Schroedinger's Cat Trilogy, online. Read, and grow wise.
Express your joy with me here.
I read an article that critiques the capitalist and consumer undercurrents in the Harry Potter universe today that intrigued, incited, and amused me. Take a minute and read it (it is reproduced in the extended entry portion of this post in case the link decays).
Even though this essay was written by a Frenchman (or perhaps its a woman, I can't tell from the name), let's resist taking the piss out of it for that. I was put off by the assumption that Harry Potter has "underlying messages" and the author's presumption that they've uncovered some hidden truth. I've always been bothered by literature and its pompous claim to represent something more than just being a story. I'm not disturbed by author's who clearly intend to make comments (one that came through clearly to me was Sinclair Lewis's commie book The Jungle. It was more than just the meat), that's cool enough.
But its when people make interpretations and fail to understand that they are just interpretations that gets my goat. Texts don't have meaning, they provide fodder for constructing meaning on an individual level. But don't get caught up in claiming that you've found something in the text: you've found something in your head.
In this case, I think the author is back-asswards. Is it surprising that an author from a capitalist consumer society writing for an audience in a capitalist consumer society writes about a world that has a capitalist economy? Imagine the outcry if Rowling had written Harry's world with pure Socialist economics. Do you think people would accept the explanation of "I just wanted something different than we have at home"? This author accuses Rowling of polluting readers minds for a long time, if not their lives, and I shudder to think of what would have happened to her if she'd written a book with benign and intentional non-capitalistic (they'd be seen as anti-, for sure) tones.
All this complaining by me aside, I think its interesting analysis in many ways. I read two kinds of books, fiction for entertainment and non-fiction for education. I don't like to read books that are devoid of entertainment value because its a veiled ficitonal presentation of educational commentary.
Just the same, when someone comes up with some interesting commentary or interpretation of an entertainment novel such as this, I enjoy it. I think it is interesting to notice how many of our societies institutions and values are reflected in Harry Potter, as they weren't obvious to me at first. I like having the veil lifted from my eyes or the curtain pulled back. I do learn something about the book but I also learn about myself and my tendency to miss fnord many elements or aspects of life. So much of our interpretations/ perspectives/ meaning-making machinery in our skulls works so effortless and flawlessly that we generally don't realize what it is doing and that by its very act of doing, we are excluding alternative yet plausible and valid representations.
Anyway, I thought it was an interesting, amusing, and thought provoking. I hope you do too. Feel free to add your comments and commentary
Harry Potter, Market Wiz (French critique of Harry Potter)
New York Times ^ | July 18, 2004 | ILIAS YOCARIS
Posted on 07/19/2004 4:05:50 AM PDT by jalisco555
Editor's Note: The success of the Harry Potter series has provoked a lively discussion among French literary theorists about the novels' underlying message and the structure of Harry's school, Poudlard (Hogwarts). This article, which appeared last month in the French daily Le Monde, got particular attention, including an essay published in response arguing that Harry is an antiglobalist crusader.
NICE, France — With the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling has enchanted the world: the reader is drawn into a magical universe of flying cars, spells that make its victims spew slugs, trees that give blows, books that bite, elf servants, portraits that argue and dragons with pointed tails.
On the face of it, the world of Harry Potter has nothing in common with our own. Nothing at all, except one detail: like ours, the fantastic universe of Harry Potter is a capitalist universe.
Hogwarts is a private sorcery school, and its director constantly has to battle against the state as represented, essentially, by the inept minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge; the ridiculous bureaucrat Percy Weasley; and the odious inspector Dolores Umbridge.
The apprentice sorcerers are also consumers who dream of acquiring all sorts of high-tech magical objects, like high performance wands or the latest brand-name flying brooms, manufactured by multinational corporations. Hogwarts, then, is not only a school, but also a market: subject to an incessant advertising onslaught, the students are never as happy as when they can spend their money in the boutiques near the school. There is all sorts of bartering between students, and the author heavily emphasizes the possibility of social success for young people who enrich themselves thanks to trade in magical products.
The tableau is completed by the ritual complaints about the rigidity and incompetence of bureaucrats. Their mediocrity is starkly contrasted with the inventiveness and audacity of some entrepreneurs, whom Ms. Rowling never ceases to praise. For example, Bill Weasley, who works for the goblin bank Gringotts, is presented as the opposite of his brother, Percy the bureaucrat. The first is young, dynamic and creative, and wears clothes that "would not have looked out of place at a rock concert"; the second is unintelligent, obtuse, limited and devoted to state regulation, his career's masterpiece being a report on the standards for the thicknesses of cauldrons.
We have, then, an invasion of neoliberal stereotypes in a fairy tale. The fictional universe of Harry Potter offers a caricature of the excesses of the Anglo-Saxon social model: under a veneer of regimentation and traditional rituals, Hogwarts is a pitiless jungle where competition, violence and the cult of winning run riot.
The psychological conditioning of the apprentice sorcerers is clearly based on a culture of confrontation: competition among students to be prefect; competition among Hogwarts "houses" to win points; competition among sorcery schools to win the Goblet of Fire; and, ultimately, the bloody competition between the forces of Good and Evil.
