Thursday, September 29, 2005

Contra Rhetoric
In matters of art, love, or ideas I think that programs and announcements are of little use. So far as ideas are concerned, meditation on any theme, if positive and honest, inevitably separates him who does the meditating from the opinion prevailing around him, from that which, for reasons more serious than you might now suppose, can be called "public" or "popular" opinion. Every intellectual effort sets us apart from the commonplace, and leads us by hidden and difficult paths to secluded spots where we find ourselves amid unaccustomed thoughts. These are the results of our meditation.
--Jose Ortega y Gasset, What is Philosophy?, trans. Mildred Adams

I've been thinking about this quote with regard to politics. We tend not to engage with our ideological opposition, instead choosing to argue against straw men, paper tigers, and other inflammable objects. I find myself surprised, when politics is discussed, how few people hold the opinions attributed to them. Not every supporter of the Iraq War did so out of a thirst for a blood and oil martini with an Abu Ghraib twist; ANSWER and the North Korean secret police did not ferry in every opponent from Canada. Few of us hold our opinions out of psychological needs, and no one admits it in argument. To insist upon it, seems to me the nadir of rudeness.

It is a worn, irritating saying, that reasonable people may still disagree. Unfortunately, it is no falser for its wear and tear. When even the facts at our disposal are being debated, to accuse a faction--or even a member of a faction--of ill faith is an appalling shortcut around genuine thought.

I find myself more and more convinced that I lack the ability to make a truly informed decision. This lack doesn't stop me from making them, but it does give me pause before I call someone a jack-booted fascist. And this lack is met in different ways by different people. It leads me to a Coolidge-esque hands-off policy in most (but certainly not all!) areas. Others rely on an innate sense of justice and compassion to insist that something must be done, now.

I would claim that my way is better, but I'm willing to admit that I might be wrong. And that my opponents are arguing out from a reasonable standpoint. We have almost all thought through our claims, rather than inheriting them from parents or pundits. Very few of us are remotely controlled by Dr. Dobson or Michael Moore.

If the stakes were only lower, I would feel much more comfortable with this sense of ignorance. As it stands, a willingness to examine not just our own positions (at which I think most people are excellent), but those opposed to ours, seems incumbent on any thoughtful person.

And I don't mean that damn' quasi-Socratic pointed questions method, either. That's just dumb.
Another theory about where the mammoths went.
A supernova blast 41,000 years ago started a deadly chain of events that led to the extinction of mammoths and other animals in North America, according to two scientists.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Afterward Jurgen abode in Hell, and complied with the customs of that country. And the tale tells that a week or it might be ten days after his meeting Florimel, Jurgen married her, without being at all hindered by his having three other wives. For the devils, he found, esteemed polygamy, and ranked it above mere skill at torturing the damned, through a literal interpretation of the saying that it is better to marry than to burn.
--James Branch Cabell, Jurgen
Cronaca has the giant squid roundup going on.
I learned today that Alan Turing invented a form of chess called "round-the-house", in which one ran, well, round the house after each move. If one returned before one's opponent had moved, one got to move (and make another circumambulation) once more. I heartily approve.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Anthimeria weirds language.
I'm going to step way outside my purlieu and declare that I agree with Odious about Ray Kurzweil. We may be approaching a singularity in regard to information technology, but if so, it's a singularity at which advances in computing no longer qualify as progress in any meaningful way. I am very unconvinced that the best of all possible data manipulation will imminatize any eschaton. The cessation of meaningful progress in this field would, however, drive us to progress in some other area, and what it might be I doubt any erudition can rightfully speculate. Since we're illustrating our ramblings with quotes from early 20th Century authors, here's some C.S. Lewis:
Imaginative writers try sometimes to picture this next step-- the "Superman" as they call him; but they usually only succeed in picturing someone a good deal nastier than man as we know him... Thousands of centuries ago huge, very heavily armoured creatures were evolved. If anyone had at that time been watching the course of Evolution he would probably have expected that it was goingto go on to heavier and heavier armour. But he would have been wrong... The stream of Evolution was not going to flow on in the direction in which he saw it flowing: it was in fact going to take a sharp bend.
Superman indeed, Mr. Kurzweil. I've been doing a truly repulsive amount of research on info- and bio-technology of late. The sorcerors who weave spells of our numbers and our blood offer some quite wondrous tricks, but no true changes. The world and people outside the labs grow no more tractable. The question is not whether we will develop this miraculous, almost mystical technology, but rather, what will it ever be good for besides perpetuating itself? If increased computing power can spontaneously generate an answer, we might have a truly impressive singularity; but I see no reason to believe that it will.
A handy link to the Great Books online.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

