Early Daoism consisted of four kinds of practice: philosophical speculation on the nature of the cosmos, breathing and visualization exercises related to health, rituals that displayed (and seemed to allow communication with) various beings in the cosmos, and alchemy. Daoists believed that each of these practices could prolong life.
These ideas obviously rest on certain assumptions about the workings of the world, and the most important of these assumptions is that each part of the universe is related to all the other parts. What you can see, what you can't see, everything you will ever know – all these elements form a coherent whole, and it is this fundamental sense of ordering that leads historians to talk about a "cosmos."
Cosmological thinking emerged in China in the three hundred years leading up to the birth of Jesus. And since Jesus has come up, we might as well dispense with some preliminaries. Because the number of Christians in China is small, it's a little rude to refer to the period as "before Christ." Instead we'll just use an arbitrary label – "Common Era" instead of "A.D." (meaning "the year of our lord"). Things happening before the Common Era I'll call BCE. Of course, the Daoists did not date things this way, and they certainly did not think there was anything special about the year 300 BCE.
So we are beginning our study of Daoism around 300 BCE. It's all kind of arbitrary. Indeed, the name "Daoism" is just as arbitrary. "Dao" simply means "path" or "road," and it has the same metaphorical connotations as in English – "a way of doing something", "a correct path." In 300, numerous states in China were at war with each other, and the rulers of these states were seeking advisors. The advisors were trying to educate the rulers about the correct path – so everybody was in that sense a "Daoist." Everybody claimed there was a way, and everybody claimed to know the right way. When Confucius talks about what to do, he says that we must follow the Dao. His plan was very different from what comes to be known as Daoism.
Later on, I'll try to be more specific about some of the competitors who were setting out various "Daos." For now the important thing to notice is that there is a shared notion of a coherent cosmos, that there are warring states, that there are advisors to the leaders of these states, and that each advisor claims to understand the cosmos. These phenomena are related.
State and Cosmos In the First Three Centuries B.C.E.
The Chinese-speaking world had been unified under the Zhou Dynasty from about 770 to 476 BCE As it became apparent that the old empire was splitting apart and could not be reconstituted, rulers began to seek new ways to reconstitute political authority. Hand in had with this development came new ideas about statecraft, about legitimacy, about the body, and about the universe.
By 221 BCE a single state came to dominance. It was called Qin (note that Q's are pronounced like "Ch". "Qin" rhymes with "gin," and is the root of the English word "China"). The Qin leader declared himself emperor of all China.
There are many ways to be powerful. One of the most effective is to show that your position is inevitable, natural, and good. If I want to become emperor, I probably have to kill a lot of people. If I want to remain emperor, it would be good if I can convince my subjects that my rule results not from brute violence, but from the same forces that create the changing of the seasons. It is in my interest to show that my state is a microcosm of a larger whole.
Here we have a force pushing toward coherence. And given that political rulers tended to have money, and philosophers tended to be hired guns, one finds a lot of philosophy about the relationship of elements of the universe – hence, the creation of the "cosmos." Probably there were other forces at work as well, but this one is the most obvious. At the very least, you can see how there might be people who would want to say that the elements of the world are all interrelated.
I don’t' have a handy political argument for the ways the notion of the body developed. It is clear, however, that Chinese thinkers began to think about what we now call "the body" in the same time period (300 BCE to the start of the Common Era). Here again, we have a semantic trap. "Body" is a little like "BC" – it's not quite the right word. Chinese thinkers were not especially interested in anatomy or surgery. One's "body" was not separable from one's "personhood" and "personality," nor was it ever set into opposition with "mind." The body was instead a permeable membrane – what happened in the cosmos as a whole also took place in the body. It was a microcosm, a part of a larger whole reflecting all the characteristics of the whole.
The ideas I have described here were not unique to Daoism. But they were essential to the claims that Daoist put forth, namely that the cosmos (including the body) underwent a series of transformations, and that understanding these transformations can therefore help extend one's life. Daoist philosophy, medical practice, ritual, and alchemy all follow from this claim.
I've been thinking of posting about Daoism for some time now. There's far too much to say in one post, so I'm starting a series. I'll keep at it as long as there seems to be interest. Next up: "Where would we be without qi ?
Robinet, Isabelle. Taoism: Growth of a Religion
A.C. Graham. Disputers of the Tao
Nathan Sivin, "State, Cosmos, and Body in the Last Three Centuries B.C.," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1995.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Early Daoism consisted of four kinds of practice: philosophical speculation on the nature of the cosmos, breathing and visualization exercises related to health, rituals that displayed (and seemed to allow communication with) various beings in the cosmos, and alchemy. Daoists believed that each of these practices could prolong life.
...and Editing-For-Clarity Saturday.
Interesting drive home today. During my inexcusably long commute, I caught a couple of pieces on the radio about the latest lesser evil of the Military Commisions Act. I fear the death of irony as much as anything.
Hicks, who had complained of abuse in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo, agrees as part of the deal that he has "never been illegally treated by a person or persons while in the custody of the U.S. government" ...Hicks' lawyers said their client was severely depressed and anxious to find a way to leave Guantanamo, where he lives by himself in a small, maximum-security cell. Observers...have suggested he pleaded guilty only to escape the isolated military prison.Within five minutes of the first segment, and with no intentional irony, NPR reported this:
[A]nother statement from one of the captured Royal Marines was broadcast on Iranian TV. Royal Marine Nathan Summerson apologized for entering Iranian waters "without permission." British Prime Minister Tony Blair promptly denounced the treatment of the prisoners, who were captured by Iranian forces in the northern Persian Gulf last Friday.A while back, our buddy IOZ pointed out that the most redeeming thing about the Nazis was their fashion sense. I get that. In a battle to teh bottom of the international relations morality scale, we're left with what exactly is better about America, and at least as far as bellicosity is concerned, it's a difference of degree and not kind. We dress our own evil up in nicer clothes. We don't shout "death to Iran" at football games (yet). You can get better food. We all have better toys. We drink. I personally think our national mythology is the superior one, but then I'm not religious...
There are real differences, of course, between the U.S. and Iran. Women are doing OK here, and you can bet I wouldn't be posting anything like this in the Islamic Republic. The two reports I mentioned, presented almost back-to-back, are in many ways equivalent in my eyes: forced confessions, detention, cultural bias as judgement. We're working real hard on making a matter of who has the more appealing uniforms.
Well, I hope this doesn't mean (more) war in any case. I'm not too optimistic.
What we're forgetting about Fred Thompson, sports stuff.
In the week leading up to the Final Four, we look at the last Philadelphia team to win a championship in a major sport -- the 1985 Villanova Willdcats.
Yes, it really has been 22 years since a team from the fourth or fifth largest metropolitan area, with six Division I NCAA basketball schools, teams in all four major sports, and a (barely) Division I football program has won a championship.
But on April 1, 1985 in Lexington, Villanova played a nearly flawless game and knocked off the mighty Villanova Wildcats.
To put this in perspective, let's look at what has gone on with some of the participants in the championship game since then:
- Patrick Ewing was drafted #1 by the New York Knicks, and played a full career that will likely culminate with him being inducted into the basketball hall of fame this year. His son is on this year's team.
- Rollie Massamino bounced to UNLV and Cleveland State, achieving little success in either place, and ended up coaching at Northwood University.
- John Thompson retired from Georgetown in 1999, and his son, John Thompson III, will lead the Hoyas in the Final Four this weekend.
- Tournament MOP Ed Pinckney enjoyed a full NBA career, and is now an assistant coach at Villanova.
- Gary McLain appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated revealing his cocaine habit. He's now a motivational speaker.
Since the last major championship came to Philadelphia, the following have occurred:
- The University of Florida and the University of Michigan have won championships in both basketball and football. (Ohio St. may join them this weekend).
- Two other teams nicknamed the Wildcats (Arizona and Kentucky) have won NCAA championships.
- The Stanley Cup has been won by franchises in Dallas, Texas, Raleigh, North Carolina and St. Petersburg, Florida, none of which had a team in 1985.
- The World Series has been won by teams in Miami, Florida (twice!) and Phoenix, Arizona, neither of which had teams. The Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox both broke their historically long championship droughts.
- The Super Bowl has been won by the Baltimore Ravens and St. Louis Rams. Since 1985, both these cities lost a team, then lured another into town, which then won the Super Bowl. Also, one of those teams that moved, the Indianapolis Colts, has also won a Super Bowl.
- San Antonio, Texas has been host to three NBA champions.