This permanent state of war ends up redefining the role of institutions: faced with ever-more violent conflicts, they are no longer able to protect individuals against the menaces that they face everywhere. The minister of magic fails pitifully in his combat against Evil, and the regulatory constraints of school life hinder Harry and his friends in defending themselves against the attacks and provocations that they constantly encounter. The apprentice sorcerers are thus alone in their struggle to survive in a hostile milieu, and the weakest, like Harry's schoolmate Cedric Diggory, are inexorably eliminated.
These circumstances influence the education given the young students of Hogwarts. The only disciplines that matter are those that can give students an immediately exploitable practical knowledge that can help them in their battle to survive.
That's not astonishing, considering how this prestigious school aims to form, above all, graduates who can compete in the job market and fight against Evil. Artistic subjects are thus absent from Hogwarts's curriculum, and the teaching of social sciences is considered of little value: the students have only some tedious courses of history. It's very revealing that Harry finds them "as boring as Percy's reports cauldron-bottom report." In other words, in the cultural universe of Harry Potter, social sciences are as useless and obsolete as state regulation.
Harry Potter, probably unintentionally, thus appears as a summary of the social and educational aims of neoliberal capitalism. Like Orwellian totalitarianism, this capitalism tries to fashion not only the real world, but also the imagination of consumer-citizens. The underlying message to young fans is this: You can imagine as many fictional worlds, parallel universes or educational systems as you want, they will still all be regulated by the laws of the market. Given the success of the Harry Potter series, several generations of young people will be indelibly marked by this lesson.
Ilias Yocaris is a professor of literary theory and French literature at the University Institute of Teacher Training in Nice. This article was translated by The Times from the French.
I teach at a small private women's college in Japan. This school is a Christian school, but it isn't too heavy handed vis a vis religion. It doesn't proselytize to students and seeks to just offer opportunities for students to learn about Christianity. Every day there is a 20 minute Chapel Hour and Wednesday Chapel is led by one faculty member. Chapel Hour begins with a hymn, then a brief message (15 minutes or so) based on the hymn, and then a closing hymn.
I was nervous about this because I'm not a Christian. I've never been asked directly if I'm a Christian but I've been asked about my relationship with Christianity. As a child I went to a Lutheran church and was confirmed. I moved away soon after that and didn't go to church anymore. I'm not anti-religion as a rule but I do have problems with a lot of how religious belief is conducted.
But I wanted to do a good job and be sincere at Chapel Hour. I did want to take advantage of the opportunity to talk to students and get them to think about something. I finally settled on the following message. I think it was a good one and I got a number of compliments on it from many of the devout people from the school. They felt that I had dealt with an important and sensitive subject in a productive and needed way. I was satisfied with it.
Hymn: Onward Christian Soldiers
Leviticus 24: 17-20
17 " 'If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death. 18 Anyone who takes the life of someone's animal must make restitution-life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured.
Matthe w 5: 38-42
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Good Morning. Thank you all for coming. Today's hymn and verse are a little bit at odds with each other and I want to talk about the role of violence in religion. We hear a lot about religious violence these days and it is an important issue to think about. I know that most of you are not Christians and I want to show you how Christianity still has important lessons for you that can help you learn and live.
Onward Christian Soldiers contains a strong sentiment. Most people in America know at least the first two lines of this song: Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to war. It seems very militant and violent. Is this Christianity?
I'd like to read another verse to you, from the old testament:
If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death. If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured.
Here again we see a strong sentiment coming from the Bible: If someone hurts you, hurt them back. Is this really the word of God?
Some people believe that Jesus came to Earth to give us extra teachings, that people needed a little extra help at that time. He talked about many ideas and gave us many suggestions for living our lives, including today's verse:
You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
There is more, actually. Jesus goes on to say:
And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
So what is Jesus saying here? If someone needs help, give it to them, and give them everything they need and more. If someone is violent to you, it is clear that they need help. They are angry, desperate, in fear. We are told to love one another as ourselves. Love and caring for others is the real message here.
Taken out of context, without understanding the environment and background, some of the words of the Bible or the songs in the chapel or even the actions of people of faith can appear to be very negative or wrong. People who believe in God still make mistakes: it is called sin. Many times people do not realize that they are sinning and they often think they are doing the right thing. But people make mistakes.
The Bible is often said to be the word of God, but this is only partly correct. It is the word of god as spoken from the mouths of men, and we know that people make mistakes.
Hundreds of years ago, the Church did many bad things. Wars were started in the name of god and many people were killed and needlessly died. The Church killed many people by burning them to death because they seemed strange. But these actions weren't what God wanted or what God asks for. These were mistakes made by people in the name of god. They thought they were doing the right thing, but they were mistaken.
God has given us free will and reason, the power to think. These are powerful and precious gifts, and we must use them. If God communicates and speaks directly to people, it is a personal conversation. He expects us to think about what other people say on his behalf though, kind of like insurance. God gave us the ability to identify when people are making mistakes and expects us to do that.
Religions all over the world share a few basic ideas: Peace, love, respect. We are told that God is the final judge of our behavior and that we are not supposed to judge others. That is God's job. We are expected to think about God's teachings on our own, but it is not our duty to punish people who violate God's desires.
But we have seen in the past and see today many people who do just that. I think most people here have heard about jihad. Jihad is the Islamic belief that recognizes that being true to the faith is a difficult task, a struggle, a battle, even a war. People must fight that personal war to be good and true and pure and peaceful. Jihad isn't about war or terrorism or suicide bombing, not at all. Onward Christian Soldiers is a song about jihad, actually.
But many people are not following the truth path of God. We see many people who believe in God but who are full of hatred and anger, who are judging others. These people sometimes look to the Bible or other religious texts for support. They can find passages like the first verse I read to you about an eye for an eye and then feel that they can punish people on their own. But the full message has to be read, and we have to understand it. We have to recognize that religious texts are mixed with the mistakes that people make and we have to be careful not to mix these two.
An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind eventually. Problems are not solved by duplicating them. Doing something wrong to someone who did something wrong only ends up with 2 wrong actions instead of 1.
Whether you are Christian or not, Muslim or not, Jewish or not, Buddhist or not, the basic ideas of peace, love, and respect for each other are equally useful and appealing. All of these religions are based on these ideas. We have to remember that this is the true meaning and the true message of God. We cannot be distracted when people say they are acting in the name of God but then do bad things like the Crusades or suicide bombing. That is not religion, that is personal anger and hatred. These actions are failures to heed the teachings of the Almighty.
I realize that some of you may not understand this discussion today, but please understand this. All religions teach love and happiness and respect. Anyone who says otherwise isn't following God, they are following themselves. Do not judge everyone by the actions of a few who make mistakes.
Comments are always welcome.
I read this article at salon.com and it piqued my interest. Nothing particular shattering here but I am interested in how parents deal with the issue. Essentially I want to be honest but at the same time kids aren't really capable of dealing with information until they are a certain age. Does anyone have any experience with this, or any plans for dealing with it?
I remember asking my mom about it when I was in High School and she ducked the question in a rather adroit way. She said if she told me she didn't do anything when she was younger I wouldn't believe her but if she told me that she did i wouldn't be able to deal with it and likely misinterpret it. She did say that if I could find someone who didn't experiment with something here or there in the early 70s she only believe that I'd found someone who didn't actually live during that time. This answer wouldn't have the same effect on everyone that it did on me, of course, but it communicated to me that she had experimented but that she didn't want to get into specifics. This felt like an honest answer to me (I wouldn't have wanted to talk specifics with her either, even though I wasn't even drinking much less getting high at that time).
It seems that the trick is to be honest and open without revealing too much too early. The way I'll have to deal with this is going to depend a lot on where I'm living. If we are in Japan, she'll grow up thinking that drugs are entirely evil and only degenerates do them and that to even consider it is tantamount to cognitive suicide. This idiotic approach is almost more difficult to deal with because I run the risk of seeming like a drug advocate (they really aren't that bad....) if I try to circumvent the lack of thought invovled therein. On the other hand, if I live in the States, I'll likely have to impress the dangers upon her more than trying to convince her that they aren't as bad as the uneducated say.
Time will tell, I suppose...
The article in in the extended entry and comments are welcome in the forum
uly 13, 2004 _|_ Twelve years ago, back when you could put things in the mail without a return address, my old college buddy Jim sent me a package. Opening the plain, brown box, I was surprised at its contents: the small purple bong he and I had put to very good use in the late '80s and early '90s. Along with this stained relic he had scribbled a note of explanation: "Getting married and planning to have children, so I guess I won't be needing this anymore." I wasn't sure what unnerved me more: his decision that "growing up" meant giving up something that he enjoyed without incident, or the implied idea that I was stuck in a hazy past while he moved on to an appropriate, adult future.
The second time I experienced In Loco Bongus I thought: This is getting weird (and also: What am I going to do with two bongs?). This time my co-worker walked into my office, closed the door, and sheepishly explained that while he and his glass two-footer had had some great times together, his son was getting older, he had a second on the way, and he didn't want anyone under 4 feet to stumble across it accidentally. "I don't want my boy to think it's OK to be a pothead," he explained. "Well, that's not true, I don't want him to think it's OK to be a full-blown hazed-out pothead." Which is why he switched to a much smaller, more easily stashed pipe.
According to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than a third of Americans over the age of 12 have tried marijuana at some point in their life -- that's 80 million people who actually admit it, and I suspect there are a couple more who don't. Many of these millions can look at their offspring with a straight face and explain that while they once experimented with drugs during the folly of their youth, now they don't -- and neither should you, little man.
That must be nice for them. I don't know many of these people.
The people I have spent the last decade working and playing with have inhaled more than a few puffs and taken a variety of trips down Alice's rabbit hole. Yet some way, somehow they have turned into able and impressive members of the republic. These are people with good jobs, who engage in charitable pursuits and who rarely cut in line at Whole Foods. We've taken some of our old vices with us into adulthood without burning down the house or checking into rehab. We've done a good job prolonging our adolescence, but now we're facing adulthood's ultimate gut check: children. And when it comes to kids, we have a drug problem.
What to tell the children about past -- and, in many cases, current -- drug use ain't easy. Should we practice what we preach? Should we lie? Where do you draw the line between being a hypocrite and protecting your kids? Are we worse parents if we get high in front of our kids than if we have a couple of stiff drinks? How do we reconcile our own experiences with drugs -- ones that have been overwhelmingly positive -- with the very real possibility that our kids could run into trouble with what are in fact potent substances?
Before you write nasty letters to the editor denouncing my friends and me for advocating drug use, let's be clear: Scores of people have had their lives and the lives of those around them destroyed by drugs. No one I know believes that all drugs are good nor wishes a nation of junkies on anyone. Drugs are not for all people, all drugs are not for all drug users, and no illicit drugs are good for children. Among my close friends, there's a general feeling that there are "good" drugs and "bad" drugs. The good ones are empathetic and eye-opening (MDMA, marijuana, hallucinogens). The bad ones are ego-driven and destructive (coke, speed, heroin). Both types can destroy you -- it's just that they haven't in our case. In a topic that doesn't deal much in grays, this is a nuanced and certainly unpopular point of view. So it's no surprise, if a bit disappointing, that most of the people I talked to asked to have their names changed.
"I'm not nervous at all about talking to my sons about sex," says my friend Rob, a 32-year-old writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y., with his wife and two small boys, aged 1 and 5. "But I'm scared shitless to talk to them about drugs." Rob smokes as much as two to three times a week, but never when his children are awake. He thinks the worst thing for him to have heard when he was a kid would have been that smoking pot is acceptable. "I would have been off to the races," he says. That's why Rob is hesitant to be completely honest with his own children about his drug use. "I probably won't be fully open about my drug use until my sons are in their 20s, post-college maybe. I feel like I have to give him guidance before that, but I'm not going to tell him about the time I dropped two hits of E and two tabs of acid and had my brain melt while I watched the Breeders and the Beastie Boys at Lollapalooza. I can't say, 'Make sure you don't melt your brain like daddy!'"
"My push for parents is always to be open and honest," says Marsha Rosenbaum, who leads workshops for parents on how to handle drug use among their kids as director of the Safety First project of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Kids have amazing bullshit detectors and are probably going to know that we aren't telling the truth. To the parents who stopped using drugs, I say tell them your story and tell them the real story."
Drug story hour's a tough one, but many of my friends want to tell their children about all of their experiences -- the good and the bad and the hazy in betweens -- eventually. Knowing whom to tell what when is the hard part. Rob says he knows exactly what he'll say to his kids when they're 25; he just has no idea what to tell them when they're 10.
"My husband and I won't hide our pot use from our daughter because it's just such a natural part of our lives," says Carla, a 35-year-old communications specialist in Oakland, Calif., and mother of an 8-month-old girl. "But while she's growing up will we tell her Mommy and Daddy loved having sex on coke in a hotel room when she was staying with Grandma? Will we tell a teenage girl that the occasional line of K [Ketamine] is a blast? Absolutely not. The important thing is to explain that drugs are for adults who are old enough to handle them, and that they will have a chance to experiment soon enough in life if that's what they want to do."
Allie, a 33-year-old legal aid attorney in Washington, D.C., who has been known to enjoy a large cocktail of substances over the years, is planning a family now and suspects she'll take a somewhat less tolerant -- perhaps hypocritical -- approach. "I won't tell them about my own use until they're old enough not to be influenced by it, which I think is 16 to 18 depending on the kid, because I won't tolerate any drug use from them," she says. "It just seems like they'll have so many sources in their lives justifying drug use -- from friends to hormones to boredom to the Internet -- that they will also need to have something on the other side balancing it."
I myself don't have kids. I may very well someday, and as I get older I can increasingly understand the temptation to just out and out lie to them about a variety of parts of my life, especially my drug use. I mean, do I really want to tell Larry Jr. that daddy had a mind-altering moment on mushrooms at Joshua Tree when he was 23, but my dear, my dear boy, if I ever find mushrooms in your backpack you'll be grounded from now until your freshman year in college?
"I would be much more concerned if my kids thought I was a hypocrite than if they thought I was a pothead," says my friend Alan, a professor of English at Indiana University and soon-to-be father of twins. Alan's been thinking a lot about what he's going to tell his children about his daily pot use, a habit he suspects won't be so compatible with the daily rigors of daddyhood. "I'll tell them that I smoke, I like it, but that it's not for everyone," he says. "I will tell them that I did certain drugs for adventure and exploration, but never to counter self-esteem and an inability to tolerate reality. I will tell them if they decide to try drugs, I hope they tell me and I'll demand that they be safe."
Safe is actually less subjective than it may sound. "Just as you can't use a chain saw or drive until you are a certain age, you shouldn't use drugs until you are old enough to be able to handle it," says Mitch Earleywine, a professor at the University of Southern California and author of "Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence." Earleywine says new studies reveal that cannabis can interfere with the brain's development before the age of 17. It stands to reason that a compelling case can be made for telling your kids to hold off until after high school graduation, even if you didn't.
A current Office of National Drug Control Policy anti-drug campaign seeks to help confused adults reconcile their past use with whatever version of "just say no" they're trying to work out as they raise kids. Called Hypocrite," it reads: "So you smoke pot. And now your kid's trying it and you feel like you can't say anything. Get over it. Smoking pot can affect the brain and lead to other risky behaviors. So you have to set the rules and expect your kid to live drug free no matter how hypocritical it makes you feel."
"In the focus groups we asked parents to identify some of the barriers that existed in talking to kids about drugs -- and their own experience with drugs came up as one of those barriers," says Jennifer DeVallance, a spokesperson for the ONDCP. "These ads are saying: You need to step up to the plate, regardless of what your experience was."
Unlike the folks in the government's focus group, most of my friends don't think their own past makes them hypocrites, but rather better informed parents. Jill, an interior designer who lives outside of Nashville, Tenn., with her teenage son, says that she's not so worried about her son's experimentation because she has so much experience with drugs herself. "If you never did drugs as a teen, or any other time in your life, I suspect all you can think about is your kid behaving like he or she is a character in 'Reefer Madness' or that he's going to become Robert Downey Jr.," she says. Jill has resigned herself to the fact that her son does drugs, but she is tough with him about his use. "We talked about what some people can handle and others can't." She explained to him that in her mind, pot is on par with alcohol: Both get you high, both should be taken in moderation and both can have devastating effects on your life if you overindulge. "Once I knew about his use, I told him what I had done," she says. "Not everything all at once. I didn't want my former experiments to encourage him, and it was more information than he needed at one sitting."
"If you didn't think your drug use was a big mistake, don't tell them that it was a big mistake, which is what the government wants you to say," says Rosenbaum. "Tell them that they were probably attracted to it for the same reasons that you were. And if you quit, tell them why."
Delia, a 47-year-old physical therapist in Manhattan with a 13-year-old daughter, agrees. "I will tell her drugs were fun and seductive," she says, "but ultimately they were a mistake." Knowing that Delia had a pretty wild ride in the late '60s and '70s, I ask her if she plans to tell her daughter the whole story. Her answer is an unflinching no. "I can't ever tell her everything I did, especially that I tried heroin," she says. "I tried it once and liked it so much that I knew it could destroy me. A survival instinct kicked in, one I don't know would kick in for her. But I can't tell her the entire truth of my use because I don't want to influence her."
And there's the riddle: There's no more influential person in a child's life than a parent. Therefore, in one way or another, every parent I talked to felt that to a certain degree they had to lie to their kids about drugs. Yet almost in the same breath, few want to mask what for at least a certain period in their life was a very real, important and joyful part of who they were and are as people.
"My goal as a parent," says Carla, "is to give her the tools to know what she can handle and what's too much. I don't want her to say no to drugs, because they can be freakin' fun. It's not a popular perspective, but it's true. Fun is a big part of my life, and drugs are a part of fun."
"But you know what?" she says with a pregnant pause, "my perspective today could change a lot in 10 years."
If so, I fear I'll be getting another bong in the mail.
A nickel and a dime were contemplating recent issues in modern society and decided to begin with some basic points.
: What is terrorism anyway? Has anyone actually defined it, or is it just like obscenity and we know it when we see it?
: How about this: Terrorism is violence for political purpose.
: Is that all it takes for it to be terrorism? Is all violence for political purposes terrorist activity?
: Well, I suppose that isn't necessarily all that it takes. It is violence in pursuit of political or social change. And we are going to have to define "violence" here eventually as well.
: How about we define violence in this case as intentional acts capable of causing death and injury?
: That'll work, for now at least. I think that we have to include some consideration of the root of the word as well. Terrorism is about inciting terror, after all. Terrorism must be defined, at least, as violence aimed at political change that incites fear.
: Or maybe we could think of it as violence that incites fear in order to effect political change?
: I think we are getting closer.
At this point in the conversation, the nickel and dime got pulled out of their pocket and stuck into a vending machine for a packet of Ultra Light Menthol Cigarretes, which distracted them from the topic for a little while.
TO BE CONTINUED...
As I mentioned a few months back, the guy in charge of Psilocybe Fanaticus got busted by the feds as a result of his involvement in selling spore kits for growing hallucinogenic mushrooms to the the public at large. Well, judgement has been served and he made out pretty alright, considering.
The main charges against him were for possession of a small mushroom cultivation plot that he used as a source for the spore kits, which are entirely legal, or at least were at the time of the bust. I'm not sure if they've been reclassified or not. I've heard that the kits he sold (essentially sterile water filled syringes full of spores that reduce contanimation risks when growing mushrooms) may be reclassified as paraphenalia. There was a good case against him, but he got off with house arrest (a nice spread in the Washington rainforest) and got a bunch of the money back. I guess he got pretty rich off of it. His lawyer sounds like the real deal and if anyone in Washington gets busted, I'd suggest going to him. I wonder what the Pimp would have gotten if he'd had this guy on his side to defend him against the manufacturing charges?
If anyone is interested, cruise over and check out his version of events. Interesting story and I'm glad to hear that he is doing okay. It's too bad that he went down, especially considering that it appears to have been brought about by idiots using the wrong or mispelled return address on their orders (PF always just cut out the return address and used it for the mailing address) which meant that people who had no idea what was up would recieve a box of syringes in the mail. Or the flukeys who weren't smart enough to know what they were getting into and ended up causing problems for others when on mushrooms, instead of causing problems for themselves, which is the whole point.
But it doesn't look like PF is coming back as a spore vendor, but the PF Tek process is well known. And it works like a charm. Hardest thing is getting a sterile source of spores for the inculation, which is where PF served such a great purpose. But all is not lost. Here's wishing everyone well who embarks on such a quest. Just keep your head on about where, why, and who you chow on these with.
All comments, registered and anonymous, are welcome.
I'm a big fan of moral relativism not because it provides a license to deviate from norms (but I do consider that a feature rather than a bug) but because it places human cognition and the intentional creation of meaning at the center. Moral relativism is the idea that there are no absolute morals, no finite truths that can be discovered and applied to all situations to ascertain the morality of a situation or action. It's all relative, whether it be on a personal scale, among groups or cultures, or even at the largest pan-human scale.
Morality boils down to the values we use to determine what is good and bad. Not just in the context of how we treat each other but also with regard to the general values we apply to just about everything. I suppose this definition is a bit more liberal and encompassing that what is perhaps most commonly used, but as an exercise in relativity, I'm defining it as needed. Morality is the system that we use to evaluate the goodness/ positiveness/ desirability/ commendability or badness/ negativeness/ undesirability/ of objects, actions, thoughts, beliefs.
With that in mind, moral relativity simply conceives of morality as a system that is independently chosen by a person or group of. There is not an absolute moral standard, conceived by god or gods or spirits or kings, but an infinite number of standards that are created and affirmed on the fly.
I think one of the biggest dissatisfactions with moral relativism is that it is commonly perceived as including a statement regarding the equality of all moral standards. This is a misperception because moral relativity doesn't say that all are equally desirable and that we can't argue about the better-ness of a moral system. It just says that there are no absolute moral systems. It requires us to discard faith that any one system (coincidentally usually the one that we most often subscribe to) is the best one. There is nothing stopping us from qualifying the belief that our moral system is the best one for us, but it doesn't allow us to say that it is the best one for everyone else.
So many problems exist for so many people because they fail to recognize that morality isn't an absolute. They end up taking their perspective on what is good and bad far too seriously and get all bent out of shape when someone has a different perspective on the whole mess. They fear that recognizing the individual's interest and contribution to creating and maintaining a moral standard would negate the entire judiciary system of determining what is right and wrong in the world.
But acknowledging the relativity of morality doesn't mean that you can't have moral standards or that you can't condemn murder and oppression on moral grounds. What works for you is what works for you and that's just fine, and there are some elements of a moral system that are so common among all the members of a group as to percolate out as moral "fact," but that still doesn't alter the true relative nature of the particular precept. We choose moral standards that suit us and when an element is widely chosen by most, it becomes enforceable. But just because condemnation of baby-raping attains widespread or total acceptance as a moral fact doesn't make it absolutely true, it just makes it widely accepted and subscribed to, which in turns permits the group to work together in imposing that standard on the group. If a member of the group violates that precept, they suffer the consequences, end story.
But because the mistake is made of thinking that the rule is absolute, other moral rules, ranging from other rules up there with opposition to baby-raping all the way down to personal opinions about politics, religion, and the best way to raise a child (I suppose down even further to best car manufacturers, computer operating systems, and beer brands as well) get wrongly legitimated with the same moral absolutism, spawning fervent belief in the rightness of one's own beliefs as absolute and thus requiring us to find disagreeing perspectives as morally lacking.
And that's where words start to bite, fists start to clench, and missiles fly.
If you've got anything to add, post a comment or even better, hit me in the forum.
Some idiot applied for and was apparently awarded a patent on a "Method of exercising a cat." That's right, a patent for shining an "invisible light" in the vicinity of a household feline, "selectively redirecting said beam out of the cat's immediate reach to induce said cat to run and chase said beam and pattern of light around an exercise area."
Just try and argue that we don't need to revise our patent process in the United States.
Go on and discuss this.
This looks to be a blast of a movie!
Lifted directly from Drudge:
Top DISNEY executives continue to grow more and more disillusioned by subsidiary studio MIRAMAX, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned, this time over a controversial interpretation of a post-modern Santa Claus! Just weeks after releasing Quentin Tarantino's shock-samuri-slasher KILL BILL, the DISNEY family will distribute a twisted update of Miracle On 34th Street, BAD SANTA, featuring Santa Claus as you've never seen him before!Santa Claus, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is shown, drinking, sexing and robbing his way through the holidays.
One shock scene from the movie, set for release Thanksgiving week:
Santa says to a barmaid: "I'm an eating, drinking, f**king Santa Claus!"
"Prove it!" answers the barmaid.
Cut to barmaid having sex with Santa in his car outside of the bar: "F**k me, Santa! F**k me, Santa!"
The film, recently previewed by DISNEY executives, has caused complete outrage, studio sources tell DRUDGE. "Nothing appears sacred, anymore, this is just not in the spirit of Walt Disney," a top source close to DISNEY Chief Executive Michael Eisner said this weekend from Los Angeles. Of serious concern: Santa is repeatedly shown on film, in uniform, cursing in front of children. One scene features a child at a shopping mall asking, "You are really Santa, right?" Santa responds: "No, I'm an accountant. I wear this as a f**king fashion statement!"
Elsewhere, Santa Claus is shown picking up a young girl, again while in uniform, and proceeds to have sex with her in a dressing room of a plus-size clothing store at the mall! In the end, this new Hollywood Santa Claus tries to redeem himself.... but whether or not DISNEY believes MIRAMAX can, is yet to be seen....
Humans are hierarchical beings that live in worlds dominated by alpha males and in/out social groups.
When the alpha male talks, people listen.
If everyone is listening to someone, he must be the alpha male.
No one talks back to the radio or television; everyone just listens.
If you spent $1000 a day, one million dollars would last about 3 years (2 years and 9 months, actually). What kind of effect would living in that sort of opulence have on a person? This seems to be a reality show waiting to happen.
