Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Am I bad for not wanting to watch the State of the Union address?

Can't we go back to Thomas Jefferson's method of just mailing it to the Congress?

I suppose that would not look good on TV. And it wouldn't give Cindy Sheehan a chance to get arrested.

I'd definitely like it better
As a letter.

By Request

Ergosum was asking about my Ayn Rand poems.

Here's "Arrival". I wrote the first stanza when I was in college. I always felt like it needed a second stanza. I finally wrote the second stanza a few years ago. The poem doesn't mention her name, but it's an imaginative re-creation of what she might have felt like when she arrived in New York after getting out of Russia.

Not knowing all the words for what she feels,
She doesn’t worry, words and knowledge will come.
In time she thinks, in time, for now she reels,
Giddy with breaths of free air, gazing up at the blue dome
Of sky and the towers that scrape it. “What
Evil could lurk here?” she asks. “I can’t imagine any.
And even if there were, my bonds are cut
And – Ah! Joy gives me strength! Who could defeat me?”

Does anyone stop to stare at the immigrant girl
Who twirls on the sidewalk with those eyes –
So large and brilliant as they sparkle with delight?
Does anyone wonder what strange new surprise
She holds, or guess that someday she will write
A tale to shake the shoulders of the world?

The other poem is called "Valhalla." She's buried in a cemetary in Valhalla, NY. I wonder if she chose the cemetery for the town name, since it's named for the Norse word for the afterlife of heroes. A friend of mine attended the burial service, and described to me this striking thing that happened with a flock of geese flying down. I don't believe in portents or an afterlife, but I liked the symbol of the geese as an image of her ideas and spirit living on triumphantly in our imaginations.

They laid her in the ground,
The geese flew overhead,
And in a "V" they swooped around,
Then shot away.

As if to say,
She isn't really dead.
Her spirit's merely fled
To where the heroes play.

Monday, January 30, 2006

By Any Other Name

Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher, by Erika Holzer, arrived in the mail today. It looks chatty and interesting. Some of it's a summary of Rand's advice. Some of it's the story of how Holzer worked to apply Rand's insights. Also included is some short fiction by Holzer.

I've decided that for selling books, it helps to have "Ayn Rand" in the title. I suspect I'm not the only one to notice this. Some people have even renamed their books to work her name in. Nathaniel Branden first published Judgment Day. But after some revising it became My Years With Ayn Rand. David Kelley first published Truth And Toleration. But after some revising, it became The Contested Legacy Of Ayn Rand.

I've written a few poems that were about Rand in some way. One of them is called "Arrival." So I could just change the title to "Ayn Rand Arrives". Then I could call my next poetry collection:

Ayn Rand Arrives And Other Poems

That would be easy,
And enormously cheesy.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Muddy Buddies

Throw a ball
Into the stall?
They won't be fooled.

As a rule,
You must use power
To make dogs take a shower.

CSI Tips

According to this article, murderers are getting evidence-hiding advice from high-tech forensic shows like the CSI series.

' "They're actually educating these potential killers even more," said Capt. Ray Peavy, also of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and head of the homicide division. "Sometimes I believe it may even encourage them when they see how simple it is to get away with on television." '

Whoa. On shows like CSI, no one gets away with it. The moral is always that crime does not pay, that the smartest criminal always makes a mistake, and that you cannot fake reality completely.

A grimly funny part of the article was about a guy who killed two women and tried to clean up all the evidence. He washed his hands with bleach to get rid of their blood. He burned the bodies. Then he tried to throw one of the weapons he had used - a crowbar - into a lake.

But the lake was frozen.

"He shouted a profanity when the crowbar remained on the surface."

Though you make your plan ever so neatly,
You will find you can't fake it completely.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Example of Sound Effects in Free Verse

This is a famous poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It would be usually be described as free verse. But he uses a lot of internal sound effects anyway, and he writes in a fairly regular iambic rhythm with line lengths varying from 1 beat to 4 beats. I put bold on some of the more noticeable echoing sound effects, including rhyme, alliteration, and assonance. I put rhythmic notations after each line. And, yes, rhythmic notations in English can usually be argued about.

