Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Perfect Supplicant

“To understand these feelings one must understand the condition of the poor in such places as Assisi. In an agricultural country poverty does not, as elsewhere, almost inevitably involve moral destitution, that degeneration of the entire human being that renders charity so difficult.” P. 14

This statement is really interesting, because on the one hand it is true. But on the other, the author is saying that “moral destitution” makes charity difficult. This gets to the heart of the matter of charity itself. Firstly, what is “moral destitution?” In a sense, it is standing up for oneself, and refusing to live the life of a beggar, but rather to live your life. If only poor people were perfect supplicants everything else would be much easier is what the author is really saying; but the life of a perfect supplicant is actually not always preferable. In many ways, the poor of the United States have made this decision. We would like them to just work their terrible jobs and not complain, but they have not done that. They have developed their own economy based off of drugs, wherein they can be the leaders, and not the supplicants. To a middle class kid, success means going to college and getting a good job, but to someone who immerses him or herself in the criminal world, success is something much different, and they have to be judged according to the game they are playing.

St. Francis of Assisi

I started reading a biography of St. Francis, and early on I am struck by a few things. The first is that I was unaware of his lust for glory in his early days. He went off on an expedition, and was humiliated because he had taken along with him many luxuries. It seems that that was his real conversion, when that path (that of military glory) was closed off to him. It makes me wonder if his lust for glory ever really left him. It probably did not. His conversion may have just been another outlet for it.

It actually reminds me of how all of these movie stars are suddenly becoming great champions of charity. Obviously they have not “converted” to anywhere near the degree that St. Francis did, but they are following the same pattern. Once you have lived the good life, and those kinds of things are boring to you, charity is probably the best place to go for a sense of fulfillment. It would seem that this is a good thing no matter what motivated them to do it, but maybe they are not really helping at all.

Regardless of what his motivation is though, at this point, from what I know of St. Francis’s life, you could take the way he lived his life alone and have something valuable. To reject property to that extent is always a good thing. The biographer tries to answer this question when he says, “It is far from hatred of evil to love of good. They are more numerous than we think whom after some severe experience, have renounced what ancient liturgies call 'the world' with its pomps and lusts. But the greater number of those who renounced the world have not at the bottom of their hearts the smallest grain of pure love. In vulgar souls disillusion only leaves a frightful egoism.” P 17

Paul Sabatier "The Road to Assisi"

Friday, December 30, 2005

Hadji Murad (Tolstoy)

Czar Nicholas:

“Continual brazen flattery from everybody round him, in the teeth of obvious facts, had brought him to such a state that he no longer saw his own inconsistencies, or measured his actions and words by reality, logic, or even by simple common sense; but was quite convinced that all of his orders, however senseless, unjust, and mutually contradictory they might be, became reasonable just and mutually accordant simply because he gave them.” P. 90

“Nicholas frowned. He had done much evil to the Poles. To justify that evil he had to be certain that all Poles were rascals, and he considered them to be such, and hated them accordingly in proportion to the evil he had done to them.” P. 91

“No one spoke of hatred of the Russians. The feeling experienced by all the Chechens, from the youngest to the oldest, was stronger than hate. It was not hatred, for they did not regard those Russian dogs as human beings; but it was such repulsion, disgust, and perplexity at the senseless cruelty of these creatures, that the desire to exterminate them – like the desire to exterminate rats, poisonous spiders, or wolves – was as natural an instinct as that of self preservation.”

“he remembered a Tavlinian fable about a falcon who had been caught and lived among men, and afterwards returned to his own kind in the hills. He returned, but wearing jesses with bells; and other falcons would not receive him. “Fly back to where they hung those silver bells on thee” said they. “We have no bells and no jesses.” The falcon did not want to leave his home, and remained; but the other falcons did not wish to let him stay there, and pecked him to death.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Feigning Interest

The holidays put me in the position of having to talk and interact with people I would normally not really talk and interact with.  When I was a kid all that I could think about on Christmas day was presents.  Now I wake up and think about how much I am going to have to feign interest in things I don’t care about.  Sometimes when I am mad about it, I tell myself that I will force everyone else to talk about what I am interested in, and if they are not interested in obscure Russian poetry or the intricacies of first year law, then tough shit.  I am always the one who has to go down to the intellectual level of other people.  Of course, most people’s opinions on these matters are restricted to the most obvious things, so that it would not help that much anyway.  Still, sometimes I want to be a tyrant about this.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christianity Light (Tolstoy)

“I was looking for an answer to the question of life, and not to the theological and historical questions, and so it did not make any difference to me whether Jesus Christ was a God, or not, or from whom the Holy Ghost descended, and so forth…What was important to me was the light, which for eighteen hundred years has been illuminating humanity, and which has illuminated me; but what I should call this source of light, and what its materials are, and by whom it was lighted, were a matter of indifference to me.”