And that is what I think of Ray Kurzweil.
'Just as', said Dr. Pellkins, in a fine passage-- 'just as when we see a pig in a litter larger than the other pigs, we know that by an unalterable law of the Inscrutable, it will some day be larger than an elephant--just as we know, when we see weeds and dandelions growing more and more thickly in a garden, that they must, in spite of all our efforts. grow taller than the chimney-pots and swallow the house from sight...'
--G.K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill

...just so we know that the Singularity is coming, or that mankind will soon by transhuman, or that life will inevitably be changed beyond recognition by toasters that think or whatever new, shiny object has caught the eye of the futurist.
I remain unconvinced.
Ants, not evil spirits, create devil's gardens in the Amazon rainforest, study finds

For the first time, scientists have identified an ant species that produces its own natural herbicide to poison unwanted plants.

Stanford University biologist Deborah M. Gordon and her co-workers describe the findings in the Sept. 22 issue of the journal Nature. The discovery was made during a four-year field study led by Stanford graduate student Megan E. Frederickson in the Amazon jungle of western Peru. The research focused on devil's gardens, mysterious tracts of vegetation that randomly appear in the Amazonian rainforest.

"Devil's gardens are large stands of trees in the Amazonian rainforest that consist almost entirely of a single species, Duroia hirsuta, and, according to local legend, are cultivated by an evil forest spirit," write Frederickson and her colleagues in Nature. "Here we show that the ant, Myrmelachista schumanni, which nests in D. hirsuta stems, creates devil's gardens by poisoning all plants except its hosts with formic acid. By killing other plants, M. schumanni provides its colonies with abundant nest sites--a long-lasting benefit, as colonies can live for 800 years."
The report, however, shows no sign that the presence of evil spirits was properly controlled for. Unless further information is forthcoming, I am afraid I must dismiss this shoddy attempt to disprove the Evil Forest Spirit hypothesis.
There is a charming dust-up over the nature of consciousness at Maverick Philosopher right now. If that's the sort of thing you're into.

And--because everybody loves an Internet pedant--I should point out that Ockham's Razor is either Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate or Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Artificial Gravity! No, not really.
Visitor: How do you expect to create artificial gravity without knowing what makes real gravity?

Dr. Abrams: Why, we know what makes real gravity! Numbers!
I. Every man has a vote in affairs of moment; has equal title to the fresh provisions, or strong liquors, at any time seized, and may use them at pleasure, unless a scarcity makes necessary, for the good of all, to vote a retrenchment.

II. Every man to be called fairly in turn, by list, on board of prizes because, they were on these occasions allowed a shift of clothes: but if they defrauded the company to the value of a dollar in plate, jewels, or money, marooning was their punishment. If the robbery was only betwixt one another, they contented themselves with slitting the ears and nose of him that was guilty, and set him on shore, not in an uninhabited place, but somewhere, where he was sure to encounter hardships.

III. No person to game at cards or dice for money.

IV. The lights and candles to be put out at eight o'clock at night: if any of the crew, after that hour still remained inclined for drinking, they were to do it on the open deck.

