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A deer in the yard is worth what?
A deer in the yard is worth what?

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Word!

08.05.2003

(Words, Religion, Culture, Folly)

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...we can only confess our confusion and impotence, our anger and our opinions, with words. With words we name our losses and our resistance because we have no other recourse, because men are invariably open to the word, and because, little by little, it is they which mold our judgment. Our judgment, often feared by those who hold power, is molded slowly, like the source of a river, through the current of words. But words only produce currents when they are profoundly credible.

-John Berger (found here)

These words you're reading are mostly from one of the three known strategies for writing systems, the alphabet, which tries to provide a unique symbol (but sometimes uses a combination like "sh" or "th") for each basic phoneme. Another strategy uses logograms, which are symbols that represent whole words such as Egyptian hieroglyphs. The other known strategy is using syllabaries, which are symbols that represent individual syllables of a language. These strategies are not mutually exclusive as shown by the development of the Sumerian writing from logograms to eventually include phonetic signs to produce syllables.

The invention of writing did not necessarily spread rapidly as an obvious good to all people.

Knowledge of writing was confined to professional scribes in the employ of the king or temple. For instance, there is no hint that Linear B [Mycenaean Greece writing] was used or understood by any Mycenaean Greek beyond small cadres of palace bureaucrats. Since individual Linear B scribes can be distinguished by their handwriting on preserved documents, we can say that all preserved Linear B documents from the palaces of Knossos and Pylos are the work of a mere 75 and 40 scribes, respectively.

The uses of these telegraphic, clumsy, ambiguous early scripts were as restricted as the number of their users. Anyone hoping to discover how Sumerians of 3000 B.C. thought and felt is in for a disappointment. Instead, the first Sumerian texts are emotionless accounts of palace and temple bureaucrats. About 90 percent of the tablets in the earliest known Sumerian archives, from the city of Uruk, are clerical records of goods paid in, workers given rations, and agricultural products distributed. Only later, as Sumerians progressed beyond logograms to phonetic writing, did they begin to write prose narratives, such as propaganda and myths.

- Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (page 234)

Now we have more words than wits to reason them or time to read them. Words rendered in HTML have a new dimension of distraction. It's a feat just to arrive at your intended point or even to keep a reader shackled to the text when attached are anchor tags pulling one off the page. If not the links, then the bookmarks. If not the bookmarks, then the RSS feeds. If not the feeds, then the Blogdex and other link popularity aggregators. Can you not feel them even now? How many links are you away from another discussion about God? And should it lead you to change the topic?

Normally, I avoid Tom's site for his exaggerated histrionics of complete non-issues nicely illustrated by this self-labeled "best of" post. I counter Tom's "I can't really understand how anyone can be anything other than an atheist" with how I don't understand how anyone can't understand that people believe whatever is most comfortable. With the push for a rebranding of atheists as "brights" would the fact that Tom admits that, "I think it's fair to say that I couldn't say with total logical conviction that there is no god," mean he's a lite bright?

God. The hero of a book called the Bible. Nelson Glueck
—A reasoning being would lose his reason in attempting to account for the great phenomena of nature, had he not a Supreme Being to refer to; and well has it been said that, if there had been no God, mankind would have been obliged to imagine one. George Washington
—Like perpetual motion man's most unworkable invention.

- Leonard Levinson, The Left Handed Dictionary

I don't deny that the Bible has lots of great stories that can be applied to today or that you can extract an interesting philosophy out of the allegory and symbolism. People believing one way or another on the God question seem to have a certain confidence in their senses, whether it be a sense of reason or feeling, I prefer to cater to my sense of humor and therefore think God is an atheist. SHe is in denial due to embarrassment.

To know nothing is the only happiness.

-Sophocles, Ajax

If God were omniscient, then that would explain how grumpy he is throughout the Old Testament. So he had a kid, which tends to cheer folks up. Since we went and tortured and murdered his son, you can probably reason out why God would prefer a hands-off approach from now on. Of course, reasoning why someone that knows everything would bother doing anything is the kind of circuitous thinking that serves as sufficient means towards getting yourself a room at your local asylum.

Do observe our grim philosophers that are perpetually beating their brains on knotty subjects, and for the most part you'll find them grown old before they are scarcely young.

-Erasmus, The Praise of Folly (XIV)

All this hemming and hawing over the perceived decline of culture to the ruin of civilization seems more like a desperate bulwark against the ruin of their culture stuck in the ineludible past. Maybe the whole process of exposing oneself to a culture far removed from the one you've been accustomed to is what clouds Theodore Dalrymple's thinking, akin to his example of Mervyn Griffith-Jones gaffe.

If every person who tries to defend virtue is revealed to have feet of clay (as which of us does not?) or to have indulged at some time in his life in the vice that is the opposite of the virtue he calls for, then virtue itself is exposed as nothing but hypocrisy: and we may therefore all behave exactly as we choose.

It's everyone's favorite game of "Name that Logical Fallacy!" What effect can those that extolled a virtue have on the virtue itself if they do not practice it themselves? The virtue would seem unblemished and the person shamed. Has he such low opinion of people that he believes them to base their morality on the actions of others and not strongly held principles? For the sake of argument, if one's observation of virtue is determined by following those that preach the virtue, they are setting themselves up for disappointment; and when that happens it should get them to reconsider what they base their morality on. He intends to make sure this adjustment not favor the secular side. He reduces the secular conception of virtue through a fallacy of narrow definition in order to cast it as callow and less real in its understanding of human nature.

Society has changed its standards of decency. Many claim this change is an indication of decay and a forecast of its collapse. But how much of it is merely exposing what was already there rather than awaking the latent lusts and licentious leanings of the more easily persuaded portions of the population? What better a thing than a free and open society for the perpetually snooty sect to openly condemn and feel superior to? There are certain classes of people that seek out subjects to be offended by in difference to the fact that nothing requires them to gape or listen.

The mechanism of growth and development of a free society lessens the taboo of some words and increases the taboo of others. If this direction makes words like "fuck" and "cock" more acceptable while rendering racist and sexist terms less so, then I'm not sure what the fuss is about. We can enjoy our low brow indulgences without celebrating stupidity. There are those that deserve encomium for their ability to be both crude and classy. We mockingly praise the stupidly bold and claim, "If Anne Nicole Smith had not existed, nobody would have dared invent her," to forget the words of the past.

...another falls desperately in love with a young wench and keeps more flickering about her than a young man would have been ashamed of. For to see such an old crooked piece with one foot in the grave to marry a plump young wench, and that too without a portion, is so common that men almost expect to be commended for it...These things are laughed at as foolish, as indeed they are; yet they please themselves, live merrily, swim in pleasure, and in a word happy...

-Erasmus, The Praise of Folly (XXX)

It serves us right that the endless stream of words stack up like so much dirt over the graves of those that had uttered them so that we bury any wisdom once won by our ancestors. In this way we may "discover" it and claim it as our own. Woe to those that try and pass these words on!

For these kind of men that are so given up to the study of wisdom are generally most unfortunate, but chiefly in their children; Nature it seems, so providently ordering it, lest this mischief of wisdom should spread further among mankind. For which reason it is manifest why Cicero's son was so degenerate, and that wise Socrates' children, as one has well observed, were more like their mother than their father, that is to say, fools.

