Sunday, April 25, 2010

Metamorphosis Redux

Life went on for the Samsas. After their spontaneous excursion out of the city, they immediately took up where they had left off. First of all, they moved into a smaller apartment in a well-tended building; it was very much to their liking and -- they thought approvingly -- quite well situated. Even before removing to their new abode, Mr. Samsa took upon himself the liberty of discharging the door-slamming harridan they had been unfortunate enough to engage in the first place; their new cleaning woman performed as well the services of maid and cook; so, freed from these mundane tasks, life went on for the Samsas.

Their main concerns were these: earning a livelihood and paying off the debt they owed their late son's company. To this end, Mrs. Samsa sewed such a prodigious pile of delicate lingerie as to amass a tidy sum. Day after day, she sat at the table, head bowed over her work, cutting and joining, embroidering and clipping til her eyes reddened from the strain and her fingertips swelled, calloused over, and eventually remained numb. Mr. Samsa, invigorated somewhat by their relocation (as well as a thorough cleaning and mending of his stained and well-worn uniform, for which he had his wife to thank), rose steadily in the hierarchy of his company, from messenger to doorman at the bank. At his age he should not have had to work at all (he thought), but, circumstances being what they were, he was glad for the job that provided for his family. His relief at the easing of their so recently precarious financial situation showed in the self-importance with which he swung open the portals to the passing of some minor functionary or other, giving the gleaming handle (which he polished incessantly) a peculiar flourish in the unlatching process that seemed, to him, quite impressive.

As for Grete -- ah, the changes wrought in recent months had affected her the most. The bloom in her fresh young cheek, the pith of her lithe young frame, could not go unnoticed for long. Her study of shorthand and French, added to her burgeoning beauty, served to further her career. From salesgirl she rose to sales secretary, administering to the needs of the store's several salesmen: sorting their samples, inking their itineraries, tracking their timetables. She too was able to contribute a small sum towards the elimination of the family's now rapidly dwindling debt (imagine! what would have taken one person five years to accomplish would take three persons less than half that time!), but the grueling hours of her work precluded the pleasure that had at first attended the weekly ceremony. Grete played her violin infrequently, preferring instead to peruse the illustrated magazines that were currently all the rage.

* * * * *

One still evening in the spring of that year, Grete was suddenly seized with the desire to play her violin. Taking up the instrument and fetching the music stand and sheet music from the closet to which they had been relegated, she embarked upon a plaintive air that had always been a particular family favorite, and their rooms were rich with dulcet tones. As Grete played, the melancholy melody moved her to shed silent tears, and her parents wept in concert. The dim memories of family tragedy were purged somewhat; they felt refreshed, as though after a spring shower, while the aqua vita traced its course down their creasy miens in a meandering search for the gravitational flashpoints of nose and chin. "Ah, Grete," murmured her mother. And "ah, Grete," echoed her father more firmly -- the patriarchal stamp of approval. The swelling sounds escaped their modest quarters, embracing the crepuscular night and enveloping the Samsas in a tranquility they had rarely known.

The violin's piercing tremolo permeated the stolid building's musty crevasses. One of the tenants was moved to respond to its call, in a manner that at another time might have been considered too forward, for this tenant traced the music to its source -- he knocked on their front door. There followed a cessation of all sound, as Grete was startled into the here-and-now. Mr. Samsa stood smartly in instinctive answer to the impersonal summons and marched briskly to the offending instrument. He grasped the door knob and twisted it sharply, thereby demonstrating to the unknown entity outside his annoyance at such an unwelcome intrusion. He swung open the door (professionally, it should be noted).

At the entrance stood Hermann Brodsky, a young man of medium build whose dark hair stood in sharp contrast to a rather pale complexion. The Samsas knew him to be the son of their neighbor, and therefore a neighbor in his own right; when they met in the halls or passed on the stairs, they nodded politely one to the other, never betraying any additional familiarity than what was required of propriety.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he began, "but I could not resist the beautiful music, which surely came from your rooms?" His questing glance took in the scene, and the answer was evident. " I hope, sir, that I will not be the cause of its surcease," he continued somewhat more earnestly, seemingly imbued with fresh courage upon glancing in the musician's direction. Focusing his attention upon the doorman (reluctantly, it seemed to Grete, who felt in his perusal a potential for ... something), young Mr. Brodsky spoke more firmly. "I wished merely to thank the musician for the entertainment, for myself and on behalf of my family." Mr. Samsa's gruffness faded in the face of the young man's palpable discomfort; he held the door invitingly open as he smiled a welcome. And so Hermann Brodsky entered their lives, to the lament of the Liebestraum.

* * * * *
Grete and Hermann had many common desires. They both worked to contribute to the support of their families. Hermann was an administrator in a large, government-funded insurance company and spent his days filing papers, drafting policy statements, and writing brochures. He was regular in his habits and generally a first-class civil servant; his was a promising and respectable career.

Hermann was very concerned with his status in the community. One could find no fault in his attire or his posture -- both were exactly what was required of a man in his position on the social ladder. He and Grete would pass many an evening tracing the precise steps of his bureaucratic ascension, up the rungs to the pinnacle of class. "You see, Grete," he would often pontificate, "how right it is that I attend to my responsibilities. My employer cannot fault my diligence or my loyalty. My acquaintance cannot fault my diligence or my loyalty. My acquaintance cannot fault the regularity of my behavior. I have always been careful to maintain a correct character, and I must say it pleases me exceedingly that you are in agreement with these views." Grete was flattered to be so complimented. She basked in his approval; it was rarely necessary for her to participate verbally in these conclaves. An occasional "yes, Hermann, you are right," would suffice. Her very acquiescence gratified him.

In the course of their courtship, with its elaborate displays of preening and posturing, it was determined that they both wished -- someday -- to have children of their own to care for. (After all, who would be there to provide for them when it became necessary? One really had to entertain the possibility, circumstances being what they were in those times.)

On this firm foundation they built a relationship that very soon admitted the possibility of marriage. Shortly after the subject was broached, the ceremony was performed. All involved were extremely satisfied as the inevitable end was attained. The Samsas and the Brodskys both benefited from the joining of their progeny, as Hermann and Grete, by pooling their earnings, were able to engage much larger rooms on Charlotte Street and there to install both sets of in-laws in relative comfort.

* * * * *

In due time, the Samsas' debt was repaid; they were no longer under so onerous an obligation. To celebrate this new freedom, Grete became pregnant and, in the month of July of that year, on the second day, she gave birth to a son. She asked Hermann if he liked the name Gregor, for that was the name she wished to give their son. "His name will be Gregor, if that is your preference, but I wish to give him a name also, if you will not object too strenuously." And in answer to Grete's query, he named the name Joseph. "Who is Joseph to you?" she quizzed artlessly. "Well," he replied, somewhat taken aback by her guilelessness, "and who is Gregor to you?"

Little Gregor Joseph Brodsky, it seemed, was to be named after two uncles who had died tragically. Grete told Hermann about her late brother Gregor -- never before so much as hinted at -- and Hermann told Grete about his late brother Joseph -- likewise a complete mystery to the Samsas. In what seemed at first a remarkable coincidence, both men had succumbed to the same affliction; the doctors had a name for it -- chronic orthopterosis they diagnosed it. The name of the malady meant nothing to the two families, but they were intimately acquainted with the symptoms. Apparently the condition was not so unusual in the city at this time; much as, at another time, another plague cuts a swath across a civilization's habitats, leaving death and despair in its wake, but leaving so much of it as to inure the survivors to the destruction. (It seems that it is possible to habituate oneself to whatever fate may throw out, if only at the price of a certain numbness -- a paralysis, as it wwere, of the psyche.) But what had seemed at first remarkable, became in time less so.

Shortly after the birth of the heir apparent, the elder Samsas both ceased working at their jobs. The elder Brodskys had left off work entirely many years earlier, so all four in-laws now lived in retirement in the home of their children. Mr. Samsa left off wearing his uniform, opting instead for a fine warm robe purchased at one of the betterr shops. It was a time of great contentment for him, that he could once again indulge himself in his rightfully deserved retirement. He and his counterpart, Brodsky pere, reflected each other in their daily routines -- they rose and retired, robed and disrobed, ingested their meals and expelled their wastes, with an unremarkable synchronicity. Their wives devoted the majority of their waking hours administering to the menfolk, which arrangement, in all its comfortable monotony, appeared to appease them all.

Grete was able to take leave of her secretarial position, so as to attend to Gregor Joseph personally. Hermann, you see, did not approve of a mother who did not raise her son at first hand. After all, what would people think? Grete, of course, was in complete agreement with her husband. As they often reminded each other, baby Gregor was their investment in the future. That was as it should be. You only had to look to their parents to see perfect complacency.

* * * * *

The years pass in a welcome tedium -- nothing occurs that is not planned well in advance, no situation arises to challenge the status quo. Life goes on for the Brodsky clan. Gregor graduates from the nursery at an early age and takes up residency at the top of the house, where -- as his father never fails in reminding him -- he can reflect upon the responsibilities that in time (but not so soon!) will be his.

When Gregor first leaves the nursery for the solitude of the attic, he often whimpers in his loneliness, wishing for the warmth of the hearth two flights below. Hermann cures him of this unseemly habit in the same way that his father had cured him -- he snatches Gregor up from his cot and carries him, clad only in his thin cotton nightshirt, out to the balcony, deposits him onto the cold brick floor, and locks the door behind him, leaving Gregor to contemplate the alternative of an even colder loneliness. Gregor learns his lesson well (he is quite intelligent, you see) and subsequently becomes a quiet and obedient child, much to the satisfaction of his parents.

* * * * *

Gregor is exhibiting some interest in a literary career, his teacher informs them. Hermann -- speaking practically and in the interest of the whole family -- will not even consider such a career for his son and heir. Between father and son there grows a rift; Hermann's uncompromising hostility is natural, when one considers the notoriety a literary career would bring to a good, hard-working civil servant ... and his family, too, of course. The budding author would do well to recall the forbidding cold of his childhood punishment, for that is the lot of the literati in society.

Gregor embarks upon a career as a salesman. It is a socially respectable career (his mother and his namesake uncle having broken ground, so to speak), and his father approves. More and more, the Brodsky enclave comes to depend upon Gregor. He dutifully shoulders the responsibilities that gravitate toward him, day after day, week after week, year after year.

The young man is satisfied -- nay, even more, content -- with his life. He feels a little thrill of pride with every monetary contribution to the family pot. He is an adult, and his elders depend upon him; the responsibilities upon which he had so often reflected are now his; he is more than ready to accept them. Yet, during the autumn of one particularly difficult year -- it is this year, as a matter of fact -- he begins to have unsettling dreams.

The Terminator and the Intention of Technology

The science fiction film of late-20th-century Western culture often portrays a grim future that offers only hopelessness and despair if -- and the warning is explicit -- mankind continues to ignore the hazards of science, to transgress its bounds (or even to deny that science has any bounds), to use technology to imitate nature, i.e., to play God. Some of the sociocultural questions frequently posed regarding society and science in this Age of Technology are: What is the value of technology to society? Does technology have value for society? Is technology in service to mankind, or vice versa? Does technology have a "life" of its own, or does mankind anthropomorphize? Writer/director James Cameron exploits these questions to fashion his bleak futurescapes: The Terminator, Aliens, and Terminator II. In The Terminator (1984), a technological Frankenstein's monster from 2029 C.E. (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent "back" to our present by its inhuman creator to kill a normal, unassuming waitress named Sarah Conner; one lone warrior from this apocalyptic near-future, Kyle Reese, is sent by mankind to protect and defend Sarah from the Terminator, because, as Reese explains to Sarah, "it's very important that you live." The succeeding 80 or 90 minutes careen inexorably as an unsuccessful attempt by Reese and Sarah to evade the Terminator over the 48-hour period of May 12-14, 1984. The chase and confrontation represent the final battle in the war of the machines -- which begins "a few years from now" -- to exterminate mankind. Cameron's treatment of the subject matter is subtle and astute; he incorporates many of our conventional metaphors, and interweaves ambiguous irony, in order to highlight both the obvious and the obscure.

In the film's excessive use of night shooting -- about 90% of the action occurs at night -- it explicitly encourages the light/dark, good/evil, nature/culture, faith/facts hierarchical oppositions, connecting that which is bad in our society with our technological advances, particularly in intimidating close-ups of the unsympathetic machinery of mankind: tractors, piledrivers, tanks, munitions. This Manichean juxtaposition is intended to point to the negative effect on mankind of his so-called "technological progress." At what point, asks The Terminator, does science adversely affect society? What kind of pharmakon is technology, medicine or poison? The theme appears to be an explication of the evils in technology and the limits of science. There is a contrary sub-theme, however, that concerns not technology but the way in which mankind thinks about technology. I propose first to set out some examples of ways in which the film's explicit meaning is developed; then I will point to some of the ways in which it criticizes the calculative (i.e., goal-oriented) thinking of modern scientific Western culture and suggests an alternate approach to technology.

The Terminator presents an explicit, seemingly straightforward message: Mankind, in enslavement to the apparent benefits of technology, has overstepped his bounds and is judged guilty of hubris, for which sin he will be punished, perhaps destroyed. The Terminator, although conceived of and engineered by Skynet, a worldwide and (miraculously) self-aware computer network, is mankind's illegitimate grandchild, the second-generation progeny of Man's attempts to play God. As portrayed by Schwarzenneger, the cybernetic organism ("cyborg") -- Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 -- bears an intentionally striking resemblance to the Nazi stormtrooper of Hitler's Third Reich, mankind's most recent prior attempt at recreating himself in his own image: the stern Aryan visage with "frown / And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command"; the uninflected, guttural speech; the chrome-and-leather uniform of a fascist military regime; and the ever-intimidating, all-important boots of oppression, ever willing to stomp on victims. In several scenes, the Terminator's entrance is signaled by its boots. Its stride is so swift and sure that we are liable to be trampled underfoot if we remain in its path: God help us if we are its target; we know very early in the film what will happen to us. Almost as soon as the opening credits fade from view, the Terminator rips a man's heart out: it is efficient; it is bloody; it does not touch the Terminator emotionally -- it is a machine, not a man. Its violence is a result of its logic -- computer logic -- analyzing the most appropriate action to generate an intended response. We just know that this thing is going to succeed in its mission -- it is, after all, Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself a celebrity automaton with a reputation for remorselessness, single-mindedness and perfection.

Yet for mankind to survive, the Terminator cannot succeed. Sarah Connor must live, to conceive and bear the Future's messiah so as to ensure mankind's continued existence. In their first "group" encounter, Sarah, Reese and the Terminator converge at a bar named TechNoir -- an obvious statement highlighting the negativity (supposedly) inherent in technology. Sarah's earlier attempt to call the police was abortive; the public phone was, appropriately, out of order. (In this film, technology is out of order, or at least marching to the beat of a very different drummer.) At TechNoir she finally makes a connection, but it is, significantly, in the form of a recorded message -- "You have reached the Los Angeles Police Department. All our lines are busy." The lighting is stroboscopic, disorienting, unnatural; the throbbing music repeats an insistent plaint -- "You've got me covered." When Sarah finally talks directly with the Chief of Police and he tells her, "You're in a public place so you'll be safe 'til we get there," the audience knows better. By this time, we have seen the Terminator rip a man's heart out, blow away a gun-shop owner and shoot two defenseless women at point-blank range, riddling their bodies with cold steel well after administering a graceless but effective coup de grace. It frequently fires its laser-guided weaponry into the camera and directly at the audience, while the dying is done off-camera. Its lack of empathy has been well-defined. As Reese extricates Sarah from the carnage at TechNoir, the chase begins in earnest. When Sarah finally terminates the Terminator -- herself using a piece of man-made automated machinery -- she seems to be reaffirming the theme of technology's negative intentionality.

Things, however, are not necessarily what they seem. Cameron's use of irony subtly subverts the film's explicit criticisms. It is significant that, throughout the film, statements which at first appear to be obligatory, either rote or tongue-in-cheek, ultimately are revealed as prophetic; such statements seem to indicate that a concept may be interpreted in more than one way, that a thing may not be all that it seems. After Sarah's introduction as a sweet but unfortunately inept waitress having made a disastrous error and been publicly shamed by a customer (a little boy slips a scoop of ice cream into her apron pocket), a co-worker remarks to her in passing, "Look at it this way, in a hundred years who's gonna care?" A little while later, we find out that everyone is going to care; what at first seems ludicrous is in fact possible. The same co-worker shortly returns to remark, "You're dead, honey." And even though by the end Sarah is not dead, most of the other people in the film are dead; if the premise of the film, "proven" true, is to be followed, then most of mankind will be dead "a few years from now." The written prologue informs us immediately that the machines rose "from the ashes of the nuclear fire." Mankind presumably represents those ashes.

The two times we hear Sarah's answering machine, her roommate Ginger's voice is heard to say, "Hah hah hah hah, fooled you. You're talking to a machine. But don't be shy, it's okay. Machines need love, too." Ginger's empathy and anthropomorphism -- and by implication our culture's -- are showing. Here we see mankind's love of his creation, the machine; since he loves his creation -- it being his "child" -- he necessarily has to feel that the machine reciprocates. But upon reflection we realize that machines do not love him back, because they can't. They can crack the mystery of time-travel (and therefore of time), but they can't feel. So perhaps The Terminator is hinting to us that we are approaching technology with the wrong considerations as to intentionality. Perhaps we need to rethink what we intend our technology to do.

When the police proffer, out of unknowing ignorance, the very bad advice to Sarah to "stay visible" because she's in a "public place," the audience grimaces. The Terminator respects neither society nor its laws, so public visibility is no longer safe; the logic of appearance is suspect. To combat the Terminator, and to effectively produce and promote our technology, we may need to rethink our relationship to technology. As long as we remain in service to technology, we must wonder what if anything technology is in service to. In response to Reese's explanation of her importance as the mother of his savior, Sarah exclaims, "Do I look like the mother of the future? Am I tough? I can't even balance my checkbook, for God's sake!" Perhaps the uncertain future will not require calculative (i.e., quantitative) thinking. "I am not stupid," she tells Reese in a huff; at the time we think otherwise, perhaps, but it turns out as she says -- she is not stupid, and she is the mother of the future. So what the film really means, in one sense, is that calculative thinking -- the kind of thinking that gets things done but doesn't address the sense or value or meaning in a thing -- is not appropriate when applied to the value given to technology by our culture. This is very different from asserting that technology itself is inappropriate, or even evil. Cameron suggests that mankind is unable to control his creation, mis-taking its relevance, treating it as though it were a pliable baby instead of a "hyper-alloy combat chassis, microprocessor-controlled, fully armored, very tough."

The word terminator is defined as a person or thing that terminates, i.e., brings to an end. Yet it also refers to a dividing line between an illuminated and an unilluminated part of an orbiting object. The Latin root terminus, meaning boundary, limit, end, contributes to the name of the ancient Roman god of boundaries and landmarks, Terminus. Yet the Latin phrase terminus a quo means, in addition to "the end from which," the radically opposite "starting point." It can be seen that termination is not simply finality, because where there is an ending there is, implicitly and by definition, a beginning. There is in fact no absolute ending, which is the only ending which admits no further beginning; the strength of the argument would appear to weigh rather in favor of an absolute beginning which admits both beginning and ending but no absolute ending. A term refers to a time or period through which something lasts; this implies a beginning-ending-beginning cycle, yet not an absolute ending. Terminus shares its root (term-) with the word terminal, a part of a building (e.g., airport, railroad station) which leads to other places, i.e., to other positions in space-time. So a terminator, in addition to bringing something to an end in an act of prohibitive limiting, can act as a mediator by and through which something -- mankind -- can move to other positions in space-time, based on endings which function as beginnings. If the Terminator is considered in light of such implications, then perhaps we should think of technology as the midwife of culture, a mechanism by and through which mankind can progress to its next level of development. Perhaps we should pay more attention to the importance we attribute to it.

The Terminator is the child of the scientist more than it is of society; as such, the evil scientist -- personified in the film by Dr. Silverman, the criminal psychologist -- is the one to whom we must look of ultimate responsibility in the valuation of technology. "They," says Sarah, referring to the scientists of her age, "cannot make things like that yet." The key word in her observation is "yet" -- the sense of inevitability implied by "yet" is another sort of ending/beginning relationship. The (evil) scientist, mad for the power that technology driven by calculative thinking (i.e., "number-crunching") can forcibly wrest from (mathematical) nature, can make something "run good," but he cannot make it "good," i.e., virtuous. The Terminator represents mankind's mistake -- the scientist's flaw is one of intention, not of performance. The scientist, in his enthusiasm, does not think things through -- the significance of new inventions, for instance -- and is therefore susceptible to error. When the Terminator kills Ginger, thinking her Sarah, the song lyrics, repeated ad nauseam, are, "It's a mistake, it's a mistake"; in fact, it is a mistake, and in more ways than target acquisition. Mankind has mis-taken his technology, and his technology, in unflattering imitation, may just as casually mis-take him. This intimated assertion can be taken to mean, in answer to one of the questions initially posed herein, that technology may indeed be thought to have a "life" -- or at any rate an intention -- of its own.

Dr. Silverman, the "token" scientist presented for examination and judgment, represents the state of late-20th-century science -- ignorant, and smug in his ignorance. "You're a doctor," Sarah says to him, looking for an authority figure in whom to trust. He yawns and nods an affirmative response, "Criminal psychologist." Neither his actions nor his credentials impress. He is somewhat slovenly in dress and demeanor, lacking even the respect for a victim's feelings to suppress a yawn elicited by boredom. He is a scientist -- a doctor, but what kind of a doctor is he? Not a doctor of medicine, poring over his pharmakon for the (questionable) benefit of the body of society; instead, he is a "second-level" healer, a psychologist, a pen-and-paper-pushing prober into the psyche. The psychologist's goal is to bring
order out of chaos, certainty out of uncertainty. Consequently, he lauds order and certainty while with the back of his hand denigrating chaos and uncertainty. To which all, nonetheless, are heir. Thus, the psychologist induces, whether intentionally or accidentally, doubts of an individual's own chaotic and uncertain thoughts; he does not "cure" the psyche -- he simultaneously indulges and undermines it, like a parent thoughtlessly shoving candy down a child's throat and then blaming the tyke for its resultant obesity. As such, this doctor commits a crime against mankind; he is a criminal. And what kind of a psychologist is Dr. Silverman? Sure enough, he's a criminal psychologist. Indeed.

Should the scientist simply be condemned for his hubris? Perhaps, perhaps not. If the next step in cultural advancement involves the concept of time as a fourth-dimensional construct supplementing the concepts of length, breadth and height, then perhaps the scientist's actions leading to the creation of the Terminator were necessary. While mankind cannot loose himself from the baggage of his archaic impositions, the machine is not so susceptible; it merely collects and processes data. Contrary to Ginger's unthinking assertion, machines don't need love; whether or not they are loved is immaterial to them -- they are not the ideal Other. It may be that the machines in the Terminator's time have become the ultimate Machine, enabling Man to overcome his technology (it's a mistake) and transcend the calculative limits of being in order to attain the meditative limitlessness of mystery. How else can mankind attempt an investigation into what if anything might lie beyond science? The scientist should rethink what value he imputes to his technology, how he determines that value, and what influence his technology will have on mankind.

What finally can be made of The Terminator's attitude regarding science and technology? We have seen that mankind can -- imperfectly -- imitate God, while machines can only -- imperfectly -- imitate Man. We strive for perfection, but, like all ideals, it cannot be possessed absolutely in reality; perfection can only be possessed to a degree of perfectibility. The Terminator -- Man's supplement and substitute -- terminates just about every other character in the film, but in failing to terminate Sarah Connor it is absolutely imperfect. Cyborg as imitation Man is thus so far from perfect that it is more a reflection of Man than of Machine. Its status as supplement is suspect; its validity as substitute is spurious. Therein lies the peril to society: Technology per se is not inherently dangerous; the danger is in mankind's attitude towards it. The platitude reads: There is nothing either good or bad, but only thinking makes it so. It is how we think about technology that will shape our relationship to it, rather than just the fact of its existence. Unlike the proverbial dog, technology is not Man's best friend. What it is, however, remains to be seen.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

your heaven is my hell (you know who i mean)

When atheists are standing before God in judgement, what do they plan to say?

i'd say -- get me the hell out of here, you jealous, vindictive, hate-mongering scumbag. being trapped in your heaven is my idea of hell!

my version of "no exit" -- any god, sean hannity, and me. get me out of here!
i'd rather be in hell with satan and saddam, than in "heaven" with the former two.

and i'm not an atheist -- that would be too limiting. i'm a nontheist -- there is no room in my philosophy for ANY gods/prophets. jehovah, jesus, brigham young, joseph smith, jim jones, david koresh, isis, osiris, buddha, allah, mohammed (bleep), baal shem tov, shiva, dalai lama, pope, zeus ... whoever. i hope you get the picture.

although i'm eternally grateful to prometheus, and look what happened to him!

south park rules!

i think south park is the funniest, most acerbic and intelligent program on tv today, and has been for some time. the trenchant wit of matt parker and trey stone never ceases to amaze me. i thought the excessive amount of bleeping was very funny, overkill against muslim radicalism death threats -- get it? overkill, death threats ... hahaha. but seriously, folks, what we need here is team america: world police to rescue us from religious bullies with guns and knives. durka durka mohammed ali!

Friday, April 23, 2010

socialism in action -- would you want to live there?

a socialist regime is doomed to fail. we should not be complicit with either the cuban or the chinese government, one that denies its citizens liberty and the pursuit of happiness. they are not denied life, so long as they do not dissent, but what a shabby life it is.

lift the embargo against cuba, and you merely augment the riches of those favored by the powers that be. can anyone think for one second that the helpless, yoked citizenry will see any benefits from our largesse?

the "free" things supplied by the leader are of the poorest quality and scantest quantity. read 1984; read animal farm, read the captive mind, read bread and wine. above all, READ!

i've been trying to boycott china since they took our spy plane, in april of 2001. but it's damn near impossible -- seems like everything affordable is "made in china". but everyone i talk to is now more aware of the insidious infiltration of chinese goods (i've taught countless people to read labels).

plus, the quality of the chinese-manufactured goods leaves a lot to be desired. you get what you pay for. nixon should never have gone to china, but it's too late now.

marriage v. religion

get religion out of the state. marriage can be either a civil or a religious act. when i got married -- never intending to have children -- the jp mentioned god once and, boy, was i pissed! gods have no place in my life. i judge everything, myself above all. i say: judge, and be prepared to be judged. it's inevitable -- how can one make choices/decisions without judging what is subjective and what is objective?

i am responsible for my moral and ethical choices, and having some god or another -- i.e., human in sheep's clothing -- dictate my philosophy to me is not only offensive and silly; it is also childish. i'm an adult who thinks for myself.

in other words, every adult u.s. citizen has the right to marry and divorce, according to their own wishes. look to the 1st and especially the 9th amendments, not to some religious text.

the lovely, lovely 9th ... amendment

don't overlook the -- i fervently believe -- most important amendment of them all: the 9th. unenumerated rights are intentionally left vague, so that nothing can be overlooked. without inflicting physical harm upon another, pretty much anything goes. whether one citizen or a herd of them object. unenumerated rights mean "it's none of your business, so stay out of mine."

the right of gay couples to marry and divorce

actually, the unenumerated rights of the individual citizen, spelt out in the 9th amendment, intentionally vague in order to encompass a constantly adaptive moral and ethical climate, trump the states' rights, spelt out in the 10th amendment.

the order in which they were set out was, i believe, intentional. the framers intended the citizens' rights to trump both state and federal rights. this may merely be an opinion, but it's a well-thought-out one, based solely on the order of the amendments. placement matters, in grammar and in writing.

iranian dress code = earthquake

so this iranian cleric declares that earthquakes are caused by womens' promiscuous dress ... no, this is not a joke.

don't they have religious police in tehran, making sure women are properly covered? are their evil eyes responsible? maybe they need sunglasses to finish the job. besides, isn't tehran a bastion of burkadom?

by this cleric's own (il)logic, they should be safe as houses ... hmm, wonder whether building codes are as strictly enforced as dress codes.

what to do with the church and its pedophiles

i like the tracking idea. if the victims can get together via the internet and do some simple detective work, much may be revealed -- names, locations, dates, patterns. the facts will set them free, and damn the church.

nazis are still being hunted down, prosecuted and incarcerated, over 60 years after their crimes against humanity were committed. just recently, there was the conviction of john demjanjuk, a low-level concentration camp guard. sadly, many of the higher-ups got away, many being harbored by the church and many hiding out in south america and even here, in the states. but the search still goes on, as long as victims still live.

the nazi version of pope -- hitler -- took the coward's way out. the ratzinger pope seems to be hiding behind his vestments and his titular power. he is loath to take any kind of responsibility. it is obvious that he is and was complicit in the church's crimes. he needs to be defrocked, prosecuted without his robes of state, and serve his time for his crime. the emperor has no clothes.

that he will not confess -- admit publicly what he did and what he refrained from doing -- shows him up for the morally bereft criminal that he is, and a coward, to boot. he belongs in a jail cell, not in the vatican. the holy see saw, and did everything in his power to protect and defend the faith rather than the faithful. what colossal hubris, what an infamia!

holier-than-thou oprah

recently, oprah winfrey was asked, if she could share a meal with anyone, who would it be, and what would they eat. she said -- jesus and fried chicken. well, if there was milk or buttermilk in the soaking of the chicken, included in any kind of coating or gravy, or even in the same kitchen, that meal wouldn't be kosher. did jesus keep kosher? if so...

and, too, jesus doesn't strike me as a very good conversationalist, what with all that sanctimonious preaching to people (more like at people) and lack of interaction. it would probably be a very boring evening, if oprah could even get in a word edgewise!

i've considered the initial question for some time, and here's who i'd like to break bread with. first, socrates, the most entertaining of speakers; never a wrong word and the wisdom to judge himself ignorant. we'd have red wine -- no hemlock -- and tapas, which i think he'd enjoy very much.

i'd also love to share a table with voltaire, another brilliant conversationalist, whose trenchant wit would keep me in stitches. we'd have hot chocolate -- i hear he drank 20-40 cups a day -- and a nice ripe brie with fresh-baked baguettes and unsalted butter. maybe some grapes and pears, too.

finally, i'd dearly love to keep company with ben franklin, poor richard himself, an accomplished ladies' man with a silver tongue. you have only to read his autobiography to know that.

i can't decide what ben and i would eat, but it would probably include some alcoholic beverage, knowing his proclivities. maybe some roast turkey breast, prepared a la martha stewart -- it was, after all, his choice for our national bird. maybe with macaroni and cheese, also a la martha. i'd invite her to join us ...

but she's so busy that i wouldn't expect her to take me up on it ...