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

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Wisdom in times of terror

The odds against there being a bomb on a plane are a million to one, and against two bombs a million times a million to one. Next time you fly, cut the odds and take a bomb.

— Benny Hill

via Great Aviation Quotes
Is there a typo here somewhere?

An ingenious, if poorly denominated, piece of furniture from IKEA.

via Grow a Brain.

Monday, March 29, 2004

I love Richard Rorty (II)

The reason I posted some classic Rorty in full throat in the previous entry is that I wanted to post this equally characteristic jeremiad published this week in the London Review of Books without seeming to be singling him out in a gloomy moment. It's not that I disagree with him at this moment as that I find him overly eeyorish. Eeyore was nothing if not pragmatic (in the Dewey, Peirce, James sense), however.

The progress humanity made in the 19th and 20th centuries was largely due to the increased role of public opinion in determining government policies. But the lack of public concern about government secrecy has, in the last sixty years, created a new political culture in each of the democracies. In the US and in many of the EU countries, an elite has come to believe that it cannot carry out its mission of providing national security if its preparations are carried out in public. The events of 11 September greatly strengthened this conviction. Further attacks are likely to persuade those elites that they must destroy democracy in order to save it.

In a worst-case scenario, historians will someday have to explain why the golden age of Western democracy, like the age of the Antonines, lasted only about two hundred years. The saddest pages in their books are likely to be those in which they describe how the citizens of the democracies, by their craven acquiescence in governmental secrecy, helped bring the disaster on themselves.
I love Richard Rorty

Here he is in full flower:
As I see contemporary philosophy, the great divide is between representationalists, the people who believe that there is an intrinsic nature of non-human reality which humans have a duty to grasp, and antirepresentationalists. I think F. C. S. Schiller was on the right track when he said that “Pragmatism….is in reality only the application of Humanism to the theory of knowledge.” I take Schiller’s point to be that the humanists’ claim that human beings have responsibilities only to one another entails giving up both represenationalism and realism.

Representationalists are necessarily realists, and conversely. For realists believe both that there is one, and only one, Way the World Is In Itself, and that there are “hard” areas of culture in which this Way is revealed. In these areas, they say, there are “facts of the matter” to be discovered, though in softer areas there are not. By contrast, antirepresentationalists believe that scientific, like moral, progress is a matter of finding ever more effective ways to enrich human life. They make no distinction between hard and soft areas of culture, other than the sociological distinction between less and more controversial topics. Realists think of antirepresentationalists as antirealists, but in doing so they confuse discarding the hard-soft distinction with preaching universal softness.

Intellectuals cannot live without pathos. Theists find pathos in the distance between the human and the divine. Realists find it in the abyss separating human thought and language from reality as it is in itself. Pragmatists find it in the gap between contemporary humanity and a utopian human future. In which the very idea of responsibility to anything except our fellow-humans has become unintelligible, resulting in the first truly humanistic culture.

If you do not like the term “pathos”, the word “romance” would do as well. Or one might use Thomas Nagel’s term: “the ambition of transcendence”. The important point is simply that both sides in contemporary philosophy are trying to gratify one of the urges previously satisfied by religion. History suggests that we cannot decide which form of pathos is preferable by deploying arguments. Neither the realist nor her antirepresentationalist opponent will ever have anything remotedly like a knock-down argument, any more than Enlightenment secularism had such an argument against theists. One’s choice of pathos will be settled, as Fine rightly suggests, by the reasons of one’s heart.

The realist conviction that there just must be a non-human authority to which humans can turn has been, for a very long time, woven into the common sense of the West. It is a conviction common to Socrates and to Luther, to atheistic natural scientists who say they love truth and fundamentalists who say they love Christ. I think it would be a good idea to reweave the network of shared beliefs and desires which makes up Western culture so as to get rid of this conviction. But doing so will take centuries, or perhaps millenia. This reweaving, if it ever occurs, will result in everybody becoming commonsensically verificationist—in being unable to pump up the intuitions to which present-day realists and theists appeal.

To grasp the need to fall back on reasons of the heart, consider the theist who is told that the term “God”, as used in the conclusion of the cosmological argument is merely a name for our ignorance. Then consider the realist who is told that his explanation for the success of science is no better than Moliere’s doctor’s explanation of why opium puts people to sleep. Then consider the pragmatist who is told, perhaps by John Searle, that his verificationism confuses epistemology and ontology. All three will probably be unfazed by these would-be knock-down arguments. Even if they admit that their opponents’ point admits of no refutation, they will remark, complacently and correctly, that it produces no conviction.

