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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Looking For Love in Ayn Rand Land

I used to know this libertarian guy who thought Ayn Rand and her objectivist philosophy was the bomb. He took a personality test once and it diagnosed him as having a mild form of Asperger's Syndrome.

He didn't have Asperger's Syndrome, but I found it curious that slavish devotion to objectivist principles could be mistaken for mental illness. (Note: I said "mistaken." I think objectivists are wrong, not crazy. I mean, yes, man is a rational being...but we are often influenced by irrational emotion. And by often, I mean often. And yes, we all act in our self interest, but any parent who has sacrificed a night of sleep to comfort a crying child would recognize that "self-interest" sometimes takes a backseat to larger concerns. Beyond that, I don't think "man" is all that good at recognizing what's in our self-interest and what's not. If we were completely rational beings, that wouldn't be a problem, but we're not, so...)

At any rate, I wonder how many objectivists recognize how, ahem, odd they can be. Here's some excerpts from user profiles on an objectivist dating site.
My name is Daniel. I consider myself to be a born-again egoist and I have dedicated the rest of my life to self-improvement. People see me as a socially inept loner because I tend to avoid superficial conversation but actually I love talking to people who like to think (the problem being I don’t know very many).
Well, you know what non-objectivists say, Daniel. Perception is reality.

Here's Chinoy from the Phillipines:
My individualism takes precedence at all costs, if not at all times.
You mean the individualism that led you to become an Ayn Rand acolyte? Because swallowing someone else's philosophy whole makes you real individualistic, bud.

Here's Rob, who takes this form of individualism to ridiculous lengths:
Ayn Rand ignited the fire within me that was searching for the right spark. My every action is guided according to my philosophy, and my philosophy is the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

I am interested in meeting someone that truly embodies the values and virtues of Objectivism. I have found very few women that have not already been beaten down to a flimsy, irrational, empty pulp. I have changed many girls’ lives, but no one has blown me away yet.

I never “hook-up” randomly, I never kiss a girl that doesn’t deserve mine. I have yet to find a girl deserving of my falling in love with her. But “other people” are secondary values no matter what, so finding someone is not a priority for me.
Um, Rob, I'm not surprised you haven't found anyone to blow you away, considering how "other people are secondary values no matter what."

Maybe these guys would have better luck if they stowed the ego and acknowledged that human weakness is universal, even within themselves.

Sloppy Eggs

I talked to a guy from West Virginia yesterday that sounded exactly like Jesco White. Must be an Appalachian thing.
Tired of eating sloppy eggs? Make em your own damn self, then.

(I first encountered Jesco White on The Atomic Bitchwax's first record in the intro to the song Shit-kicker. "You talk about a warped mind, I got one.")

Friday, November 28, 2008

Modus Operandi

As events unfold, it seems that the idea that the Mumbai attackers were "targeting westerners" is loosing some currency.
Some experts said the operation bore resemblances to plots orchestrated by al-Qaeda, in that it involved multiple, simultaneous attacks targeting foreigners. In this case, according to witnesses, the gunmen sought out Americans and Britons, and also took hostages at the local headquarters of an Orthodox Jewish group.

Others said they were dubious of a connection to Osama bin Laden's organization. They said al-Qaeda has relied on suicide bombers, not gunmen, and is not known to have cells in India.

David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, told reporters that it was "premature to talk about links to al-Qaeda" and that it was still unclear who the intended targets were. "This is only the latest in a series of attacks in India over the last year or two," he said, adding, "Terrorism is not just a war against the West."
No, it's not. It's a tactic, used by a variety of bad people in a variety of bad ways for a variety of bad purposes.

And like I said before, it's a complex problem not served or addressed by hysterical oversimplifications.

Black Friday

I went to Bass Pro Shops to take advantage of their 5-hour after-Thanksgiving sale this morning. They had polar fleeces for $10, which is a steal, and I wanted to pick up at least two of them since the arctic conditions at the job keeps me shivering most days.

The place was a madhouse. Lines ten deep. Shoppers shoulder to shoulder. Economically-depressed deal-seakers clawing at deeply discounted merchandise in a feeding frenzy of Thanksgiving proportions.

And of course, I had to pick the slowest line.

I got my two fleeces though, and with that, I'm done with Black Friday. It was not a pleasant experience.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

While you were eating turkey and watching football, I was...eating turkey and watching football, and making over $50 an hour at the job.

We never close.

Same thing tomorrow, too.

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

From the moment I got into work yesterday until we finally changed the channel, I watched the Mumbai massacre unfold live on CNN, the Communist News Network as Uncle Jim calls it. It was carnage. Fires, bloody civilians, scared police, scrambling commandos. The death toll kept changing. First it was 200, then it went down to something like 120.

One thing, though, remained constant. They were targeting westerners, specifically Americans and Brits.

At first, that seemed almost plausible. There were witness reports that the terrorists demanded to know who held passports from the US and the UK. The attacks were coordinated on a lot of places westerners might be: hotels, restaurants, that kind of thing.

And yet, the latest news report says this:
The death toll from the series of coordinated attacks was at 125, including at least six foreigners, by Thursday evening authorities said. An Italian and Briton were among the confirmed dead.

Another 327 people were wounded in the attacks, including seven British, three American and two Australian citizens.
That's not targeting westerners. That's killing indiscriminately.

And yet, because of the initial reports, there will still be people pulling out that old Bush trope, "They want to kill Americans because they hate our freedoms." Um...not exactly. That's an oversimplification of a very complex problem.

How can we fight these terrorists if we can't even be honest with ourselves about their methods and motivations? Short answer: We can't.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Natural Bedfellows and Silly Diversions

This is hilarious. Al Qaeda complaining about the media's pro-Obama bias.

I know a certain ideological college professor from Tennessee who voiced similar complaints.

Meanwhile, the Professor embeds this joke of a video:

I'm a bit tired of the Angry Left trope. Yes, Keith Olbermann is insufferably smug, but that Terry Tate video was funny.

But you wanna talk anger, let's talk about this guy:

A Related Thought

In my last post, I asked:
If life begins at conception, why the need for the gestation period? Why not pop out fully formed from your father's head like Athena? Why bother the female with nine months of hell? Oh, right...the Garden of Eden thing.
Thinking about that a little more, I wonder how elephants offended God so bad that he made their gestation period lasts almost two years?

Horses get it for almost a year. (I told you, Mr. Ed, not to eat that apple. Now Mrs. Ed is gonna really suffer!) We humans, with our nine month averages, got off easy!

(God must really like snakes, too. Not only did he eliminate that whole live-birth thing for them, but he gave them the ability to reproduce without having sex! Yes, true parthogenesis. Kind of contradicts the whole, you will lie on your belly in the dust and your head will be crushed thing, huh?)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Wake-Up That Wasn't

I had such high hopes for this piece:

A Wake-up Call For Conservatives: It was the Right who delivered America to the Democrats.

I've been peripherally aware of the "Now what we do?" discussions amongst right-wing thinkers, but I've been disappointed with the results. There does seem to be some consensus that social conservatives are to blame, more specifically their strange fascination with homosexuality and their equally strange fixation on the (settled since 1973) issue of abortion.

To me, these are simple things. I like girls and I don't really care what you like. I'll never have an abortion --don't have the right anatomy for it-- nor would my lifestyle require one if the subject came up. And sorry, guys, but according to all the documentation I've accumulated in my 32 years, my life started when I was born.

I didn't get to drink nine months early. I mean, I'm reasonably sure that I arrived when nature, or God*, or my Mom, said I should arrive and not one second earlier.

Or am I going to get an amended birth certificate that says I'm nine months older? No? So we're not going to grandfather this whole life-begins-at-conception thing, then? Oooooookay.

At any rate, I was sorely disappointed by this "Wake-up Call for Conservatives." A comment I left captures the gist of it:

“There are liberals who go to college, get a journalism degree, and work their way up through the ranks for years — somewhere like the New York Times — all so that they can be in a position to effect change (in their case, slant stories in order to help causes and candidates they care about).”

Are you gonna name names or am I just going to take your generalization of the liberal boogeyman for granted?

This part was just downright ridiculous: “Or a liberal will go to college and become a teacher primarily so that he can effect change — and be in a position to feed their point of view to young minds, who will then vote for his side down the road.”

Riiiiight, because in the modern world teachers really are that influential.

Also “Free Mumia?” I haven’t seen a “Free Mumia” sign since 99!

So while I agree that conservatives screwed it up by not being very conservative, I think you should also start looking at the straw men you’re arguing against.

You got beat by REAL political opponents, but you keep fighting against cartoon caricatures.

Free Mumia…sheesh.
If there's a wake-up call, I hope it's that.

If you fight straw men, you'll always win. But you'll vanquish no one.





* (I'm always confused by these esoteric religious notions, like life begins at conception, or homosexuality is an aberration. They seem to assume that even God doesn't know what he's doing.

If life begins at conception, why the need for the gestation period? Why not pop out fully formed from your father's head like Athena? Why bother the female with nine months of hell? Oh, right...the Garden of Eden thing.

And the gay people that pop up in every generation? God has no purpose for them? Even if it's beyond our feeble human understanding? They're just lost souls at the mercy of Satan? Sorry, dude, but the Garden of Eden only exists in stories and Satan is just a character in an old pulp magazine.

We're talking about the real world here, not the Expanded Universe of Judeo-Christian mythology.)

My Man

I keep getting these e-mails from my aunt, trying to beat that "uneducated" thing into the ground, I guess.

She says:
This is really something to watch and see just what I said before the people who voted for Obama really didn't know anything and were very uneducated. This is so pretty sad indeed.
She then links to some documentary I didn't watch. Whatever.

Then I run across stuff like this:
[O]ne of the things I hope my presidency helps to usher in is a, a return to an ethic of responsibility.

That if you're placed in a position of power, then you've got responsibilities to your workers. You've got a responsibility to your community. Your share holders. That if -- there's got to be a point where you say, 'You know what, I have enough, and now I'm in this position of responsibility, let me make sure that I'm doing right by people, and, and acting in a way that is responsible.' And that's true, by the way, for members of Congress, that's true for the president, that's true for Cabinet members, that's true for parents. I want all of us to start thinking a little bit more, not just about what's good for me, but let's start thinking about what's good for our children, what's good for our country. The more we do that, the better off we're going to be.

WALTERS: Should bank executives -- it's almost Christmas time -- forgo their bonuses?

OBAMA: I think they should. That's an example of taking responsibility. I think that if you are already worth tens of millions of dollars, and you are having to lay off workers, the least you can do is say, "I'm willing to make some sacrifice as well, because I recognize that there are people who are a lot less well off, who are going through some pretty tough times."
I agree 100% and that's why I sleep soundly at night. Here's a guy who knows the true meaning of "moral values." (And it ain't got nothing to do with stem cells, okay?)

You can call that "spreading the wealth" or "socialism" or whatever you want to call it. I call it doing the right thing.

Cold Hard Reality

Holy fuck.

Check this out:
Jim Bianco of Bianco Research crunched the inflation adjusted numbers. The bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion
You know who's responsible?

Poor people.

(Bullshit.)

Chinese Democracy

I've had about a week to chew over Axl's new record, so I feel condfident when I say that A) It's more November Rain than Welcome to the Jungle, B) Axl needs to grow the fuck up already, and C) there are some strangely effective ear-worms mixed in with all the dross.

The first point isn't that big a deal if you prefer the piano-playing swimming-with-dolphins Axl as opposed to the strapped-in-an-electric-chair screaming-like-a-banshee Axl. Axl still screams like a banshee, but he's not one for stripped-down "rock" simplicity. You might have thought that you needed guitars, drums and a bass to make a rock song. Not so, Axl says. You need a piano, an assortment of sythesizers and samples, maybe a mandolin and a harp. Ah hell, just throw in a full symphony orchestra and you're guaranteed to get that epic sound.

Trying to find a song that doesn't have a sample or orchestral swell is like trying to find a bush in the pages of Playboy magazine these days. You're just not going to see it.

That's not neccesarily a bad thing, as some of the strongest numbers on Chinese Democracy aren't the maudlin rock epics, but instead are the quirky numbers like If the World or Sorry. For some reason, I've been listening to those songs more than the "rockers."

If the World is one of them, which is strange because it's straight-up disco funk. You can almost see the roller skates cruise by in short shorts and long socks. What's even more unusual is that Axl sings the song in his signature high-pitched warble, when you would think some good old R&B melisma would be called for. I'm not sure if I like the song or just the fact that its so unique and weird. (Axl as a crooner? When you see him turn up his coattails as he sits down at the piano, all pretense of being a tough-guy rocker is dropped in favor of being a Hot Topic Liberace.)

Then there's Sorry, another one of the slower songs. With its slow, building pace and strange diversions into accented singing --I thought Axl was from Indiana, not Jamaica-- it actually has an interesting chorus. It's a little droney, but drone isn't bad when done well, and I'd argue that Sorry is drone done well. I do have to admit, though, that when Axl sings, "I'll kick your ass like I said I would," he sounds like a little dog whose bark is bigger than his bite.

Axl, are you talking to Tommy Hilfiger or what? Real men don't threaten to kick someone's ass. They just do it. And I'd say that anyone who does say, "I'll kick your ass," has very little ability to make good on their promises. (Remember that song on one of the Use Your Illusion records called "Get in the Ring" where Axl calls out all the rock-writers who wrote bad things about him in magazines? More fake tough-guyness. Real tough guys aren't that sensitive, and when their feelings do get hurt, they don't write a song about it. That's the heavy bag was invented for.)

In the final analysis, Chinese Democracy is more of an embarassment for Axl than a triumph, and not because it was so long in the making. It's a pretentious over-produced, ultimately soulless record. What soul it does show, reveals a tiny emotionally-retarded man whose moment has definitely passed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Knew It

The bartender from Bender's Tavern (which would have been practically empty if me and Ginger hadn't stopped by for a drink after dinner) was the dude that was in the late-90s Denver rap-rock outfit Chaos Theory. (Yes, I have their CD and I scanned this image from it.)
He's the guy with the tatted head. And yes, that's how I recognized him.

Related anecdote: It must have been at least ten years ago, but Chaos Theory played a free show at the Capitol Hill People's Fair. My brother got kicked in the face in the moshpit.