It started as soon as I got to work.
But we managed to get our act together, and get some work done.
Despite the fact that crushing walls have never succeeded even once in the entire history of deathtraps, no super-villain lair is complete without them, and they're considered by many villainous subcultures to be signs of good luck.He also has some observations that are very funny if (and only if) you were reading X-Men in the early '90s.
For years, one of the most powerful arguments you could make about a lot of misguided, failed or actively dictatorial regimes and political actions would be to point to some of the guiding political ideals and official practices of the United States. When the Soviet Union or other adversaries might point to alleged abuses of human rights within the United States (say, in U.S. prisons), a lot of us could take observe in reply that the abuses described were unofficial, or in spite of the law.Either you stand for universal principals or you don't.
That’s all changed now.
When I say in the future, “Government which bows to the universal rights of human beings”, I can’t really say any longer, “Like in the United States”.
The only thing that our official representatives will be able to say at these and many other such moments in the future will be, ”It is ok for us to do these things, or reject these ideals, but not you. We are allowed to torture. You are not. We are allowed to hold people in secret, you are not. We are allowed to give the executive unrestrained authority not subject to judicial or legislative overview. You are not.”
It's an interesting thesis, and certainly fundamentally in agreement with what I see looking out at the American scene.
Over at The American Prospect Online, two of my favourite policy wonk bloggers, Matthew Yglasias and Ezra Klein, are doing a roundtable discussion with Hacker about the ideas in the book. It's full of great social values and political economy stuff like this from Klien:
Jacob blames the country’s ills on risk and Matt argues for a stronger focus on inequality. Neither is wrong, but neither is right enoughGood stuff, and these days delicious just for presuming that talking about economic policy is talking about what kind of society we want to have.
by crafting a compelling narrative that universalizes economic hardship, he plays into a pernicious political instinct among Democrats to drop the specific problems of poor people for the more broadly palatable concerns of the middle class ...
Last year The Boston Globe offered an illuminating comparison: when Bill Clinton was president, the House took 140 hours of sworn testimony into whether Mr. Clinton had used the White House Christmas list to identify possible Democratic donors. But in 2004 and 2005, a House committee took only 12 hours of testimony on the abuses at Abu Ghraib.Think about that.
Friedman doesn’t write nonsense; he writes propaganda.And why is this? Well, it turns out that he's not a journalist, if by “journalist” you mean someone who makes their living doing journalism. He's something else.
What he is, it turns out, is an extraordinarily wealthy man — living in a $9.3 million home, married into a family with an estimated worth of $2.7 billion — essentially working undercover as a shill, a beard, a stalking horse for his class, nine times out of 10 espousing cynically self-serving ideas in the guise of globalized idealist.I find that this clarifies my reading of his work enormously.
Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.Fortunately, someone saw fit to inform the President about this ... just a couple of months before the Iraq invasion.
“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.
To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”
January 2003 the President invited three members of the Iraqi opposition to join him to watch the Super Bowl. In the course of the conversation the Iraqis realized that the President was not aware that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. He looked at them and said, “You mean ... they're not, you know, there, there's this difference. What is it about?”Since the President made the decision to go ahead and invade, I'm sure that he carefully considered the situation and concluded that Rep. Everett was mistaken, and this wouldn't present much difficulty at all.
Billmon at Whisky Bar has some additional analysis of this article, including a dark observation that a better-educated leadership wouldn't have made the invasion of Iraq a better idea.
The Brits, after all, had T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, and they still failed in the Middle East—although not as badly as Don Rumsfeld and Condi Rice.
Chris Bowers and the crew at MyDD have compiled the most damning news story about each of these Republican candidates. They are calling on all liberal bloggers to post the list, to maximize the visibility of these stories online ....This is a googlebomb attack. The more folks make these links, the higher the linked pages rank in Google search results, helping to ensure that these stories are known to folks who google for information about those candidates. I had ignored it because I was past being amused by frivolous uses of this technique, but this is actually appropriate political propagandizing. So cruise on over to MyDD and get the source code for your blog today.
--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
--AZ-01: Rick Renzi
--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
--CA-04: John Doolittle
--CA-11: Richard Pombo
--CA-50: Brian Bilbray
--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
--CO-05: Doug Lamborn
--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell
--CT-04: Christopher Shays
--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
--FL-16: Joe Negron
--FL-22: Clay Shaw
--ID-01: Bill Sali
--IL-06: Peter Roskam
--IL-10: Mark Kirk
--IL-14: Dennis Hastert
--IN-02: Chris Chocola
--IN-08: John Hostettler
--IA-01: Mike Whalen
--KS-02: Jim Ryun
--KY-03: Anne Northup
--KY-04: Geoff Davis
--MD-Sen: Michael Steele
--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
--MN-06: Michele Bachmann
--MO-Sen: Jim Talent
--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
--NV-03: Jon Porter
--NH-02: Charlie Bass
--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
--NM-01: Heather Wilson
--NY-03: Peter King
--NY-20: John Sweeney
--NY-26: Tom Reynolds
--NY-29: Randy Kuhl
--NC-08: Robin Hayes
--NC-11: Charles Taylor
--OH-01: Steve Chabot
--OH-02: Jean Schmidt
--OH-15: Deborah Pryce
--OH-18: Joy Padgett
--PA-04: Melissa Hart
--PA-07: Curt Weldon
--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
--PA-10: Don Sherwood
--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
--TN-Sen: Bob Corker
--VA-Sen: George Allen
--VA-10: Frank Wolf
--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
--WA-08: Dave Reichert
Rush Limbaugh has tried to outdo his usual low standards by saying Fox was faking to try to win sympathy.
It seems that the soldiers depicted in the film are tasked with rooting out insurgents, who are of course bad guys because they are fighting the American presence in Iraq. A big part of how they go about this is the soldiers just hang around. Sooner or later, they get shot at an Iraqi. So then they shoot back and hopefully kill the guy who shot at them. Voilá! Insurgent eliminated.
I guess that the hope is that if they hang around long enough, Iraq will just run out of insurgents. US troops have to be in Iraq—until Iraq runs out of people who doesn't like that they're in Iraq. Then they can leave.
It's like a Beckett play.