V. To keep their piece, pistols, and cutlass clean and fit for service.

VI. No boy or woman to be allowed amongst them. If any man were to be found seducing any of the latter sex, and carried her to sea, disguised, he was to suffer death.

VII. To desert their ship or quarters in battle, was punished with death or marooning.

VIII. No striking one another on board, but every man's quarrels to be ended on shore, at sword and pistol.

IX. No man to talk of breaking up their way of living, till each had shared £1,000. If in order to this, any man should lose a limb, or become a cripple in their service, he was to have 800 dollars, out of the public stock, and for lesser hurts, proportionately.

X. The captain and quartermaster to receive two shares of prize: the master, boatswain, and gunner, one share and a half, and other officers one and a quarter.

XI. The musicians to have rest on the Sabbath Day, only by night, but the other six days and nights, not without special favour.
CLARIFICATION: The above was my contribution to National Talk Like a Pirate Day. It is taken from Captain Johnson's General History of the Pirates, and forms the laws drawn up by Batholomew Roberts and his crew. Roberts was a dread pirate, taking over four hundred ships in his career, and quite happy to engage in torture to get his way.

He did occasionally leave captives alive.

Article XI probably stems from Roberts himself, who loved music. Indeed, if he hadn't been the sort of person who would keel-haul you as soon as look at you, he might have been called a dandy. At his last battle he was "dressed in a rich damask waistcoat and breeches, a red feather in his hat, a gold chain round his neck, with a diamond cross hanging on it." (Captain Johnson, again). Captain Johnson does not say whether this cross was the same as that which was intended for the King of Portugal, and which Roberts took along with vast amounts of gold, chains, jewels, sugar, and tobacco from a Portuguese fleet.

Roberts' men, too, had their foppish moments, when they weren't bastinado'ing some poor soul. I've removed Captain Johnson's comments from the articles above, but for Article V he remarks that
in this [keeping piece, pistols, and cutlass clean] they were extravagantly nice, endeavouring to outdo one another in the beauty and the richness of their arms, giving sometimes at an auction (at the mast) £30 or £40 a pair for pistols. These were slung in time of service, with different coloured ribbands over their shoulders in a way peculiar to these fellows, in which they took great delight
Johnson also mentions that Article VI was to prevent "division and quarrel". The success thereof I cannot speak to.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Dear Peculiar:

Remember the terrible fear that would come upon us when, out slinging, we discovered that we were becoming connoisseurs of rocks?

Truly, we had nothing to worry about.
All About Life and Death, at least my copy, has on its cover a ukiyo-e of the Courtesan of Hell dreaming about skeletons. Its frenetic detail is pleasantly lurid; I did my best to find it online for you, gentle reader, truly I did. Instead you must imagine it, while I leave you with three other ukiyo-e by Kyosai:

Household Chores, Games and Demons; and

Surprise Attack; and

this from the Kyosai hyakuzu, which reminds me of the Temptation of St. Anthony.
The merit of Captain Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue has been long and universally acknowledged. But its circulation was confined almost exclusively to the lower orders of society: he was not aware, at the time of its compilation, that our young men of fashion would at no very distant period be as distinguished for the vulgarity of their jargon as the inhabitants of Newgate; and he therefore conceived it superfluous to incorporate with his work the few examples of fashionable slang that might occur to his observation.

But our Jehus of rank have a phraseology not less peculiar to themselves, than the disciples of Barrington: for the uninitiated to understand their modes of expression, is as impossible as for a Buxton to construe the Greek Testament. To sport an Upper Benjamin, and to swear with a good grace, are qualifications easily attainable by their cockney imitators; but without the aid of our additional definitions, neither the cits of Fish-street, nor the boors of Brentford would be able to attain the language of whippism. We trust, therefore, that the whole tribe of second-rate Bang Ups, will feel grateful for our endeavour to render this part of the work as complete as possible. By an occasional reference to our pages, they may be initiated into all the peculiarities of language by which the man of spirit is distinguished from the man of worth. They may now talk bawdy before their papas, without the fear of detection, and abuse their less spirited companions, who prefer a good dinner at home to a glorious UP-SHOT in the highway, without the hazard of a cudgelling.
Via Homo Ludens.
I am an indifferent and somewhat uninterested player of Go. I find chess far more congenial, especially as I endow each piece with its own personality and goals. This technique almost invariably leads to defeat, since at least one of my bishops is named "Berkeley", and insists on that he is only a perception in God's (i. mind. To refute him, one of my rooks will go try to kick a pawn, and get swallowed up. There is merriment overhead, but it is very far away.

