Thursday, July 31, 2008

A World Without Pain Or Pleasure

So... what is David Benatar's argument that being born is a bad thing? I'm relying on a short article he wrote, defending his book from a negative review.

He proceeds from utilitarian premises, which require you to evaluate ethical decisions in terms of pleasure and pain. I'm going to lay this out into separate numbered clauses so you can see it.
1a ...the presence of pain is bad
1b and the absence of pain is good,

2a but whereas the presence of pleasure is good,
2b the absence of pleasure is bad only if somebody is deprived of that pleasure.
Notice that he only adds an "only if" condition to 2b, not to 1b. He calls this an asymmetry.

Really, it seems like all evaluations of pleasure and pain and their absence are true only if someone is there to experience it. The "only if" actually applies to all 4 of these statements.

But, I'm not actually a utilitarian, and I think life is the fundamental good, so I can't go along on this ride anyway. But if you do go along on the ride, he then argues:
3a If nobody is deprived of an absent pleasure –
3b because the person who would have experienced the pleasure never existed –
3c then the absence of that pleasure is not bad.
In other words, a world of pain and pleasure is a mixed sum of good and bad, but a world with neither is an absolute good.

How cruel is evolution, which created this unpleasant
sensation to warn us when hazard is present.

Peaceful Garden

I was reading some of Keats' sadder poems today.

And then I was pondering a complaint I'd received for my humorous dismissal of the book, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.

Anyway, this little poem came to me. It was inspired by a story someone told me:

Peaceful garden at midday
with people sitting on benches...
but perhaps one of them is in the trenches
of his mind, struggling how to say,
how to describe, the torment inside
as he watches the birds glide
branch to branch.

And for all that, maybe the birds, too, hide
secret distress, perhaps all their twittering
expresses their embittering experience
with the grim task of building nests!

It's not that life is ever, truly, a breeze,
he thinks, and finally sees
that even his is one of relative ease.

In this strange way the garden brought him peace.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I don't get this wacky story about the woman who got stuck to the toilet seat - after sitting on it for way too long.

One account said she had a phobia about leaving the bathroom. But that doesn't explain it. It's not just that she didn't leave the bathroom. The issue is that after a while she didn't even leave the seat.

Finally, what is up with the boyfriend?
Kory McFarren pleaded no contest last month to a misdemeanor count of mistreatment of a dependent adult. The woman wrote a letter to the judge asking for leniency for McFarren.
He's been sentenced to 6 months probation for this vague misdemeanor. How did he mistreat her? By bringing her food?

But what makes her "a dependent adult?" Is she "developmentally challenged" or something? Note that:
She is now under the protection of a guardian who was appointed through the legal department at the hospital where she received treatment.
I really get the sense this is one of those stories that would make a little more sense if they stopped protecting someone's privacy.

Of course I
would rather not pry...
but I'd like to know what's behind
these stories that blow my mind.

Oh Baby

Just yesterday I was challenging a certain tabloid to reveal a certain baby's gender. I really thought I had it over them.

But sure enough, today they claimed
to know just what the baby was named
and the gender, too.

I think they're reading my blog, don't you?

As for the love child's sex,
the chromosomes are XX.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Love Child

If the Enquirer knows so much about this bundle of joy,
why haven't they said whether it's a girl or a boy?

The New Engagement Ring

NPR had a piece entitled "Sex Without Condoms Is The New Engagement Ring".

I guess that depends.
Can she show it to her friends?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hold On Tight

Yesterday, Obama was up some percentage points.

Today, McCain.

That's the way the poller-coaster rolls.
It's sort of bipolar - who's got the controls?

Scanning Grief

Newsweek has an interesting article on grief and brain research, where they stuck grieving people into functional MRI machines.

So they found that when grieving people think about the dead, they experience both pleasure and pain. That's actually a familiar paradox, rather than much of a discovery.

Somebody sensationalized it like this: They're addicted to the pleasure of remembering the dead!

Eventually, everything enjoyable turns out to be an addiction. I, for example, am addicted to breathing.