Throughout all this neither the Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Flyers, Villanova Wildcats, St. Joseph's Hawks, Temple Owls (football or basketball), Penn Quakers, LaSalle Explorers, or Drexel Dragons have won a national championship, or really even come close.
The closest was probably the 1987 Flyers, who pushed the Gretzky-Messier-Kurri-Coffey Edmonton Oilers to seven games, but even then, there was never really much doubt that the Oilers were the superior team and would ultimately prevail.
Kind of like the 1985 Villanova team...
Living on the East Coast, with my father having grown up in New York, the 1985 college basketball season was about 2 teams -- the John Thompson Patrick Ewing Georgetown Hoyas, and the Louie Carnasecca-Chris Mullin-Mark Jackson-Walter Berry St. John's Redmen. St. John's and Georgetown split their regular season games, then Georgetown won the Big East final to claim the #1 seed in the East, with St. John's heading West.
This was the first year of the 64 team tournament, and I believe the first time I actually filled out a bracket. Most people, especially in our part of the country, were anticipating another St. John's Georgetown tilt in the national semifinals, and considering that a de facto championship. That Villanova made it to make it three Big East teams in the Final Four was a nice story, but largely irrelevant.
The Hoyas crushed the Redmen, and Villanova got by Memphis St., the one non-Big East team at the party.
Then, pretty much everyone on Villanova had the game of their lives.
There was a certain mystique surrounding the Hoyas in those days, which no team since has really captured. I'd like to think that it's because the racial tension it was based upon has eclipsed, but I'm not sure. I don't think a major college program would hire someone like the elder John Thompson to coach its team today. Today, universities know that coaches will be in front of cameras and microphones, and won't want somebody who brings unwanted attention. They're blow-dried telegenic bland X's and O's guys. The John Thompsons and Bob Knights and Jerry Tarkanians and other coaches who don't give a crap what the world thinks of them are a dying breed.
I realize I haven't written much about the alleged topic of this articles. Until the tournament, there wasn't anything particularly special about this team, kind of like the 2007 Cardinals. But they managed to put it together for the six games of the tournament, and are now a part of history.
Hopefully another Philadelphia team will soon join them.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
I love being anonymous. It's one thing to have the anonymity of a pen-name, but the purer anonymity of no name gives me the good feeling of a snake shedding its skin.
I have a game for you all.
Question 1: Whom do you think is right? Iran or Britain, on whether the British sailors were captured in international or Iranian waters?
Now the fun:
2. How do you think your fellow fraysters and wikifraysters will answer that question? Don't leave anyone good out.
3. Of those of you who read this, some won't answer - what does it say about them? That they don't care? That they are scared? That they think it a (clever or unclever) trap?
Anyway, you really should have a way for we true anonymous persons to top post.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
•Massive Brain Transmogrification Epidemic Sweeps Through Nation's Capital
•Trent Lott Marries Jeff Sessions In Show Of Solidarity, John Ashcroft's "Eagle" Soars At Reception
•BARNEY FRANK FOUND HIDING IN CLOSET
•Hillary Trashes Des Moines Hotel Room, Rightwing Goat Roasting Evangelical Christian Secret Sorority Initiation Ceremony Suspected
So I hear John McCain on my radio last night saying that even a 2nd-year military academy cadet will tell you that the best way to guarantee defeat is to tell the enemy when you're leaving, or something. Then that other guy (No, not him. The other one – the one from Ohio.) says we've just told the insurgency to rearm, refit, and recon till March 2008.
And that's when it hit me: Those of the war-hawkish variety are the pussies, turns out. It's the folks calling for a withdrawal next year who are the real warmongers. It's just that neither side is non-retarded enough to know how the fuck to spin it correctly. Shocking, considering each politician has a staff of 38 devoted to spin alone.
It's not that complicated.
The Republicans are essentially saying that we can't win The War On Terror™: Iraq Edition, Part 5 in one year.
What? Hey, this is Ameri-fuckin'-ca. You've had 4 years! George Herbert Walker "The Man" Bush won the first Gulf War in, like, 20 minutes, and all y'all are bitching about budgets and materials and timelines and redeployment? Where's Brent Scowcroft when you need him?
Meanwhile, the Democrats are basically saying, "Yeah, give us a year. We'll put 750,000 swinging dicks on the ground in and around the greater Fallujah Metropolitan Area. Get it together, man up, and take a little personal responsibility for your own safety and welfare, folks, or by the time March 2008 rolls around, Iraq's gonna look like the fuckin' moon. You think we're kidding? I've got your "shock & awe™" right here, baby. Watch this."
Okay, so they're not saying that. But if any of them had a brain between them, they would. Why is everyone so afraid of the obvious, tedious, soul-mincing truth these days?
Oh, that's right: Nobody really knows what "the truth" is. Got it.
One final note: Like it or not, House and Senate Democrats wasted your and their time, money and effort debating and passing a bill that the president vowed from the very get-go to veto with the vehemence of a 9th grade bully. The proposal, in whatever incarnation, had absolutely no chance whatsoever of passing or changing anything or making a difference. Which means House and Senate Democrats are behaving exactly like the folks they're purportedly supposed to be checking and balancing.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Democracy is not a viable form of governmentism precisely because we've got too many choices, and not enough choosers. Nobody won anything with this latest resolution, and the only losers are the troops. Again.
And for the love of god, get us out of the U.N.!
Man, I'm tired of being right all the time.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The most recent issue of Time magazine features a cover story on the teaching of the Bible in American high schools. Not just reporting on it—the article was written by David van Biema, Time’s religion writer, who ends by recommending that American high schools should teach two-semester courses on the Holy Bible. The article claims that such a course is necessary for anyone who claims to be educated, and for anyone who would understand American history. However, van Biema fails to make a convincing argument.
Here are some of the main points of the article:
Such a class would be constitutional. The article notes that the Supreme Court has decided that, although it is unconstitutional to require students to study the Bible as the received word of God, there is no problem with using it an object of study—in other words, as long as the Bible is being used for historical context or as literature. This is a nice idea in a theoretical sort of way, but in reality, people come down in one of two camps where the Bible is concerned. They either believe it is the inspired Word of God—or they don’t. If a teacher believes that the Bible is God’s word, there is absolutely no way he can teach it impartially. If he doesn’t believe it, his teaching is sure to arouse enormous amounts of controversy. Imagine the riot that ensues when the first teacher tells his eleventh-graders that the first few verses of Genesis are self-contradictory creation myths derivative of many previous such myths, and couldn’t possibly be true. Of course, most people who care enough to become teachers on the Bible are going to be true believers. Just because it would be constitutional to teach a Bible course doesn’t make it a good idea.
People think the Bible contains wisdom. Van Biema cites a poll that says two-thirds of Americans believe that the Bible holds the answer to all or most of life’s problems. This is actually a good reason to teach students the Bible—it would quickly dispel this notion. Again, though, those who would actually be teaching this class would almost certainly agree with the poll. Students would be taught that prayer with strong faith gives guaranteed results, or that the meek shall inherit the earth. Nice thoughts. Not true.
The Bible is the most influential book ever written. This, too, is a true statement, but it’s not a good reason to teach a high school course about the Bible. Mein Kampf and Das Kapital are also extremely influential books, but it’s not necessary to study every word of them to understand their influence. Reading Psalms is not necessary to understand how the Bible has been used as an excuse for colonialism, genocide, bigotry and homophobia. In fact, one could make the case that the Bible has been too influential, and teaching it in high school would only make it more so. The article makes a big deal out of the fact that there are innumerable literary and pop culture references to biblical stories—there is a full-page picture layout with a photo of Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction and another of Superman looking all crucified. (Did you know “el”—as in Jor-el—means “God” in Hebrew? Wow!) Apparently we should read and study the Bible so we can enjoy The DaVinci Code. Really, if we’re going to teach the Bible in public schools because of the pop-culture references, shouldn’t we be more eager to teach students about Seinfeld or The Simpsons?
Van Beima lists several arguments against a high school Bible course, then dismisses them out of hand. Most of the people pushing for teaching the Bible in public schools are evangelical Christians who are by definition interested in making converts. It’s okay, Van Biema says, because it’s possible for a conservative Christian to teach the Bible impartially. Commercial Bible curriculums contain creationist anti-science drivel. Not much, Van Biema says.
The best argument against teaching the Bible in high schools is the people who are pushing the idea. These folks are thinly disguised intelligent design advocates, attempting to get their pseudoscience wedged into public schools. For example, the author of one of the primary textbooks used in such courses is Chuck Stetson, a graduate of the Wilberforce Forum founded by Chuck Colson (of Watergate fame). This Forum lists among its board of directions two of the usual ID suspects, Phillip Johnson and William Dembski, as well as Marvin Olasky, the prominent Christian reconstructionist and dominionist. These are not innocent Christians only interested in promoting the Bible as quaint literature. This is just another attempt to circumvent legal separation of church and state.