-Erasmus, The Praise of Folly (XXIII)

Of course, it must be said that even with so marvelous an intellect as Socrates possessed it did not shield him from the pernicious prejudices of the time, which were by no means much different from the 1500's of Erasmus.

A brief mention may be made of the generation of other animals, so far as the subject admits of brevity; in this manner our argument will best attain a due proportion. On the subject of animals, then, the following remarks may be offered. Of the men who came into the world, those who were cowards or led unrighteous lives may with reason be supposed to have changed into the nature of women in the second generation. And this was the reason why at that time the gods created in us the desire of sexual intercourse, contriving in man one animated substance, and in woman another, which they formed respectively in the following manner. The outlet for drink by which liquids pass through the lung under the kidneys and into the bladder, which receives then by the pressure of the air emits them, was so fashioned by them as to penetrate also into the body of the marrow, which passes from the head along the neck and through the back, and which in the preceding discourse we have named the seed. And the seed having life, and becoming endowed with respiration, produces in that part in which it respires a lively desire of emission, and thus creates in us the love of procreation. Wherefore also in men the organ of generation becoming rebellious and masterful, like an animal disobedient to reason, and maddened with the sting of lust, seeks to gain absolute sway; and the same is the case with the so-called womb or matrix of women; the animal within them is desirous of procreating children, and when remaining unfruitful long beyond its proper time, gets discontented and angry, and wandering in every direction through the body, closes up the passages of the breath, and, by obstructing respiration, drives them to extremity, causing all varieties of disease, until at length the desire and love of the man and the woman, bringing them together and as it were plucking the fruit from the tree, sow in the womb, as in a field, animals unseen by reason of their smallness and without form; these again are separated and matured within; they are then finally brought out into the light, and thus the generation of animals is completed.

Thus were created women and the female sex in general.

- Plato, Timaeus (As translated by Benjamin Jowett)

Maybe Socrates wife was a fool and women of the time that weren't viewed that discretion was preferable to lengthy debates with their windbag husbands whose pompous bellowing caused them much grief. This may have been what men then deemed as the inherent irrational emotional nature of women rather than admit any blame for women's behavior as a reaction to their own.

If you do not wish a man to do a thing, you had better get him to talk about it; for the more men talk, the more likely they are to do nothing else.

-Thomas Carlyle

Another peril with talking is that eventually you might actually reveal more than you wish about yourself. This is more dangerous in the current era of instant publishing and world media. An ill remark made at a "closed" conference or benefit now can bite the person that barked it in "real-time." People from Sacramento to Shanghai can learn of it before the speaker finishes and some guy at the Washington Post will probably have 1500 unkind words typed up before the speaker takes a bite of the juicy steak dinner. Sometimes it's not just some casual slip, but par for the course. For example, Next Gingrich taught this in his class, "Renewing American Civilization."

If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections....On the other hand, if combat means being on an aegis class cruiser managing the computer controls for twelve ships, a female may be again dramatically better than a male, who gets very, very frustrated sitting in a chair all the time because males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes.

- pulled from Al Franken's Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot

Now I have to tell you that Franken has some very funny things to say about this, but I want to skip ahead to where he quotes from Newt's book, To Renew American for possible clues about where Newt gets his ideas.

If you want a sense of the personal values we should be communication to children, get the Boy Scout or Girl Scout handbook. Or go and look at Reader's Digest and The Saturday Evening Post from around 1955.

Let's face it, people were a lot happier in the 50's. You can see it from the TV shows, books, and movies. Maybe if more of the Summerians could write or make movies we'd find out that they were happier still! In fact, why don't we just go back to the Garden of Eden, it must have been a blast!

This would be assuming that living with all the animals was that much fun in the first place and that Adam and Eve even had the knowledge to bring more folks into the world before eating that apple. It's possible that the birds and the bees could have told them directly. But Plato had a theory about where the birds came from and had an opinion about every animal from snakes to oysters. It comes right after the part I quoted earlier.

But the race of birds was created out of innocent light-minded men, who, although their minds were directed toward heaven, imagined, in their simplicity, that the clearest demonstration of the things above was to be obtained by sight; these were remodelled and transformed into birds, and they grew feathers instead of hair. The race of wild pedestrian animals, again, came from those who had no philosophy in any of their thoughts, and never considered at all about the nature of the heavens, because they had ceased to use the courses of the head, but followed the guidance of those parts of the soul which are in the breast. In consequence of these habits of theirs they had their front-legs and their heads resting upon the earth to which they were drawn by natural affinity; and the crowns of their heads were elongated and of all sorts of shapes, into which the courses of the soul were crushed by reason of disuse. And this was the reason why they were created quadrupeds and polypods: God gave the more senseless of them the more support that they might be more attracted to the earth. And the most foolish of them, who trail their bodies entirely upon the ground and have no longer any need of feet, he made without feet to crawl upon the earth. The fourth class were the inhabitants of the water: these were made out of the most entirely senseless and ignorant of all, whom the transformers did not think any longer worthy of pure respiration, because they possessed a soul which was made impure by all sorts of transgression; and instead of the subtle and pure medium of air, they gave them the deep and muddy sea to be their element of respiration; and hence arose the race of fishes and oysters, and other aquatic animals, which have received the most remote habitations as a punishment of their outlandish ignorance. These are the laws by which animals pass into one another, now, as ever, changing as they lose or gain wisdom and folly.

We may now say that our discourse about the nature of the universe has an end. The world has received animals, mortal and immortal, and is fulfilled with them, and has become a visible animal containing the visible -- the sensible God who is the image of the intellectual, the greatest, best, fairest, most perfect -- the one only begotten heaven.

- Plato, Timaeus

So birds have been considered the shizzit for quite some time. And from Lynrd Skynyrd to Nelly we have sung their praises. More to the point, The Bird is the Word or have you not heard? But if this is the case, then words are free. This may not please the grammarians, most foolish of all.

But let me be most foolish myself, and one whom Democritus may not only laugh at but flout, if I go one foot further in the discovery of the follies and madnesses of the common people. I'll betake me to them that carry the reputation of wise men and hunt after that golden bough, as says the proverb. Among whom the grammarians hold the first place, a generation of men than whom nothing would be more miserable, nothing more perplexed, nothing more hated of the gods, did not I allay the troubles of that pitiful profession with a certain kind of pleasant madness. For they are not only subject to those five curses with which Homer begins his Iliads, as says the Greek epigram, but six hundred; as being ever hungerstarved and slovens in their schools—schools, did I say? Nay, rather cloisters, bridewells, or slaughterhouses--grown old among a company of boys, deaf with their noise, and pined away with stench and nastiness. And yet by my courtesy it is that they think themselves the most excellent of all men, so greatly do they please themselves in frighting a company of fearful boys with a thundering voice and big looks, tormenting them with ferules, rods, and whips; and, laying about them without fear or wit, imitate the ass in the lion's skin. In the meantime all that nastiness seems absolute spruceness, that stench a perfume, and that miserable slavery a kingdom, and such too as they would not change their tyranny for Phalaris' or Dionysius' empire. Nor are they less happy in that new opinion they have taken up of being learned; for whereas most of them beat into boys, heads nothing but foolish toys, yet, you good gods! what Palemon, what Donatus, do they not scorn in comparison of themselves? And so, I know not by what tricks, they bring it about that to their boys' foolish mothers and dolt-headed fathers they pass for such as they fancy themselves. Add to this that other pleasure of theirs, that if any of them happen to find out who was Anchises' mother, or pick out of some worm-eaten manuscript a word not commonly known--as suppose it bubsequa for a cowherd, bovinator for a wrangler, manticulator for a cutputse--or dig up the ruins of some ancient monument with the letters half eaten out; O Jupiter! what towerings! what triumphs! what commendations! as if they had conquered Africa or taken in Babylon.

