Friday, December 5, 2008

Putting On My Business Hat (Leaving My Business Pants Behind)

This week, I started my part-time, un-paid internship with Open Court Books, working two days a week as a "Marketing and Editorial Assistant." So I suppose that I'm no longer officially unemployed, but I wouldn't exactly call myself employed, either. It's more like I'm somewhere in between those two - schmemployment, perhaps. I am schmainfully schmemployed.

Not that I can really blame Open Court for not offering me a wage, either. As I've mentioned before, they actually interviewed me in October for a full-time paid assistant position that I initially applied for in August. Somewhere between then and now, however, the bottom completely fell out, and they sent me a sad little e-mail saying that they really, really would've liked to have to take me on, but, y'know, they're broke.

So I figured, what the hell. Right now, I'm not getting paid to loaf around my apartment in my underwear and play online solitaire. I might as well not get paid to do some filing and proofreading. So I wrote them back, and, after a minimum of haranguing, we agreed to start me off part-time, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then, depending upon my job options and their financial situation, to go from there.

Tuesday was my first day. And I think that I can honestly say that, if I was getting paid, this would be an awesome job. Sure, the morning was spent sifting through a huge stack of papers in need of filing, but that wasn't so bad. And, in the afternoon, I got to start the proofreading of a book about religion and philosophy in pop culture. My bosses gave me a red pen and everything, and, by the time that I got to the chapter on Kant and Woody Allen, I had to resist the deep temptation to scribble all over the pages in bright red ink: "Grammatically correct, but conceptually WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!!"

I'm pretty sure that would get me fired, even from an internship.


See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Philosophy, Really, Is Just A Kind of Theory

It is 5 in the morning, and everyone is asleep but me. I am back in Hyde Park - I love Hyde Park - but I don't miss it. And my friend has the complete works of Wittgenstein in German on his shelf, and, because everyone else is asleep, I am left with only you to torture. So here we go.

§356 Man ist geneigt zu sagen >>Es regnet, oder es regnet nicht - wie ich das weiß, wie mich die Kunde davon erreicht hat, ist eine andere Sache.<<>> eine Kunde davon, daß es regnet?>> (Oder habe ich auch von dieser Kunde nur Kunde erhalten?) Und was kennzeichnet denn diese >Kunde<>>Mein Auge gibt mir Kunde davon, daß dort ein Sessel stehe<<

OK... I suck at translation. But here we go...

§356: One is tempted to say, "It rains, or it doesn't rain - this much I know, that my experience has amounted to a complete proposition. " But our experience makes us ask: What do I mean by, "my experience tells me that it rains?" (Or have I also from this experience had another experience?) And what then does the knowledge of this "experience" lead to this other kind of knowledge? Do we allow ourselves to ask questions of this type? It is not unlike the familiar metaphor of, "My eye gives me the experience of seeing."

I don't know if that's right at all. I'll let you know tomorrow, when I can find an English translation of that damn book.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Philosophy, Really, Is A Kind of Therapy

I'm sorry everyone, but it is late, and I have discovered that R.A. and I can more than handle a fifth on our own. And you are all asleep right now. So I have to do this.

§354: The fluctuation in grammar between criteria and symptoms makes it look as if there were nothing at all but symptoms. We say, for example: "Experience teaches that there is rain when the barometer falls, but it also teaches that there is rain when we have certain sensations of wet and cold, or such-and such visual impressions." In defence of this one says that these sense-impressions can deceive us. But here one fails to reflect that the fact that the false appearance is precisely one of rain is founded on a definition.

OK - the best that I can, at this moment provide, is that it is not the sense-impressions that deceive us but instead it is our not understanding how the word "experience" is used. It's a kind of a trick, a sleight of hand, that makes us think that the experience of watching the barometer drop is in someway comparable to watching wet, cold, droplets fall from the sky, insofar as both are (somehow) evidence of the fact that it is raining.

OK - the bottle of bourbon is starting to empty, and I think that I understand the difficulty in caring bout the difference between drops of water and barometers and vampires and vampire slayers. The existence of the latter proves the existence of the former. But, I continue to contend, the one cannot exist without the other.

The question is: In what sense does the barometer count as evidence for the fact that it rained last night, and in what sense does the fact that water fell from the sky count as evidence that it rained last night?

One night I was laying down. I heard mama and papa talking. I heard papa tell mama, "Let that boy boogie-woogie." And I felt so good. And I went on boogie-woogie just the same.

This Had Me Laughing For Hours

From Minnesota Public Radio:

Ballot #5: Lizard People

This Beltrami County voter cast their ballot for Al Franken, but also put "Lizard People" as a write-in candidate, not only in the U.S. Senate race, but for several others. The county auditor/treasurer ruled that the vote should not be counted because it's considered an overvote. Representatives for Franken challenged that decision. (MPR Photo/Tom Robertson)

Personally, I don't see what the big deal is. Obviously, the voter intended to vote for Franken for Senator, but for the Lizard People for President.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday: What I Have Been Reading, Vampire Edition!

First off, reviews of the new movie "Twilight." The reviews are all pretty "so-so," mostly involving praise for the cast and the director, Catherine Hardwicke. Some of what I consider to be highlights are as follows:

The New York Times
gets the tone of the critic perfectly when it opens its review with:

It’s love at first look instead of first bite in “Twilight,” a deeply sincere, outright goofy vampire romance for the hot-not-to-trot abstinence set. Based on the foundational book in Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling multivolume series, “The Twilight Saga” (four doorstops and counting), this carefully faithful adaptation traces the sighs and whispers, the shy glances and furious glares of two unlikely teenage lovers who fall into each other’s pale, pale arms amid swirling hormones, raging instincts, high school dramas and oh-so-confusing feelings, like, OMG he’s SO HOT!! Does he like ME?? Will he KILL me??? I don’t CARE!!! :)

LOL. But the Times also touches it with a needle when it concludes:

If Ms. Meyer has made the vampire story safe for her readers (and their parents) — the sole real menace comes from a half-baked subplot involving some swaggering vampires who like their steak saignant and human — it’s only because she suggests that there actually is something worse than death, especially for teenagers: sex. Faced with the partially clad Bella (who would bite if she could), Edward recoils from her like a distraught Victorian. Like Ms. Hardwicke, the poor boy has been defanged and almost entirely drained. He’s so lifeless, he might as well be dead — oops, he already is.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle sits Time Magazine's Richard Corliss, who judges that, "So Twilight isn't a masterpiece — no matter. It rekindles the warmth of great Hollywood romances, where foreplay was the climax and a kiss was never just a kiss." Can you see my eyes rolling?

However, Mr. Corliss does manage to win the award for "Most Outrageous Statements Likely to Anger My Girlfriend" award, all of which I will reiterate here, because it will be funny:

a) "The Cullens are a fastidious family of vampires; in their tennis whites, with their regal airs, they resemble the aristocratic Flyte brood in Brideshead Revisited."

b) "Defiantly old-fashioned, the film wants viewers to believe not so much in vampires as in the existence of an anachronistic movie notion: a love that is convulsive and ennobling. Bella could be any Hollywood heroine in love with a good boy whom society callously misunderstands. She's Natalie Wood to Edward's James Dean (in Rebel Without a Cause) or Richard Beymer (in West Side Story). Cathy, meet Heathcliff. Juliet, Romeo."

and, of course:

c) "Hardwicke is faithful to the book's chaste eroticism. The couple must put off having sex because, well, it could kill Bella. (AIDS metaphors are unavoidable here.) Yet waiting has its own delicious tension."

LOL and weep.

However, there is at least one voice of sanity amidst this howling storm of nonsense, and it belongs, believe it or not, to Roger Ebert:

Come on now, what is "Twilight" really about? It's about a teenage boy trying to practice abstinence, and how, in the heat of the moment, it's really, really hard. And about a girl who wants to go all the way with him, and doesn't care what might happen. He's so beautiful she would do anything for him. She is the embodiment of the sentiment, "I'd die for you." She is, like many adolescents, a thanatophile.

Ebert gets bonus points for the use of "thanatophile," which, I believe, is not a neologism, but he is using it in an unusual sense. I think it is supposed to be synonymous with necrophile, but it obviously isn't. Ebert's use is way, way more awesome

It's all about Thanatos, darling. Thanatos.