It is often said that religion was refuted by showing the incoherence of the concept of God. It is said, almost as often, that realism has been refuted by showing the incoherence of the notions of “intrinsic nature of reality” and “correspondence”, and that pragmatism is refuted by pointing out its habit of confusing knowing with being. But no one accustomed to employ a term like “the will of God” or “mind-independent World” in expressing views central to her sense of how things hang together is likely to be persuaded that the relevant concepts are incoherent. Nor is any pragmatist likely to be convinced that the notion of something real but indescribable in human language or unknowable by human minds can be made coherent. A concept, after all, is just the use of a word. Much-used and well-loved words and phrases are not abandoned merely because their users have been forced into tight dialectical corners.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

And there again

Ooops. Leaving again for the next few days. Back here on Sunday, I think.

What's the opposite of robbing the cradle?

Teenage boys go to worst extremes just to get some head.

and below via Dave Barry
How would you fancy the chance to fire a rocket-launcher at a cow?

Go to Cambodia.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

There and back again

Sorry for the paucity of posts. Last Wednesday night I booked a trip to Orlando with my son, Max, leaving the very next day. Surprisingly, I managed to get about the same prices as I would have, had I booked weeks in advance. The "hotel" (Wyndham Orlando "Resort"--a congeries of embellished motel buildings sprawling loosely around a couple of pools and a "conference center") had a dial-up port on the room phone, but i never used it, because they charged a silly amount for it, I didn't want to bother hunting down the Orlando local dial-up numbers, Max and I exhausted most of our trip peripatetically exhausting ourselves, and the time we did spend in the hotel consisted mostly of recuperation (at least on my part, and it's still not completed). So I passed four days ignorant of anything of life outside Universal Orlando except what I could glean from those headlines that happened to be visible above the fold of a passing USA Today.

I want to post more about what this theme park vacation set me thinking about, but I don't have the time now. One thing the vacation reminded me of, though, is that I gave a talk many years ago (1997) on an American Studies panel regarding things Disney. I looked over the text when I got back, and still agree with some of it. So despite the fact that it's absurdly short (breezy panel-talk-length with slides), screamingly out-of-date, and idiotically lacking the slightest reference to Universal Studios (which I hadn't yet visited), I figured I'd post it here.

A couple of non-Disney paragraphs from it:

The modern amusement park trades on the pure enjoyment of transportation technology for its own sake. At most parks, you disembark from one form of transportation only, after much waiting in line, to embark on another--monorail, train, boat, tram-- in the end having an experience not structurally very different from commuting. But this round of transfers is enlivened and commodified as an end in itself by its pleasurable context, its arrangement with our joy rather than our job in mind. And much of our pleasure takes the form of marveling at the sophisticated machinery required to bounce and fling us around with such secure precision. Every amusement park--and Disneyworld all the more so--serves, if nothing else, to testify to the ultimate rightness of technological progress.

But even more pleasure, I think, comes from our relishing the infantilized position in which these rides put us. Where else before, but in the arms of some early caregiver, have we voluntarily experienced, let alone taken pleasure in, such swinging and tossing, such frightening encounters with gravity, all with the absolute certainty that the caregiver maintains total control of the safety of the experience? Amusement parks commodify what Russel B. Nye calls "riskless risk." They sell the illusion of being in grave danger--along with the guarantee that it is only an illusion. The guarantee is every bit as important as the illusion, and the one could not be sold, or at least not mass-marketed, without the other. The park designers underscore our infantilization through their strategic deployment of intricately varied lighting, overlapping auditory effects, and other teeming design devices (not least being the dependably multifarious swarm of customers themselves) to ensure that our perceptual field is always busy to the limits of comprehension. Only infants, or psychedelic-drug users, ordinarily have the experience of receiving far too many perceptions at once to make coherent sense of--yet something like this state of sensory overload becomes the norm for the typical amusement-park customer.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

They are Devo

Bad Attitudes links to this charming AP story:

Posted on Wed, Mar. 17, 2004

Tenn. County Wants to Charge Homosexuals

Associated Press

DAYTON, Tenn. - The county that was the site of the Scopes "Monkey Trial" over the teaching of evolution is asking lawmakers to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.

