Monday, December 31, 2012

Les Mis & The Critics

I tend to pronounce the first "S" in Les Mis,
making me sound like less than a wiz.

I did like the movie. Very moving. I read today that critics often panned the original show for its "earnestness". And reportedly a lot of critics don't like the film for the same reason.

But, audiences are another matter. They mostly don't mind earnestness. That's because they're not deeply cynical, I suppose.

Cynicism tends to destroy
the taste for unalloyed joy.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bloomberg's Perspective

They've arrested another crazy person for the 2nd NYC subway push-death in a month.
A deranged woman who told cops she detests Muslims broke into a maniacal fit of laughter as she was charged with a hate crime Saturday, three days after she allegedly shoved an Indian immigrant to his death in front of a Queens train.
But if you're a regular rider on the system, you shouldn't get too worked up about this, says no less an authority than:
...Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged residents to keep the second fatal subway shove in the city this month in perspective.
Now, some subway systems around the world are actually being retrofitted with safety systems to cut down on push-deaths (and accidents and suicides).
So why not New York City? Last year, 146 people were struck by subway trains in New York City. Of those, 47 were killed. That amounts to one accident every 2.5 days, many of which would conceivably have been prevented by a feature now widely used around the world.

But the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the corporation that oversees the city’s transit system, is notably cash strapped these days, facing a $2 billion budget deficit that is expected to mushroom to $3.6 billion by 2016, according to a recent report by Citizens Budget Commission.
146 people hit by subway trains in New York per year?

It's a public health epidemic.
The problem is systemic.
The mayor's urge for "perspective"
is heartless and defective.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dash Into The New Year

Matteson2ndPl2012
I know it's not quite 2013 yet, but today I ran the Dash Into The New Year 5k. The race was in Matteson, Illinois, about half an hour south of the city limits.

In the past I've run an actual New Years Day 5k in Chicago, but this was a lot more convenient for my schedule, and I managed to snag this nice medal for 2nd place in my age group. And yes, there were more than 2 people in my age group!

Snow was blowing in my face
for half of the race.

But it wasn't really all that cold. The snow wasn't sticking to the road.
I like doing a New Years race because the Christmas season somehow always makes me feel so comfy and cozy. Sooner or later I find myself sitting in a rocking chair, staring out the window at the snow, and savoring the pleasantness of just relaxing. All while munching on cookies!

I can feel my muscles turning to mush
so it's good to run out for a 3 mile rush.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Forward

I suspect it's a minor government tiff.
But it sounds much scarier when you say "cliff".

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Goodbye Richard

The head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, is stepping down. She says it's to pursue new challenges and spend time with her family. However...
A Washington attorney suing the Obama administration for access to alias emails sent by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson claims that a recent decision by the Justice Department to release thousands of those emails next month contributed to her resigning Thursday.
It seems that Ms. Jackson had a secret EPA email under another name, "Richard Windsor", under which she was conducting government business. And Republicans in congress are making a stink about it.

We live in a suspicious society
where the appearance of impropriety,
even without proof of crime...

can suddenly inspire
an overwhelming desire
for lots more "family time".

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Jack Reacher

We sent to see the new Jack Reacher movie. I've read one of the novels, and liked it. I thought the movie was very enjoyable. Tom Cruise turned down the boyish charm a bit and put on a rougher edge.

I haven't read the novel (One Shot) on which this movie is based, but the "world" of this movie felt like the world I remember from the novel I did read (61 Hours).

The author's sense of right and wrong
came through loud and strong.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Today

Whether you're on the mainland, an island, or an isthmus...
wherever the heck it is, I wish you a Merry [insert rhyme]!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Criminal Fortification

I was reading about a local arrest, and saw that someone had been charged with "criminal fortification of a residence". I had never heard of such a charge. Well, sure enough, here in the land of Lincoln:
(a) A person commits the offense of criminal fortification of a residence or building when, with the intent to prevent the lawful entry of a law enforcement officer or another, he maintains a residence or building in a fortified condition, knowing that such residence or building is used for the manufacture, storage, delivery, or trafficking of cannabis or controlled substances as defined in the Cannabis Control Act or Illinois Controlled Substances Act.

(b) "Fortified condition" means preventing or impeding entry through the use of steel doors, wooden planking, crossbars, alarm systems, dogs, or other similar means.
So, on the bright side, it's only applicable if your intent is the protection of certain verboten substances.

But, I bet at least half of the houses in my neighborhood have an alarm system or a dog. Or both.

So according to the courts,
we're a neighborhood of forts!

Lies

Not exactly shocking news:
Many workers are willing to lie about a death in the family, illness or jury duty to play hooky, according to a survey conducted by a temporary job staffing firm.
Use uncles, not grandfathers, if a relative must "die",
You wonder why?

Because for grandpas there's a limited supply!
You only get two.

But,  when it comes to uncles, you may well have beaucoup.

If It Save One Life

Logistically, it may be hard,
but I believe that each of us deserves a well-armed guard.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

News You Can Use

A friend today requested a rhyme for this legal ruling from Iowa:
The Iowa Supreme Court says a dentist did not commit sex discrimination when he fired an attractive woman assistant he viewed as a threat to his marriage.
If a hot employee tempts you
toward illicit enjoyment,
it legally exempts you
to cut off her employment!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pre-Rhymed Headline

Business woman injured in sex romp gets worker's comp

This case, in Australia, has been working its way through their court system for years, but finally the claimant has emerged triumphant.

While on a business trip, having sex on a hotel bed, a lighting fixture fell down on her head.

The technical legal question before the Australian court was whether her ill-fated mattress-merry-making was "an ordinary incident of an overnight stay". Well, who's to say?

In her favor, reportedly her employer had encouraged her to stay at this hotel with the shoddy light fixture.

The story sounds strange, since the guy in the case testified that he didn't know whether they had bumped the fixture or whether it had simply fallen. Really?

But what interests me is the "injury" claim itself. She suffered "facial and psychological" injuries. Most of the value of the claim had to be on the psych side, wherein she "later suffered depression and was unable to continue working for the government."

The nice thing about using a depression claim in your opening move,
is that it's hard to disprove.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Heads Roll

3 officials at the state department are resigning, just after the carefully worded impartial report found a pattern of systemic failure leading up to the Benghazi murders.

Security failed.
Careers derailed.

Our secretary of state was already planning on leaving, of course. And can't testify about the murders because she's recovering from a concussion.

Truman said "the buck stops here."
But sometimes the buck just seems to... disappear.

Transparency vs. Privacy

This makes intuitive sense to me:
We typically assume that the more we can see, the more we can understand about an organization. This research suggests a counteracting force: the more that can be seen, the more individuals may respond strategically with hiding behavior and encryption to nullify the understanding of that which is seen.
That's from Ethan S. Bernstein who goes on to argue that people may actually be more productive when they are allowed some privacy at work.