It's harder to imagine that the identical black rocks slowly being strangled by my opponent have individual volition, and so their deaths go unmourned. I know that Go is far more complex than chess, and that the elegance of this complexity arising from such simple rules is astounding. But my feeling is, if I wanted complexity I didn't understand, I'd go into tax law or study beetles. Anyway.

Proclus is far better than I, although I don't know what kind of practice he's had of late. He introduced my to the Go books of Cho Chikun (All About Life and Death), as well as the "Elementary Go Series", even lending me his copy of Vol. 7, Handicap Go, by Yoshiaki Nagahara and Richard Bozulich. Since that was six years ago, and I have it in front of me as I type this, I doubt he's getting it back. Both books are clear, logically, and extremely useful.

And what's the fun in that? Tax law and beetles, gentle reader. Fortunately, I stumbled across a Go book which fulfills my need for elaborately named strategems, while still providing a decent analysis of play. It's Ma Xiaochun's The Thirty-Six Stratagems Applied to Go. The 36 Stratagems are military maxims from ancient works. They have names like "Murder With a Borrowed Knife" and "Lead Away a Goat in Passing" and "The Cicada Sheds Its Skin" and "Make Friends With Distant Countries and Attack Your Neighbors" (one that China's been using for a while now) and "Point at the Mulberry to Curse the Locust Tree". Ma Xiaochun tries to show how they apply to the game of Go. I've always been skeptical of the claim that skill in Go translates into real strategic insight, but he makes a good (i.e. incomprehensible to me) case for it.

Couldn't find it on Amazon, so I guess it'll remain my secret weapon the next time Proclus and I sit down by a board. That is, I'll "Hide a Dagger with a Smile". Or possibly "Sacrifice Plums for Peaches". Maybe another reading is in order.

"Besiege Wei to Rescue Zhao"?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

And now back to your regularly scheduled miscellanea.

Madame Butterfly: Final Boss!
Four years ago I was in my dorm room, lying in bed and wondering if it was worth getting up. The janitor was talking to my neighbor outside my door, and I heard him say, "...flew a plane into the World Trade Center...." I got up to find out what he meant. Like a lot of people, I couldn't believe it at first.

We knew there were more planes, but not where. Nobody knew the scale of the damage, and even the World Trade Center planes we thought had killed about thirty thousand people.

The college held a meeting, to tell us what little they knew. It wasn't anything I hadn't learned online. Several people were crying, others clearly had been. On the way out a friend tried to talk at me and I snapped at her.

I don't know about anybody else, but prior to September 11th I didn't care about politics. It was a field fought over by idiots and con-men, and my only real political desire was not to have anybody tell me what to do. Suddenly, though, it mattered how we responded to this attack. I followed the news, developing opinions about what was going on. I began reading blogs.

"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." Also history, religion, and, for lots of us, HTML. As a good liberal arts student, my reaction to the crisis was to check books out from the library. I read the Koran (as much of it as I could get through; its structure limits any satisfactory narrative), I read about the history of Islam and the modern actions which had led to the current structure of the Middle East. I started arguing with my classmates about what we should do next.

I don't know about anyone else, but I for one asked myself "Why do they hate us?" and found an answer. It just wasn't one any sane person would accept. Some of my classmates tried to argue that the victims of the attack were tacitly guilty, since they were participating in capitalism. As I recall, it was difficult not to hit them.