Van Biema endorses the teaching of the Bible, but rejects courses in Comparative Religion because kids are “already overloaded.” He ends his article with a vignette of a classroom in which high school students are taught by a conservative Christian teacher that the Ten Commandments (presumably including “I am the Lord thy God, you shall have no other gods before me”) are to be taken literally. This little play is supposed to relieve us of any concerns about Christianity being taught in the schools. “Sure, there will be bumps along the way,” Van Biema says.
Sure there will.
Monday, March 26, 2007
After the Oscars, I expressed a vague distaste for the practice of "carbon offsetting," the practice through which environmentalists compeonsate for the carbon emissions of their lifestyle by giving money to organization that plant trees and do other activities to make their lives "carbon neutral."
This Matthew Yglesias post about a Jon Chait article on global warming crystallized my thinking a bit. They were both discussing how irrational and ungrounded conservative "skepticism" about global warming is. It seemed to mostly be grounded is personal distaste for environmentalists, and it is fueled by stoking this distaste for them.
I noted some parallelism between this anf the abortion debate, which I noted here.
Thinking about this some more -- what would we think of a pro-life advocate who railed against the immorality of today's society who got a mistress pregnany who was in not position to raise his child? What if his response to this situation was not to promise never to have another affair, but to declare that he was now going to live an "unplanned child neutral" lifestyle. Every time he got a woman pregnant, he would donate sufficient funds to a Christian charitable organization to care for a poor child in a Third World country.
Would anyone accept this? Would this person ever be considered a credible critic of society again? Wouldn't we demand that if he was so serious about the scourge of abortion and children conceived out of wedlock, he should start by elminating his contribution to the problem, rather than merely compensating for it?
I'm sure the parallels are inexact, and this is more an explanation of my personal feelings than an airtight logical argument. But it does seem that if we are facing as dark an hour as we are being told, "neutrality" in the face of it is not a sufficient response.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
In the 1995 NCAA Tournament, Tyus Edney took the ball end to end in 4.8 seconds, got withinn 5 feet of the basket, and sank the shot to give UCLA a victory over Missour. The Bruins went on to win the title that year.
Since then, it seems the conventional wisdom for a team needing a last second basket to tie or win the game is to not take a time out, try to catch the other team off guard, and run down the court like Edney to win the game.
This makes the ending more exciting. We get quick end-to-end action instead of time outs.
The thing is, I can't recall a single time since Edney's mad dash that this strategy worked (and it probably shouldn't have worked for Edney either -- somebody's got to stop the dribble). Not once in twelve years. What usually happens is that the PG gets stopped just inside the half court line and heaves up a 35 foot shot that comes up about 3 feet short.
But as we found out during yesterday's Division II championship game, it could be worse:
Where was Gus Johnson for this game when we needed him, anyway?
Barton scores to tie the game, Winona St. immediately inbounds the ball, gets to halfcourt, and Barton steals it and wins the game with a buzzer-beating lay up.
As much as I hate to put college basketball even more into the hands of the coaches, and have to sit through even more final minute time-outs, I think it's time to acknowledge that this strategy isn't working. Teams today are too defensiveley disciplined to be caught off guard. Take a T.O. and set something up.
Menu Foods admits that it was first informed of cat and dog deaths due to renal failure on February 20th. The company claims it started testing its products on February 27th, and two weeks later it had confirmed seven cases of kidney failure in the 40 to 50 animals on which the products were tested. The cause of the deaths was determined to be rat poison in the wheat gluten used in the company's "cuts and gravy" style products. Though Menu Foods dropped its supplier of the contaminated wheat gluten on March 6th, it did not provide retailers with a list of 90 recalled products until March 17th. The company was reported to be still adding brands to the list yesterday.
A number of law suits are taking shape against the manufacturer, but due to potential problems faced by pet owners in proving their case, there's some skepticism about the suits' merit. Menu Foods has declared that it is "happy and relieved" to have discovered the source of the problem, and that it will take responsibility for animal deaths the company's products can be shown to have caused. Panic is running high among pet owners who wonder what, if any, brands are safe to feed their animals, but foods that don't contain wheat gluten appear to be safe.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
From his op-ed, "Life in the Mean Seats", in today's New York Times, discussing proposals to ban booing (I'm not making this up) at sports events:
First, no booing high school teams. Then no booing the Fighting Irish. Before you know it, Mets fans will be getting ejected from their own stadium for booing the Yankees. And if Mets fans can't boo the despicable Yankees, why go on living?
Friday, March 23, 2007
•Prez Readies Giant Custom Made "V-Toe!" Stamp
•Dead Iraq Veteran Backdoor Re-Enlisted, Promoted
•SPINACH STOCK SOARS IN CA, OR, WA, AFGHANISTAN
•Veep Dead 2 Years, No One Has Heart To Tell Him
Well that's just great. Don't look now, but word on the street is that House Democrats may or may not have put a loophole or 15,000 into The Emergency Spending Bill that makes Tom Delay's redistricting scheme look like a school bus fire drill by comparison. The short one. I haven't seen that much pork since Rosie O'Donnell had Oprah in a headlock at a "Lesbians for Peace!" antiwar rally in Santa Monica.
Which can only mean one thing: We're winning. Again.
Is The Surge™ working? Maybe. Do our troops have the right equipment and enough of it? I sure hope so. Are you better off than Iraq was 4 years ago? More likely than not, unless you happen to live in the 9th Ward.
But one thing we can all agree to be sure about is that The House of Representatives just sentenced thousands of American G.I.s to certain and sudden death back in the future.
The bill will take "an army of lawyers" to interpret
Way to go, you Democan'ts. That "army of lawyers" could be sent to Iraq to relieve some of the troops on their 3rd tour of duty so that they can be killed one week away from going home. But no. That army has to stay at home and pour over a document that has more to do with storing peanuts than it does with fighting terrorism.
Timelines mean only one thing: defeat
I mean, come on! Do you think we would've evacuated Hanoi that quickly if we'd planned on doing it 1 and 1/2 years earlier? Than we had? That's what I thought, pinhead.
Decisions in war are not made by civilian bureaucrats and legislators
They're made by generals. E.g., General Donald Rumsfeld. Any questions?
The Best defense is a good offense
You can't have it both ways, folks. Either we keep troop levels where they are indefinitely so that we can clear 4,000 dead Americans by the new year, or every last man, woman and child in America will burn to a crisp because of al Qaeda's fossil fuel burning. Those clever little sand negroes!
You can't go to war with the army you don't have or hope not to want some day
That's Warfare 101, kids. An army is made up of people, uniforms, weapons, vehicles and canteens. You remove just one of those variables and it might as well be just a bunch of guys at the auto show.
You can't hate freedom and love America
Pick a side, you Commucrats! If you don't leave it, love it. And this song that I'm singin' is so not about ya.
Spinach is dangerous
Remember what it did to Popeye? Imagine if those Iran—er, those Iraq insurgents got hold of a can or 2. Suicide bombers could take out entire city blocks! That would give an entirely new meaning to the phrase "seven layer salad". Yum! [belch]
The import/export business requires certain… adaptations
Especially when the item being imported/exported is, that's right, democracy. So yeah, there's gonna be some bumps along the way, some palms greased, some graft skimmed off the top. But in an age where our current foreign policy all but relies on the end justifying the means, it's a good fit, and everybody wins. (Minus the 4,000. They'll still be dead. But they'll be in heaven with Jesus and their grandparents. So strike that. Everybody wins; even the dead.)
So, to sum up: The House of Representatives just sentenced thousands of American G.I.s to certain and sudden death back in the future because of lawyers/guns/money, a culture of losing, General Gates, Hoosiers, "Pimp My Bradley", Merle The Pearl Haggard, kale smoothies, and Persian rug knockoffs at the Penny's.
Looks like you can have your cake and have it crammed down your throat, too.
A lot of commentators, both liberal and conservative, have rushed to say that John Edwards is doing a good thing by continuing his campaign in spite of his wife Elizabeth's cancer.
I can't join in.
It's not because I don't approve of Edwards's choice; it's that I am in no position to judge it, and what I think about it doesn't matter a damn anyway.
I have no idea what the dynamics are of the Edwards family, nor do I know their established principles. Maybe they're the type of family that prizes not letting obstacles get in the way of pursuing their dreams, in which case Edwards's action is clearly aligned. Maybe they value rushing to the aid of those who are suffering, in which case it wouldn't be.
