You walk into a party. Seven o’clock in the evening. People mill about a cavernous, dimly lit atrium, throngs of them, neatly picking hors d’oeuvres off trays carried by arthouse hipsters, the servers, who are clad in black and topped with the sort of odd identity-defining haircuts customarily found on people with no identities. The rumble of the crowd echoes back and forth between hard walls, off of a gray concrete floor. Booze flows, mostly wine. You are on the job; and you clutch desperately to a weeping bottle of Stella Artois.
Nothing unusual at the moment. The din can be ignored, assimilated into the standard cacophony of background noise and neurotic insanity; the crowd itself simply an environmental variable—pitching and swelling, yes, but predominantly benign.
So you swallow the rest of your beer quickly and duck upstairs with a co-worker to stroll around through the exhibits. Maybe it’s … Read more
April 30, 2012 Leave a comment
I was going to write a whole post about my take on free will… but why? I will say nothing that hasn’t been said before in much more worthy fashion by people with philosophical and scientific qualifications that can’t be garnered simply by idly perusing RSS feeds on Saturday afternoon in one’s underwear. So I’m just going to give you a list of articles and essays I’ve read over the past few months that, I think, adequately parse different aspects of the free will debate. (I first heard about Benjamin Libet’s experiments—just Google him, you’ll find them—a few years ago, where that seed languished more or less undeveloped until recently.)
Two things before the list:
- Based on the current extent of my reading, I fall into the determinist camp these days, and I don’t believe that, given the same conditions, we can choose other than we do. Even if, as
April 12, 2012 Leave a comment
NPR came out with a gem of an article last week that utterly confuses, I think, both the role and ethos of the independent voter (read: I took it personally). The strawman presented is someone like this: a voter who would like to believe they are an independent-minded person doing their civic duty by refraining from endorsing one political party or another, but who is in fact secretly so totally besties with either the Democrats or Republicans (more likely the Democrats, according to the article).
Despite this overarching misanalysis, the article does somewhat aptly address the myth that independents are swing voters at the core—the misconception that a candidate can gain crucial ground with self-described independents, presumably middle-of-the-road folks, by tailoring a message to appear less strident than the party’s base would like. I’ve resorted to this fallacious thinking a bit myself, often reasoning that, in a presidential election, a … Read more
April 4, 2012 Leave a comment
Big darkness soon come. Take my word for it. Hunter S. Thompson
I have a friend who gives me lots of advice, partly because, I think, he enjoys it, and partly because I ask for it quite often. Here are some of the things he likes to say to me, by invitation or otherwise:
- Stop living in the wreckage of the future.
- It’s not as bad as you think it is.
- Kick down the door.
He says these things because I live, and perhaps perpetuate, a constant state of personal apocalypse. All crises in my mind, no matter how small, are treated as if they possess life-altering import, as if they represent the unraveling of essential psychological constituents, the dissolution of core emotional certainties. Every failure, an indictment of my constitution; every misstep, a blind dive onto jagged rocks. The occasional extreme highs are tempered by the ever present … Read more
March 16, 2012 Leave a comment
While writing twelve pages and almost 5000 words in an attempt to study for an exam (I say this not to complain but to highlight my gross inefficiency) on the Old and Middle English periods, I came across a passage in our textbook (A History of the English Language, Fifth Ed., by Albert C. Baugh and Thomas Cable) that I remember chuckling at darkly the first time I read it a few weeks ago. The passage refers to the replacement of the native English clergy with continental French implants in the years following the Norman Conquest:
Ecclesiastics, it would seem, sometimes entered upon their office accompanied by an armed band of supporters. Turold, who became abbot of Peterborough in 1070, is described as coming at the head of 160 armed Frenchmen to take possession of his monastery; and Thurston, appointed abbot of Glastonbury in 1082,
February 21, 2012 7 Comments
I was tempted to place the title of this thing in the imperative, but I didn’t want to be pushy. More than that, doing so would serve mostly as a cheap provocation to arouse the ire of a friend of mine who contends that Americans, indefinitely, will refuse to cede control of their vehicles to computers, sensors, and robots. Something in the American Spirit, he says, will successfully dismantle the widespread adoption of technology that would drastically reduce loss of both life and wealth. (I know car buffs will lament loudly, and you must know, for the sake of openness, that I’m disinclined to give that reality priority over more important considerations. Sorry, car buff friends.)
