Friday, June 30, 2006

The post wherein you realize I'm going to keep on talking unless you stop nodding your head in feigned interest

Another note on flingering--or, as it should be called, FLNGINERERING.

Flingering has two rules, basically. 1) add as many extra letters as you can; 2) maintain coherence. These rules are, obviously, at tension. Taken together, the rules indicate that the "goal" of FLINGDERING is to add as many letters as possible while still conveying your message.

Genetically engineering a viral meme--The Art of Flingering

So, while working on my midterm, I suddenly had the urge to create a pop-culture phenomenon. Not a fifteen-minutes of fame thing, but an "emoticon"-type revision of the way we communicate in popular internet forums, blogs and such.

You've, no doubt, heard of l33t speak which is a method of internet discourse wherein letters are replaced with numbers of approximate visual equivalence (along with a few other grammatical idiosyncracies). You've also, no doubt, heard of emoticons, the creation of human faces with paranthesis, periods, commas, hyphens, whatever, to display emotion in the otherwise cold forum of cyberspace.*

So, without further ado, I give you my creation (well, actually, there's still a little bit of prefatory ado to dispense with, but bear with me). As a frequenter of political blogs, where the discourse in the comments sections can plumb the depths of paranoia, insanity and full-throated rage, all in the space of one syllable, I have created a new language to better express the explosive, trembling rage which seems to seize people when they comment. I don't have a name for my language, but, tentatively, I'll call it "flingering." When you flinger, you simply flail your fingers about as you type in all caps. These, you create approximations of words, but with many extraneous letters. The effect is both comic and an indication of an ironically feigned rage.

A sample: say I want to write "How are you doing today?" It might come out something like this:

HOWOY AREOY YHOU DOIDPNG TODAO8YT">:?

At first, it may take a while to get used to the proper method of finger flailing, flingering. Your message needs to flirt with unreadability, and yet remain solidly readable to a person willing to take the time and appreciate quality flingering.

Of course, I don't mean my creation to be reserved just for political settings. It can also be used by 13 year girls gossiping on messenger, or commenters on personal xanga sites, or facebook wall graffiti.

I THIONDK THOI8S WIOLL BEY HOYUGE!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

My life described through anecdote--or, How I often prostitute out coherency for the sake of spinning a sweet phrase

"Innovation is fashion masquerading as reason."

I used this line in a paper I wrote today, even though it didn't fit well in the narrative of the paper or really add any meaning to the paper as a whole--simply because I think it sounds cool.

And, whatever sense this line makes in the context in which I used it in the paper (little to none), it does express, at least when rendered here in the form of a maxim, a thought with which I am in general agreement. To take a completely random example--oh, I don't know ACADEMIA--who an doubt that most pedagogical innovations are simply the prevailing left-wing fashion of the day?

Not me, if you were wondering. Not at all.

update: Did someone say "diversity"? Because I sure didn't, and I want to FERRET OUT THE BIGOTS.

update II:
"Diversity is vitally important at Kansas State University and it is fitting that we recognize our departments when they are successful in improving diversity," Provost M. Duane Nellis said.

Vitally important? Like, if we didn't have this piece of fashionable nonsense as a core philosophical pillar of higher education, we'd, like, crumble? And what kind of diversity are they talking about--because all they seem to be concerned about is melanin count. Yeah, that's important--I mean, in a kind of racial essentialist, pre-Martin Luther King, Jr. way.

I'm trodding old ground here, I know, but my hatred for the semantic duplicity of that word knows no bounds.

Diversity. What in the hell does it mean?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

THIS POST NOT TO BE TAKEN AS EVIDENCE THAT MY LIFE IS EMPTY

This sentence from Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue made me laugh out loud (and not in the flippant "lol" msn chat way, but in the actual, I-shouldn't-be-laughing-out-loud, laugh-out-loud way). MacIntyre is talking here of the tendency of Marxist thought to be coopted by a Weberian, managerial, bureaucratic mindset as they assume places of power:
All power tends to coopt and absolute power coopts absolutely.

Read it out loud to someone.

Good times. Good times.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Not dead

Really.

Posting will resume shortly.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Life among the epigones

Almost on par with the Sokal Hoax in its all-too-revealing hilarity (via Protein Wisdom):

Empty Plinth Sidelines Sculpture

An artist's sculpture has been rejected by the Royal Academy of Arts which has instead opted to display the wooden support it was put on.

David Hensel, 64, from East Grinstead, West Sussex, was told the laughing head would be part of the summer exhibition.

But at a preview he found that just a piece of wood intended to support the head was on display on the plinth.

The Academy said the judging panel assumed the two pieces were separate and decided the support was better.


...

Y'know what I hate most about capitalism?