Leo Tolstoy, “The Gospels in Brief”

Law School

I finally feel like a human being again. In particular, I can waste time with impunity. I don’t feel guilty about every second that I don’t spend studying law. I don’t even really think about my first semester in law school at this point. It’s a nice feeling.

Law school is definitely making me feel as though I am losing something. There is no time to read anything else other than law, and the law we do read is always the very practical kind – or in other words, opinions from jurisdictions all over the country that we will never practice in, so I feel like I haven’t read anything in a semester; no politics, no poetry or literature, and definitely no philosophy. I feel dumb because of it. Its true that I am technically reading when I study law, but it is not the kind of reading that improves you.

To do well in law, you only have to be good at one specific thing. You can be a complete jerk and an idiot in every sense but one and still be great at law. When I first came to law school I was amazed by how proficient and hard working everyone is (that’s actually the hardest part of law school). I attributed it to the fact that a lot of people had worked in between school, so they know about how shitty a job can be, and also the fact that most of the people in there fell within the top %20 of LSAT and GPA scores. However, now that the semester is over I think there is another reason.

For a long time I tried to figure out why I always felt like I had such an edge at my undergraduate studies, but at law school I didn’t feel like I was anything special. I think the reason for that loss of edge is that I can no longer use the things that gave me an edge at undergrad. More life experiences, more time spent dwelling on human nature and just general intuition gave me a huge advantage in philosophy and English. Now though those traits are no longer applicable, it is juts pure logic in law school. We rarely delve deep into things. Every human being we read about in these cases is suddenly no longer real. No matter what suffering we read about in a case, the person is purely a logical exercise. In a way it is the opposite of what you would do when reading a piece of literature. In literature, perhaps your first duty is to empathize with the characters. You try to understand the characters as you would people you know. You try to see every facet of the character the author has given you no matter how small. Now there is no time for that, even though we are dealing with real human beings. Jane, whose son died for such and such a reason is not a mother who lost her son but “Person A,” which “Law XYZ” applies to in a specific scenario.

Of course it is necessary to think about things in that manner, but that is all we do. You do not have to spend much time in law school to figure out why so many lawyers are horrible people. Its because law school takes your sense of humanity away. The workload is to heavy to spend time or energy actually thinking about human beings as people and not legal relations. We don’t talk about the relation between law and justice, there is just the law, and if something is legal than that is fine. Basically, everything is condoned in law school except “missing issues” or not being prepared when called on. It may be that these professors can’t speak of these things because they don’t have the ability to. I doubt many of them can leave their safe little world of logic.

I must say though that overall I am very happy with law school. I am happy to (finally) surrounded by intelligent and hard working people, and I am happy that I will finally have a trade when I am done with all of this.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


This answers a lot of the questions I have had about Africa.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Good Site

A Swedish bittorrent site that ridicules legal threats sent to it.


The Howard Stern Channel - Production openings

Job Description:
Can you turn the sound of "Shaving Ryan's Privates" into the "Sound of Music?" Can you capture the raw power of a "Number 2" and turn it into "Beethoven's 9th" Can you turn classic oral into classic aural? Do you thrive on the misfortunes of others to drive your creative passion? Is a day filled with strippers, lesbians, midgets, celebrities, rock stars, and the greatest radio team on the face of the planet fun and creative enough for you?! We're looking for people that can turn high-pitch Eric's into radio epics as the King of all Media needs Production Wizards to revolutionize radio. Send demo to Sharon Wolfe at 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

Job Requirements:
Demo required. Production experience in the radio industry required.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Wrecking Ball

Autumn (Pushkin)

Listen Here

October has arrived - the woods have tossed
Their final leaves from naked branches;
A breath of autumn chill - the road begins to freeze,
The stream still murmurs as it passes by the mill,
The pond, however's frozen; and my neighbor hastens
to his far-flung fields with all the members of his hunt.
The winter wheat will suffer from this wild fun,
And baying hounds awake the slumbering groves.