It's not like they only spend their time waiting around to get shot at. There's also stopping cars to see if they're full of insurgents, breaking into people's houses looking for insurgents, interrupting locals to see if they know where there are any insurgents, stuff like that. Digby observes,
Those poor Americans fighting in Iraq seem like decent guys who are doing a thankless task. But if you were an Iraqi you'd hate their guts.That was certainly the the feeling I got reading an account by Lt Adam Tiffen on The Sandbox at Slate's Doonesbury site.
She looks relieved, and then she continues hesitantly. Her hands clasped together as if in prayer. “What will I do? How long will he be gone? I cannot stay here alone. It is dangerous here. Please bring him back tonight. If you do not, where will I go? Who will protect us?”It's worth reading the whole account. Lt Tiffen is truly a stand-up guy: decent, polite, thoughtful toward the Iraqi family with whom he's having this encounter. In his situation, I'd be proud if I could handle it with half the grace and humanity he does.
Behind her, I can see that her daughter has tears in her eyes. I turn away from their stricken faces. Glancing at the soldier behind me, I can tell that this is as difficult for him as it is for me. In a quiet voice, I give instructions to the private standing behind her husband.
“Alright, take him back out to the vehicle, and let's get ready to go. Let the CO know that we are done here.”
Accompanied by the subdued young soldier, the man leaves the room and walks outside without so much as glancing at his wife or his children.
“Ma'am, do you have family you can go and stay with? Is there someone you can live with until all of this is resolved?”
She thinks a moment, and then replies: “Yes, my husband's family lives in Baghdad. I could take the children and go there.” I nod my head and attempt to look encouraging.
“I recommend you do that. I honestly don't know how long your husband will be gone.”
But look at what he's being asked to do. A good man being put in a place where the very best thing he can do is politely afford a family as much dignity as possible as he takes the father away, perhaps never to be seen again. Even if every American soldier were like Lt Tiffen—and while I am sure that many are, I also know that some are not—how is it that this can make things better, either for Iraq or for the US?
For folks unfamiliar with the intrepid Ms Blake, she's the star of a series of pulp novels. They're a mix of hardboiled detective story, romance novel, and monster horror, in a way that's surprisingly more witty than goofy. As the series progresses, the prose improves but the mix of tones becomes more awkward. Strongly recommended for folks charmed by the idea, strongly not for civilians.
Usually, adaptations from other media to comics are a waste of time. The only exceptions I can think of off hand is Bill Sienkiewicz' surreal “best of” Moby Dick and Chester Brown's scary Gospel of Matthew.
I've flipped through the first issue of the Anita Blake adaptation, and it really stinks. So you know. Lisa Fortune explains that this is because the style of the art is totally inappropriate to the story.
Civil War re-enactments.Can't pin that one down myself.
At what point do you think we'll finally be able to have Word War Two re-enactments?
Pretending to be gutshot for fun on Omaha Beach, or pretending to be gutshot for fun at Gettysburg—I know that one is morally unspeakable, and for some reason I agree that the other is socially acceptable, but for the life of me I cannot see the difference.
Oh, and it turns out that there are people who actually do WWII reënactments. Weird.
As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else. It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the US. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States.I saw this a while ago, and the allusion gave me a chuckle, though the sentiment was a tiresome recapitualtion of the stupid “flypaper strategy” justification of the Iraq War. I didn't give it another thought, but Lance Mannion did.
I want to know. Who's Frodo in Rick Santorum's misreading of The Lord of the Rings?Mannion's post is a cunning mix of Rings lore and politics. And then he follows up with an examination of what The Lord of the Rings is actually about.
While the eye of Sauron is focused on Iraq, who's carrying the Ring up Mount Doom to throw it into the pit and destroy it and end the war?
And is Santorum aware that Frodo fails?
The Ring gets to him in the end. It's an accident that it's destroyed. Does Santorum expect that Gollum's going to come along at the last minute?
The Lord of the Rings is not a political work. It has no political lessons to teach. It's a moral work. It's about the inner lives of individuals, not the public functioning of societies.If you have any love of The Lord of the Rings in your heart at all, even a little bit, go read that second post. Likewise, my readers with no love of Tolkien but a love of transabyssal nondual awareness should check it out. (You know who you are.)
A very important way Santorum's allusion was wrong is that it uses Sauron as a stand in for an outside threat.
Sauron is an inner evil. That's why he has no body and no personality. It's why his armies are mostly anonymous.
Evil, in the Lord of the Rings, isn't an Other. It's a destructive force within ourselves that we bring to bear upon ourselves.
The bad guys are kind of a disappointing and unscary lot, just a bunch of fairy tale hobgoblins led by a yet another evil wizard, until they are seen for what they are ...
Really, go. It's lovely.
Here I was just talking about the penetration of feminist ideas into mainstream culture without folks recognizing them as “feminist,” and I see another example making the rounds on the blogs.
It's an advertisement for Dove soap that's both compelling in its execution and a cracking good piece of feminist propaganda about our screwed up conception of “beauty.” I'm making it sound like eating your vegetables, but check it out, it's cool, I promise.
This is an ad with a cultural agenda. It's a feminist agenda, one that I favour, but I want to take a moment to remark on the squidgy frustrations I nonetheless feel with it.
First, as I said in the previous post, it's annoying to see feminist ideas being coöpted and not even recognized as feminist. Remember conservatives suddenly discover that Afghan women were oppressed by the Taliban? Having feminist ideas unrecognized as such is, in a certain sense, a victory, since it means those ideas have become pervasive. But it also is frustrating to feminists who know people around us who embrace feminist ideas but refuse to call themselves “feminists” because they somehow have it in their heads that feminists believe ... uh ... something bad ... about women being victims ... or something like that.
Second, it's disconcerting to see this in the context of advertising. Especially in the context of advertising for a company that's in the beauty products business. As Ampersand at Alas, A Blog observes about the earlier “Real Women Have Real Curves” Dove campaign:
The essential purpose of Dove’s campaign is the same as all ad campaigns for beauty or diet products: to make money by convincing people that they are unattractive and insufficient the way they really are. In Dove’s case, what’s being sold is “firming cream,” which as Lindsey at Majikthise points out, is just another word for snake oil. So Dove is trying to exploit women’s insecurities to convince them to waste money on products that don’t even work, but because they’re using models who are not actually anorexics, we’re supposed to see this as a feminist victory?