The psychiatrists seem to be working on a DSM entry for cases where grief is an enduring problem. They want to call their new diagnosis "complicated grief." With a diagnosis like that, it'll be easier to get the insurance companies to pay for treatment.

But I do wonder what's left in "simple grief".

Grief without complication,
with speedy recuperation,
without need for fond recall,
is barely grief at all.

Flip Flops - Not Just For Democrats

Poor John McCain. He was in favor of immigration before he was against it.
While McCain’s support of the immigration bill — which was eventually voted down — appealed to many Hispanics, it infuriated some conservatives. McCain, his campaign then floundering, promised primary voters that he had “got the message,” vowed to prioritize enforcement and even claimed he wouldn’t have voted for his own bill it if was to have come up again.
He succumbed to conservative panic
about a flood of Hispanics.

Now he contemplates voters of Latin descent
and wonders where their support for him went.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Market Opportunity

As a "weird traffic fact", the Sun-Times reports:
Car drivers drive closer to helmeted cyclists (and further from cyclists who appear to be women).
I detect a market opportunity.

I'm going to make money, and make it real big.
I'll make special helmets that look like blonde wigs
with long curly tresses and maybe a bow.

He who cross-dresses is safer, you know.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Zooming up on Ruminants

I was bicycling today, on forest preserve trails.

It appears there's a bumper crop of deer
who calmly stare and show no fear
when cyclists pedal near.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Audacity of Hopelessness

"We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right." That was McCain today, talking about the surge. I think that's a pretty good line.

Part of the trouble in running against Obama is that a lot of his proposals are on the vague side, and he doesn't have much legislative record to pick apart. But he came out strongly against the surge, and has recently declared that even in hindsight he would oppose it. That's doubling down!

So it's a good point to criticize Obama on, since most people now see the surge as a stunning success.

Obama might be better off admitting he was wrong.
For now he keeps on trying to move the discussion along
to topics that diverge
from the issue of the surge.

Reading Up On New Formalism

I was reading at the library about New Formalism today. It's a contemporary movement in American poetry. They're in favor of Formal Verse Being Okay.

Why is it an American movement? Because Formal Verse always remained Okay in the UK. Probably it was Okay in the whole Commonwealth, for all I know. But in the US there was a stretch of time where it was Free Verse Or Nothing!

(Yes, there were some dinosaur-like exceptions, but they were frowned upon.)

So, why were the English different than us? I don't know.

For some reason they thought of Formal
as still being perfectly normal,
rather than treason to the cause
of flouting outmoded laws.

Geiger Counters for Kitchen Counters

Granite countertops in the kitchen may be radioactive and hence a threat to your health.

Government buildings in Washington are often built of granite and may be a threat to your wealth.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hunchback Set To Music

With a bunch of friends, we saw a fabulous musical version of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

The music, book, and lyrics are all by Dennis DeYoung, formerly of Styx. He wrote the pop hits, "Lady" and "Come Sail Away".

Hunchback has been a hit here in Chicago. Its original booking has been extended, which required replacing some cast members. Tonight was the first night on stage with the new cast members. They sang great, projecting full quantities of excitement, love, and sorrow.

The show had a production back in the late 90's, in Nashville. I suspect, from reading an old review, that the show has been re-tooled to maintain emotional flow and tension, which it does very well.

Quasimodo looks scary,
but offers true sanctuary.

Have Gun, Will Travel

Stephen Scherer grew up in an anti-gun household. His mother banned even toy guns in the house, at first. But after a while she broke down and bought him and his sister some cute elephant-shaped squirt guns.
But Stephen wanted more. He made complicated pistols with Legos. He played endlessly with a BB gun inherited from a friend. Talking about his early interest in shooting, Stephen now says, "It's sort of like, if it's wrong, you want to do it more."
Now he's going to Beijing, to compete for the U.S. in shooting sports. He's 19. He wasn't favored to win in the Olympic trials.
"I probably surprised myself more than anybody else there," says Scherer. "Shooting is a very mental sport. A lot of times, it doesn't sink in that you've won until after, because you're so concentrated on the shooting."
Kid, I bet you'll do great.