But what of this when they give up and down their foolish insipid verses, and there wants not others that admire them as much? They believe presently that Virgil's soul is transmigrated into them! But nothing like this, when with mutual compliments they praise, admire, and claw one another. Whereas if another do but slip a word and one more quick-sighted than the rest discover it by accident, O Hercules ! what uproars, what bickerings, what taunts, what invectives! If I lie, let me have the ill will of all the grammarians. I knew in my time one of many arts, a Grecian, a Latinist, a mathematician, a philosopher, a physician, a man master of them all, and sixty years of age, who, laying by all the rest, perplexed and tormented himself for above twenty years in the study of grammar, fully reckoning himself a prince if he might but live so long till he could certainly determine how the eight parts of speech were to be distinguished, which none of the Greeks or Latins had yet fully cleared: as if it were a matter to be decided by the sword if a man made an adverb of a conjunction. And for this cause is it that we have as many grammars as grammarians; nay more, forasmuch as my friend Aldus has given us above five, not passing by any kind of grammar, how barbarously or tediously soever compiled, which he has not turned over and examined; envying every man's attempts in this kind, rather to be pitied than happy, as persons that are ever tormenting themselves; adding, changing, putting in, blotting out, revising, reprinting, showing it to friends, and nine years in correcting, yet never fully satisfied; at so great a rate do they purchase this vain reward, to wit, praise, and that too of a very few, with so many watchings, so much sweat, so much vexation and loss of sleep, the most precious of all things. Add to this the waste of health, spoil of complexion, weakness of eyes or rather blindness, poverty, envy, abstinence from pleasure, over-hasty old age, untimely death, and the like; so highly does this wise man value the approbation of one or two blear-eyed fellows. But how much happier is this my writer's dotage who never studies for anything but puts in writing whatever he pleases or what comes first in his head, though it be but his dreams; and all this with small waste of paper, as well knowing that the vainer those trifles are, the higher esteem they will have with the greater number, that is to say all the fools and unlearned. And what matter is it to slight those few learned if yet they ever read them? Or of what authority will the censure of so few wise men be against so great a cloud of gainsayers?

But they are the wiser that put out other men's works for their own, and transfer that glory which others with great pains have obtained to themselves; relying on this, that they conceive, though it should so happen that their theft be never so plainly detected, that yet they should enjoy the pleasure of it for the present. And 'tis worth one's while to consider how they please themselves when they are applauded by the common people, pointed at in a crowd, "This is that excellent person;" lie on booksellers' stalls; and in the top of every page have three hard words read, but chiefly exotic and next degree to conjuring; which, by the immortal gods! what are they but mere words? And again, if you consider the world, by how few understood, and praised by fewer! for even among the unlearned there are different palates. Or what is it that their own very names are often counterfeit or borrowed from some books of the ancients? When one styles himself Telemachus, another Sthenelus, a third Laertes, a fourth Polycrates, a fifth Thrasymachus. So that there is no difference whether they title their books with the "Tale of a Tub," or, according to the philosophers, by alpha, beta.

-Erasmus, The Praise of Folly

So what value, what virtue is there in words and their carefully correct use? Can they ever offer us respite from our insolation? Is there some arrangement that when heard is like a draught of nepenthe? And if we've a chance to speak will we be unable, as I have in the past, to speak clearly or at all?

What should I speak of Theophrastus, who being about to make an oration, became as dumb as if he had met a wolf in his way, which yet would have put courage in a man of war? Or Isocrates, that was so cowhearted that he dared never attempt it? Or Tully, that great founder of the Roman eloquence, that could never begin to speak without an odd kind of trembling, like a boy that had got the hiccough; which Fabius interprets as an argument of a wise orator and one that was sensible of what he was doing; and while he says it, does he not plainly confess that wisdom is a great obstacle to the true management of business? What would become of them, think you, were they to fight it out at blows that are so dead through fear when the contest is only with empty words?

-Erasmus, The Praise of Folly

I borrowed many words to add only a few. Of these I wonder if they are of any effect but of an affection of ego, distraction, folly. Do they only add to the "disgorgement of the bowels" that Harlan Ellison considers much of this Internet to be? Am I merely killing time online?

Words. Things to kill time until emotions make us inarticulate. Arthur Somers Roche

- Leonard Levinson, The Left Handed Dictionary

Comments?

Blogging Saves the Universe!

08.01.2003

(Weblogging, Writing, Movies)

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Bartender what is wrong with me
Why am I so out of breath
The captain said excuse me ma'am
This species has amused itself to death

-Roger Waters

After a long conversation last night and some surfing today, I have decided that it's time to write my book on weblogging. With only a few books covering the activity that will soon be more popular than spreading "bukkake graffiti art" there is plenty of space for me to occupy in this trendy literary niche. Besides, since I am writing a fairly satirical tour of the bloggging phenomenon tentatively called Blogging Saves the Universe! I'm going for a slightly different demographic. So how about a Compare & Contrast?

Anyway, what we did is we auctioned off this seat on the internet, as people know, and you paid $47,000 for it. And I'm not trying to be picky here, but, you know, I'm not an internet guy. Mostly I think -- and this sort of feeds into my point -- is because I think it's about ego, the internet. I think it's about people just wanting to share more than the rest of us really need to have shared with. You know? Websites with people's diaries -- who cares? E-mail, "Hi, every thought I ever had in my head, I'd like to share it now."
[ Laughter ]
What happened to the days when diaries were under lock and key? Now people get pissed off if you don't read their diary. I don't want to know every thought that's in everybody's mind.

- Bill Maher

Welcome to the internet Bill! Did you get someone else to write your about page? How cute!

I decided to "ask Bill" this:

It's nice to see that you've decided to become an internet guy. Does this mean well get to read every thought you'll ever have in your head from now on? It's not about ego is it? Oh, I kid the comedians.

Another strange internet sighting is the deliberate attempt to top blogdex, [Some] Bloggers Select The 15 Greatest Movies Of All-Time. First of all, I'm shocked that not a single Jerry Bruckheimer film made it and comedies are only honorable mentions. Perhaps an extreme right-wing view only appreciates Hollywood at it's most violent. I could easily make a better choice for the ones that made the list while retaining the order and theme of the original winners.