That, certainly not. But the fact that advertisers see speaking on feminist terms as a good way to reach people itself signifies that a victory has taken place in the culture.
Still, Ampersand is right on about flaws and limits in this feminist-influenced tactic, also criticizing the recent Nike print campaign that riffs on the way that buff women are a violation of common standards of beauty: “My butt is big.” “My shoulders aren't dainty.” “My knees are tomboys.” “I have thunder thighs.” Which is good, but buff women ain't the whole world.
Nike’s “my butt” ad features a picture of a butt that you could bounce a roll of quarters off of .... No loose, unruly fat running around here, no sir.
These ads aren’t about body acceptance, so much as they’re about regulating the borders of what bodies are and are not acceptable.
Still, let me rise in at least partial defense of these ads. There are interesting double-edged swords here. We get a physical standard offered, but it's an alternative to a pervasive and more destructive standard. We get nice big photographs of extraordinary-looking models, but we get copy that is an explict rejection of the judgements of the gaze of either gender. That ad says it in so many words.
My butt is big and that's just fine. And those who might scorn it are invited to kiss it.
And I think the “thunder thighs” copy is the wittiest, and takes us to a genuinely feminist perspective.
I have thunder thighs.
And that's a compliment
Because they are strong.
A woman's body not as an object for the gaze, but as something which serves the woman herself. Which brings us to another Nike ad, the “If You Let Me Play” TV spot which ran in '94, with images of little girls on the playground and a voiceover saying:
If you let me play sports
I will like myself more;
I will have more self-confidence,
If you let me play sports.
If you let me play,
I will be 60 percent less likely to get breast cancer;
I will suffer less depression.
If you let me play sports,
I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me.
If you let me play,
I will be less likely to get pregnant
before I want to.
I will learn what it means to be strong.
If you let me play sports.
If you let me play sports.
That's the case for Title IX right there. That's a vision of women and girls as something other than pretty dress-up dolls. Nike isn't exactly standing up for this across the board, but their advertising is selling the ideas.
Little victories, maybe, but good ones.
Update: Adding to this 2006 post in 2012 with a new Nike ad in the spirit of “If You Let Me Play”:
Update: Jenna Sauers at Jezebel finds a cosmetics ad featuring a bodybuilder and makes some interesting comments about the symbolism.
Update: A new short video from Dove with some anti-Photoshop hacktivism.
Since the graphic designers who would see the results are only the point of the spear of systemic sexism, there's a level on which it's badly-targeted to deliver the message. But there's still some poetry to this.
Update: Another new piece from Dove.
I find that one particularly well-executed; I cannot resist being moved by it. There's some juicy stuff in there about how women absorb the ideas that it's important for them to be beautiful, and an entire Insecurity Industry exists to ensure that women think that they don't measure up. And yet, at the same time, Dove is unmistakably a part of that insecurity industry, and the piece does not challenge at all the idea that having others perceive one as beautiful is important ... instead it reïnforces it.
This one has inspired a bunch of web commentary. A critical commentary on the “Dove Movement” campaign and sharp critiques of the Real Beauty Sketches ad from Jazz at Little Drops and Autumn Whitefield-Madrano at The New Inquiry.
Did you hear that, ladies? How beautiful you are affects everything—from your personal relationships to your career. It could not be more critical to your happiness!
Kate at Eat The Damn Cake expresses her ambivalence too.
We don’t do this because this is just how women are. We do it because we have learned that doing this is a part of being a woman. We’ve learned that beauty is really relevant and also it’s strict and specific and cannot reside in a face with a pronounced mole, so we agonize over the mole.
Meanwhile Smibbo provocatively suggests that critics have overstated the case against Dove for this pice.
For now, I’ll sum it up thusly: One beauty company decided to change their strategy from offensive and demeaning to just subtly pressuring. I can live with that.
Update: Another example of good feminist propaganda about double standards in the working world from ... Pantene.
Update: Critiques of photoshopping have become familiar enough that they are a recognizable genre all their own:
Coolest club on Earth
How did this happen without anyone telling me?
Of course, I should have known. Last year, my soul sister told me a story from work. She's a high school principal, and some of the kids were speculating about what kind of music she favoured. No jokes about Lawrence Welk from them; I'm sure that they have never heard of him. Or of Cole Porter or Frank Sinatra, or of Trent Reznor or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, any of which would have been correct. She refused to answer, and one kid finally closed the issue with a snort, “She probably listens to rock ’n’ roll.”
Rock, the music of old people.
Just hearing that said will make a fella feel old, well before his time.
What can I say about CBGB that hasn't been said already? That I'm even qualified to say? I was there exactly once, in the company of a dazzling young woman who stopped by to say hello to friends who worked there. This was when I was very young so I hadn't heard of the place ... though I have a hazy memory of being stunned by the names of the bands on some old flyers that were posted somewhere.
I found out through James Wolcott, who was there.
It never occurred to any of us then that someday the CBGB's t-shirt would be a ubiquitous cultural signifier, Richard Hell's byline would grace the op-ed page of the NY Times, the Ramones' “Hey ho/let's go” would rev up car ads, Please Kill Me would be as much a classic of oral history as Edie or Studs Terkel's books, and Deborah Harry would achieve her dye-job dream of being a Warhol superstar in a post-Warhol world.If that gets ya, he has more, as does Neddie of By Neddie Jingo!
Echidne of the Snakes notices another sign of feminism's slow, creeping victory in America's ongoing kulturkamph, quoting from conservatives' discussion over at the National Review Online about little girls allegedly wearing slutty Hallowe'en costumes as a result of Those Nasty Feminists.
For the record, my daughter will be a princess this year. Last year she was a cowgirl. In the future she wants to be a “doggy-doctor,” a cowgirl again, and a witch. She has plenty of ideas on the subject and feminism hasn't entered into any of them as yet.
Being a cowgirl is not feminist? How many cowgirls do you remember from the old Wild West movies? How many female “doggy-doctors” were there before the second wave of feminism? Was it Jerry Falwell* who said that feminism would make women leave their husbands and turn to witchcraft? You get the point. Mr. Goldberg doesn't seem to realize how very much his daughter owes feminism already.
It was Pat Robertson. Thanks,mba.
It'd be nice if these folks didn't attribute their unwholesome Girls Gone Wild fantasies to feminism, but nonetheless, the transparency of key feminist cultural victories is a reassuring sign that, in some ways, it's inconceivable for us to go back to certain kinds of sexism that were pervasive within living memory.