In any instance, it's not for me or any member of the political punditocracy to play the umpire of whether Edwards is honoring his family's values, because we don't know what they are, we didn't have a part in establishing them, and it's not our role to enforce them.
Now, if Edwards violated some societal norm, say by deciding to ditch his ailing wife for someone who might look better on the campaign trail, I think we might me quailified to judge that, since his example would have an impact on society's image of what it means to be married. But whether or not to continue in the race comes down to what the Edwards family values, and that's a determination only John and Elizabeth Edwards can make and hold each other accountable for.
The silliness of attempting to do this manifested itself in Jonah Goldberg catching Andrew Sullivan praising Edwards for leaving the race, then praising Edwards for staying in minutes later.
Sullivan answers this criticism thusly:
Yes, I was led to believe by Politico that Elizabeth Edwards was in a serious medical state and that the campaign would therefore be suspended. That information turned out to be premature. We found out, as Edwards explained, that subsequent testing relieved many of their worst, earlier worries and so they were going to press on. I think the decision in both cases was admirable. If she was seriously sick, it was right to suspend the campaign. If she can carry on, I think it's admirable to carry on as well. There is no self-contradiction in my views, just a change of facts. A blog reacts to facts as they arrive. When the facts change, a blog can change its mind. What else am I supposed to do?
This is kind of strange coming from a man who considers someone changing his opinion based on new information a "lie."
More to the point, do you really think the world was waiting with baited breath for Andrew Sullivan's moral judgement on whether Edwards did the right thing? Do you think you could have waited to comment until you had the full story?
Like Goldberg, I don't have a direct problem with either position on their faces. though Sullivan's "this is real family values" dig is tiresome -- do we suspect that "Christianists" like Sanotrum or Brownback or Ashcroft would handle this situation with less grace).
It just seems to me that passing judgement on Edwards decision, even to indicate approval, is an act of overwhelming arrogance. And this notion that pundits have a duty or even a right to judge decisions based on a family's situation and values that pundit is not privy to leads to ridiculousness like this.
So, I can't say that Edwards did the right thing by staying in the race because I don't know, and it doesn't matter if I did.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
I’ve been reading Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. I just finished a chapter about a blind man who had surgery removing cataracts, and was thus able to see. His sight was limited, in part because his retinas were damaged, but mainly because his brain had not since birth developed to process visual imagery. Some desultory thoughts:
While I read, I’ve been keeping in mind the criticisms of the doctor in The Echo Maker. Is Sacks invading this man’s privacy? At times the account feels quite intimate, and it is not at all clear that Sacks has helped the man. At the end of the story, “Virgil,” the blind man who can see, descends back into blindness when he gets a terrible case of pneumonia that deprives him of oxygen. All that being said, Virgil is clearly capable of making decisions about his own life, and the account would not have been possible without Virgil’s consent. I’m seconding an earlier point by TK that this aspect of the portrayal of Weber doesn’t ring true.
The story ("To See and Not See") gave me great insight into the tendency of the deaf community to reject the hearing, especially to oppose technologies that might enable them to hear. As Sacks points out, seeing for Virgil was disorienting; the experience was one of losing blindness rather than gaining vision. In a footnote, Sacks adds for the deaf, the sense of isolation is doubled – one loses deafness and an entire community. For Virgil, who loses his vision after gaining it, the sense of isolation and rage is far more damaging than the constraints of blindness.
The tale of Mark and Karin got me thinking about our use of "blindness" as a metaphor. It means not merely "not being able to see," but "not recognizing," and "not understanding. Mark is blind to Karin. The reader blind to the writer of the note (I write the sentence and it sounds funny to me… why?). It's not a semantic slippage that I had thought about prior to now, but it must affect the way we treat the blind. It also makes me wonder about Powers' premise. Sure, the mind can come undone. But it is also remarkably resilient, and I remain not fully convinced (intellectually or emotionally) of the particular kind of undoing that transpires in The Echo Maker.
At times of great stress, such as when his family came to visit, the seeing Virgil would lose his vision anew. The paragraph I found most interesting (pp. 135-136) in hardcover edition:
In these episodes Virgil was treated by his family as a blind man, his seeing identity denied or undermined, and he responded, compliantly, by acting, or even becoming, blind – a massive withdrawal or regression of part of his ego to a crushing, annihilating denial of identity. Such a regression would have to be seen as motivated, albeit unconsciously – an inhibition on a "functional" basis.
Thus there seemed to be two distinct forms of "blind behavior" or "acting blind" – one a collapse of visual processing and visual identity on an organic basis (a "bottom up" or neuropsychological disturbance…), the other a collapse or inhibition of visual identity on a functional basis (a "top-down", or psychoneurotic disturbance), though no less real for him. Given the extreme organic weakness of his vision – the instability of his visual systems and visual identity at this point – it was very difficult at times to know what was going on, to distinguish between the "physiological" and "psychological." His vision was so marginal, so close to the border, that either neural overload or identity conflict might push him over it.
If Sacks is right, it means our very consciousness/identity is visual. Except when it isn't. I feel that's a more profound insight into my own mind than anything I encountered in Powers.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
•PBS Drops Ball, Public Radio Aids/Abets Enemy
•Ira Glass Isn't Gay!?
•RADIO SHOW ONLY A FACE COULD LOVE
•Robert Siegel Steals Nina Totenberg's Secret Kugel Recipe
The animated teaser segment was fantastic. If the show can sustain that quality visually for an entire hour, looks like it will transliterate nicely to the small screen. The live action trailer was a little off-putting, but that might just be me because I hate hippies so much. It's the smell. Patchouli oil smells like rotten cabbage that's been fucked by a homeless person.
Having said all that, I would think that the show can't help but be good because its producers are ruthlessly devoted to quality. The problem is, stalwart purist fans of the show probably won't watch because of the principle of the thing. After all, it's a public radio show coming out of Chicago of all places. Watching This American Life on Showtime is like hiring a really high-end prostitute from another city. I.e., it's tantamount to not supporting the local economy, in whatever fashion.
I wonder if this is the beginning of a flight by NPR shows from NPR because NPR is getting too NPRish. Will CNN buy On the Media? Will Wait Wait Don't Tell Me move over to Comedy Central? Will Music from the Hearts of Space host Stephen Hill finally be crushed to death under the weight of his own musical self-importance delusion? Please? Soon? What the fuck are "delicate space-jazz improvisations", anyway? Space-jazz? Is that like what the dudes are honking out at the Los Isley Space Port Tavern?
I don't have cable so I won't watch it, which is fine with me. But I do see a problem. TAL is already very visual because the stories tend to be so visceral. What the producers need to do, perhaps, is tone down the visceral aspect of the show's radio version; otherwise the actual pictures will start competing with the implicit pictures the show already creates for us in our collective heads, and you're talking a major league train wreck. Seriously.
If/when David Sedaris is on the TV version, they'd do best just to show footage of his live readings. Throw in some audience reaction shots and you're good to go. I've seen m'boy Dave live 3 times now. He really doesn't need any "traveling music" or "visual underscoring".
So yeah, one of you stalwart purists watch it and tell me what you think. Be honest.
Finally, that this show is not on PBS really is unsettling. Face it, folks: PBS is falling apart precisely because it thinks the median age of its fan base is 92. It's not, idiots. More Frontline, less "Ladies and gentlemen: The Spinners!" Those pledge drives are getting a little old. Literally.
Recommended and Network Feed temporarily disabled. Problem with feedbite. The sky is falling.
Monday, March 19, 2007
It was a good survey of the pervasiveness of anger in our culture. How anger used to be something that was hidden and considered something to be controlled, and now it considered something to honor and celebrate. Wood points to a number of cultural signposts indicating that anger is much more welcome in today's culture than in previous generations.
Wood argues that this anger finds a more natural home on the political left than the political right, and in my opinion, he weakens his argument by doing so. It makes it seem that Wood is working in service of a particular side in the culture war rather than offering perspective on how the war is being waged. Although Wood does offer a convincing case for why those on the left might be quicker to embrace New Anger than those on the right, I found myself cringing when he did it. I was less interested in which side was to blame for New Anger than I was in how it came to be, how to avoid it, and how to deal with the reality of it. Wood offers little advice on the latter two points.
Part of Wood's argument rests on the idea that people today don't have much more to be angry about than previous generations, and thus today's anger is less a product of circumstances than of cultural acceptance of it. I can see that in day to day life -- most Americans don't have to scrap for their next meal, but even though I voted for Bush twice, I can see how the Administration's policies, style of governing, as well as the manner in which it gained power would be a legitimate source of anger for its political opponents. They lost the popular vote, appealed to people's fears and bigotry, governed by aiming for 51% approval, led us to war for reasons that turned out to be false, and mishandled basic duties like disaster recovery. Dismissing theses concerns as "New Anger" doesn't get us anywhere.
