Random neuron firing, lame philosophy, literary pontificating, movies, sex, clothes & other femme stuff

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I should have read further. Now I have a quibble with what Arkansas says.

Frankly, it sounds like an idiot.

The back-to-back executions would have been Arkansas' fifth multiple-execution day in 10 years. Arkansas, which previously conducted two triple executions and two double executions, says the policy is designed to reduce stress on its prison staff.

I can think of a policy that would more simply, cheaply, and effectively alleviate not only the anxiety of the prison staff but also of the judicial system and much of the American public, not to mention the families of those convicted of capital crimes (not to mention the convicted themselves).

Two triples and two doubles!

Having conquered the arts pages (esp. film reviews), the box-scores continue with their devious plan of colonizing all the news.
I've heard of people going to extraordinary lengths to pursue courtroom appeals, but surely ....

Judge Blocks One of Two Ark. Executions
By DAVID HAMMER, Associated Press Writer

VARNER, Ark. - A judge blocked one of two executions scheduled in Arkansas Tuesday night, sparing a man convicted of murdering his 12-year-old niece so he could pursue appeals in federal court.


You see what you get from punctuational parsimony? Isn't there a permissive comma in the house at A.P.?
All right then, smartypants, so what would you call a comma that makes an adverbial clause non-restrictive? Relaxatory? Loosening? Emancipatory? Disengaging?
No . . . that is, not unless the word "ironic" was fully drained, eviscerated, dessicated, and powdered, while I was out. But it is a hilarious observation.

"Isn't it ironic how you wound up as the dean of Howard and he turned out to be Howard Dean?"
Ralph Dawson, labor lawyer, quoted by Mark Singer in this week's New Yorker, talking to Kurt Schmoke --longtime Mayor of Baltimore (1987-99) and vocal antiprohibionist drug-law-reform advocate, now the dean of the Howard University School of Law-- about their mutual buddy and Yale '71 classmate.

I promise some content will arrive soon. Actually I woke up this AM, synapses sizzling. Love those SSRIs! But no time to capture the fleeting thoughts . . . . Bye, fleeting thoughts! Have a nice life wherever you go . . . .

Mostly, lately, instead of blogging and reading blogs (or does "blogging" comprise both activities?), I've been teaching myself HTML and CSS so as to redesign Mikarrhea and maybe even make myself a web site. So far, I've only got the logo for Mikarrhea and the home page for the web site. But I'm working on it.

The URL of the new web site (naught but a pretty picture --to some maybe a pretty naughty picture-- and a link back to here) is, unsurprisingly, www.michaelacooper.com.

Here's a thumb of the salacious new logo for Mikarrhea (do you hear reverberation when it's written like that?). So I lose some readers, win some. Winsome readers, I hope.

The rest of the design is well on its way.

Meanwhile, Max, age seven, jealous of my project, wanted to do a logo too. This is what he came up with:

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Is it safe to buy pot from strangers?
They're not strangers. They're our new friends who have pot!
The future's on demand

Dropped kids at ex's last night after going to see latest Tim Burton flick Big Fish, which made us all cry. Well, not Max so much. But he did like it. And we three others were basically weeping. Adore adore adore Tim Burton & Danny Elfman. & Ewan (whom Max calls "Ian") McGregor. & Went to Starbucks after to pee (and order various decaf stuff for the privilege) and the barista looked so sympathetically into my eyes, which felt very red and were when I checked them in the bathroom. In some ways that I'm too drunk and tired to even think of enumerating right now it's the most literarytheoretical of Burton's films (that I've seen, that is). That's a good thing, in my book. I guess what I mean is it makes you think deeply and wonderfully about the relation between narration and identity. Narration as identity. Hi, Jerry Bruner!
L: (takes off socks, smells them) Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
M: (typing, reaches over, is handed one, smells it) Hey . . . .
L: Yeah this is some serious shit. (grabs socks, throws them into laundry pile)
M: You could make SO much money off the Internet from these!!!

So when I dropped the kids off ex & new partner were watching Angels in America. Friday night. How possible? Ex explains: you can watch HBO on demand. You're fucking kidding. On demand?

