joy in Heaven Over One Repentant Sinner

I ask in all seriousness: why does anyone give a bouncing fuck what Andrew Sullivan thinks about anything? I've never read a single thing from him that hasn't been said more intelligently or eloquently somewhere else. For lack of a better answer, I'm guessing liberals are fascinated by his waffling: just when you think he's sounding pretty reasonable, he again ponders why no one takes The Bell Curve seriously. Or he still acts periodically shocked that his party and his religion have no desire to accommodate people like him. They must thrill to the idea that someone could be redeemed from his bloodthirsty, jingoist past, even if the conclusions he finally arrives at after years of this ridiculous drama are things your average blog commenter found painfully obvious six years ago. Andrew Sullivan: the blogsophere's guilty pleasure soap opera.

IOZ already said all that ever needs to be said about him. I hope he doesn't mind me quoting extensively from those two posts because, goddamn, they're just that good:

But mostly there is the fact that Andrew Sullivan is a world-class, self-obsessed, bien-pensant twit writing a blog that, par contre Yglesias' praise, offers no substance other than a skein of narcissistic reflections, a strung strand of popcorn, a candy necklace. Yglesias says that Sullivan offers a sensibility, which is rather like saying that some poor, homely girl has a winning personality, a pretty laugh, or a great smile. Sullivan, to hear Yglesias tell it, is widely but not deeply read, occasionally funny, always self-involved, and never terribly original. He is, in other words, every other gay man with a bachelor's degree.

The problem with Sullivan isn't, as Yglesias says, that he doesn't actually know what on earth he's talking about, but that as the living avatar of banality, he is immensely popular, since there is nothing Just Folks like more than hearing what they already believe, but said purdier. Sullivan gets credit for somehow turning against Republicans, and if you operate from the assumption that the division that matters in America is between the Donkle and the Oliphant, then that credit is due. If, on the other hand, you find yourself in the ever-declining minority that asks into the substance of beliefs, here is what you find in Andrew Sullivan: a man whose Church irrationally condemns him and consigns him to damnation who is churched nonetheless; a man who believes in a modest bellicosity even though it always fails; a man who invariably condemns in the harshest terms the
avant, until he drags his dawdling arrière up the the very line that reasonable forward-thinkers long-ago laid down, and then from that vantage again condemns the swifter thinkers. He calls this "skepticism." Perhaps you can think of another term.

Sullivan calls himself a conservative, which in his writing, if not his mind, means a defender of his own habitudes against the depredations of those "fundamentalists" (Yglesias is good on his use of that word) whom he sees seeking some radical alteration of
Andrew Sullivan's quotidian existence. In the universe of his writing, Andrew Sullivan is the immovable object. The Church drifts from him. The War drifts from him. The Party drifts from him. But poor Andy, wherever he goes, there he is.


A war has killed tens of thousands, at least, and he mocks intemperance! By way of bastardizing a paraphrase: temperance in opposition to evil is vice. Where has temperate, conciliatory criticism gotten anyone so far in the fight to end this act of hubris? And if nowhere, then . . . ?

But that's a thought too far for the likes of Sullivan.

As for "those hoping for failure in the war on terror," there are no such people. There are only two camps: those who accept the premise that there is and can be a "war on terror," who uniformly hope for victory of some sort or other, and those who
do not accept the premise that there is or can be a "war on terror," who hope for neither victory nor defeat because neither eventuality has any bearing on the impossible conclusion to a nonexistent conflict.

That also is a thought too far for the likes of Sullivan, whose essential premises include the premise that his premises are essential.

The larger point is this: Michael Moore is no Susan Sontag, clearly, but he was still
more right than Andrew Sullivan, and sooner. He's a maker of agitprop, a populist, and a pretty shallow thinker, if that word even applies, but he nonetheless identified, at least partially, the error, crime, and folly of the Iraq War back when Andrew Sullivan was still ejaculating whole paragraphs of praise for the so-called liberation of Iraq and casting cheap aspersions on the person and character of his imagined domestic enemies, who had the temerity in a moment when the war was still popular in the American imagination to question it.

