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Random Topic Thursday

June 26, 2009 Leave a comment

First off, these guidelines only apply to shills, so if you have a blog here you probably don’t have anything to worry about. I have to thank Deadmoneywalking for alerting me to this, which initially scared me. Then I thought about it, what exactly are the claims that I would have to back up with evidence? That Star Wars sucks (that’s all the movies not just the prequels), that I fell asleep during the first Transformers movie and am looking forward to the next one just as much as I am looking forward to my next Dental exam (note: I have not been to the Dentist in eight years), or that a tie exists between history’s two greatest Douchebags Rene Descartes and Christopher Columbus for who sucks more?

However, none of that applies to me because I don’t advertise and neither do any of the blogs I read. Sure I might say something is cool, or that a movie was good; but all in all they are purely subjective and most importantly, UNENDORSED. The blogs, reviews and such that are coverred under the FTC guidelines are those that have received some sort of compensation regarding the subject of their entries, other than that no money, no problem.

Moving: This weekend I will be spending my time moving from one apartment in Rochester to another in Rochester. This act is one of the most hated that I must endure, especially since the weather gods always conspire against me. It will more than likely be 90 degrees alternating between periods of blistering sun and torrential hurricane. If you have my number and want to help give me a call. There’s usually beer involved.

Death: Good month for celebrity death pools (if those things really exist). First David Carradine, although I am not so certain if they have ruled the death acccidental or suicide for sure yet, whom i know and loved from the Kung Fu series, the Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, and both parts of the Kill Bill franchise. He wasn’t the greatest actor, but then he wasn’t supposed to be. He played a specific part and pulled it off well, what more are those people supposed to do? Ed McMahon is another story. I used to stay up late when i was a kid and watch the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Ed was the sidekick on the show and although I was really too young to appreciate the humor I enjoyed the banter. I was so used to the position of Ed that I used to expect every talk show to have an “Ed” character. How disappointing that this isn’t the case. Farrah Fawcett: don’t care, couldn’t name one thing she has been in, wait was she one of Charlie’s Angels? Maybe, I’m not looking it up but I certainly can’t name two.

Now we come to Michael Jackson. My sister in law seemed to make the point that no one would dare talk about the controversy sorrounding the allegations of child molestation on the day of his death. We briefly watched the news I think waiting for someone to mention it. While enduring Wolf Blitzer’s rather odd choice of music videos (seriously Wolf, don’t lead in with “Black and White” you lead in with “Thriller,” then “Beat It,” then choose something from the Jackson 5–or I guess you could just pull something from “HiStory” doucebag), finally they mentioned it. I guess you have to, and I was surprised that anyone did so soon after the announcement of his death. In establishing a summary of his life you go from child pop star, pop star, self-proclaimed but kind of justified “King of Pop,” relative obscurity, creepiness, then hermit, now dead. I never doubted that he was guilty, but the music was still good and that’s really all that I need from my music people.

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Obama’s “Murder”

June 24, 2009 Leave a comment

On the one hand, I know it’s a stupid publicity move; but on the other hand I can commend them for at least being consistent with their policy. PETA, the radical fringe of the Vegetarians, has admonished the president because he killed a fly during a CNBC interview with John Harwood. You probably don’t know the story because so much actual news has been surprisingly broadcast on the networks that this story received a brief blurb on MSNBC before they returned to the question of whether or not N. Korea was going to try and nuke us.

One of my perpetual complaints about the Vegetarians, is that they seem to be awfully selective when it comes to which animals they fight for. They aren’t going for numbers, they go for public appeal. So they protest Seal clubbing, hog farms, cow farms, leather, fur, etc. These are animals and animal issues that people are aware of, but represent a infinitesmally small fraction of the number of animals in a specific kingdom of the animals that are killed each year: the insects.

Insects make up more of the biological mass of the planet than anything else, they also die and are killed at a much faster rate. You don’t however see PETA protesting the factory that makes RAID, or the factory that makes cockroach traps, or protesting the type of pesticide that is used at farms in order to keep producing vegetables so that we do have something to eat even if we decide to only eat vegetables, fruits, and other “non-living” things. It’s nice to see that PETA actually tried to do something about it by sending an “ethical” flytrap to the Whitehouse.

