Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ad Hominem Arguments

This isn't really anything that will provoke any discussion, because it's really obvious and not at all contentious, but I am going to indulge and write about it anyway.

Everyone knows what ad hominem arguments are and why they can't be used: An ad hominem argument attacks the person and not their argument. I can't say to Sylvie, "Capitalism is bad because you're a Spintly Bist." (nor because Sylvie plays Bassoon, nor because she lives in Canada, and not even because she has poor rhetorical skills, poor spelling, or because she's a girl). An argument isn't a "fight" to establish dominance; it is a group effort to find an acceptable provisional truth or agreement. Therefore, everyone involved is merely a mouthpiece, an advocate, for a point of view, and the outcome of the argument essentially has nothing to do with what is really true. Incidentally, this is true of any action, passion, thing, social phenomenon, etc.

The other aspect of what I have been referring to as "ad hominem reasoning" is the opposite of the above: judging a person by their beliefs, their actions, their clothes, their friends, etc, simply doesn't work. What DO you use to judge a person, then? Nothing - people aren't to be judged. It is impossible to do in practice, but I think it is important to approximate. There is no such thing as a good or a bad person; it may be true that everything we do is decided before we are born, but no judgement can be made of the sum of those actions.

I was going to say something more, but I will just sum up now: everything related to a person's life should be judged completely separately. Hitler killed people, painted, liked dogs, was a vegetarian, had hair, and none of these things are at all morally related. I mean this only in a moral sense, of course. There is plenty of value scientifically or culturally in comparing how many mass murderers like dogs or what they eat. And of course it is the conjunction of these elements that make an individual fascinating and unique.

Quickly wrapped with newspaper

Cultural intake with titles relevant to the world and this hot, free season:

A video game worth playing- World of Goo
A book worth reading- Europeana: A Brief History of the 20th Century
A movie worth watching- Summer Hours (in theaters)
                                            - My Summer of Love (rentable)
A song worth hearing- Headlights, "Cherry Tulips"
ah, you say, no world and no summer! But wait, I respond, do cherry tulips not make you think of love? of happiness? of summertime?
Maybe I did cheat. Let's give this round to the plant life. To make it up to you, I offer a botanist's twofer... TV on the Radio's "Family Tree" makes it a double.
A song worth seeing- Matt and Kim, "Daylight"
here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgBeu3FVi60
Oh, come on! This is totally a summer song.

Last night was an excellent night for my dreaming mind. I wonder at the expanse of thoughts and information my brain must be seeking to prune.
This post is just to show I care... I hope you know that "I want the sea, I want the whole sea, for you and me."

Friday, June 19, 2009


I am not too great at recommendations but I highly recommend H. P. Lovecraft. He is considered one of the founders of horror and seems to be one of the only authors who still has the ability to bring me to the brink of madness.

Wikipedia page.

Mytho's writing- Lovecraft inspired

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

An Intense HIP Camp Dream

I have just dreamed the most intense dream I have had in months:

I have somehow managed to get to percussion camp this summer, but it is being held in some big city. We are all coming in on bus together to the hotel where we are staying, and things are very frantic. It is already late at night. I lose one of my duffel bags getting off the bus. There are TONS of people in the lobby of the hotel (an old, white, fancy building, like a mansion reclaimed as a hotel), including Mark Partain. Some people end up going to sleep and others ask for permission to stay up and watch a soccer game. I may be not tired or out of character or something but decide to stay up and watch the game. I on two distinct points get up to go to the bathroom. The first, I find a bathroom on the same floor, with a normal, easy layout. The next, I find a bathroom constructed in a very claustrophobic space, with several small floor sections with about a foot's descent between them. I fear I will faint and be unable to ever get out.

The next morning, we are assigned our pieces and set to work running through them. I am assigned to a piece with a number of college students, directed by Cory Wagner. Another piece begins rehearsing before we have even got our equipment together; it is a gigantic piece directed by Mr. Zerbe. Somehow dream-shift and this is a piece everyone is going to play on. It's a really big deal, something with huge emotional depth on the scale of an opera or a big tone poem or something. It is a program work based on a novel, some extremely well-written and gigantic work on the order of Gravity's Rainbow inspired by a novel based on Alice in Wonderland (that is, it is a third generation work; our piece being perhaps a fourth, and I saw no references to AiW in our production).