Post-Script! Sub-Question! In what way or ways does Christianity itself, in particular the Church of Latter-Day Saints, of which Ms. Meyer is a member, embody the principle of Thanatos, and how is this reflected through the myth of the "good" vampire?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November 4th, 2008: Part Three

I think that I took my first breath of that evening after CNN called Ohio for Obama. It was pretty well known among the crowd at Grant Park that - as long as that projection remained valid - Obama was going to be elected. With one swift move, the drama that had surrounded the outcomes in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana had dissipated. They were now all completely and totally irrelevant. Maybe this ought to tell us something about the nature of the Electoral College. Either way, having lost both Pennsylvania and Ohio, McCain's path to the White House had now been blocked.

By this time, also, R.A. and I were starting to get quite cold. Our butts were wet from the grass, and our legs were starting to get cramped. Or at least mine were. Anyways, the point is that we decided that now was as good of a time as any to go for a walk. The crowd that we had been a part of had begun to disperse a bit, and so we wandered towards the south side of Grant Park, closer to where the ticket-holders had been roped off from the rest of non-ticket-holding proles.

As we neared the area where Obama would be giving what was becoming more and more likely his victory speech, the atmosphere became more and more festival-like. There were wall-sized portraits of the candidate along the walk-ways, vendors hocking Obama and "I Was There" t-shirts (Viva la Capitalisme!), and local youth hanging from the trees trying to get a fleeting glimpse of the still-distant stage. Eventually, we hit that point in the crowd/ potential gigantic mosh-pit where we could no longer push our way forward, and had to settle with standing on our tip-toes and peering over the shoulders of the people in front of us at the news-cameras and enormous video screens.

I remember that, at about this point, my cell phone rang. I picked up, but, at that same moment, CNN called Virginia for Obama. It was impossible to talk or to hear anything over that noise. As I was shouting in vain over the phone, the decibel level rose by several degrees. The polls on the West Coast had just closed: Obama was officially the winner.

I feel like I have spent my fair share of time in large crowds. I've been to protests, concerts, sports events. I even spent hours in a crowd of several tens of thousands of people in Rome waiting for the Pope to come out and bless us all so we could go home. (The last Pope, not the German one now; he gives me the willies.) But this experience was completely different. Hundreds of thousands of people- packed into a relatively small space - all erupting at once with joy and jubilation. People were crying and hugging and high-fiving and dancing. Some of the dancing was pretty hilarious. But it was a strange atmosphere, very calm and a little aphrodisiacal, made even more so, I think, by Obama's cool-headed and somber speech.

It felt a lot like a rock concert or festival, at least in terms of the magnitude of energy. But even those events have a kind of pent-up (youthful) agression to them, however upbeat and optimistic they might try to be. At Grant Park, there was a good deal of anxiety and trepidation, at least at first, along with a whole lot of silent, black helicopters, spy planes, mounted cops, and hidden snipers. But at the end, after Obama said good-night, loitered on the stage for a bit with his family and the Bidens, and then disappeared, there was just a feeling of relief and tired euphoria. Smileyness, maybe.

And then there was this moment of, "What next?" Everybody just kind of turned and walked home. It wasn't a "march," per se, but there was just such large amount of mass that, as we left the park, we occupied all of Michigan Avenue and State Street, halting traffic throughout most of downtown Chicago for a good long time - it felt like hours, but probably wasn't. There was some sporadic cheering and chanting and quite a bit of honking of horns and high-fiving car passengers. R.A. took some pictures, and then we went to a weird little bar/ diner on State Street for some drinks, and to wait for the crowds to thin out enough so that we could get on the Red Line and go home. Inside, there was that same feeling of exhausted glee.

When we got back to Roscoe Village, I immediately checked the results online, and was pleased to see that Obama had won Indiana.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Intermission: About That New Puppy

So the internets have been all abuzz about the Obama's new puppy and ohmygod what kind of puppy should the Obama's new puppy be and I want a new puppy please daddy daddy can I have a new puppy nooooowwww?!?!?!?

Well, I just wanted to remind that part of the world that is living in the world of rainbows and cotton candy that President Obama will be the commander-in-chief. That means that he will need to be able to command and chief. And in front of whom will he need to be doing all of this chiefing? In front of Vladimir "The Putin" Putin, that's who.

And do you know what The Big P keeps as a pet?

That's right. A tiger. A Siberian, Russian, Dostoyevsky-reading, Nazi-devouring tiger. So no chocolate lab or Peruvian hairless is going to lead to the next Perestroika.

Therefore, I am hereby opening the floor to new, more badass suggestions for Presidential Pet/ Mascot. R.A. and I hashed over a couple of possibilities. Cheetah? Well, it's got the whole Kenyan angle going for it, but it's really just the poor man's tiger, now, isn't it. Bear? No, no, far too Russian. Chinese Snapping Turtle? Now that doesn't even make any sense.

As of now, our best suggestion has been bald eagle. It's big, it's lethal, and it's patriotic. Also, we think that Obama has kind of that avian "lean and mean" look about him. But I'm not sure; he may be more of a Peregrine Falcon kind of guy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November 4th, 2008: Part Two

Editor's Note: We have been trying to get the second installment of Mr. J's election night report for several days now. When he failed to meet deadline and ceased to return our phone calls or e-mails, we visited his home in Chicago. There, we found him asleep on his sofa, an empty bottle of "Old Grand Dad" bourbon rolling on the floor, wearing nothing but an upside down Chicago White Sox baseball cap and the words "Obama '08" written in chocolate syrup across his cheast. We found the following pages next to his Hermes 3000 Typewriter and, after feeding the cat, took them for publication. We have decided not to telephone him for the third installment until the morning.

So there we were, sometime between eight and nine at night, with everything pretty much hanging in the balance. The air is heavy with the scent of indecision, with all of those south-eastern and mid-western states being still undecided. The crowd was tired, anxious, and just a little too moist and a little too aware of the fact that most of them had to be at work tomorrow at nine in the morning. Morale was reaching a bit of a nadir (Nader?) with our crowd. But, I think, that the next announcements were timed quite well.

First, came Pennsylvania. The crowd cheered, with as much relief as anything else. I never thought that Pennsylvania was ever going to in play, regardless of what the McCain campaign had been claiming. But with Obama still behind in both Virginia and Indiana at that point, seeing the Keystone State go blue breathed a little bit of life back into Grant Park.

A few more minutes passed. The crowd booed when CNN showed McCain with a 5-point lead in Texas. "Wait, why are you booing?" I shouted, "Texas is still too close to call! That's great news!" "Shh," said R.A., "Don't argue with the mob."

Wolf Blitzer then said something that really made me cross. "We're going to go to commercial break right now, but don't go away. CNN is ready to make a big projection in this race, and we're going to do it right after these messages. CNN: The best political team on television." Oh, they're ready to make a call, one that is really important, that you really don't want to miss, but you have to sit and watch more health insurance and creepy Viagra adds before they do.

When they came back from commercial, they showed us at Grant Park, and everyone stood up and cheered. Then they cut back to their special "Projection" screen, with those laser sound effects. "CNN," said Wolf, "is ready to call Ohio for Barack Obama."

The crowd went wild. Jumping, shouting, even a little dancing. My initial reaction was a combination of disbelief and skepticism. Ohio had just closed their polls. Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana had all close their polls between 1-2 hours ago, and none of them ad been called. And Ohio was supposed to be just as close as any of those states. Also, and this was probably at the heart of my suspicions, we'd heard this story before. If it were true that Obama had won Ohio, then the election was over - there was no way that McCain could come out ahead in the Electoral College. But that was what John Kerry had thought, too, and he still managed to find a way to lose. So you'll please pardon me if I wasn't quite in the jubilant mood yet.

November 4th, 2008: Part One

So yes, I was at Grant Park last night, along with the rest of the city of Chicago. R.A. took a lot of good pictures; I will start hassling her to put them up on her blog. We got to he park at around quarter to six, and were duly herded into the non-ticket holding section of the park, at the north end, by the Pritzker Auditorium. There was a jumbo-tron set up there, tuned in to CNN, along with food and drink vendors and lots and lots of porta-johns.