Constantly risking absurdity /--/--/--
and death -/
whenever he performs -/-/-/
above the heads-/-/
of his audience--/--
the poet like an acrobat-/-/-/-/
climbs on rime/-/
to a high wire of his own making--//-/-/-
and balancing on eyebeams-/-/-/-
above a sea of faces-/-/-/-
paces his way/--/
to the other side of the day--/-/--/
performing entrechats-/-/-/
and sleight-of-foot tricks-/--/
and other high theatrics-/-/-/-
and all without mistaking-/-/-/-
any thing/-/
for what it may not be-/-/-/-/
For he's the super realist-/-/-/-
who must perforce perceive-/-/-/
taut truth//
before the taking of each stance or step-/-/-/-/-/
in his supposed advance-/-/-/
toward that still higher perch--/-/-/
where Beauty stands and waits-/-/-/
with gravity-/-/
to start her death-defying leap-/-/-/-/
And he-/
a little charleychaplin man-/-/-/-/
who may or may not catch-/-/-/
her fair eternal form-/-/-/
spreadeagled in the empty air-/-/-/-/
of existence--/-

Heart-Stopping Odds

Say you're going to experience cardiac arrest. You can either be in a hospital, or a Las Vegas casino. Which location gives you better odds?

Vegas, baby.

"Medical research shows that casino visitors whose hearts suddently stop survive at higher rates even than people who happen to go into cardiac arrest while visiting a hospital. 'The safest place in America to suffer cardiac arrest is a casino,' says Bryan Bledsoe, a George Washington University emergency-medicine doctor and co-author of textbooks for paramedics." (Wall St. Journal, Weekend Edition, Jan 28-29 '06)

According to the Journal article, this is mostly due to a one-man crusade on the part of Richard Hardman, a local paramedic who had originally studied to be a doctor. He campaigned to get the casinos to install defibrillators and to train their security guards to use them.

The empirical success of the casino's defibrillator program was, ahem, shocking.

It helps, of course, that all the time you're in a casino you're being monitored by remote control cameras.

Hardman is still a paramedic, but says he no longer feels bad about not becoming a doctor, since he figures that he has accomplished something huge anyway.

So, for cardiac arrest,
The location I suggest
Is Sin City in Nevada
Where they happen to have a lotta
Guards waiting to restart
Your heart.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Support Your Local WalMart

There's a particular WalMart that was in the news lately, in Evergreen Park, IL. The backstory is that WalMart wanted to open a story on Chicago's South Side, but they couldn't get the City Council to give them some zoning changes, especially after it turned into a "we don't want WalMart" political uproar.

So WalMart opened one block outside the city limits. They opened today. My wife drove by a few minutes ago. She said there was a huge amount of traffic on 95th St. from people going to the new store.

WalMart got slammed,
But the store is jammed.


There's a hole in my soul and it's fillable
Only by echoing syllables.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Wicked with Music

Some of you may remember that I didn't much like the book, Wicked. But tonight we went to see the musical version. I liked it a lot better. First of all, it was very well rhymed. I did not love the music - I didn't leave humming any of the tunes. The production was spectacular. The performances were lively. The plot was tightened - and lightened.

I didn't much care for the book,
But the musical's worth a look.

Law of the Leak

If you know something special and leak it,
The information will spread.

Three people can keep a secret,
If two of them are dead.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Renewable Resource

I know their records aren't complete
But still I think it's kind of neat.
LifeSource tells me that on balance
I've now donated four whole gallons.

That's 32 units if you're a scientific type.
But "gallons" is better for hoopla and hype.

Support Our Troops

Robert Bidinotto has an outraged post about a few American writers from the left and right who do not support American soldiers.

I guess I had been thinking about this topic myself, since earlier tonight I had Kipling's "Tommy" going through my head:

"Yes, making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, and they're starvation cheap."

Kipling can't be topped,
So I'll just stop.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Party Line Brains

Brain scans of staunch party members - Republicans and Democrats alike - show a tendency to ignore information that could threaten their candidates.

' "We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. '

Remember, no cognition, no cognitive dissonance!

What I think is funny
Is that we had to spend money
To prove beyond a doubt
That some people just tune out.