Michael Moore is one of the
least perceptive of antiwar voices, and he nevertheless perceived long before Andrew Sullivan the two basic features of the Iraq War: it is wrong, and it can't be won.

So rather than mitigating the tawdry insult he hurled at Sontag with his "award," Sullivan compounds it, because he refuses to consider that his mistake wasn't just nomenclature but
category, no less absurd than the dauphin's interlocuters telling us that they aren't "staying the course," but "adapting to win." Transferring the same shit from toilet to toilet only darkens the stains on his dirty hands.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


The reason's simple, and the same as it was during 9/11: they think soiling oneself is a sign of patriotism, and consider those who pants are not full of shit to be traitors.

I was just thinking after I heard the news that it's been a good, long time since Americans have gotten a chance to experience a really intense pants-shitting. Well, here we are, bedunged, berayed, bescumbered. If you aren't safe surrounded by soldiers and weapons...

IOZ already summed up my feelings on the matter. Now I'm just curious when John Derbyshire is going to castigate the victims for not counting the number of rounds fired before charging the shooter en masse.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday Shuffle

  1. Godflesh - Anthem
  2. Saigon Kick - Dizzy's Vine
  3. Morphine - Souvenir
  4. Doves - The Cedar Room
  5. Band of Horses - Marry Song
  6. Paul Oakenfold - Starry Eyed Surprise
  7. Pop Will Eat Itself - Familus Horribilus
  8. Suzanne Vega - Widow's Walk
  9. Faun - Iyansa
  10. Elton John - Song for Guy

And bonus tracks for the occasion: Ganado IV from Resident Evil 4, and John Carpenter - Halloween 1978 (Laurie's Theme)

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Jejuneness of Maleficence

Could these revelations help banish the robotic reiteration of the phrase the banality of evil as an explanation for everything bad that human beings do? Arendt may not have intended that the phrase be used this way, but one of its pernicious effects has been to make it seem as though the search for an explanation of the mystery of evil done by "ordinary men" is over. As though by naming it somehow explains it and even solves the problem. It's a phrase that sounds meaningful and lets us off the hook, allows us to avoid facing the difficult question.

What difficult question? Why ordinary people do "evil" things? There is no one ultimate reason, just particular reasons related to the individual circumstances surrounding the acts themselves. (I suppose you could also ponder the fact that the human species is an especially psychotic type of chimpanzee, if you're looking for a more general explanation.) Why does it need to be more complicated than that? In fact, this is one of those dilemmas people create by making needless distinctions in the first place; in this case, pretending that there is a class of actions so depraved, so anti-life, so utterly out of keeping with the nature of existence itself that only an equally special type of infernal monster can handle the thought of them, let alone carrying them out. Really, don't we know better by now?

Hell, it seems to me that some people just like to stay stuck in a pose of seeking, endlessly seeking, making a big spectacle of refusing to settle for anything offered, because the Big Questions Must be Definitively Answered. But, you know, if you're obsessed with words and definitions, you'll just keep wandering around in circles in the dictionary forever. At some point, you'll just have to allow experience to be its own explanation. It's not a symbol signifying or pointing to something truer, deeper, more essential. It just is. And a lot of the time, it's something horrifying to our sensibilities. That's your given. Start from there.

To my mind, the use of the phrase banality of evil is an almost infallible sign of shallow thinkers attempting to seem intellectually sophisticated. Come on, people: It's a bankrupt phrase, a subprime phrase, a Dr. Phil-level phrase masquerading as a profound contrarianism. Oooh, so daring! Evil comes not only in the form of mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash types, but in the form of paper pushers who followed evil orders.

Okay, fine, but...

Either one knows what one is doing is evil or one does not. If one knows and does it anyway, one is evil, not some special subcategory of evil. If one doesn't know, one is ignorant, and not evil. But genuine ignorance is rare when evil is going on.