Hours and hours and hours and hours of Sex and the City later. Berger and Carrie have just broken up. Dragola. We missed the whole last season, and now we're practically up to date. It's the greatest show.

We are so totally going to have sex tonight.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Sue me, sue me, what can ya do me?

Holiday cheer I meant to post on the appropriate days but forgot.

by John Donne

'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

The Darkling Thrush
Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Serious hangover

Thanks to Richard Evans Lee for the image.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Apologies for not posting

For the past several days I've been either away from my computer and unable to post or in a familial setting where I am forbidden from touching a keyboard except to look up some authorized bit of information on imDb or too drunk to type. It will probably be more of the same for the next four or five days. I've managed to sneak a couple of minutes in which to post a delightful response I got from Malcolm Davidson (well, from eeksypeeksy at any rate) to my sex arousal device post.
This stuff about women and porn and plethysmographs
and so on -- I'm sure there's a sex toy in this
somewhere, a sex toy _system_, waiting to be marketed.
Attach detectors and tinglers and vibrators to your
partner and yourself, all as tiny and unobtrusive as
possible, all wirelessly networked and exchanging
encouraging signals. Like, he gets harder when she
(assuming a he-she arrangement for now) does X, she
gets wetter when he does Y, he moans, she throbs, he
quivers, she yawns. The system experiments with you,
the system learns, and pretty soon you're having
greatgreatgreat sex, but you're having sex for the
system, which suddenly becomes conscious and jumps up
and runs away to join the porn industry, leave you
with silly bits of flesh you no longer remember how to operate.
See you soon.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The right outfit can make all the difference

I was just looking over that last post below and it occurred to me how important the "laboratory drag" is, not just to the sexiness of the scene qua scene, but also to the scientific legitimacy of it. If scientists were attaching a plethysmograph to your clit and sticking moisture sensors into your vagina, wouldn't you prefer they be wearing clean white (or maybe hospital green) lab coats? Before we go any farther on this line, let's all just imagine as vividly as we can (c'mon, boys too, this is fun) someone attaching a plethysmograph to our clit and sticking moisture sensors into our vagina, even though few us can even distinguish a plethysmograph from a vaginal moisture sensor, or either from a zarf. Don't the white coats really make all the difference? OK, now let's imagine listening to the keynote address and mingling at the subsequent open bar at the annual genital arousal testing device trade group convention and getting really sloshed. OK, now back to the examining room. Imagine if the scientists were wearing old jeans and t-shirts. Wouldn't that be somehow disrespectful--both to you and, well, to science itself? Would you feel as inclined to have your pussy-responses studied by people in jeans and t-shirts? Certainly, even the scientists would recognize that that might distract you from the project at hand and skew the results. What if the scientists were wearing three-piece Armani suits? OK, don't lose focus here. Would it be any different if they wore three-piece Brooks Brothers' suits and idiotic guys' dress shoes with little holes all over them and tassels on the laces? And they were all women and beautifully made up? Is it better or worse than the lab coats? Than the jeans? OK, what if they all were wearing leather chaps without any underwear? And had lots of remarkable piercings? Are you still with me? Are you still feeling the plethysmograph and the moisture sensors? And the nipple clamps? What if you were in a room with a dozen people all of whom were naked and hooked up to arousal sensing machines and the others told you they were all scientists? Or only some of them were scientists and you had to determine which ones in a given amount of time while your level of arousal was recorded? What if somebody ran into the examining room and yelled "Smile, you're on Candid Plethysmograph!"?

When I was little, I always wanted to become a scientist.

Don't tell me it doesn't make a difference what you wear to work.
This just in: women turned on by hardcore porn flicks
(via Amorous Propensities)
London: A research [study] by scientists from Stanford University School of Medicine in California claims that the fair sex is also turned on by pornography.

The results of the research were published in the prestigious [sic] American journal 'Fertility and Sterility'.

Researchers showed random clips from erotic films and relaxation videos to 20 women to monitor their effects. They found that the women were fully aroused in an average of just two minutes after watching explicit eroticism.