The Rhea County commissioners approved the request 8-0 Tuesday.

Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the measure, also asked the county attorney to find a way to enact an ordinance banning homosexuals from living in the county.

"We need to keep them out of here," Fugate said.

The vote was denounced by Matt Nevels, president of the Chattanooga chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

"That is the most farfetched idea put forth by any kind of public official," Nevels said. "I'm outraged."

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas' sodomy laws as a violation of adults' privacy.

Rhea County is one of the most conservative counties in Tennessee. It holds an annual festival commemorating the 1925 trial at which John T. Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution. The verdict was thrown out on a technicality. The trial became the subject of the play and movie "Inherit the Wind."

In 2002, a federal judge ruled unconstitutional the teaching of a Bible class in the public schools.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Unconscious penis

When I created through Blogger the downpointed arrows below, they didn't look like a unnaturally long ascii-art penises, I promise.

At least in the browser I use, now that they're posted they do.

Or, I guess, if you think so, that says something about your psyche.
Psycho killer, qu'est que c'est?

I got this from Agenda Bender and copied it exactly as he did. He had copied it exactly as he got it in his e-mail. The Work of Art the Age of Digital Reproduction! But it's not art at all! OK, fine. I had originally left off "Work of Art," but I had so many relevant links I added the extra words.

The answer to the puzzle is in the post below it (the earlier post, that is.)

Sorry To Hear About Your Sister

The best viral office email I ever got. And it's been sitting unread in my inbox for over a week. I was tempted to re-word it, but I have copied it here as it came to me, its artifactual essence intact. I'm skeptical of the history of this test, but I want to believe, so I will. Keep any Snopes' debunks to yourself:

A puzzling question

Read this question, come up with an answer and then scroll down to the bottom for the result. This is not a trick question. It is as it reads.

A woman, while at the funeral of her own mother, met this guy whom she did not know. She thought this guy was amazing, so much her dream guy she believed him to be just that! She fell in love with him right there, but never asked for his number and could not find him. A few days later she killed her sister.

Question: What is her motive in killing her sister? (Give this some thought before you answer)

\\\ ///
\\\ ///


This is the answer to the above post, which should be stamped with an earlier date than it. If you're reading this one first, quit and go to the later post instead.

\\\ ///
\\\ ///

She was hoping that the guy would re-appear at the sister's funeral .

If you answered this correctly, you think like a psychopath. This was a test by a famous American Psychologist used to test if one has the same mentality as a killer. Many arrested serial killers took part in the test and answered the question correctly. If you didn't answer the question correctly good for you.

The Mystery of Britney Spears' Breasts

A shockwave video documents the puzzling rise and fall (and rise) of Britney Spears.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Plot and the epistemology of containers

If you're outside an opaque container--box, building--you can't see what's inside. If you're inside an opaque container, you can't see what's outside.

Mystery plot: what's inside the box, vault, cave, house, building, etc.?
Horror plot: what's outside the box, vault, cave, house, building (in which a character takes refuge)?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Porn spam II

Why is spam almost always selling erection-related products and never selling, say, make-up (I'm bracketing, of course, the undeniable population for whom make-up is an erection-related product)?

True, ads for make-up are geared to appeal mainly to one gender and, more, to the fraction of that gender most strongly affiliated with certain behavioral stereotypes.

Unlike ads for porn and viagra.

Aren't women supposedly the ones genetically programmed to have trouble resisting the urge to buy ('cause, remember, they're the ones who gathered the berries)? Just speaking for myself, if I got more make-up spam, I'd definitely succumb. I do get Sephora spam, but it's a bit too expensive.

Why isn't the "cc" in "succumb" pronounced as in "succinct"? I guess 'cause then it would sound like you were saying "suck some."

My mind circles one topic obsessively like a bear chained to a staple.

Meditating on haiku-like porn spam in my mailbox this morning
Drown that clown!
Ejaculate like a Porn Star!
Volume Pills

[image of blonde awash face-to-boobs w/ semen, worshipfully tonguing a very large, very purple erection]

Who or what in this metaphor is likened to "clown"? And, more to the point, why?