I mean, besides the gratuitous use of bare women flesh to hock male body sprays--sprays which, let's be honest, smell like someone aerosolized a frat boy and mixed in an extra lump of tool, just for kicks.

No, what I really hate about capitalism is those greedy, rich CEO's. So, just because they efficiently fulfill the wants of a large number of consumers they deserve to be able to quit their job and live a life of decadence? Don't click on the link if you have a weak stomach for capitalist excess, or else you'll be spewing historical materialism all over the monitor.

Bill Gates--what a capitalist pig. He's a symbol of everything that's wrong with capitalism. When you get rich, man, it changes you.

Alasdair MacIntyre responds to MLKJ's vicious and rhetorically charged attack on my Burkean anti-protest position

From After Virtue:
But protest is now almost entirely that negative phenomenon which characteristically occurs as a reaction to the alleged invasion of someone’s rights in the name of someone else’s utility. The self-assertive shrillness of protest arises because the facts of incommensurability ensure equally that the protestors can never win an argument; the indignant self-righteousness of protest arises because the facts of incommensurability ensure equally that the protestors can never lose an argument either. Hence the utterance of protest is characteristically addressed to those who already share the protestors’ premises. The effects of incommensurability ensure that protestors rarely have anyone else to talk to but themselves. This is not to say that protest cannot be effective; it is to say that it cannot be rationally effective and that its dominant modes of expression give evidence of a certain perhaps unconscious awareness of this.

This is probably difficult to wrap your mind around if you haven't closely read After Virtue--hell, it's still difficult after you've read it. But what he's saying is that protests appeal, usually, to rights. They're rights are being violated in some way, and so they demand redress. Society at large, which is violating these "rights," is doing so in the name of utility, that is, in the name of benefit for society as a whole.

However, rights and utility are "incommensurable"--they simply cannot be compared and measured against each other. Each is a different standard, and there is no "metastandard" which will allow us to judge which of these standards are right. Each is their own moral idiom, so to speak, so conversation where one side appeals to rights and the other to utility is doomed to end in a sheer assertion of will on each side.

To put it another way: The concept of rights is a premise (or set of premises) from which one formulates moral claims--in the case of immigration, from the concept of rights one would formulate a "right to live in the US" or some such. However, the concept of utility is an entirely different set of premises from which moral claims are formulated. Valid arguments can be deduced from each differing set of premises, but the differing premises themselves--rights and utility--cannot be argued, only asserted.

Is that clear? It's a substantial thesis on modern discourse, that's for sure. Nearly all moral claims we make are inarguable in that they are based on assertions of premises which cannot be justified. One could call it postmodern, but actually it's premodern--MacIntyre believes the answer (insofar as there is one) is a return to Aristotelian teleology. I don't know that I agree with everything MacIntyre says (I haven't finished After Virtue yet, either), but for anyone that has observed contemporary political discourse it sure makes a lot of sense.

After Virtue is somewhat of a dense book that assumes at least a brief familiarity with major philosophers. It also contains bits of entirely unforgiving prose--still, it's nearly impossible to put down. It may sound strange, but it reads like the greatest thriller ever written. We moderns, according to MacIntyre, are living after an enormous cataclysm--the apocalypse of morality. And yet, by and large, we don't even realize it. We still use moral terms as if they have definite content and mean something. But it is really just an unjustified--and unjustifiable--perversion of Aristotle that depends on a Nietzschean will-to-power. As noted above, we speak the incommensurable languages of rights and utility, without even giving a thought to their incommesurability. An amazon reviewer was spot on:
The setting is the Western world; the characters are philosophers; the plot is the murder of Aristotle. Who killed him? Was it Hume in the Enlightenment with the candlestick? Was it Machiavelli in the Renaissance? Was it Kierkegaard the Dane with a book: Enten-Eller? Was it the Bloomsbury group with their emotivist approach to ethics? Was it, after all has been said and done, Nietzsche?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

MLKJ responds to my Burkean position on immigration protests

From his Letter from Birmingham Jail:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Update: From the same letter, MLKJ contra historicism. My immigration views were not historicist, and I generally oppose historicism (because of reasons), but I still find MLKJ's denunciation of historical progress worth pointing out:
Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitibily; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.

Mill on Eccentricity

From On Liberty:
Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

On the allure of Coulter to her coultists

The NYT on the appeal of the wicked witch of the right:
All manner of televised talkfests, including "Today," welcome Ms. Coulter's pirate sensibilities back aboard whenever she has something to peddle, in part because seeing hate-speech pop out of a blonde who knows her way around a black cocktail dress makes for compelling viewing.
There is a fine line between playful irreverence and unacceptable incivility. Ms. Coulter has never seen this line, for she dwells far away, in a castle staffed by winged monkeys.