These men have a date with the Hague.
I don't ever want to hear anyone on the right talk about moral values again. They are concepts which they clearly do not understand. And if they dare to bring up the Bible or Jesus Christ after this I will laugh in their faces, knowing that by their own standards they are going straight to hell for what they've done.Seconded.
Every Russian czar after Peter the Great solemnly abolished torture upon being enthroned, and every time his successor had to abolish it all over again. These czars were hardly bleeding-heart liberals, but long experience in the use of these “interrogation” practices in Russia had taught them that once condoned, torture will destroy their security apparatus. They understood that torture is the professional disease of any investigative machinery.
Apart from sheer frustration and other adrenaline-related emotions, investigators and detectives in hot pursuit have enormous temptation to use force to break the will of their prey because they believe that, metaphorically speaking, they have a “ticking bomb” case on their hands. But, much as a good hunter trains his hounds to bring the game to him rather than eating it, a good ruler has to restrain his henchmen from devouring the prey lest he be left empty-handed. Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists. Thus, in its heyday, Joseph Stalin's notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes. And once the NKVD went into high gear, not even Stalin could stop it at will.
The claim that these officials hyped the case for war isn't a conspiracy theory; it's simply an assertion that people in a position of power abused that position. And that assertion only seems wildly implausible if you take it as axiomatic that Mr. Bush and those around him wouldn't do such a thing.
Mind you, “wrestler” now means something different than it did back in the days when noir characters wore fedoras.
“That time you fucked up New Jack,” says Monty. “That for real?”Mmmm. Noir.
They don’t always recognise me. This one can’t believe a white boy pinned a former bounty hunter with four justifiables. I stare at him, wish he’d move his ass and hand over the fuckin’ dimes.
“No,” I say. “Wasn’t for real.”
“Any of that shit for real?”
Shake my head. Apart from the blood. The blood was real. The pain. Shit, you wanna talk pain, we can talk pain.
In a comment on an old post on Brazilian urban design, TheWayOfTheGun points us to a fascinating Wired article about traffic engineer Hans Monderman. His philosophy: remove signs and road markings and rely on the geometry of the roadway to calm traffic.
This is the hip new thing in traffic engineering, and apparently it works. Again, I've been reading City Comforts, and David Sucher advocates curvy roads and roundabouts, arguing that it's not slow driving speed that frustrates people, it's signs telling them to drive slower than the road is designed to accomodate — and then having to start and stop in the process. Steady driving at slower speeds is calming.
Monderman clearly has the knack for traffic design. The Wired article talks about an intersection he did.
We pass by the performing arts center, and suddenly, there it is: the Intersection. It's the confluence of two busy two-lane roads that handle 20,000 cars a day, plus thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians. Several years ago, Monderman ripped out all the traditional instruments used by traffic engineers to influence driver behavior—traffic lights, road markings, and some pedestrian crossings—and in their place created a roundabout, or traffic circle. The circle is remarkable for what it doesn't contain: signs or signals telling drivers how fast to go, who has the right-of-way, or how to behave. There are no lane markers or curbs separating street and sidewalk, so it's unclear exactly where the car zone ends and the pedestrian zone begins. To an approaching driver, the intersection is utterly ambiguous — and that's the point.
Monderman and I stand in silence by the side of the road a few minutes, watching the stream of motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians make their way through the circle, a giant concrete mixing bowl of transport. Somehow it all works. The drivers slow to gauge the intentions of crossing bicyclists and walkers. Negotiations over right-of-way are made through fleeting eye contact. Remarkably, traffic moves smoothly around the circle with hardly a brake screeching, horn honking, or obscene gesture. “I love it!” Monderman says at last. “Pedestrians and cyclists used to avoid this place, but now, as you see, the cars look out for the cyclists, the cyclists look out for the pedestrians, and everyone looks out for each other. You can't expect traffic signs and street markings to encourage that sort of behavior. You have to build it into the design of the road.”
That elegance of subtly encouraging folks to do the right thing is a hallmark of good design in any field. And the knack for getting the sum of small details right to do that is the defining characteristic of a good designer.
I've talked about Maya Lin before, as an example of this principle. For the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, Lin was very insistent on using stone that could be polished to be reflective. She knew that for the memorial to work, you had to see your face reflected behind the names.
A good designer studies principles and successful examples, but that's not enough to make a good designer. It also requires that knack for cooking up the elements just right. This is one of the baffling things about both art and craft. It feels the same to create good art and bad art. The artist, or the craftsperson, is certain.
Monderman tucks his hands behind his back and begins to walk into the square —backward—straight into traffic, without being able to see oncoming vehicles. A stream of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians ease around him, instinctively yielding to a man with the courage of his convictions.
Which is not to say that certainty is a sign that a designer is talented. But uncertainty is always a sign that a designer doesn't have the knack.
The key thing is that basically everyone drives slowly and steadily rather than in a stop-and-go manner. Stop-and-go turns out to be less a way of increasing safety than a way of maximizing the value of vehicles with high top speeds (i.e., automobiles) rather than slower vehicles (bicycles, scooters, motorcycles). So filling your city with signalized intersections turns out to be a kind of backdoor subsidy to automobile ownership.
In the 1960s, there still were hundreds of motels with thousands of rooms along Route 66 as it jinked its way from Chicago to L.A. and back. None of them stood out from the rest until one day—nobody's really certain when—something very bad happened in Room 10 of the Sunshine Motel, outside Gallup, N.M.This is the premise for a television series. The Sci Fi Channel is getting gutsy. And they've rustled up a hell of a cast of character actors.
What happened isn't known, but the repercussions have been destroying lives and twisting reality ever since.
Room 10 and many of its mundane contents—a pen, a comb and so on—gained unique and dangerous properties on that day. The pen burns things from the inside out. Things like human beings. The comb stops time for five seconds when you run it through your hair. The room itself is an unchanging haven and a portal to any destination. But it can also take that which you value more than your own life.
I want to finally follow up on my earlier post about blackhearted pirates. That's going to require getting into Freudian psychology, the Talmud, humanistic spirituality, esoteric spirituality, Star Trek, and all kinds of other stuff that I know some readers love and some readers hate.