Is it the sex partner? Why call your partner a clown? Does anyone find clowns especially sexy? Even slightly sexy? I mean, aren't clowns supposed to make you want to laugh derisively? I can't even imagine somehow holding in my mind, without making a strenuous effort of godlike Keatsian negative capability (or without possessing to an extraordinary degree Fitzgerald's first-rate intelligence, the test of which he patently took from Keats), the attitude of derisory amusement and the sensation of sexual delirium. And, on top of that, finding attractive the idea of "drowning" that strangely desireable graceless ignoramus in my semen!

So is it the penis, then? Granted penises share some qualities with rude mechanicals, what must it be like psychically to think of your penis as a clown? And to want to buy volume pills so as more completely to drench that drench-deserving clown?

You would be, um, hard pressed to find someone more tolerant (not to say enthusiastic) about porn than I. Moreover, I look back very fondly on all the cum facials I've ever received (not that many, really, but enough to say "all") and look forward to more. Nevertheless, I can't say I'm transported to delight over my morning coffee on seeing a raging truncheon-penis and a naked woman lathered in semen. It's like looking at close ups of surgery.

I wonder if surgeons have any problem looking at surgical pix over their morning coffee?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Fashion is a continuation of politics by other means

I'm serious. This is an observation about gender-equivalent behavior. It seems undeniable to me.

OK, sure, so what then is war? A continuation of fashion by other means?

Sure. And they're commutative.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

And they want to see the balls of a bow-tied conservative

reduced to a pile of thread on live television by a Hollywood special effects expert

Liz Smith reports (via the Progress Report):
'TUCKER CARLSON, the bow-tied conservative of CNN's "Crossfire" chats with Elle magazine this month, on the subject of women and sex. Carlson says "One area of liberal phenomenon I support is female bi-sexuality - this apparent increased willingness of girls to bring along a friend. That's a pretty good thing." What do women want, Elle asks Tucker? "They want to be listened to, protected and amused. And they want to be spanked vigorously every once in a while." He also admits if he had to spend his life as a woman it would as Elizabeth Birch, "formerly of the Human Rights Campaign because you'd be presiding over an organization of thousands of lesbians, some of them quite good-looking."

She's fired. At long last.

oh dear. somehow i knew it would be out there (but i never really wanted to know, you know?): www.omarosa.com

yes, that omarosa. (how many can there be?)

via old hag
Breakfast thought

Death smells an awful lot like bananas.

Bananas with reverb pushed to 11 and feedback no matter how you orient yourself.

Olfactorily speaking.

Monday, March 08, 2004

They say it has to be 300 words or fewer

Date: 3/8/2004

To: Editor, Newton TAB
From: Mika Cooper

The drive for a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage (SSM) flouts our nation's foundational promise of liberty to form associations and pursue happiness as we choose, unencumbered by religious strictures accorded the force of law.

In pronouncing SSM a desecration of our hallowed tradition and rebuffing duly betrothed couples of the same sex, our government applies an incontrovertibly religious test, a usurpation categorically offensive to our constitution. That the framers may have been too blinded by their era's prejudice against homosexuality to decry this infringement (most also repudiated racial and sexual equality, to their discredit) does not license our being so.

Even had marriages everywhere always been restricted to one man and one woman (they haven't), that fact would justify nothing. That some with power have ever denied cherished benefits to others without supports no argument at all. Slaveholders opposed to emancipation, masculinists to women's suffrage, British colonizers to American self-rule—all loudly brandished history and tradition to defend contemptible, self-interested views, as SSM's detractors do now.

To contend today's nationwide wildfire of enthusiasm for SSMs threatens, rather than bolsters, the institution of marriage is absurd on its face. The true villains bleeding that institution of its historically rich and various cultural meanings are the hypocrites pretending to see in marriage's essence no value more fundamental than spouses' capacity to reproduce sexually together. These sophists' conspicuous failure to deplore beside SSMs myriad heterosexual marriages marked by infertility, however, confirms it's not procreative potential they disinterestedly venerate but SSM alone they despise.