I also think Wood goes a bit off course in his discussion of music. Wood argues that hop hop, rock, and rap are all filled with New Anger, but country music (home of "Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue) as not. It's hard to read this and not conclude that Wood is more about scoring points for his side than describing the game.
This is a shame, because I think people need to hear what Wood has to say about anger., If he's correct that anger has found more homes on the left than on the right, then it is odd that he would write his book in a manner such that many on the left could dismiss it.
I recommend the book, but see it as a bit of a missed opportunity.
I don’t want to know what Ira Glass looks like. I don’t want to know what Ira Glass looks like. I don’t want to know what Ira Glass looks like.
Let them eat cake.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I spent part of spring break visiting friends from graduate school. It was really nice seeing old friends and labmates. Much beer was consumed, good food was made and eaten, and gossip was swapped. I’m very proud of my little group of friends; almost all are working on a Ph.D., and their projects are all interesting, with a brilliant one or two thrown in.
One of my former labmates just completed her M.S., and it was just by the skin of her teeth. My major professor had been hers, too, and they had had major disagreements over statistical minutiae. In the end, he had resigned from her committee, leaving her scrambling to find another advisor. As she recounted the story of escalating arguments and increasingly personal attacks, I flashed back to my last year in grad school, when this same professor had somehow become convinced that I was trying to usurp his research program. He thought that I was intent on hijacking his funding when I left to find a job, even though nothing like that had ever crossed my mind, and even though I wouldn’t have known how to do such a thing. I spent my final year in constant fear of being ejected from the lab, not knowing for sure that I’d receive my doctorate until I actually had the parchment in hand.
My major professor had kicked another student out of his lab several years before. This student, another of my closest friends, found himself without a master’s project with no warning and no explanation. He was forced to complete a non-thesis degree, which made it more difficult to find a Ph.D. slot. He eventually did so, and is now finishing his second post-doc; he’s a brilliant, driven student, but my major professor’s erratic behavior cost him at least two years, and to this day no one but the professor knows why.
Ours is not the only professor that has unreasonably ejected students from his lab. At the same university, another professor kicked two students out of his lab when he decided that his research program was going to change direction and that these two students were going to take longer to complete their projects than he wanted to spend with them. A colleague of mine who got his degree at a different university was nearly ejected from his major professor’s lab because when his father got a brain tumor, the student spent too much time with his dying father and not enough on his research project.
Graduate degrees in field biology often take much longer than those in other sciences. It isn’t unusual for a student to spend three years on a master’s or five years on a doctorate. Bad weather or uncooperative study organisms extend dissertation projects past university deadlines and beyond funding. During this time, grad students are subject to the whims of the major professor. Students may have to teach their professors’ classes and assist with his research or that of their labmates, all while taking classes and performing their dissertation research. There are some conscientious professors that don’t abuse the system, but there are others that treat their students as slave labor, take credit for their research, or give them poor advice and instructions or none at all. The professor can also terminate a student’s research and dismiss him from the lab without giving a reason. The student has very little recourse in such situations. Although the university involved may have supposed safeguards against capricious actions by professors, in reality there is almost no way to force a professor to act in good faith if he or she has decided to do otherwise.
There's an interesting parallel between this post on blogging and marketing by Kathy Sierra (linked to by bEnder in his post below) and this New York Times column on baseball by David Brooks (linked to helpfully by sydbristow on Iraqwarit).
Note especially Sierra:
You must be willing and able to turn off (temporarily) The Voice inside that says, "We'll never get away with this. People will hate it." ... [T]his is somewhat like The Inner Game approach or Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain or any of the other approaches to creativity that get your logical "talking" mind out of the way so all the more useful but non-speaking parts of your brain can get on with the important things you're trying to accomplish.
[B]aseball has accomplished [an] ... important feat. It has developed a series of habits and standards of behavior to keep the conscious mind from interfering with the automatic mind.
Baseball is one of those activities in which the harder you try, the worse you do. The more a pitcher aims the ball, the wilder he becomes. The more a batter tenses, the slower and more tentative his muscles become.
So, I suppose I need to approach each post with the same insouciance with which Jose Reyes regards a split-finger fastball or a Baltimore chop. But, perhaps more importantly, a la Sierra, I need to find a way to make you hate me.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
They say when you’re drowning, your life flashes before your eyes. I think “they” got it terribly wrong. For 3 successive evenings this week, I went swimming in a beautiful brand new pool, one of the enticements of a gym I’m considering joining. I was never in any danger of drowning, but I had these same kinds of flashes, these little vignettes of my life, right from the moment I first slipped beneath the surface of the water.
The smell of chlorine hits me as I walk into the women’s changing room. I'm immediately brought back to my freshman year in high school, when swimming was a gym requirement. That pool was dank, dark and depressing, and the water felt oily. Nothing like this state-of-the-art facility, but the smell in the dressing room is exactly the same. At least I’m free of my 9th grade agonizing about how my hair will look afterwards, but I still modestly choose to change in a stall with a curtain just like I did back then. The time slot is reserved for women only, but unlike my PE class there is a noticeable difference in that all of the women here are much older than me. Maybe it’s the early hour I chose, but most look to be in their late 60’s and 70’s, the bathing caps are almost a dead giveaway. It seems to be a club of some sort and they congregate in the shallow end to do their aquatic exercises against the 3 sides of the pool, leaving the deep end all to myself. I’m perfectly happy with this arrangement because one of the reasons I'm swimming is for the solitude.
I stretch out to do what I came for and dive in. It feels great, not too cold, just right. I begin to swim laps back and forth across the width of the pool. The water is crystal clear, it feels so smooth as it glides off my skin, and I slide through the laps almost effortlessly. There is something so primordial and life affirming about being in water this way, although my favorite form of swimming is in the ocean, not a chlorinated pool. As I swim my mind goes back to being in the ocean as a child, the annual family vacations to the beaches of New Jersey. I think about my mother’s flowered bathing suit with the detachable skirt, and how my father had one pair of "swim trunks" that he wore year after year. I remember him showing me how to swim past the breakers to get to those gentle rolling waves, the ones you could backfloat on. Another memory from a childhood perspective: what a scary and powerful force of nature the ocean changed into at nighttime, when viewed from the boardwalk. It still does that to me.
I stop swimming after a while, and float on my back to rest. I feel just like I used to so long ago on those softly lapping waves in the ocean. A more recent memory comes to mind this time; being in the Caribbean with 3 of my children several years ago. It was their first trip ever to a tropical island, and their first exposure to the breathtaking beauty of an undersea dive. This is one of the best memories of my life. We had just gone down into the ocean from the boat, and all three were facing me, floating in a sort of semi-circle around me as we descended. I could clearly see their expressions through their scuba masks, their looks of astonishment and pure joy as we took in the unbelievable colors of the tropical fish swirling all around us, the brilliant coral below, the shimmering turquoise of the water.
Unfortunately, the membership to this particular gym is not priceless, it's much more than I can afford. I continue floating there for a while longer, enjoying how the water blocks out the voices and muffles the sounds of everything else.
I think to myself, I should do this. Just join and damn the expense of it. But summer is coming up fast, there'll be lots of opportunities to swim, lots of days where I will have access to other pools.
And hopefully, other oceans.
Yesterday afternoon, a late-season snowstorm hit New England (I shoveled out about a foot this morning). I left work a little early--when it started to look like it was sticking--but it still took me about an hour to make the trip. Unfortunately, this coincided witn NPR's spring fund drive. (Those drives are oxymoronic: if I paid for the service, I'd expect not to have to listen to their hectoring.) Anyway, that led me to an extra-long session of my twice-yearly excursion through the higher FM bands. Since there's nothing wiser than scribbling minor life observations as dense highway traffic fishtails around you, here's what I got
Here's hoping the pledge drive ends by Monday. Anything but the morning DJ's!
I’m impressed. I’m also snowbound, and my flight’s been cancelled.
It took me over two hours this afternoon to make the return leg of a trip I’d made in 20 minutes this morning.
I was able to order a pizza earlier tonight; neither rain, nor sleet, nor blizzard will daunt the intrepid Domino’s man. I went out to the lobby area of my motel a little while later, and saw a couple of people had persuaded the desk manager to break out some of their continental breakfast supplies. I gave them the rest of the pie, so I got to feel like a good guy after feeling like a bad guy (for eating pizza). If this kept up for three weeks, I wonder if Donner-like strategies would start occuring to people.