Volunteers aged 20 to 30 were linked to devices to monitor breathing, heart rate, skin changes and blood flow to their genitals. The tape sequences lasted 22 minutes and were played with and without sound.

Like everyone else, I've read about these sorts of studies for years. But no one ever makes the obvious Heisenbergian point. Doesn't an anomalous highly formalized social situation in which strangers in laboratory drag are attaching electrodes and various measuring devices to your genitals and then monitoring them closely as they show you porn likely have a strong sexual valence all by itself?. Just the idea of it right now gives me twinges. They're not measuring women's responses to porn. They're measuring women's responses to playing this science research fantasy sex scene as if it weren't a sex scene.
Now I can even display the signs I'd put up if I ran a church

from the church-sign generator

A more fitting image

If I'd had time to prepare for this newly discovered capacity, my first image would probably have looked more like this one, by one of my fave artists, Eric Stanton.

Now you begin to get the picture

Now that's some weird shit. Shortly after starting this blog at the end of the summer, I tried posting pix. No way. Wouldn't take 'em in posts (though took 'em in the template, e.g. the signature betty image [which btw is gonna change any day now; i've been making a new banner). So since then, when I've wanted to draw attention to an image, I've posted a link to it.

Just for the halibut, since the html was already written, I thought I'd try posting the picture below, never expecting nothing. And it posts! Thus, with no advance fanfare, comes the first picture to Mikarrhea. Watch out kids.
What kind of postmodernist are you?

Leigh is in the home stretch of the last paper of the semester. She got As on her Larkin paper and on the paper (talk about fucking bizarre assignments) analyzing the grammar of her own critical prose. Now she's working on a paper for her postmodernism course on language philosophy in Paul Auster's "City of Glass." Just so I could feel as though I was being tested on my postmodernity too, I took the What Kind of Postmodernist Are You? Quiz. It's pretty funny. They give you your result in cut-n-paste html so you can stick it right into your blog or web page. Here's mine:

gender nazi
You are a Gender Nazi. Your boundary-crossing
lifestyle inspires awe in your friends and
colleagues. Or maybe they're just scared you
will kick their asses for using gender-specific
language. Either way, the wife-beater helps.

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

It turns out I'm Judith Butler.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Never mind

O'Connor has every right to despise overinterpretation. I'm sorry I wiggled my fingers over the keyboard. Please, just ignore everything I said in the last couple of posts about interpretation, theory, and teaching literature.

I temporarily forgot what it's like to teach O'Connor.

If I engendered the species of reader response to my work that O'Connor does, I'd loathe interpretation too. I'm impressed she stayed the course as long as she did.
One more dribble on O'Connor and theory

I think my pen sorta ran out of ink when I was trying to connect two important dots in the O'Connor post, so let me just trace over that faint impression again. I wrote:
. . . you snatch away . . . from raw literary recruits the notion that the poem means whatever you can find in it at your and their peril. If there's one thing uninitiated students hate more than having to slog through a morass of theory it's being told their interpretation of a poem won't hold water.
Since I immediately go on to concede that some interpretations are "better" ("believable" is the word I appropriate from O'Connor), it looks as if I'm just chary here of imposing this evaluative understanding on neophyte readers (and thereby disabusing them of the comfort that any interpretation, including theirs, goes). Nothing could be further from the truth. (Well, actually, several things could be. But that inference's not exactly right anyway.) This is why I think it's vital to teach "theory" as well as read stuff together and get excited about it.

By "theory" I mean hermeneutics, methods of interpretion (precisely what O'Connor seems to despise). Teachers teach students to produce readings adducing textual evidence according to conventional rules. They should be generous when evaluating students' interpretations at this level, doing so mainly according to whether and to what degree they apply those rules taught them. Students feel justifiably outraged and discouraged when they pay close attention to the language of a text, marshall what they take to be evidence, put together a more-or-less cogent line of argument, and in response are told, "Yes, but unfortunately you're still totally wrong. If you read a lot more literature, you'll know why." XYZ would never have used this word to mean that. If you'd read more of his work, you'd know immediately he was being ironic here. Those images are just a standard convention of this genre; they aren't as significant as you make them out to be. This here is a clear allusion to Milton, not to Richard Brautigan. usw. I think too many literature teachers feel deep anxiety about hurting the poems, so to speak. Moreover, they reckon they've failed dismally the student they've allowed march off into life cherishing a patently ridiculous interpretation of "Dover Beach." If the student's experience with the teacher really inspires her to delight in reading, writing, and thinking about the two, then soon enough she'll see the flaws (if such there be) in her reading. And if not, so what? Cui mala?

