Saturday, May 31, 2003

The things one finds on the Internet. If only there were some way to ingest too much alcohol while viewing the site, it would be just like the real thing. Wait a moment....

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Listening to an interview with various peace activists, (best quote, "We feel like the U.S. won but we [protestors] were defeated." Well, yeah) I was struck by their lack of interest in producing anything concrete from the various sit- defecate- vomit- sing-ins that were held. Some people would blame this apathy toward results on Kant, who insists that only intentions matter, but this interpretation of his Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morality is mis-reading him. He, in fact, starkly differentiates between mere hoping, and an act of will.

An act of will is just that, an act. It is not sitting in one's basement stabbing a voodoo doll which is dressed like Rumsfeld, or a protestor offering herself in exchange for all the lives that would be lost (a trick which has only worked once in history, and is unlikely to be repeated) or all the damn nudity all over the place. It is willing an act which has the greatest chance of morally achieving one's end. That is to say, greater will towards the good is shown by a country which builds itself up, creates the greatest military ever seen, and then takes unnecessary risks to itself in order to avoid killing civilians, than is shown by buying a bumper sticker. So Kant's not to blame. Which leaves...

Ah, Hegel. What it cannot do. Somebody set us up the bomb. And so forth. The key to the mysterious actions of various idiotarians was when one of them was discussing a fast (still not a good act, hippy. Get some will to Good into it! Lead with your chest!) and called it a "spiritual discipline". Now "spiritual" has a long and dignified career as a word, and I'll be the last one to claim that it is meaningless. But its meaning is not so loose as current usage would have it. It means "of the spirit", that is, of the realm which is beyond the material. It does not mean "lacking any causal connection but I want to do it anyway, so I'll claim that it's spiritual, which makes this definition circular in a post-modernist pleasing kind of way".

This idea that everything is connected through Spirit can, in Western thought, be traced back most directly to Hegel. According to him, all, properly 'seen', is Spirit, a great overarching plan to which all things bend. I'm para-phrasing, and playing fast and loose even with that, because, well, Hegel's tough. He's got his reasons and he's got his logic, and many people dismiss him without giving him a fair shake, just because he didn't like Newton's universal gravitation (which he didn't; he thought that the laws governing the fall of an apple and those governing the planets ought to be kept separate. I'm sure he had his reasons, but his attempt to share them with me has not gone well) or because they feel that he brought on relativism and post-modernism (which is false; that blame goes to Nietzsche, and he would be appalled by the scrawny, tenured professors who think that only they, as the super-man, have truly gone (kirkvoice) beyond Good and Evil (/kirkvoice). Listen, buddy, a truly Nietzschean philosopher will never be satisfied until he finds an opponent that cannot be defeated--only this tragic task will fulfil him. That is to say, a Nietzschean philosopher ought to be so powerful as never to stop until he is wrestling with and is thrown by Absolutes. Put that in your bong and smoke it, Mr. Mensch) or for whatever reason.

But the idea of all things being one Spirit, coupled with an amateurish interest in Eastern philosophy (on which topic I am not competent to digress, except to say that the writings of Lao Tzu are the most boring thing I've ever read, with the exception of my attempt on the Koran, and Atlas Shrugged (boy, that'll piss of a variety of believers)) lead to a rise in the cargo cultish behavior of certain groups. Listen, people, my cult has been bringing down planes for centuries. When you get one from your fasting or crystals or chanting, e-mail me.

Please, no more South African gold offers. I've made my four million off of it, and I'm not greedy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Looking about on-line for the libretto, I find a report of The Mikado being performed in Japan, which didn't weird me out nearly as much as the concept of a 'kabuki rock opera'.
It seems that all current critics of the Matrix: Reloaded have rather missed the boat. The philosophical argument is not between free will and causality. Rather, it central debate is far older; Pre-Socratic, in fact. For Pre-Socratics, freedom was an objective quality of men, not a point of disputation. No, their interest was in the interplay of the One and the Many. Zion, of course, is Greece (the idealized state (like Dante's Rome), not the warring cities it truly was); the surface world is Persia.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Oh yes, and I've picked up a cane. So far, a good time has been had by all, except the poor sap whom I convinced to be my uke. Well, a good time was had by me.
Forgive my absence; spring is here, and I'm going to be out in it. I just stopped in to comment on the idea of a balancing super-power, a counter-weight to the United States' puissance. That idea was very popular before--it was believed that the powers of Europe were too evenly matched, and that war was at an end. World War One came next. Then, after the horrors of that war, it was felt the an equilibrium had been reached. The powers were balanced once more, and their memories of the previous war would prevent any further hostilities. World War II. After World War II, the USSR and the United States were more-or-less evenly matched with conventional weapons, and the threat of nuclear weapons was thought to make their use impossible. Sixty years of war by proxy later, we have, conservatively, eighty million dead. The only lasting periods of relative peace (and I've got to qualify those nouns that way, since we are a belligerent species) have been when one power was without question ascendant. I am no fan of empire, but to argue that a "counter-weight" would prevent war is ignorance beyond imagining.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Russians are not chivalrous.
It comes as no surprise to me that the Vikings ironed their clothes. After all, they were quite natty. Combs out-number all other Viking artifacts by eight to one. Link via Dave's Blog.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The last time I began a senior essay, things did not go well. So this time, I plan to have it done before I begin school. And I'm following the advice a great teacher gave me. Last time I picked a book because I thought it expressed something personal. But a liberal arts education ought to prepare one to discuss on almost any topic, and to find the greatness in any of the Great Books. So I put all the authors I've read for St. John's in a hat, closed my eyes, and...hello, Montaigne!
Of course science works. But one might ask oneself: whence comes science, and this scientific attitude? And what do we want it to do? Neither science nor science fiction is going to answer the latter question, and the answer to the former is "Rome". In both senses. Prof. Reynolds is wrong about movies being more moving than religious services; he's apparently never been to the stripping of the altar on Maunday Thursday.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

In the seventeenth century unicorn's horn began to fall from favor with the educated, though it enjoyed an excellent business among unscrupulous apothecaries. Still, the royalty of France had a highly paid position, the holder of the horn, whose job was to touch the food and wine with a unicorn's horn to test for poison. It is rather unlikely that their majesties believed in any preventive or detective power of the horn, although they may have thought it possible; rather, it was simply an elegant ritual from a previous time, now valued for its own sake. What had begun as a means to prevent violence developed into something with intrinsic worth.
Now, on the Internet, a great many people say a great many things that they would not dare say to someone's face. They do this because they are free from dangers of the physical world, and they argue that politeness is unnecessary and indeed unreasonable, consuming precious bandwidth and time. I would remind them that the graceful rituals of the French court were replaced with the rule of Reason, a time known as the Reign of Terror. We should be careful when we abandon our pleasantries, lest we forsake rather more than we suspect.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Like the Internet can compete with a gorgeous spring day! Ta!

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Monday, May 05, 2003

Sunday, May 04, 2003

I've never been convinced that Game Theory has much application outside, well, games. The model of self-interest they use would seem a sociopath to anyone who encountered it. We seem to cooperate more than theory would predict, anyway. Er, mostly.
No wonder I get sick all the time.
These guys have apparently recorded the genome sequence for bread mold. Um, I guess.
"When there are more jayhawks, there are fewer chickens. When there are more men, there are more chickens." Note: link does not go to actual chickens.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

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This is brilliant. Almost as good as Homestar Runner