Impressive accumulations – I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get out of here. I’m reluctant to give up my little motel room, but I may end up staying in the airport, if the flight scheduled for tomorrow afternoon ends up getting cancelled after I surrender my card key and rental car.
I hope the power holds out.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Congratulations on your nuptials and your impending bundle of joy. Have we really come to the point that someone has to defend her decision that it's best if marriage precedes motherhood? You have nothing to explain to anyone. If people make snide remarks, try resting your hands on your tummy, smiling beatifically in that way only pregnant women can, and saying, "Thank you for your good wishes." Soon you'll be a happy family of three, and people will forget the timing of your wedding.
Yeah, Emily: Way to tell her to fight fire with fire, i.e., "Thank you for your good wishes." Lame! It's situations like this that call for advice columnists to dispense with the diplomacy and provide a little bit more lethal artillery for the recently knocked up.
"Are you pregnant?"
"Oh, that explains it."
"It does? What exactly does it explain? That we've had sex before marriage? That we're committed to one another and were planning on getting married anyway? That your son was sweet enough to whisk me off on a brief yet perfect weekend of nuptials and wedded bliss? And that you're all a bunch of wet-blanketed killjoying fucks so judgmental that the first things out of you retards' mouths at the impending bundle 'o joy is disappointment, narrow mindedness and, well, stupidity? Man, I wish the little tike was already born so that s/he could feel all the love and affection and support from his grandparents. That's really touching, asshats. You motherfuckers can go fuckity fuck the fucking fuck off and fuck yourselves hard, cockwipes. Now, to quote m'boy Adrock: 'Get the fuck out mah face!'
"Oh, and we're registered at Macy's. Thanks so much."
Hope this helps. Thank god I was here.
Think how memorable the day will be if you go into early labor and your water breaks as you're taking your vows! Of course, many a pregnant bride has walked down the aisle, but having a deposit on a venue doesn't seem reason enough to risk having your wedding and delivery date possibly be simultaneous. You want the weeks before you give birth to be as low-stress as possible; ideally, that means the wedding planning is long behind you. Now that you're about to become a mother, the ability to be flexible when circumstances change will be a valuable one. Please read the letter above and consider a change of plans. You can just go off and get married, or have a low-key wedding now (perhaps you can negotiate with the place where you were going to have the wedding and change the date). Then ask the bridesmaids to convert the bridal shower into a baby shower. Certainly your family and friends will be happy for you and most will want to contribute both a wedding and baby gift, but you're right to be concerned that three major gift-giving events in a row are going to tax the good wishes of even the most generous. And there's something distasteful about the way your family members consider marriage and motherhood as "packages" that others are obligated to buy into. In any case, in just a few months you will realize there are a lot more pressing issues in your life (sleep, having enough diapers) than whether you had a whirlwind of parties.
Uh… does anybody use, like, birth control anymore? Attention: The Rhythm Method, in addition to not really working, does not consist of having sex whilst listening to Dave Brubeck's "Take Five". Anyways…
No, no, no. Dang, Prude. Another golden opportunity to throw down at the expense of others, and you're swinging at pitches in the dirt with your so-called "pragmatism", "moderation", and "thoughtfulness". I'm sorry, I thought this was America.
What's our window again? 18 months? Okay. Hang on.
Next weekend: Bachelorette Party at Ryan's Steak House, virgin dackeries for the bun-in-the-oven-haver
3 months out: Wedding Shower Rehearsal, pre-gifting, trouble-shooting
4 months out: Wedding Shower, no re-gifting please, attendance mandatory
5 months out: Secret Bridesmaids Initiation Ceremony Weekend Retreat And Underwater Birthing Seminar in the Bahamas; guests responsible for airfare, lodging; name tags provided
6 months out: Baby Shower Rehearsal Dinner Friday Night, Pizza Hut, to be followed by Baby Shower Saturday afternoon, Emperor's Gate China Buffet #4, parking in rear
9 months out: Cross-Country Bachelorette Road Trip in RV from Orlando to Barstow; BYOB
12 months out (crunch time): Quick jaunt to Paris to pick out napkin ring holders for reception; father of groom to pick up tab
The Wedding (it's all in the timing, but it might be just crazy enough to work): Walk down aisle, given away by father, the vows; then baby pops out onto pillow to become ring bearer; presiding minister/official cuts umbilical cord, pronounces you husband and wife/father mother; crying (not just from phantom pain swimming upstream against the 17 Meperidine oral tablets you took before the bridal chorus started); best man produces stroller, and out you 2 crazy kids go to attack the life of marriage and family planning.
Under your fiance's [sic] care, his mentally and physically ill mother is left unattended all day to have seizures and fall into a diabetic coma, and he's worried that conditions at a nursing home won't meet his standards? Your letter makes me worry that after she dies, he will sit her in a rocking chair and place a wig on her head, RIP Alfred Hitchcock. Let's give your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt and say he's in a psychological meltdown over his mother's care, the result of which is an abusive situation for her and for you. You posit your choices as continuing with this insanity, or hinting that things need to change. But do you really want to be the night nurse for the foreseeable future? So, here's a subtle approach you can try: Tell him either his mother goes, or you do.
Wow. Cheap shot alert! "… he will sit her in a rocking chair and place a wig on her head…" I did that. And it was a real conversation-starter in the foyer until the department of health showed up with a hazmat crew and a S.W.A.T team. Good times.
Your advice is sound. I'd just add that, given her mental deterioration, the old gal probably has no idea who the fuck he is. Everybody wins! [cough]
If Curtis Jackson can become 50 Cent, you can become Awnyes. I contacted a French Agnes of my acquaintance who in high school went from ag-nis to on-YES. She too loved her name but couldn't stand the American pronunciation. This Agnes said there's really no way to get rid of the hard "g" pronunciation except doing it the hard way. That is, you'll probably have to instruct your friends at least 10 times that ag-nis is dead, long live awn-yes. And for the rest of your life, correcting mispronunciation will be a daily occurrence (which on-YES says is still worth it). Changing the spelling of your name will probably only complicate matters (can't you just hear people saying, "What's your name—Awn-E-es?") Perhaps at work you could send an e-mail to your colleagues and explain for your 40th birthday you're reclaiming your Danish heritage and invite them to celebrate the rebirth of Awnyes with a lunch time smorrebord.
Er… Yawn!-ess. I don't like any of them. And 50 Cent is a talentless idiot. Way to set the bar high. Let me step in on this one, Em.
And you call yourself a Dane?! Take a powder, Hamlet, and step away from the sword, because Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are definitely not dead. Line 'em up!
If you're gonna go, go all the way. Though I am partial to Betty, Lulu, Epiphany, Bernice, and Loquitishalia. Take your pick. Good luck.
Haven't been posting much; life gets in the way. I have started a WikiFray Wiki, which I thought might house things like a FAQ, member profiles, and maybe a Fray history. Stay tuned...
On with thoughts on the NCAA's....
Thing is, growing up I liked Duke -- Mark Alarie, Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Wojo, Chris Collins, Coach K. I don't know if it's me or Dukle that changed, but watching them lose to VCU last night, I couldn't help but think, "what a bunch of whiny bitches!" It seemed like they were expecting VCU to just roll over and let them win because they're Duke, and were shocked that they actually pressed them and stuff. I was rooting full-on for VCU by the end.
I do think it's far past time to replace Billy Packer with a new lead analyst. As I've said before, we've had John Madden, Tim McCarver, and Billy Packer in these spots for pretty much my entire sports-watching life. Haven't they said everything there is to say?
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
It may be that when folks come across the not safe for work Susie Bright (NSFW) perusing pictures of naked women, they are amused by Susie's spunk and gumption. I very much doubt that such folks would have the same feelings about me, and I'm quite sure my bosses wouldn't. I'd get fired.
You can complain about the closed-mindedness of my bosses, but I really don't think it is unreasonable, given that I have female students who would justifiably feel uncomfortable in conversation with me after I had reduced Suzy's blog and asked "What can I do for you?"
Get over it, Suzie. I'm sorry that some corporations see fit to censor you, but nothing stops folks from reading you elsewhere. Far from limiting the internet, the NSFW label allows the place to be more free-spirited. And helps me read it at work without losing my job.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
One of the things I enjoy about knowledge is that it fosters attentiveness. The words of foreign tourists are white noise unless you know their language, the patterns of sediment deposits meaningless until you walk by with a geologist. I used to play frisbee with a group of ornithologists, and if a neighborhood hawk flew over the game would halt and there would follow a discussion of its plumage, its preferred diet, its economy of movement.