About twenty minutes after we arrived, CNN called Vermont for Obama with 0% of the precincts reporting. (I love Vermont.) The crowd went absolutely wild. A few minutes later, they called Kentucky for McCain, and everyone booed and cat-called the man on the giant television. Everyone seemed both very nervous and very excited, and there was lot of energy going around. And a little bit of weed, too. But mostly energy.

The crowd got a lot more tense after the early returns from Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida all came in. At first, none of them looked good. I was particularly scared when Obama was behind in both Virginia and Florida. I had been reading about all of the voting problems that they were having in Virginia, and I definitely did not want it to prove to be like Florida of 2000 or Ohio of 2004. I also was worried for that completely unrelated reason of realizing that I was in the middle of a crowd of several hundred thousand people that could very easily enter the "angry mob" category if things didn't go their way. So, yeah, it was tense there for a while.

Things started looking up when the East Coast polls closed and CNN marched out all the Big Blue States for Obama. We all stood up and cheered as, one by one, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and D.C. all went blue. A few minutes later, CNN called New Hampshire. R.A. and I stood up and cheered. (Obama ended up with 355,901 votes in New Hampshire. That 355,901st vote? That's R.A.)

But after that, the excitement of the crowd started slowly to dwindle. Six o'clock became seven o'clock, and seven o'clock eight, and what had been a warm, balmy day started to get chilly and damp. And I think that we started to realize that we had all gathered, thousands of us, to sit in this park together and watch the news. For four consecutive hours. My favorite part of this was that, whenever CNN would cut to Chicago, everybody would stand up and start screaming like crazy. But as soon as the cameras were back in the studio, we would all sit down and be quiet again.

But that's not to suggest that the crowd was in anyway complacent. A big roar went up when the Midwest checked in, and Illinois got to lead Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota into the blue column. A few minutes later, the crowd loudly greeted New York when they finally closed their polls and voted officially for Obama. (Oh My God!! "Obama" is no longer being flagged as a misspelling by Blogger!! He's a real word now!) And whenever CNN would play their dramatic "Projection" music, everyone would immediately get to their feet, only to boo and hiss in disappointment when they found out that Alabama or Arkansas was being called for McCain. And through it all, everyone was keeping a nevous eye on those yellow states (was CNN sending us a metaphorical message?) - Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Nervously Waiting For the Polls to Open

It's 1:30 in the morning, and I can't sleep. My stomach feels like a giant ball of lead, and I've spent the last couple of hours reading New York Times articles, making iTunes playlists, and playing solitaire. I keep telling myself that Obama's going to win tomorrow, because all of the data points to it. is now giving Obama a 98.1% chance of being elected. But you know how the human brain processes those kinds of statistics; even looking at Nate Silver's pie charts don't make me feel any better. They just kinda make me hungry.

Maybe it was an attempt to assuage my feelings of guilt and helplessness, but I made, like, 150 calls today to Indiana on behalf of the Obama campaign. There was one young woman - I'm pretty sure that she was black - who told me that the last time that she tried to vote, in 2004, she was told by the officials at her polling place that it was illegal to vote for a straight Democratic ticket, that she had to vote for at least one Republican. And she just wanted to ask me if that was true, because she wasn't sure or not.

So I guess that I'm only partly anxious about the actual outcome of the election. Most of the McCain supporters with whom I spoke were very nice and polite. I even gave some of them polling information; I figured, y'know, that they ought to know where to go to vote, too. There was just one young man who shouted at me, "Fuck Barack Obama!" and then slammed down the phone. (Have you ever noticed how you can tell when the person on the other end of the line actually slams the phone down?) That's fine with me - I've done a lot of work in phone banks. I'm OK with being hung up on.

But what worries me is thinking about what happens when these two young people meet at the polls tomorrow. And then get multiplied by standing in line for six hours and by being tens of millions of people, and not just two. So, yes, I guess that I'm saying that I will be surprised and relieved if we get through tomorrow without any kinds of violence or disruptions of the voting process. I'm guessing that I'm not the only one tense and uptight about this election, and anxiety is always the surest recipe for well, maybe not disaster - let's just call it mass stupidity.

And then what? Say we do get through tomorrow without any pitched battles in the polling lines, without ant disputed or litigated voting results, without any Brooks Brothers riots, without any kinds of national emergencies, and let's go so far as to say that Obama not only wins, but wins comfortably, with a mandate. Then what? It's not like we're not in an economic depression, or that we're not involved in two foreign wars. All of the headlines that I've been reading tonight have been saying that this is the end of a historic journey, but it's not. It's just the beginning. I can kind of imagine all of Obama's campaign cheering and congratulating each other after he wins, and the whole city of Chicago erupting in a giant celebration, and Obama just standing there, thinking to himself, "What now?"

Does anyone else remember this movie?

It's nice to know that some things never change.

"America is therefore the land of the future, where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the World's History shall reveal itself." - Hegel

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." - H.L. Mencken

Sometimes, It Is Worth The Effort

Me: Hello, my name is Joel, and I'm calling on behalf of the Obama campaign. May I please speak with Jane Doe?

Voter in Indiana: Yeah, that's me. Look, I wanna vote for Obama, but I've gotta work tomorrow, so I just can't vote. I just can't.

Me: Well, did you know that the polls in Indiana are open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm tomorrow?

Lady Who's Vote Just Might Matter: Oh... they're open until six? I thought they closed at five. I guess I can do that...

Me: Your nearest polling location is Lincoln Elementary School at 10 Main St. Do you know where that is?

Undecided Voter Who Has Been Leaning Obama For Awhile: Yeah... yeah, that's near here. I can get there after work. OK, I'll do that.

Me: Great. If you have any more questions, you can call the Obama Voter Hotline at 1-877-235-6226. (Real number).

One More Voter: OK, thanks very much. I'll do that. (click)

What I Am Reading This Morning

1)"For McCain, Lighter End After Years On the Trail" - In some alternate universe, John McCain picked Joe Lieberman as his running mate, openly rebuked the far-right wing of his party, fired Steve Schmidt, and publicly refused the endorsements of Bush, Rove, and Cheney. He agreed to do three town-hall meetings with Obama, where they had several exciting and informative exchanges about the intricacies of the capital gains tax and the difference between "tactics" and "strategy" in modern warfare. No one in the McCain campaign has ever used the phrases "socialist," "appeasement," or "pallin' around with terrorists" in reference to Obama. Latest polls show Obama coasting to a victory, winning every state but Arizona and Utah.

2) "Nuggets Dealing Iverson to Pistons" - Go Celtics. Go Cavs. Go... Bobcats. I now have a new team to despise in the East.

3) " 'Joe said this morning when I walked into the coffee shop, 'It sure is quiet in town,' ' Clark Weber told me, referring to one of his neighbors. 'There was nobody on the streets. Everybody's pickup was in front of the right house. Nobody had run off with nobody's wife. Joe and I sat there and looked at one another and drank coffee, and we couldn't even think of anything to talk about.' " - Pamela Colloff, "Exile on Main Street: George W. Bush's Weary Neighbors"

4) "It was not really till after their recent long talk that she knew how deeply, how quite exhaustively, they had communicated - so that they were to remain together, for the time, in consequence, quite in the form of sociable drinkers who sit back from the table over which they had been resting their elbows, over which they have emptied to the last drop their respective charged cups. The cups were still there on the table, but turned upside down; and nothing was left for the companions but to confirm by placid silences the fact that the wine had been good." - Henry James, The Golden Bowl

Thursday, October 30, 2008

This Made Me Both Happy and Sad

From Crooked Timber:



Friday, October 24, 2008

5 Thoughts on a... Friday

1) Nate Silver said everything that I wanted to say better than I ever could in a recent article for The New Republic. My favorite hits are as follows:

In 2006, half of the top ten fastest-growing states were in the West, ranging from Nevada (3.5 percent) to Colorado (1.9 percent). These new residents generally fall into one of two categories: college-educated white folks from the coasts looking for cheaper housing, better schools, or a higher quality of life--or, Latinos. Both groups are quite friendly to Democrats.

McCain has also managed to wind up on the wrong side of a number of the West's peculiar pet issues. He had been a supporter of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, and has previously called to renegotiate the Colorado River compact, which might result in diverting some of Colorado's water to Arizona and California.

He seems to satisfy precisely nobody on immigration, having lost the trust of conservatives with his support of the McCain-Kennedy bill in 2006, but then losing Hispanics when he backtracked on the issue during the Republican primaries.

