Thursday, May 31, 2007
This Flock of Dodos
The most cogent concept I got out of the documentary was that the Intelligent Design (ID) folks are stuck at an "intuitive" apprehension without progressing concretely through the experimental/confirmation stages of proving the theory. In other words, a kind of intellectual exercise based on gut feeling rather than proof. This shows particularly in the similes employed by the ID crowd. Comparing a normal, non-altered mountain range with Mt. Rushmore is supposed to show that one is obviously created by an intelligent hand.
This is a chump's game though. The human mind is always seeking patterns. Finding them doesn't always mean such patterns were planned. I've heard Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album syncs quite nicely with the film The Wizard of Oz. The question is: Were they deliberately intended to do so? Back in my sometimes artificially mentally altered youth, I would sometimes put on a favorite vinyl album with headphones and watch movies late at night with the sound off. No videotape or Tivo, just whatever was on at the moment. I was surprised at how often musical buildups and crescendos would sync up with the dramatic action on the TV. Part of it was sheer coincidence but another part was the fact that both music and drama contain segments of building tension and release of the tension. Much of the common significance I perceived was a product of my conscious mind trying to mesh the two disparate items into a whole.
Here's a quote from a review on LiveScience:
Olson himself is also a central character in the film. He provides a running commentary of the issues discussed and even weighs in on the debate. As a marine ecologist with more than 20 years of research experience, Olson ultimately sides with evolution and concludes that intelligent design is at best an idea stalled at the intuition stage.
"There isn't much to intelligent design," Olson told LiveScience. "These guys have this really deep-seated intuition that they can look at nature and see a designer at work, but the problem is they've failed to advance it to any kind of science so far."
I think the doc is worth watching but it's difficult for me to wholeheartedly recommend it. Most significant to me was being able to see some of the players on the ID side of things and hear them discuss their views. But little of what was said by them could be called "science".
Monday, May 28, 2007
Memorial Day Fear and Loathing
How do I separate out the veterans of wars and conflicts I think had some justification for US involvement and those military actions which were illegal and/or immoral? Particularly when the last century has seen so many such actions by the US military? Do I get to choose which veterans and wars I want to celebrate? Of course not. It's pretty much an all-or-nothing deal, an uncritical and flag-waving patriotic event which denies such nuance. Love all the military on this day or be branded a subversive anti-American allied with and sympathetic to "the terrorists."
Memorial Day is our annual event to help reinforce nationalist jingoism. It serves to recall all past military glories in a nostalgic and positive light while attempting to firm public resolve for present/future military action. When the most militarily powerful nation on the earth celebrates its military, we also reinforce an arrogance, an attitude that whenever we use our military it is justified. When we confuse military might for moral superiority, we have lost something precious.
The flip side of celebration of the US military and victories is the dead, maimed and displaced on the other side of our military actions. It's facile to say such results are not our responsibility. We were forced into action by our enemies. That's a little like a man who batters a woman saying "It's her fault. I had to hit her."
Am I saying military action is never justified or that the US has never mobilized its military for just cause? No. But I'm hard pressed to think of a US military action in the last sixty years which I would put in this category.
For all the talk of honor and duty in our armed services, their large-scale actions are always directed by politicians. Politicians don't really take the same vows of honor and duty. National politician's oaths are both vague and specific to defending the Constitution of the US. And I get the distinct sense that these oaths are considered optional to many politicians. Or at least open to radical interpretation.
So while I am grateful, in a general way, for what our military has done to safeguard and defend our country, I have very mixed feelings about many of the specifics in recent history.
Reason #2399 I like Joss Whedon
(I'm trying to decide if that last sentence is appropriate and/or offensive. I come down on the side of thinking it parallels the Spinal Tap film line about the image on another musician's album cover. "It's a fine line between clever and stupid.")