I am not the first to sing the praises of the naked mole rat. Dawn Coyote pointed out that a quarter of a documentary was devoted to an expert on the species. The National Zoo has a naked mole rat cam and handy article describing their salient characteristics. The BBC has some great pictures.
These sources tell us that the naked mole rat lives underground and that it is more closely related to the porcupine than to the young-tough-Norwegian rats that lurk about the New York subways like extras from Kids. They congregate in colonies and act more like what you might expect from an ant or a bee. There is a queen with a harem of a few males, and they handle the copulating. The other members of the colony do not reproduce; and the males are sterile. They are the "workers" who dig around and look for food, helped along by two big front teeth. According to the article:
The incisors can be moved independently, spread apart, or moved together like chopsticks. …When working together to dig tunnels in the wild, naked mole rats line up nose to tail and operate like a conveyer belt. A digger mole rat at the front uses its teeth to break through the new soil. Behind the digger, sweepers use their feet and fine hairs between their toes to whisk the dirt backwards. At the back of the line a "volcanoer" kicks the dirt up onto the surface of the ground, creating a distinctive, volcano-shaped mole hill about the height of a ballpoint pen.
So one interesting thing about mole rats is their social nature, the way they work together. Apparently they roll in feces, allowing members of a colony to recognize each other by smell. The actions of the whole colony are greater than the sum of its parts, much like a beehive or an anthill.
There are good genetic reasons for this level of social cohesion. The naked mole rats are highly inbred. If I am a worker naked mole rat, it is thus likely that my brothers and sisters share the same genes as I do. My genes are thus "our" genes, and to spread them to future generations, the mole rat division of labor can make sense. Leave the actual childbearing to the experts (in a year, the queen can have four or five litters of 12 to 27 pups), and as a worker I can specialize in finding food and defending the nest. Workers have been known to attack snakes, sacrificing themselves for the good of the colony. This system will continue because the genes that create these behaviors continue to propagate.
As I understand it, any female can be queen (there is a chemical trigger for queen-like behavior). When the queen dies, the biggest females fight for the position, and to the winner belong the spoils.
To be clear, I don't find mole rats cute or human or endowed with admirable behaviors. I just find them interesting, and take a certain delight in my interest.
I'm glad that there is pleasure in knowledge, and I think that on the whole such pleasure is a social good. I say this even though I am aware that there is also pleasure in false knowledge – at the Great Wall of China I met a guy who was enjoying himself immensely because he thought it had been built by spacemen. "Just look," he said, "tangible evidence of aliens."
I'm glad there's pleasure in knowledge because it is so god-awful hard to change people's minds. When I teach about China I'm struck by the resilience of the stereotypes that students bring to class with them. Sometimes I feel that anything I say can be assimilated and categorized by any world view. And yet there is this pleasure of knowing, which brings with it a certain hope that the man at the Great Wall will sooner or later figure out that Chinese supply lines were more robust than those of Alpha Centauri, or that my students will accumulate enough tidbits that they will sooner or later come across something that does not fit into their respective Weltanschauung.
It's amazing when it happens – when the slow acquisition of facts forces painful revision of something you always thought to be true. As a teacher, I think I could do a better job of acquainting students with such pleasures.
At any rate, here is my encomium for the naked mole rat: it makes me happy.
Monday, March 12, 2007
•Former House Speaker Caught With Hand In Nookie Jar
•Contract With A Marriage Clause?
•"POWER IS ULTIMATE AFRODISIAC" ONLY WAY TO EXPLAIN GINGRICH HAVING SEX
•Congress/Senate Finally Reduced To Elaborate Suggestion Boxes
Don't look now, but word on the street is that The Newtster may or may not have "inserted his penis into a vagina" (Wink!), a vagina that may or may not have belonged to someone other than his wife at the time. And with ownership 4/5ths of the law amongst the Washington Press Corpse, I'll go out on a limb and say he's selling out. It's just that I don't think anybody's buying in.
Still, when "push comes to shove" (Wink!), aren't there more pressing matters on the horizon we'd be better off wringing our hands about, like Jenna's new book, the death of Boston's lead singer (Turns out that dizzy spell he had was "More Than A Feeling" [Wink!]), and Anna Nicole Smith's still being dead.
But one thing we can all be sure about is that Newt Gingrich is not a hypocrite.
What he had does not constitute sexual intercourse
Listen: Fumbling around on the sofa trying to work the bra strap and then prematurely ejaculating isn't exactly an affair to remember. Especially when the poor guy's all by himself. But that could just be me because I'm such a hopeless romantic.
He wasn't the president at the time
Let me ask y'all this, smartasses: Did Newt go on national television and say that he did not have sex with that woman? Did he? Looks like you'll be laughing out of the other side of your paternity pantsuit after all. Again.
He wasn't a Democrat at the time
Face it, folks: When Democratic legislators aren't having illicit sex with liberal prostitutes, they're out getting abortions from socialist doctors trying to de-privatize medicine. That's like a proctologist giving you "the finger".
You can't legislate what goes on in the bedroom any more than you can unring a bell. And I don't think being half a virgin has anything to do with trickle down economics, unless a "golden shower" is your idea of fiscal foreplay. Grow up.
Scooter Libby committed perjury
Er… Wait. That's a different post. Oops. Sorry.
It totally depends on what the definition of "is" was
What was it, by the way? Yeah, that's what I thought. Smooooth.
Monica Lewinsky is a whore
The gal Newt boned, on the other hand, was a fine, upstanding, very happily married woman who was a churchgoing mother of 3 with ties to orphanage funding and community building in an age when the closest thing we have to heroes are the guys who hit the play button on the Panasonic Rhythm Mate™ boombox so that our dead G.I.'s get "Taps" played at their funeral. (I wonder if the 21-gun salute is canned as well?)
Which goes a long way in explaining why…
Democrats hate family values
Affordable health care? Paid maternity leaves? Decent working conditions and fair wages? What the fuck does any of that have to do with "families"? Next thing you know those liberals will be deciding what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.
John McCain had a Vietcong baby out of wedlock during the 2000 presidential campaign tour in South Carolina
And then he lied about it. I mean seriously, McCain's flipflops are beginning to make John Kerry's look like Birkenstocks by comparison. I'm not sure exactly what that has to do with anything, but, well, there it is.
Coming out with the truth about your having had an extramarital affair during the same time you were impeaching a sitting president for lying about having an extramarital affair isn't hypocritical; it's ironic
Big difference, retard. Hypocracy gets, "Aha!" Irony gets, "Hmm…"
Hello? Is this thing on?
Contract With America absolves him of all guilt
Read 'em and weep, folks. And I quote:
1. THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out- of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses.
2. THE TAKING BACK OUR STREETS ACT: An anti-crime package including stronger truth-in- sentencing, "good faith" exclusionary rule exemptions, effective death penalty provisions, and cuts in social spending from this summer's "crime" bill to fund prison construction and additional law enforcement to keep people secure in their neighborhoods and kids safe in their schools.
3. THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: Discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility.
4. THE FAMILY REINFORCEMENT ACT: Child support enforcement, tax incentives for adoption, strengthening rights of parents in their children's education, stronger child pornography laws, and an elderly dependent care tax credit to reinforce the central role of families in American society.
5. THE AMERICAN DREAM RESTORATION ACT: A S500 per child tax credit, begin repeal of the marriage tax penalty, and creation of American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle class tax relief.
6. THE NATIONAL SECURITY RESTORATION ACT: No U.S. troops under U.N. command and restoration of the essential parts of our national security funding to strengthen our national defense and maintain our credibility around the world.
7. THE SENIOR CITIZENS FAIRNESS ACT: Raise the Social Security earnings limit which currently forces seniors out of the work force, repeal the 1993 tax hikes on Social Security benefits and provide tax incentives for private long-term care insurance to let Older Americans keep more of what they have earned over the years.
8. THE JOB CREATION AND WAGE ENHANCEMENT ACT: Small business incentives, capital gains cut and indexation, neutral cost recovery, risk assessment/cost-benefit analysis, strengthening the Regulatory Flexibility Act and unfunded mandate reform to create jobs and raise worker wages.
9. THE COMMON SENSE LEGAL REFORM ACT: "Loser pays" laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages and reform of product liability laws to stem the endless tide of litigation.
