I am rereading The myth of Sisyphus, Camus’ meditation on suicide (this time in English: I fear my French is not up to it these days), and I will be writing a few posts on things that occur to me while reading it. This won’t constitute a review or a response even to Camus. I do not know enough philosophy to pretend to be able to do either. It will simply be a few wanderings of my own. I am beginning here, with the following quote, which struck me as getting to the heart of the aridness of science. Whether science’s being arid is something to concern us is a question that arises if we take the view that it is the only way to look at the world. The recent birthday of Richard Dawkins gave me cause to reflect on that: he certainly does take that view, and I wonder whether he is satisfied to be in that way limited, or whether he truly feels that the understanding of the world that science brings and the world itself are close to the same (I feel sure that he would not say they were the same, because, like me and every other person who was ever taught physics, he would have been told in lesson one that physics – and by extension science – is a model, an approximation, as Wittgenstein so brilliantly noted, a mesh that we view the world through). I have read some Dawkins but not enough to be sure that he concludes that science maps the world completely and that there is nothing it cannot describe. He is the hardest-core rationalist I know though, so I assume that he does. Yet you cannot help wonder whether he has a little tweaking of the soul (yes, I know, he does not have one but he is not so darkhearted as to deny us a metaphor, so long as we are not naughty enough to mistake it for a real entity).
I realise that if through science I can seize phenomena and enumerate them, I cannot, for all that, apprehend the world.
Camus is an interesting thinker, in particular because he will wander, stroll almost through a field of thoughts (one would not say “follow a train of thought” because although he is following a clear enough line from A to B, he likes to cover every fraction between them; after all, he is a Frenchman, and thinks in that continental way, the honest method that they have that does not boil the world down into fighting over words, like the analytical Anglo-Americans, but crams everything into their thesis: messy, seething with contradiction and difficulty, but comprehensive), and then bang! He drops a piercing insight, an atom bomb of thought, which pries open your mind and allows you to glimpse an idea that is startlingly clear. Here is one, expressed beautifully: science can describe but does not explain.
This insight strikes a chord in anyone who has been tempted to ask why or what does it mean about something science says. Science can answer that these are meaningless questions – and its terms they are. But they are not meaningless to us. I can understand that an atom is a nucleus composed of neutrons and protons, in turn composed of quarks, surrounded by electrons, the nucleus bound by the strong force, the electrons by the electroweak force, but I do not understand atoms. I do not comprehend them at all. I don’t know what they are, how or why, and neither does anyone. All we have achieved, in investigating the world, is to reduce it ever further, so that we understand how it is made in greater detail. But who, on learning the pyramid of parts that build the world: compounds of elements of atoms of particles of quarks of strings of whatever strings are has felt that that explained it all. As humans, we do not feel that describing is explaining. We take situations and happenings from our lives, and we can describe them to the smallest detail, but we still ask: why? Even if there is no why, we feel that there is something ineffable lingering in the spaces between the things we describe.
Camus is clearer than I think I can be in explaining why there is something ineffable in those spaces. But I’ll try. Things are. They are what they are, but we cannot come to terms with what they are. I think of it like this: think about a rabbit. Think what you know about rabbits. They are rodents of this species in this genus in this family. They eat this and this; they live like this and this. By doing this, I describe a rabbit. But describing it does not allow me to know what it is. It is impossible (I urge the reader to look at Camus’ reasoning on why we cannot know; but my understanding of him – and I share his view, if I have him right – is that we cannot know because we cannot represent to ourselves what a rabbit is). We feel sure that there is more to a rabbit than that: some sort of rabbitness. Science cannot talk about rabbitness. It cannot speak to what it is to be a rabbit. I think this is the key to existentialism. You cannot know rabbitness. You can only know – or experience, I should say – how a rabbit intersects with the world.
If you know Camus, you know where that is going. In the same way, you cannot know yourself. You can only know how you intersect with the world. As an aside, I feel that Camus is suggesting that the Absurd is the realisation that we cannot make rabbitness have a place in the world: that the world utterly refutes there being rabbitness. We can then only exist by moving on from there to thinking about how a rabbit’s intersecting with the world can transcend the Absurd. (Not a sentence I think you write twice in a lifetime! But the point is clearer, I think, than I’ve made it: it boils down to saying that you cannot make what you are make sense – it doesn’t have any meaning – but you can make how you are make sense. This is what the book is about, so far as I remember: the notion that you are Sisyphus at the bottom of the hill does not have meaning – you just are – but that is not the end of the story but the beginning; now you must decide whether how you push your stone has meaning.
But Camus is also clear that rabbitness is not a thing that is; it is not something in the spaces between what we describe; it is something in the spaces between how we describe it. How we describe things is entirely interior to us. The stone that you have to push is not a thing that is, merely something that exists.
Here is the central dichotomy of existentialism: on the one hand, what is, that we cannot comprehend; on the other, what exists, which we control entirely, but cannot impose on what is. The translator’s choice of “apprehend” is inspired. Understood as “taking hold of and taking into oneself”, it is exactly right that one cannot apprehend the world.
Introducing the stoned Dr Zzzzzzzzz... what? What bees? No! Not the bees, mother
So the other night I was writing the first of what I plan to be several reflections on Camus' The myth of Sisyphus. (Yes, I am trying to up the value of my content by posting my clueless wittering about philosophy.) I was going great guns, philosophising and smoking a joint, chatting with Mrs Z...
Whoops! Here's the problem with potsmoking. You feel all enlightened and clued in, and can sometimes have some cool insights. But you are incapable of coherence. Which is okay if everyone around you is as mashed as you are. But useless if you are trying to explain yourself to someone who is straight.
So I'm going to post my musings for your amusement. I suggest you get blasted on the mong medicine before reading. Then you will think I am a genius. If you don't, you will probably be consumed with pity, as my carefully considered train of thought disappears into the weeds, returning as the exact opposite of the view I began with. At which point, I came to what was left of my senses and gave up. I'll put the post up in a minute or two.
You need a man of integrity, a decent man, who sees the big picture and gives a shit. We need it too. We need the antiBush.
I know some of you made a mistake in 2004 and voted for the people who are fucking your country up the arse big time. They are liars, cheats and, worse, idiots. You don't have to make a mistake again.
Eight years ago, Gore was a stiffnecked, uncharismatic, earnest man, and he still won. Now he's a rock star. I think he can rekindle your dream. Of course there are question marks -- what man gets to the top in politics without them -- but he has vision. And they'll never rig it. He'd win easily this time.
I am not an American. I don't get to choose. But who is chosen matters to me. It affects our world, particularly those parts of it, like Australia, that slavishly follow America's lead. I would rather we were following Al Gore than John McCain, and rather Gore than Hillary Clinton, a horrible rightist panderer. We need the antiBush. You owe us. You owe him.
I'll bow to no one in my admiration of Victor Davis Hanson. Anyone else as irredeemably fuckwitted as him would have learned to STFU a long time ago, but Vic just ploughs on with Teh Stoopid, over and over.
In his lauding of 300, Victor makes a couple of minor errors, which are worth noting.
Thermopylae really was an unambiguous and heroic last stand to preserve freedom against tyranny
Erm, no. Although the final action of the battle of Thermopylae was a a "last stand", it's more accurate to describe the battle itself as what you might call a forlorn hope, a "forward stand" even. The purpose was to buy time for the rest of the Greeks to organise. Nor was it a defence of freedom from tyranny. That's bullshit. The Spartans are a byword for cruel tyranny themselves. They were a warrior aristocracy, ruled by an autocrat, that had imposed itself on the local population and ruled it with a fist of steel. All citizens were compelled to serve in the army, if they survived their brutal childhood.
Alexander's invasion of Asia was morally ambiguous even to the Greeks
Well, possibly, although they didn't fall over themselves to say so. They didn't really have a problem with the morality of attacking nonGreeks.
who died in droves as mercenaries in service to the Persians to stop him
The key word here is "mercenaries". One might suggest that the Greeks who fought on the Persian side were doing so not out of moral outrage, but because they were being paid.
One notes also that Alexander fought a similar Persian ruler to the one who faced the Spartans at Thermopylae. This one was not a tyrant? How's that?
In this regard, note the success of the British - produced "Rome" which, while taking detours from history, and adding a few too many Anglicisms in the dialogue, was nevertheless a brilliant take on both the Roman ruling class and the nature of ancient life in general, so much so that most believed rightly that the modern movie and the ancient reality were nearly one and the same.
So it took liberties with the historical truth, and was not in any way authentic, but you would be right to think that it was the "ancient reality". Yeah right, and Braveheart made you feel like you really were in middle-age Scotland.
