Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nothing to blog here. Keep moving.

This N That
Just got back from Portland-ish (Forest Grove, actually, at Pacific University), taping a show with Philosophy Talk. In Oregon, by the way, Ken Taylor and John Perry are worshiped as GODS (, for those interested).

After the show, a few local ales went down. At our table was a philosophy professor, originally from Romania. The conversation turned, for some reason, to left-handedness. She volunteered the information that when she was a child, she would often practice writing with her left hand – if she should ever become captured by an enemy, and her right hand was cut off, she would still be able to communicate.

Intrigued, we pursued her on this. It turns out, she said, that when she was a child, there were no western movies, and certainly no Romanian movies. Instead, her pop culture experience consisted of Word War II propaganda films, in which Nazis do horrible things to people.

As a result, she spent a lot of time as a child terrified of Nazis, and preparing for how she would endure their torments, should she ever be captured. In addition to her left-hand writing exercises, she would also practice staring directly into strong lights without blinking. She teaches ethics.

Just Walk Away
President Obama doesn’t want us to think about torture any more. Will do! I mean, will NOT do! I mean….

Tea Bags
What was THAT all about? People unaffected by new taxations are ticked that rich people will have to pay a little less that what they paid during the Reagan administration?

Glenn Beck Mystery
Why is he always bursting into tears?

John Batchelor, Republican, on the state of the Republican Party, from The Daily Beast
“Vigilant Democrats worry today that the Republican Party is only playing possum, or that it can be revived by extraordinary means such as a Martian invasion. In fact, the GOP is a mummy-wrapped skeleton sitting in its own chilly mausoleum of bilious resentments and creepy sentimentality. What remains to call themselves Republicans are baldly badly educated or just prankish Confederate re-enactors—chubby men in gray and butternut suits with gold buttons and feather-tipped hats, clanking down stairs with shiny sabers. A handful of them are just boors from the South who look poorly on horseback and wave unread Bibles while calling for Billy Sunday to rise like the gold market.”

“The Republican Party’s death doesn’t really threaten anyone, and I puzzle why Democrats and independents who vote Democratic spend words and worry debating the look of the corpse. We few Republicans with long memories wander around the cemetery admiring the tombstones and enjoying the rain. I can hear you doubting that this could truly be the end. The final stage of grief is acceptance.”

Wow! Google really IS evil! Who knew?
Henry Porter, in The Observer:
“Despite the aura of heroic young enterprise that still miraculously attaches to the web, what we are seeing is a much older and toxic capitalist model - the classic monopoly that destroys industries and individual enterprise in its bid for ever greater profits. Despite its diversification, Google is in the final analysis a parasite that creates nothing, merely offering little aggregation, lists and the ordering of information generated by people who have invested their capital, skill and time. On the back of the labour of others it makes vast advertising revenues - in the final quarter of last year its revenues were $5.7bn, and it currently sits on a cash pile of $8.6bn. Its monopolistic tendencies took an extra twist this weekend with rumours that it may buy the micro-blogging site Twitter and its plans - contested by academics - to scan a vast library of books that are out of print but still in copyright.”

“Of course the company founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1998 - now reckoned to be the world's most powerful brand - does not offer any substitute for the originators of content nor does it allow this to touch its corporate conscience. That is probably because one detects in Google something that is delinquent and sociopathic, perhaps the character of a nightmarish 11-year-old.”

When I was 11…
My friends and I would devise elaborate methods of torture for ourselves, and then debate what would make us “talk” or not. Curiously enough, the torturers of our imaginings were either Nazis or Japanese, because pop culture of the fifties was still permeated with the propaganda tropes of World War II.

In our little imaginations, nothing an enemy could do would ever make us reveal anything. But then again, we were kids. Even as adults, I have a hunch we have no idea what we would do. I suspect that we would fold pretty much immediately, and tell our captors everything they want to know. On the other hand, and this is perhaps our saving grace, we no longer know anything, and therefore have nothing to reveal.

New York Times
Schools around the nation are trying to teach their students empathy; this is Seattle: “Within the charter network KIPP, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program, some schools are focusing more on empathy, with lessons about the Holocaust, role-playing and a ‘values jingle’ sung to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells.’”

So the choice has finally come down to this: a nation of sociopaths, or a nation of cheerful yet humorless boosters?

Viral Video
This is a prose poem I found, by Kimberly King Parsons. It appealed to me….

1. The dog should be a little terrifying. The baby will be touching the dog, a wolfhound, a mastiff. Something foamy. The baby should be malformed in some way that is not unsettling. The head kind of dented, eyes a bit bulgy. The creepy baby touches the big dog. The baby regards the dog's sizeable paw; the dog regards the baby's liverish hand. Cue baby's smile. All of this takes place somewhere gentle. A carpet, a rug. A picnic blanket would be a nice touch.

2. This man is obese but that is not the joke. He is singing a song everyone knows, a song originally sung by a woman. The man is wearing a black leotard. He is dancing, really giving it his all. The tripod shakes. The camera topples over. We get a good look at the man's baseboards, a potted plant that's dying.

3. The worst thing about the boy is that someone taught him to play the pan flute. The pan flute in Argentina. The pan flute in the Republic of Lithuania. There he is, in different clothes on different days, playing that same song in country after country. The natives can't get enough. They flee their stoops, fight their way into the shot. They are clapping along, encouraging him. This is more than I can stand.

Presidential Puppy
This is from the Huffington Post, describing a photograph of Obama running down a hallway in the White House with Bo:

“There are all kinds of interesting elements here. Bo running free, though leashed. Obama and the dog clearly relating to one another, Obama looking back -- already creating a bond with the puppy. And especially, the new President at full sprint -- completely off the ground. ...

“One thing the photo does -- playing off an almost timeless domestic activity: running with your dog -- is to capture Obama thoroughly free of his often more self-contained manner. …”

And so on… I'm amazed that writers can find the time any more to do this sort of mindless parsing of the obvious.

The article also referenced the famous photograph of Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy (on the cover of LIFE Magazine) running on a beach with his dog. That dog was called Freckles. That photograph, to my knowledge, has never been parsed, though it is still ubiquitous.


Blogger Blaize said...

"So the choice has finally come down to this: a nation of sociopaths, or a nation of cheerful yet humorless boosters?"

Which is to say that Sinclair Lewis has been reading our mail.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Merle Kessler said...

Funny thing about Sinclair Lewis. Sauk Centre, which is the inspiration for his MAIN STREET, now celebrates him annually with a street fair. If you've read the book, you will appreciate the irony of that.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The rant about Google is an interesting one, but a bit misguided, I think. When all is said and done, Google's core business can be thought of as a directory service for the Internet. Not a perfect one, but the best we have right now.

Now, in the past businesses normally had to pay to get into directories; those ads in the Yellow Pages cost a fair bit of coin, for example. I don't see Google as making money off other people's IP, but rather as providing them a free service.

If the Observer feels otherwise, of course, they're free to block Google's spidering of their site. It's not difficult. But I'm guessing they won't.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for liking Viral Video. I'm reading it or something very much like it at KGB on May 27th in New York City. I know you don't live here but what if you did?

5:05 PM  

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