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Iran

Posted by Becks
on 06.13.09

I can't even imagine how I would have reacted on November 4 if, after all that work and excitement and hope and record turnouts, the incumbent party was declared the winner by more than 60%, defying all reasonable polls and predictions.


 

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First pull up then pull down

Posted by Ben
on 06.12.09

It is of course solipsism to believe that those with whom one seems to "interact" are mere ersatz interlocutors. But this familiar epistemological pickle is not the only solipsistic worldview going. A position which held that there are indeed others, but that they are, to a man, somehow less than one is oneself—that one is, if not sui generis, then optimus generis, the others being, comparatively, inchoate—would also be a solipsism of a sort, and would lend itself as well as its philosophically more recondite counterpart to worry about who or what populates the world: it is possible, for instance, that those who eschew profligacy and recoil from poverty promulgate sumptuary laws in part because the sight of others, either delighting in the sartorial appurtenances of wealth or remaining sanguine despite louche penury, makes them doubt the grounds of their own existence. Thus such people also experience schadenfreude when the mighty fall for subtler reasons than is commonly supposed: they are glad, not simply to see the high brought low, but to see the high brought to their level, joining them.

The position we consider is more banal than thoroughgoing skepticism and is more easily met with in the actual world (and in some circles seems to rise to the status of a pandemic); fortunately, the means of escape from it are correspondingly less abstruse than those from the other. That said, the feeling of existential comity cannot be had simply by mandating fealty to some external appearance, as the lawgivers of the preceding paragraph might think, and it may be that we can never return to our antediluvian, antebellum (I refer of course to the war in heaven) state of innocence—it may even be that hagiographic references to it do more harm than good, since the bildungsroman of spirit can only ever go forward, and never backward. To entertain risible fantasies of a return to simpleminded security may give comfort to the feckless swine that make up the majority of men (here, alas, I yield to the very quasi-solipsistic tendencies mentioned above—well, I am not free of fecklessness), but actually to seek the means of that return would be as fruitless as seeking after phlogiston: it just ain't there. We must, rather, write the hagiography of the future, nor shrink from our Sisyphean task, though it be Sisyphean!

But I seem to have been diverted a bit; such a peroration was not my intention. All I meant to say was, for what other reason do we see such a glut of shibboleths, of whatever form, cropping up, if not to assure ourselves that we are not alone? That is the means of escape, and an escape it surely is. Vespasian was right to prefix his prediction of his apotheosis with a cry of dismay; really to be a god would be to be in as parlous a state, from the perspective of the human good (perhaps a bonobo could manage it), as that ancestor of Atreus was in, who found himself, following his contretemps with the gods, forever unable to satisfy even his thirst, no matter how he peripatetized his pool. (I apologize for the clumsy neologism, but it is somewhat fun to say.) And so we struggle to seek out those like us: do you, too, grow apoplectic at the sound of the adenoidal? Are you laconic in the face of witticisms, or do you, rather, erupt into paroxysms of laughter? Then you are my brother, and, more importantly, I am not alone in the world.

No other good is fungible with respect to this one; that is why we can recognize that even a dauphin, surrounded by luxury, can be unhappy, for such an isolated life can only produce a saturnine personality, enervating what is best in him.


 

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Long Con

Posted by Becks
on 06.12.09

What do you all think of this new Facebook URL thing that's rolling out? I'm stumped about what to pick. I also feel like there's pressure since people are likely going to snap them up quickly an you can never, ever change them.

There's no way I'm linking my blog name with my IRL name so it's not like I can use Becks. I was going to use the real-name variation that I usually use online but then I realized that's an identity theft disaster. I mean, you're linking your real name with the name you most frequently use online and a profile with all of your likes, dislikes, and personal information. How hard would it be to figure out that John Smithson with the Facebook profile name jsmithson1985 also uses jsmithson1985 for his account at Bank of America and then run through his likes and dislikes until you figure out his password is Redskins?


 

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Whoa, Dude!

Posted by Stanley
on 06.11.09

I am plagued, plagued! I tell you. (This doesn't get better, so check out now.)

I'm plagued by awesomeness.

I quite often find completely pedestrian things quite jaw-dropping and think about them way too much.

Tonight's version was exactly pedestrian: it's AMAZING! that humans navigate the world around them on two bendy sticks with some bendy platforms at the end. And, barring legs and platforms, we've got wheels! WHEELS! How awesome is that?!

How is it possible that we've gotten to this point where so much territory can be traversed with our simple-seeming functions?

Which is why I'd be a really bad scientist. Or a really bad writer for Jack Handey.


 

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No entity could be more proud of its outline.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.11.09

Down here, the Dairy Queen slogan is "DQ! That's what I love about Texas!" Which could not be more idiotic, given that it's a national chain and you probably could not tell that you were in Texas if you pulled into any DQ I've ever been to in Texas.

(Of course, tons of enterprises tailor their commercials to Texas. ("Ford is! The best in Texas!") All the beer cans have the Texas sillouhette somewhere on them. This kind of crap just perpetuates the notion that there's something inherently great about this state, which just undermines any discussions about how much we're doing wrong.) (They even sell Texas-shaped chips, but really that's kind of cute.)


 

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Anniversary

Posted by Alameida
on 06.10.09

I've been sober for three years today. I have never been happier. Sometimes I think wistfully about that warm chemical embrace. Will I never again feel all my spine filled up with shining, golden syrup and heat? But then, what am I complaining about, that I didn't have enough chances to get wasted in my life? Because I had more than a few. Not having to submit to tyranny, not having to get fucked up all the time--it really is wonderful. I don't hate myself for being a bad mother, and when I visit someone in a tall building, I'm not afraid that I will throw myself over the railing with my children in my arms. I used to be afraid of that every minute of every day. I was talking about it in a meeting yesterday and I just burst out crying. I was so scared, all the time. Soul-crushing terrified. So, yeah, being clean and sober, I recommend it very highly. On a lighter note, you all made me feel properly remorseful for being a dick to someone on the internet. I can truly say I have never missed Ogged more.