The 300 and those beside them were better than the alternative, had the moral high ground, and were willing to match deed with word.
This is close to demented. The 300 were "better than the alternative"? Tell it to the helots, man.
Interestingly, the 300 were betrayed by their own side, a Greek who didn't care for them. Most peasants couldn't care less who ruled the place. Persian rule was nothing like as onerous as Spartan, as it happens. The Persians were reasonably enlightened, informed by their Zoroastrian faith. The Greco-Persian war had complicated origins, which are hard for us to discern with certainty, because our only real source is Herodotus, who was a horrible bullshitter.
Worst of all:
Luck. A movie comes out with a stereotypical view of the Persians as aggressive, imperious, arrogant, and autocratic; it is criticized for such simplicity; but then an aggressive, imperious, arrogant, and autocratic Iranian ruling caste 2500 years later at almost the moment of its release continues to defy the world over nukes and is reduced to sordid piracy and hostage-taking.
Let's take a look. First of all, the film portrays the Persians as dark, gay and nasty. As today, Persians then were no darker than Greeks; considerably less gay (we don't call buggery "Greek sex" for nothing and classical Greeks saw nothing wrong with fucking boys: their motto was boys for pleasure, women for kids); and about even in nastiness.
But Davis Hanson is quite right that liberals take issue with the idea that Persians are aggressive, imperious, arrogant, and autocratic. Why? Aggressive? Who invaded Iraq recently? Imperious? Who has military bases in about 80 countries around the globe? Who has tried to spread its political philosophy, its religion, its economics around the world? Arrogant? What? The Yanks? No! Don't say it! No one would ever say that about them. Autocratic? Well, no one can accuse Dubya of wanting to assume ever more power, can they?
Davis Hanson is just another rightist tool (in all senses of the world). Another blowhard sneakily building a myth about Iran so that his puppeteers can start a war on it, allowing US companies to profit from its resour^H^H^bringing democracy and freedom and utter fucking chaos in which hundreds of thous^H^H^Hsorry, what exactly are we going to be bringing? I've lost me talking points.
And Blair's advisers have to advise him not to keep lying about it. The study is sound. Not that that stopped them. Triesman lied again about it days after they were advised to stop rubbishing the study. The government is reduced to saying that although the study is sound, its figures are so much higher than "other sources" (the Iraqi government, in other words, which has a clear reason for lying and has not done anything like as rigorous a study). So here we are. We are saying that the Lancet study is wrong because others have lied through their teeth and the Lancet didn't. Erm.
We had no right to attack Iraq. It was a disgusting war crime. I deplore the men involved. In a just world, they would be in prison, begging their God for forgiveness. They did not have my support and they do not now. I want our troops out. Now. I want us to stop adding to the enormous death toll that is our responsibility. It makes you feel sick to the stomach to see it. 650,000 lives. One in 40. Add that to the half a million we killed with sanctions and it is clear that we cannot have left a single family in Iraq without a loss.
Those who supported it, this is what you supported. When you mocked those of us who said it would be a disaster, this is what you mocked. If you have a God, you should be asking forgiveness too. You allowed this. You asked for it. 650,000 lives are on your conscience too.
What irony if the Saudis show the leadership on Palestine that the Americans have flatly refused to! One cannot believe that the Israelis, who have never seemed in the least bit interested in a just peace, will agree to it. The suggestion that the Saudis should appeal to the people is brilliant in my view. Let's see who the villains are. The Israelis have said all along that all they want is peaceful coexistence with their neighbours. Well, here it is. On a plate.
Why is this important? Because no Palestinian leader can sell out his people. But the Arab world as a whole can sell out the Pals (it won't be the first time after all). And I think they will be willing to accept a state with the '67 borders, reparations instead of the right to return, a capital in East Jerusalem and our help to make them a viable state, which will be able to hunt down and punish anyone who perpetrates further violence against Israel: something that will no longer be justifiable as "resistance" (not that bombing buses full of civilians ever was justifiable).
Ehud Olmert has an opportunity to take a big step, to put his name in the history books. He strikes me as a small man, an underpowered man, not charismatic, not bold, not a thinker. But here it is. He can be the man who ended one of the gravest crises of our times, the man who brought peace to Israel. Have the balls for it, Ehud?
Desperate to be allowed out of solitary confinement, broken after long torture, David Hicks pleads guilty to "whatever you've got".
Hicks fought in a war against the United States. He would, given the chance, have killed its troops. I do not say that he should not face trial and possibly punishment for that. I do say that he has not been afforded a fair trial, and he has already been sufficiently punished for his two hours at the front, during which time he did not fire on the US troops, who were, one might remind oneself, engaged in aggressive action against another nation.
If our government had balls, or any notion whatsoever of justice, or any approach to the "war on terror" other than mindless moral panic, it would immediately free Hicks the minute he touched down in Australia. Sadly, we are governed by a small man with a complex, and that won't be happening.
Let me tell you about my sister S. She is a wonderful person (both my sisters are wonderful women but I will write about J another time). She is kind, honest and straightforward. She is personable without being gushing and nice without being ingratiating. She is an upstanding person, proud of herself but not arrogant. I am proud of her too. She has made a fine career as a teacher, a vocation she has had since she was 13 or 14. She has worked for years in a deprived area of London, in a school at the bottom of its league table, and has dragged the girls at her school a grade higher than they were really capable of. She inspires success in her classes.
We have always been friends. We've had our moments (I am a moment-having kind of person) but we have a deep well of love to see us through rough patches. An abiding, enduring love, which will be a source of comfort to me throughout my life, not a shallow love that needs to be paid for over and over, and is lost when you do not have coin to pay.
I have met few better people than my sisters. I say that honestly, not just because they are related to me. I say it because they are people you would want in your corner. S is not always selfless or reliable, but she is loyal and decent. She would not sell you out, lie to you, steal from you or hurt you if she knew how to avoid it.
She will be a fantastic mother. That is why I am writing about her. My beautiful sister is going to have a child. My heart is overflowing and I don't know what else to say about it. I can think about there being a little reflection of me (the first niece or nephew who shares my blood), about how much I want to be able to share the child with S (and how it hurts that I will have to live here and only know him or her through photos and telephone calls), about the million dramas, tragedies and stories that a new life contains, but another time. Right now I am just all tears of joy.
Teens to get "free" mobiles, paid for by ads. Nothing that encourages teenagers to have mobile phones is a good thing. They are already morons and more texting is not going to improve that. Those who think that mobiles are a good idea for safety reasons etc are kidding themselves. Mrs Zen claims to need a mobile phone in case the car breaks down and she is alone. Yeah, okay, that's good, but leaving it on the dining-room table when you go out defeats the purpose. Indeed, I know she's bullshitting because, were she not, it would just permanently sit in the glove compartment of the car.
BP is under pressure to link executive pay to safety. This is a good idea. Read how much Lord Browne gets though. Because drilling up oil is just so taxing for the strategist. His severance pay is fantastic. You explain if you can why someone who is leaving a firm should be paid anything though. A merry "fuck off then" should surely be enough.
Paisley and Adams meet. A cynical and depraved carve-up or a wonderful coming together of NI's opposites? Well, they are politicians, what do you think?
Foreign office minister David Triesman told Sky News yesterday: "We don't know where [they are], and I wish we did. We are asking to know whether they are being moved around inside Iran. We have been insisting that they should be released immediately; there is no reason to hold them."
One hopes that the sailors do not end up paying a price for neocon (and nutter Persian) blundering in the region, and that they are returned unharmed.
An interview with Tom Hurndall's mum. This is a very sad story, a young life tragically wasted by the IDF, who then proceeded to cover it up. Not all hatred of Israel is motivated by antisemitism; some is powered by its army's being run by shitheads.
West tries to unite Zimbabwe rebels. The West probably needs to have a clearer understanding of how it is seen in Zimbabwe. It's not only Mugabe who is anti-West and resents Western, particularly British, meddling. With some reason, it has to be said. I am not convinced that changing thugs will improve matters much but symbolically, it would perhaps inspire hope. However, it has to be a concern that infighting in Zanu-PF will spill into factional warfare, leading to a broader civil war in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is in many ways a disaster waiting to strike (a worse disaster than that it is already suffering). I'm not sure that the West does have a useful role in Zimbabwe, except as a counterweight to China.
CCTVs hold key to Woolmer murder. It's sad that Woolmer, a fine coach, should have become the fodder of such marvellous drama, but that's the kind of thing that happens in an absurd world. I don't think it really matters who topped him; the speculation is where the fun is. The villain (or villains) being caught will be an anticlimax.