I didn't know what to do, then. I gave blood, like a lot of people, and donated some money. I studied Islam and the history of the Middle East. I tried to understand the people who flew planes into buildings full of innocents. I tried to understand the people who cheered when it happened, and the ones who made excuses for them.

I still don't know what to do.

So, where were you?
I am so, so sorry.

Had we molluscs enough, and thyme
Carraway, honey, and dry white wine
These Roman sauces might thee move
To cook up cuttlefish with love.

For I shall simmer up some broth
And add the pepper, nothing loath,
And toss in, heedless of the price
Some celery seed and lovage nice.

And when the cuttlefish is done
'Tis split from paddle-tip to crown.
A mix of boiled brains, sans skin
With pepper, eggs, all pounded in

To bundle with some linen fine
(Which from my closet I'll unwind).
Fair-boiling stock is now its bath
Until the forcemeat is quite safe.

All these spices, herbs, and roots--
The finest wine, the tend'rest shoots:
I hope these condiments thee move
To cook up cuttlefish with love.

Very, very sorry.
This is how we pass an idle hour here in Oregon: picking blackberries. I am, at the risk of my coveted anonymity, the one underneath. The lady atop, however, is not my wife.

The berries were excellent.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Category: things found searching for "kern baby".

Huntingdon Fidget Pie! "Bacon, onions and apples are the traditional filling and the pie was originally made round harvest time to feed the hungry workers."

I like fall. Season of mists and mellow inebriety. The weather is cool enough that I reach work not covered in sweat but rather glowing with wholesome exercise. The trees are doing odd things with their leaves, which I do not understand but certainly enjoy. Apple trees are drooping affectionately, waiting for climbers to come up for the high fruit. Here in Oregon, the clouds are back. The whole thing makes me want to wrestle with friends or chase deer or pile straw bales one atop the other.
About the time of Tiberius there lived a man, named Apicius; very rich and luxurious, for whom several kinds of cheesecakes, called Apician, are named. He spent myriads of drachms on his belly, living chiefly at Minturae, a city of Campania, eating very expensive crawfish....

I have acquired the crustaceavoracious gentleman's cookbook. Or rather, according to the introduction, a cookbook dedicated to him by an unknown compiler. After all, there were other Apicii. The most famous of them, also a gourmet, invented any number of dishes, endowed a culinary school, and killed himself when the money ran out. He most likely did not write the book either. Of the modern translator, I am please to say I know with certainty that he is Joseph Dommers Vehling. At least, his name is on the front cover.

The difficult of determining authorship does nothing to diminish the charm of this cookbook. My only complaint? The cheesecakes, alas, are not to be found within it.

I reproduce "Stuffed Sepia" below.

Pepper, Lovage, Celery Seed, Caraway, Honey, Broth, Wine, 'Basic Condiments'1. Heat [water], throw in the cuttlefish with Boiled Brains, the strings and skin removed, pound with Pepper, mix in Raw Eggs until it is plenty. Whole Pepper. Tie into little bundles [of linen] and immerse in the boiling stock pot until the forcemeat is properly cooked.
I regret I cannot yet comment on the taste of this dish. Give me time, and cuttlefish!

1 Condimenta coctiva. The translator suggests "salt, herbs, roots", which I find unhelpful.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Odious,

I assume you're aware that you're living very much in volcano country? Actually, this 100-square-mile bulge doesn't sound terribly dangerous, just extremely cool. As I've mentioned to you before, one of the best scenic drives anywhere is from Springfield, OR over MacKenzie Pass to Sisters, with an instantaneous transition from temperate rain forest to arid lava fields as you cross the Cascades' rain shadow. Just about the only thing that could improve the trip would be a stretch of highway beside a bubbling, spitting lava cauldron, earnestly attempting to swallow the road. I do hope it happens in our lifetimes.