  1. Star Wars: Episode IV The director's cut of either The Abyss or Blade Runner.
  2. The Godfather The Gangs of New York, because I haven't seen it yet and I've seen The Godfather enough times already.
  3. Raiders of the Lost Ark It's hard to say this because I love this movie, but Tomb Raider has to be better because: A) I still have not seen it. B) Angelina Jolie.
  4. Casablanca I have not seen it because I'm not a fan of Bogey so I'm going to cheat and enter a badly needed comedy of which I can't decide from Young Frankenstein or Life of Brian or any movie starring Steve Martin (favoring LA Story) or John Candy (favoring Planes, Trains and Automobiles)
  5. The Godfather II I'm even more sick of the sequels, but this time I'll choose a mob movie I have seen, Johnny Dangerously.
  6. Citizen Kane Blah blah blah! The Third Man is a much better Wells picture for the music alone, but if I had to keep the same theme then it would have to be Brewster's Millions.
  7. Wizard of Oz The Wiz is far more funky and has a comedic quality to the name. And MJ!
  8. Gone With the Wind No, I haven't seen it. It's my grandparent's version of Titanic and I didn't see that either. The category of romance/adventure would make something like True Romance an obvious choice and make Mulholland Dr. kind of weird. The Apartment would be keeping with the traditions of an old classic, like the more controversial Lolita. Hell I have to say I'm there with Some Like it Hot.
  9. Saving Private Ryan After the opening war porn, this movie fails to really do anything until the end. If you want realism, it's Tora! Tora! Tora! If you want the human side of war, it's Grand Illusion. I favor The Bridge on the River Kwai too.
  10. North by Northwest A good movie, but Notorious was more tragic and their feelings for each other seemed more intense.
  11. Jaws Another good movie, but since Islands are just as water related, then I'm going for the original Lord of the Flies. What we do to each other is always more frightening than some dumb animal.
  12. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring Special Effects...Snooze...Special Effects...repeat for two more movies. Army of Darkness kicks LOTR's ass for pure geek adventure. Even ZU: Warriors from The Magic Mountain and Dark Crystal compete for sheer breadth of imagination.
  13. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back I have to admit it's the best of the SW flicks, but I can still stand to watch Aliens one more time over it.
  14. Braveheart Eh, Ran blows this away.
  15. Goodfellas This list is so mob movie heavy that I will have to insert HardBoiled as a far more entertaining movie. It's been copied a helluva lot more too. Oddly enough, most of those have been done by the same director. Next would be Django followed by The Wild Bunch, because the list doesn't have a damn western either.
  16. It's a Wonderful Life Oh god. Christmas Vacation is the only movie you need during the Ho Ho season.

Yet another internet sighting is this interview with these guys who need to read this.

Maybe there are books I ought to read before I take that drastic step towards writing a weblogging book. After all, who am I to write about all things bloggin' as if in these short few years I've learned anything? Are there not better questions to be asked about things online than just how narcissistic webloggers are? Could my book actually do any good at all?

Maybe I'm simply going about this the wrong way. Perhaps, I need to focus on other profitable ventures.

Comments?

?Random? Acts of Surfing

07.30.2003

(Weather, Religion, Politics)

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Dictionary: Opinion presented as truth in alphabetical order.

—John Ralston Saul, The Doubter's Companion, (1994)

Sunday we had quite the storm sweep through the area. It knocked the power out of Sandwich for most of the day. There was quite a bit of damage to anything not securely bolted down and a few trees fell. One of those is lying in our backyard, a mulberry tree.

Mulberry tree after storm

A Close-up. The whole scene.

One could say that God was looking out for me since I was not in harm's way when the tree fell. One would certainly be reaching since even if I was pitching horseshoes it would have maybe grazed my ankles. If I were picking mulberries, which I don't care for, I would have been fine since I would have been picking them from the tree next to it (the felled tree was sick and bore no berries). Of course, I wouldn't have been outside at all with the way it was raining. So maybe it was God all along!

The big storm in Sandwich
It starts bad...
our little tree!
...get's worse...
our other trees
...the trees in back seem to fare better...
pouring!
...it's really coming down now...
it fell!
...there it goes!

One could say that the conversation I had with my mom in which I assured her of the reliability of my car for taking road trips a day before it was to leave me stranded was the work of some divine trickster and that the whole storm thing was just a way to show me that I could be spared trouble too (and be given a supply of firewood), even though I did have to spend the majority of the day without power. And if I wrote, "HA! RIGHT!" in a very sarcastic manner I would only be testing providence, which is how this seems to have started.

Though I lean towards a kind of agnosticism, I'm in no way strictly attached to my position, but I doubt that I could or would want to come to some final conclusion. I am just as wary of logical positivism as I am of religious dogmatism. All –isms have an innate creepiness to me and their constant use tends to be a technique to dress up the speech of banal bores.

Recently I've brushed with (online and offline) those that take a literal interpretation of the Bible. It's much easier to simply close a browser than to find a clever and not too obvious segue into less controversial conversation, but when it comes to those of certain religious fervor, God gets into just about everything. It's a more delicate operation when you are related to the person, especially if you are counting on getting invited to a free dinner during the holidays.

While reading Richard Dawkins might prepare one to debate creationists, it doesn't offer any advice on how to do this in a civil manner and it's probably not a good idea to insert quotes from Aleister Crowley ("We place no reliance/On Virgin or Pigeon;/Our method is Science,/Our aim is Religion.") in a discussion with someone that's opposed to such harmless fantasy as Harry Potter.

It would certainly help to understand karma and that I'm not responsible for dislodging people-unless I believe they will come into some harm-from their carefully constructed realities even though the sharing of belief can imply a request for a response. It's not their fault that I find such beliefs painful to listen to and I mourn the loss of an intellect that was once very sharp and practical. So I can stop the karma wheel from spinning by not attacking this person's beliefs in the same way I don't try not to get involved with certain websites anymore.

But is karma that important? And what about that Instant Karma stuff? Maybe I don't want it to get me, Okay? How good can Instant Karma be anyway? Just because it's quick doesn't make it good. Take instapunditry, there's a reason "instant analysis" is considered an oxymoron.

People are more likely to search for things that reinforce their beliefs than challenge them. Wilson argues that, "I am not particularly interested, here, in how much of Reich was right or wrong. I present the Reich case as one illustration of how the current Idol, the orthodoxy of biological materialism, maintains itself." Kristin Buxton later quotes Wilson with something that illustrates my position quite clearly, "That is my heresy; that is why I cannot buy into fundamentalism. I wonder a bit." So I try and not get too comfortable with science or spirituality and this mobility tends to allow imagination to flourish, but it does make me uncomfortable when dealing with those that like to spout off dogmatic prose. Hmmm.

Larvals do not like to receive information unless the facts fit into their 3rd Circuit reality net and immediately reward their emotional status. Democrats were delighted to hear the facts about Nixon, but Republicans were irritated and resistant.
Hypocrisy and violent defensiveness is endemic.
The evidence from astronomy, bio-chemistry, genetics, nuclear-physics, defines the true frontier of philosophy and religion. Scientific American is more "far-out" than any occult magazine, the Periodic Table of Elements more prophetic than the Tarot deck. The nucleus of the atom is a realm more mysterious and omnicient than any theological fantasy. The cosmology of an expanding-universe-riddled-with-Black-Holes more bizarre than the eschatologies of Dante, Homer and Ramayana.

So it must have been in a moment of weakness that I visited the used bookstore and traded in some old books for others and one of them happened to be Al Franken's Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot: And Other Oberservations. I know what some of you may be thinking from the title alone, but hear him out.

I hope it's clear to you by now that this book is a satire about the breakdown in the civility of public discourse. I'm making fun of meanness in public debate by being mean myself. It's called "irony." Perhaps you've heard of it?