Sunday, May 27, 2007
My Bloggy Frontiers
The ever-wonderful Bitch Ph.D. brought to my attention the handy and amusing blog passive-aggressive notes from roommates, neighbors, coworkers and strangers. The drama is wonderful, consisting of slices of strange life, often with a little bit of explanation to provide context. Tres amusing.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Random 10 Songs: "A Hole in the World" Edition
- The Light Pours Out of Me by Peter Murphy
- Because You're Frightened by Magazine
- King's Lead Hat by Brian Eno
- Confessions by Peter Murphy
- Ain't That Just Like a Woman by Jimmy Johnson Blues Band
- Moonchild by Rory Gallagher
- Father Christmas by Ryuichi Sakamoto
- Compositions for the Young and Old by Bob Mould
- Torch by Sisters of Mercy
- I Want the Drugs by Supersuckers
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Crypto-Donkeys and Pseudo-Elephants
The animal mascots of the Democrat and Republican parties are meant to symbolize something essential about the individual core attitudes and policies of the parties. Or, rather, they used to do so. All that's really left of this concept is more at the level of branding than actual representation.
The parties capitalize on their past achievements and stances. They've learned to refer to the past without actually endorsing and implementing such troublesome concepts as defending the poor or fiscal responsibility in government. No, but Republicans are happy to speechify on Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves and Democrats are fond of recalling FDR's accomplishments.
At the risk of sounding like the cynic I am, almost no one runs for higher office in this country without selling their souls in the process, often quite happily and eagerly. It happens gradually and often without clear indicators. "I can do a lot if I attain this position so a few little compromises along the way are OK. I'll turn it around once I get into office." This is a case of ethical death by a thousand cuts. A little bit here, some more there, soon to find commitments and promises to big ticket contributors adding up to over 100 percent of your accumulated political capital.
Our national political world is dominated by cults of personality and image prevails over substantive discussion most of the time.
Welcome to our political Thunderdome, where sycophants of power vie and lie, sincerely and quite earnestly.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Random 10 Songs: Cruel to be Kind Edition
- Cruel by Calexico
- Traitor by The Surgarcubes
- Rat Trap by The Boomtown Rats
- The Crooked Beat by The Clash
- Psycho Street by Richard Thompson
- Yuri-G by PJ Harvey
- When I'm Gone by Phil Ochs
- The Story of Them by Them
- The Day the World Went Away by Nine Inch Nails
- Goddamn Lonely Love by Drive-by Truckers
Lowered Expectations for 2008 Prez Race
Of course, it's difficult to be excited with the expansive groups from both major parties, comprising about 16 candidates by my lazy count. My opinion on the early debates? I missed them completely. Thanks, major media outlets, for keeping me informed of these things!
What's always interesting to watch is the media winnowing of candidates to the "front runners" and those with top contributions. I rarely find those candidates representative of my views. They almost always have major flaws of position from my perspective. I could detail these flaws but it's just too depressing this early in the race.
I believe the estimate of total expenses for the 2008 race is over a billion dollars before it's done. Let me write that out: US$1,000,000,000.00. I thought of detailing what a billion dollars could do in if spent elsewhere in the US economy but that is a bit of false comparison.
What is disturbing is how much we choose based on presented image rather than substantive issues. I believe John Lennon described it as picking a favourite Daddy from the group of Daddies. In other words, an emotional reaction rather than a reasoned one. Let us not forget the curious phrase which always makes the rounds during this period: Acting Presidential. It always strikes me as a failure of vision that people might pick their President by whether a candidate appears "Presidential" during press conferences or speeches.
While I perfectly understand candidates changing and evolving their positions on issues over time, often it merely seems like an accommodation to polls rather than a genuine development of policy. This is why candidates often seem shallow and lacking in personal conviction to me. It all appears as stage management and posturing generated in staff meetings. It rings false and hollow. Once I get that sense about one position by a candidate, I begin to sense that many positions are like that. Then their credibility begins to erode to me and I lose faith that the candidate will ever act with constancy.
Welcome to this year's cynical views on elections. Umph.