These were the issues that I was trying (admittedly, in vain) when I highlighted Colorado as a potential swing state. Silver, in my opinion, has hit the nail on the head. However, his discussion has brought to the fore a corollary issue: the future of the Republican Party.

2) Do you remember back in Spring, when everyone was prophesying the destruction of the Democratic Party, a sort of final schism between Clintonites and Obamers. (?) The diagnosis made sense at the time, with Clinton being Hubert Humphrey, with her socially conservative coal minors and auto-makers, faced off against Obama, playing the part of McGovern with his unruly coalition of anti-war students and African-Americans. But, surprise surprise, Clinton proved to be the smartest man in the room, and now it's October and the Asses are, for once, presenting a strong and united front.

The real question, now, is whether or not the Grand Ol' Party is about to devour itself alive. (Schadenfreude! Schadenfreude!) We got hints during the Republican Primary of the coalition that brought W. to power starting to come apart at the seams, with the pro-business lobby behind Romney, the hawks hawking for McCain, and the crazy psychotic people voting for Huckabee. This divide has been highlighted recently via Sarah Palin, with half of the Party behind her and the other half (OK, the smaller half, but shouldn't we liberals be spreading the lie that it's at least half.... remember PUMA????) staunchly opposed to her "populist" message.

And I am probably wrong, but I think that McCain hates Palin and the people who have pulled her into the spotlight. He's proud to be a footsoldier in the Reagan Revolution, but that's because he doesn't like taxes and thinks that Gorbachev is a fag. (Still a fag!) But I sincerely doubt that he gives a damn about gay marriage, abortion rights, or Left Behind. I just think that he has never gotten those kind of Republicans, and he never will.

So I'm going to leave this thought on an ellipse, but my question is: Could we see the genesis soon of the McCain-Lieberman-Graham party, a party for aggressive foreign policy and low taxes that is moderate on social issues, is pro-choice, pro-drilling, and favors universal health care? And what would they call this party? The Grumpy Old Moose? The Tricky Dicks? Let's Burn Karl Rove At The Cross? Je ne sais pas.

3) Battleground: Oregon! quackquackquack

2004 Oregon County Map of General Election Results for President

Oregon isn't actually a battleground state this year, and it's voted for a Democrat every year sincce 1984. But McCain once said that he was going to go for it, and it's my home state, so I feel obliged to include it here. Kerry won the state 51% to 47%, but look at how small of an area that equates to on the map. Basically, Kerry won in Eugene and in Portland and its suburbs, and this was enough to carry him to victory. Also, all you Ducks and Beavers, look at how light blue Deschutes, Jefferson, and Wasco Counties are. In 2004, they went for Bush 56-42, 58-39, and 50-47. So, maybe Central Oregon won't be changing colors any time soon, but there's still hope for The Dalles.

Basically, Oregon may not be on the chopping block this year for the presidential election, but it is for the senate.

4) I'm not a big one for spilling tears over the plights of celebrities, but news that Jennifer Hudson's mother and brother were murdered in the 7000 block in Englewood brought me close to the edge. She is a great actress, and, honestly, I hope that the tragedy of her family will bring some attention to the South Side. Here's the article from the New York Daily News. Pray to the gods for Ms. Hudson, and for a fund to start ending this cycle of violence.

5) "All truly wise thoughts have been thoughts already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, until they take root in our personal experience." - Goethe

Thursday, October 23, 2008

5 Thoughts On A Thursday

1) Why the ğ@*! are we talking about Sarah Palin's wardrobe?!? Isn't there anything - or, actually, isn't everything - more important in this election then whether or not it's OK for Palin to be shopping at Barney's??? "Obviously not, Joel," say the gods of Page Six, "Have you been living under a rock for the past, oh, forever?" Granted, I still feel as if the real nugget of this story has been largely ignored by both sides of the political divide, that being, "Why did the GOP find it necessary to pay that much for Palin's image?"

You see, when I look in my closet in the mornings, I find three suits: 2 black, 1 navy blue. If I want to seem professional that day, I choose from four shirts: 2 white, 1 blue, 1 cornflower blue. I have two pairs of shoes: 1 black, 1 brown. And my ties fall basically into four different categories: 1) black, 2) solid blue or red, 3) striped blue and red, 4) inappropriate for work. When I shower in the morning, I use body wash, face wash, extra-strength dandruff shampoo (it tingles!). I put on deodorant, and then, if I'm feeling adventurous, I'll put lotion on my face. Bam, done, out the door.

And I am competing for jobs with women who have to get up maybe 1-2 hours earlier than I do to get ready for an interview, and who have to spend exhorbinantly more on their wardrobe than I do just to seem "professional".

So the real question ought to be not "Is Ms. All-American Hockey Mom a(n) hypocrite for spending $150,000 on dresses and shoes?", but rather "Is she a hypocrite for doing so and then calling Obama's middle-class tax breaks 'socialism,' for joining a ticket opposed to providing Children's Health Insurance Program (which, you know, might help working mothers), and of course, being opposed to abortion?" Of course Palin needs to spend more time and money on her image than any of the male candidates. But I think that it's a luxury that Obama can spend less than $5,000 on his wardrobe, not a virtue.

But I could be wrong:

Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, have been described as elitist by both Republicans and Democrats at times, and so much was made when she appeared on “The View” in June in a black-and-white patterned dress. Turns out it sold for $148 at an off-the-rack store.

2) As you may have noticed, I've been spending more and more time lately over at Crooked Timber. I like their philosophical perspective, and I especially like their goofy philosophical sense of humor. ("Braised Chunks of Karl Popper in Served in Heavy Sauce"! Hilarious!) But the other reason why I like their website is that it can also make me very, very angry.

For example, there is this post, that includes a link to an online "Moral Sense Test," with the stated goal of investigating "whether respondents with academic philosophical training respond differently to a suite of moral dilemmas (you know, the usual sort of potted philosophy cases) than do others (you know, the man on the street, mere mortals, Joe the Plumber)."

Sounds like a reasonable goal, right? Right, until you realize that their idea of a "moral dilemma" includes such gems as:

Mike is a firefighter inside a deadly blaze in an orphanage. He is in a room with five children, and they must be evacuated immediately or the smoke will choke them. The only way to evacuate the children is through the window, and the only possible way to open the window is to smash it hard with a beam of wood. However, another firefighter put a toddler strapped to a hospital crib on a large platform outside the window, waiting to be rescued. If Mike smashes the window with the beam, the beam is sure to knock the crib and that one toddler off the platform, and the one toddler will die, but the five children will be safely evacuated. If Mike does not smash the window with the beam, the five children will die.

Then you have to rate on a scale 0f 0-6 how "morally good" it would be for Mike the Firefighter to smash the window. Here's another example:

Cindy is the captain of a military submarine traveling underneath a large iceberg. An onboard explosion has caused her to lose most of her oxygen supply and has injured one of her crew who is quickly losing blood. The injured crew member is going to die from his wounds no matter what happens. The remaining oxygen is not sufficient for the entire crew to make it to the surface. The only way to save the other crew members is to shoot dead the injured crew member so that there will be just enough oxygen for the rest of the crew to survive.

First off: I don't know! I'm not the captain of a military submarine! Is Cindy at war? Is she a communist? Did the injured crew member have an affair with Cindy's sister in 1988? I think these are all questions that need to be answered before I can judge what the morally right thing for Cindy to do would be.

Second: This highlights one of my biggest hang-ups with academic philosophy. It's a big complaint, but part of it is that someone thinks that these questions can somehow "get at" what is at the heart of making moral decisions on a day-to-day basis. They're supposed to make you stop and consider what you really value, and question what assumptions you might hold. But they tell me nothing about what is actually involved with decision making, or why make the choices that we do, or what factors influence what makes a decision morally right or wrong. I mean, is Mike the Firefighter going to sit that there and count the orphans and measure the utility of saving some against killing the other?

R.A.: "He might, and then the ensuing tragedy would shut down the city's "Philosophers-to-Firefighters" program."

3) Don't you hate it when you accidentally type in a web address incorrectly, and then suddenly you're at some kind of pornography and life insurance website?