This starts with a comment from Reya Mellicker on my previous post.
I try not to comment here, you know why, but I've been thinking about your Black Heart [of Innocence] post from the other day. I'm compelled to speak, though I will try to make this brief.
I'm sure you know that Johnny Depp is an actor, that the pirate he plays in the movies is a fantasy.
But the BHoI is real. When I think of it outside of the realm of fantasy, I think about my friend as a child being sexually molested by her cousin, also a child, in his parents' 1950's bomb shelter. I think of the children I knew when I was growing up, kids who (for instance) turned box turtles on their backs and laughed while they watched the poor animals struggling to turn upright. It was the BHoI that inspired these kids to leave the turtles to die of thirst and starvation. The lascivious purity of small children is very cruel.
The BHoI is yetzer ha ra—the urge to evil. It's a part of human nature, but the practice of cultivating it, especially without any accepted ethical or moral framework, creates horrors like Abu Gharib. Quasi-sexual torture is brimming with the energy of the BHoI.
In real life, Johnny Depp is a husband and father who, at the end of the day, washes off the make up, takes off his silly costume and—I hope—talks to his children about the characters he plays. I hope he explains why the fantasy is so much fun, but why the reality of the pirate's black heart is so potentially dangerous.
Victor Andersen was a charismatic and talented sorcerer. He was very disturbed.
I think the identification of the Feri symbol of the Black Heart with the Jewish Talmudic concept of the yetzer ha'ra is spot on, but I'm not satisfied with the reading of yetzer ha'ra as simply the “urge to evil.” Considering the nature of the yetzer ha'ra opens the door to some very interesting psycho-spiritual questions.
In what we might call “Talmudic psychology,” we are driven by the twin forces of yetzer ha'ra and yetzer ha'tov, the inclinations to evil and good, respectively. The Talmud teaches that we are born with the yetzer ha'ra, but the rabbis disagree about the yetzer ha'tov; some say that we are born with that as well, while others argue that we only acquire the yetzer ha'tov with the passage into adulthood of the bar mitzvah, at age thirteen. If we consider the latter to be true, that the yetzer ha'tov is a developmental consequence of maturation, then the yetzer ha'ra does match the Black Heart's “lascivious purity of small children and wild animals.”
But I submit that “evil” is a misleading term for the yetzer ha'ra. It suggests that we should simply avoid it entirely, resist it in every way. I think that's very unwise. The yetzer ha'ra is also sometimes translated as the selfish inclination, which has its purpose. Consider this traditional midrash:
If not for the yetzer ha'ra, no one would build a house, marry, have children, nor engage in trade.
We cannot do without the yetzer ha'ra. It contains a necessary vital force — what a Freudian would call libido, with yetzer ha'ra the id and yetzer ha'tov the ego.
Googling for someone else making that comparison, I discovered that David Holzel has already made both that analogy and another analogy that I was tempted to make, to the Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within.”
Pity poor Captain Kirk — a transporter malfunction splits him in two. Kirk No. 1 is a wild, irrational brute — pure id. Kirk No. 2 is gentle and compassionate. He is presumed the real captain, until the crew notice he is unable to make a decision — fateful or otherwise — and, in fact, is sinking into paralysis.
Viewed through a Jewish lens, this episode is an allegory of a man whose yetzer hara, or evil inclination, is split from his yetzer hatov, or good inclination.
I submit that the the Black Heart of Innoncence, the evil Kirk, the yetzer ha'ra, the libidinous id, the kundalini chakra, the Thelemic Will, and so forth are parallel descriptions of a source of vital energy in the human frame. In describing it Feri, Star Trek, the Talmud, psychoanalysis, tantra, and Thelema all say similar things. They say that this centre is integral to human nature and inherent in our drive to live and act. They also say that this centre is prior to the steadying effects of social convention and is obscured by the rational mind, neither of which can eliminate the voice of that centre, but both of which will distort its voice by trying to eliminate it, cutting us off from our full human potential. All of these schools I allude to—esoteric Judaism, psychoanalysis, tantra, Thelema, Feri—are liberatory schools, concerned with how we can reconnect to that centre without losing the benefits of our rational minds or the moral awareness of the society beyond our selves.
Doug Muder, on his way to a brilliant assertion that “humanist spirituality” isn't an oxymoron, has both an excellent description of liberatory spirituality and a helpful caution about how liberation alone isn't enough.
Connection is a positive sense of identification with something bigger than yourself, usually something that contains you. Bigger can be at almost any scale. Maybe you feel connected to your family. Maybe you belong to a church community or identify with a group like this one. You could connect with a political movement, a philosophy, a nation, the progress of humanity, the biosphere of the planet, or the well-being of all living things.
Liberation is the awareness of possibilities and potentials, combined with a sense of choice efficacy. “I can make things happen.” Liberation is about energy, creativity, inspiration. Liberation is that feeling you get when you break a pattern you weren’t previously aware of.
At first glance connection and liberation seem like opposites. Connection might mean strengthening your personal relationships and getting more involved in your community, while liberation might tell you to leave a small-minded community or break free from relationships that hold you back.
But this zero-sum view is too simplistic, because connection and liberation can be allies as well as competitors. Sometimes you need to liberate yourself from bad connections before you can make good connections. And disconnected, alienated people are the ones most likely to loose their freedom to predatory groups and dysfunctional relationships.
Now we're in a position describe good spirituality, and how it differs from bad spirituality. Good spirituality serves both connection and liberation. Bad spirituality sacrifices one to the other. The sacrifice can go in either direction. A cult satisfies your connection needs by robbing you of all your independence. A self-indulgent spiritual path liberates you personally by letting the world go hang—your self-expression or pleasure or power are the only considerations, and it doesn’t matter who else gets hurt.
I think that Muder's description of the liberatory project gone wrong is the dangerousness that Reya cautions against. I'm guessing that many of my readers are familiar with examples of folks who are products of psychoanalysis, tantra, Thelema, or Feri gone awry. But that is not an indictment of the liberatory project.
Nor is it an indictment of liberation that Evil Kirk, Captain Jack Sparrow, and so forth are fictional and fanciful. There is definitely a place for these poetic evocations of the yearning for liberation.