The Sheriff of Cook County has a website that shows a phone number to call for Inmate Information. It's a cute phone number, although in context it's kind of grim: 1-773-869-JAIL.

Until yesterday the website listed a different number: 1-800-425-JAIL, which you can still see in Google's cache of the page. As it turns out, the sheriff's office let this number lapse a year ago, due to budget cuts, but forgot to take if off their website. And in the meantime, a phone-sex company bought the number.

According to the Trib, the number directs you to another number "for some stimulating conversation."

When you've got a loved one in jail
And you're trying to make his bail,
You just want information,
Not a hot conversation.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sleep Tight

Good night,
Sleep tight,
Don't let the bedbugs bite.

I always enjoyed that little rhyme. I remember asking my mother what bedbugs were, and she told me how they used to be a problem but weren't anymore.

They're baaack. And they're hard to get rid of.

Apparently we partly got rid of them with DDT. But then we got rid of DDT.

They're making a particular resurgence in New York.

If you have leftover DDT,
Sell it now in NYC.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Demotivational Posters

Stephen Hicks has a link to some "demotivational" posters. His favorite is this one.

I suppose
That since these posters are written in prose,
They don't feel a need for demotivational verse.

But I think I could make people feel even worse.

With rhymes so bleak
They'd be dead in a week.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Self-Made Man

Here's an NY Times review of a book by a female reporter, Norah Vincent, who passed herself off as a man, and who is now telling her tale of what men are really like.

I liked this section of the review, which recounts her on-the-team observations of a blue-collar bowling league.

' "They took people at face value," writes Vincent of Ned's teammates, a plumber, an appliance repairman and a construction worker. "If you did your job or held up your end, and treated them with the passing respect they accorded you, you were all right." Neither dumb lugs nor proletarian saints, Ned's bowling buddies are wont to make homophobic cracks and pay an occasional visit to a strip club, but they surprise Vincent with their lack of rage and racism, their unflagging efforts to improve Ned's atrocious bowling technique and "the absolute reverence with which they spoke about their wives," one of whom is wasting away from cancer. '

One of the funnier aspects of her story, is that she went on dates with women. She had been on dates with women before, since she's a lesbian. But she had never been there as a man before, and she didn't much like it:

"...as a single man dating women, I often felt attacked, judged, on the defensive. Whereas with the men I met and befriended as Ned there was a a presumption of innocence -- that is, you're a good guy until you prove otherwise -- with women there was quite often a presumption of guilt: you're a cad like every other guy until you prove otherwise."

Step in the other guy's shoes,
You get a different view.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Old and New

Harry Binswanger is giving a lecture this summer on perception:

"By integrating Objectivism with recent scientific work in the psychology of perception, especially that of the late J. J. Gibson, Dr. Binswanger provides a new perspective on perception as an active, physically determined process.".

I'm not sure how new this perspective is, since David Kelley already wrote a whole book defending the Objectivist theory of perception - with lots of citations to the work of James J. Gibson.

In 1981, excerpts from this book even appeared in a journal published and edited by Binswanger.

I wonder if it's his intention
To even give Kelley a mention.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bin Hidin'

He's on the loose,
But he's got a truce.

He swears
The terms are fair.

I wonder if we're getting close.
Does he fear he'll soon be toast?

As for his proposal,
It goes in the disposal.

Hamlet and Muffins

A friend mentioned in her blog that writing English papers seemed to consist of taking a work of literature and some unrelated thing - like Hamlet, and muffins - and relating them.

Didn't Hamlet say nuffin'
About muffins?

After all that huffin' and puffin'
About whether to be or not,
He got awful hungry for something hot -
Namely a muffin with chocolate stuffin'.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Parallel Lines

Here's part of the quote that Rand at first meant to put at the beginning of The Fountainhead: "...it is some fundamental certainty which a noble soul has about itself, something which is not to be sought, is not to be found, and perhaps, also, is not to be lost." (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.)

Here is part of Roark's letter to Wynand: "What you think you've lost can neither be lost nor found."

I just finished reading Beyond Good and Evil again, this time for my book club, and this parallel jumped out at me. It's almost like Roark read some Nietzsche too.