This type of flytrap allows the owner to catch the fly then release it outside. Of course this removes the “2nd degree murder” of the fly (because there was no pre-meditation) and instead relegates the deaths of those flies to “negligent homicide” as the owner would have to check on the trap frequently to make sure that the insects didn’t starve to death or get killed by other predators that are inside this box of death.

I feel bad for vegetarians because PETA is their loudest spokesperson, just like I feel bad when Christians get lumped in with Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. Most vegetarians I have known are reasonable and understand that the choice is one that they have made for themselves. When PETA decides that in the interest of free publicity they will call the president a murderer because he swatted a fly with his bare hand (an impressive stunt by the way, now if he can do it with chopsticks I’ll be reall impressed), it really makes the rest of the Vegetarians look that much crazier.

For this entire article the word “Vegetarian” refers only to those people who are so because of personal choice and not because of medical or religious reasons

3.3

June 22, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m pretty sure that this the third post I have written about my latest publication, it may actually be the fourth by I don’t really feel like looking that up. It would probably take a whole five minutes but I don’t have a lot of time to spare–well that’s not true I just don’t wanna.

I knew there was something weird about this book compared to the other two. The process for this one has been odd, full of trials, and hoops that wouldn’t have been an issue if this were the first one that I was writing. By number three in the same series I thought I would just follow the pattern from the other two and everything would go well. However this was not to be the case.

So last year, around this time, I received the notice that my abstract was accepted for the book “Final Fantasy and Philosophy.” However the story started six months before that. At that time I received the call for papers, along with a call for editors. The book was planned, but they had no one to put it together. I had no delusions, I didn’t think that I would get an editor position but I went for it anyway. I was 29, an adjunct Philosophy professor, and two publications so there were qualifications, on paper at least. I was rejected for that, citing a lack of experience. Which I guess is the case, I wasn’t too clear on how one gets book editing experience other than by doing it. It’s like trying to become a male bartender I suppose.

So, I took a look at the call for abstracts (the deadline was a lot later than the editor call for obvious reasons) and decided to dummy up a quick abstract and i sent it in. It took six months for them to accept it, which kind of sucked because I could have used that knowledge in both of my interviews for full time professorship which probably could have helped a great deal in keeping me employed.

The way it worked before was that they gave you six months to write the damn thing. One rough draft, two edits, and then a final. The rough draft was due two months after acceptance of the abstract, with a draft a month after that. The real go getters of the world probably started working on their articles when they submitted their abstracts but I’m lazy and didn’t do that.

This time they gave me three months for the rough draft. I wrote it in three weeks, then rewrote it twice, then sent it in. It just wasn’t gelling for me. It was in, it came back with corrections/suggestions whatever. They gave me two months to change it. Which was nice because that coincided with the birth of the “destroyer” so my mind was bit busy. Two months, time for three rewrites. One of those was merely making the changes they suggested, the other two were complete start overs. (I find the writing is much clearer that way)

Sent in, comes back. With a due date of one week to make changes! One week, to completely rewrite the paper. If I hadn’t been engaged, with a newborn and instead was still living in Allentown by myself, teaching, it still would have been impossible. I don’t know what they thought was going to happen. I should also mention that it was mid December at this time, which meant that all the professors that have also submitted papers would be grading final exams and papers. I called the editor and flat out told him that it wasn’t going to happen. He said that he was going to see if the publishers could give him a couple more weeks.

Why couldn’t they? After all there was no release date at the time. it’s not like Oprah was scheduling a show for the book. If it doesn’t come in that week, they can just push it back. Or maybe I just don’t understand the publishing industry. Today, I printed out the final proof to look over. No changes can be made, unless there is a huge error, so it’s done. I have never received this final proof before. In both previous cases they just sent me my copies and check.