This guy needs to get over himself though. It's not a "stereotype" that Pakistan goes off when it loses a big cricket match. It's just what happens. The comment by "anthropic" sums it up: the coach of a team is found murdered after that team has just lost a match to absolute nobodies (and more interestingly, had already lost to the weak Windies team) and there's some speculation about match fixing or factionalism in the team. Well, dur. Anyway, the factions in Pakistan's cricket team are not figments of the racist West's imagination, but something the players talk about and acknowledge. And pretending match fixing does not happen won't make it go away.
Meanwhile, the entirely nonvolatile Indians have turned on their "selfish" team. "Why are India rubbish at cricket?" is a question akin to "Why are England rubbish at football?" except you can't blame Steve McLaren for the cricket. The answers are probably the same. In both places, modestly talented players are overhyped but don't perform. Each side lacks crucial elements of success (England's woes in football are not just tactical but include not having a leftsided midfielder or a creative centrocampista, while India does not have and has not had for some time a decent quick).
Straw acts to head off Miliband challenge. Yawn. Is that the time already? All right, look. Miliband is another toff in social democrat clothing, a horrid Blairite who will continue to serve up the same authoritarian gruel. A knownothing blowhard who does not even have the advantage that Blair had of being a personable and fluent speaker. Brown is a technocrat, who has manipulated the British economy well but has left it somewhat a hostage to fortune by allowing it to be funded mostly by personal debt. Still, given the savage destruction it was handed by Thatcher, who destroyed any prospect of the UK's actually producing anything except bankers, what else could he do? Labour has to opt for Brown. Once out from under the dead weight of Blair, he'll kick Cameron's arse and win the next election.
The Bunter takes a crack at domestic slavery. As usual with the Bunter, it's well meaning but misguided. The UK should not allow the import of domestics period. If the rich cunts don't like it, show them the door. They don't pay taxes in the UK anyway. Why the fuck are we pandering to a bunch of horrid Ruskies and Arabs? Only because Labour has a serious case of HNWI worship. Which is odd. Because we're supposed to be teh fucking socialists, dudes!
Something about an Edith Piaf biopic, which I didn't read. Cinema articles are a turnoff for me. I like to watch films but I hate reading about filmmakers and filmmaking. The former are studies in tedium and the latter is bullshitted about more than anything this side of sex.
Something about some guy called Connor Oberst, which I also didn't read. What goes for filmmakers and filmmaking goes double for musicians and music. Love the headline though. We all hope not to be tools, Connor, but it's not always something you can help.
Finally, and I can be confident that there is not a soul who has got this far bar me, Scotland have beaten Georgia at football. Was it uncharitable of me to have as my first thought, Georgia scored, how rank are Scotland then? Apparently, Georgia were a good match for Scotland but the Jocks prevailed. Good on them. Scotland are, always have been (Ally's Tartan Army notwithstanding) and always will be shit at football, but it's funny as all get-out to watch the silly sods get their hopes up and have them cruelly dashed. One waits breathlessly to see how they fuck it up this time. And yes, I know, many feel the same way about England, but how dare you mock our pain? Anyway, our fate is already known. Out of the quarters on pens innit.
I must confess to sometimes wishing that I was an American. I could become a participant in the rich national debate there, which is far superior to that here, which is close to nonexistent, given the conservatism of all concerned. I would also have a proper reason to watch Colbert, who is occasionally brilliant (something that cannot be said of any "satirist" here, and of few in the UK). I saw this on the Comedy Channel the other night, and it is even funnier on second look.
As a scientist, I find the current strategy of the global warming crusade to be fascinating. Particularly because I am a scientist, I also find it insulting. Everyone should find it very disturbing.
I'm not sure what kind of scientist Tim is. I found a couple of people by that name online. One seems to be a chemist, the other a religious type. It doesn't matter though. Tim's ready to be insulted on behalf of all of science. Let's see why.
I am referring to the fact that the global warming issue is now regarded as a "moral" matter by its advocates.
Hang on though. Let's put ourselves in the shoes of the "global warming advocates". (One notes that very few people actually do advocate global warming and Tim means those who believe it's really happening.) If you believe that the planet is warming because of human actions, and that that warming will be disastrous for some of the people of this world and some of its other life, is it not moral for you to want to do something about it and have others do something? Would it not be immoral to do nothing? Or at least arguably so?
Of course, there is some obvious humor in this because the liberals will also tell you that you "cannot legislate morality". Well, it does not take complicated logic to conclude that if global warming is indeed a moral matter and if it is true that you cannot legislate morality, then it should hold that you cannot legislate global warming.
Well, whatever kind of scientist Tim is, let's hope that it doesn't require any logical analysis. It should be obvious that global warming might have as one attribute that it is a moral issue, without that being all it is. Those who believe that something should be done about global warming can believe at the same time that it would be moral to do something and that it is expedient to do something quite aside from the morality of it.
But fuck it, wingnuts don't use the same logic as the rest of us, after all.
Tim proceeds to a discussion of "morality".
Morality should not be used to simply deny the facts
Which is an interesting thing for a global warming denier to say. Anyway, his point is that morality should not shape facts, but should take them and run with them. I couldn't agree more.
Here's the thing, Tim. The facts are that the world is warming, and that warming is caused by human beings. If we don't stop doing it, everyone in Bangladesh is going to need a submersible. Now let's talk morality.
For many years, global warming seemed to be a fact-focused debate. But a persistent problem for the advocates has been dissenting scientific opinion. Some very reputable scientists hold that global warming may be attributed to natural phenomena like the intensity of solar radiation.
For values of "reputable" that equal "discredited", "ill informed", "insane", "paid by Exxon".
Rightists have a real problem with consensus. Mostly because it doesn't agree with them. The consensus view on global warming is very widely held. It really is only a lunatic fringe (and the disgusting creeps who are paid to disbelieve it by Exxon) who don't believe it's happening. It's similar in this way to evolution. Some scientists do not believe in evolution (which is not far off not believing in China, or not believing you have teeth) but they are marginalised. Not because we're all ignoring the facts, but because they are.
It is one thing to write these dissenting opinions off as factually false
Which they are.
but this is apparently no longer regarded as adequate by the global warming advocates.
Maybe because those "advocates" are sick of hearing the nutters with their unsubstantiated hypotheses, and sick of having to knock them down over and over again.
The dissent keeps popping up,
Yes, but never any more credibly. The right suffers from the illusion that repeating something enough times will make it more correct. Sadly, no. They are just as full of shit the hundredth time as they were the first.
it backed by some very reputable people wielding very credible facts,
One notes only that the notion that facts should be "credible" is mindboggling. Facts are facts. They don't become any more factual just because they are more believable!
But of course Tim has inadvertently hit the core of the faith-based right's problem with facts. Science begins with facts and builds them into structures that explain the world. The faith based start with the structures and then sift the facts, deciding to keep only those that are "credible" (in other words, those that fit the structures they began with). Does science occasionally do this too? Yes, of course. We all do. But we don't generaly consider it a virtue.
and the availability of alternate information outlets has made it impossible to smother the doubters and dissenters.
So here is Tim's thesis in a nutshell: if you're wrong, and are shown to be wrong, that doesn't matter, so long as you keep saying it and have enough places to say it in. Dude, that's the rightist theory of information right there.
Now enter the moral angle. If global warming is now a moral matter, it would seem to suggest an associated implication that these inconvenient viewpoints are immoral. Apparently it is now the duty of "good" people to reject these opinions on this "moral" basis and without regard to whether they are factually true or false.
And here's the problem with Tim's analysis: what is immoral is lying. Denying a thing in the face of a mountain of evidence is not having an "inconvenient viewpoint". It's lying, plain and simple. If one thinks it's moral to do something because there is a problem, one likely feels it is immoral to do nothing.
Tim is making a misstep because he has disallowed the first step in the process those who believe there is global warming have gone through in considering the contrarians: asked what the facts are. That's it. We look at the facts, and then we look at what the guy from Exxon says, and we see a mismatch. Then we consider the morality of their stating a plain lie.
The most bizarre aspect of this strategy is that it is exactly what the liberals have always (unfairly) accused us conservatives of doing.
Or would be if you conservatives were ever in possession of, or even barely acquainted with, the facts.
In all honesty, this should scare the heck out of everyone. This is an atmosphere in which scientific inquiry is steered not by factual truth, but by a pre-ordained "moral" position.
Poor Tim. He has allowed himself to get it almost entirely arse-backwards. Scientific inquiry -- in the form of the huge, worldwide, coordinated effort led by the IPCC -- almost entirely supports the global warming "advocates"' view. A preordained position leads a few nutjobs -- of which Timmy is one -- to deny the facts and insist on hypotheses that are not borne out by observation, but remain entirely based on faith.