10. THE CITIZEN LEGISLATURE ACT: A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators.
(11. THE SEX ACT: Newt Gingrich is hereby absolved of any guilt with regard to the engagement in, lying about or exaggerating of any sex act with another person who is not his wife at the time, regardless of that other person's race, religion, creed, color, age, consent, sexual disposition, relative attractiveness, profession, party affiliation, favorite position ("Venus Butterfly"! No contest!), undergraduate major, favorite 98 Degrees member (Jeff! No contest!), eye color, favorite original TV series "Mission Impossible" character (Barney! Though Mr. Spock was pretty cool!), nickname, country of birth, especially when said act may pertain to the possible running for the office of President of the United States of America. No exceptions.)
So, to sum up: Newt Gingrich is not a hypocrite because of arriving early, white trash, "lieberals", lying, advanced semiotic philology, the "slut factor" ("town jizz jar"), demofrats, "tweeners", not funny "ha ha", and the small print.
Sorry, folks. But the sooner we all realize we have virtually no say when it comes to matters of state, the longer we'll stay in the house listening to our favorite reality stories on our TV sets. It's a sad day in this country when a guy can't even brag about getting a blowjob and then gets punished for not bragging about it. Sad, sad, sad.
It’s a first: an Apple ad I don’t like.
It’s a first: an Apple ad I don’t like (click on the security one). The recent series of Microsoft-bad Apple-good shows a young hip dude talking with an older nerdish guy about the benefits of Apple versus Microsoft, with the usual ad propaganda language we’ve all come to know and love from corporations. I judge the series as good/above average, being clean and to the point, much like the recent UPS ads (the guy on the whiteboard, couldn't quickly find a link).
But one Apple ad is getting past the pundits and I can’t believe it. Here we have the young hip Apple guy saying the Apple is better than the security-plagued Microsoft product. Oh the horror of Vista trying to protect its users from security threats! Huhn. It seems Apple assumes we will ignore the fact that the only reason Microsoft has been targeted by the criminal element is that it was far more successful than Apple’s OS back in the day, for both home and business users. Now we are tasked to believe that Apple is better because it lacks the very security threats it would have had had it been the better OS back in the 80’s and 90’s? I guffaw at the very notion that we should be so blindly led into believing the propaganda now before us. Apple would kill for the very market situation they now rail against to be reversed and we are asked to buy their product because it was less successful than they wanted 20 years ago.
I recently had the opportunity to obtain a widescreen MacBook as my everyday work computer but said no. Sexy as it looked, I did not like the potential networking headaches and would rather stick with my three year old Dell that has not missed a day of work for reason of sickness or need of a day off.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
I'm not a gym person. Oh I've tried them, even joined several times - and I always get intimidated by all the equipment, especially that obscene open-your-thighs-wide contraption that inevitably has me facing some sweaty guy on a treadmill.
I get annoyed by all the people hanging out, perspiring to be workout professionals, flexing whilst guzzling their fancy-schmancy bottled water. Makes me want to just plop down on a yoga mat and eat doritos and make fun of them. To me, there are untold number of reasons why just plain walking is so much preferable over exercising at an indoor gym.
1. Being able to look in people's windows.
I'm amazed at the number of people (usually men) who think no one can see them in their bathrooms.
2. If the windows are open, hearing other mothers yelling at their kids.
This is always kind of vaguely comforting to me. God only knows what other walkers have heard when they've walked past my house.
3. Being outside, breathing in the fresh air, the wonder of nature, the changing of the seasons, etc.
Besides giving great calves, it really is good for your soul.
4. Being able to stop and smoke a cigarette if I want to, or make a phone call out of the earshot of my kids.
I stopped smoking years ago. I wouldn't dare smoke in front of my kids, they'd crucify me. But I started smoking "socially" several years back when I was out with someone and he lit up a Gauloise and it just looked so damn appealing. Ditto if I'm out and the other person is smoking, I'll usually have one with them. Or two or three, I'm pretty easily led that way. I used to keep a pack of Dunhills in the freezer for special occasions, but there just wasn't enough of those and they went stale.
5. If I don't feel like walking anymore, I can stop at my sister's house and she'll give me a ride home.
This has happened more than a few times. She only lives about a mile away and her house is a convenient restroom stop, or a place to scarf down one of those Entemmen chocolate donuts. They're a family addiction, we all keep a supply.
But just this week, I received a 3 day pass to an upscale and rather luxurious new gym that opened up close to where I live. They have a heated pool, which is the main reason I'm thinking of trying one out again. Swimming is envigorating, it tones the muscles and being underwater is so very soothing, you can shut everything else out. Even if swimming is all I use it for, it'll be worth the membership cost.
I'll be sure to let you all know how it goes. Glug.
To see a World in a grain of sand,
And Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.
William Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"
I am reading the book, Invisible Acts Of Power, Channeling Grace in Your Everyday Life by Caroline Myss. I am not very far into the reading but I can already see the benefit
of questioning grace in my life, am I a generator or a reciever of grace? Hopefully I am both. I've always been turned off by the term grace because christianist are so fond of bandying that word around but as Caroline Myss [pronounced mace] explains, grace is a noun and a verb; it is a state and an action, an energy that flows between two beings. Grace is gratis, a gift and imo, you certainly do not have to be religious to give or receive it.
Whether you are an Atheist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindi, Democrat, Republican or Frayster grace plays an important roll in your life. We should ask ourselves, am I the kind of person who passively stands by when an opportunity arises to do something for someone, not wishing to get involved or do I prefer to help even if it is something as simple as a smile and saying good day to an eldely/lonely/sad person? You may never remember having done such a small thing but the receiver will remember it forever.
There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.
In her book, Caroline Myss tells us what grace is and how to get it. I believe we all benefit by grace and should do whatever we can to cultivate it.
Doesn’t everybody diet in the Spring?
I disagree with the sugared cardboard sentiment, BTW. The Krispy Kreme plain glazed, fresh off that incredible, Rube Goldbergesque doughnut making machine, is a work of (evil) art. They melt in your mouth (and slowly congeal around your midsection). Plus, they're light - you can eat a bunch of them.
Pure poison. A public health menace. I'm glad to see that a number of the retail stores hereabouts have closed.
I lost a lot of weight awhile back, but I’ve some of it back on (you know, stress, domestic laziness, tobacco-abstinent), so I’m back on the diet bandwagon in anticipation of summer.
I lost all my weight before by refusing to diet (though I didn't have much time to exercise, either). I decided diets are all about satiety, so I took all of the simple carbs away (incl. White flour, though I’ll continue to eat whole wheat flour), and most of the fats. I decided my body needed to reacquaint itself with glycogen production and utilization, and sugars were the absolute worst thing I could eat.
Splenda had just come out, and I developed a set of recipes that proved to be tremendously helpful. This was my most successful – I ate about a thousand of these (gotta’ have something to grab on the go, or when I’m craving carbs/have the munchies, etc.).
Killer diet bran muffins
Break up two bananas and microwave for two minutes. Mash with fork.
Add: 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 ¼ cups milk
three beaten eggs (egg substitute works fine)
Two cups all bran cereal
½ cup TVP (of the “Bob’s Red Mill” variety)
Raisins to suit
Let soak for a couple of minutes
Add 1 ¼ cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup (or more, if you like them sweeter) Splenda
1 Tablespoon baking powder
Cinnamon to cover the top of the bowl
Use cooking spray (preferably the “baking” variety with the added flour) and fill a dozen muffin cups (a little overfull is fine). Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes.
Particularly tasty with some of that liquid butter-substitute, hot out of the oven.
These muffins need to be refrigerated (sugar acts a little like a preservative, apparently, because these will mold in a couple days if left out).
Can substitute dried cranberries or diced apple (or both) for raisins.
I’ll figure out the protein / carbs later, but trust me when I say: they’ll do the trick when you’re jonesing for carbs (particularly if you make them a little on the sweet side), and when you’ve eaten one you feel like you’ve eaten something.
I love TVP: instant protein (satiety, remember?) and you can slip it into a lot of things. I’d add equal amounts TVP and water to oatmeal while I was cooking it (hardly notice it, especially if you’re adding Splenda, Raisins and Cinnamon) – about ¼ cup (each) per serving.
Another (I made again last night) is…
Fat-Free Clam Dip
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
1 cup fat free sour cream (gotta’ be the brand in the cow-print container).
2 cans minced clams, mostly (but not completely) drained.
Worcester sauce and Season Salt to taste (maybe a little regular salt, if the season salt is getting to be too much).
Sometimes for variety, I’d add a couple tablespoons of my favorite (sweet) chili sauce (Homade, which despite the evocatively inappropriate-seeming name, is available most everywhere).
Fantastic on cut vegetables.
I'm still busy/distracted, but I'll try to post a couple pancake recipes later.