This is my time: I am not fond of spring;
The tiresome thaw, the stench, the mud - spring sickens me.
The blood ferments, and yearning binds the heart and mind..
With cruel winter I am better satisfied,
I love the snows; when in the moonlight
A sleigh ride swift and carefree with a friend.
Who, warm and rosy 'neath a sable mantle,
Burns, trembles as she clasps your hand.

What fun it is, with feet in sharp steel shod,
To skim the mirror of the smooth and solid streams!
And how about the shining stir of winter feasts? . .
But in the end you must admit that naught but snow
For half the year will even bore a bear
Deep in his den. We cannot ride for ages,
In sleighs with youthful nymphs
Or sulk around the stove behind storm windows.

O, summer fair! I would have loved you, too,
Except for heat and dust and gnats and flies.
You kill off all our mental power,
Torment us; and like fields, we suffer from the drought;
To take a drink, refresh ourselves somehow -
We think of nothing else, and long for lady Winter,
And, having bid farewell to her with pancakes and with wine,
We hold a wake to honor her with ice-cream and with ice.

The latter days of fall are often cursed,
But as for me, kind reader, she is precious
In all her quiet beauty, mellow glow.
Thus might a child, disfavored in its family,
Draw my regard. To tell you honestly,
Of all the times of year, I cherish her alone.
She's full of worth; and I, a humble lover,
Have found in her peculiar charms.

How can this be explained? I favor her
As you might one day find yourself attracted
To a consumptive maid. Condemned to death,
The poor child languishes without complaint or anger.
A smile plays upon her withering lips;
She cannot sense as yet the gaping maw of death;
A crimson glow still flits across her face.
Today she lives, tomorrow she is gone.

A melancholy time! So charming to the eye!
Your beauty in its parting pleases me -
I love the lavish withering of nature,
The gold and scarlet raiment of the woods,
The crisp wind rustling o'er their threshold,
The sky engulfed by tides of rippled gloom,
The sun's scarce rays, approaching frosts,
And gray-haired winter threatening from afar.

When autumn comes, I bloom anew;
The Russian frost does wonders for my health;
Anew I fall in love with life's routine:
Betimes I'm soothed by dreams, betimes by hunger caught;
The blood flows free and easy in my heart,
Abrim with passion; once again, I'm happy, young,
I'm full of life - such is my organism
(Excuse me for this awful prosaism)

My horse is brought to me; in open field,
With flying mane, he carries fast his rider,
And with his shining hooves he hammers out a song
Upon the frozen, ringing vale, and crackling ice.
But fleeting day dies out, new fire comes alive
Inside the long-forgotten stove-- it blazes bright,
Then slowly smoulders - as I read before it,
Or nourish long and heartfelt thoughts.

And I forget the world - in silence sweet,
I'm sweetly lulled by my imagination,
And poetry awakens deep inside:
My heart is churned with lyric agitation,
It trembles, moans, and strives, as if in sleep,
To pour out in the end a free statement-
And here they come - a ghostly swarm of guests,
My long-lost friends, the fruits of all my dream.

My mind is overcome by dashing thoughts,
And rhymes come running eagerly to meet them,
My hand demands a pen; the pen - a sheet of paper.
Another minute - and my verse will freely flow.
Thus slumbers an immobile ship caught in immobile waters,
But lo! - the sailors rush all of a sudden, crawl
Up top, then down - sails billow, filled with wind;
The massive structure moves, and cuts the waves.

It sails. But whither do we sail?...

Friday, November 18, 2005

At Least Some Admit It

"It is true, of course, that much uncertainty exists as to how rehabilitation is best accomplished. See Consuelo-Gonzalez, 521 F.2d at 264. Were that picture clearer, our criminal justice system would be vastly different, and substantially improved. By one estimate, two-thirds of the 640,000 state and federal inmates who will be released in 2004 will return to prison within a few years. The Price of Prisons, N.Y. Times, June 26, 2004, at A26. See Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dep't of Justice, Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994 (2002) (finding 67.5% recidivism rate among study population of 300,000 prisoners released in 1994). The cost to humanity of our ignorance in these matters is staggering."