Worse, and here is where the immorality comes into it, he describes those who want to stop the world from frying as "advocates" for global warming, when in truth it is his crowd who advocate for it. They'd have us do nothing but sit back and watch half the world drown. Base as that is, it's not as bad as the truly immoral thing they do: not just sit back and do nothing but actively encourage us to continue to fuck the world up. Yeah, it's a moral issue, and as with so many moral issues, the wingnuts, bastions of "morality" that they are, are on the side of the immoral. Quelle fucking surprise!
A difficult moral lesson, which I struggle to teach Zenella, is the necessity of taking responsibility. It is the beginning of morality and having a personal ethics. One has to be able to say "I did wrong" to be able either to stop doing the wrong or to make reparation. It's tempting -- and it's a temptation that Zenella is all too willing to give into -- to shift the blame for any wrong you do. There are two main ways to do it that I can think of. The first is to claim that you did not have the ability to make a moral choice. You simply did what you had to do. Circumstances compelled you. Similarly, you might claim that your "principles" or your existing moral structure left you with no choice. Zenella is not prone to this, because it is a more sophisticated method of avoiding responsibility. What one does when doing this is ignore that the choice is simply abstracted one level. You chose your moral structure or "principles", after all. Because Zenella does not have "principles" (she has principles but that is not the same thing), she cannot use them to hide behind. She concentrates on the second method, which is to blame someone else. It comes in several forms, but it boils down to the same thing: someone else's wrong compelled me to do wrong.
She has a fine model for it, because Mrs Zen's moral calculus consists of blaming someone else -- generally me -- for any wrong she does. (Her self-image does not generally allow her to take responsibility for any wrong, which is frustrating because if you will not accept blame, you cannot stop a bad behaviour.) That's not to say she does not identify any wrongs connected with her. She does but she is not able to feel responsible for them. She thinks her parenting has harmed the children, for instance, but she cannot articulate that that is something wrong she has done. It makes for difficult, fractured conversations. I've fucked the kids up, she'll say. What do you mean? I'll say. What have you done? And she'll shrug. I shout at them, she'll say. This, I know, is a prelude to a claim that she shouts at them because I shout at them. All parents raise their voices at their kids from time to time, usually out of sheer frustration. If you do not, you are either heavily drugged or not all that concerned.
If I catch Zenella hitting one of her siblings, she'll say, they hit me first. Okay, I say, but that doesn't mean you should hit them. It's just as bad as their hitting you. She looks at me as though I'm insane. In her view, the second hit is justified by the first, but the first has no justification at all.
Lately, Zenella has broadened out into a subset of two wrongs make a right. She has begun to indulge in ex post facto exculpatory excuses. You know what I mean. You do a wrong to someone and are caught. You had no good reason for it but, as I noted, you don't want to take responsibility for the wrong. So you find a reason. So Zenella will do something and I'll say, you shouldn't do that. She'll say, last week Mummy said... and she is off the hook. The plausibility of the excuse is not important; all that matters is that there is one. It doesn't matter that I buy it because she is looking only to fulfil her own moral calculus, not answer to mine.
This sort of thinking provides an easy out morally, which is why I want to help Zenella stop doing it. It is facile to find something in another's behaviour to exculpate your own wrongs. But others are only rarely truly responsible for the wrongs you do. You nearly always have a choice. Recognising that and choosing right are what makes a person moral.
The question whether Zenella should necessarily aim for being moral is another story. Will it make her happy or improve her life? I tend to believe that because she is sensitive, she'll find herself easier to live with if she is morally upstanding, but who knows? Maybe she would be better served by being trained to be amoral. It's something I need to think about.
There’s the girl that left me bitter. Want to pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her.
Sad is worse than angry. Sad makes me want to slap you.
Robbing me of dreams makes me sadder than robbing me of all my cash. Robbing me of hope leaves me poorer than taking all my money, and leaving me with a wallet bare of anything but threads (which is something I’m used to, at least).
But there is nowhere left to go with you. I’ve given what I could and you don’t want to know me any more because you don’t feel there’s any more to take. Well, sister, you weren’t giving anything back so I am not missing it.
But I am still sad about it.
Sad about the dream though, not the reality of you. Because you believe you are too good to give, there is nothing to be sad about. I am losing nothing at all, but the dream.
It is not true what they say about you. You are not a brilliant manipulator. Only a fool would let you pull their strings. You are like a child though: always demanding, twisting, wanting your way. Like a child, you will break others’ toys to get your way. I suppose that is manipulation of a sort, but it is tiring to have to manoeuvre round a child. Do you realise that you wear people out? That they become weary of your thinking your moods are more important than the whole of their lives?
And you know, I won’t miss your being full of shit, a liar, not just in the things you say, but in the way you represent yourself to yourself. You are not a helpless little girl. Do you think you look like one to the world? You don’t. You look like a clever woman who is willing to use and abuse others’ good natures. No one wants to hurt the fragile. You know that and you take advantage of it, or at least I assume you do. The best spin I can put on you is that you are a fuckwit. Do you know that? The best I can think about you is that you are as dumb and selfish as you make out. The worst is almost unthinkable. But I didn’t choose Girl inform me for you by mistake:
girl inform me all my senses warn me your clever eyes could easily disguise some backwards purpose it's enough to make me nervous. do you harbor sighs, or spit in my eye
Although of course I knew you wouldn’t even listen to it, let alone think about the words. That’s because I’m smarter than you, not easily fooled or strung along. I guess that’s the heart of your problem with me: you only loved me when I was willing to pretend I was not smarter, quicker.
Yet it’s one of the best things about me. Only someone entirely consumed with amour-propre could truly want me to be less than I am in that way.
The next best thing about me is that I’m sensitive. You hated that too. Well, you would. To allow it would be to admit that I can have feelings, that it is not all about you. Well, this is all about you, sweetheart, and it’s the last time I’m going to be.
Here’s the thing though. I like to try to understand my world. I mostly fail to but it’s a need in me that I have to keep trying to feed. I know that sometimes you can’t though, and I accept that, shrug and say, whatever.
I was just guessing, At numbers and figures, Pulling the puzzles apart, Questions of science, Science and progress, Did not speak as loud as my heart, Tell me you love me, Come back and haunt me, I want to rush to the start, Running in circles, Chasing tails, Coming back as we are.
What? No. I'm pulling your reefers. Of course, the government insisted on doing nothing. Its drug policy is based not on evidence but wholly on moral panic. The panic in question has not abated, so why change?
The authors, led by Bristol University Professor of Psychopharmacology David Nutt, said tobacco and alcohol together accounted for 90 percent of all drug-related deaths in the UK.
Of course, more people drink and smoke than jack up smack, and one could argue that were the latter more widely and easily available, it would close the gap a little (but only a little -- fags and booze kill many, many more than everything else put together, and the figures do not include the collateral damage of boozing: those killed or hurt by drunks). But it is surely impossible to argue that drug policy is based on minimising harm.
During the Scooter Libby case, the concept of jury nullification arose. In this, a jury can find that the person charged has committed the crime they are accused of but can acquit them on the basis that they do not believe what they did should be a crime (among other reasons but this is the pertinent one here). This form of citizen legislation (which only works for the case at hand and does not form a precedent) has a counterpart among citizens' crime calculus, if we can call it that. We all break the law from time to time. There are so many of them, interfering in so many areas of our lives, that we can hardly help it. Try not breaking the speed limit when descending a steep hill; or try to abide by all the bylaws of your municipality, even the ones you've never heard of. I'll bet you place your bin wrongly or some such nonsense, some of the time.
But at least some of us, if not all, break the law on purpose some of the time. Again, sometimes this is something like speeding, where we find the law inconvenient. But sometimes we break laws because we do not think they should be laws. I'm not talking about doing your missus in because you think it should be legal to exterminate scolds.
I smoke pot. I have done for 20-something years, and I expect I'll keep on smoking it until I keel over. I consider it impertinent on the part of the government to illegalise something that is absolutely nothing to do with them. I do not agree that governments have a moral purpose (whereas I do agree that they have a protective purpose) as some argue. I don't believe we have, or should be understood to have, empowered them to reform our characters. I do not believe they should feel free to impose their standards of morality on others. I can allow that a government might regulate television, say, in the name of protecting children from whatever it is we're afraid children shouldn't be confronted with (curiously, they are not permitted to see a cock -- never shown before the watershed -- but violence of all kinds is okay -- often shown if not in programmes then on the news in the early evening) (and I should add that I'm not certain even that governments should regulate broadcast media; the assumption that the media is not responsible enough to regulate itself is not necessarily well founded, but that's a subject for another poast), but that is a narrow preventive measure, to protect children from the harm of broadcasting that is not good for them, not a licence to protect everybody from everything (and again, one can argue, with some force, that parents exist to protect children, not governments).