So maybe it's not weakness at all. Maybe I can take the part from the chapter Pat Buchanan: Nazi Lover where Franken talks about how Pat's speech at the Republican Convention of 1992 made four attacks on homosexuals and then he said, "And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton and Clinton [Gore?] are on the other side, and George Bush in on our side" with the other part where Pat calls Martin Luther King, Jr. "one of the most divisive men in contemporary history" and put it up against how George W. struggles to get the Black vote through a technique called "lip service" and either avoids the issue of gay marriage or offers clues to his views by calling Santorum "inclusive." Maybe talking about this insulting denial of reality is not mean, but vital.

As scary as that last article reads we must find solace in the irony that Bush's pictures aboard that aircraft carrier were so sexy that it may have turned more men on to the idea of joining the Navy than did the Village People. And from that same article:

Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. may have more boldly and publicly courted the religious right's antigay agenda and rarely if ever reached out to gays. But at least we knew what we were getting and could galvanize people to organize against it. Reagan not only saw no downside to ignoring the AIDS epidemic and letting thousands of people die, he saw a downside to showing any sympathy at all, fearing the religious right's wrath. 
Shortly after George H.W. Bush became president in 1989, an uproar ensued when first lady Barbara Bush attempted to show support for people with AIDS by putting candles in the White House windows while an AIDS candlelight vigil was being held at the Lincoln Memorial. With the fundies going ballistic, Bush Sr. retreated entirely from his "kinder, gentler" pose—his version of W's "compassionate" conservatism—and marched back to the Reagan script of public indifference and intolerance, eventually cruelly blaming gays for their "personal behavior. " 

Bush Sr.'s adoption of Reagan's tactics have been slightly changed by his son, but the opinion harnessed in simple terms by Buchanan that, "the homosexuals have declared war upon nature and nature is exacting an awful retribution" is shared by them all. Of course, they can feel free to appoint Andrew Sullivan to head the committee on AIDS research and prove me wrong.

Whether by nature or nurture or both that these views come into play, it must be with some relief for Rush that he's no longer the right's most loony screed screeching sycophant. So much has she strayed from reality that even David Horowitz and Andrew Sullivan, normally conciliatory to conservative kooks, took pains to separate themselves from some of what she claims in Treason.

Coulter's conservative critics fear that her legions of fans—and lots of others, too—see no appreciable difference between her ill-informed comic diatribes and their high-brow ultraserious ones, particularly since Coulter's previous performances were praised by some now on the attack.

Despite the fact Bill Maher let Ann on his show, he did exclaim after one of her dubious claims, "You just make shit up!" And if that made for some rough make-up sex afterwards, then bully for him! Why let the nugae of political difference get in the way of hot sex?

And speaking of sex or at least marriage...

...in no way can other forms of cohabitation be placed on same level as marriage.

-Pope John Paul II

This is about a new document "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons" which will be out on Thursday. They have much to say on the matter; it runs twelve pages long. It probably includes warnings like what Cardinal Karl Lehman offered that, "Now the associations of homosexuals have a potent arm to obtain further concessions on the road toward full equality with married couples, including the right to adoption." It makes me wonder if they would rather have mothers abort those babies than let them be raised by gay couples.

OK, that was just mean. After all, I'm sure the Church would be a much safer place to raise children than in the home of a gay couple.

Now reading this you might get the impression that I'm a lefty and it's true! So you can imagine my shook at discovering that one of the other books I picked up, The Left Handed Dictionary, had nothing to do with being left handed! But I am all about making the most of it and started looking up a few words.

Marriage: A friendship recognized by the police. Robert Louis Stevenson
—An institution which is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity. George Bernard Shaw
—The chief cause of divorce. Anon.,Jr.
I have to admit that I am a bit curious about the direction of my political winds in order to figure out if my means of locomotion is by hot air alone. This long explanation of a short quiz nearly turned me off on a few points, but before I get into that I want to share my results. I got 90 on the personal liberty scale, 50 on the economic scale, and 80 on the political liberty scale. This seems to put me firmly in the Liberal/Libertarian area, but split between them while favoring a tolerant democracy.

This is probably why I fell against the author's opinion in this section:

the steady push of politics has actually been to the left, even to a leftist authoritarianism. In the United States, the development of "employment law," sexual harassment law, the "Americans with Disabilities Act" (ADA), and the various expansions of socialized medicine and extra-constitutional police powers, all continuing the New Deal attack on private property and freedom of contract and association, has mostly taken place since 1981 with either a Republican President or a Republican Congress. George Bush actually signed the appallingly pernicious but feel-good ADA; and Bob Dole, in his farewell speech to the Senate, actually boasted of his support for leftist Democratic initiatives, even after waving around the Tenth Amendment during his campaign appearances.

It's quite possible he has an alternative strategy for these programs that I've overlooked. There are a lot of pages on that site and so far I haven't found anything "appallingly pernicious" about the ADA during this instanalysis.

It is interesting to note that he's not fully taken in by Rand, but feels, "Almost everyone who then refused to testify or took the Fifth Amendment, it happened, actually were Party members...These were not idealists but willing agents of tyranny, murder, and crimes against humanity. Rand would have no more patience now with leftists whining about "McCarthyism" than she did in 1947 with the lying and dissimulating agents of the living mass murderer Josef Stalin." So maybe the author will be reviewing Coutler's book soon.

Currently, I have no strong opinions on the Friesian school since I grew quite weary reading about it.

There has to be something more interesting hiding out there!

I was attempting to post this Tuesday, but my host had a fire in the building and had to shut down their servers for a day. The good news is that no one was hurt and everything seems to be fine. It also gave me a chance to go over what I've already written and I have to point out a few things.

First, I'm not anti-religion. I just don't like to see people delude themselves into thinking they have to avoid much of the world to appease some God since he's responsible for it being there in the first place. Plus there's that whole bit as Carlin explains that they think their God has a bigger dick than the other guy's deity of choice. This leads to a lot of bad stuff. This is passed on to the children and I find it disturbing to hear a ten-year-old talk about how The Rapture is coming and not be talking about some new rap group coming to play at the Vic Theater. I'm not even sure how to respond to this other than how I did, "They have been saying it's coming ever since they invented the concept," and met with, "Well, my mom and everyone at her Church says all the bad stuff that's happening in the world means it's coming soon." At this point my natural reaction was to crack wise and say, "It must make doing homework seem pretty pointless," but I realized that being home-schooled makes homework redundant anyway. So I opted to weasel my way off the topic with an "Oh" and left it at that. Of course, she's playing with my other cousin from a non-fundy home and they both seem to want to fight equally. Go figure.

The other thing that irks me are all those commandments, AKA The Decalogue. This was an issue a while back concerning the hanging of it in government buildings and the opinion to not do it received a pretty weak dissent. I figured I could go through them and explain how some fit this country and some don't. It seems like there is some confusion about what they are exactly, but I'll give it a try.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (20:3)
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (20:4)
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (20:5)

Despite the fact that the tone of "You either worship for me or against me" fits the current political climate, it doesn't mesh with the whole freedom to worship thing we got going here. In fact, you are free to not worship at all. It seems to me that God is fine about graven images made under water as long as that water is not under earth, which just seems overly picky to me. I'm glad that he admits that he's jealous of all the other gods, because when you admit your faults you've already made the first step, but that holding a grudge up 4 generations means he's got an anger management problem that needs work. This fits with our use of depleted uranium ammunition except that unless we clean it up at some point, it's going to last a lot longer than 4 generations.