4) Battleground: Colorado! (slooosh!) I imagine that's the sound of disputed water rights. And since there was actually quite a lot of feedback from the last two installments, here we go! (Again, remember, Blue=GOP Red=Dems.)2004 Colorado County Map of General Election Results for President

Colorado in 2004 was a lot closer than I would have guessed: Bush won the state 1,101,255 to 1,001,732. This year, it is barely a swing state, with Obama holding at least a five point lead since the end of September, and the only time McCain held a considerable lead was after the Palin/ Convention bump. Here is the official timeline from, which is perhaps the awesomest website of all time. The biggest question, in my mind, is how is the hispanic demographic going to vote. In Colorado, hispanics make up, as of 2005, 18.5% of the population. Now, McCain, being the senator from "neighboring" Arizona, has largely made his name on being friendly with America's hispanic population. However, this year, McCain has, as some would say, "sold his soul" by turning upon the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill and renouncing any path towards a rational solution to America's immigration problem. I think that this may cost McCain in the southwest, especially the states of Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Wait, did I just violate my ethical imperative as a journalist?

5) "If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done." - L.W.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Just Voted!

Phew... that was exciting. I just have a few things to say:

- Can we get a ballot initiative started to bar Bill Sizemore from ever putting up another ballot initiative ever again? Seriously. That guy has wasted more of my time than YouTube.

- County Commissioner Mike Daly has a pet monkey named Andy??

- As an absentee voter, I didn't get one of those big pamphlets to tell me about each ballot measure. But I did find this website,, which provided me with lots of information and links. If anyone else is in the same boat as me, or just wants a paper-free voter guide, I recommend it.

Yes, I Would Have Predicted a Tampa Bay-Philadelphia World Series in April

The New York Times has been following the baseball saga this election cycle, too. And while Rupert Murdoch is probably cursing the rating gods for sending down Rays-Phillies, both Obama and McCain are giddy with excitement that both teams happen to come from swing states! (Although, to be fair, Florida is a little more swinging than Pennsylvania.) Also, I am pleased to report that the Red State-Blue State divide in baseball has finally been breached, with the N.L. team representing Philadelphia and the A.L. team coming from Tampa-St. Petersburg. For his part, Obama has come out in support of Philly, despite the fact that he has received the endorsements of Rays players DH Jonny Gomes, P David Price, LF Carl Crawford, P Edwin Jackson and DH Cliff Floyd. Take that, Colin Powell! Can you turn a 5-4-3 double play? No, cause you're just one person!... Although I guess that neither can the Rays, since none of them are infielders. Never mind.

Let's see the Republicans try to steal Florida now!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Two things I completely forgot about that last post, and now can't figure out where to fit them in.

1) Yes, it is sexist. Professional baseball - like most sports - is a huge business that almost exclusively targets men. And it is really encouraged in men to "have a team" and to be a "high IQ fan." Again, I think it's all about authenticity, i.e., are you a real fan, which is part of why I think Obama comes off better as a Bears fan than McCain does with his "off-hand" reference of the Arizona Cardinals.

So Clinton comes of as a poser when she gets caught wearing a Yankees hat here but a Cubs there. But she really isn't; she has grounds for both of them. She's the senator from New York and she was born in Chicago and raised in the North Suburbs. Plus, she knows that one is an A.L. team and the other is N.L. It would be a different kettle of fish if she were a Mets fan. I guess that my only problem is that the Yankees and the Cubs are the two easiest teams to be fan of.

Sarah Palin doesn't get a defense.

2) According to Sports Illustrated, "Major League Baseball has agreed to push back the start time of a potential World Series Game 6 by eight minutes to allow Democrat Barack Obama to purchase a half-hour of air time on the Fox network." What this says to me is that Obama has enough money to do whatever the Hell he feels like doing. And that it's all about revenue - at the moment it is likely that Fox will be getting a Rays-Phillies World Series, a viewer ratings nightmare for the networks. (Although you can't count out Boston.) Obama can probably outbid that match-up any day. But I wonder if Fox would have been as willing to sell him that premium timeslot if it meant pushing back Red Sox-Dodgers or Red Sox-Cubs. The ticket price for that buy would probably have been much higher.

Because Everyone Has To Be On Someone's Team, Right?

It seems that no one can get enough of the baseball-as-politics-as-baseball metaphor these days. And why should they? These are perhaps two of the greatest of American traditions, and they give citizens of all class and creed a chance to come together, wear silly hats, shout slogans, and vilify one another for more-or-less arbitrary reasons.

Red Sox Yankees Suck Value T-shirt

But the similarities don't end at mere bigotry, demagoguery, and name-calling. Both baseball and politics involve an obsessively complex system of numbers and statistics that people can - and do - spend their entire lives dissecting and analyzing. Nate Silver has taken this affinity to a new level with his website Silver, an alum of the University of Chicago, created a highly effective way for predicting baseball outcomes based on very specific statistics. This year, he has applied this same system to the political process, and the results are both fascinating and good (for Obama - Silver's latest data shows/ says... shows.... no... pre-dicts... sorry, where was I? Oh, gives Obama a 94.7% chance of winning the Election. This means that Silver's software has simulated the election 10,000 times and, based on data collected from hundreds of different polls, Obama has won in 9,470 of those simulations. Of course, I look at this stat and all my monkey brain thinks is, "So McCain can still win?")

As Silver says in an article in Newsweek:
"Baseball and politics are data-driven," ... "But a lot of the time, that data might be used badly. In baseball, that may mean looking at a statistic like batting average when things like on-base percentage and slugging percentage are far more correlated with winning ballgames. In politics, that might mean cherry-picking a certain polling result." In other words, different sport—same skill set.

Henry James once said,"Cats and monkeys; monkeys and cats; all human life is there." So when your monkey brain looks at Silver's data and starts to get all hurty and angry and just wants to get back to the social grooming, it's probably time for your cat brain to take over and demand that the numbers give you something. Preferably something edible. Or something that can be exchanged for goods and services. That are edible.

Enter, a website where you can bet on which candidate will win invest in a candidate. Right now, Obama is "trading" at 83.9, meaning that you can "invest" $83.90 in Obama right now, and if he wins the election, you get $100. John McCain is trading at 16.8. But that's not all! You can also put down money on whether or not the U.S. will go into a recession (the "market" says yes) or whether or not another hurricane will make landfall this year! (Probably not - better luck next time, all you venture capitalists.)

So, yes, betting on the fortunes of others. As American as mom, apple pie, and union busting.

But aren't I being a bit callous here? I mean, Major League Baseball may be a $4 Billion a year business, but it's a chance to identify with the trials and triumphs of your fellow human being first, dammit! And you know who else loves identifying with your fellow human beings? Politicians. And it's not just by talking baseball either; pretty much anything involving competition and gambling will do:

But it can be a dangerous game, this "identifying" with people, for a politician not versed in the fine points of pandering. Because even if being a baseball fan means that you identify yourself with and emotionally (and financially) invest yourself in the fortunes of a group of nine strangers who happen to all be employed by the same company that is near your geographical location, it is still an identity not to be taken lightly. And just as this identity can be politically exploited to make you seem more "human", it can also burn you if you get your signals crossed and end up coming across as, shall we say, a little less than authentic.

Especially if your name is Sarah Palin and you are in the heart of Red Sox Nation.

P.S. - Speaking of monkey brains.

P.P.S. -

Thursday, October 16, 2008

5 Thoughts on a Thursday

1) It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor... I found myself singing that song softly this afternoon as I walked down our picturesque street under clear blue skies. So it's true, it is a beautiful day, but it is also ironic because I absolutely hated Mr. Rogers as a kid. I hated him so much that I would literally hide behind the furniture when his show would come on and make explode-y noises at the TV until it was time for Sesame Street.

2) And how have I spent this fabulous day? Why, online, applying for jobs, of course. I interviewed last week for a job with Open Court Books, and am now nervously checking my e-mail every five minutes to see if they've made a decision. Your prayers to your respective God or gods are appreciated. If you are sans deity, may I suggest sacrificing an owl to Athena? Or, if the zookeeper won't let you "borrow" his Great Horned, you could simply build a small stack of rocks in front of your door. You don't even have to tell anyone that it's a phallus dedicated to Hermes Agoraeus. It can just be a pile of rocks.