For something completely different, these optical illusions are quite astonishing, especially the third one. (Thank you, Brian Micklethwait.)

There's more of interest on the same site. This illusion doesn't influence me quite as strongly as promised, but it does bring to mind an optical illusion of which I suspect only river guides are aware. It's quite diverting when scouting a big rapid (while the other guides are telling lurid horror stories and the passengers in the inflatable kayaks are receiving their hopelessly nuanced and quite improbable instructions) to stare at one spot in the moving water, not shifting your gaze with the flow, but allowing the moving water continually to traverse your field of vision. After a time you look up at the canyon wall, and a whole band of stone seems to be melting away from its surroundings and oozing downstream. If you're scouting a Class V drop, you can get tree trunks to separate.

Tihs iullsoin sohuld fsacnitae phliloogsits.

And finally, have you ever wondered how hideous the Mona Lisa woud look with her mouth and eyes upside-down? Wonder no more.

Armstrong, regarding Mars:
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP)—Neil Armstrong said Tuesday that a manned mission to Mars will not happen for at least 20 years—but the effort might be easier than what it took to send him to the moon in 1969.

The first man to walk on the moon noted that scientists must develop better onboard spacecraft technology and stronger protection shields from harmful space radiation before a manned flight to the Red Planet can be accomplished.

"It will certainly be 20 years or more before that happens," Armstrong said during a global leadership forum.

"It will be expensive, it will take a lot of energy and a complex spacecraft. But I suspect that even though the various questions are difficult and many, they are not as difficult and many as those we faced when we started the Apollo (space program) in 1961."
He's quite right about that. What we lack right now is the will to go to Mars. Such a program is sure to be controversial, with lamentations for the money lost sending people to Mars--and what can people do that robots can't?--and how can we even think about messing up another planet the way we've messed up earth--and really we should fix all the problems we have here before going anywhere else.

We could go to Mars in ten years if we cared to. At present we have, I think rightly, other priorities. The question is whether we shall ever have a moment to take a deep breath, gather the necessary support, and begin the program.

And I think that it is vital that humanity go to Mars itself, rather than sending increasingly complex robots. An illusion, no matter how informative, is not reality. If we decide that watching Mars on TV is just the same as being there, walking on the red planet ourselves, we've lost all interest in the pursuit of truth--of experience as opposed to theory.

It's like trying to learn martial arts out of a book. You might have the motions right, but not understand their reasons. They are hollow, and any information we receive about Mars is hollow without real people there to explain it to us--a second hand experience, to be sure, but closer to reality than the images.

Only people can tell us the things that people would experience, and only people can place them into a narrative so that we can understand them. I have never been in a battle between Trojans and Greeks, but thanks to Homer I'm a lot closer to understanding that experience than I am to understanding what it means to be on Mars, efforts of Viking and Spirit notwithstanding.

UPDATE: Via Steve Bodio's blog, an Orion Magazine article on the same subject.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

From Cronaca comes the story of the parasite cymothoa exigua.
The bug...was discovered inside the mouth of a red snapper bought from a London fishmonger.

The 3.5cm creature had grabbed onto the fish's tongue and slowly ate away at it until only a stub was left.