Isn't peachy,
But he's loaded
With lines that get quoted
Or at least alluded to,
Which is really what these words do.

Other Blogger Attendees Heard From

Ergosum attended the Yaron Brook debate and wrote up a more detailed accounting than I have. Also, he spoke one on one with the two men.

Actually, it turns out that Ergosum was sitting in the row ahead of us, and even had a conversation with Marsha.

We also attended with [info]gregorysparr who regards himself as a Truman Democrat. He's a political debating whiz, and even spontaneously got up to give a 3 minute counterargument against Brook. In the end he seemed very impressed with Brook's debating skills and personality, and spent some one-on-one time talking with Brook about Israel, about which Brook knows a lot of detail since he grew up there.

I just wanted to mention,
It was practically a Chicago blogger convention.

For and Against Foreign Aid

We had a good time at the Yaron Brook v. Dan Slater debate at the U of Chicago. Dan Slater is a bright young professor who acknowledged that foreign aid often had untoward consequences, but thought it served practical purposes nonetheless. Yaron Brook was more forceful, more controversial, and more consistent. Actually, towards the end of the discussion, Dr. Slater remarked that Dr. Brook was remarkably consistent.

I will try to write up something more detailed. I have 2 napkins-full of notes. But it is midnight and I still have to walk the dogs and I have to be at work tomorrow morning.

Slater did argue that foreign aid served our foreign policy goals. Pakistan was a case in point, he said. We gave Pakistan a bunch of cash, and they give us some help with Al Qaida and Taliban people in the borderlands. Brook argued that it was a waste to give them the money, that Pakistan would have done nothing to us if we had simply gone into the borderlands with our military, because they would have been afraid to engage.

On the moral point, the altruists turned to the Rawlsian veil of ignorance argument in defense of international aid. Brook was having none of it.

The dramatic high point, I think, came in the case of the question: is it all right for the government to take 5 dollars from you if it saved some foreign child from death by whooping cough? Brook was asked if he would want his 5 dollars back in that case. He said yes. He said he wanted to choose for himself which charitable cause he supported, that others had no business sticking their nose in his business and that others had no idea what he might need that 5 dollars for. Moreover, he argue, if the government can take 5 dollars, why not 100 dollars, why not all your money? After all, there are probably hundreds of thousands of kids who need 5 dollars just for whooping cough.

Slater replied that was a form of the slippery slope argument, of which he disapproved. Brook replied that slippery slopes were part of real life, that the US income tax was a good example of a slippery slope in American history that had proved very slippery indeed.

Writing about this is a slippery slope,
And I'm sliding in deep.
If I keep writing I have no hope
Of getting sleep.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Not the News!

I'm an addict of 24, the gut-wrenching Fox action drama starring Kiefer Sutherland. Tonight they played the first 2 episodes of the season. They started 24 a little late, because one of the NFL playoff games was also on Fox. (Bears lost. Sigh.)

While we were watching on TiVo, we got a call from a friend, a fellow 24 addict, who lives in North Carolina. He had a problem. He had watched the show to the end in North Carolina, but didn't know how it had ended. His local station had chopped off the last ten minutes of the show! Why? So they could start the local news on time.

Who needs the news when you need a good shot of fiction?

He didn't want us to send
A copy of the show,
He just wanted to know -
How did it end?

Correction - Yaron Brook Chicago Debate

Yaron Brook is going to be in Chicago tomorrow evening, January 16, debate Dan Slater about foreign policy. Yaron Brook will maintain that "The United States has no obligation to provide foreign aid." Dan Slater will oppose this proposition.

Yaron Brook is the Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute. The debate is being held at the University of Chicago. His opponent is Dan Slater who is listed on the university's political science faculty.

Marsha and I plan to attend. It's at 7:30 pm. The building is SOCIAL SCIENCES ROOM 122. [This is the correction] Social Sciences is in the university's central quadrangle, at about 59th & University. Its formal address is: 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

At that time of night, you can usually find street parking. There is a pay parking facility for the university's hospital at 59th & Maryland.

You can also get there on the CTA or the Metra Electric line. The CTA will get you closer. The Metra train runs less often, and you have to walk farther, but it's a nicer riding experience. If you want to take public transportation and aren't sure how, you can try this page or call the help line at: 1-312-836-7000.