Why O'Connor should be so defensive about over-interpretation anyway is a tale all by itself. After all, how many postwar American novels don't just invite but run screaming around the wilderness for an allegorical reading, let alone a reading as elaborate as Wise Blood does? How she resisted calling it Motes' Progress is an enigma. If you don't show up at the first page of the book with a fairly nuanced understanding of Christian theology and especially the crucial differences between Catholic and Protestant theologies (e.g. in the notion of justification, the demands of penance, the relation between man and god) as well as knowledge of American Bible-belt usages, you can forget having the slightest idea what her characters are talking about and why they're all behaving as though certifiably insane (of course, most of them are, but that's still insufficient explanation for the positively freakish religious cast to their insanity).

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

church sign generator
actual church signs
Flannery O'Connor disses theory

[slightly revised] Backward somewhere in time's abysmal darkness, one of my favorite logobloggers, Maud Newton, under the rubric "The Limitations of Theory," posted (without comment, via Terry Teachout) this passage:
If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.

Flannery O'Connor, letter to an unnamed teacher (1961)
I captured the links at the time, intending to post something, but characteristicaly haven't gotten around to it until now.

First, I should say I want to leap onto this bandwagon too (isn't that a vehicle of convenience for instrumentalists too lazy to march, like me?). I second and third and ten millionth the general sentiment behind this admonition. Forget the academic articles, read the author's work first, respond directly to its geisha ministrations.

A couple of times already I've posted my view that literature is nothing if not a medium whereby we give to, and get from, others pleasure. So with all the arts. (Personally, I think so with all the sciences and social sciences and every Foucauldian discourse and Wittgensteinian language-game or form of life. But I don't want to dilute my point here.) I take the view that it's the fundamental pleasure-giving and -getting aspect of literary practice that makes it impossible to establish any enduring hierarchy of literary value outside some narrowly drawn frame of reference. This poem is good 'cause it has these sorts of features; these sort of features are what we're looking for in a good poem.*

I (re-re)post O'Connor's admonition here, however, less to subscribe to it than to draw attention to some implications I believe don't follow from it. [Um, but are they still technically implications then? False implications, maybe? Bad implications (wag finger, stern)? des implications manqués? Limplications?]

If Maud and Terry take O'Connor to be asserting literary theory's inutility generally (more than just its inutility in introductory literature courses), then they take her someplace I'd like to resist going. I get worried when I read anything that seems to sanction the view that literary critics and scholars are parasites on real creators and that the former's efforts misconstrue, when they don't positively impede, the experience of literature. I want to underscore my view that the scholarly study of literature differs from the creation of it as botany differs from horticulture. Some creators do have a scholar's knowledge of literary periods, styles, genres, say, and some scholars a creator's sensibility and word-worlding skills. Some botanists can grow prize roses and some gardeners can discourse on the nitrogen cycle or outline the classification of rhizomes. Nevertheless, the one cares most about knowing that and the other about knowing how.

In the context of advice for a teacher of those yet to "learn to enjoy fiction," "[t]oo much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it." The teacher's goal must be first to inculcate the desire for the text, to model enjoyment not just of reading it but also of reflecting about it and articulating one's reflections. If heavy theory inhibits such enjoyment, by all means give heavy theory the heave.