Put privacy under steady, official attack,
and people will find ways take it back.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blithe Spirit, First Rehearsal

We had our first rehearsal tonight for the MPTG production of Blithe Spirit, the ghost story comedy by Noel Coward.

I'm playing the skeptical doc,
who is rather inclined to mock
the mystically dotty
Madame Arcati.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Seasonal Floral Limerick

A competitive sort of poinsettia
Proclaimed that her petals were betta.
She said, "Use your eyes -
My blooms take the prize -
They're bigger and brighter and redda."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Christmas Carol (Abridged)

That's the title of the Christmas show at Dream Theatre, which opened today at a matinee performance.

It's performed with 3 actors on a fairly bare stage, and its claim to your attention is that all the words you hear were written by Charles Dickens. The emphasis is on the literary quality, rather than special effects, and you never actually see Tiny Tim - unless you see him in your mind's eye, which I guess I did.

(Yes, there are special effects, but they are of the understated sort that ask you to use your imagination.)

This is a labor of love on the part of Rachel Martindale, who adapted it, directed it, and acts in it. And that love comes across. John-Paul Kostecki is a great deal of fun as Scrooge, and Mason Pain plays the other male parts with skilled enthusiasm.

It's ghostly and slightly scary,
but ends up sprightly and merry.

HRC Hits Head

The US secretary of state was sick, and slipped, and sustained a concussion.

And now won't be able to testify as scheduled before congress about the Benghazi attack.

I think they should reschedule when she's feeling better. Even if she's not secretary of state any more by then.

State department employees were needlessly killed.
The person in charge deserves to be grilled.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Joy on a Sad Day

At lunch, I happened upon highschoolers singing holiday carols in the library lobby. Their singing was lovely, and I stood transfixed.

Listening to them sing,
I felt the truth that life is a holy thing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cliff Hangers

The Wall St. Journal reports:
Fiscal Cliff Inspires Legion of Poets
There are samples, both rhymed and haiku.

For many the cliff inspires creative leaps.
But I get depressed and soon fall sleep.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hold Out, Turned Out

Illinois is a hold-out state - the only state in the union with no provision for normal citizens to carry a loaded gun. But our local federal appeals court has now struck down that ban as unconstitutional.

Don't go walking outside with a gun in your pocket just yet - the court gave the state 180 days to pass some new rules.

So, the unconstitutional law, is still in effect? That's kind of bizarre, in a way.

The ruling itself is interesting. It's written by Richard Posner, no fan of gun rights, but a bright guy who is trying to apply the logic of recent supreme court rulings. I'm fond of this sentence:
The right to “bear” as distinct from the right to “keep”arms is unlikely to refer to the home.
A "right to bear"
suggests the "where"
extends beyond the home.

Gun carriers must be allowed to roam.

Losing Track of Time

I find I get the most work done when I'm losing track of time and the day is vanishing at a rapid pace. You know, a day where you glance at your watch and are surprised that most of the normal workday has already evaporated.

You want productivity? Here's what I ask:
let me become absorbed in the task.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Liberty of Contract


For book club today we discussed David Mayer's Liberty of Contract: Rediscovering a Lost Constitutional Right. I enjoyed it a lot. It's short and lawyerly, and it's dry, as legal arguments often are.

As with his book on the Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson, part of the interest for me was exploring how the constitution was viewed in the past, by very bright people whose theories were often quite different than those you usually hear today.

In Liberty of Contract, Mayer takes part in an ongoing scholarly re-examination of a period in the Supreme Court's history when it held that such liberty was an individual right.
Synthesizing the new scholarship and presenting a coherent and comprehensive overview of liberty-of-contract jurisprudence, this book argues that the orthodox view of the so-called Lochner era is fundamentally flawed in a number of respects. Indeed, the orthodox view is wrong in virtually all of its assumptions, which were based on myths originally propounded by Progressive-Era scholars that have been perpetuated by modern scholars who similarly defend the policies of the modern regulatory state.
Proponents of the regulatory state
don't give "liberty of contract" much weight.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Clause Needed


A US district judge, refusing to buy the wait and see if it really hurts argument.
“Moreover, the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action,” he continued. “There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”
Maybe that's what the constitution needs! A "trust us" clause!

Proposed 28th amendment:

Citizens must
henceforward trust
that their government's actions are just.

Unadorned


treeinside

Haul a tree indoors and prop it,
in a prominent position.

It's very hard to stop it,
it's a dominant tradition.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Come Quick


Somewhere in Texas...
"I'm out in the country somewhere," Moore told the 911 operator during the 10-minute call. "Some guy's got a gun on me."
You might wonder why some guy had a gun on him. Well... because the guy had caught him engaged in a burglary. The guy's wife also called 911, saying:
"You better come quick," she said, "or my husband's going to shoot him."
It's getting tough to be a thief.
You might have to call the cops for relief.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Federalism Chaos

Illinois is now considering a medical marijuana law. And our state senate just passed a law granting drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants.

Neither of these will make it exactly legal to smoke weed or overstay your visa in Illinois. Because federal laws presumably still apply here.

I'm unclear on whether the state can actually stop a local cop from enforcing a federal law. But I bet they can discourage it.

If... due to a medical condition,
duly certified by a physician...
you need to get high,
it'll be mostly the DEA and FBI
that concern you.

The local fuzz won't burn you.

Monday, December 03, 2012

In Pursuit of an Upper Lip That's Hirsute


In the Mideast, reportedly, a mustache is a sign of manliness. But not all men can grow a thick one. So, here comes cosmetic surgery to the rescue:
...in recent years, increasing numbers of Middle Eastern men have been going under the knife to attain the perfect specimen.
Embarrassed by a thin moustache?
Want to look manly in a flash?
Just slip our surgeons some folding cash!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Owe Yes

Tomorrow, tomorrow, we'll borrow tomorrow -
I hope there's a way to pay!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Coffee!

Most days I drink a cup or two. But...
"What I tell patients is, if you like coffee, go ahead and drink as much as you want and can," says Dr. Peter Martin, director of the Institute for Coffee Studies at Vanderbilt University.
I guess this means I need more caffeine!

But you know the way these things go...
in just about a year
there will be a major study to show
that coffee's a thing to fear.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Foreverland


I went to the opening of Peter Pan's Shadow, Part 3: Foreverland, by Jeremy Menekseoglu. I was thoroughly charmed by it.

Of all 3 parts, I liked this last the best.
The bodiless talking-head mermaid left me particularly impressed.