Just wait,
and shoot straight.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pragmatism 101

For today's assignment:
write upon the board:
Flip-flops are refinement
and ought to be ignored.

Following the Money

Investor's Business Daily reports that media folks give lots more money to one party than the other.

Who could that be?
The Democrats? Yes!
Funny that didn't
get more press.

But their standards are the highest
so they try to mask their bias
by writing extra sly
to help their guy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Live from Wherever

It's being reported, in the mainstream press, that Obama is getting more press coverage than that other guy.

But does this give him an advantage? Or is there a risk here?

You don't want folks to get tired of your face
till after you've won the race.

Monday, July 21, 2008

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Algorithms

An industrial mathematician is upset about the way math is being taught:
The claim that schools that have done away with traditional mathematics instruction have done so because they want "to prepare kids for a new world" is ridiculous for many reasons. The most important is that the job of math educators is to get students to understand math, and the best way to understand math is to master the traditional algorithms.
There are a lot of ways to teach algorithms... but... not to teach them at all?

There are no rules
in schools for fools.

Lunch with Borges

I was reading Borges at lunch. He has an interest in labyrinths. Somehow I started thinking about the limitations of our knowledge of neurology. We cannot trace the path of a single line of thought with anything like assurance.

The labyrinth is in the brain.

The twisting turning strands defy
easy mapping of the chains
of logic that from deep inside
seem clear as crystal, plain as rain.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Classical Music Outdoors

We enjoyed the summer breeze
while someone named Lang Lang
on the keys.

Okay, just to be fair,
the CSO was also there.

The Scoop on Barack

The Sun-Times has an exclusive story on the jobs Obama held as a student. Here's the one that gave me another reason to support him:
As a high school student, Obama's first job was at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream store.
Hey - I worked for a Baskin-Robbins too! We're fellow former employees!

So that's the scoop - we both were scoopers,
dedicated ice cream troopers!

But he turned his back on Chocolate Fudge,
he gave up Pralines & Cream,
so he could have a chance to trudge
the Rocky Road in pursuit of his dream.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

You Didn't Need That Laptop, Did You?

The Chicago Tribune reports on the trouble people have taking their laptops out of their cases for TSA searches:
More than 12,000 laptops are lost each week at U.S. airports, according to a study conducted for Dell by the Ponemon Institute, a research think tank. Only one-third of laptops lost and found in airports are reclaimed, the study said.
Wait. So if 12,000 are lost and one-third are returned that's 8,000 lost permanently each week.

That's 416,000 laptops down the drain per year?

No wonder people are nervous
about the TSA's service.

Good News

Angelina Jolie and her twins have left the hospital.

Now, get back to work on Atlas Shrugged.
The lack of progress has me bugged.

I'll even accept, since I'm such a fan,
a Lollywood version from Pakistan.

Defenses of the Senses

I've retrieved, from our bookshelves, 2 books: David Kelley's The Evidence of the Senses: A Realist Theory of Perception and Quee Nelson's The Slightest Philosophy. I'm thinking of doing a detailed comparison.

For one thing, is Kelley's "reductive focus" really the same as Nelson's "inviddying of scene-images"? Maybe I need a translation table! (Update: In both cases the idea refers to the kind of seeing we do when we see that a circular coin "looks elliptical" at an angle.)

Nelson's book is funnier, and easier to read for most people. Kelley's book is addressed to those trained in contemporary philosophy, and is more academic in style.

Both authors are out to rescue the idea that our senses are really in touch with reality. Of course, most people do think this, but many philosophers have thought otherwise!

Quee Nelson has a lot of examples of this skeptical philosophical tradition in her book's appendix. I like this one:
A. J. Ayer: “From our resources of sense-data, we ‘construct’ the world of material things.”
I often get tired constructing the world of matter.
Ideas are so light. You can toss them around with mere chatter.

Material things have such weight. They're so hard to build with.
But nice fluffy sense-data - that is something I'm skilled with.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Fine Whine

Phil Gramm "resigned" today from the McCain campaign.