Aren't we supposed to be in a post-Christian world or something? Couldn't we also stop throwing around the ridiculous metaphysical term "evil" itself? Does it really require much in the way of "intellectual sophistication" to recognize the utter absurdity of pretending that this or that action somehow violates the very spirit of life itself or rends the fabric of the universe with its inherent wrongness? Nothing you can imagine is so horrible and unspeakable that it hasn't already happened countless times, and yet, everything keeps on keeping on. Acquiesce if you want. Oppose if you must. But stop pretending that there's any "higher" purpose to doing so.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Regrets, I've Had a Few

If you had a time machine that could take you back to any one specific tour (but ONLY one), who would you go see?
- MetalSucks

Well, of course there are a thousand and one bands I would like to see, or wish I had seen but never did, so I'm going to morph this question into one about bands I could have easily seen but didn't, for whatever reason.

I missed a chance to see Suicidal Tendencies in late November of 1990.

Likewise with the Black Crowes in the summer of 2007, I think. That one's kind of iffy -- I don't care much for self-indulgent jam bands live, but I do love a lot of their songs, mostly from Amorica onward. It might have been worth sitting through a lot of excess guitar noodling for that.

Went to Raleigh, N.C. in August of 1994 to see Pantera with Prong and Sepultura opening, only to be informed at the gate that Sepultura had withdrawn due to Max Cavalera injuring his knee at an earlier show. Never have seen them since.

But the most head-slapping one of all has to be, again, in November of 1990, about a week before the S.T. show, in fact -- Jane's Addiction played at a gymnasium on campus in town, and I didn't go because I didn't really know who they were at the time. A few weeks later, I bought Ritual de lo Habitual and was entranced by it. That record is still a magical one for me, the kind that instantly transports you back through time to whatever was going on at that point in your life, and for me, what a beautiful time it was. Half a year later, they were broken up.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Corporate journalists are invariably sycophantic hacks. No, it's true! They're often members of the same social class as those in positions of power to whom they're supposedly implacably opposed! They attend the same cocktail parties and send their kids to the same private schools and everything!

Well, that's about all there is to say about that. To my chagrin, I admit that being unable to act surprised anew by that fact every day helps keep me from ever attaining the page hits and blog-ad revenue of all the big pwoggie-bloggers. But we must be true to ourselves above all, and I simply have no interest in joining the chorus of short-sighted people pissing and moaning about this or that particular reporter or pundit who's a little too cozy with this or that Republican, blah blah blah.

That said, sometimes even I can't help but enjoy munching on a Comedy Gold-en Delicious apple that falls into my open hand.

So, I've spent the last several weeks watching the entire series of The Wire via Netflix, and just finished it over the weekend. The fifth and final season focused to a large degree on the media, based on executive producer David Simon's experience working for the Baltimore Sun. The DVD had a bonus feature that contained a bunch of people associated with the show, along with assorted journalists, giving their two cents on the state of print media, journalism, the Internet, all that good stuff.

Somehow, out of all the people they could have picked to offer some words of wisdom about the Meaning of it All, they got Joe Klein.

The depths of his incredible hackitude have been thoroughly navigated, explored, and mapped elsewhere, so I won't bother rehashing all that. Go plug his name into the "search this blog" function on anyone from Eschaton or Hullabaloo or Greenwald on down if you need to refresh your memory. I just want to share this amazing tidbit here:

"I'm entirely depressed about the state of my craft. Newspapers and magazines are losing readers, young people aren't reading them. You know, I watch as my colleagues get laid off and fired -- it's kind of like being gay in 1982, half the people I know are dying, they're being, you know, they're being cut off."