It is also a very scary piece of music, and at this point we begin playing it and I see images (we are going to perform as though it were an opera, with actors and props and such). A man is standing in a field, and a series of grotesque, anthropomorphic riders come galloping by (these are known to be the man's nightmares. I am somehow then set to work constructing the man's house for the next section. I don't get very far. Presumably we have a lunch break or something, then, and I set to talking to some person (serving here only as a listener) about the fact that I, a long time ago, had started the secondary novel (the one our piece's inspiration was based on), but had never finished it. I then picked up that book and started reading.

Transition to the plot of said book (which I was sure actually existed in real life and is something my father has shown me). I begin as a man with some psychological disorder, paranoia definitely and some form of autism perhaps? I spend all of my time in libraries searching for something. I wake up then, but I know the book ends with some half-way scary dystopian ending with the protagonist in the Kingdom of Hearts.

I wonder if there is really a book like the one I dreamed; if any of you know of it, let me know. I kind of doubt it, but there are tons of books based on Alice, so maybe? Taking reading recommendations from dreams has always been a good idea. There is, however, this movie, by Jan Svankmajer.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Empty Frame

Forever gone, but never forgotten. With words online the ghostly glint of her far foregone face winks with the infinite. Is that feedback or does she love me? The tears she cries when I leave tell me that she was once living in these arms and now is dying to get back in them. Always and forever she says before waxing on incredible. Where did she go? call dropped again with voices floating ethereal into and out of a mobile-2-mobile plan. I am picked up, empty frame saying that a thread mistress summoned her to the other place. The international or interstate are obstacles to be overcome with her smile. Instead of place I have time, time to see the future blossom in this hopeful present. Crazed parents speak of the now, of needing the other. If the truth is forged in fatherly words then this beautiful dream of mine is a lie to be replaced with his glorious xxx truth. Deny deny and deny again to the end of time and then you will be mine the girl of my future. In a week or only a simple tomorrow there will a girl in these arms that fulfills the hole left in this empty frame.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Things of Late

I have used the internet lately to find a variety of interesting and awful things. I have not found them myself, per se, but rather, my network of contacts has brought them to my attention.

The first of this is the most important. My good friend Lorna brought this to my attention, and it is one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring things I have ever seen. It is called Home and is available for free viewing online. Very much worth the time to watch it. I know I urge you all to view tons of beautiful things you hate to watch because you are poisoned by their beauty, but this is worth the pain.

In a similar theme, I found this article from Scientific American (which I used to have a subscription to). It is about a thing I have thought a lot about lately, and has a lot of useful observations, even if it isn't very creative or insightful.

I found these next three things on Facebook.

Wolfram Alpha
is a supercomputer. It is fascinating but it's still in its initial phases I understand. There is also a music creator that makes music based on mathematical patterns. It is complicated to understand what it actually does but some interesting things come out. Play with it?

There are two ghost sites:
Ghosts of America seems to be a bunch of formulaic computer-generated ghost legends that don't really exist. They are hilarious.

Bogey Bridge is a real bridge in Cass City, though I've never been, and it is true that it has a reputation for Scary. I know one of the girls responsible for this. It's a lot of fun.

I have been inspired today, by some old familiar things and one new brilliant thing.
The summer Percussion Camp at Alma College has been a staple of my summers since I began High School, and it was the influence that pushed me from Mr. Burtch's high school band program to Interlochen and a serious pursuit of musical excellence. Crates is just badass as hell, but Pat Metheny's Heat of the Day is perhaps the most intense musical experience of my life (that is, seeing it live). Steve Martin (a great guy)'s arrangement of it is much better than the original, which was already awesome.

The other was Into the Wild, a movie I believe Beverly tried to get me to see when it came out but I never had the chance. I just downloaded it and watched it tonight. It was probably one of the best and most inspiring movies I have ever seen. I have read about and dreamed about doing things like that for years now, and though I don't think my parents deserve what he did to his, that's not really a necessity for the essence of what he did. I plan to read the book this summer. Has anyone ever read Krakauer's Everest book? One of my all time Favorite movies right now.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Le Morte d'Arthur

Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur is another one of those books I started reading back before my computer got here and gave up after that. To be fair, though, the circumstances are a bit different. I took it to school one day in March and read the first 100 pages (of 512) and got too much of an itch to play some medieval period video game, and decided to wait until my computer got here. At that point I did resume reading it on and off, and just finally finished it Wednesday.