Gramm is the guy who called us "a nation of whiners" a few days ago.

He hurt my feelings.
My heart was reeling.
So I complained.
I wrote to McCain
and his whole campaign:

"I never whine!
Make him resign!
Toss him off that plane
and under the train."

And surely then
I'll be happy again.

Obama Humor Shortage?

Q: How many Obama supporters does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Just one, and it's not funny!

All of a sudden people are complaining about a national deficit - of Obama jokes. I think it got noticed when the New Yorker cover elicited few chuckles.

We're in for some serious years.
Maybe we'll get some yucks from his ears.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Brain Plaque

They thought it was the plaque in the brain that caused Alzheimer's. They invented a vaccine to get rid of the plaque. They used it on people who already had dementia. It got rid of the plaque. But the patients still had dementia.

But... maybe the vaccine could work preventively? So they aren't giving up on the vaccine yet.

What's clear is that they're making progress but that they don't really understand this disease very well yet.

At least they have a way to stop plaque.
Two steps forward, one step back.

Borges' Sonnet, "Spinoza"

I was looking at this lovely sonnet by Jorge Luis Borges today, and I felt like trying a translation, even though I will fail to completely capture it. What is really hard to do, of course, is convey the simplicity and straightforward nature while trying to do something along the lines of his sound. And yes, here and there I have added some things and deleted some things. Also, I suppose I should mention that Spinoza, while now famous as a philosopher, made his living as a maker of lenses. Finally, I apologize to the ghost of Borges!

The Jew's translucent hands take hold,
scrubbing the crystal in the gathering gloom.
The dying evening fades to fear and cold.
(Evenings after equal evenings loom.)

His hands and this space of hyacinth,
grow pallid behind the Ghetto walls.
For this quiet man they barely exist at all.
He dreams his way through a clear labyrinth.

He isn't disturbed by fame, that collection
of dreams in the dream of another reflection,
nor by young ladies' timorous love.

Free from metaphor and myth,
he scrubs the crystal: the infinite
map of That which is all the stars above.

UPDATE... I keep fiddling with this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Do As I Say, But Don't Say As I Say

Jesse Jackson used the N-word somehow when he was fantasizing sotto voce about detesticulating Obama. At least that's what Fox news says, and they've got the tape.

Flashback to November 27, 2006:
Rev. Jesse Jackson is calling for entertainers to stop using the N-word.
Speaking as his defender,
I say it's a no-brainer:
he should simply mention
that he's not an entertainer.

Serenity Now

I first saw the serenity prayer in elementary school. A nun had it pinned up by her desk in the front of the classroom. I believe we were driving her nuts.

My next encounter was when Ayn Rand wrote about it. She mentioned it was attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, and she commented that she hardly ever agreed with him about anything.

Well, now some librarian at Yale has established that very close versions of it were showing up in print, before the time when Niebuhr was thought to have created it. Each time it appears before Niebuhr, it appears with a different author.

Kind of spooky.

We were talking about The Selfish Gene in book club, so I have an idea about the serenity prayer - could it be a meme?

Nobody wrote it. It just appeared,
a random mutation, a brand new strain
that rang so true it simply seared
itself into the collective brain.

Or else it's possibly by
the mysterious, frightfully shy
A. Nonymous, whose game
is never to leave his or her name.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bollywood Fountainhead?

After I posted a humorous poem about Dagny-as-portrayed-by-Bollywood, Bill Nevin wrote me about a serious reported proposal to remake The Fountainhead in Bollywood:
Stephen Alter is an American writer who was raised in India in a missionary family. He has many contacts in the Hindi film industry, in part through his cousin, Tom Alter, who acts professionally in India. Stephen Alter became fascinated with the industry itself and with one of its signature features - the "love thief", a character who steals girls' hearts. This character type has deep roots in both the Islamic and the Hindu literary traditions. So he wrote a book called Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief (Harcourt, 2007.) In it, he captures a flavor of what it is like to work in the industry, relating telling details from interviews with many of the prominent personalities of Hindi cinema, asking them about their professional lives and concerns.