After I attended a reading of the piece, I asked Jeremy how he was going to have a talking decapitated mermaid's head on stage. He told me it would be "easy", but it sounded hard to me! Well, somehow the way they did it worked. Sarah Scanlon, who played the mermaid, deserves praise for pulling that off. It's mostly done with suggestion, not illusion. But in fantasy pieces, people are willing to let their imaginations run riot with well-crafted suggestion.

The play focuses on the recurring tragedy of the charismatic alpha male who refuses to "grow up", who attracts swooning women, but who cannot fully return their love. You know, what is sometimes called the Peter Pan Syndrome. It's rough on relationships!

There are emotional moments throughout the play that were just mesmerizing.

I guess that means that even though there wasn't much yelling,
the acting was utterly compelling.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Up For Grabs

Since Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned his congressional seat, 2 weeks after winning re-election, we've all been wondering who will take his vacated position.

Well, today Mel Reynolds announced that he's in the running. The funny thing is, he already held that seat. Jackson took that seat after Reynolds vacated it. Reynolds, you see had some trouble with the law.
Reynolds held the 2nd Congressional District seat from 1993 until October 1995, when a Cook County jury convicted him of several sex-related charges, including having sex with an underage volunteer campaign worker. While serving time in state prison, Reynolds also was convicted on federal financial and campaign fraud charges. President Bill Clinton commuted Reynolds' sentence to time served in 2001.
The story says he "no longer has to register as a sex offender".
I guess that makes him a valid contender.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Opportunity to Tune

I came across an interesting thought in an Ann Althouse post today. The context is about a crazy prank, but that doesn't matter too much:
One girl knew he was a fake. You see her at about 3:00. I think it's not a mere coincidence that the young woman is strikingly beautiful. Well-tuned bullshit detector.
"Not a mere coincidence." Althouse isn't quite saying that all strikingly beautiful women have well-tuned BS-detectors. But you can see where they might have extra opportunity to tune that instrument.

Competitive males in pursuit of a mate
have sometimes been known to generate
BS
in excess.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Choking on Food

Last month I saw a story about a guy who died after winning a bug-eating contest - roaches and worms were on the menu. I wondered what had done him in, since the bugs weren't thought to be toxic as such. Now they tell us:
Edward Archbold died "as a result of asphyxia due to choking and aspiration of gastric contents," said the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office. It said his airway was obstructed by bug body parts, and ruled his death was an accident.
So, like too many rock stars, he choked to death on his own vomit. I wonder if he was drinking to celebrate his victory. Alcohol suppresses your gag reflex somewhat, and also can upset your stomach, a potentially dangerous combination.

But... what a weird way to go.

He gobbled worms with vigor and vim.
Now I figure they're nibbling him.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Munchausen by Internet

I read an interesting article about "Munchausen by internet", by which the author means people who sign onto internet health forums and pretend to have a health problem.  He offers a list of tips for spotting the fakers, of which this one jumped out at me:
5. There are continual dramatic events in the person's life, especially when other group members have become the focus of attention.
In other words, the faker works to stay in the forum limelight, making up drama.

Paradoxically, the medical establishment treats the fakers as having an illness - namely Munchausen Syndrome - an "illness" that consists of falsely claiming to have a real illness. It's a psychiatric disorder, of course.

Bear in mind, if you fake an illness for a semi-practical reason, such as collecting undeserved disability payments, that doesn't count as Munchausen. That's just malingering.
Unlike individuals who engage in MALINGERING, people with factitious disorder and Munchausen syndrome are not primarily seeking external gains such as disability payments or narcotic drugs—though they may receive them nonetheless. In some cases, the fabrication or induction of illness is an expression of jealousy, rage, or the desire to control others.
So the theory is they really are "sick"
but not with what they claim to have... that's just a trick.

Instead
they're sick in the head.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkey Trot

Ran the Beverly Hills Turkey Trot 5k today.

Took first in age group. Race goes by my house. Thank you Marsha and Romeo for cheering me on!

If you're lucky enough to still be able to run when you're 60, your odds of taking first go up. I feel like the tortoise in the fable.

As your competition diminishes,
you have better relative finishes.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Arab Autumn

What is wrong with these Egyptians?
Supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi clashed Friday in the worst violence since he took office, while he defended a decision to give himself near-absolute power to root out what he called ‘‘weevils eating away at the nation of Egypt.’’
Don't they understand that his virtuous intentions justify dictatorship?

He surely wants power
in order to shower
goodness and light
upon those trapped in night.

No? Well, maybe you're right.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Endings


From Playwriting Seminars 2.0:
There's nothing wrong – and in fact everything good – about a happy ending if that's the logical outcome. The problem with happy endings is that more often than not, they defy the logic of the story.
I just want to note that the same ending can be tragic or happy, depending upon who the protagonist is.

I have to say
that if only the play
was mostly about MacDuff...

the death
of MacBeth
would be happy enough.

Adventurers


You have to hand it to the Pilgrims for their ability to admit mistakes:
It’s wrong to say that American was founded by capitalists. In fact, America was founded by socialists who had the humility to learn from their initial mistakes and embrace freedom.
But it's also worth remembering that the first successful English settlement in the Americas, in Jamestown, really was founded by capitalists:
Late in 1606, English entrepreneurs set sail with a charter from the Virginia Company of London to establish a colony in the New World.
Success did not come right away to the Jamestown settlement, either. Famine struck within a few years and, "Only 61 of the 500 colonists survived the period".

Of course, I understand why we focus on the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving, since we trace the holiday back to them.

But I'm not sure why they are so often treated as if they were the first settlers.

It's kind of a mystery,
at least to me.

Sometimes I wonder if there could be
Northern bias in our history?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Forgetful Me


There's an exercise I go through after I write a long story, such as a play. I go back and look at the notes and early versions it evolved from.

Often I am surprised.

I just did it for this new thing I've written, and, sure enough, I was surprised. It somehow evolved out of 2 quite different abandoned story attempts, the first involving an encrypted laptop, and the second involving a private school. The main thing these 2 attempts had in common - was that they both involved a lawyer. The thing I finally wrote ended up involving 4 lawyers, so I guess I had lawyers on the brain. Well, I have 4 close relatives who are lawyers, so perhaps I can be forgiven for that.

I had completely forgotten that the immediate impetus for Start Number 3, the start which I carried to completion, was an article in the Chicago Tribune on February 20th this year:
Heavy-equipment operator Mark Michelsen, 49, is threatening to rip up or fill in the subdivision detention pond he unwittingly bought for $11 at a tax sale if the village or homeowners don't pay up.
I found the article fascinating, but I didn't actually use the story in the article, although my story did end up involving a legal dispute over a pond.

Funny how going back to replay the tape
to see the way a story really took shape
is so often an exercise
in surprise.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Is Coming

I see friends working on developing their gratitude in November, by thinking of a new thing every day that they're grateful for.