It looks good. I’m happy with it and I think it is probably the best thing I have written so far. I wasn’t permitted to write a thesis in Grad School but this would have been it, minus the video game references (well maybe one or two–who am I kidding). So on 11/24/09 go to your local bookstore and pick it up. It looks like I’ll be on page 151, “Sin, Otherworldliness, and the Downside to Hope.”

Casino Royale

June 19, 2009 Leave a comment

The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling-a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension–becomes unbearable, and the senses awake and revolt from it.
James Bond suddenly knew he was tired.”

With that opening line author Ian Fleming introduces the world to James Bond of His Majesty’s Secret Service. There is no opening dramatic action scene, or explanation. The story and character begin at 3am in the Casino Royale. For being the first book of the series it’s odd that this isn’t the reason that the world knows James Bond. That credit goes largely to Sean Connery and the movie series that is so popular a girl I know asked me the other day, “Wait, they were books before they were movies?”

The book centers around the confrontation between the movers of the Western world (U.S. and Britain) and their gambit against a man named Le Chiffre who is working for the USSR in France. It seems that Le Chiffre lost a lot of the KGB’s money investing in brothels right before France outlawed prostitution. THe money was supposed to be used to bankroll worker’s revolts, strikes, and Socialist organizations in France but now Le Chiffre is in danger. The US/UK know this, they know that SMERSH (the sickle arm of the KGB) is going to kill Le Chiffre so their only play is to bankrupt him before he can win back the money thus needing their protection.

Most of the action in this book takes place in a casino or in the town near the casino. So much of the book is centerred around the match between Bond and Le Chiffre that you might be tempted to call it not a spy book but a gambling book. The game here is Baccarat, an older game that I assume Blackjack is based on, and the climax of the book comes in the form of a hand between Bond and Le Chiffre.

The book explains that Bond liked gambling because, “everything was one’s own fault. There was only oneself to praise or blame. Luck was a servant and not a master. Luck had to be accepted with a shrug or taken advantage of up to the hilt.” Bond takes a philosophical approach to gambling, he feels the sting when he loses but he understands that it’s a loss, and no matter how much he goes in to the hole it isn’t his money anyway.

I enjoyed the book for the simple urgency and panic that Fleming instills in something as normally inane as a card game. Placing the emotional state and effort of Bond to constrain his emotions while his second card is flipped over is something rarely seen in books or movies. Even in the recent adaptation of this novel, the illustration of Bond is more relatable here. Bond has recently killed two people to achieve his “00” status but he begins to doubt the whole profession itself.

Not what he does for a living, no the killing doesn’t bother him, it is that the definition of good and evil is becoming blurry. Which is strange, considerring that this book was written during the Cold War when the Soviet Union was a pretty good example of who the bad guy was. He says that history is moving too fast and everyone is changing their parts from hero to villain, this confuses him and he worries of the day when he suddenly finds himself on the wrong side.

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the book is what is missing from the movies: the Cold War atmosphere. The days when “the great game” was afoot, and the world needed heroes and villains of the Walsingham Spymaster sort. The two recent movies were good but the shadowy “Quantum” organization doesn’t hold a candle to the KGB and SMERSH for me. A recommendation certainly, though I should warn that this book ends about as abruptly as the movie did.

Categories: book reviews, reviews

Iran, So Far Away…

June 17, 2009 Leave a comment

I changed the profile pic on my facebook page to green thingy that is going around the internet. Yes, I suckered myself in to believing that by placing a green box with the slogan “where is their vote” will somehow do something. As if the Ayatolla is going to stumble upon my page and think, “well shit, Allah be praised we must void the election results.” I’m not stupid, but it’s not the difference that it makes, it’s just my vain attempt to try and be part of it.

Iran is erupting, our president is greying, and for some reason I am supposed to give a shit about Letterman’s joke, a state senator’s aide’s email, and a Nevada senator cheating on his wife.* My usual bitch about CNN et al., can rest aside this time because today was odd. With all of the reporters confined to their hotel rooms or exiled from the country they had to do something. To their credit, they did try and cover the protest. They received two lessons today: the first being that an oppressive government with strict media controls really does have a loose grasp on information in the age of information. The second was how completely unnecessary they apparently are as the news footage was all shot on camera phones and webcams. Really I think the day of the international reporter is seriously being reconsiderred by some bigwigs at these news agencies.