It then latched onto the stub and became the fish's "replacement tongue".
Also worth visiting is the page linked to at the bottom of the post, which has a much more disturbing picture.
Now I know what to call those posts I never write. Christabels.
A Christabel, named after Coleridge’s poem, is an inherently unfinishable piece of writing. It is unfinishable because it is based on false premises (false premises often disguise themselves as grand and glorious ambitions) and you can spot a Christabel by the way it falls apart worse the further you go into it. There is no way of knowing for sure that you are writing a Christabel, because it is always theoretically possible that, had you gone on, perhaps the cat would have emerged from the depths of a particularly deeply meaningful bag. But if you can identify the increasing unlikeliness with any kind of objective judgement, it is a fairly clear sign worth taking a risk for. The risk of not having created the world’s greatest work of genius yet, that is. Not too bad, then. Worse things definitely happen at sea.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The lovely Ms. McArdle is offering pound cake for those who donate to the Red Cross. I'd like to do something similar. I don't bake, but I'll crochet a scarf for anyone who donates. E-mail me (sidebar!) if you'd like one, with color(s). Because I am not so great at crocheting, you can either have solid color or horizontal (short way) stripes of two colors.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Wagner was an ass. This is news?
If, on one hand, you ever wanted to know what a swine Richard Wagner was, this is the book to tell you. It does so at length, in reliable detail, calmly, without prurience, perfectly backed with documentation, and in a translation whose only fault is in giving no Translator’s Notes for in-house German references. Joachim Köhler sustains his story with new ideas, revises other interpretations and modestly deconstructs Cosima née Liszt’s creation of “Richard Wagner Enterprises Inc”. (This she developed so far as to keep Parsifal exclusive to Bayreuth, prompting George Bernard Shaw to remark in 1889 that it “would almost reconcile me to the custom of suttee”!) Her tirelessly engineered public image of Wagner as a Titan – a Prometheus? an Atlas? – is countered by Köhler’s picture of him as his own successive operatic heroes: Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, the Dutchman, Tristan, Walther, Wotan, even Parsifal’s Saviour.

If, on the other hand, you ever wanted to know how it was that the same Richard Wagner created some of the most ravishing and marvellous music ever composed, how he achieved in his gigantic compositions, note by note, bar by bar, some of the biggest single projects of the imagination ever achieved by any human being in any field of endeavour, then you will not quite find the answer here. The book’s limitations in this respect are not exceptional, being second nature to most studies of composers, particularly now that music study is to music as Classical Studies are to Latin. I had three particular doubts as I read Köhler’s interpretation of the life and works, and the first has to do with the swinishness.
I have Joachim Köhler's Nietzsche and Wagner: A Lesson in Subjugation. The gentleman (Köhler, since neither of the men in the title of the work may accurately be so identified) has great sympathy for the young Nietzsche (who, incidentally, bears an eerie resemblance to someone I know ( I make no claims as to the content of the "eerie resemblance" site, by the way. Just a Google image search)). As well one might: Wagner's overbearing insistence on hero-worship from all around him, along with his rather underhanded dealings with the fairer sex, are presented in all their squalor.

There is, however, something unconvincing in the portrayal of Friedrich Nietzsche as the innocent youth betrayed. Perhaps because my only real encounter with him is through his writings, I cannot myself imagine him over-awed or blinded by admiration for long. And so when Köhler insists that Nietzsche's remarks about the spirit "suddenly lost to us Germans through the arrogant behavior of the Jews" is merely the neophyte aping the master, I doubt. That Nietzsche's anti-Semitism was exaggerated by the Nazis I am sure. But that it existed, there seems to me no reason to doubt. If it is less spoken of in his later works, that is perhaps because he found more people to hate.
Also re: Katrina. Everybody who yammers about "God striking down the wicked" with this storm needs to establish some evidence. Did an angel appear to the one righteous man in New Orleans and declare that the city would be destroyed? If this wind is the fruit of Allah's planning, has He come forward to take credit for it? If not, shut the hell up. Sin does not always bring on disaster, and disaster does not always indicate sin. Demonstrate formal or efficient causality, or pipe down.

To declare this hurricane to be some punishment for evil is to underestimate God and man. If your faith is tested (as it should be) by tragedies like Katrina, the answer is not to take the easy way out and declare that "they deserved it". God kills men, women, and children every day. It is our task to try to reconcile that with the idea of a just and loving God.

And that doesn't mean we aren't angry at Him.

UPDATE: Edited for language, now that I am somewhat cooler.
There's a link to the American Red Cross at the sidebar, just like the one in this post. May I suggest donating to help the victims of Katrina?