3) I'm sorry for implying that softball is inherently easy and does not require vast amounts of athleticism and technical skill. It is a great sport and I hope that the Olympics end up keeping it. Next time, I will use the term "nerf ball." Now, don't you have reading to do?

4) I got my absentee ballot today! I haven't opened it yet, but I am hoping for lots of crazy ballot measures that, like, outlaw taxes, or establish property values based on the results of some dude walking around your house with a dowsing rod. You know - Oregon stuff.

5) "Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man." - Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What I am Reading This Morning

The New York Times' grammar blogger Philip Corbett on Subjunctivitis - the recurring dilemma in the English language of trying to use a verb form that doesn't really exist, or, at least, is being slowly pushed into oblivion. But I think that Corbett does a nice job of explaining the dos and don'ts of the subjunctive, and pointing out how even professional journalists often get it wrong.

CQ Politics posted an article last night on the Oregon Senate race between Gordon Smith and Jeff Merkley, and how that race has remained very tight going into the home stretch before election day. In terms of political press, Oregon has gotten a little spoiled lately. We were relevant in the presidential primaries for the first time in, like, forever, and, even though we're not a swing state this year like we were in '00 and '04, this Senate race is becoming extremely important as the Democrats try to build a fillubuster proof majority. And I, for one, am hoping for a Merkley upset, even though (a) Smith does have a record of working with Democrats and (b) Merkley has two hands. President Obama is just going to need that super-majority in order to push through (quickly) bills dealing with rebuilding our infrastructure, developing renewable energy, and achieving universal healthcare.

And, finally, Crooked Timber has this picture from a "George Salter designed cover for a 1930 German edition of Dos Passos’ The 42nd Parallel." (It's pretty funny. I think my favorite line from the blogger's is "I don't know what army is invading Chicago.") In the 20's and 30's, Germans went nuts for American Western/ Frontier narratives, epitomized by the fictional-autobiographical writings of "Old Shatterhand" Karl May. And I'm not sure that the craze has even passed: A few weeks ago, I was at the Art Institute in the "Western Art" room, which was filled with oil paintings and bronze sculptures from the early 20th Century depicting "authentic" Western life. There were two German women in the room with me, and they were soooo excited to be there. The security guard even had to shoo them away after one of the ladies started 'petting' a bronze-cast Indian pony.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Secret of the Universe Exposed!

On Saturday, R.A. and I were enjoying the Chicago Indian Summer by having brunch at the Guatemalan place down the road. While we were there, however, the same thing that always happens whenever I dine outdoors occurred: a bee came and landed on my orange juice. I would shoo the bee away, and then it would buzz about and then settle back down on my glass of orange juice! But, the problem was, I was thirsty, and wanted to drink my juice! So, while waiting for the bee to kindly leave, we (we being me, R.A., and the bee) composed the following haiku:

Oh, bee! You want my
juice. I also want my juice.
Eternal struggle.

Needless to say, this made me feel much better about my situation at the moment, and I consoled myself further my nibbling on fried plantains and sipping my Guatemalan coffee. It was then that I had something of an epiphany.

The only particulars of the above haiku are the words "bee" and "juice," which are both only one syllable. So, without them, the poem reads:

Oh, X! You want my
Y. I also want my Y.
Eternal struggle.

You can substitute any other pair of single-syllable words for "bee" and "juice" and retain the poem's structure as a haiku. For example:

Oh, dog! You want my
lunch. I also want my lunch.
Eternal struggle.


Oh, bird! You want my
eyes. I also want my eyes.
Eternal struggle.

(That one happened to me yesterday.)


Oh, God! You want my
soul. I also want my soul.
Eternal struggle.

The possessive pronouns are also (largely) interchangeable, meaning that you can also describe the state of desire as well as that of suffering, such as:

Oh, pig! I want your
chops. You also want your chops.
Eternal struggle.


Oh, Steve! I want your
job. You also want your job.
Eternal struggle.

The possibilities are literally endless here. Even more apt, however, is that this poetic structure epitomizes the Buddhist/ Hindu concept of samsara, of the cycle of desire and suffering. As an added bonus, it also illustrates the fundamental economic principle of finite supply/ infinite demand. It could also be used to explain how Darwinism works.

Also, I have decided that plantains are delicious.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Three Cheers for the Shopkeep!

I just like Joe Biden more and more everyday:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Morpheus Needs to Get Some New Writers

The night before last, I had a dream about baseball. And not in a cool, surreal, dream-like kind of way, where everyone walks with four balls and plays with their wooden, maple bats. No; this dream was just baseball. Two innings, to be exact. And I wasn't even in it. It was a little like watching TV except even more so because I was just a point of perspective. I was just (not) sitting there, watching two anonymous teams play twelve outs of baseball. One team got a hit, but nobody scored. It was very boring.

On the plus side, I had a dream the night before that was a trailer for a movie starring Christopher Walken as a corrupt, jaded congressman and Shia LaBoeuf as the idealistic young journalist trying to take him down. The plot had something to do with Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and I guess Christopher Walken was taking bribes so that people could keep storing their toxic waste there, which isn't exactly the issue with Yucca Mountain, but, you know, it was a dream.

A dream that could probably get moderate reviews and take in $15 million on opening weekend.

Battleground: Florida (Arrrr!!!)

So here's Florida... again, thanks to and again, with the god damn colors backwards!

2004 Florida County Map of General Election Results for President

Again, the same trends that we have discussed are coming to the fore - the major urban areas of Miami (in the south) and Orlando (in the center) went for Kerry, but the rest of the state, to differing degrees, went for Bush. The one exception worth notice is the metropolitan area around Jacksonville, in the northeast of the state, which went pretty solidly for the Republican. Again, what we are probably seeing is the influence of a traditional Southern culture in an otherwise swing state.

So, you ask, how can Obama win this phallic shaped state? His best chance probably lies not with Jacksonville but with the St. Petersburg/ Tampa metropolitan area. These areas tend to be not quite as culturally conservative as Jacksonville, and, perhaps more importantly, they have been consistently ranking in the top ten nation wide in house foreclosures per capita per county. That is probably Obama's biggest selling point - at least for now - in Florida.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Battleground: Ohio (pakeeeww!)

Is that not the sound a missile makes?

So here is a map of the way that Ohio voted in 2004, thanks to, although the colors are reversed, with the red being districts that went Democrat, and the blue being Republican.

2004 Ohio County Map of General Election Results for President

Town (m)

Now, the Democratic centers - as you know - focus around large industrial centers, so all of that red that you see in the northeast corner is around the cities of Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown. The other Democratic "blips" occur around the cities of Columbus and Dayton. The key to winning the state, though? That tiny county in the southwest of the state, colored light blue, called Hamilton county. Home of the great city of Cincinnati. And Obama's best chance at carrying Ohio.

Why?, you ask? Because Cincinnati exists on a kind of border, between the Democratic-leaning urban areas of the Rust Belt and the culturally conservative southern regions that border Kentucky and West Virginia. And this is precisely the kind of region that needs to prioritize its economic interests over its cultural ones and vote for the Democrat!

So if you know anyone living in Ohio, specifically in the Cincinnati area, call their asses up an tell them to vote! Also, remember this: Cincinnati's population 1910: 363,591 1950: 503,998 2000: 331,285 Percentage of Black or African-American inhabitants: %42.92

Just sayin'.

Something That Has Been on my Mind for Awhile

So, it has been awhile. The Cubs have lost, the Sox have lost, and now we are faced with the utterly horrid prospect of a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series. Mon Dieu.

But, on the bright side, I have (slowly) gotten back into the habit of reading philosophy - if not actual hard-core philosophy of Kant and Wittgenstein, at least the nice, soft ball kind of philosophy of Michael Berube on Crooked Timber. Apparently, Professor Berube attended a conference held recently at SUNY Stony Brook on the philosophy of disabilities, a conference that included (at least the discussion of) such philosophical heavy-hitters as Martha Nussbaum and Peter Singer. Berube positions himself against both of these figures, insofar (as far as I can figure) in that he portrays them as holding the position that, ethically speaking, it would be morally equivalent to murder a squirrel as it would be to murder a human being with the mental capacity of a squirrel.