The terrorists understand the threat a democratic Iraq poses to their cause, so they've been fighting a bloody campaign of sectarian violence, which they hope will plunge that country into a civil war. Our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into a civil war.Whew. It's a good thing this hasn't turned to civil war. Imagine how bad that would be. The American Civil War, for instance, was a notoriously bloody conflict.
The war produced about 970,000 casualties (3% of the population), including approximately 620,000 soldier deathsNow that's serious. 3% is a small number for many purposes, but when it comes to this ... well, think of every class you took until you graduated high school. The war would have taken one person out of each of those classes.
The Iraq war isn't that bad, is it?
As it happens, just this week we have probably the best figures yet about Iraqi casualties.
A new survey says more than 650,000 Iraqis have lost their lives as a consequence of the invasion by the United States and Britain, with an estimated 200,000 violent deaths directly attributable to Allied forces.Even I'm surprised by these numbers. But I believe them. This study, published in the British medical journal the Lancet, is the sequel to a controversial study a couple of years ago showing that about 100,000 Iraqis died in the first 18 months of the Iraq war. That previous study was controversial, of course, because war hawks insisted that the war must have made things better in Iraq in every way. Crooked Timber has a thorough review of resources on the subject that convinced me that the original Lancet study was legit, so I presume that the same applies to this new, more thorough, study.
And no, things wouldn't have been even worse under that evil tyrant, Saddam. That 100,000 was how many more died than than would have had we not invaded. Likewise with the new study.
Well, at least we put an end to Saddam's torture chambers. Uh. Or not.
But I digress. How does Iraq stack up against the American Civil War?
The 654,965 deaths estimated to have resulted from the invasion represent about 2.5 per cent of the Iraqi population.See! Another 130,000 Iraqis are gonna have to die before this counts as a civil war.
You may also be wondering how the duration of the Iraq war compares to that of the American Civil War. Confederate troops captured Union forts on 3 March 1861, and Lee surrendered on 9 April 1865, putting the American Civil War at 1498 days. Whereas the Iraq war, which began 20 March 2003, has lasted for only 1301 days.
So not to worry. We've got an entire Friedman to get things sorted out before this becomes a civil war.
Some regular readers may be recalling an earlier post of mine, asking if the US spent longer fighting World War II. Not to worry. We haven't crossed that threshhold yet, either.
We have another month on that clock. So relax.
In other words, you can kill your neighbor “in self defense” because you know he hates you, he has weapons in his house (and has talked about getting some more!) and you can't just wait for the smoking gun to be a mushroom souffle. Invade his home and kill him. (Oh and hold a gun to his kids' heads and force them to pick a new daddy for the family. That way, it'll be their decision.)
Well, you know ...
The revolution will not be blogged, will not be blogged,
Will not be blogged, will not be blogged.
The revolution will be no Web diary, brothers;
The revolution will be televised.
I guess I'm missing out on the revolution.
See, I had mixed feelings about the film adaptation of V for Vendetta, but in at least one respect I thought it was an improvement over Moore and Lloyd's original graphic novel.
In the novel, David Lloyd's detailed linework and use of muted colours not only looked like dreary, gray, rainy England ... it looked like you would imagine a dystopian, fascist England should look. Michael Radford acheived the same thing with the brilliant photography and production design in his film adaptation of Orwell's 1984.
Not to knock David Lloyd's brilliant work in V, but the film actually does something more subversive with its look and tone during the first act. Things just look normal. And people act normally. There are signs that they're living in a fascist society—there are creepy propaganda posters scattered here and there—but people aren't talking about it constantly. They're talking about work, and what they're going to have for lunch, and other ordinary things. Because that's what a totalitarian society looks like, not Lloyd's art or Radford's movie.
This reminder is important, because as IOZ observes:
You talk about Soviet America, or Fascist America, and people look at you like you're nuts because, after all, where are the bread lines? Where is the uniform drabness (well, okay, there's plenty of that)? Where is the oppressive misery?I found that by way of Jim Henley, who alludes to it before he suggests that maybe the way to think of slip of the US into a corrupt, repressive one-party state is not like Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia but like Mexico.
We seem to believe that every single person in an oppressive regime or one party state spends his days smoking stale cigarettes and waiting to buy stale bread with his stale government paycheck on a dim street in atmospheric drizzle while the party newspaper blows by and a baby carriage rolls down the stairs, or whatever. But hey, there were plenty of Muscovites who lived high and fine during even the slender years of Soviet decline, and there were certainly plenty of Germans and Italians living fine and dandy pretty much until the bombs started falling on their cities.
Mexico was a nominally multiparty democracy with all the ceremonies you’d expect but functional one-party rule by a corrupt ruling class willing to use just the level of targeted violence and vote fraud required to keep control. And it was frequently sunny with some great beaches if you could afford them. A very bad place to be between a police captain or party official and something he wanted, and a poor country—that’s how corrupt party-states end up—but by no means the least pleasant place on earth. In your mind the film of Soviet Russia is always black and white and way too cold, but you can only see your mental movie of Mexico in technicolor.As I've alluded to before, the Germans of the Nazi era thought they were free. And I've said before, American fascism would have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting. So art direction isn't the thing to look for, if you want to know whether it's fascism yet.
Congress just passed a law saying that the President can order people locked up and tortured indefinitely without them ever having a trial. Is it fascism yet? When, exactly, will it be?
Bloody hell. I didn't know.
I just found out that anarchist philosopher Peter Lamborn Wilson, a.k.a. Hakim Bey, is a pædophile. I've written about his long essay Temporary Autonomous Zone on this blog. I feel that it's my responsibility to my readers, many of whom are acquainted with Wilson's writing, to inform them about this aspect of his character.
Having brought it up, I want to be very clear and specific.
In America, pædophilia is a magic word that leads to panic, making me a little wary. I don't want to be making a hysterical condemnation of Wilson. I want to condemn Wilson in as serious and clearhead a way as possible.
This starts with being very clear about the sexual mores in play. In my experience many social conservatives have a hard time understanding this stuff, so let me be a little long-winded.
Consent is the centerpoint of my whole conception of sexual morality. It doesn't matter to me who's getting it on with whom, or how. The configuration of bodies is neither moral nor immoral. A man kissing his boyfriend on the lips, a professional dominatrix working over a client with a flogger, four transsexuals in a whipped cream orgy ... whether or not I or anyone other than the participants think the act is good (or appealing, or tasteful) is not the moral question. Nor is desire itself moral or immoral. What does matter, morally, is that everyone involved an exchange is consenting to do it: they know what they're getting into, they've agreed to it, there was no coercion, they're mentally capable of consent.