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (20:7)

Now this is obviously not going to work in a country that has something like the 1st amendment. It should be clear even to those that had to take the short bus to Sunday school. It also means that God has no sense of humor about himself, which explains the whole jealousy thing. God has self-esteem issues and really just needs to take the schoolyard nursery rhyme about sticks and stones to heart.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (20:8)
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:(20:9)
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: (20:10)
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (20:11)

Clearly, working only 6 days a week is not going to work in a 24-hour/7-day a week country. Someone has to work to broadcast those football games and someone has to work at the store when I make my beer runs. We like the world and all, but those folks can rest up on Monday. Can't we make some hallowedness retroactive? I have to admit that I do love to work the cattle on Sundays.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. (20:12)

It seems like a nice thing to do, but I wouldn't have blamed Susan Smith's kids for not liking her and maybe even violating one of these commandments before she did it to them. Of course, then you got the whole Menendez brothers thing to consider. Best to just run the hell away or call the cops.

As far as it fitting with this country, just watch some of those daytime talk shows and tell me how much it fits.

Thou shalt not kill. (20:13)

HAHA! If the existence and majority support of the death penalty didn't make this laughable, there's always the fact that we arm our police force, arm ourselves, and start pre-emptive wars. The biggest and sickest joke is that despite all this acceptance of killing, we see people getting all crazy over abortions. It's OK to bomb the hell out of foreigners and their babies, but these abortions must be stopped!

Thou shalt not commit adultery. (20:14)

There are more people cheating on their partners than cheat on their taxes and cards combined! We should be called the United States of Adultery! OK, maybe we are not that bad, but you got to admit this one gets scant observance in this country.

Thou shalt not steal. (20:15)

This one fits just fine. Especially when it's not saddled with, "Thou shalt not hoard." Of course, it doesn't prevent stealing from taking place. From the poor stealing to survive to the rich Enron-like bastards fleecing the public at large to rampant government corruption. OK, maybe it doesn't fit.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. (20:16)

Despite the feel-good message from Liar Liar this country, as observed by George Carlin, runs on bullshit. If that bullshit happens to screw the other guy so you can get yours, so be it.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's. (20:17)

This goes against our national sense of materialistic consumerism and voyeuristic addiction to the Hollywood machine. The ability to covet is what keeps the economy running. The moment we start feeling satisfied with what we got hundreds of magazines will go out of business along with countless TV shows and consumer products. Fashion shows will have to beg people to attend and Opera may have to read her books all by herself.

That covers it. I combined the first two commandments at the beginning, if you were counting along and got confused. So as you can see, I'm in favor of people believing any silly thing they want because I have the freedom of making fun of it. Isn't freedom wonderful? You also have the freedom to make up your own decalogue. Try it!

Speaking of making fun of silly things, I started reading a bit more of that Friesian site. It's a great example of how one can hold their beliefs of "proper" government over the reality of our progress towards a more compassionate one. There's humor within the Bill of No Rights, but underlying it all is a cold apathy and hatred for the underprivileged. The message is that it is your fault for being sick and too poor to afford adequate health care so you deserve to die.

This brings me back to Al Franken's book. After the chapter titled The Urgent Need for Health Care Reform in which his research assistant becomes ill and his condition gets worse due to the fact researchers can't afford decent medical coverage, comes the chapter The Critical Need for Legal Reform in which Al is sued by Geoff for such things as "pain and suffering." The settlement provides Geoff the ability to write the next chapter, The Desperate Need for Entitlement reform, which I would like to quote:

Mr. Franken, it turns out, is deathly afraid that if we reform the social security system, his mother will have to move in with him. It is exactly this fear that has led some eighty million Baby Boomers to make a Faustian pact with their political leaders to lay waste to our nation in exchange for another twenty years of relative peace.

This is in direct contrast to my generation. Most of us can't afford to leave home to begin with. And by the time we manage to get jobs that pay us well enough to strike out on our own, the Baby Boomers in the federal government will raise payroll taxes again, beating us back into our parents' basements with our spouses and children in tow.

By then the inevitable crisis will be upon us. Already denied the opportunity to own our own homes or send our children to college, what meager financial reserves we do have will be wiped out in the inevitable hyperinflation that will result when the government is forced to monetize the debt. Those of us who do not starve to death will die of easily preventable diseases because we still won't be able to afford health insurance.

The only alternative to this apocalyptic scenario is generational warfare. On this point let there be no mistake: in any conflict which pits Generation X against either the Baby Boomers or their parents, we will lose. We are poorly educated, Nintendo-addicted children of divorce, intermingled with the occasional crack baby. Those of us who haven't been lulled into a state of mild hypnosis by the Fox Network are mostly busying ourselves with discovering new and different parts of our bodies to pierce. And our generational representation in Congress is limited to Patrick Kennedy.

You don't think they were so eager to start this never-ending war on terror to lessen the social security burden? Nah.

Comments?

Blackbird singing he's gonna pick a fight...

07.26.2003

(Blogathon, Car Trouble, Chicagoland musings)

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Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others.

- Danny Thomas

The third Blogothon is underway. Lots of good people are going to be blogging all night for various charities. Those that I've been watching are Kate and Jett. Kate is outlining the Natural History of Alaska. Jett is doing her part[s], of which one belongs to me. May they shine on all night long! For we stand together!

Of course, it's important to recognize that after about 150 we have reached the tipping point as far as a group's ability to behave and stick together. But Blogothon is a great example of how a little thing can make a big difference.

I'm going to do one of my somewhat rare ventures into what's been going on with me lately that has nothing to do with the online stuff.

Thursday I was performing various tasks to get money and employment. At one point during the journey my car suddenly lost power and I eased it off to the side of the road. I could not revive the sucker and looking around at the fields of corn I knew I was in for a good walk. Lucky for me it was about 6pm and the sun was not too hot though no clouds offered much of a break from its gaze.

I thought that after doing daily walking of 7-14 miles for a year in Seattle would make this 7-mile excursion a breeze. I guess I am a bit rusty because even now my one foot is still sore and only yesterday I could not bear to walk on it.

So I'm walking my merry way down the side of the road along the cornfields. Then it's the prairie grassland and I approach the part of the road that's a huge land bridge over a train track. I don't feel like scaling the sucker so I head over to this side route that's been worn away into a path. On the sides of me the grass reaches about 4-5 feet and there are all sorts of wild plants and different flowers. There was no breeze and the lake just beyond the grass had the look of glass. It was brilliant, beautiful.

And then I heard this "si si si si" bird call. I knew that sound. It's the warning the Red-Winged Blackbirds give off. I kept walking and then I heard more of them. I looked up to see about four of them hovering right over my head. The moment I strayed from the path towards a nest they would have swooped down to attack me. This I know from past experience. But I kept my cool and kept on the path.

In the two hours of walking I did a lot of thinking. Like, damn it would have been nice to have had a cell phone. After about an hour of walking I passed by what looked like a small ranch with a sign out front that read Koch Quarter Horses. I guess the sun had been working it's magic on my big bald head because I had the thought, "that's a cruel thing to do to an animal."

Then more walking...