I wholeheartedly support Michael Striar's call on Mayor Cohen to brook no longer in Newton the flagrant violation of the promise of equality and religious neutrality enshrined in the constitutions of our state and nation. Mayor Cohen, make Newton proud; start performing SSMs tomorrow!
Biotechnology in Agriculture

I ate some papaya seeds this morning, thinking they might be like pomegranate seeds. In a way they were: I felt like I was stuck in hell for the time it took me to wash the awful peppery taste out of my mouth. I googled "eat papaya seeds" to see if they were poisonous. It returned a biology lab teachers' site, where I learned they weren't and that a simple experiment demonstrates the awfulness of the taste is caused when an enzyme in the gelatinous glop encasing the seed combines with the crushed seeds' innards. Clicking around the site, The Access Excellence Collection (which boasts experiments with wonderful names like Alcohol Tolerance in Drosophila and You), I also learned, from the following fascinating description, the proper use of the word "superovulated," which I had till now always conceived as an antonym for "impregnable." I bet those Kalver (sic) training cows are a hit with the farm hands (to use a slightly inaccurate synecdoche).

Biotechnology in Agriculture: Non-surgical removal of fertilized embryos from the Bovine Uterus

by Richard J. Norris

Target Audience:
This activity can be used with Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Advanced Livestock, Genetics, and Biotechnology classes.

Students will simulate the step-by-step procedures needed to non-surgically remove embryos from the uterus of a superovulated cow using the Kalver training cow.

Students will use the Kalver trainer (artificial cow with anatomically correct reproductive tract) to demonstrate and practice the proper procedure for non-surgical removal of fertilized embryos. The students will perform each step of the procedure just as they would on a live cow. Students will operate in teams, one being the flush technician and the other acting as assistant. Upon completion, students will have a complete knowledge of what is being done to remove the embryos and will be prepared to observe and assist with the flush of a live animal.

* Flush supplies for simulation flushes or demonstration purposes are available from "Biotechnology Comes to Life" c/o Dr. Richard Norris, Maries Co. R-II Schools, 503 W. Third St., Belle, MO 65013. We will put together sample flush materials and supplies from used items from previous flushes. We also have video tape of actual flushes and the resulting embryos. Your cost is our cost plus shipping.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Sex blogs

I'm so with Franny on this.

god bless evan daze. where does he find this stuff? and this stuff?
Most days I don't scrape together enough time to check evan's site. But whenever I do, I'm very, very, very grateful. The same is true, btw, for Richard Evans Lee's Edifying Spectacle and its blognates. I nominate them both for MacArthurs.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


My friend Melodie will likely be dead by the end of the week. In her early forties, she's been fighting what began as uterine cancer for more than two years. Now the orcs are swarming across her liver. I call her my friend, but that word goes spider-webby, social nuances suddenly become complicated, in the penumbra of death. Melodie lived across from my ex many years ago--a sort of post-college Friends situation. When we were together, before we had kids, we saw her all the time. We fixed her up with a friend we played softball with, Greg, and they eventually got married. As years passed, we had kids, the great divider; they didn't; and we saw them less frequently. We had traded the sorts of things we used to do with them—clubs, shows, openings, readings—for a mess of potty. Long after I moved out, I heard she had cancer. I hadn't seen her in more than a year. I never actually had much of a direct relationship with her. It was always mediated either through my ex or through Greg. I'm certainly not close enough to her to go see her now. Especially since Greg is doing the utterly understandable deathbed-gatekeeper role—inviting the deserving friends in to say goodbye, closing out the ones who weren't sufficiently steadfast. I talked to Joanne, who, deserving, saw Melodie today. They looked at old pictures together. At one point Melodie looked up from them. "It was really good, wasn't it?" she said, clear-eyed. I can't stop thinking about it. I thought about writing a poem. But I don't know the poetic vernacular for death these days. Or the cycles of friendship. Nothing really seems adequate.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Days absent

Sunday night friends came over to celebrate Leigh's birthday and watch the academy awards. It was basically the same gang that was at Sherman's a couple of weeks ago. Now everyone wanted a blog pseudonym like his. Especially if I was going to continue to mention illegal drug use. So, in attendance were Sherman, Mia, Hamish, Meryl, Marissa, Desirée, Bart, Greta, and Lysandra. Let them figure out who's who. We had a lot of fun. At least it appears that way from the pictures.

Despite considerable preparation and anxiety and the best intentions, the following day Greta slept through the seminar in which she was supposed to give a presentation on a Hillis Miller article on Bleak House dating from the dawn of history. When she realized the situation, it was like the seal on the airlock was suddenly breached and in one microsecond her emotional control was sucked spinning and flailing into deep space out past the sombrero nebula. A couple of days vanished. This afternoon we cautiously nudged open a side door and slipped quietly back into the stream of things and people, hoping no one would notice we'd been gone.

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