I’m not so sure. Besides supporting automated driving and all it might one day offer—really, continuing to allow humans to pilot automobiles would be insane in a society with a viable alternative—I’m inclined to … Read more
February 7, 2012 1 Comment
In keeping with my tradition of insulting, degrading, and otherwise doubting the humanities, that slimy, little den in which I’ve been mired for the duration of my academic “career,” I want to point my reader’s attention to a post by Kenneth Anderson at The Volokh Conspiracy, especially his conclusion:
It means, for another thing, that the humanities as disciplines, while they might still (barely) be a way of teaching certain forms of reasoning, don’t provide “content” in the intellectual reproduction of commercial culture – at least, not at the fundamental level, at the level of science and applied science. They are not part of the production of new knowledge. Success and advance for society lie in the innovations of technical and applied sciences alone – and the humanities lose a place in the production of these innovations, and become relegated to the status of mere items of consumption. Literature,
February 6, 2012 3 Comments
I was rummaging through my electronic files last night, looking for inspiring crumbs—a chance thought hammered out during a spare minute, already crystalline in form and fully realized yet scribbled in some nebulous personal code I was sure at the time I would be able to decrypt upon later viewing—when I found a file called “Bullshit Criticisms.doc.” In it, I had written this:
Always fear the reader who accuses smugness or arrogance simply upon coming across a quiver of big words or inaccessible references.
Is being cerebral a bad thing in writing? Presumably this is a Master’s course and we should be aspiring to the intelligent. If your primary criticism is that the author of whatever you’re reading is smarter than you, go pick up a fucking book, or a dictionary, and get cracking.
Are the points these people want our writers to make simply arguments to reinforce the points
February 2, 2012 Leave a comment
This will be as useless and banal as any obituary or tribute, not only because memorializing a person’s life is, in its own way, an act of barbarism, but because I am limited in what I’ve read of Hitchens’s work to his last eight or so years’ worth of essays. I’ve not read God is Not Great, nor have I read Arguably. I will, but that’s not the point. Reading one Christopher Hitchens essay should be enough for any reader to realize, without doubt, that they are drinking deep the work of a virtuoso, a true master of written English, and a wit unparalleled by any of his contemporaries. When he died last night, the world lost perhaps its finest living prose writer.
I have always marveled at Hitchens’s fearlessness. A person can be born with intelligence, … Read more
December 17, 2011 Leave a comment
A friend of mine posted a link to Adbusters.org, a site promoting a holiday season in which people buy nothing. This season, of course, begins with Buy Nothing Day, today, Black Friday. If you scroll down the page to which I linked, you’ll notice a number of, frankly, hilarious pictures of protesters criticizing the consumerist rampages of the day. While I empathize with the anti-consumerist sentiment, while I think it utterly sick and disgusting that people are trampled and pepper sprayed in the mad rush for Deals, I have trouble with the idea of a Buy Nothing season. (But I may drop “Everything is fine, keep shopping” a few times. Some of these people do deserve it, after all.)
The ostensible aim would be to make our voices echo down the avaricious halls of corporate offices everywhere, to wrench the suits out of their greed comas just … Read more
November 25, 2011 6 Comments
I felt like a monster reincarnation of Horatio Algier . . . a Man on the Move, and just sick enough to be totally confident. Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
(This post is very closely related to this post, but it takes a bit of a different tack. I may get some shit if any of my classmates happen across this thing, but it’s meant to open an honest, reflective dialogue about what the fuck we’re doing here. Most of this advice, while addressed to “you,” is also addressed to me, and to be sure, there are classmates of mine who would not be included, like I would be, as “part of the problem.”)
I have spent most of my scholastic life studying English—writing, literature, pretense, ego—and, mostly, it’s all garbage. The English degree should not impress (not that most people consider us English … Read more
October 11, 2011 3 Comments