I do not believe there is any way booze should be legal and marijuana illegal. The only reason for it is wowserism: the belief that others should not have fun that you're not having. And I do not believe that alcohol should be illegal. It's a horribly harmful, family-destroying drug, and if we were entirely sane, we would not go near it, but we are nothing like sane, and it cannot be for the government to force us to become well. The government has an important role in harm prevention: safe drug use programmes have a place and so do laws against drug driving. But it has no right to tell me that I cannot smoke a relatively harmless drug in my own home. (Except of course that because rights are donations from the empowered, they assert the right.) I don't feel any obligation at all to obey the law, and I defy it despite its coercive power.
In principle, a generally lawabiding person like me should not be able to say that. I believe that a system of law is necessary and although I don't feel ours is perfect or anywhere close to it, I do not feel it is so wrong that it merits defiance on principle (if only because it is based in part on humanitarian principles that are admirable). But it has many wrongs embedded in it, and the empowerment of wowsers is one of them.
Not long ago -- although not so much, if at all, these days -- ordinary pot smokers were jailed for possession (I believe our even less enlightened American cousins still do jail those its coppers catch with a bit of weed). They were not harming anyone except that they were customers of a business that involves violence (but the same can be said of many businesses; at least that they in some way involve harm to someone). My life would be blighted; my family destroyed; my chances of finding a decent job ruined. One can ask which would have done the most harm: a few joints or the jail sentence they brought me.
While we await the subpoenas that will spark off an enormous shitfight among the three wings of the American government -- incredibly, Chimpy is planning to try executive privilege as the means to have his minions defy Congress (it won't work: Clinton tried it in re Lewinsky and got his arse handed to him by the courts -- let's enjoy a fine example of how American justice works.
When Americans are questioning why they are hated around the world, they need to remind themselves that they are the guys lecturing the third world about the "rule of law". While pissing on it in every way.
What happened to the data registry act? When did we empower the cunts to keep files on us?
Bad business. With the technological reach of the modern government, we have more to fear from the technocrats than any previous government. In a very real way, privacy is freedom. Being known has a chilling effect. It's meant to!
When I was a kid, I loved Madness. I bought all their singles as soon as they came out. I’ve always been like that, a loyal consumer of the bands I love. I will buy the new record by my favourites regardless (until they finally make a record so egregious I can’t bear any more). I have all of New Order’s albums, for instance. They are my greatest love in music. Other bands move me more, but I’ve loved New Order for a very long time now, more than 25 years. (How that ages me! Ah well. Today I received a Blancmange collection in the post and I’ve been reminding myself what a great, inventive, even deep band they were.)
On the train to school, I’d play cards with a group of older boys. Not poker in those days; it was mostly euchre. They put up with me because I knew M, one of the players, from the scouts, because I was good enough to keep up with them and they were keen enough to want competition, not easy wins, and because I could be funny and charming. One of the boys, A, was in my tutor group. Some bright geezer had come up with the idea of having kids from different school years form together first thing in the morning. I have no idea why. At secondary school, this meant that kids from first to fifth grades (years six to ten in today’s money) would pointlessly gather for a form period. At sixth form, it meant that both years would mix. Which was okay. I suppose it helped us grow up to have older boys and girls around.
One day, A and I were walking up the hill to school (the train station in Penzance is by the seafront, and my school was at the top of the slope that Penzance straggles down). I should say a word about Penzance because it is one of the places closest to my heart. It feels like home. I have never known anyone visit it and not feel that it is a bit special. It’s not as picturesque as St Ives but it has more character. It feels a million miles from the England of London and Manchester. Shopkeepers – people in general – are warm to you, friendly, despite the inherent distrust of furreners. (I am laughing as I write that because I recall the conflict at school between the natural-born Corns and the outsiders. I had a Cornish accent and passed as a Corn – I had lived there since I was two after all, bar six months. It’s hard to describe: there was never fighting exactly, nor bullying – the boys would pick on the weak or odd just like they do anywhere. But there was the feeling of superiority, belonging. It is powerful. I lack it and feel the lack. Sometimes I just want to go home to Cornwall so that I can slip into the accent (bung it on, I mean; I lost it when I went to uni) and have people feel I am one of them.)
And A is saying to me that I don’t really like music, because I like that pop crap, and he’s into the Sabbath and Deep Purple (and to tell the truth, so was I, somewhat; I’ve always been quite catholic in my tastes, and then I was into heavy rock too). It’s musicianly, he is saying.
I am feeling downcast because I am not smart enough, not musically literate enough to answer him back. It seems true that the bands he likes are more complex than Madness. (Soon my eyes were opened fully! I was already into some indie, exposed to it by friends, particularly H, who were into John Peel and everything he played.)
I did not know then what I know now. Anyone can do rock. It’s the easiest of genres. The songs pretty much write themselves. Yes, you have to come up with a riff, but when you have, you simply bung it against a standard chord progression and Bob’s your ma’s bro. Those who like it will like it. You think I’m exaggerating? Think how many awful records U2 have made, or horrible duffers like Metallica. Formulaic, boring shit, prettied up by expert production.
Making great pop is much harder because you have to be loveable. You cannot be grungy, dirty or ugly. And being explicitly about fucking is more or less against the rules.
So I love great pop more than even the greatest rock. Someone who makes three minutes of something that moves me, makes me want to dance and – most of all – sing along without self-consciousness (which I’m sorry but none of your heavy rock bands are ever going to do), well, they are my idols.
The story of the Postal Service is well known among those who are into indie or whatever we call leftfield music these days. The guy out of Dntel, who aren’t very good, made some tunes and posted them to the guy out of Death Cab for Cutie, who aren’t very good either.
But the result is great pop. I don’t know how the fuck. I don’t know what makes it wonderful: perhaps the tenderness, the cleverly worked lyrics, the tunes, the fey fragility of it. I don’t know. I just know that music like this beats your turgid rock every day of the week.
And let me tell you, it is something like this that gives me hope for us. Because this is one of our smallest things, the least of our art, yet it is lovely. And if we can make lovely, we are maybe worth a little. It’s a silly, half-formed thought, but it would have warmed the heart of that Cornish boy walking up the hill to school, wondering how he could defend Madness, how he could explain that they made the world disappear for a moment and replaced it with something just that ounce more shiny.
This is just brilliant, the definition of "poignant".
I am reminded of my breakup from A, in a carpark at Reading University. She was my first love. I had not seen her in some time (a long-distance thing, which never works). The breaking of the anticipation of touching her felt worse than the pain of being dumped.
Brian, dude, this is the truth: Managers hate shootouts but fans hate them even more.
This bullshit all began with the World Cup in the US. Ever since, we've had a parade of suggestions of how we can Americanise football: play four quarters (why?), make bigger goals so there are more goals (we'd watch ice hockey if we wanted more goals), have overtime if games are drawn (we don't mind draws).
See that last one? It's the troof. We don't mind draws. An honourable draw, everyone gets a point, we like that. If you are facing relegation (and a glance at the Championship table will show you why I mention this), a point is priceless. Why fuck that up?
Of course they won't go for it. Football is not broken and doesn't need fixing. There is no clamour for more points to be doled out. There was when we brought in three for a win. There was a realisation that football had slipped into safety-first dullardry. But draws are just right now. If you don't go for the win, you only get a third of the reward. And because you've drawn, you share the spoils (sort of; it used to be a share, but with three for a win, of course it's not quite, maybe the other one goes to Jeebus). Mawhinney's proposal would be shit. It's horrible to be knocked out of the World Cup on pens: an unsatisfactory solution that no one except Germany likes; how much worse to be relegated because someone missed a pen a few weeks back, or to have the title decided by some midtable goalkeeper's palming your closest rivals' fifth pen into the net after they played out a safe draw?
Now I'm not saying that this woman has a column because she is the fittest conservative that ever breathed. No way. She is feted for her insight, such as:
There will be dire consequences if the far Left does not stop trying to continually undermine the president. Understand these words and predictions well: The blood of the Iraqi people will be on the hands of Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Murtha, and the Democrat Party if they continue to interfere with the president's new strategy to win the peace.
It will come as news to Rep. Murtha that he's a communist.
How about this denial of reality:
America may be dissatisfied with President Bush's leadership overall, but they do want the troops and America to win the war in Iraq.