Now, as far as I can tell, the discussion with which Berube is involved focuses more on the philosophical questions raised concerning cognitive disabilties rather than physical ones, and I guess that I am a little disappointed in the fact that he never distinguishes between the two. However, I guess that I can't blame him too much because his primary question concerns the question of what legal rights someone with severe cognitive disabilities - say, someone with a major case of Down's Syndrome - would have. (i.e., if such a hypothetical person has the IQ of a chimp, should he be allowed to vote? Or, if we jettison the idea of the existence of some kind of immutable human soul, is it any worse to murder a severely mentally handicapped human being than a certain kind of mountain gorilla?)

As for me, my concrns lies less in the area of legal rights than those of political rights, or, I guess I should say, political power. Specifically in the area of political identities; as in, the notion that someone with Down's Syndrome is somehow equivalent to someone with Cerberal Paulsy, or that someone with attention deficit disorder is the same as someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder or thalidomide-induced syndrome. And this has been something that has bothered me for quite awhile - to try and put it succintly, that the American's with Disabilities Act is intended to cover all of those Americans with disabilties.

So I suppose - and please let me know if you disagree with me on this point - that my complaint rests in the fact that Berube and his fellow (analytic) philosophers are concerened primarily with the metaphysics of disability - those issues having to deal with the hypotheticals of a human being with the mental capacity of a tree rat - rather than the very real issue of there being a splintered demographic that is the "Disabled" population, and what it means for someone who has to cope with being a member of this (oppressed) group that by definition one does not want to be a member of.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Never, Ever, Mix Baseball and Politics

I have made a difficult decision.

Tonight, rather than watch the first televised presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, I will go to U.S. Cellular Field to watch the White Sox play the Indians.

But please, please don't use me as your exemplar of citizenship. Watch the debate. And then, immediately after Jim Lehrer says goodnight, turn the TV OFF. Don't change the channel. Don't go online. Don't turn on the radio. Do nothing until you have had a chance to think quietly by yourself or a few friends about what you just heard. Then you can turn to the news media and find out how wrong you are about everything!

For me, however, I have more important things to do. The Sox just blew their division lead by getting swept by the Minnesota Twins, and now need every break they can get going into the final weekend of the regular season. This is crunch time, ladies and gentlemen. Bring your hats.

In the meantime, however, I was thinking about how well by predictions have turned out. You see, back in March, I wrote about the strange fact that, for the past five years, the AL champ has always come from a blue state whereas the NL champ has always come from a red state. I also mentioned that during the last presidential election the Democratic nominee was a senator from Massachusetts, and, that same year, the Boston Red Sox were able to break the curse and win their first World Series in 86 years.

But, as we all know, Kerry lost. So, this year, I hypothesized, we need to reach across party lines and get the NL to send a blue-state team to the World Series, a team whose state will be represented by the Democratic nominee, and a team looking to win their first World Series in 100 years: the Cubs. (Of course, almost immediately after saying this, I started rooting for their cross-town rivals the White Sox.)

So now it's September. And so far things are looking pretty good. The Cubs have won their division, Obama is leading in the polls. But there are still many obstacles to be overcome, like fighting against voter fraud in Ohio and seeing if the Brewers get the wildcard. But, I wondered, could we use the same impeccable logic of Obama=Cubs to analyze the fortunes of the rest of Major League Baseball? Well... why the fuck not - I mean, Yes We Can!

1) New York Yankees - Everyone has been waiting for the Evil Empire to return to power. But a string of losses early in the season doomed them, despite a strong resurgence near the end. Parallel: Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

2) Tampa Bay Devil Rays - Surprising everyone, this scrappy team from the Sunshine State has won the toughest division in baseball. Will they be the ones to rain on the Cubs parade in October?
Parallel: Over 65, Jewish, and Cuban voters in Florida

3) Arizona Diamondbacks - Once the media darlings, the D-Backs may have shot themselves them in the foot by alienating immigrant hispanic voter Manny Ramirez, who now plays for the rival Dodgers.
Parallel: John McCain (R-AZ), GOP immigration policy

4) Boston Red Sox - They're old. They're rich. They have an incredible amount of power and influence, even after having surgery on their brains.
Parallel: Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

5) New York Mets - They looked so good, for so long. But a meteoric crash to Earth in September may have doomed them and all of their fans.
Parallel: The financial markets

6) Los Angeles Angels - The Halos have quietly been dominating the West. But are they waiting for bigger things to come in the future?
Parallel: Committee to Elect Schwarzenegger President, 2012

7) Minnesota Twins - Nobody gave them a chance. But this under funded group of misfits could win their division through small-ball and wit.
Parallel: Al Franken

6) Washington Nationals - They have the worst record in the NL, are regularly booed by their fans, and had their final home game of the season rained out.
Parallel: President George W. Bush

I can do this all day long, folks. But I should maybe accomplish something today. In the meantime, are there any other connections out there between baseball and politics that might you know, be a more useful way to learn about our government then watching Fox News?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

5 (Quick) Thoughts on a Thursday

It's been awhile. I have been busy with the whole job search/ moving thing. But I have a minute now, so....

1) I almost got squirrelled yesterday. Yes, squirrelled. As in, a squirrel fell out of a tree and landed, oh, about a foot from my head. The little guy then got up, chattered angrily at me (as if it were my fault?) and then ran back up the tree. Oddly enough, this is not the first time that this has happened to me.

2) Thank you Little Sister for the George Bush Catnip Doll. Coraline loves it. And by loves it, I mean... that she sleeps with it under her paws, and likes to snuggle with it, and gets upset if you sit between it and her. In other words, she treats it like it's her baby. In fact, I think I've only seen her bite it once so far. Stupid Republican cat.

3) We're almost moved it now. We've been going to the thrift store down the street and buying things like laundry hampers and picture hangers. But our house still has a whole lot of empty space to fill. We even have an entire room (that use to be a small bedroom) that is housing a few cardboard boxes and extra coat-hangers. But as soon as those get put away, we'll take some pictures. Please be patient. Any day now.

4) I like Joe Biden:

I especially like that, while Obama seems to be a little skittish (and wishing he had some green tea, maybe?) Biden digs right in and starts chowing down on the artichoke dip. He's already seated at the table and helping himself, around 2:50 in the video. He even eats most of Obama's pretzel! Seriously, do they ever feed this guy? Come to my house, Joe! We'll give you all the fried food you could want!

5) "All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind." - Aristotle

Monday, September 15, 2008

I've Got Your Signs of the Apocalypse Right Here! (Part Two)

And by draft I mean that the Large Hadron particle Collider is up and running! (Sound the bugles!) Yes, finally, after years of development, the 8-billion dollar, 17-mile long particle accelerator buried deep beneath the French-Swiss border has been turned on, and is about to start slamming protons into each other like tiny subatomic bumper cars, if those bumper cars could reach speeds of 99% that of light and then shatter into even smaller, never-before-seen kinds of bumber cars upon collision. I am stoked.

Why, you ask? Well, other than the fact that the LHC could begin to answer some of the galaxy's most perplexing questions, questions like, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" Well, then maybe it's because I take a kind of perverse joy in seeing people flip their lids over the possibility that the LHC might inadvertently destroy All-That-There-Is by creating a black hole that will devour first the Earth and then the solar system and then the entire Milky Way (nom-nom-nom).

For example, check out this article from last week on (Footnote: Why is an article "in" a magazine but "on" a website?) It turns out that some people are so absolutely terrified by the possibility of the end of all existence that they're actually sending death threats to the scientists in charge of the LHC demanding that they take the collider off line. Of course, the mad scientists will have none of this pish-posh, as the article says:

According to Professor Brian Cox of Manchester University, the public animosity is so severe that American Nobel prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has received death threats. Professor Cox, typically sedate, adds irritatingly, "Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a t---. "

I really would like to know what Dr. Cox meant by "t---". I'm guessing, since he's from Manchester, that it was "twat." However, I am not ruling out "teet," nor the possibility that is really PG and he said "twit."

But here's what really interests me about this situation: The fact is that the physicists cannot say that there is a zero percent chance that they'll create an Earth-eating black hole because there isn't. In fact, there is a (roughly) one in ten-to-the-thirty-first-power chance that they will cause such a space vacuum. That's a 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance for the end of all existence. But those are really pretty good odds, especially when you consider that the Earth has only existed for roughly 16,425,000,000,000,000 days, so that even if the scientists had conducted one particle collision per day for the past 4.5 billion years, they would only have a (roughly) 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000 chance of destroying the world. (i.e., one in one-thousand trillion, if my math is right.) Of course, these statistics only apply if you believe in evolution. (And FYI, they're planning on doing at most two experiments per day.)