Much of Alter's work is devoted to documenting the making of Omkara, Bhardwaj's hip screen adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello, which debuted in 2006. Instead of Renaissance Venice, however, Omkara is set in the present day, amid the dusty plains, teeming cities, criminal gangs, and dirty politicians of western Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, as well as one of its most notoriously corrupt. Writer-director-composer Bhardwaj gave Alter complete access to the
creative team throughout the writing, pre-production, and filming.

In between a brief biographical note on Satyajit Chourasia, the physical fitness expert, Schwartzennegger fan, and entrepreneur who revolutionized the look of Bombay's leading men with his chain of "Barbarian Power Gyms", and a description of the courtly manners of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh's heavily Islamic state capital, is sandwiched this exchange, which took place during Omkara's production:
After a full day on location our hair and clothes are thick with dust and ash... Though Vishal has been on location since seven this morning, he is still running on adrenalin and has a tennis game scheduled in the evening. Pleased with the progress of the film, he is already thinking about his
next project.

Rekha [Bhardwaj, the director's wife] suggests adapting Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. Immediately, Vishal agrees, excited by the idea.

"The Fountainhead is one of my favorite novels," he says. "The main character is an architect. The way he approaches his work, as a perfectionist, you can never look at a building the same way again."

Entering the outskirts of Lucknow, the traffic grows thicker, swarms of bicycles weaving through a blue haze of smog. Vishal takes out his phone and calls Ronnie Screwvala, head of [Indian entertainment conglomerate] UTV, which produced [Bhardwaj's third film] The Blue Umbrella.

"Ronnie, I want to make The Fountainhead... "

Ten minutes later, when the conversation ends, Vishal tells us that Ronnie has read the novel three times. He too thinks it will make a terrific film. As we reach the heart of Lucknow, circling a roundabout and passing through the historic bazaar of Hazrat Ganj, we discuss how the main
character in The Fountainhead could be a filmmaker instead of an architect. His movies will reflect his own highly individualistic vision. Teasing Vishal, I say he should be careful not to turn it into an autobiographical film.

"But I'm not a perfectionist," he protests.
from Stephen Alter, Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief, pp. 143-4.
As for me,
I'll wait and see!


This cuddly-looking koala bear
got hit by a car, but hung on there
with his head stuck in the grill.

After 2 hours of zoo clinic care,
he felt much better and ate his fill
of leafy eucalyptus fare.

* * *

Zoologists, yes, I am aware
of a truth that's clear and indubitable:
the koala isn't really a bear -
but rather a marsupitable.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cartoon Reflections

Speaking of the New Yorker Obama cartoon... Some say it's funny. Some say it's offensive. But those 2 possibilities aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, they often arrive together in one bundle.

Funny and offensive
are sometimes coextensive.

The flashing bite of wit
can be unamusing to those who get bit.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Oval Office Cartoon

The New Yorker has a satirical cover with Barack and Michelle in the Oval Office. A flag is burning in the fireplace. Osama's portrait hangs on the wall. Barack wears a turban and sandals. Michelle has an afro, camo pants, and assault rifle. They are doing a fist bump.

The idea, the editors say, is to make fun of people's irrational fears.

The featured story, inside the magazine, is about Obama's career in Chicago. In the story, apparently, he comes across as an ambitious politician, not a real revolutionary.

Ann Althouse thinks the cover is hilariously funny.

The Obama campaign claims it's tasteless and offensive. And the McCain campaign agrees!

When you make fun of fears, by naming them,
sometimes you just end up inflaming them.

Lots of Hope

After hearing Christopher Robinson talk about hope, I've been wondering why the Democrats have been leaning so heavily on "hope". Clinton was "the man from Hope," and Obama has "the audacity of hope."

I mean, Republicans presumably have hopes too. Bush seems to have hoped, originally, that the Iraqis would all unite behind us once we overthrew Saddam.

Hope is an expectation of good things happening. But the good things can fail to happen. They may have been impossible.

And sometimes the things you hoped for turn out to be no so good after all. Communist revolutions come to mind, but the list is long and varied.