Which is why in poll after poll they vote for withdrawal.
She does get one thing right though:
Other nations will never again trust America, and rightly so.
This topped it for me though. If the Democrats are tools of Satan, what's Dubya:
Again using the comparative metaphor, just as Christ came to save a people with His own strategy, President Bush was in a position to do the same for the people of America and Iraq.
Hilarious. Not the repulsive column at the hideous Townhall, but the sight of yet another rightist just not getting it.
It's not the word. It's the hatred. It's not that it's not okay to use the word "faggot" to talk about gays, so that it'll all be okay when teh fagz decide we can all call them that, it's that Coulter thinks it's an insult -- a schoolyard taunt -- to call someone gay. It's that this penis thinks that it's okay to joke about bombing gay bathhouses. Tee hee.
I note one of the commenters:
Children are innocents and their sexual drives should always be allowed to develop naturally and normally.
Quite. And sometimes that natural development leads them to butt sex.
You might ask, what is the problem with these people? Why are they so obsessed with gayness? They bang on about children a lot, as if there being gays somehow made it more likely that their own kids would go gay. These fools have the firm belief that you can choose what your sexuality can be. And I think this is the root of their hatred. They are told that you choose, and each one of them, like all of us, has some hidden, dark corners that they feel are not "normal" (possibly because they have been undereducated in sex and simply do not know what "normal" is, so that they fear that most things aren't).
But surely they know it's not all about them? You'd think so but this is the core of conservatism, after all, the heart of the right: it's all about me me me. The whole gay thing is about my sexuality, my marriage, my choices, my life. It's not about someone else's right to choose for themselves what they want. Fuck that. Or rather, don't.
I have given up on her. I might hear from her from time to time but I'm no longer excited about the prospect.
We were a means for each to expand a small world, a world in which it seems the walls are closing in and we are crushed. But she has made her world smaller. Or so it seems. (Because I have to make an effort to trust her, rather than be able to do it on the merit of her having been honest to me, I cannot be certain that she is anything close to the person she portrays. Mostly certain. But there is doubt with anyone, particularly with those you know can lie.)
She never says what it is, and I don't want to know, but something changed. I tried to rationalise it: found another lover, grew tired of me, whatever. But what does it matter? It changed; that's all.
And I know it did because the spark in her died away. The tendency towards humourlessness and the sheer bloodyminded need to be right grew in her, making her sometimes a trial to talk to. This is not fun, I wanted to say, and I realise that I am not being any fun in return. But that's how I am: reactive, a mirror.
Weirdly, she blazed again, just briefly, but hotly enough that I was reminded why I loved her. And that hurt, because she backed away (and lied about it), becoming icy and unapproachable.
I am no longer disappointed. I know it was a mirage, hope but not substance. Losing it is not so bad as I might once have thought. Her outrageous behaviour when Mrs Zen found out illuminated for me that the substance would not match the hope in any case. I realised that "love", for her, did not include concern for others. Perhaps I realised then, or have since, that I need empathy, and the prospect of spending time with someone who so lacks it is not entirely appealing.
I am trying not to be unhappy about it. I am capable of chilling myself down, but when you have burned for someone, it is hard to put the fire out altogether. But sometimes you have to.
I'm a huge fan of business. No, really. I'm a fan of businesses that give you what you want, when you want it, at a fair price.
So am I a fan of Import CDs of Irvine, California? No, I am not. But why? What can a small CD-selling operation in sunny Irvine have done to incur the wrath of Zen?
As you may know, Dr Zen is a habitue of Amazon. I spend many hours happily browsing its catalogue, finding CDs that I might like to buy. Because I am old, I have not become used to stealing all of my music, like youngsters do, but buy CDs. I am a thorough materialist when it comes to recorded music.
Recently, I had a few dollars to spend, so I was looking through my wishlist to see what I fancied. That's a task in itself because it contains more than a hundred CDs. I was delighted to note though that Company of Justice by Play Dead has become available, and what's more, was available for just a tenner from Import CDs.
(Some will be asking at this point, who the fuck are Play Dead? Well, don't spread it around, but Dr Zen was a teen goff. I had many goff records: Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, Gene Loves Jezebel, March Violets, that kind of thing. Play Dead are at the rockier end of goff and specialise in incomprehensible but enjoyable angst.)
So I snapped it up. Weirdly, the order processed without giving me the address option. But never mind, I had just bought some CDs, so it was clearly using the same addy.
A confirmation email arrived, telling me that the CD would soon be winging its way to... my sister's old address, the house she moved out of two months ago.
No need for panic though. A simple email to Import CDs and problem solved.
At least, you would have thought so. But Import CDs does not believe in customer service. It believes in teh Roolz. Import CDs wrote back and said, sorry, it's teh Roolz of Amazon that we can't change your address. You must cancel the order if you don't want it.
Now, Dr Zen understands the need of some sad losers to shroud their sorry lives in bureaucracy, but here was a situation brewing. These people were not going to send the CD to the place where I was. They were going to insist on sending it to the place where I definitely wasn't.
So I cancelled the order immediately, with a serve of "you are fuckwits", just in case Import CDs thought that refusing to change a delivery address is a reasonable thing for a business to do:
You are joking. Why on earth not? I am the customer and I'm asking you to send it somewhere else. I paid for it, not Amazon. It has nothing to do with them whether you send it here, there or to the moon.
This is the order number: 736-5190049-0987351
If you won't change the address, cancel the order. I'll be giving you a negative review on the site. It's absolute bullshit that you won't actually agree to send me the CD I've already paid for.
Dr Zen - Hide quoted text -
On 3/10/07, Import CD Specialists wrote: > We are not permitted by Amazon to make any changes to your shipping > address If you wish to cancel, please provide your order number. >
To which, Import CD replied four days later:
I'm afraid this order has already shipped and it is too late for us to now cancel.
Yes. Too late because you waited until you had shipped it to bother replying, not because I didn't cancel it in time. Import CDs could of course pretend they did not receive the email cancelling the order. That's what your ordinary shithead would do.
But no. These clowns didn't even have the sense to do that. They replied to the email cancelling the order. Just not until they had shipped it. To someone else's house.
Of course, I emailed them to demand a refund. They said, you can have one when the CD is returned.
What teh fuck? I have to wait for someone I don't know to return a CD to some place in America, rather than simply binning it, before the company that purposely sent it somewhere that I'm not will pay me back the money for the CD they sent to someone I don't know?
Here is the problem with business on the interwebnets: I can't go round to these people's shop and call them a cunt to their face. They would never behave like this with real, flesh and blood customers because they would be too afraid that I would punch their teeth in. Particularly after saying that they weren't the ones who made a mistake. Yes, dude, you were. You made two. The first was to send a CD to an address they knew I wasn't at after I had cancelled the order. The second was not to do the right thing and give my money back. Because now they will be receiving a ton of whiny emails from me until they do. I might even sue the cunts. I'm guessing that California has a statute that says that if a customer cancels an order before dispatch, they get a full refund.
I know, big deal, it's only a tenner. But it isn't. It's the many times these fuckers do something to people who they don't think can stop them. It's the businesses like them who fuck you over because they are not providing a service but making a dollar. Like governments, who also fuck you from behind a curtain of anonymity and bureaucracy, these people should be serving us, not using us. I am furious that these people do not feel they should do the right thing, and hide behind teh Roolz as a means of not doing it.
Who says torture doesn't work? Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confesses to 9/11, Bali, plans to bomb bridges, assassinate Jimmy Carter and attack Canary Wharf, the Gunpowder Plot against James I, the assassination of JFK and stealing the key out of my front door.
Whenever a band brings out an album in the post-rock genre, Godspeed! You Black Emperor are wheeled out to serve as the benchmark. Generally, a review will also say that the band in this song or that does what Mogwai should be doing if only they weren’t doing what they’re doing.
Post-rock is broader than GYBE and the ’Gwai, stretching from the still lifes of Labradford through the modern prog of Sigur Ros to the soaring rock of Explosions in the Sky, sometimes more arty, sometimes more rocky. Arguably, the genre includes electronica of the experimental kind, particularly that by M83, Boards of Canada and Mum.
Whatever it is, it is music that is not like the music you like. It aims high, into other worlds, other possibilities, stretching beyond rock into, well, whatever it is. It is musically highly literate (although almost always wordless – or in the case of Sigur Ros, wordy but without words). Rock never had much to say once it had said it wants to fuck you; pop can talk loudly, but only for the short space of a hook and a couple of clever rhymes; dance music is not trying to say anything at all mostly, and you need drugs if you want to be much moved by it. Post-rock – the good stuff anyway – can be deeply moving, dramatic, astonishing even.