Having already read T.H. White's excellent The Once and Future King earlier this year, which was based on Le Morte, the book itself felt like an elementary school boy had written 500 pages from the same plot outline. Apart from a few people, no character has any depth; plots are always resolved with deux ex machina; women are not only treated as property by men, but are in fact depicted to have the mindset of cattle (that is, if they are not deceivers tempting honorable knights to commit adulterous acts); any hermit or priest can perfectly interpret any dream or vision; noble/royal blood is taken as a legitimate indication of skill, and Malory finds it justifiable that knights should treat peasants poorly; all the knights act on an absurd honor system that defied my attempts to understand it; and a large part of the book is dedicated to sorting out who is the best knight.

Malory seems to have lived a life far more interesting than his book; from Wikipedia: "Few facts are certain in Malory's history. He was probably born sometime around 1405 (though some scholars have suggested an earlier date). He died in March of 1471, less than two years after completing his lengthy book. Twice elected to a seat in Parliament, he also accrued a long list of criminal charges during the 1450s, including burglary, rape, sheep stealing, and attempting to ambush the Duke of Buckingham. He escaped from jail on two occasions, once by fighting his way out with a variety of weapons and by swimming a moat. Malory was imprisoned at several locations in London, but he was occasionally out on bail. He was never brought to trial for the charges that had been levelled against him. In the 1460s he was at least once pardoned by King Henry VI, but more often, he was specifically excluded from pardon by both Henry VI and his rival and successor, Edward IV. It can be construed from comments Malory makes at the ends of sections of his narrative that he composed at least part of his work while in prison."

It may be that I lost some of the atmosphere by reading Keith Baines' modern English translation of the work; it retains all the thees and thous, but uses a completely accessible vocabulary. I doubt it, though. Most of the reviewers on GoodReads found it better than I did, but I would still not recommend any of you ever read it. Stick with White.

There is one interesting incident I would like to bring up, that hopefully will provoke some discussion. Sir Bors, adventuring during the quest for the Holy Grail, encounters a lady who claims to be madly in love with him and beseeches him to lay down with her. This would constitute a violation of his Vow of Chastity of course, and he refuses her.

""Sir Bors, you refuse, and my life must be forfeit! Come, and I will show you."
So saying, the lady led twelve of her gentlewomen up to the battlements, where they stood on the very edge, prepared to leap.
"Sir Bors, good knight! have mercy upon us! Yield to our lady or else we must all leap to our death, and surely you will be shamed forever."
Sir Bors was aghast at the sight, for these ladies were all beautiful and richly clothed; and yet he was not without prudence, and determined that rather they should lose their souls than he his."

Now, Sir Bors, as a knight, has taken a vow to protect all ladies. In another situation, Sir Bors leaves his brother to die in order to save a noblewoman he does not know because of that vow. I am not sure about with regards to theology, because theology is the most ridiculously convoluted subject, but this little bit reminded me a Borges story, and I would like to make a comparison.

In Borges' Three Versions of Judas, he plays Theologian, and invents a man named Runeberg to voice his thoughts. The relevant bits:

In adultery, there is usually tenderness and self-sacrifice; in murder, courage; in profanation and blasphemy, a certain satanic splendor. Judas elected those offenses unvisited by any virtues: abuse of confidence (John 12 :6) and informing. He labored with gigantic humility; he thought himself unworthy to be good. Paul has written: Whoever glorifieth himself, let him glorify himself in the Lord. (I Corinthians 1:31); Judas sought Hell because the felicity of the Lord sufficed him. He thought that happiness, like good, is a divine attribute and not to be usurped by men."

The general argument is not complex, even if the conclusion is monstrous. God, argues Nils Runeberg, lowered himself to be a man for the redemption of the human race; it is reasonable to assume that thesacrifice offered by him was perfect, not invalidated or attenuated by any omission. To limit all that happened to the agony of one afternoon on the cross is blasphemous. . . . God became a man completely, a man to the point of infamy, a man to the point of being reprehensible - all the way to the abyss. In order to save us, He could have chosen any of the destinies which together weave the uncertain web of history; He could have been Alexander, or Pythagoras, or Rurik, or Jesus; He chose an infamous destiny: He was Judas."

Thus, the question is, should not Sir Bors, having sworn an oath to protect women, have sacrificed his own immortal soul to save those of the noblewomen? This is something I have run into in discussion with Christians before (I once had a girl tell me she would not deny her belief in or love of Jesus Christ to save the life of her beloved niece; as though God wouldn't know she was faking it). I suppose this really depends on whether you interpret the rewards and punishments or the moral system itself to be the final End of Christian morality. If the first is the case, Sir Bors did the right thing, simply because the moral rules he follows are only a means in his personal quest to Heaven. If the latter is true, then Christianity should demand he sacrifice his chastity to save the noblewomen.