U.S. v Gementera 379 F.3d 596, 604

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

Go Forth

I have added a new link to the site. I put up two songs so far. One of them is the song from Gummo that is played when the guys break into Jared Wiggly's house only to find "a gay one." I couldn't figure out what that song was for years, but thanks to Ian Christy I have figured it out.

Also, there is a Gorillaz song that is tolerable.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Junk Mail

Friday, October 28, 2005


I woke up feeling sick this morning, and I decided that I would sleep late. Then at about 10:30 I thought that I had better check my email, because I knew that there would be about 20 messages in there from school, and there were. I also knew that there would be at least one or two of them that would make me realize I am falling behind in one area or another. Now I am up and I have to run around all day to do some things.

It is not only a question of time, but its also about energy. Sure, I have a few minutes here and there, but I rarely have the energy to do something. It’s not just work that takes energy away, it’s also emotional reactions to things. Every time I get a paper back it’s devastating. Sitting in class and not knowing the material while the professor is calling on people around me just drains me of energy. Watching those people called on recall facts and holdings from cases without blinking or at least looking at their notes time and time again takes even more energy away.

I can see how it is easy for lawyers to be shitty people. This work and this style of life has this numbing effect. When I worked those crummy jobs over the past year I had plenty (too much) of time to think about my life and my friends and art and everything else. Now those things don’t even occur to you because your too worried about the thing you have to do in a few hours. But I would choose this feeling over boredom without putting any thought to it. This I can tolerate. Boredom at a job I cannot.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Lawrence Stern

“Time wastes too fast: every letter I trace tells me with what rapidity Life follows my pen: the days and hours of it, more precious…than the rubies about thy neck, are flying over our heads like light clouds of a windy day, never to return more-- every thing presses on--whilst thou art twisting that lock,--see! it grows grey; and every time I kiss thy hand to bid adieu, and every absence which follows it, are preludes to that eternal separation which we are shortly to make.—“

Trsitram Shandy
Volume IX
Chapter VIII

Sunday, October 09, 2005

You Own the Working Class

"French anti-fur activists said they struck Anna Wintour, editor of the U.S. edition of Vogue, in the face with a cream pie on Saturday to protest against her support for the use of animal fur by the fashion industry."

I just wanted to state, that even if these people said they threw a pie in this ladies face for the sole reason that she looks like a cunt, I would have supported it.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Thursday, October 06, 2005

How Cute

" Simpson, in particular, became a reality-TV darling, with her tendency to make embarrassing, yet endearing blunders, such as confusing Chicken of the Sea brand tuna for actual chicken and believing that buffalo wings were actually made of buffalo."

You say endearing, I say unforgivable ignorance paraded around the entire country. I find it interesting that most Americans would find this behavior "endearing." This is what we look up to. This is what we want our wives to be like; little dumbasses who are so reliant and pampered that they haven’t grasped the most basic things.

Taking the High Road


"we're not the "I'm going to chop your mom to pieces you fucking bitch" kind of a band"

Sunday, October 02, 2005

My Political Test

You are a

Social Liberal
(73% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(1% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bury Who?

What is this nonsense? I wish we could see an embalmed Grover Cleveland.

Another Test

I hate to hit everyone with another test so soon, but this is important.


Police Discretion

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Here are some cool sites on the PA Legislature's shitty pay raise:

Democracy Rising

Rock The Capital

Clean Sweep (My Personal Favorite)

Gene Stilp

It should be law, that all state a federal legislatures should make the average salary of their jurisdiction. Who is with me?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Pop Quiz

This information will be on the test.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Why I Don't Make Babies

Theyhave the testing scores of all local elementary schools in the newspaper today. Eddystone actually didn’t do that bad. %41 were considered “advanced” in math with %0 being considered “below average” (the only school in Ridley to do so). Reading wasn’t as good, only %16 were considered advanced, but reading was down all over the region. Woodlyn was by far the worst in Ridley with %29 above average in math and %9 in reading.

Of course, the schools along the main line are another story, many have %70 to %80 of their kids above average. While schools in the Chester Upland district were under %10 for math and reading. That is a lot of disparity in a relatively small area.

So what is it that makes the big difference? My hypothesis is breakfast. The kids that do better are eating breakfast.

But seriously, I wonder a lot about that difference. I’m sure that there is a direct correlation to the percentage of parents that went to college, but that may be just a result of the mysterious underlying cause. Some kids are coached ab ovo to take these tests and do well on them. I think even if most parents in Eddystone wanted to do that, they would not have the ability to do so, because they don’t have the information needed themselves (both the knowledge of the subjects and just as importantly, knowledge of the intricacies of the academic system.)

For instance my mother was extremely supportive of my academic interests, but she did not know where to place the emphasis – meaning she didn’t force-feed me the stuff that would be on these tests. If I wanted to know about the Titanic (not on the exams I assume) at the expense of my math knowledge, she would support that. I’m glad it turned out that way. But other parents know how to play the game – and they do. So what is the right thing for the parent do? Allow the child to pursue their interests at the cost of test scores? Who knows. What I do know is that we should all be very skeptical of any wishy washy “follow your dreams” “grades don’t matter” popular wisdom because depending on what you want to do, grades may determine the course of your life.

The total results are here.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Death of the Death Tax

The estate tax, that wonderful contradiction – it affects %2 of the country (those making more than one million – yet it seems the working class is completely opposed to it as if it could ever affect them.  These articles are pretty good at showing how the opposition to the death tax (do I need to mention them by name?) spun the matter in such a way as to make it seem as though it is unfair.  Of course, the only unfair thing here is the way they make that money by sitting on their asses.  They would like you to believe (and they have been successful) that every multi-millionaire got there through hard work.  They may have worked hard, but it would have been impossible but for the money they themselves inherited.  They owe society a debt.



Friday, September 09, 2005

Marketing 101

My Meshuggah tickets arrived in the mail with an advertisement for Disney on Ice in the envelope.  At first I though that it was stupid and wasteful of them, but then I realized that they probably know something about the Meshuggah fan base that I don’t want to know and will never accept.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

This Guy

I like this guy.

The Law Begins

The reasoning behind a lot of laws:

“The crime of adultery, which is unenforced because we want to continue our conduct, and unrepealed because we want to preserve our morals.”

T. Arnold, The Symbols of Government 160 (135)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

An interesting story

An interesting story about the Eddystone lighthouse (the mythological basis of our community).

“"What are some of the lessons nature teaches us?  One is the lesson of humility and, with it, a recognition that we are dependent on a Power beyond ourselves. James Buckingham tells the story of the Eddystone Lighthouse in Plymouth, England.  When first constructed, it bore the inscription:

   Blow O Winds, Rise O Ocean
   Break Forth Ye Elements, and Try My Work.

A few years later it was destroyed in a storm.  Then an architect named John Smeaton rebuilt it and placed an inscription at its base from the Book of Proverbs:

   Except the Lord Build the House,
   They Labor in Vain.

That was more than a century ago.  The lighthouse is still standing."”

Friday, September 02, 2005


"I am absolutely disgusted. After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering," said Sajeewa Chinthaka, 36, as he watched a cricket match in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

"Not a single tourist caught in the tsunami was mugged. Now with all this happening in the U.S. we can easily see where the civilized part of the world's population is."

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I got this email today:



This email might come to you as a surprise but I plead with you to read
before a decision to assist or not. I wish to solicit for your
assistance in a transaction, which I strongly believe will be of mutual benefit
to all parties.

My name is Richard Dewar Regional Head of a leading Bank here in South
Africa. My colleagues and I wish to seek your assistance in transfer of
an unclaimed huge inheritance fund.

The said funds were deposited five years ago by Mr. Jonas Savimbi, the
leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola
(UNITA). They have been in control of a large part of Angola for more than
twenty years until Mr. Savimbi was tragically killed in combat against
the government forces in the central eastern province of Moxico in
Angola on the 22nd of February 2002.

Unfortunately, he could not live until the maturity of the fixed
deposit in our bank which was last year. He appointed his foreign partner as
the next of kin to the deposit, but after a serious research we found
out that no one is actually aware of this fund as the present government
of Angola is now confiscating any property or account belonging to Mr.
Savimbi. However if the fund is unclaimed and discovered by the Reserve
Bank of South Africa it will be donated to Dr. Nelson Mandela charity
organization, this is the reason why we need the funds transferred into
a foreign account as soon as possible.

All modalities for the successful transfer of this fund into an
offshore bank account have been put in place and we are looking for a
trustworthy foreign partner into whose bank account this fund will be remitted.
Based on this my colleagues have mandated me to provide a foreign
partner who is willing to assist us. We have agreed to compensate you upon
completion of the transaction if you should accept to assist us.