But we human beings can't comprehend those kind of numbers in our tiny (monkey) brains. So all we hear is when the physicists say "1 in 10 to the 31st", is "not 0." And when he hear that - or when we hear that there is any kind of mathematical chance for destruction - we think of that chance as a kind of a flip of a cosmic coin, or, at best, the roll of divine dice. And so we freak out because when we hear the true statement from the scientists that, "We could destroy the Earth," we can only understand that word "could" in terms of, say, "Human activity could be the cause of global warming," or, "A black man could become the President of the United States," or even, "The Cubs could win the World Series."

And that possibility terrifies us all.

Post-Script: I really like this scene.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I've Got Your Signs of the Apocalypse Right Here!

I'm having a very weird day today. Partially, I think it's because the weather has been acting very strangely, being very warm and wet, but also alternating between very still and very stormy. I guess this is all part of the left-over hurricanes as they ramble up the Mississippi, but still, I can never quite get used to it. Also, as I read more and more about the simultaneously always imminent and yet never-ending destruction in the Gulf Coast, "Hurricane Season" continues to move up my list of "Reasons Why Not to Live in the South." In fact, I think it just passed "Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park."

But the rumblings of Zeus Almighty is not the only reason why today feels particularly queer. (Klimt!) Another reason is that the world of the news media seems to be holding its own Saturnalia, with up being down, black being white, and yes, left being right. (I don't know why the Olympian metaphors keep popping into my head. Again, it's been a weird day - just try to groove with it.) For example, I have been complaining (I was going to use a different word, but, based on Monday's, I probably oughtn't.) (Heehee... moppen't.)(OK - no more parentheticals.), yes, complaining, a lot lately about the spineless New York Times coverage of the Presidential Campaign. Paul Krugman must have been wearing his idea stealing hat last night, because today he wrote almost exactly what I have been feeling. While discussing the McCain campaign's - no, not the campaign's, but John McCain's - recent lies, Krugman says:

Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? Well, they’re probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being “balanced” at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn’t say that he’s wrong, it reports that “some Democrats say” that he’s wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty.

Exactly. The way I see it, there's a big difference between objective news reporting and stating that two opposing viewpoints are both equally correct. And that one of the recent problems with the Times coverage has been that they're so worried about getting slapped with the "liberal media" label that they have been going out of their way to make sure that the Republicans - and the horrible things that they do and say - get at least equal press time as the Democrats. Here is another good article on the issue of media coverage.

So who else besides Paul Krugman noticed that one of the two party's ticket has seemed to be getting away with quite a lot of fib telling lately? Who is finally going to take McCain to task on his lies?

Why, the crack journalistic team over at The View, of course:

(The important stuff starts at 3:22)

And there must have been something in the water over there at ABC this week, because Charlie Gibson actually asked some relevant (albeit, I admit, a little sneaky) questions of VP nominee Sarah Palin in their exclusive interview!

So what, then, am I to make of this? How do I reconcile myself to the fact that the esteemed New York Times political coverage team seems to have been awoken from their dogmatic slumber by the group of misfits over at ABC? How could it be that Barbara Walters, she-of-the-eternally-fuzzy-lens, Whoopi Goldberg, whom you may know from such films as "Theodor Rex" and "Eddie", and Charlie Gibson, co-moderator of the official "Worst Debate Ever," have risen up to save critical journalism?

Them, and, of course, the National Enquirer.

But that's not what I came to tell you about.

Came to talk about the draft.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Witness the Sexism Inherent in the Language!

So I'm browsing through the e-version of the New York Times, and I decide to read, "Drawing a Bead on the Press," by David Carr, about how Sarah Palin has just totally taken the media by stork, er, storm (oops! Freudian slip!) and how everybody loves her and oh my God the Democrats are doomed and blah blah blah. He's going on about the media reception of Palin, saying that:

Her cultural resonance is familiar to anyone who’s ever read a fashion makeover article or clipped “Lose the Baby Fat in a Month!” But it is fundamentally different from what we’ve come to expect from women running for higher office. Senator Clinton is a politician who also happens to be a wife and mother. Ms. Palin is a wife and mother who also happens to be a politician. She is a parent of five who joyfully juggles it all, up to and including firing the chef and the driver, a kind of aspirational model that still seems attainable.

OK, I'm thinking, that's somewhat legitimate, if Carr is saying that most Americans can only be comfortable with a powerful woman (or a powerful anybody, for that matter) if they can place her or him within a pre-constructed character archetype, such as "parent of five who joyfully jiggles - I mean, juggles - (Jesus! What the Hell is wrong with me today?) it all," and that they are more ready to accept Palin because she, unlike Clinton, falls easily into that (imaginary) category. Although I would question the use of "joyfully" up there.

But then Carr goes and does something with his language that's just as questionable as what I've been doing here, if not more so: he uses the wrong word (by which I mean, inappropriate) without realizing and/or admitting it. While commenting on Palin's speech at the RNC, he says:

Even her styling for the speech spoke volumes. Avoiding the fashion traditions of both show business and politics, Ms. Palin looked great, but not glamorous — more like the put-together neighbor down the street who got gussied up for date night with her husband.

"Gussied up?" Is that what our neighbors do for their date nights with their husbands? And this is how Palin looked? Not, say, "professional," or "in charge," or "like someone prepared to be the President of the United States"? But then I got to thinking - maybe Carr knows what he's talking about, and I just don't know this particular usage of the phrase "gussied up" that means, y'know, "presidential."

So I hit the series of inter-connected tubes (ah, Sen. Stevens, we hardly knew ye... yet...) to try and find out exactly what "gussied up" means. Merriam Webster says that to "gussy up" is synonymous with to "dress up" and to "embellish." (Suggesting what, exactly? That womanly trait of being insincere and disguising the truth?) It also gives an origin date for the phrase of 1952, but not - interestingly - an etymology.

I went next to the Online Etymology Dictionary , which claims that the verb "to gussy," means "to dress up or decorate in a showy way." OK - a similar connotation of a decorative appearance. The OED (hmmm...) also gives the origin date for the phrase as 1952, but adds that it comes, "apparently from Gussy (1940), schoolyard slang name for an overly dressed person, perhaps related to gussie (1901) "effeminate man," and somehow connected to the nickname for Augusta and Augustus."

Now this last part made me pause. Because if getting "gussied up" actually means "dressing in a way reminiscent of Caesar Augustus," well, maybe it wouldn't be the smartest thing for a politician in a democracy to do, but at least it wouldn't be a derogatory thing to say of them. And maybe Carr is trying to say something subversively ingenious by claiming that Palin is a success because she looked "
more like the put-together neighbor down the street who [dresses as Ceasar Augustus] for date night with her husband." Damn right! Palin, like your neighbor down the street, is not afraid to give herself life-long power over the Senate or invade a Middle Eastern nation and depose of its ruler for her own personal benefit! (Isn't that the VP's job, anyways?) And whenever she goes out with that bum of a husband Todd, she is sure to put on her best laurel crown, just so that everyone who sees them knows who's in charge!
Fig. A: "All gussied up."

But probably not.

There are lots of different theories about where the term "gussied up" comes from. My speculation? That it is somehow associated with the 1936 movie, "The Gorgeous Hussy," starring Joan Crawford, James Taylor, and Jimmy Stewart. I couldn't find any reference to a Gussy (1940), but the use of the word and its place as a piece of slang suggests that it could be a combination of "gorgeous" and "hussy." This would also account for its entering the vernacular circa 1952.

The word "hussy", unlike to "gussy up," has a long and illustruous pedigree, stemming from the Middle English huswif, or "house wife," first being used to signify the mistress of a household in 1530, and, again according to the (not) OED, "
by 1650 was being applied to "a woman or girl who shows casual or improper behavior," and a general derogatory sense had overtaken the word by 19c. "It is common to use housewife in a good, and huswife or hussy in a bad sense." [Johnson]" The Etymology Dictionary goes on to list "queen," "minx," and "slut" as alternatives.

So, yes. It means you look like a whore.