Isn't one day a year enough
to be grateful, and stuff?

Alternatively...

If it's good to embrace a sense of gratitude,
maybe it should be a whole-year attitude.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Themes

I'm rereading Richard Toscan's Playwriting Seminars, and recently reread his section on Theme, where he advises you not to try to write a play with a message.
Nearly all contemporary playwrights would say it’s a fool’s errand to try writing a play driven consciously by a predetermined theme or message.
It's more or less the opposite advice from what Lajos Egri gave in his famous The Art Of Dramatic Writing.
Central to Egri's argument is his claim that the best stories follow the logical method of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, or dialectic, to prove what he calls a "premise." A premise, as Egri describes it, is a thematic truth.
My newest play, currently entitled "O'Brien & O'Brian", was done by the first method. But I felt like it had some thematic unity, so I sat down today and thought about what the story meant. Sure enough, I perceived a thematic thread.

I've tried both ways, conscious and un,
depending upon my vision.

I think either way can get the job done,
and neither deserves derision.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

At The Mound, On Stage


AtTheMound
That's a photo from last night, left to right you can see Sam Bell as the pitcher, Gavin Maloney as the catcher, and Greg Wittenberg as the umpire. (Not pictured is Vince Nuno, who played the coach.) I thought the young men did a fine job with my play.

The young men playing the pitcher and catcher actually play those positions on their high school team. Which made costuming easy for them!

Of the 9 baseball plays, mine was the only one that involved actors playing players on the field. You can see where it would be hard to put much of a baseball game on the stage - the stage is too small, the actors aren't real baseball players, etc. In a movie, of course, you can make it work quite well. But I was able to "cheat" by putting up an "at the mound" discussion, the impromptu conference where a catcher goes out to talk to a pitcher about what is wrong. At the game, in the stands, it's an odd sort of moment. You watch the discussion, but you hear none of it. You wonder what they are saying, but you just don't know.

In my little plot,
they say quite a lot.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Energy of Grief

My 10-minute baseball play, At The Mound, seemed to play well last night. The 4 young actors did a fine job playing pitcher, catcher, umpire, and coach. I had an all male cast, which kind of balanced some all female pieces.

The play, whatever else it is about, is partly about one of the ways men, young men especially perhaps, deal with grief - by channeling the energy - the anger - into something else.

I'll see it again, tonight.

The energy of grief
seeks relief.

ORCA Needed LARP


You may have read about ORCA:
It was supposed to be a "killer app," but a system deployed to volunteers by Mitt Romney's presidential campaign may have done more harm to Romney's chances on Election Day—largely because of a failure to follow basic best practices for IT projects.
What "best practices" would those be? Beta testing and stress testing. In beta testing you let end users test the product. And in stress testing... well, let's look at how the competing campaign handled that:
The election was still 17 days away, and this was a live action role playing (LARPing!) exercise that the campaign's chief technology officer, Harper Reed, was inflicting on his team. "We worked through every possible disaster situation," Reed said. "We did three actual all-day sessions of destroying everything we had built."
If you want a product that's best,
that is how you test.

As someone who has supported himself for some decades by writing computer programs, I suspect some sort of managerial groupthink hubris infected the ORCA effort.

The elephants built some tech, but failed to test in beta,
while the donkeys recruited nerds who really knew their data.

Cliff!


I heard a knowledgeable economist say that he didn't really know what the effect of going off the fiscal cliff would be. He seemed to think it might even be beneficial. I mean, at least it would involve "spending cuts," although he indicated that, as so often, they aren't really reductions in what was spent this year, they are reductions to scheduled increases for next year.

Is it mainly the word "cliff" that makes it sound
like a fully fatal fall to the ground?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Snooper's Dream

Google is popular with your government - as a source of data:
The search and ads company today released figures revealing that it was asked to hand over user data 7,969 times by US agencies in the first six months of 2012 - an increase of 26 percent over the previous six months.
Which brings us to General Petraeus, and the story that just keeps rolling downhill:
Oddly enough, the leader of the intelligence gathering agency was brought down by Gmail...
Well, Gmail and his email with a female...

Reducing National Debt

Jason Fichtner:
At more than $16 trillion, the United States’ gross national debt has grown to equal its gross domestic product—a level that for other nations has marked an economic tipping point.
I think this is why economics is called the dismal science. When things are looking dismal, economics tells you your glass is even less than half empty.

I've decided on defiance
against the dismal science.

Why worry about the national debt?
We don't really have to pay it yet!

If we just keep growing it bigger,
it'll pay itself, I figger.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Productivity Runneth Over

Whew. What a writing-productive long weekend. (Had Veteran's Day off.) Finished first draft of new full-length play, previously entitled "High Water," and then "Over Flow," now provisionally entitled: "O'Brien & O'Brian". Of course, the title may change again, but this is the first title I've had a good feeling about as fitting the play. What I don't know is whether that title will sound attractive to anybody. Well, we'll see who complains about it.

Over the years, I've had to rework the "final exchange" dialogue quite a bit. I'm hoping that's not true this time. Well, we'll see that too.

It's a play that features lots of Irish names,
and characters pursuing secret aims.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Currently 800 Something

Illinois uses its electronic highway alert signs to flash a running tally of state traffic deaths, in between useful traffic alerts. That means I end up looking at the sign longer.

That's dangerous, I fear.
And, yes, traffic deaths are up this year.

Honoring

I'd like to say "Thank you, vets",
but they come in 2 separate sets.

And today I'm skipping the healers of pets,
and thanking the ones with rifles and jets.

Brecht and Copyright

From David Mamet's book, The Secret Knowledge, which I was just previewing on his website:
As a youth I enjoyed—indeed, like most of my contemporaries, revered—the agitprop plays of Brecht, and his indictments of Capitalism. It later occurred to me that his plays were copyrighted, and that he, like I, was living through the operations of that same free market. His protestations were not borne out by his actions, neither could they be. Why, then, did he profess Communism? Because it sold.
This is funny and apt, but there's an underlying question, of course.

Why did the road to hell
sell so well?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chekhov Shorts

You don't usually think of Chekhov as being laugh-out-loud funny, but the audience was laughing out loud tonight at Chekhov Shorts, a collection of 3 of his early farcical one-acts.

I went because a friend of mine, Chad Sheveland, is the cast. You can see him below, struggling for control of a dueling pistol in "The Bear".

chad2
Chad's performance was excellent, as I expected. And I was pleased that the other actors were also playing at a high level.

Chekhov's mature plays have a reputation for subtle humor, but these early plays are loaded with humor of a broader sort.

His later plays are thought of as delicate flowers,
but his early efforts already show raw power.