Then the focus was on the president’s response, and man has this job at this time aged him. First off, I think the president is correct in his “let’s stay the fuck out of this shit” policy. The reason “Death to America” is written on the side of their buildings is because is the CIA usurped a previous election in 1979 to get the pro-US Shah in power and not let Communist forces, or whatever USSR puppets they were fearing take control of the country. We don’t need to be seen as having done that again.

Think about it this way: if we hadn’t made enemies of the Iranians in 1979 we wouldn’t have supported Iraq and it’s thug of a leader named Saddam Hussein in the 80s. Which has the possibility of not leading us down the road of one Gulf War, a decade of making sure he wasn’t stepping out of line, a second Gulf War then occupation/rebuilding and whatever the next step is going to be. Especially after the speech he gave in Cairo it would be pretty hypocritical of the president to fully endorse the uprising.

I should note that I am 100% for the uprising. The current president of Iran, Mahmoud “crazy pants” Ahmadenijad (I’m just not looking that up) isn’t even the real power of Iran. It’s the ruling council of Clerics led by the Ayatollah. The president does see to the affairs of the coutry but both the military and the elections are controlled by this group. In 2001, a little paid attention to student protest happened in Iran wherein they demanded greater control of their fate. It was repressed and the media skipped it because it had larger issues to cover, like setting scenes of 9/11 attacks to music from the band Live. The young people in Iran seem to want Democracy and a majority of them are under 30. I hope they take it.

It’s sad to see one of the greatest powers of the Classical world be controlled by religious extremists, maybe they can realize this, maybe they can change it.

*Really!? Color me surprised that a Senator from the state where Las Vegas is has cheated on his wife. It would be like finding out that a New Orleans politician was corrupt.

Categories: current events, politics Tags:

Uniqueness

June 15, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m sick of hearing the same argument against dairy. I don’t necessarily care one way or the other if a person doesn’t want to drink milk, but if you are going to try and make the argument so as to convince myself that I am doing the wrong thing come up with a better argument than this: “humans are the only animals that drink another animal’s milk.”

It’s based on a fallacy, the appeal to common practice. This appeal known in Latin as “Ad Populum” states that if everyone is doing something it must be right, or conversely that if no one is doing it it must be wrong. This works only with custom or social mores, but making a pseudo-ethical claim it falls short.

Some of the anti-meat, PETA people might get on my case about the immorality of dairy farms regarding how the cows are treated, how the milk is processed, etc. This post isn’t about that. It’s about this specific argument. So don’t post a comment regarding the ethical vegetarian argument because that isn’t the theme here.

The problem with the ad populum argument is that it is wrong. Humans aren’t the only animals that will eat foreign milk. Cats will do it. Cats will drink from a saucer of milk if it is placed for them. There are also lots of pics on the net of animals nursing from others as well, a puppy from a pig comes to mind. The argument could be alterred to say that humans are the only ones that will intentionally harvest another animal’s milk, but that’s not what they are saying and even then we still have a problem.

Which is that there is a difference in species. Humans aren’t horses, monkeys, or whales. We don’t behave like they do so we can’t really apply the ad populum argument to every single creature in the animal kingdom. If so, then the application would be disastrous for just about everything we do including reading/writing on the internet. However, in order to completely show the incorrectness of this argument, it is better to apply it to more base rituals that humans do that is completely unique to the whole of the animal world.

Wearing clothes. Yep, we are the only animals that harvest and process materials in order to make clothing to protect us from the elements. Animals will of course, make shelters to help them sleep in inclement weather, but nothing like shirts, pants, and socks.

Cooking food: Unfortunately for those making the dairy argument they now have to eat their food raw. That includes all food, from vegetables and fruits to all kinds of meat. The best part about this is that it completely eliminates the artichoke from everyone’s diet.