Sometimes your hopes
are slippery slopes
which sadly divert you
and finally hurt you.

Don't despair.
But choose hopes with care.

Long Day

What a long day! I got up around 5 am to do a triathlon in Valparaiso, and now it's 2 am the next day. We just got back from a fun time in Rockford, getting a detailed China travelogue from kraorh.

I did sneak in an afternoon nap,
but now I'm ready to collapse.

Friday, July 11, 2008


So these 6 people arrange to kidnap the fiance of a bank teller.

To get her fiance back, the bank teller was supposed to get the bad guys some money. But she went to the FBI instead.

I love this sentence from the story:
Hoisington told agents the group was counting the money in the home when they discovered the tracking device, according to an FBI affidavit.
You think
you have it made,
then your stomach sinks
and you know you've been played.

"Technically Insolvent"

Just whose brilliant idea was it for the government to create and back
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Savor the Flavor of the Day

I always resist the phrase, seize the day. It sounds to me like a non-idiomatic translation of Horace's carpe diem. But is there a good substitute?

We do have one strongly parallel construction - we speak of snatching moments.

But... moments are so much smaller than days!

Snatch enough moments
along the way
and maybe you'll end up
seizing a day.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Where Have All The Stoics Gone?

Phil Gramm, PhD, economic adviser to John McCain:
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline," said the former Texas senator. "You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession."
Are we in decline,
or do we just like to whine?

As for me, I plan to complain
endlessly, like a song's refrain.

Hablo Inglés

Obama says all our children need to learn Spanish. He doesn't speak it himself. But that's not an inconsistency. It's just our kids who need to learn. Maybe that's why he decided to not let his little girls be interviewed anymore. Maybe their shameful monolingualism would be revealed!

I wish I knew more Spanish.
I knew some once. It vanished.

I think it would be sensationally nice
if they would get around to inventing a universal translation device.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Apology Time

As for Jesse Jackson, let's cut him some slack.
Obama would be nuts not to welcome him back.

The Hitopadesa

I've been reading The Hitopadesa, by Narayana, a book of guidance in the form of animal fables and proverbial verses, a collection of traditional tidbits, arranged within an overarching framework. I've been reading this translation from the Sanskrit by A.N.D. Haksar.

Here's an example of the sort of verse that appears:
Danger one should always dread
As long as it is far away.
But once it is upon your head,
Then face it in the proper way.
Featuring tricky tales of bird and beast,
it seems aimed at the warrior, not the priest.

Not on the Map

It feels like a "here", even though
it's a once-a-year traveling show.

UPDATE: Oops. Sorry, I was hopelessly cryptic. I must have had a bad case of brain fade or jet lag not to attach an explanatory preface, along these lines:

At conference, we were talking about the way people say "Were you here last year?" It's a funny use of the word "here" because "last year" was always at a different place. I suppose this happens with traveling trade shows too.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I.D. Manufacture

Elias Munoz of Chicago pleaded guilty today to being part of a conspiracy to make fake i.d.s.

He is the father of one of our aldermen.

His position was that he wasn't doing anything illegal. He was just taking photos. But he did know that most of his photos were going onto fake i.d.s.

If you know about an illegal plot
and help it along
it's hard to say you're not
doing something wrong.


While living out of the hotel room, I read through Revelation, which was available as the last book of the Bible, courtesy of the Gideons. Growing up Catholic, we called it the Apocalypse, which I think is more colorful, not to mention closer to the Greek title. But, really, apocalypse just means "unveiling," which is pretty much a synonym for revelation.

I had often looked at the work, but I had never quite gotten through it. It's so... wacky. In the past my brain rebelled against its vague symbolism. But this time I was able to just go with it as a mysterious vision whose cognitive meaning is opaque, but whose emotional meaning is clear.

It really seems to simmer with anger and the desire to see the wealthy of the world brought down.

It's so opaque
no one can make
complete sense
of its why and whence.