UPDATE: Belatedly realized that I had previously met another actor in the show, Ginger Leopoldo. She was also very funny, so here's her picture too:

chad

Never Take Counsel Of Your Fears

Never take counsel of your fears. Have you ever heard that phrase? Have you wondered where it came from? I like it, so I've wondered.

I started looking it up today, and I saw some people attributed it to Andrew Jackson or George Patton. But on Google Books, it first appears in 1858, in Brownson's Quarterly Review, in a piece called Conversations Of Our Club:
"Never take counsel of your fears," replied Father John, "and always hear a man's whole thought before you fly in a rage at him. I wish the Catholic public in our country to take higher views of what a collegiate education should be;"
I can't quite tell who really came up with the phrase. The piece claims to be "reported for the Review, by a Member." Was it really just a piece of reporting? Was there really a Father John who said exactly this?

Or did Anonymous, as from his earliest days,
turn this perfect phrase?

The Demand for Flammable Flags

Stimulus:
Many Pakistanis fear President Barack Obama’s re-election will mean a surge in America’s unpopular drone campaign, but for those making and selling US flags to burn at protests this could be good news.
Yes, they manufacture the Stars & Stripes -
just to express some anti-American gripes!

Well, even without the drone campaign in particular, you could expect a lot of anti-American protests in Pakistan. They weren't too happy when we coptered those SEALs into Abbottabad to kill Bin Laden, either. I'm not sure what it would take to get them to like us again.

Not that being liked is, or should be, the chief goal of our foreign policy.

We could always try the Ron Paul strategy of not being Team America: World Police. He's pretty consistent about it. But a lot of people aren't.

Some say they want us to stop
playing global cop,
until some outrage occurs that they don't like.

Then they're on the phones
calling for the drones
to strike.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Current Affairs

Undercover boss
takes a lover and a loss.

In Passing

A penny in the pool goes splash and dives,
The waves pulse out a pattern that goes on.
We're here a while, plunging through our lives,
And leaving love behind us when we're gone.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Last Hurrah

Going out in glory:
Dead candidates win elections in Florida, Alabama
Their days were done,
but still... they won!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Dietary Preference, For Future Reference

An explanation is offered for why animals might "get the taste for human blood":
"Since human blood has more salt than animal blood, once wild animals get the taste of salty blood, they do not like other animals like deer," Dhakal told CNN.
If predators like to eat us because we're salty,
my pretzels-for-breakfast habit may be faulty.

Thoughts on Directing

I've been directed, and I've watched a bunch of directors work intensely with other actors, but I hadn't tried it myself until last week. So these are just some first thoughts on actually doing it.

I was lucky in my cast, which was assigned to me - two very talented young women who worked very well together. And they had to work pretty closely together, since they ended up inside one double-dress, playing conjoined twins.

I was lucky in my script. It was a literary, poetic script, which plays to my strengths. And it was by a friend, so I had a preliminary feeling for the emotional tone and intention.

My first crisis was finding a place to rehearse. The theater was available - but not during the time slots we needed to rehearse, given our three schedules. One of my sisters was able to give me downtown space to use, for free. Well, I arranged for free admission for her and my brother-in-law in return, but it was a lot less than I would have paid to rent space!

I could have rehearsed at my house, but I'm far south of downtown and the actresses both live north of downtown. It would have meant extra travel time for them.

So, we had some deep conversations about the script, sharing insights and suggestions. The actresses came up with a lot on their own. I did feel I was able to contribute something material now and then to how it was being acted. This felt to me like the most mysterious part of the process, but it seemed to go well enough. I followed my "instincts" mostly, since you don't have time to do much else.

As one of the actresses said afterward, a lot of being a director is scheduling and finding props! I did round up a nice set of props, from a couple of thrift stores and from stuff belonging to my wife. I found a nice photo of a garden to be projected behind the scene, and I found some fun introductory and closing music. I worked with the person running tech to actually develop a lighting change during a certain part of the script.

One thing I didn't really get to do was blocking - telling the actors when to move and where to stand. My actors were sitting at a table for the whole script - until the end when they stood. That's what the script specified, anyway, and we stuck with it.

Being conjoined, they were stuck on each other.
I wondered what giving birth was like for their mother.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

In My Experience

Electoral joy may soon cloy. But nothing about defeat tastes sweet.

Animal Scandals

If an alligator makes an allegation, must the ostrich suffer ostracization?

Monday, November 05, 2012

TOW7 is History


I was very pleased with both of the plays I was directly involved in at Theatre of Women 7, which is now history. I had fun watching the other plays too.

As my brother in law said, the great thing about 10 minute plays is that:

Even if one leaves you vexed or perplexed,
it's over soon and time for the next!

Okay, that's not an exact quote from my brother in law. He said it without rhyming it.

I see that Anna Menekseoglu has uploaded a video of Saturday night's performance of "Two Girls, One Heart", which I directed.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Falling Back

Cat thinks I need to get out of bed,
so she can be fed.

And she doesn't understand me when I say:
we've got an extra hour to sleep today.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Ending Soon On A TV Near You

This may seem controversial
but my favorite thing to view
is a juicy election commercial!

What will I do
when the races are through?

They leave me reeling
with dizzy fun.

(I like the feeling
of being spun.)

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Ick Factor

Eww.
David Axelrod described the message coming from President Barack Obama days before Election Day as "coming from his loins."
Is this part of the macho dominance narrative - the idea that voters pick whoever seems like more of Type A leader? A lot of people see the dramatics of debate as really being settled by who seems to "own the stage" more.

It's okay if you speak from your heart,
I'll applaud if you speak from your head,
But when a pol speak from his loins,
I don't want to hear what he said.

Secret Cases

The Chicago Sun-Times reports on a local judge who says there are "secret cases" which are ruining her life. They must be very secret, because the head judge says they don't exist.
McDunn insists, “I’m not paranoid.”
"I'm not paranoid,"
is one of those phrases you want to avoid.

Just saying it makes you sound
unsound.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disturbance in the Force

Disney buys the Star Wars franchise and plans to do more sequels or prequels?

Well, good luck to them.

Lucas, despite being the genius behind the first 3 films, was also the sub-genius behind the second 3 films. I hope Disney feels free to override his ideas for whatever comes next.

Help us, Walt Disney Company, you're our only hope!
Do I think they will equal the first three? Nope.

What Deserves To Be Preserved?


Here in Chicago, Northwestern University has been fighting with architectural preservationists. Northwestern wants to tear down an old Ob/Gyn building. But the preservationists say no!

For some reason, the mayor and city council get to decide who wins. And now the mayor has decided to support the tear-down.
In a statement, Emanuel declared that 2,500 construction jobs, 2,000 full-time jobs and an estimated economic impact of $400 million was simply too much to pass up.
Here's a pic:
prentice

The architect liked to do buildings with round shapes, cylinders of various sorts.