A new sub-division was being built and as I passed it by I wondered where all the people that could afford these expensive houses were coming from. My brief stint at concrete construction opened my eyes to how many new houses were being built. I'm talking half a million dollar homes and up out in places like Plainfield and along the northern outskirts of Aurora. I've been to the Sears tower and saw how the urban landscape stretches to the horizon and now I can imagine seeing it go on and on for another hundred miles west all fully developed in the next 5 years. It's harder to imagine all the different people living in the Chicagoland area. The traffic is certainly a nightmare. And it's only going to get worse. Outside of Chicago, public transportation is a joke unless you are only interested in going in and out of the city.

There's more Chicago talk to be posted later. I'm been digging up some strange stuff lately.

Anyway, I did, of course, make it back and eventually found out that the timing belt broke. This managed to bend a valve and that managed to cost $1500 to fix. Lucky for me, my grandfather loaned it. There's one debt that will be paid. Once I get my car back on Friday any old job will have to do. I have not given up on writing. I just have to make a choice about where my time is going to be spent more carefully. This site will likely suffer, though I do enjoy it and I am happy that a few of you out there manage to plow through these plodding posts and suffer through my acute addiction to alliteration.

The current count comes to at least 3 books ideas and about 2 short stories circulating about my head competing with each other for completion. For some of them I have a lot of research to do before I get started. I have mixed thoughts about revealing story and plot ideas here. We shall see, won't we?

Are you Talking to Me? Well, why the hell not?

07.22.2003

(Narcissism)

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Who loves you and who do you love?
This is television, that's all it is. It has nothing to do with people, it's to do with ratings! For fifty years, we've told them what to eat, what to drink, what to wear... for Christ's sake, Ben, don't you understand? Americans love television. They wean their kids on it. Listen. They love game shows, they love wrestling, they love sports and violence. So what do we do? We give 'em *what they want*! We're number one, Ben, that's all that counts, believe me. I've been in the business for thirty years.

- Richard Dawson as Damon Killian in The Running Man (1987)

Ah, some do love the melee. The internet has shown that once folks provide most of their own entertainment that it comes in the form of forum flame-fests, usenet chaos and has now found its home on the weblogs of the world. It's amazing what people will say to each other when not face to face. Surely, for some it makes little difference in their behavior. I've fully recovered from my recent indulgence in "I actually give a crap about what you say" web-writing.

The Internet is a place where no matter how big it is, everything is still only a page away. When you talk about weblogs, some circles are so tightly knit that when fights do break out the participants will still likely come across each other on those sites where their participation overlaps. Reading Richard P. Feynman's What Do You Care What Other People Think? might help alleviate any possible friction that may occur in these situations. I'm not about avoiding all friction—sometimes it can be quite enjoyable all round—but there's a point when you have to ask yourself, "Why bother?"

I edited in Simon's statement and my brief response after reading this entry on Burningbird, which was a result of my reading about the whole David Winer/Mark Pilgrim feud that I had posted about in the forum and is now trapped in the old database along with everything else post-Refer installation. Shelley makes this point:

...this isn't a professional journal. I fuck up. I get angry. I make statements I regret, usually about my own person life. I hope I hold myself accountable for uncalled for attacks, with issued apologies and retractions. I try. However, I will continue to edit out material I feel has violated personal confidences, including my own. Without making an annotation of of my actions, justifying it, or making excuses for it. I wil try harder in the future not to do this -- but no guarantees.

Because, you see, that spontaneous part of me that leads me at times to write things I regret is the best part of me, not the worst. It is that part of me that is most human. It is that part of me that leads me to learn more about myself.

The comments are at times interesting too.

I know very very few bloggers who apologize. There seems to be a belief that apologies make you less of a person. It's certainly buttressed by the way that I have sometimes seen mine treated. But the reflection's on them, not on me. I've tried and I've been honest. "Yes, this was wrong to say. But I am still oppose the war in Mauritius." Apologies do not demand complete capitulation. You should give them even to an utter ass. They are for the community, for the other person if they want to accept it, and for you.

Bless you Shelley. You have a great, thoughtful blog.
Posted by Joel

I'll admit there's some self-interest in pointing out this comment. Accountability means leaving up what you said about others and then apologizing if it's something you regret. Deleting personal stuff is a different issue. Of course, there are no rules here. People will judge you no matter what. People will choose what parts of what you have written or said to base their judgements off of and often they will be what you might think reflects your thinking the least. Oh well. What do you care what other people think?

By no means are those that openly call themselves webloggers the only ones subjected to being watched continuously for deleting and revising their writing.

ABC NEWS REPORTER WHO FILED TROOP COMPLAINTS STORY - OPENLY GAY CANADIAN!

- Matt "Fudged Report" Drudge

Well it seems that Matt's conditions, "Reports are moved when circumstances warrant", were met recently with this headline. His popularity, like Winer's prevents stuff like this from going unnoticed.

Matt Drudge, the conservative cybercolumnist, told Lloyd Grove, the Washington Post gossip columnist, that "someone from the White House communications shop" told him about the ABC story and also about a profile of the Canadian-born Mr. Kofman in The Advocate, a gay publication. Mr. Drudge quickly linked the two stories on his popular Web site, first headlining the Advocate piece, "ABC NEWS REPORTER WHO FILED TROOP COMPLAINTS STORY — OPENLY GAY CANADIAN." Eight minutes later, he amended the headline to read, "ABC NEWS REPORTER WHO FILED TROOP COMPLAINTS STORY IS CANADIAN," leaving readers to discover in the body of the story what the Bush provocateur apparently felt was Mr. Kofman's other vice.

Now that the right wing's bête noire, Peter Jennings, has gotten his American citizenship, conservatives may have needed another ABC Canadian to kick around. And the Christian right is still smarting over the Supreme Court's telling police they could no longer storm gay bedrooms in search of sodomy.

Scott McClellan, the new Bush press secretary, said that if Mr. Drudge's contention about his source was true, it would be "totally inappropriate." He added, "If anyone on my staff did it, they would no longer be working for me." He said he had no way to trace an anonymous source.

But Bush loyalists regularly plant information they want known in the Drudge Report. Whoever dredged up the Advocate story was appealing to the baser nature of President Bush's base, seeking to discredit the ABC report by smearing the reporter for what he or she considers sins of private life (not straight) and passport (not American). Let's hope the fans of Ann (Have you no sense of decency?) Coulter aren't taking her revisionist view of McCarthyism too seriously and making character assassination fashionable again on the Potomac.

-Maureen Dowd, Let's Blame Canada

Maybe Matt is a blogger at heart.

Krankeit ist wohl der letze Grund
Des ganzen Schöpferdrangs gewesen;
Erschaffend konnete ich gensen,
Erschaffend wurde ich gesund.
[Disease at bottom brought about
Creative urgence—for, creating,
I soon could feel the pain abating,
> Creating, I could work it out.]

- Heinrich Heine, 1797 - 1856.

This portion of Heine is quoted in Freud's On Narcissism: an Introduction and it worked for me. Creating is a great cure.

I bring up Freud's paper because I had to read it after going over this post. I had to know more about the whole Narcissism thing and Freud is the place to start.