Monday, July 07, 2008


I've been thinking about Heidegger's claim that "Nothing Noughts" and I'm wondering if that's a proper translation or if he maybe meant to say that "Muffins are Naughty." I'm not sure how this could be reconciled with the axiom of epistemuffinology.

Did Heidegger, in his haughtiness,
think muffins suffered from naughtiness?

Or was his love of muffins bent,
after dating Hannah Arendt?

Mountaintop Vision

At the conference, Bill Nevin often plays a Bollywood movie. He's a big fan of these mostly musical films from India, and quite knowledgeable about them.

Meanwhile, a lot of attendees wanted updates on the Atlas Shrugged movie. Angelina Jolie is lined up to play Dagny, but the deal hasn't quite come together yet. Now there are concerns about an actors' strike.

With that set-up, here is the last of my humorous banquet verses.

I had a vision late last night
about the Atlas movie.
Dagny danced – a lovely sight
to music wild and groovy.
At first I thought, “Now this is strange.
Why is Dagny singing
In this high soprano range
that sets my ears a-ringing?”

But then it slowly dawned on me:
I couldn't understand
the words she sang so beautifully.
Had this stuff come from Rand?
She sang upon a mountaintop
cool and clear and windy.
Then I hollered: “Hold on, stop!
Dagny's singing Hindi!”

"You know this really can't be right
I shouted up to heaven.
This is a bootleg – played tonight
probably by Bill Nevin."
I got the movie stopped, of course.
The philosophy may be open,
but Atlas isn't open source
so we must go on hopin' --

Hopin' someday Hollywood
will make this gosh darn flick.
And though I trust it will be good,
I fear it it won't be quick.
Great things take time. Wait patiently.
And Dagny, as she oughter
will be played most wonderfully
by Angelina's daughter.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Where Ancient History Is Alive

Today we discovered that you're not allowed to pump your own gas here. That's right, self-serve is illegal.

You dare not pump your own
here in the Oregon zone.

Unmournful Terrapin

Here's a limerick from the banquet speech, about a local bar - the Cheerful Tortoise - that was popular with many attendees. But sometimes their rowdy loudness kept other people awake in the dorms.

There once was a tortoise so cheerful,
He never was fearful or tearful.
He danced hokey pokey,
And sang karaoke,
And gave all his buddies an earful.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


I gave a humorous speech at last night's closing dinner.

It was a fun week. We had a bunch of students from Universidad Francisco Marroquin, a notable free-market-oriented college in Guatemala.

We also had a visit from Bob Barr, the former Georgia congressman who is now running for President on the Libertarian ticket. He spoke about the right to privacy, but did not campaign at the conference.

With that set-up, here is a poem I wrote for the occasion:

We've got a big election.
It's coming up real quick
but let's not talk about it
it makes me kind of sick.

Besides this organization
is a 501-c3.
They can't endorse anybody
and still remain tax-free.

So even though Bob Barr
came to give a speech,
he couldn't ask for votes
or ask us all to reach

our hands into our pockets
for wads of campaign cash,
even though love of money
is a love we never bash.

So I shall say no more
about the coming drama.
I get a headache when I think
about McCain and Obama.

Of course they're both fine gentlemen
generous, open-handed,
but as for full-fledged freedom,
I'm not sure they understand it.

Yes, the race is quite exciting
with all its hoot and holler
but as for me I'm thinking
of moving to Guatemala.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Cowboy Poetry

Joe Duarte did a wonderful job with the topic of Cowboy Poetry.

Joe, steady and self-possessed,
read from the poetry of the West.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Free day

We kayaked the Columbia River. Well, not the whole length of it. But far enough to reach an island beach.

Then we ascended Mount Hood. Well, not the whole height of it. But high enough to pack a snowball.

When you go high
there's snow in July.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Rights and Space

Will Thomas argued that limited government didn't necessarily mean small government.

It isn't the size as such,
not truly an issue of just how much,
but more a matter of whether rights
are carefully cherished,
or whether by a thousand bites
they are allowed to perish.

Linda Tania Abrams talked about the stunning progress on the Private Space Ventures front.

What was unthinkable
will soon be unsinkable.