Now, I understand that the whole point of analogies is to (skillfully) compare apples to oranges, basically. And it's a longstanding pet peeve of mine that people constantly hyperventilate over touchy analogies by focusing on the two examples rather than the common theme or thread between them: "Ohmigod I can't believe he just totally compared X to Y get me the smelling salts AIIIEEEE..." But still, some images are just too incongruous to make the analogy work. For example, pretty much anything being contrasted with Hitler/the Nazis. Leaving aside the whole aspect of it being utterly, utterly overused, almost anything you're seeking to call attention to for its awfulness is going to suffer in comparison to the Nazis, and you're just going to look like an unimaginative idiot.

So while I have to give it up to Joe for coming up with a new one here, I still have to say: Really? That's the best image you could think of? Watching your profession change beyond recognition, watching colleagues lose their jobs...that's "kind of like" wasting away from a mysterious, horrible - incurable - disease at a time when no one in power wants to acknowledge it, and many of them actually see it as just retribution against you for thwarting God's plans? That's "kind of like" literally dying? Really? So...I guess all the massive unemployment we have now, all the ordinary people who don't have enough education, special skills or connections to land on their feet somewhere else, all the people who are losing everything they own because people far above them in another world played games with imaginary money on paper...that's kind of like the Holocaust, isn't it?

Shit. Just violated my own rule.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Notes on Philosophy

Once again, I find occasion to quote liberally from John Gray's Straw Dogs. I had no idea that book would prove so useful! This time, it's because Stephen Metcalf is complaining that Martin Heidegger deserves better than to be mocked and dismissed with "a volley of snotty jibes." (I'm going to suggest with only the barest hint of a smirk that a better metaphor could have been employed here.)

Heidegger's prose is notoriously difficult. To his critics, wresting clarity from Being and Time is like trying to inhale the proverbial smoke from the mirror. (His admirers reply: Heidegger's prose is difficult because his truth was difficult, as was Kant's, as was Hegel's.)

When is a reader free to dismiss a difficult writer as an obfuscatory charlatan?

It depends, of course; there is no hard-and-fast rule that can be applied across the board. Schopenhauer, who aimed to write in German the way David Hume wrote in English, proved that one could understand Kant's philosophy and still employ lucid prose in the course of engaging with it. He also (rightly) despised Hegel as a fatuous gasbag who could go on and on for page after page about absolutely nothing. Most philosophical ideas can be explained clearly enough without jargon if one desires, so I tend to assume that when a writer is being repeatedly difficult and vague, it's by design.

Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity. For the crowd believes that if it cannot see to the bottom of something it must be profound. It is so timid and dislikes going into the water.

- Nietzsche

Anyway, I tend to agree with the assessment by Carlin Romano that has Metcalf so vexed, and while I would concur with Metcalf that I certainly don't think Heidegger's philosophy should be shunned and dismissed solely because of his Nazism, I also really don't consider it to be worth much exploration or argument; your mileage may vary. But Gray has done us the favor of elaborating a bit on some reasons for taking such a stance:

Like Nietzsche, Heidegger was a postmonotheist - an unbeliever who could not give up Christian hopes. In his great first book, Being and Time, he sets out a view of human existence that is supposed to depend at no point on religion. Yet every one of the categories of thought he deploys - 'thrownness' (Dasein), 'uncanniness' (Unheimlichkeit), 'guilt' (Schuld) - is a secular version of a Christian idea. We are 'thrown' into the world, which remains always foreign or 'uncanny' to us, and in which we can never truly be at home. Again, whatever we do, we cannot escape guilt; we are condemned to choose without having any ground for our choices, which will always be somehow mysteriously at fault. Obviously, these are the Christian ideas of the Fall of Man and Original Sin, recycled by Heidegger with an existential-sounding twist.

[...] For Heidegger, humans are the site in which Being is disclosed. Without humans, Being would be silent. Meister Eckardt and Angelus Silesius, German mystics whose writings Heidegger seems to have studied closely, said much the same: God needs man as much as man needs God. For these mystics, humans stand at the center of the world, everything else is marginal. Other animals are deaf-mutes; only through humans can God speak and be heard.