Political correctness has become something of bugaboo (I instantly regret using this term, suggestive, as it is, that p.c.ness is some phantasm rather than a real phenomenon--but do read on) for modern conservatives. Dinesh D'Souza, a right-wing polemicist whom I respect immensely, brought this term back into currency, and rightly so. There is a certain amount (indeed, a very large amount) of stultifying political correctness that inhibits rational conversation about race, gender and sexuality. But this type of political correctness is wrong because it is stultifying, not because it is political correctness.

Political correctness itself is a very conservative notion. It simply holds that certain things are beyond civility, and shouldn't be mentioned in respectable company by respectable individuals. It expresses an ideal against purposeless transgression, which is the domain of the avant garde lefty. It is politically incorrect to use the words nigger or raghead (a favored term of Coulter's), and the conservative should embrace this political correctness, insofar as it is expressive of civility for the sake of civility--of a de-coarsening of society, a re-chivalrizing of norms.*

Coulter seems to exhibit the same sort of transgression for the sake of transgression that is usually found, as I said, in avant garde lefties, such as Karen Finley. Coulter breaks down the very civilized norms which conservatives should support.

*(Of course, it matters how one defines "political correctness." For many, the stultifying effect that political correctness can have on candid discussion about controversial issues, is built into the phrase "political correctness" itself. On such a definition of political correctness, then, indeed, most, if not all, political correctness would be harmful. However, my point about Ann Coulter's incivility in support of an ideological movement that supports civility, remains.)

irony, fascism, obliviousness and the Democratic Party

Perrrfect. "At least the Democrats can make the trains run on time." This shall be the new Democrat mantra. They don't know it yet. But it shall be.

For some reason, maybe its my philosophy major, maybe its the mockery with which I treat every political view, including the one's I hold, but for some reason I'm always mistaken as a lefty. I once argued the pro-life position to a couple of dems for around ten minutes, until, finally, one said "You're really good at playing devil's advocate."

So, it's now my task to use the trust I've gained to insinuate that statement--"At least the Democrats can make the trains run on time"--subliminally, constantly into the minds of all the democrats I know, until it just sounds right for them to say it. Then, gradually, they'll start dropping it amongst their friends, at large gatherings, and finally, in public. And then, eventually, from some complete stranger, I'll hear this statement repeated back to me, "At least the Democrats can make the trains run on time."

And then I'll say "true that brother. True that."

update: if you were wondering, of course.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The absolute best in screamo television

It approaches an art form. And I don't mean this ironically or dismissively. This is what screamo television should be--this is the apotheosis of screamo TV. Bill O'Reilly is the vanilla screamo, the screamo for the people, screamo 9 to 5 with a lunch pail and company car.

But this Julie Banderas? Somewhere there is a people without their god, for she walks among us. Notice that no actual substance was interchanged--and this matters not. Julie Banderas performs a much more valuable function; she reveals that Phelp gorgon for what she is, viz, a shrieking gorgon, hate-embodied, Christianity reflected in a splintered mirror.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Deceased and desist

I'm sure everyone's heard the good news by now. Boom baby. Enjoy your virgins, you lecherous old monster.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Random thought instantiated in blog form: "There has to be a humorous malaprop around here somewhere..."

"Cease and desist"

Uh...sist and deceased? desist and decease? release and decease? Deceased and desist?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

metapost

busy now with studying for approaching lsat, and onset of summer class. after this week i hope to be able to get a post up on the hegelian darwinism (or some such) of teilhard de chardin for a friend who was interested in his work, as well as a reply to tim and some other assorted stuff. until then, expect only the random interjection or dialogue with inanimate objects.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

"NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME!!!" or, "Why vegetation is generally a poor interlocutor"

Me: The strong shall survive! That is their lot—the weak shall perish, that is theirs. Who am I too interfere with evolution, with the motivating force of world development? I am but a bubble gliding along the top of a tidal wave! All of human action is but the vibration of a fiddle-string plucked by an arbitrary quantum fiddler! I vibrate back and forth, forth and back—I am motionless!

Garden: Geez man, cut the pretentious b.s. If you’re too lazy to weed me, just say so.

Me: Oh no, no. Not laziness. Not at all. That evolution-fiddler thing I was saying. That's... that's... I think I’ll go have a coke. Later dude.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A brief foray into theology

Love the sinner, hate the sin, remain measuredly impartial toward the letter "s."

A Modest Proposal

I think we should turn the Statue of Liberty into some kind of giant, mechanized killing machine, to patrol our borders and keep the weirdos in line, all the while blasting Toby Keith from sea to shining sea.

Also, we should eat babies. Because of reasons.