You can't save every old building here. This isn't Rome.
It's Chicago, where we like to tear down and rebuild our home.

Monday, October 29, 2012

New York Underwater

I've lived and worked there, decades ago. That city is loaded with resourceful people. They will, mostly, recover. But this is one unholy mess.

 When a skyscraper's basement floods... well, it's hard to get everything in there working right again. I remember when here in Chicago we merely had an underground tunnel flood. A lot of big buildings were knocked out for months.

I hope my New York friends are all right
on this wet, wet night.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Two Girls, One heart

We started rehearsals yesterday for Theatre of Women 7. It turns out I am directing a play written by my friend Anna Weiler Menekseoglu, "Two Girls, One Heart." I'm happy. I have talented actresses who share my enthusiasm for the play.

But the play disrupted my life last night!

I couldn't sleep, I stayed awake late,
tossing and turning over ways to make this production great.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ayn Rand Explained on Amazon

A week or two ago I mentioned that my wife had edited / revised / added new material to Ayn Rand Explained: From Tyranny To Tea Party. It's being put out by Open Court.

I'm assured it's now available  at Amazon. There doesn't seem to be a Kindle version at this point, but you can get an actual paper copy if you'd like.

And if you happened to see this story, you may be thinking paper has its advantages.
This week, science fiction became science fact as a Boeing CHAMP missile knocked out a building full of electronics in the Utah desert at Hill Air Force Base. There was no explosion and no flying shrapnel. There was only the sound of the missile’s engine as it flew overhead and the sputtering of sophisticated computers crashing as they were hit by a beam of high-energy microwaves.
Paper seems like a quaint
and ancient artifact
but at least it ain't
susceptible to CHAMP attack.

A Smile That Lights Up The Night


pumpkin2012

I see Jack O'Lantern's leer.
Halloween is growing near.
Time to knock my knees in fear!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Joy of Dentistry

Even when you're numb, it really isn't fun, to sit still for drilling to get a new filling.

Worse yet, sitting through "breaking down"
the tooth for a crown.

McArdle's Complaint


Megan McArdle:
It seems to be some sort of universal that women who make forceful political arguments garner a particular sort of vitriolic reaction.
She thinks it's worse than the vitriolic reaction which men receive.

I don't know. We could run a controlled experiment, I suppose, with undergraduates. You know, take two random sets of people, show them the same forceful political argument, but tell one set of people it's by Megan McArdle and tell the other set it's by Michael McArdle. Have them write critiques addressed to either Meg or Mike. Work out a scoring system to scientifically scale their respective vitriol volumes!

She says it's not just men.
I'm (painfully) reminded of the progressive woman who wrote a long and spiteful note, the upshot of which was that since my husband is younger than me, he'd probably eventually leave me for a younger woman.
She says it's not just conservatives:
...self described progressive men go out of their way to write me notes in which they sound like sexist jerks. They deploy words that I won't repeat, because this is a family blog, but which center around my reproductive parts, and what I might or might not be doing with them.
From all this, should I conclude...
that I need to get rude, crude, and lewd
so my meaning is not misconstrued?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mamet on Theatre Again

I've been re-reading David Mamet's book, Theatre. He is so contrarian. I know, what a shock, who would have thought that Mamet was the type to raise eyebrows?
If theatre were a religion, explains David Mamet in his opening chapter, “many of the observations and suggestions in this book might be heretical.”
He blithely trashes accepted contemporary theories of how plays should be written, of how they should be directed, of how they should be rehearsed.

I am deeply sympathetic to his view that the key task of the playwright is to make people wonder "what happens next" until the play is over.

I don't actually always agree with him, by any stretch of the imagination. But he makes me laugh. Well, not out loud. But inside.

I'm reading his book at the Chicago Public Library, and I just came across this, from a speech he gave there:
The media exists to enflame us, and I hold no brief—at least in the liberal arts—for that which calls itself Higher Education. The library is, and has always been, our national schoolhouse.
Typical!

Contrarian to the core,
he makes me want to read more.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Decisions Decisions

Monday Night Football... or a presidential debate. Which should I watch live?

Well, my father's coming over, so I think it will be the Bears.
He's already got his mind made up on who will be better at foreign affairs.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Faithful Guardian of the Hose Reel

romeohose

Just TRY to reel in that hose -
soon you will feel his cold nose!

Nothinggate

I'm waiting for "binders full of big birds". Maybe some cartoonist has already done it. It could be a fanciful tale about Romney firing Big Bird because Big Bird is overpaid, but there are binders full of resumes of big bird wannabes.

"Democratic operatives with bylines" continue to pump these binder and big bird memes, but they seem like very weak tea to me.

If Obama had said "binders full of women" it would be okay. A turn of phrase in that case would not have been "wince-inducing" to the left. It would not have been "emblematic of a larger issue". It would have been "nothing to see here, move along".

Obama frequently turns phrases that are "not optimal". The right notices them. The left ignores them.

Turns of phrase, gaffes, may be good for a few raised eyebrows and laughs, but who chooses among candidates that way? Well, I guess the meme-pumpers are hoping to influence the "undecideds," whoever they may be, whatever they may be undecided about.

Maybe a vague sense that somebody said something bad will be enough to sway
the button they hit on election day.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Overnight Play

I showed up at Dream Theatre after 10 pm. I was the last of the writers to show up. I was given photos of 3 actresses, for whom I was to write a short play. I was asked to choose from among a set of 4 Mab Graves paintings of what seemed to be young superheroines. I chose this one, entitled "Jane".

janematch

The idea was to write a play somehow inspired or launched by this painting. By noon the next day. I liked the suggestion of a "firestarter" because it gave me the vaguest idea of an action to start the drama.

But, really, at first glance, I was drawing a blank. The painting, by itself, didn't seem to be yielding a strong sense of dramatic action or conflict.

And then, I think, something about the painting reminded me of the classic dominatrix persona. The shiny blackness of the outfit, perhaps. And suddenly I had an idea for how to open the play - just a visual image - an eye catching situation: a woman alone on stage, tied to a chair.

I had no story arc - no idea of where this was going to go.

But it was all I had. So, in desperation, I sat down on a chair in the theater lobby, opened my laptop, and started writing, letting one line suggest the next line, following my sense of: what would be interesting to see next?

After about 4 pages, very worried, I stopped, and asked myself if I could figure out a direction, a path to completing this story - a path in which something interesting was resolved - by page 10. I wrote some notes to myself, came up with what seemed to me an acceptable arc that would actually be able to use the core of what I'd already written.

I didn't finish till 4 in the morning, sustained by Fritos and Mountain Dew.

It pleased me, but I felt too close to it to be objective. My wife read it today. She thought it was cute and liked it, and she has good taste, so it can't be all bad.