 

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Act Up

Posted by Becks
on 06.10.09

The small picture may not do it justice but seeing this plastered on bus stops around town is one of the most effective/attention-grabbing/in-your-face campaigns I've seen in a while.


 

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Pyrrhic

Posted by Stanley
on 06.09.09

I didn't mention it. I thought about mentioning it, but I didn't.

I voted for Creigh Deeds in Tuesday's Democratic primary.

You see, we here in Virginia vote in off-years, to keep things interesting. And this time around, it's going to be governor.

If you're voting Republican, your guy is already picked.

If you're voting Democratic, you had your pick among Creigh Deeds, Terry McAuliffe, and Brian Moran.

In a vote based solely on their political positions, I'd vote for Moran. He ran to the left, and I'm right with him on those issues. But he wasn't going to win.

At the end of the day, I voted against McAullife. I just don't like him, and it's the first time I'm voting on that sort of gut reaction.

So I voted for the guy that could beat him, Deeds, even though he was probably the most conservative guy in the race.

And, it's not that I held my nose and cast my ballot—sure, Deeds is not exactly my ideal candidate on a number of issues—but he's great, considering the opposition.

However, it's definitely the first time I've cast a ballot I was feeling very wishy-washy about. And I don't like the feeling.


 

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I'd call it On Your Knees

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.09.09

I love stories of the sex and alcohol and general trouble that people were exposed to back when they were kids at church camp, or in their church youth group, or anything generally voluntary and fundie religious where the kids simultaneously believe the dogma yet treat it like it's begging to be violated. (Scripture's so naughty. Wants punishing.) Anyway: I think a fundamentalist church youth group would be a great setting for a TV show.

(Oh you disagree? You must be imagining insufficiently great writing and actors, you contrarian. Now you see?)


 

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Foster Care

Posted by Becks
on 06.08.09

It seems like everyone I know is jumping on the Infinite Summer bandwagon. It sounds like if you're going to read it, this is the time but I've yet to have someone explain to me why I should bother to read this book in a way that doesn't become all literary and English major-y and makes my eyes glaze over. Any of you want to make the case?


 

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Tevas watch

Posted by Ben
on 06.08.09

The Sierra Club cockblocks at a severe temporal remove.


 

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Hot Air

Posted by Becks
on 06.08.09

I keep hearing more and more people (mostly IRL, like coworkers, not pundits, but there are some of them, too) suggesting that inflation would be good because it would help them shed their mortgage and credit card debt cheaply. Sure, that might be true, but wouldn't inflation be more damaging in today's economy, where more people have defined contribution plans for retirement, than in the 70's, when most retirement plans were defined benefit?


 

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Ask The Mineshaft - Getting to Know Americans Edition

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.08.09

Sir Kraab asks the following:

A friend's Chinese cousin is starting grad school in the U.S. this fall, and asked the following:

Please introduce to me some novels or figures that can represent US culture. I think that would be very helpful to me to adjust to the American social life.

M/tch had a good suggestion to read books that describe the U.S. through the eyes of Chinese immigrants: Maybe Red China Blues? It's not about American culture per se but it is about China viewed through a Chinese-Canadian's eyes. Of course it's possible [our friend's cousin] might be offended by it. Or maybe something by Amy Tan, e.g. The Joy Luck Club, might be more on target, i.e. America as experience by Chinese immigrants? There are probably other similar authors out there, but I'm not sure who they are.

I think you can all deduce what I'd suggest...

archie.jpg


 

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Ticking Time Bomb

Posted by Becks
on 06.07.09

A known terrorist who is in U.S. custody calls the Associated Press and declares that more violent acts may be planned. Surely, he must be waterboarded.


 

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Travel

Posted by Alameida
on 06.07.09

A lot of the people commenting on this NYT Frugal Traveler blog post (on the virtues of extended travel funded by short-term jobs) are jerks who say "get a job, ya bums." And then, there's this guy:

A few years ago, after getting laid off from my job as an aerospace engineer, I took ten weeks and traveled around Greece and the western coast of Turkey in the fall during the offseason. It was an amazing experience and had a profound influence on my life. I documented my experience in an extended narrative titled Oedipus on a Pale Horse. I had traveled Europe for a week or so several times, so I was no novice. I also spent six months familiarizing myself with Greece, its modern culture, mythology and archaeology. I've not worked in a foreign country to finance for my travels, but I did meet a young man from Kenya, who'd been on the road for fifteen years, doing precisely that. One of the most amazing things about world travel is the other travelers you meet. Traveling has a culture all its own. If you haven't done it, and done it on your own, you can't imagine the spiritual renew. It takes an adventurous spirit, a little faith in people, and a willingness to let whatever comes happen.

I had long thought this swipple post unfair in its assertion about white travelers "that they return to North America with ideas of writing novels and screenplays about their experience." (Likewise, in post #120, "Taking a Year Off", we learn that "within the first five days following departure, this person will come up with the idea to write a book about their travel experience.") I was wrong.

Note 1: you can't use the NYT link generator to link to their blog posts, so this is likely to rot.
Note 2: when I was 17 I wrote something that might charitably be called a novella that was partly about my experience at a summer program at Oxford.
Note 3: if that dude turned out not to be white, I guess the joke would be on me.


 

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