And that last absolutely excludes children, who simply cannot sexually consent with an adult. The differences in power and understanding are too great for the relationship to not be fundamentally coercive.
I also think it's important to distinguish thoughts and acts. The best evidence is that the fundamental shape of one's sexual desire is deep, immutable, and not subject to personal choice. The sexual desire for children—the desire itself—is beyond choice and has no consequences for others. I would not see people punished for having that desire, which is not a sin but a curse.
Yes, that's a touch of sympathy for pædophiles you're hearing. To desire partners who cannot consent to your embrace? Who will, in fact, likely be severely harmed by your embrace, by even the knowledge of your desire? To have a sexuality that can never be morally expressed? A nightmare. I don't have it in my heart to condemn a person for feeling a desire which taunts and tortures them.
Violation of sexual consent is rape, in the first rank of moral crimes. To do this violation with a child, who is profoundly vulnerable and likely to be severely harmed, is truly monsterous. A pædophile who acts on their desires has committed one of the worst imaginable crimes. And making an effort to justify pædophilic acts is perhaps not monsterous, but is certainly repulsive.
Which brings us back to Wilson.
In a long and troubling article from anarchist Robert P. Helms, I see him make clear that Wilson is undoubtedly not only a pædophile in desire, but in unforgivable words and actions.
First, Helms argues that Wilson's anarchism is of a piece with his pædophilia, and serves as a justification for it.
Beginning with the July-August 1985 issue, the [NAMBLA Bulletin] carried a long series of items by Hakim Bey, who was already a distinctly anarchist writer. Most of them were discussions of the paedophile obsession with a clear anarchist slant. Anarchist ideology was the mode of justification, the method of persuading children to have sex and to keep it secret.
Helms provides a poem by Wilson, published in the NAMBLA Bulletin, as an example. Here's the damning bit.
The touch of his wet, bath-wrinkled fingers in my hand... but then...
one of his parents clumps down the hall... I suppose to make sure neither of us is raping the other...
[chorus of groans] Ohhh! for a
Buster-Keaton-bomb all spherical & black as coaldust with sweet sparkling with sweet sparkling fuse a mindbomb to
Drop on the Idea of the Family! O for a libertarian isle of runaways! O goodnight Moon, I am lost, actually lost without him
But I didn't want this to be
Just another poem about hopeless love. Pretend it's a manifesto instead. Down with School! Boy Rule OK! In the land of dreams
No governance exists
But that of anarchs and kings, for dreamers have not yet learned to vote or think past the unfurling of the moment. He touches my cheek, runs delicate fingers through the hairs on my arm.
My liege shatters all Law for a triple kiss.
This makes it very clear—especially if you've read some of his more directly anarchist writing—that his anarchist vision is thoroughly entangled with his persuit of the embrace of young boys.
Further, Helms provides evidence that Wilson has apparently used anarchist circles as an unwholesome way of getting access to children.
In the letters column of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed (#20/21, Nov-Dec 1989, p. 42), a letter announced a new a zine for contributors 17 and under. Wild Children, as the zine was called, solicited articles on “anarchy (of course!), sci-fi, sexuality & love, spiritual paths (or lack thereof), and anything else kids would like to submit.” The letter gave Hakim Bey as the editor, at a Brooklyn PO Box.
In another essay, Helms argues persuasively that this agenda poisons Bey/Wilson's anarchist writing sufficiently that anyone reading his work should be informed of the connection.
In this writer’s opinion, the pedophile writings of Hakim Bey indicate a general deceit in his philosophy, and are evidence that his concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone is inspired by opportunism, not by good will. He presents arguments for human freedom while actually wishing to create situations where he is free to put his deranged sexuality into practice. This is an abuse of anarchism, and new readers of Hakim Bey should take the pedophilia into consideration before being led “down the garden path.”
And last, and worst, back in the first article Helms quotes Wilson making what sounds like a roundabout admission to consummating his pædophilic desires.
“I admit to a philosophical preference for Mackay's position...” [which means the] “giving up of all false chivalry and self-denying dandyism in favour of more ‘pagan’ and convivial modes of love.” He closes the essay with his clearest anarcho-paedophile statement: “it has taken on a tantalising reality and filtered into my life in certain Temporary Autonomous Zones an impossible time and space and on this brief hint, all my theory is based.” What he means by this is that he really has sex with children, rather than leaving the matter to fantasy, and that this is his purpose when he preaches anarchism.
This, of course, is cause for the most vigorous condemnation. I'll be linking this essay everywhere I mention Bey/Wilson.
You are not required to obey an unlawful order.
You are required to disobey an unlawful order.
You swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
The Constitution states (Article VI):
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.Here is article 3, the common article, to the Geneva Conventions, a duly ratified treaty made under the authority of the United States:
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is straightforward and clear. Under Article VI of the Constitution, it forms part of the supreme law of the land.
Article 3In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
- Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
- Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
- Taking of hostages;
- Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
- The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
- The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.
You personally will be held responsible for all of your actions, in all countries, at all times and places, for the rest of your life. “I was only following orders” is not a defense.
What all this is leading to:
If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, it is your duty to disobey that order. No “clarification,” whether passed by Congress or signed by the president, relieves you of that duty.
If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, this is what to do:
We, the people, need you to support and defend the Constitution. I am certain that your honor and patriotism are equal to the task.
This post may be quoted in full. A linkback would be appreciated.
The US Navy, three days ago.
Nearly 6,500 Sailors departed Oct. 3 with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Carrier Strike Group (IKE CSG)The Nation, ten days ago.
the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have moved up the deployment of a major “strike group” of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast. This information follows a report in the current issue of Time magazine, both online and in print, that a group of ships capable of mining harbors has received orders to be ready to sail for the Persian Gulf by October 1.Turns out they are rushing things.
The Eisenhower had been in port at the Naval Station Norfolk for several years for refurbishing and refueling of its nuclear reactor; it had not been scheduled to depart for a new duty station until at least a month later, and possibly not till next spring. Family members, before the orders, had moved into the area and had until then expected to be with their sailor-spouses and parents in Virginia for some time yet.What's their mission?