In 2 weeks, it will be on stage for 2 nights, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 & 4. I'll post some info about that as the time draws closer.

I call it Playing With Matches.

When you play with a match,
no matter what you desire,
what you catch
is fire.

Friday, October 19, 2012

In A Tight Space

Later tonight, I'm going to Dream Theatre. I have to write a 10-minute play for the upcoming Theatre of Women 7. I'm not allowed to start till 9:30 pm, and I have to be done by noon tomorrow. No pressure.

Hopefully my play won't make anyone think of this story:
A pregnant Seattle woman says she was kicked off a bus because of her baby’s diaper odor—an ordeal that made her “feel like crap.”
She felt like crap,
her kid smelt like crap,
but doesn't the driver deserve a slap?

I mean couldn't he have just opened a window? Or maybe it was one of those modern buses where it's impossible to open a window.

She believes it wasn't fair,
but her son was polluting the air.

Deeper in the Darkness

Dream Theatre is running their annual Halloween show, Anna in the Darkness, with a fabulous new set, and with Megan Merrill playing the title character.

Merrill was on fire, tonight, opening night.

It's a scary play, it's a tragedy, it's a tale of heroism. It's about a teacher for the emotionally handicapped who runs afoul of community sensibilities in a small Southern town - by introducing her students to books they actually enjoy reading - thrilling tales that the community does not approve of.

None of the books are actually named in the play. But among the prop books, in the candlelight, I spotted one by H.P. Lovecraft, and one by Ayn Rand.

Once books open the door to a mind,
you don't know what a person will find.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Overnight

The wind, that blustery vandal, stripped the oak's clothes and left it exposed. What a scandal!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Roughly 9:30 CST

Obama says something about "community colleges," and the moderator is heard saying "yeah, right" as she is seen nodding her head.

I don't think she meant to be heard. I have no idea what it meant.

The debate is tense and furious,
but her comment left me curious.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hot Off The Presses

My wife got a heavy box in the mail. Wasn't sure what it was. Oh, it was from the publisher:
Ayn Rand Explained is a completely revised and updated edition of The Ideas of Ayn Rand, by the late Ronald E. Merrill, first published by Open Court in 1991.
Yes, revised and updated by Marsha Familaro Enright. She wrote 3 new opening chapters on the woman and the movement, which include her own thoughts, for instance, on what can be inferred about Rand's relationship with her husband.

The book's new subtitle is "From Tyranny to Tea Party".

I seem to recall Rand being asked once whether it was time for a new tea party, and her replying: "It was time long ago."

She had a reputation
as an intellectual hellion
causing a sensation
and encouraging rebellion.

I Can Hardly Wait


pumpkinhead
Christmas season keeps creeping earlier in the calendar - at least at the mall - and something calling itself RetailMeNot.com is embracing the trend wholeheartedly.
The group has even gone so far as to trademark a term for the phenomenon, “OctoNovemCember,” and it plans to center a new marketing campaign — complete with a mascot, the Pumpkin-Headed Turkey Claus — around the idea.

Rather than making jokes,
I just want to know - is this a hoax?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stone Bridge Marathon

stonebridgemedal

Ran this very well-run small-town marathon, which started in Belvidere IL and ended in Roscoe IL.

As you can see, I came in second in my age group. I suspect there were only the 2 of us in my age group.

The forecast was warning of rain and even thunderstorms, and I considered canceling, but, hey, I'd paid my entry fee, so why not go for it?

I awoke at 4, left the house by 4:20, and got to the starting spot by 6:20 or so, after only one wrong turn in the dark!

I heard there were 100 starters. I fell in toward the back, and as we started up the street a pleasantly talkative woman remarked on the sofa someone had left at the curb. "Must be for us!" she said. Anyway, I fell to talking with her, and her goal for the race was to come in under 5 hours. Her best marathon time ever was something like 5:20. So I said my goal was also to come in under 5, and we started running together.

It wasn't raining when we started. The rain held off until mile 17 or so. It wasn't a downpour, but it was enough to get you wet. It never did turn to thunderstorms, which was a good thing, because the organizers planned to shut down the race for safety reasons if lightning appeared.

At mile 24, my quads began cramping. They had been warning me that they might cramp, and they finally made good on the threat. So I told the woman I was running with to go ahead, that I had to walk for a while to work at getting rid of the cramp.

She made her goal, coming it at 4:55, 25 minutes faster than her previous marathon best. I like to think I helped by running with her until my quads misbehaved.

I made my goal too, coming in at 4:58.

As for my quads - they are the body part that has been threatening, all year, to make trouble. Each year there seems to be one body part that stands out as the weak link in the chain.

The struggle to strengthen every link in the chain
seems to be a pursuit that's vain.

Atlas Part 2

We saw the new Atlas Shrugged movie tonight. I liked it. Unlike part 1, it didn't feel like a made-for-TV movie. It did still feel low-budget. And there's a reason for that - they had twice the budget, but it was still low.

This is an indie film of an epic.

In many ways, it was better than part 1. There were a lot of great moments. The money speech, which was cut profoundly short, still packed a punch.

My chief lament is that this Dagny didn't seem to have much sexual chemistry with either Rearden or Francisco. Dagny One sizzled. Dagny Two seems too preoccupied to sizzle, and that was too bad.

Or... maybe they were damping down her ardor in order to make the romantic developments in part 3 more acceptable?

Well, assuming it will be,
we'll see
how they handle part 3.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Small Potatoes

Justice weighs in:
A City of Chicago zoning inspector found guilty of taking bribes has had his conviction overturned — in part, because the bribes weren’t big enough.
Apparently they had him for taking 2 bribes of 600 dollars each. In return, he issued certifications of occupancy for homes he hadn't actually inspected.

But the law they convicted him under required the prosecutors to prove that the inspector had corruptly provided more than 5000 dollars worth of services or goods.

But, how to value the certifications of occupancy? There's no legal market.

Prosecutors constructed some kind of argument that the monetary value to the homeowners was more than 5000. But the black market clearly had set the price of the certificates at 600. And, in the end, the federal judges accepted the illegal market price as carrying legal weight.

Keep your bribes fairly small
so they barely count at all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dr. Barbara Bellar


Barbara Bellar, a physician and former nun, is running for the Illinois State Senate in my district. I don't think she's going to win, but she's pretty funny. Here she is with one humorous long sentence summing up Obamacare.





It really doesn't take long
to suggest what might go wrong.

Walking Home

catalpa1

I was walking home from work today, and found these 3 things on the ground, separately.