But O'Connor's aiming not only at theory. She conflates it in her admonition with another enemy, theory's lubricious facilitator, the doctrine that any "believable" interpretation goes. (Actually O'Connor is attacking the fatuous straw notion "All sufficiently non-obvious theories can be considered believable"; I'm just assuming that what really galls her is the illegimacy, and indeed the falseness, of the interpretations she contemns.) Now, while I agree the teacher should avoid overloading neophytes with theory lest forever in their minds poetry and fiction recall sense memories of wearisome ponderousness, I must counter, based on my own experience, that you snatch away (assuming you even can) from raw literary recruits the notion that the poem means whatever you can find in it at your and their peril. If there's one thing uninitiated students hate more than having to slog through a morass of theory it's being told their interpretation of poem won't hold water. It always shows up on the evaluation forms.

I'm not saying any reading of a text is equal to any other. But O'Connor uses the world "believable." For me, a believable interpretation is one that relies on argument and evidence, as much argument and evidence as what's dragoonable into the service of any other hermeneutical claimant. Tautologically speaking, in my book any believable interpretation does go. Its going is precisely what makes it believable (and vice versa).

One last point and I'll go away. O'Connor seems to assume that if you can't learn to enjoy literature directly, then all the theory in world's not going to do you a bit of good. But I would counter that for many (tragic though the O'Connors of this world may deem it) it's precisely learning about theory, learning methods of interpretation, that makes literature seem interesting.

And I think they should be allowed to play, too.

* For Nietzsche's amiably cynical take on this see my recent post quoting from "On Truth or Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense":
If somebody hides a thing behind a bush, seeks it again and finds it in the self-same place, then there is not much to boast of, respecting this seeking and finding; thus, however, matters stand with the seeking and finding of "truth" within the realm of reason. If I make the definition of the mammal and then declare after inspecting a camel, "Behold a mammal," then no doubt a truth is brought to light thereby, but it is of very limited value . . . ."

Monday, December 15, 2003

George Bush is leading us around by the nose big time

Return the favor! Thanks to Michelle for linking to one of the funniest pieces of mousefollowing ever, designed by Angrydroid, who also made a very adorable swivel-eyed Thom Yorke.
Not nearly as risky as poetry, blogging still has its dangers as well

A cute list of the "Top Ten Dangers of Living in the Blog Space" from Blog Herald.
Before we discuss your payments, let me show you some pictures

Remember the post about how racist white men got stupider in the presence of black people? I said it reminded me of the "Before I answer any questions I want my vagina present" scene in Basic Instinct. And the march of science bears me out. Evan Daze links to an article in New Scientist reporting (as if anyone didn't know this already) that after being shown pictures of beautiful members of the opposite sex, men's capacity to make rational economic decisions balancing present against future rewards tended to be significantly impaired, while women's didn't. Presumably both the men and the women identified as straight.

Honey, that's the engine driving our sex industry!
Poetry, most dangerous form of writing, study shows

Found chez Nathalie, who got it from Mark, who got it from WebMD.
Poets die sooner than playwrights. Playwrights die sooner than novelists. And novelists die sooner than nonfiction writers, according to a study by James C. Kaufman, PhD, of California State University. The study appears in the November issue of Death Studies.

Kaufman combed through biographical references to come up with birth and death dates for writers in four different cultures: North America, China, Turkey, and Eastern Europe.
Click here for more.

Friday, December 12, 2003

cantio profana

If you haven't seen (as I hadn't until now) quislibet's translation into Latin of a popular song from a few years back, posted a couple of months ago along with an interlineated retranslation into English, you might want to click here. It's fucking hilarious.

To give you a taste, a familiar part of the song, performed by Mixaloti equitis, runs thus:
magnae clunes mihi placent, nec possum de hac re mentiri.
(Large buttocks are pleasing to me, nor am I able to lie concerning this matter.)
quis enim, consortes mei, non fateatur,
(For who, colleagues, would not admit,)
cum puella incedit minore medio corpore
(Whenever a girl comes by with a rather small middle part of the body)
sub quo manifestus globus, inflammare animos
(Beneath which is an obvious spherical mass, that it inflames the spirits)
virtute praestare ut velitis, notantes bracas eius
(So that you want to be conspicuous for manly virtue, noticing her breeches)
clunibus profunde fartas(*1) esse
(Have been deeply stuffed with buttock?)
a! captus sum, nec desinere intueri possum.
(Alas! I am captured, nor am I able to desist from gazing.)
o dominola mea, volo tecum congredi
(My dear lady, I want to come together with you)
pingereque picturam tui.
(And make a picture of you.)
familiares mei me monebant
(My companions were trying to warn me)
sed clunes istae libidinem in me concitant.
(But those buttocks of yours arouse lust in me.)