According to Lieut. Mike Kafka, a spokesman at the headquarters of the Second Fleet, based in Norfolk, Virginia, the Eisenhower Strike Group, bristling with Tomahawk cruise missiles, has received orders to depart the United States in a little over a week. Other official sources in the public affairs office of the Navy Department at the Pentagon confirm that this powerful armada is scheduled to arrive off the coast of Iran on or around October 21.Hmmnn. Election day is November 7. The ships should be in place two weeks before that.
What do you think will happen?
It’s why paperbacks were such a revolution: they were cheap and they could be stuffed in a pocket.Holy McLuhan, Batman!
Portable culture is crucial to any society in motion. Manga in all its indigenous forms has been a thing built for Japanese commuters. Part of why that style of anthology doesn’t play so well in America is that America’s a culture of private cars, not public transport.
Marmaduke is interrogated by Owner-Man about an inflammatory dog-authored diatribe that was published in that day's newspaper, as if he is the only dog in town who would write a letter to the editor. Marmaduke resents the implication, so he ignores the question and keeps napping in Owner-Man's chair.Every day.
I live and work downtown in San Francisco; my apartment is on the periphery of the seedy Tenderloin district. I encounter beggars every day. I've given a lot of thought to how I respond to the hand outstretched. In this town, you have to.
I do not — I could not — offer money to everyone who asks, but as much as possible I try to at least recognize their humanity. I say “sorry,” or “not today,” or shrug. Sometimes a minute's conversation seems like a greater kindness than the change in my pocket. I try to make eye contact as much as possible.
And sometimes I'll decide that a little change, or a dollar or three, is the right thing to do. Maybe because I want to reward a beggar for asking so politely. Maybe it's someone who looks crazy enough to really need it. Maybe a lean kid on the road looks to have gotten herself into a tight spot, and will soon return home, having learned a valuable lesson. Maybe I just admire a well-executed example of the beggar's craft. The quarter I once paid to have a traffic light changed from red to green was a fair payment for the laugh I got from the offer.
Once a well-dressed stranger confronted me, angry, because I gave five dollars to a heartbreakingly strung-out crack addict. “Don't you realize that man is going to spend that money on drugs?” I told him the truth: I had looked at a man whose body was lying to him, telling him that he was going to die if he didn't get his fix, and lacking the power to free that man of his addiction the best thing I could think to do in that moment was to help relieve his pain a little.
There are a couple of folks I see on the street where I always stop and chat and give them five or ten or even twenty dollars if I have it. Casie is good-hearted and polite, sane enough to really benefit from a little money but far too mad to rejoin the working world; I've been giving him money for a decade now and I'm frankly surprised that he's survived so long. Anthony is ebullient and witty and forever plotting to get his life together; his addictions are stronger than he is, but I admire his cheerful determination.
And yes, of course, I also give money to charities that do a much more systematic job of these things than I can. I'm a soft touch. I know I am.
I want to quote an entire short post from Bluce about a beggar we both have seen downtown.
the test results came up negative
There's a beggar on the corner outside my office. Every morning I see him sitting crosslegged on the curb with a sign that says, “testing for human kindness.”
That sign is so heartwrenching, whenever I walk past him I have a strong urge to kick him in the face.
My point is not that I'm so much more compassionate than Bluce. My point is that I know exactly how he feels.
The city wears you down. I walk twenty minutes from office to home each night, and if only a dozen beggars come to me on that walk, it's been an easy day. I said I try to make eye contact with every one. But that's “I try,” because I fail. Sometimes I'm tired, or preoccupied, or in a hurry, and the beggars are too wretched, or hostile, or otherwise impossible to engage with in my current state.
Buddha compassion is limitless, but my time and money and energy are not limitless, so there are days when I feel fresh out of Buddha compassion. There are days when I hear the voice from my reptilian brainstem that wants to kick a beggar in the face, out of sheer frustration with the whole situation. It's human. The frustration and the compassion both, human.
The thing that's really happening is that Bluce and I are having our circuits blown by our circumstances. Remember I started by saying that I've given a lot of thought to how I respond to beggars because I have to. If I tried to respond completely fresh, a dozen or more times a day, I could not hold it together. Choosing a philosophy for dealing with beggars may be called wisdom, but it could also be called a scar.
This, I think, is the hidden meaning to all those myths where a king or an angel or a god comes to town disguised as a beggar, and judges the whole society on the basis of the aid they do or do not receive. It's not a caprice, where a few random individuals encountered by the faux beggar bear inordinate responsibility on their shoulders. It's not a test of the virtue of the citizens, as though the people of one place would have more kindness in their hearts than the people of another.
No, it's a test of the society as a whole because it's a test of whether that society exhausts the compassion of individuals. If the society systematically cares for its citizens who are poor, or lost, or broken, or mad, then individuals in that society will encounter the open hand rarely, and have the strength to respond with an open heart when they do meet it. If a society lets its needy wander the streets, then its' people's individual compassion will be quickly exhausted.
I'm a person who takes myths seriously. So I worry about the fate of my society.
I'm serious. It takes the idea of the magic closet doors and really follows through on the implications. It acheives an effect that really is best suited to film—in fact, would have been impossible to do nearly as well in anything other than a 3D animated film. The result is playful, inventive, unique, kinetic, visually exciting, and intellectually delightful. A milestone in the history of film, no exaggeration.
The cyberpunk conception of virtual reality is not really very interesting. Only a hacker would find the problem of avatar collision interesting.Via Cobb, I learn that someone in the computer game business has finally taken the lesson. Wow. Even if you have no taste for games, you should go take a look; it's brilliant. Even the format of the demo is exceptionally witty.
Space and time are not intrinsic properties of virtual presence. Space and time will not exist in virtual presence unless we bring them with us. Space and time are boring. Let's not invite them.
The game involves four specially numbered dice. You let your opponent pick any one of the four dice. You choose one of the remaining three dice. Each player tosses his or her die, and the higher number wins the throw. Amazingly, in a game involving 10 or more throws, you will nearly always have more wins.There has got to be some cool application for these dice, but I cannot think of what it could possibly be.
You can then invite your opponent to pick a different die, perhaps even the one that worked so well for you. You select one of the remaining dice. Again, in a game of at least 10 throws, you're very likely to come out the winner.
Indeed, it doesn't matter which die your opponent picks.