In mild weather,
at evening hour,
some leaves and a flower,
piled together.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

DIM - Mini Review

I enjoyed reading Leonard Peikoff's new book, The DIM Hypothesis. I think I liked it more than his summa on Rand's philosophy, but less than his first book, The Ominous Parallels. To be fair, it's quite different than both of his previous books in tone and subject matter.

(Most fans of Peikoff's works like his summa better than his Parallels. I'm in a distinct minority with my preferences.)

The book pretty much assumes knowledge of, and agreement with, Rand's philosophy. He takes a lot of controversial things for granted, without arguing for them. This is not designed as an outreach effort. Not at all.

Instead, it's a somewhat meditative review of the course of Western culture and philosophy. He brings a lot of broad historical knowledge to the task of arguing for what he calls the DIM hypothesis.

DIM is an acronym for Disintegration, Integration, Misintegration. His hypothesis is that the broad sweep of Western culture, from the Ancient Greeks to now, is best understood in terms of a kind of intellectual competition among 3 basic philosophies which take different stands, as he sees it, on conceptual integration.

Plato he sees as the great advocate of Misintegration, by which he means something like rationalist supernatural idealism. The Plato he sees is, one might say, the Plato of the neoPlatonists - of Plotinus and Augustine.

Aristotle he sees as the great advocate of Integration, by which he means something like logical scientific secularism. It's worth noting that he thinks Greek culture was already Integrationist before Aristotle, since he speaks of the 3 great Greek tragedians as being Integrationist, and they all predated Aristotle by a generation or two.

Kant he sees as the great advocate of Disintegration, by which he means something more than simple skepticism. He sees Kant as achieving a system of philosophy with nihilism as its end, a sort of system designed to keep its adherent from thinking in principles.

A lot of the book is spent reviewing "cultural products" from different periods - literary productions, systems of education, political systems, etc. The periods get classified by the acronym letters in a process the author calls "mode hunting". Very curiously, he has trouble classifying the Renaissance.

As his thesis develops, there's more than just D, I, and M. Instead there's: D2, D1, I, M1, M2.

D2 and M2 are the original D and M, I gather, the essential Kant and Plato as he sums them up. D1 and M1 are hypothesized as blends of Kant or Plato with Aristotle, mixed cases, not so bad as the full "2" strength versions.

You might ask about a combination of Kant and Plato - D and M - how would that be categorized? He doesn't think that has ever been a widespread cultural phenomenon, although he recognizes it can exist as a tension in one person's mind, to be sure.

In the end, I was not convinced. I think it's probably true that Plato, Aristotle, and Kant are the most influential philosophers in the history of Western Philosophy. I think there's a lot of truth in the ancient saying, with which he closes his book: “History is philosophy, teaching by examples.” But I thought these things going in.

One thing that's curious to me, actually, is that I agree with so many of his premises, but can't get to his conclusions.

I was definitely not convinced by his conclusion that the U.S. is teetering on the edge of Christian fundamentalist totalitarianism or his parallel conclusion that Europe is teetering on the edge of Muslim fundamentalist totalitarianism. I can imagine such outcomes - but bear in mind that I have a fairly active imagination. Neither outcome actually seems likely to me.

I suppose I will continue to mull over his hypothesis and its elements. It gave me something to think about. He made me look at a broad sweep of history in a somewhat different way than usual, which I found stimulating. My personal reaction to it is a bit like my personal reactions to Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations or Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, And Steel. My sense in all three cases is that they went too far with their overarching theories, but that I gained something from their efforts anyway.

I think the case for full-fledged DIM
is still too slim.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Discover


Even if something is already known, you can discover a fact on your own. Columbus thus must be reckoned, even if he sort of came in second.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

If It Looks Like A...


On a walk, by a pond, met some white crested ducks. They greeted us with quacks, not clucks. They waddled along with webbed feet in the muck. I concluded at last that they really were ducks. Not to sound logically aloof, but I obtained certainty through inducktive proof.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Mazetown

When lost in Boston follow the signs.
You'll get lost more, but that's mostly fine.
It's part of the tour, so don't dare whine.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Federal Misdemeanor

It's illegal to disturb a manatee. They have a tenuous grip on sanity. Anyhow, Don't call one a sea cow, They don't like that name now.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Debate Viewership

For some reason, the debating
had a very high TV rating.

I don't recall anyone predicting that. It's almost as if people are worried about where the nation is heading. Well, I don't blame them!

Indefinite borrowing is no way to live.
Tomorrow arrives, and something must give.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Surfing the Web after Yoga

Watching debates
is something I hate,
but reportedly Romney won.

I don't suppose Obama is done.
Next time he'll try
to bounce back high.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

From the motherland:
A cardboard policeman used as a crime prevention aid in a Yorkshire supermarket has been stolen.
A cardboard cop
of minimal heft
failed to stop
its very own theft.

A picture is not
the thing itself,
and won't do a lot
to keep goods on the shelf.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Religious Totalitarianism

I've gotten to the point in the DIM Hypothesis where Leonard Peikoff predicts that America's future is likely to be: Religious Totalitarianism. And that's because we're fundamentally like the Weimar Republic, but are more likely to go Fundamentalist than NAZI.

I thought this was coming, but it still took me aback.

I will grant that what you might call the totalitarian tendency - the urge to control the devotee's every waking moment - has a way of popping up in a lot of religious traditions. A lot of times, when it's on a small scale, we call that religion, or religious faction, a "cult".

I understand the dangers of such groups. I even wrote a novel that was set in a renegade Mormon cult. Yes, the cultists were the bad guys. And in my book the cultists have ambitions to conquer the nation and the world. If you research the topic, you will find that cultists often have a tendency to think big - they think in terms of converting the world and ushering in a new golden age of truth and light as they see it.

But at the moment I just don't see the U.S. collapsing into any form of religious dictatorship. Even if the national government were to collapse due to economic catastrophe - which I also think is highly unlikely - what reason is there to think that most religious people - i.e., MOST AMERICANS - would support a dictatorship?

He has some reasons - some theoretical, some journalistic - but I am deeply unconvinced.

Embracing Christianity
is not the same as endorsing insanity.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Running is for the Birds

On my run yesterday, my interesting wildlife encounters were ornithological.

Around mile 3, I ran by a big hawk perched atop a utility pole. He wasn't especially interested in me, but he did seem to keep an eye on me as I ran right by the pole. There are several kinds of hawks here, and I'm not sure, but he may have been a red-tailed hawk. He looked something like this:

bellyband

Around mile 13, I heard some odd squawking, looked up and saw 2 green birds flying into a stand of trees. Monk parakeets, they're called around here. They're from Argentina originally. People think they got up here as pets - and then got loose.

240px-Monk_Parakeet_(Myiopsitta_monachus)_-Argentina-8

I wasn't sure how these 2 species got along, so I did some research.

As I suspected, hawks
are don't mind dining on something green that squawks.