I hope Dan Slater
Is a good debater,
But Yaron Brook
Is no schnook.

Peter Schwartz

Wasn't Peter Schwartz the Chairman of the Board at the Ayn Rand Institute? He seems to not be working for them anymore, based on a perusal of the staff page.

We'd heard he was gone a couple of weeks ago from a friend's email, but the website didn't reflect a change at that time. Today another friend called, having heard a rumor that Mr. Schwartz was gone. The website seems to confirm the rumor.

So, for [info]kraorh, from a gossipy boomer,
I hope you aren't the last to hear this rumor.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Alleys of Elmwood Park

My wife, Marsha, grew up mostly in suburban Elmwood Park, Illinois, which happened to be home to certain Tony-Soprano-like individuals.

One such individual was a man we shall call Mr. B. Once it happened that the FBI was looking for Mr. B. The fact that they were looking for him was on the news. There were unmarked cars, with men in suits, in front of Mr. B's house, waiting for him in case he came home.

Meanwhile, young Marsha was looking out her living room window, which looked across a grassy alley toward Mr. B's backyard. Sure enough, Marsha spotted Mr. B. sneaking through another neighbor's backyard, through the alley, and then into his own yard. Marsha told her mother. Her mother asked her father if they should call the FBI. Her father said "No, are you crazy?"

Thus was young Marsha's crimefighting career stymied.

Some things are slow to change. Yesterday, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, who had evaded arrest for 9 months, was finally captured in... an Elmwood Park alley!

Those FBI guys
Finally got wise.
To catch a mobster, you
Have to check the alleys too.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Consent In Illinois

At work today, someone asked me the age of consent in Illinois. When I googled it, I quickly learned that the age of consent is 17.

I also learned that with parental consent, you can get married at 16. I'm kind of worried about these 16 year old newlyweds.

Their honeymoon may well be spent
Before they reach the age of consent.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Seated Controversy

Chicago was recently named Fattest City by some magazine. Coincidentally, the city's mass transit agency recently announced they were ordering WIDER seats for its new buses.

The Trib, in an editorial today, came out against the wider seats: "A tight bus seat may serve a salutary purpose. While squeezing into the seat, some may ponder a new diet."

Gee. Why have seats at all? Standing is more exercise! Why have buses at all? Hiking is great exercise!

Oh, wait. Even monopoly bus services still have to compete for customers. They mainly compete with cars, which have nice big comfy seats.

I've tested the seats on the bus.
I'd put my conclusion thus:
My personal posterior
Prefers something soft and superior
On which to be seated.
And in the winter, I'd like it heated.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Division of (Reasoning) Powers

Senator Arlen Specter spent time today berating the Supreme Court for striking down laws that Congress had passed, an act he termed an insult.

Specter asked Alito whether judges have some method of reasoning superior to the method of reasoning used by the Congress.

"I would never suggest that judges have superior reasoning power," Alito said.

Of course, having reasoning power is one thing. Using it is another. What's true is that a judge's rulings are routinely scrutinized for contradictions - and can be overturned by superior courts on the basis of those contradictions. Additionally, when a high court makes a contradictory ruling, they are quickly beset by lower court rulings taking different sides of the contradiction. So the judicial review process does place some premium on not getting caught in a contradiction.

I get the impression that a lot of legislators feel much less constrained by the discipline of consistency.

Is their reasoning ability
Lacking in agility?

Or does some strange affliction
Lead them to contradiction?

If they're truly perplexed,
Let's send them logic texts.

But if they just don't care,
Let's get them out of there.

Sleep Inertia

"Sleep Inertia" is a fancy technical term for waking up groggy.

Some people have jobs where they are routinely shaken awake and asked to solve urgent problems. Doctors and firefighters are standard examples, but it occurs to me that being on call for tech support is similar.

It turns out that people aren't too good at thinking when they are in this disoriented half-awake state. The article headline reads "Sleep Inertia May Be More Debilitating Than Sleep Deprivation."

What the headline doesn't mention, is that prolonged sleep deprivation can cause visual hallucinations, which seems a bit worse than grogginess.