Of course, in the book itself, none of this is really an issue. The entire situation was a facade created by Satan to lure Sir Bors into compromising himself, and he simply has to cross himself to make the castle and all the women disappear.

I also read Borges' Ficciones this weekend, in Spanish. I got through the whole 216 page book in four days, without using a dictionary, and without any real trouble or slowdowns. There were plenty of words I didn't know, but I could guess their meaning through context usually. It may have helped that I have read all of these stories at least once before in English. I have already talked about Borges, and there is nothing in Ficciones that wasn't in Labyrinths. Just go read him already! I am planning a binge of Borges and Borges-related books when I get home.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I have had this issue tossing around in my head for a long time, and recent family situations have brought it into the fore again. It is essentially an application of the basic principles of Anarchism to the traditions of the institution of parenthood, especially its manifestation in modern society. This may seem like a very radical and counter-intuitive thing at first, but you will realize that parenting methods vary widely and are widely debated.

The basic idea of Anarchism, of course, is that one person has no better access to truth in science or morality or anything else than any other. This means that no one can tell anyone else what to do, and invalidates all power structures, which includes that of parents and a child. It goes against all common sense to say an adult has less access to real truth than a newborn baby, and yet this is the case, and this is what we must act on.

The question here is, where is the line? What degree of control and influence should parents exert over their children? Creating a person does not give you rights over them, but it does perhaps give you responsibilities to them. Is there any way to parent in a way that does not exert control over children? These are of course very vague questions, and I doubt any of you will try to answer them because of that.

The biggest, most clear question I would like to discuss is thus, however: What attitude should parents take to their children committing victimless "crimes," and at what age should a parent no longer try to stop this behavior, if ever? I can't imagine anyone will try to claim that we ought to use legal status as an adult as a guide. But when is it right for a parent to prohibit a child from drinking soda, smoking cigarettes, viewing pornography, listening to vulgar music, involving themselves in foolish self-destructive activities, or any of the multitude of activities parents may consider self-damaging, but that adults have the right to do? Is there any difference here between the attitude a parent should take to their child and the attitude they take to everyone else they care about? The difference, without trying to quantify caring, seems to lie solely in the power a parent holds over their own child. Is it right for a parent to raise their child as a vegetarian?

I have tentatively arrived at the conclusion that children should be raised and treated as friends, such that all of their needs are cared for, they are respected, and they experience the most open-minded intellectual and moral environment possible. I feel that I was blessed to grow up in a household without any clear ideological system other than love and respect, and feel that that should and could be given to all children. As for dietary issues, a parent has no reason to cook food they wouldn't eat themselves for their children as long as the child is well-nourished. That does not mean a vegetarian's child would be a vegetarian against their will; it simply means that their parents would not buy them meat or cook it for them in their house.

This probably seems rather out of nowhere. That's fine. Start a good, lively discussion now, please.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pedalbike Romance

Pouring words like a waterfall fall from the mouth of a friend, sculpting the world around us to a more suitable form. Barking dogs becoming deep bass as the song of the wind tears away the smog of buildings. In this concert of our life the car blinkers all turn to the left forever far away. Fragmented bricks fall away as the substance of reality comes away with a little rain cooling our hot bodies. Her face is not her own any longer as she tells the story of far away lovers living in the trees of an ancient forest. the hard read softens into Neptune's love and we begin to swim our bikes, never allowing the world to betray us. Our dreams spill from our forgotten nights into our barren days with little regard for the contours of this world. The colors shift as the mountains push up with us in the back of a reinforced wood truck driven by a swagger of a man lifting our bodies through a perpetual desert of his truck's creation. There was never a war that tore this world apart as thoroughly as this gentle story of lovely discontents with gun in hand my friend murdered me, only to pull the curtains clear revealing the twin suns of her heart. With a kiss the story shifts to broken romances. We clear the horizon and see that the end came in fire as the icy moon sets over the endless sea. This world could never contain the rhythm of bodies on the treetop dance floor. We spell out letter by letter the names of forgotten lovers as they forget the fire of the icy night in ancient masks. Our hearts beat in unison with our pedals pulling us closer to the story's end. With treadmarks betraying our path, a truck informs us that the road is for motors only. Blood telling the story of our final moment; she is cradled in broken arms , as I finish her story by pulling down the moon showing her that the fire in my eyes is of her creation.