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The transliteral Q

Why is Iraq spelled with a q? Is it meant to represent a sound different from c, k, or ck? Whose idea was q?

I don't know much about Chinese, so excuse me if I'm totally wrong, but doesn't q transliterate a Chinese sound that approximates our ch? And whose idea was that?

Isn't the whole point of transliterating to convey to us Roman literalists some idea of how to pronounce words written with non-Roman characters? How do you convey that with letters given pronunciations totally different from their customary ones. Might as well just write in the original language.
If you're happy and you know it, bomb Iraq

A sprightly ditty from Bad Attitudes.
If we cannot find Osama,
Bomb Iraq.
If the markets hurt your Mama,
Bomb Iraq.

If the terrorists are Saudi,
And the bank takes back your Audi,
Let’s play cowboy and get rowdy,
Bomb Iraq.

Corporate scandals are a-growin’?
Bomb Iraq.
And your ties to them are showin’,
Bomb Iraq.

If the smoking gun ain’t smokin’
I don’t care, and I ain’t jokin’.
Ol’ Saddam will soon be croakin’,
Bomb Iraq.

Even if we have no allies,
Bomb Iraq.
From the sand dunes to the valleys,
Bomb Iraq.

So to hell with the inspections;
Let’s look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

So here’s one for dear old daddy,
Bomb Iraq,
From his favorite little laddy,
Bomb Iraq.

Saying no would look like treason.
It’s the Hussein hunting season.
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

An aphorism's plain falsity doesn't necessarily discredit its truth. But it does about fifty percent of the time .

2 Blowhards posts a piece by Nikos A. Salingaros discussing and translating some of the aphorisms of Spanish philosopher Nicolas Gomez-Davila (1913-1994). On the aesthetic and philosophical fronts most of the them are a bit too reactionary for my taste:
  • Truths do not contradict each other except when they become disordered.

  • The modernist object does not possess inner life; only internal conflicts.

  • Contrary to the modernist prejudice, the perfect adaptation of an object to its use has to always be paid for by the absence of style.

But I do like some of his sociopolitical aphorisms:
  • The criterion of "progress" between two cultures or two eras consists of a greater capacity to kill.

  • In augmenting its power, humanity is multiplying its own servitudes.

  • The modern machine gets more complicated each day, and the modern man becomes every day more elementary.
Even though 90% of them serve views I have little sympathy for, they're pleasurable to read as fine instances of aphorism. They made me nostalgic for the ingenious brilliance of Oscar Wilde's. Isn't it odd that one the chief delights of the aphorism is the snippy arrogance with which it flaunts oversimplification?
The hunter-gatherers did it

Generally I'm suspicious of Darwinian adaptationist accounts of the psychological dispositions of today's middle-class American (the sorta stuff that sluices lucre into Steven Pinker's coffers), but if you have to listen to them I kinda like this NYT letter writer (you may'fta register) who derives our drive to shop from our hunter-gatherer days:
If you went out and found a cache of ripe berries or roots, you were happy! But the happiness did not last long; soon you had to go out and get more food, wood and so on to feed your family and yourself.

Hence, the need for repeated shopping; the pleasure does not last even as the products ultimately do.
It's kinda like how back on the African savannahs "we" benefited from "our" drive to consume fats and carbs 'cause "we" ever-active hunter-gatherers burned calories like power plants, but today on the American sofas though we now burn them like wet safety matches some reactionary hunter-gatherer genes refuse to get with the program and keep making us wanna pop Lindt/Lindor chocolate truffles like sunflower seeds.

Btw. in case you somehow missed out on learning how to taste chocolate, the Lindt site explains the procedure in pornographic detail. If you're modest and easily aroused you might want to hold off on clicking there till you have a private moment.

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