Even by post-rock standards, Mono aim high. Their songs state boldly that they will be sweeping, enormous, and they often pull it off. They master the quiet–loud dynamic, with passages of aching, lyrical beauty that transition into some of the heaviest rockouts you’re going to hear. The transition is never contrived: Mono’s genius is to make the kickarse sections seem to grow organically from the slow movements. They do not just kick arse though. They keep a firm grip on the melodies, transforming the sweet tunes of their slow sections into the motifs of a soaring, hard rock. What astonishes with this album is that Yearning feels like it will be a high point and you are braced for anticlimax, yet there is better to come. Are you there? is destined to be a benchmark in itself, a beautiful clutch of sliding melody lines, skilfully evolving one into the other. And better still, Moonlight, the closer, showcases the wailing guitars that Mono are famous for in a crescendo that builds and builds and builds, the theme powering on to the end of the record.
If you like this type of music, and I do, you will recognise this for what it is: Mono’s Skinny fists… . It is work that others will have to try to match but few are going even to come close. Just as Skinny fists… defines GYBE, this will define Mono. The ideas, the power, the musicality of their earlier records reach a creative peak in this record. So we reach for our benchmark and we can say confidently that here is a band that can match GYBE, in scope, in depth, in conception even. And as for Mogwai, well, I love them but they are chewing gum against the red meat of this album. (The ’Gwai specialise in clever, interesting melodies and have not really gone for the wrenching rockout in some years. Like many of their fans, I tend to feel that they should call a halt to their voyage into math and kick some booty once more: I’m betting they have another Mogwai fear Satan lurking in there somewhere.) If you like your music ambitious, cinematic, just plain beautiful, this might just be for you. It’s definitely for me.
I am crying. Sometimes in PokerRoom, when you have two windows, one will pop up when you are doing an action in the other. That can lead to folding in the wrong window.
Texas Hold'em $0.25-$0.50 (Real Money), #43,702,128 Table El Alaiun, 12 Mar 2007 3:11 AM ET Seat 1: abex66 ($14.10 in chips) Seat 2: jismbreathe ($5.45 in chips) Seat 3: baragon ($13.75 in chips) Seat 4: TomatoTom ($4.85 in chips) Seat 5: vonschnappen ($6.55 in chips) Seat 6: Jegola ($13.60 in chips) Seat 7: Dr Zen ($26.25 in chips) Seat 8: cheef82 ($22.50 in chips) ANTES/BLINDS Dr Zen posts blind ($0.15), cheef82 posts blind ($0.25).
You beauty! I hit my set and now I extract the money!
Dr Zen bets $0.25, cheef82 calls $0.25, jismbreathe bets $0.50
This guy I know to be an idiot.
vonschnappen folds, Dr Zen bets $0.50, cheef82 calls $0.50
And this guy's a very weak calling station.
It's your dream when you have a set. A lagtard who will jam it with you and a calling station who will put dead money in.
jismbreathe bets $0.50, Dr Zen calls $0.25, cheef82 calls $0.25.
TURN [board cards 5C,6H,KC,KH ] Dr Zen checks, cheef82 checks, jismbreathe bets $0.50
I knew the lagtard would bet it for me...
Dr Zen bets $1
... so I C/R'd him
cheef82 calls $1, jismbreathe bets $1, Dr Zen bets $1
And more! If he has K6 or K5 I'm fucked, but the chances are he has Kx, 6x, 5x, a small pair or fuck all.
cheef82 calls $1, jismbreathe calls $0.50.
RIVER [board cards 5C,6H,KC,KH,AS ]
Want to bet I can't checkraise the fucking idiot again?
Dr Zen checks, cheef82 checks, jismbreathe bets $0.50, Dr Zen bets $1
LOL. Now to rake it in. Come to poppa!
cheef82 calls $1, jismbreathe bets $1, Dr Zen folds
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I was folding trash in the other window. One bad click just lost me 13 bucks 75. I am sobbing like a child who's lost his favourite toy.
Sigh. I make about 3BB/100. A bit more maybe since PokerRoom tightened up (because I play more hands against maniacs and less against suckout merchants maybe?). So I lost 300 hands' profit. (I would have netted 600 hands' worth of winnings.)
If Richard Dawkins has a fault (and who among us hasn't after all), it is not that he is often wrong, but that he is intolerably right. It strikes anyone who is capable of thinking and is not religious very quickly that believers are willing to take on faith a lot of stuff that is not even slightly credible, but we are mostly too polite to say so. Dawkins is a bit like the boy who couldn't stop himself yelling that the emperor was nude though, and yell he does. It enrages the believers, who proceed to say things that are so silly they make Dawkins look all the more rational and sane. The review of a recent book by Alister McGrath in the New Scientist (at this URL but thanks to the old-school model of the NS, you cannot actually read the review for free online; I have not read and will not be reading the book, or for that matter, the Dawkins book that was the stimulus for it) was in equal measure pompous and misguided. I'll be looking at just one paragraph, because this is representative of the Christian challenged to Dawkins.
The argument [in brief, that progress in science poses the question why the universe is explicable] also puts pressure on Dawkins, if not to believe in God, then at least to consider the possibility of the faith-based nature of his own convictions. As Dawkins acknowledges and physicists have shown, the existence of conscious, rational beings is a wildly improbable outcome. To insist that we are simply the products of the workings of, ultimately, physical laws is to avoid the question of the nature and origin of those laws. To say that there is no evidence for God is merely, therefore, an interpretation justified in one context but quite meaningless in another. Everywhere we look, there is evidence of something, but it is by no means clear that that something is, in fact, nothing. Rather, it seems something of a startling intelligibility.
On the face of it, this is a decent argument, but it is a sneaky version of Paley's watchmaker.
Let's look at what our doughty reviewer actually says: The argument [in brief, that progress in science poses the question why the universe is explicable] also puts pressure on Dawkins, if not to believe in God, then at least to consider the possibility of the faith-based nature of his own convictions.
Bluntly, how can Dawkins look at a universe that is ordered and not believe that something ordered it? He must be relying on faith to be convinced that it isn't. This is a very common argumentative move from creationists, who suggest that Darwinian evolution is believed by scientists as an article of faith. However, scientists believe in Darwinian evolution for much the same reason they generally believe in anything they believe in: it fits the facts well. It's quite simple. We believe random, undirected processes can create order because we can observe them doing so. The processes we consider can create our universe without the need of an ordering intelligence. That's not to say there isn't one; rather, it says we do not need one. One is reminded of Laplace, on presenting his masterwork to Napoleon, and having Napoleon ask him, sir, I see no mention of God in your work, and Laplace's replying, sir, I have no need of that hypothesis. Dawkins is resolute in his scepticism. He will believe what there is evidence for, and there is none for God. God is an extra, an additional layer. Science does not care much for additional layers. Is Dawkins' conviction that there is no God faith based? Yes, I think you can say it is. Dawkins has faith in science and its methods. He believes that they can in time describe the world and everything in it entirely. If you were to say to Dawkins that there is more to the world than science can explain, he would ask you, well, what then? After you are done handwaving and talking about spirituality and that blather, he will point out that none of the stuff you believe is there can be measured or replicated. Now does that mean it doesn't exist or does it mean that it is just personal to you? Arguably, these are both the same thing. For a thing to exist, it must exist separately from you. If it does not, how can it be said to exist and not simply be something you have imagined? (I can imagine a god, no problem, but that does not make it exist, does it? In any case, if it does, this is too broad a meaning of "exist" for Dawkins' argument. He is not saying that God does not exist for you. He is saying that it does not exist in the sense that observables exist: being something that you can share, point to, replicate the experience of: in other words, existence in a scientific sense, a factual sense if you will.) In any case, these two faiths are quite different: on the one hand, a Christian has faith that this thing that exists for them has the other kind of existence -- that it really is a thing that can be shared, pointed to, measured; on the other, Dawkins' faith is that science will work, which is more like having faith that your car will start because you have known it to start in many conditions (whereas the Christian believes his car is a flying machine, or can travel through time in the right circumstances -- in other words, that it is capable of something that it has not been observed to do or has not suggested it can do).
In this connection, here's something to think about when considering "spirituality", or other intangibles that one believes are beyond science. When I go to the coast back home in Cornwall, and I'm blown away by the cliffside scenery, is that not "spiritual" in a broad sense?
But what created the scenery? Not God! The sea. The sea ate away at the coastline for millennia, grain by grain, to make the beauty I feast on. (I do not say that God cannot be responsible for the sea, directing it, but I will claim that I can apply Occam's Razor and put it down to sea alone.) The sea is effectively working at random. It does not choose its path, where to apply its power. The crenellations in the coastline might each have their origin in just one weak rock, crashing down and creating a weak point in the line, at which the relentless sea could pick. And which rock will break at which time is effectively random (determinable if you knew exactly where everything started from).