Heidegger sees everything that lives solely from the standpoint of its relations with humans. The differences between living creatures count for nothing in comparison with their difference from humans. Molluscs and mice are the same as bats and gorillas, badgers and wolves are no different from crabs and gnats. All are 'world-poor', none has the power to 'disclose Being'. This is only the old anthropocentric conceit, rendered anew in the idiom of a secular Gnostic.

[...] But Heidegger's involvement with Nazism went deeper than cowardice and power worship. It expressed an impulse integral to his thinking. By contrast with Nietzsche, a nomad who wrote for travelers like himself and who was able to put so much into question because he belonged nowhere, Heidegger always yearned desperately to belong. For him, thinking was not an adventure whose charm comes from the fact that one cannot know where it leads. It was a long detour, at the end of which lay the peace that comes from no longer having to think. In his rectorial address at Freiburg, Heidegger came close to saying as much, leading the observer Karl Lowith to comment that it was not quite clear whether one should now study the pre-Socratic philosophers or join the Brownshirts.

[...] He held resolutely to the European tradition because he believed that in it alone 'the question of Being' had been rightly posed. It was this belief that led him to assert that Greek and German are the only true 'philosophical' languages - as if the subtle reasonings of Nagarjuna, Chuang-Tzu and Dogen, Jey Tsong Khapa, Averroes and Maimonides could not be philosophy because Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Arab and Jewish thinkers did not write in these European tongues.

On a different note - speaking of Nagarjuna, I was glad to see this from Brad Warner's blog:

In Buddhist philosophy, we do not accept the division of the observer and what is observed. The combination of these two is the back and the face of one single undivided fact at the present moment. Still, the action of seeing is real. We see here that Master Nagarjuna’s philosophy does not negate the reality we experience. It is not nihilism.

Italics mine. That made me smile; I remember having an online argument years ago with some pseudonymous "spiritualist" (gods, how I hate that word) who insisted otherwise, also claiming that Nagarjuna was "no materialist". Spiritualist, materialist, nihilist -- I tried in vain to convince him that these were all abstract concepts that only got in the way of perception. Western philosophy has never had much use for such a worldview.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

You Can Have My Pocket Pussy When You Pry It from My Furiously Fapping Hand

The Alabama Supreme Court has upheld a state statute prohibiting masturbation by artificial means. But if the state can protect the right of its citizens to own guns as an important liberty, how is it that devices for masturbation are prohibited?

Because sexual enjoyment is evil whereas shooting people with guns and taking their property is what made this country great, duh.

Also in self-pollution news, nine hours and thirty-three minutes? Dude's my hero. I bet he couldn't wait for a generic "Hey, how was your day?" from an acquaintance.

Sheriff of Rottingham: That's going to chafe my willy!

Mein Kitsch

Nazi Gnomes Cause Outcry in Germany

Well, if there's ever a holocaust of Jewish snails, gypsy earthworms, leftist aphids, and socially degenerate toads, we can't say we weren't warned. On the bright side, they don't require nearly as much lebensraum, so maybe the Russian butterflies have nothing to worry about.

"I want to show that there is far-right thought in the heads of all of us," he said, adding that gnomes were a particularly fitting method for conveying his message "in a lighter and unpatronising way, at the same time as being strong enough to provoke a reaction.

Wow, that's deep. Seriously, if our avant-garde hero hadn't come along and peeled back the layers of propaganda, thought control, and stultifying social conformity that prevent us from grasping such esoteric truths, I might have needed to find a teenager who had just discovered the History Channel, Lord of the Rings and marijuana to share this insight with me.

"As long as I manage to polarise, I'm on the right track," he added.

Right, because sycophantic adulation and vehement opposition are so hard to come by. You know, sometimes when people are uproariously laughing at you or staring at you in bewilderment, it's not because they're trying desperately to mask their fear of the painful truth you bring, it's just because you're a fucking idiot and completely unaware of it. Rule of thumb: if you can imagine your art ending up on Regretsy, you're not anywhere near the station, let alone on the right track.