Sleep Inertia
Can hurtcha.

So make sure to keep
One eye open when you sleep.

Better yet, stay awake.
There are pills that you can take!

Of course your sleep-deprived brain
Will shortly go insane.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Half Way Through

The nineties ended. Then a decade came
That had no name.

Commentators squawked
We should call it the "zeroes" or "oughts".
But into town it stalked
And scared away such thoughts.

Since it doesn't have a label
We probably won't be able
To recall
It at all.

Rights Under the Lights

It's showtime for Alito!
Will the Senate veto
His tender dream
Of being Supreme?

As for the Ninth Amendment...
I'd like him to befriend it.
And if he'd defend the others, as well,
That would be swell.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

"Emergent Properties" Emerge

Imagine my shock when today's Chicago Tribune had a big article that mentioned "emergent properties." That was always a fairly abstruse topic in the philosophy of biology - or so I thought. It turns out some scientists have taken that ball and run with it.

'"All of life displays emergent properties," says Utah State University plant biologist Keith Mott. "Even a lot of things that are not life display emergent properties. It means that when you get a bunch of things together they do something that's completely different from what you would expect from all of the individual components."'

It's not that the whole
Gains a mystical soul.

It's just that we're surprised
Once the parts get organized.

(Trib article from Sunday Magazine here, but registration may be required.)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Wales, Continued

Still trying to figure out what Jimmy Wales meant by wanting culture to be free, I found this helpful recounting of a talk he gave.

Among the highlights are free maps, a free dictionary, free textbooks, free old music, and free old art. Actually, we have free maps and free dictionaries online already. There's even a good free rhyming dictionary. I know, because I use them all the time. They're owned by someone and accompanied, often, by advertising. They're still "proprietary."

But, hey
I don't pay
So they're free
Enough for me.

Here's an interesting bit:

"Jimmy tells a story about receiving complaints from museums that Wikipedia contains 'unlicensed reproductions' of works that they hold in their collections. These complaints aren’t quite cease and desist letters, because the images on Wikipedia might be photos taken by Wikipedia users and released under a free license. But they are threats, designed to deter users from reproducing works of art that are in the public domain. Jimmy’s response to these letters is to write back letters encouraging museum directors to feel a sense of shame in locking away cultural works from the public… he’s not gotten any responses to these letters."

He answers the blame game
With "Shame!"

UPDATE: Wikipedia itself has an entry on the "Free Culture Movement" with good links.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Jimmy Wales, of Objectivist background and Wikipedia fame, is asking for contributions for Wikipedia. I've always liked Jimmy, and Wikipedia too. I'm just scratching my head over this:

"This is a radical strike at the heart of an increasingly shallow, proprietary and anti-intellectual culture."

Is it true that culture is becoming more proprietary? Has someone patented Western Civilization? Have Shakespeare's works been taken out of the public domain?

Give me the rights to Othello,
And I'll be a wealthy fellow.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Darth Nader

Ralph Nader makes life miserable. Take this lady for example. She's got narcolepsy. She was taking a drug named Cylert that kept her from falling asleep at random times. Now the drug is pulled off the market, after Ralph Nader's Public Citizen organization pressured the FDA to do so.

The drug can cause liver damage. But her liver tested fine.

Narcolepsy is one of those diseases that sounds comical at first. But surely it would wreck your life.

The Nanny State -
Isn't it great?
It'll wreck your existence
With its insistence
On keeping you safe.

Go away!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Heinlein Question

[info]stellavision commented "I often wonder how Rand would have written the novel if she had a little bit of Robert Heinlein in her -- perhaps Dagny would have set up a home with all three men!" Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, for example, features multiple-person marriages.

In most of her books
The heroine hooks
Up with two or three hotties
Who ravish her body.

So you can see how this Heinlein question comes up. You can see how one might make some guesses about her fantasy life.

In Atlas, she writes: "...she felt Francisco's presence through Rearden's mind, she felt as if she were surrendering to both men, to that which she had worshipped in both of them, that which they held in common, that essence of character which had made of her love for each an act of loyalty to both."

You might start to sense a trend
But at the novel's end
She's always down to one
Or, for poor Kira, none.