Speaking of food we are also the only animals that plant vegetables with the intention of growing new vegetables. The caveat there is to prevent people from citing the accidental planting that certain rodents do when hoarding nuts and seeds.

I guess the whole point is that I hate when people selectively apply an argument without fully considerring the application of it. It’s a matter of consistency that you have to be aware that these people just seem to miss.

Categories: philosophy, rant

2012-The Mayan Bullshit

June 12, 2009 Leave a comment

There’s a lot of talk on the internet and the history channel about the so called “Mayan Doomsday” prophecy and frankly I’m not only unconvinced but I also think that it is all bullshit. Maybe the upcoming season of Penn and Teller will devote a show to it, but until then I guess I should just beat them to the punch and talk about why I think there is nothing to fear except crazy doomsayers and their wish that the world would end in December of 2012.

If you type in “2012 predictions” into Google you will receive 1.5 million+ hits which means that this topic is a pretty big one. What does this all center on? Or maybe the better question is, “how did a society that went extinct through civil war, drought, and foreign invasion predict the end of the world?”

One of the theories that gets tossed around speaks to the advancement of the Mayan civilization. This theory states that the Mayans were highly scientific, deriving the number “0” in their math (something Western civilizations took centuries to do) and their advanced calendar system that was based on the movements of the stars. Those advancing this theory state that they were the first people to do so with any accuracy. This of course is false, Aristotle correctly discerned the spherical nature of the Earth in his day (see De Caleo [On the Heavens] for his proof) and before him a philosopher named Thales of Miletus correctly predicted the occurrence of a Solar Eclipse. The heavens had been open to many peoples across the world, the Mayans were not unique in this fashion.

They were unique however in their cycling calendar. This was quite the achievement, that cannot be denied. They correctly discerned the length of a solar year to be approximately 365.25 days. They had several calendars, one of which is called “Long Count.” This is the calendar that allegedly ends on December 20, 2012. Which somehow suggests that the world is going to end, much in the same way that since my cell phone calendar won’t let me access dates ten years from now so that means that the world will end at some point prior to those ten years.

To the Maya the end of any cycle meant that the cycle would start over again. A fact, cheerfully neglected by the conspiracy theory crowd. I have seen demonstrated the interlocking wheels of the various calendars and how they work like gears turning revolutions. The cycle just starts over again. There are those that talk of the return of the god Quetzalcoatly, the flying snake, and how this signifies that the end was coming in much the same way that misinterpretations of the Christian book of Revelation (my personal favorite) are told to predict the end of the world as well: i.e. Jesus returning and ending the world as we know it.

The question we should be asking ourselves is how a society that believed human sacrifice would replenish the Sun’s energy could make such an accurate prediction regarding the end of the world? Well the easy answer is that they cannot. This was a society that anthropologically was not out of the stone age. Their weapons and tools were all made of flint and obsidian they didn’t know how to work metal but could accurately predict events that survived long after their civilization ended. Which also brings us to the question that if they could predict such astronimical events so accurately how come they couldn’t maintain their water and food supply long enough to survive (at least until the Spanish arrived with their metal weapons and armor)?

The last point is that the doomsayers will bring up the galactic alignment of the winter solstice with the center of the galaxy. This allegedly will change the magnetic poles of the Earth which would, in reality, wreck havoc upon the world. The issue here is that the center of the galaxy is at the center of a circle. Which means that at any point during the year a straight line could be drawn from the Earth to the center. It’s a matter of simple geometry. The more complicated response is that while the Winter solstice aligns perfectly on 20 December this occurs only in the Northern Hemisphere, the very hemisphere of the Mayans themselves. The Summer solstice would present the Southern Hemisphere to the center of the galaxy. Does the world end 6 months earlier for the Incas and Australians?

Finally, there is no evidence that the Mayans put any special doomsday prophecy toward this date. There is a lack of information/evidence from any reputable archaelogical source, unless of course you posit a coverup.

Categories: expose, rant Tags: