samedi, juin 20, 2009


Every once in a while, we experience what, I believe, in the future, will be referred to as a "Miles" moment. You don't have to be familiar with LOST, specifically, the final episode of the most recent season, to get the point. Just picture a situation wherein the major players are all dedicated to a difficult, bizarre, or strident course of action, and are suddenly derailed by a pointed, incisive question by one member of the group, in this case the one named Miles. The moment made for a delicious few seconds of television. But it can happen in boring everyday life. A situation evolves, and suddenly someone you know asks a question that seems to throw a new light of clarity. It's been happening from time immemorial. Like the way my life hinged on the moment I dared to ask "Why couldn't a man where a woman's pants? They're hot aren't they?" But seriously.

Imagine: some activists approach a talented film maker named Doug. They ask for a donation to "fight global warming." He says, humbly, that he'll be glad to donate to their cause, if they can answer a question first. Smelling the money (activists have a special nose for that) they say "Lay it on us." Then comes the simple query: "What temperature is the earth SUPPOSED to be?" They thought about it, and then realized. They'd have to look elsewhere. For funds, if not answers.

Of course, it isn't always a happy light that comes on. I can never forget the night when, at a club where I had, with reckless abandon, danced the night away many times with my friends, I asked my sweaty self: "What is this place? What is dancing? What does this mean?" I realized I didn't get it. I couldn't dance the rest of the night. And I still don't get it. I've tried to dance since, but I can't work it like I did when I didn't know I didn't get it.
Likewise, I had never questioned the end of World War 2. The entire war is a sacred cow of sorts. And the math seemed to bear out the idea of killing a whole mess of people from one of the aggressor nations in a few seconds from hell, in order to prevent the hellishly protracted taking of even more lives on both sides. Then, in one fell swoop, the mad genius of asks me to ask myself "Why couldn't have Truman tested the Bomb on some deserted cay or atoll in the Pacific? Surely the level of undeniable destruction would have been enough to scare the Axis powers into submission. Did those thousands of people really need to die?" Immediately I say to myself, Of course not! That makes perfect sense! Then, Wait a minute. Then, as a whole mess of thoughts that had literally not been allowed come flooding in, I hear myself saying, Holy Crap.

The real classics are the ones that allow for intellectual evolution. Descartes' question about the tree falling in the forest gets dismissed rather too easily by most people, who answer "Who cares about a tree falling in the forest? So nobody hears it! Whatever." But I once asked some students of mine to really let themselves think about it for a week and then right a paragraph or two. One of the more brilliant girls who ever lived did just that, and answered Descartes in a way that had him smiling in his grave. "The tree never makes a sound whether you are there to 'hear' it or not," she said. "By living, it produces energy. By falling, it produces the same thing. If you happen to be present when it falls, you can interpret that energy as sound. But the tree only produces energy. You produce the interpretation."

People with those kind of answers might just continue to let themselves ask the hinge turning questions. Are you one of them? You don't have to be wearing girl pants to know.

jeudi, juin 11, 2009

Call to nonaction

I am not here, today, to pimp the achievements of others. But in the interests of being able to take a break from talking politics, I must direct you to a wonderful blog, that does a better job than I ever could of trashing partisans on both sides. A delightful blog. Slightly overwritten, but when a skewer is well manipulated, one mustn't quibble over verbosity. Please enjoy this insightful thrashing of just a few of the truly unpleasant people claiming to run our country, courtesy of Please also read some of his older and newer postings. I think you'll find something to get behind, even if you don't agree with him entirely. He even has the guts to go after sacred cow John Stewart. NICE. And if you don't like what you read on some level, then don't ever talk to me again about anything political ever.

So read him, then come back here for frivolity. After today. Today we must dismiss another round of sad individuals from the Arena of Ideas. (We did this before, but perhaps we were too kind.) We are, since the election, and perhaps more than ever, in danger of sullying the sacred arena with the mental droppings of people with Half-a-Brain syndrome. Hence, the following dismissals are hereby issued.

*If you think Letterman is still funny, then see you later. Take your tired, partisan, flabby sense of humor and go somewhere else to laugh at jokes about Sarah Palin's daughter being raped. You'd think bitter partisans would be thanking her for the way she helped John McCain torpedo the party you, in your enlightenment and zenitude, mock and hate and deride. Suddenly now its OK to laugh at sexual aggression against a young woman? We have a tent set up for you and your ilk outside in the parking lot, Andew Dice Clay will be your moderator.
(BTW--this is coming from a lifelong Letterman fanatic. I used to stay up late on school nights to watch him. I once wrote and recorded a tribute song called "staying up late with dave." That said, he's tired, old, and openly campaigning for his completely one sided view on a show that used to make me laugh. You should watch CRAIG FERGUSON and see how it is done.)

*If you think that Sean Hannity and Keith Olberman are not the same person, goodbye. Watch them both on a split screen and count how many times they attack attack attack. They are, if not the same person, opposite sides of the same coin. Both shills for the party they "unofficially" represent. I have almost never heard a substantive discussion from either one. But I have noticed that people suffering from Half-a-Brain almost always love one and hate the other. Therefore, all die-hard fans of either guy are to congregate behind the port-a-potties behind the smoking area at the west exit. As long as none of you mention either guy by name, you'll all think you're all talking about the same partisan hack, and you'll get along swimmingly.

*If you ever railed against the deficits piled up by the Bush administration, then you were right. There is no way to cast the national debt in a positive light. If, on the other hand, you have remained silent on the subject as Obama tripled the combined debt of all other presidents, then good riddance. In other words, (we'll put it simply, knowing to whom we're speaking) if you called Bush on his horrible, but comparatively small debt, good. If you give Obama a pass on his disgusting, unfathomable debt, then get out. You are bad for the country. You are bad for whatever school employs you to poison the minds of its students. You are bad for the community in which you live and the household that puts up with you. In fact, you are not simply to be escorted to the parking lot. You are to GO TO HELL. If you pass go, you can collect $200 of the worthless money Obama is printing by the truck load if it makes you feel any better.

*If you support, in ANY WAY, the idiot who shot the abortion doctor, or the recent shooter at the Holocaust Museum, you are excused to leave. Permanently. You are not permitted to remain in the parking lot. There is no opportunity for you to return. You are banned for life from the Arena of Ideas. But this is too obvious; and most of you left a long time ago, because almost no one in the arena ever listened to you. But just in case there are any of you left: GET OUT.
ADDENDUM: if you tried to make political hay out of the doctor's death, (i.e. if you tried to identify the murderer with the pro-life movement, like Olberman, or if took the occasion to say the doctor deserved what he got for taking thousands of 8 month old humans apart with surgical implements) you are likewise excused.

*If you have been following the Lindsay Lohan saga and ignoring the Korean Nuclear saga, then go to the lobby for a little shock therapy. (Don't be worried, they say it isn't as bad as a taser.) If you know more about the travails of ANY CELEBRITY than you do about the horrific oppression of women who try to leave North Korea, and the journalists who tried to document their plight, then report to the adjacent percussive therapy room. A couple slaps to the face might wake you up enough to re-enter the arena. Until the shocks or slaps have had the desired effect, please refrain from discussing legit issues, even in the lobby.

Perhaps, with this purging of the riff-raff, we can give a bit of intellectual stimulus to the mental economy. This being done, we return next week with something completely different.