As Dawkins acknowledges and physicists have shown, the existence of conscious, rational beings is a wildly improbable outcome.
Clearly, the reviewer is not keen on "Chinese odds". These are a fun way of looking at things. What was the chance that I would be born? A hundred per cent. Because if I wasn't, I wouldn't be here asking about it! More usually, Chinese odds say that there's a 50 per cent chance of everything: it either happens or doesn't.
The point is, however improbable the outcome, we're here talking about it. Probability is only really a useful tool to understand what might happen, not what has happened.
This is not to fall foul of the anthropic principle. I'm prepared to accept that the universe is not just so just so I exist, but of course it's true that if it were not just so I would not be here to discuss it. (The anthropic principle is slightly more powerful than this because there were many ways the universe could be, but it is rather finely tuned to produce us.) But it is like an antifallacy to think that it's meaningful that a long shot has come in. (The corresponding fallacy is that outcomes were inevitable. In hindsight bias, it seems obvious that a process should have had the outcome it did. We just knew that horse would win; we knew that we would lose the hand if we called that all-in.) The antifallacy says, not that it was obvious now we look back that it should have been that way (in other words, that it is not meaningful that it was a long shot) but that it is not obvious (in other words, that it is meaningful that it was a long shot).
It should be fairly clear that both the fallacy and the antifallacy are equally possible. One can argue that it's obvious that the universe should be fine tuned because here we are and that it's astonishing that it's fine tuned because here we are. Neither is convincing! It is not obvious that we should have evolved just so; many other outcomes were possible. But it is not particularly striking. The universe is enormous and permits many possibilities; there may even be many universes, not all suitable for our kind of life (some may not have had an inflationary period in their early life and might only be inches across; others might have certain constants at a slightly different level and have collapsed, or never have seen the creation of heavier elements, so that without carbon, there could be no carbon-based life).
Besides, the reviewer's argument has the unspoken premise that we are special, that thinking beings are special. But we don't know that. We seem special to ourselves (particularly because our foremost mythology has it that we are special creations of our god) but from the outside, we could seem to be meaningless whirlings of atoms, throwing up emergent patterns that we overinterpret.
To insist that we are simply the products of the workings of, ultimately, physical laws is to avoid the question of the nature and origin of those laws.
As someone who does insist that we are the products of physical laws, I feel up to answering this charge. The problem the reviewer has here is strictly conceptual, an outcome of the limitations of language. If I make laws for my children, I set rules that I wish them to obey. In the same way, societies set laws for their members to abide by. Laws are stronger than "rules" in the sense that they are considered to be motivated by an underlying sense of order, or one could say that they are thought to emerge from a deeper basis in principle or concept and are not arbitrary (that's not to say that laws cannot be arbitrary, only that they are conceptualised as not being). In any case, both the laws I make for my children and the laws a society makes for its members are made by humans for humans. They are codified behaviours (or antibehaviours).
Physical laws are different. They are not created by humans; they are merely discerned by them. They too are not arbitrary -- they cannot be because they are not invented or created at all. But the difference is deeper than that: bodies do not obey the law of gravity because someone has made a law and they must follow it; they obey the law of gravity because it is simply a description of what bodies do. Both types of law describe what should happen, but the senses of "should" are different. In the one case -- the human law -- it denotes an obligation, a demand; in the other -- the physical law -- it denotes an expectation. (Compare these two sentences "Trains should be clean and tidy" and "The train should arrive in the next few minutes".)
We do not need to question the nature and origin of physical laws because we are aware that they do not have any origin outside us, and their nature is simply to be the things we have noticed that things have in common. They are "laws" because the commonality is so broad. But the broadness is simply an outcome of the obviousness of the commonality: for instance, a body falls towards another because of gravity, and all bodies will do so because bodies do not differ from one another in kind in this sense: they are bodies, made ultimately of the same stuff. That is all that laws in physics say: things are made ultimately of the same stuff so will ultimately be bound to do the same things.
If the reviewer was able to grasp that laws in a broader sense do not need to be imposed or policed, he would see that his question is meaningless. Physical laws do not need an origin: they are descriptions, not prescriptions.
To say that there is no evidence for God is merely, therefore, an interpretation justified in one context but quite meaningless in another.
"Therefore" is often a leap. Sometimes it's a step so short that it is barely needed; but sometimes it is a huge spring into the dark. Here it is impossible. How the reviewer went from Dawkins' not considering the origin of physical laws to saying that there being no evidence for God is purely contextual is beyond me. (Although of course I do understand what he means: he is appealing to Gould's notion of nonoverlapping magisteria -- he wishes to suggest that science can only catalogue nature's laws but cannot inquire into their origin. As I've noted, one has to believe that they have an origin outside ourselves to think that more than one "context" even exists here.) I know that what the reviewer wishes me to understand is that Dawkins believes there is no evidence for God because he will not consider where all these laws came from. But Dawkins would be nonplussed by this line of argument. The laws of physics just are. If you throw a ball into the air, it falls to earth because things fall to earth. There is no deeper foundation for it. It is just what things do. They do it because bodies attract one another. They just do. (One can discuss the mechanism but there is no purpose for it, it just is what things do.)
There is, in this reviewer's muddle, an interesting point, and a problem with Dawkins' position that even I, broadly sympathetic, find in need of an answer. Start from Gould's magisteria. We have the realm of science, all the things it can talk about, all the areas it can be meaningful in. And then we have the realm of religion, those things beyond science. In Gould's schema, each could not speak about the other's realm (they had nothing to say about it). (So for instance, science might describe how a foetus comes into being, but only religion can say whether or when it is alive.) Now one can argue that science's realm is broad enough that it includes all of life and there is no need for the magisterium of religion.
But the problem is, one cannot say that the other realm is empty. One can believe that science includes everything but you cannot know it. Science cannot measure the magisterium of religion, and as a consequence cannot declare it empty. So the reviewer is saying, even if you are right that science seems to cover all there is, you cannot say that there is nothing at all in religion's realm. So your universe might not need God but that is not sufficient to say he does not exist. He might be there in the realm that you cannot measure.
Which is another way of saying, you cannot prove the negative.
Everywhere we look, there is evidence of something, but it is by no means clear that that something is, in fact, nothing. Rather, it seems something of a startling intelligibility.
Tis the clarion call of intelligent design. Ooooh, there's what looks like a watch. Must be a watchmaker.
But I think we see the watch because we are products of the same mad, random universe, and the way we are made makes us pick out patterns, samenesses, structure from even the entirely incoherent.
There are laws because we notice what we notice. Things do just what things do. They are not directed or aware: a law is not something they obey but something that they have just done.
Still, if we have created the watch out of what there is, in a sense we will create the watchmaker out of the same. Our god matches what there is -- and just as what there is cannot live outside the laws of science, neither can our god. He must be something we can imagine. For me, there is the remaining possibility that the realm of religion is not entirely empty, simply because science has no way to know whether its own bounds are broad enough to exclude any other explanations, any additional (in the strict sense of adding something) analyses, religion. Although science has squeezed God into what seems to us to be a vanishingly small margin, science cannot know how broad the margin truly is.
Some naughty schoolgirls found themselves suspended for uttering the filthy word "vagina" in public. The girls were quoting the Vagina Monologues at a show. The principal who suspended them approved the piece but had demanded that they not say the devil word. Presumably, as Feministe notes, because of his fear that if they say the word, they'll realise they have vaginas. And use them!
Both my daughters know they have vaginas. The eldest also knows that she has a clitoris and exactly where it is. (I've never really understood the bullshit about men's not being able to find a clitoris. You only need to be shown once. The myth of their unfindability for men expresses the notion that they are just not important enough for men to remember where they are. Ladies, just so you know, Dr Zen knows exactly where the clitoris is.)
They are 6 and 2. I am fairly sanguine about the prospect that they might one day use them. Mrs Zen caught them talking about their vaginas the other evening. She said, you mustn't do that at school. Why? asked Zenella. Because other people don't like people talking about vaginas, she said. Well, that's their problem, I said. I don't see why Zenella should be ashamed of having a vagina or think that it's anything to hide.
And I was thinking. The hiding your knickers thing. You know, when you sit down and cross your legs, some of you ladies try to not let your panties show? That dates back to the days before bikinis, IYKWIM. You can let it all hang out now.
Unless you're not wearing knickers. That might be a tad too liberated even for the noughties.