So whatever her fantasies, she doesn't think they're a good way to wrap up the story.

So if being polyamorous
Strikes you as highly glamorous
You may find the middle sizzles
But feel the finish fizzles.

In some of her public comments, she defended the possible morality of complicated "Design For Living" arrangements, but thought they presented difficulties, and still thought the ideal was one partner for life.

In her personal life
For a while she did have two men.
It ended in godawful strife
And she went back to one guy, again.

So the complicated arrangement in her own life didn't work out so well.

I know, I know,
Some will still say "Ho, Ho, Ho."
I'd say that by her own lights
She tried to do what was right.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Dagny Falls for Galt

Spoilers for Atlas Shrugged are contained in this post.

Why did Dagny fall for Galt?
(Falling right out of the skies.)
Was her judgment simply at fault
For ditching those two other guys?

She does fall for him, rather than consciously selecting him. She awakes and looks into his eyes and she is already in love. So if her judgment at fault, it's not her conscious judgment, but her subconscious.

It must have been something about his face
That made her heart go tilt -
Eyes that didn't bear a trace
Of pain or fear or guilt.

Branden, in his memoirs, recounts that "Ayn said that she did not intend Galt to be perceived as superior in any important way. He is 'merely more serene within himself...'" [JD p91] Obviously, however, Dagny does experience him as better in some important way for her.

What was it about his identity
That swept her off her feet?
I put the blame on serenity -
That made her feel complete.

As long as we're talking about degrees of serenity, I think Dagny gets a black belt in it herself. She seems to have a more even keel than anyone around her - except Galt himself.

Now, you may think that Galt's unreal,
And I don't wish to argue the question,
But whatever he was, he made Dagny feel
Something approaching obsession.


A lot of people call Brokeback Mountain the "gay cowboy movie."

But as any good spoiler summary reveals, they aren't exactly cowboys. In fact, it is sheep that they are taking care of.

I guess "gay sheepherder movie" doesn't have the same ring to it.

Maybe they still count as cowboys in the broader sense that they ride around on horses in the American West and wear the same hats as cowboys.

And while we're on the subject of sheep...

Why is it people only count sheep
When they're trying to go to sleep?

Why not cows?
Perhaps because a stampede would rouse
Everyone else in the house.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Saint-Andre on Art's Conceptual Nature

Peter Saint-Andre has posted a very interesting essay on Ayn Rand's esthetics. He says it was originally intended for the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, but an anonymous reader for the journal wanted him to re-work it, and he says he can't muster the energy to do that, so he's just posting it on the net.

One good point he underlines is that art, originally, was deeply intertwined with communal ceremonies that were vital to tribal life.

"Eventually, specialized art forms arose from these beginnings. In the modern West, we are accustomed to seeing these art forms as merely aesthetic and as highly personal, even subjective. By contrast, Ayn Rand sees art as of critical importance to human life. In large measure, Rand personalizes what Dissanayake has eludicated, for she sees art as crucial to one's own internal cohesion..."

Maybe that's why I can feel so disrupted when someone plays music I hate:

It offers interference
To my internal coherence.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

North Avenue Beach

As I walked up to the beach people were already running into the lake. I glanced at my watch. It wasn't quite noon. They had started early. Quickly I stripped down to my swim trunks. The water was warmer than last year, about 43F (6C). The air temperature was just a little lower with a breeze out of the south. I didn't stay in long, just long enough to do one dive.

This is a free, annual event. Here are the rules:

1. Swimsuits only, no nudity (it's a family event) and no wetsuits (that's cheating).
2. Swimmers must go all the way under the water before coming out to be "official."
3. No whining!

The water's cold,
But if you're bold,
You're in it
Less than a minute.

Auld Lang Syne

At our New Year's party, after midnight and bubbly, we played charades. There's a rule against using foreign words in titles, so we got into an argument about Auld Lang Syne, which Marsha thought was Scots, not English. I maintained it was a Scottish dialect of English, but I suppose it's a fuzzy issue.

"Auld lang syne" literally means "old long since", but idiomatically means "times gone by."

Guest rhyme of the evening, courtesy of Robert Burns:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?