A person may love:
  1. According to the narcissistic type:
    1. What he is himself (actually himself),
    2. What he once was,
    3. What he would like to be,
    4. Someone who was once part of himself;
  2. According to the anaclitic type:

    1. The woman who tends,
    2. The man who protects;

-Sigmund Freud, On Narcissism: an Introduction, first published in Jahrbuch, Vol. VI, 1914

Reading Freud can be a bit aggravating because despite being an intelligent chap, he's still infected with 19th century ideas about women and homosexuality. Since those views apply to some folks living today it's a little easier to give the guy a break. So if you can avoid falling into those pits, there are quite a few interesting points.

On erotogenicity

Now the familiar prototype of an organ sensitive to pain, in some way changed and yet not diseased in the ordinary sense, is that of the genital organ in a state of excitation. It becomes congested with blood, swollen, moist, and is the seat of manifold sensations. If we apply to that activity of a given bodily area which consists in conveying sexually exciting stimuli to the mind the term erotogenicity, and if we reflect that the conclusions of our theory of sexuality have long accustomed us to the notion that certain other areas of the body—the ertogenic zones—may act as substitutes for the genitals and behave analogously to them, we then have only one step further to venture here. We can make up our minds to regard erotogenicity as a property common to all organs and are then justified in speaking of an increase or decrease in the degree of it in any given part of the body. It is possible that for every such change in the erotogenicity of the organs there is a parallel change in the libidinal cathexis in the ego. In such factors may lie the explanation of what is at the bottom of hypochondria and what it is that can have upon the distribution of the libido the same effect as actual organic disease.

-Sigmund Freud, On Narcissism: an Introduction

On schizophrenia

The lament of the paranoiac shows also that at bottom the self-criticism of conscience is identical with, and based upon, self-observation. That activity of the mind which took over the function of conscience has also enlisted itself in the service of introspection, which furnishes philosophy with the material for its intellectual operations. This must have something to do with the characteristic tendency of paranoiacs to form speculative systems.

-Sigmund Freud, On Narcissism: an Introduction

On anaclitic object choice

Further, it is easy to observe that libidinal object-cathexis does not raise the self-regard. The effect of the dependence upon the loved object is to lower that feeling: the lover is humble. He who loves has, so to speak, forfeited a part of his narcissism, which can only be replaced by his being loved. In all these respects the self-regarding feelings seem to remain in a relation to the narcissistic element in the erotic life.

-Sigmund Freud, On Narcissism: an Introduction

This last idea is explored in horrific detail in Ingmar Bergman's Persona.

Freud believed that women generally have a greater tendency to narcissism than men, and that "complete object-love of the attachment type is, properly speaking, characteristic of the male." This is especially true, in his view, of women like Elisabeth, who are exceptionally attractive. Most normal women overcome their narcissism only through attachment to their children. It is revealing in this context to examine Alma's analysis of Elisabeth's behaviour, offered twice near the end of the film. Alma contends that Elisabeth had a child in response to the suggestion by some that she wasn't "motherly" enough. She conceives only to develop this aspect of her personality, and then bitterly regrets her decision. Though the child loves her, she cannot accept the self-sacrifice that raising it requires. Shoving the child off on a nurse and some relatives, she returns to the theatre, which alone can assuage her incessant craving for adulation.Elizabeth's impenetrable self-regard, her great beauty and success, and the strength of will that she embodies all prove irresistible to Alma, whose own neuroses dovetail tragically with her patient's.

Elisabeth's stereotypically masculine rationality and self-control are coupled with a tendency that is common in narcissists: "They are plainly seeking themselves as a love object." Such individuals are practically impervious to outside influences. In a lengthy epilogue to the original Bergman script, Elisabeth's psychologist is represented as saying: "In December, Elisabeth Vogler went back to her home and her theater...the whole time I was sure she would come back. Her silence was a role like all her others. After a while she didn't need it any longer, and she laid it aside."[4] Having nourished herself by feeding off of Alma's pure spirit, Elisabeth returns refreshed to that most narcissistic of professions, acting.

-Daniel C Shaw

The last line highlights one of Bergman's common motifs and it begs the question of what his opinion on webloggers would be.

Speaking of webloggers, I'm going to get back to Rageboy's recent journey into the realm of New Age spirituality self-help books. This last link reminds me of my first encounter with Dr. Dyer.

I can still recall vividly how Freud said to me, "My dear Jung, promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. That is the most essential thing of all. You see, we must make dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark." He said that to me with great emotion, in the tone of a father saying, "And promise me this one thing, my dear son: that you will go to church every Sunday." In some astonishment I asked him, "A bulwark—against what?" To which he replied, "Against the black tide of mud"—and here he hesitated for a moment, then added—"of occultism."

-Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

So Freud had substituted one dogma for another and according to Jung, "the lost god had now to be sought below, not above." Merely changing the names and forms does not change the problem of, as Jung explains, "how to overcome or escape our anxiety, bad conscience, guilt, compulsion, unconsciousness, and instinctuality." With Freud now largely out of the picture, the skepticism towards drug therapy due to its failures, and the problems with the Church due to their inability to adapt, it's no wonder why there is big money in books that offer "a spiritual solution to every problem."

I recently had a great conversation with my Grandfather on a number of topics, including religion. He didn't like the word "belief" because it means that one has to turn off a portion of their brain in order to do it. A belief cannot be argued. It either exists or it doesn't. When talking about god it quickly devolves into what one believes: A) What they believe god is B) What is the extent of god's power C) What is his purpose or what is our purpose? None of these things can ever be resolved, but talking about them can be a method of coping with the fact that we live in perpetual ignorance to these answers.

The popular quote from The Bible of God creating us in his image should be turned in its head. From what I have read of that book we have created God in our image, but projected out as the perfect person. It is distinct from the older myths where the gods were perfectly imperfect in the sense that they embodied certain character flaws to an extreme. Perhaps, in order to teach us about ourselves, whereas God's projected perfection only created an impossible standard and it results in an endless reservoir of guilt and fear of Hell, which has always existed on Earth in my opinion. Some make Hell here for others and themselves.

Freud shows how the object succumbs to the drive, and [Alfred] Adler how man uses the drive in order to force his will upon the object. Nietzsche, helpless in the hands of his destiny, had to create a "superman" for himself. Freud, I concluded, must himself be so profoundly affected by the power of Eros that he actually wished to elevate it into a dogma—aere perennius—like a religious numen...Numious experience elevates and humiliates simultaneously. If Freud had given somewhat more consideration to the psychological truth that sexuality is numinous—both a god and a devil—he would not have remained bound within the confines of a biological concept. And Nietzsche might not have been carried over the brink of the world by his intellectual excesses if he had only held more firmly to the foundations of human existence.

-Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

I'm not sure if I am a full-fledged narcissist, but I do like sex.


SEXY

Some saw some propriety
In the structure of society
Based on proper piety
And leveled thoughts of notoriety
For those in favor of queer variety

Some sought succor with a she
Some sought suchim with a he
Some saw no point in succing in numbers less than three
Some succed in shit or never let sheep be
Some set sail, saw humpbacks wail an' saw willies set so free
Some buggered behind bars or crashed cars into a tree
Some preferred nuns or their guns or their own pee
Some liked 'em large or liked 'em old or liked for 'em not to see
Some liked 'em dead or if they bled or if you groined 'em with your knee
Some screwed in leather or'd be fondled by a feather or electrically shocked to some degree
Some would not fuck at all, to think they had the gall to not have sex with the likes of me!

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