The rules would be something like this. The person who is the object of the show is given $1,000,000.00 and has 1000 days to spend it in whatever way they wish. At the end of the 1000 days, anything left over is thrown away. Items purchased may be kept, but if sold off later on, the money must be returned to the foundation that finances the show (i.e. you can't just sink the money into investments, then sell them off to get the cash after the show ends). This person's live is documented for a brief time (one month? two months?) before the money is disbursed, the entire period of wealth, and then 6 months or so afterwards. Other rules include no advice from financial advisors.
Initially I thought that it would be best to just give someone a million dollars and see what happens, but then realized that many people wouldn't make for interesting watching if they just used it in investments.
I don't know if I'm being sadistic here or what. Think about the possibilities. It seems like the chances of watching people self-destruct are high. But then I suppose the odds of people being smart about such an opportunity are just as good. But even with the rules, there are bound to be serious effects on how people view the world after living opulently for three years. How difficult would it be to readjust to live as a working stiff? Would friends have been lost and made? Would contestants feel better off because of the experience or not? Something in me tells me that it would be a curse in disguise...
Minding my own business, I really was, a Sunday with empty bottles and laundry calling, web surfing, a mess of several days all nagging but the internet talking to me and this guy says, join me.
I panicked and said, I can't, I won't, leave me. I fought a slightly good fight, but really I caved but fast, this guy creating accounts and giving instructions and the icing, the cake, the have and eat it too: welcome to Diablog.
It's because of thought. Are they real? What are your thoughts on the subject? This is what I think. Thinking about whether thinking is real, and if it isn't, you become less real for the doing, and if it is, you become more.
It's Descartes of course, and I don't care if "cogito ergo sum" is cliché, it remains philosophically valid. I think, therefore I am.
What if everything we can measure is less real than our thoughts? I'm talking about the sensation of heat, cold or hangover that you're experiencing right now, that's less real than the thinking behind it. I am cold? I feel cold, therefore I am cold. Are your five senses the only route to sensory percetion? Brain mapping has told us the answer, and it is no. Thoughts as reflection of an ultimate realness in a half-real universe, and perhaps transcendentalist thinking is an expression of this utter reality.
It's possible to disagree with the spiritualist conception of thought as an expression of the spirit or soul, and the soul's purpose being one of surpassing a physical world that is ethereal into a spiritual existence that is fully real and the natural realm of thought. Disagreement is an option, dismissal is not.
I would posit this: that thought is the first reality, that thought has more dimensions than its applications to the physical realm, and that thought is equal to spiritual awareness, that life is about the ascension of thought above the limitations of matter.
En masse, humanity has built several civilisations that depended firstly upon the thinking of them, the conception of the possibilities. Thought flows from whatever elemental substance feeds it, and becomes the most important human action. Thought precludes every physical thing.
The guy clearly won because here I am. I'll see you now and then, engaging in a diablog. My name is Sal.
In case you haven't heard, Amazon has started a new total text search service. They've scanned the complete text of 120,000 titles so far and plan to get everything online eventually.
This is really cool.
Of course it doesn't really matter when you are searching for something specific. But when you plug in an author search now, you get results for all the books they've authored as well as every mention of them in any other book. This has huge implications for doing bibliographic searches.
Take RAW for example. Searching for his name, Robert Anton Wilson, shoots back an incredible 5443 returns. A bunch are for him, but as you page through the results you start to find titles with text blurbs underneath them showing where the search item appeared in the text of the title.
If anything, this is a little too powerful. 5443 returns for someone like RAW, who, in spite of my belief that he is one of the most intelligent and insightful beings to have walked the earth in the last 200 years, is still rather obscure; what about big names?
Anyway, I thought I'd post about it just in case no one has seen it yet. Slashdot has it here and a discussion of how the Writer's Guild might try to stop them here. Hopefullly that doesn't happen. There is also a longish Wired article available online now that won't publish for a few weeks.
On first thought, it appears obvious that they are, but closer reflection brings that conclusion into doubt. What do thoughts look like, as in what kind of properties do they have? How can you tell a thought from a non-thought? Can you sell thoughts (not ideas, but thoughts)? Put one in a bottle or frame it and hang it on your wall? Where do thoughts come from, and what were they doing before they came here? Where do they go afterwards? How much do thoughts weigh?
If something doesn't have mass, weight, definable properities, or any other verifiable existance, how can we say that they are real? And if thoughts ARE real, where does that leave us with regard to thoughts about things like unicorns and time travel paradoxes? Even worse, if thoughts are NOT real, where the hell does that leave us?
(can anyone tell that I'm not getting enough sleep lately?)
This is posted without permission from Bruce Schneier's Cryptogram for this month. Quite an amusing piece worth reading.
[Bruce: This is the strangest piece of mail I have ever received, by several orders of magnitude. I reprint it here solely for entertainment purposes.]
Subject: I haven't a clue, really
On January 15, 2003, I was banking on-line at Lee bank in Lee, Massachusetts. Zone Alarm informed me on the computer (mostly everything I have is documented) that a "would be hacker" was trying to penetrate my account. I wrote down the port numbers, called the bank, and was told by a very young secretary that I would have to come in and change my password. The Lee Bank of course later denied it, wanting to pretend that our systems are all secure. I thought "oh, they are just changing their systems -- I'll call back in 15 minutes. I was told to come in and change my password. The bank of course, later denied it. The portal numbers were the same as the one I would run into later.
Fifteen minutes later I was back to my on-line computer and there was my ex-husband's (and now wife's) yellow e-mail staring me in the face. He was mailing things back to himself as he had done over the years. He had all sorts of "spy ware" installed on the first computer in our house. When we outgrew our, "Windows 95," I decided to get Jake a new computer. (I have 2 children, Jake and Hallie, and had remarried in 2000.) The new Compaq was bought in 1999. I don't know how long he had been e-mailing things back to himself. What came through when I pressed file, was our daughter's picture. Then, I pressed source & view and print. Pages started printing out -- So many that I ran out of paper. I showed these to a computer forensic person in Boston. He said that the program might show that they were laundering money, running pornography or Chuck could have been stealing money from George Gilder's bank account. George Gilder is the man responsible for predicting the stocks on the Gilder Technology report.
Please forgive this very unprofessional letter. My house was broken into night after night. My jewelry was all changed with copper wire and numbered. Everything I touched looked like a little disk to hold information on it and it was covered in microchips in silver and copper.
No one believed me. I had recently started taking medications for ADD. That made my second husband furious. Little did I know that he may have been involved in what I believe to be cryptography? I found a bag that the FBI will test for substances. I woke up groggy. I was followed by the same car day in and day out. They wanted to know when they could use my house. A private investigator from New York is coming tonight. The FBI will come tomorrow. I had a bag from New Mexico that I looked up on the internet. I was not allowed to use the computer when I wouldn't do my ex-husband's program. My calls were intercepted. We thought we had Verizon DSL. My computer was controlled by my ex-husband Edward Charles Frank. I had read in his notes of his running the v2ks. When I would wake up in the morning, floppy disks would be at my bedside, I was to run them and I am not a computer forensic person but I knew they weren't bible verses.
Now comes the hard part. My house was broken into at least a dozen times. Watches, purses, coats, and my own belief in myself disappeared and reappeared on a daily basis.
The Lee Police never visited my house one time. They, in fact, called in mental health -- one of the most humiliating experiences I have ever endured. The social worker said that my problems seemed to be called externally, the state police threw me out and I know how to ask calm and mannerly, as I am an opera singer. I stopped singing. They had already (I assume) been told that I was crazy, or maybe they were paid off. I just couldn't believe the treatment I received. When I called to tell them my purse was stolen out of my house in the night, I heard "Oh, you'll have to wait to talk to officer Buffis, he's handling this." For weeks the same cars followed me like hornets. Something on me told them my location. They had keys to my house and my cars. I had my locks changed. That night, even my bedroom lock and chain were penetrated.
I heard a tape of my present husband testing the mikes and I also found a tape of myself in every room of the house, speaking distinctly.
There is much more to the story and much more to be solved. I believe I am entitled to some compensation for the mental abuse and suffering I went through. 3 computers are at Kroll. Will you work with me? I started taking down license plates (about 7 or 8). Just this afternoon, all of the cars appeared across the street and seemed very angry. I have a lot of evidence, even the bag they used to drug my Labrador.
I noticed a HUGE Verizon truck across the street at the way-station. Funny right, now we have no service at all.
[Bruce: This letter arrived in a box, approximately 10 inches on a side, filled with a pile of CD-ROMs, pens, costume jewelry, bits of metal, a fishing lure, and assorted other garbage all individually wrapped and secured with tape. Thankfully, the box was sent not to my home or business address, but to a mail drop I maintain. It might be a hoax, but the writing seems too authentic. It's hard to fake delusional paranoia that well.]
The New Republic has drawn my attention to this delicious quote by Ari Fleischer. I've included TNR's emphasis:
I think the American people continue to express their support for ridding the world of Saddam Hussein based on just cause, knowing that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons that were unaccounted for that we're still confident we'll find. I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are [emphasis added].
You tell 'em, Ari!
Here is a neat little bit about the conspiracy to get us to eat soy and soy products as healthy foods when in fact soya is nutritionally unsounds, perhaps poisonous, and gives you bitch tits (well, only if you are a man. Not sure what it does to women).
The truth behind soya aside, I find it fascinating that each side can convince itself of its own propositions. When are we going to realize that we don't believe in stuff according to external inputs as much as we believe what we want to believe, even insofar as we have to manufacture an entire conspiracy system (or public health benefit) to make it work. Gotta love that human brain.
Eris, the goddess of chaos and discord and patron slut of leaded persons throughout the Universe, paused from her party in Baghdad to mix the pot in my very own household. Within moments of jesting about President-wannabe Bush's whining about being Job-ed (as in Book of Job), I was assaulted by a contingent of foreign bacterial and viral assassins in my nasal, bronchial, orbital, and gastro-intestinal cavities.
Caught by surprise, defensive forces initially fell back and ceded large territories of the upper throat, eyes, and nasal cavities. Commanders of allied forces called for immediate neo-hibernation that provided an opportunity to regroup and re-energize T-cell brigades and phagocyte fighters. These forces eventually drove the invaders out of the esophageal regions, but they were unable to entirely defeat the poisonous killers.
Currently the foreign agents aimed at destroying my biological capacities are entrenched in the nasal cavities and are running savage guerrilla attacks on the soft vision targets in the orbital cavities. Allied forces are constantly engaged with the enemy and analyses of the frequent effluent discharges indicate that the enemy is taking heavy casualties.
Local commanders, while always wary of predicting the twists and turns of warfare, suggest that full biological function may be restored within 48 hours, pending the strength of allied forces and the will of Eris herself.