Please reach me via the above details if you are able to assist us. We
assure you that this transaction is 100% risk free as the beneficiary
is dead. For more about Mr. Savimbi please access the links below:


Richard Dewar.
Assalam  Muialaku.

OKAYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Where do I sign up?  Maybe I should give you my social security number as well just in case.  Hell just to be safe why don’t I give you the account numbers of my friends and family as well, that way if it doesn’t work you can try another one!  

The scary part is people fall for this stuff.


Like I was saying…eggshells.

“Mayor Ray Nagin ordered virtually the entire police force to abandon search-and-rescue efforts and stop thieves who were becoming increasingly hostile.
"They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas — hotels, hospitals, and we're going to stop it right now," Nagin said Wednesday.
Tempers also were starting to flare. Police said a man in Hattiesburg, Miss., fatally shot his sister in the head over a bag of ice. Dozens of carjackings were reported, including a nursing home bus and a truck carrying medical supplies for a hospital. Some police officers said they had been shot at.”

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Being Smart is Stupid

“For at the bottom of the tergiversation of the present age is vis inertiae, and every one without passion congratulates himself upon being the first to discover it, and so becomes cleverer still.”

Kierkegaard.   The Present Age p. 34

Being cool means being without any passion or strong feeling, and people nowadays seem to be in an arms race to be as “normal” and passionless as possible, and of course always ready to jump on the person who shows feeling in order to convince everyone that they are a different creature altogether.  I can’t say this is true in all communities, because it is not.  It gets worse as you get closer to the middle of the social classes, and it gets better as you get closer to Eddystone.  That’s why it’s known as Delaware County’s “Seat of Passion” as well as “Pennsylvania’s Eastern Europe.”  

For instance, when the kid in your orientation class raises his hand and asks a question about computer networking (and not a very technical question), everyone turns to each other and says “did you understand what that kid just said.” What they are really saying is “Friend! I don’t know about those things (though we both know I really do).  I want you to know, since this is a perfect opportunity to tell you, that I don’t know much about computers, because if I did it would mean I am not as virile as the gentleman next to me.”

This example was about computers, but I see people do it a lot, especially in school situations (though you would think it would stop by law school, but that is not the case).

This is just the latest though.  I can’t say I dislike any of my law school classmates.  I can say that no one is hiding the fact that they are worried about doing well, and prepared to spend a lot of time on things.  Undergrad was a game of trying to do well while giving everyone the impression that you are just the dude with sandals and a jeep trying to get drunk.  

Sunday, August 21, 2005

My Aspiration

“The other prisoners sometimes laughed at him, principally because he had changed places on the march to Siberia in a convoy, and changed in return for a red shirt and a ruble in silver. It was because of the insignificant price for which he had sold himself that the prisoners laughed at him. To “change places” means to exchange names, and consequently destinies with somebody. However fantastic this may seem, it is a fact, and in my day it still flourished in Siberian prisoner’s convoys, hallowed by tradition and defined y settled forms.”

Dostoevsky “House of the Dead” p. 84

Thursday, August 18, 2005

I am the Walrus?

“For many observers, then and later, this was strange sort of socialism. Most of the classical works of socialist theory not only in Russia but throughout Europe had started from the premise that socialism’s introduction would involve an immediate expansion of political participation, mass creativity, democratic and legal rights and practices, popular consultation and industrial democracy. Before 1917 there was already plenty of reason to question whether Lenin, the eulogist for dictatorship, was properly categorized as socialist. He was not the only self-styled socialist who evoked such objections; similar criticism had been made of the whole tradition of advocates of dictatorship; Louis-Auguste Blanqui in France, Wilhelm Weitling in Germany and Pjotr Tkachev in Russia. But, unlike them, Lenin had come to power.

In the eyes of the Mensheviks […] his Sovnarkum had unjustly called itself a socialist government and had besmirched the name of socialism[…] Such a conflation mortified non-Leninist socialists since it resulted in conservatives and liberals everywhere claiming that the inevitable consequence of any conceivable socialist government would be the sort of political, social and economic oppression that characterized Lenin’s Russia.”

Lenin; A Biography by Robert Service p.355

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Something of which I am guilty

"In fact there are handbooks for everything, and very soon education, all the world over, will consist in learning a greater or lesser number of comments by heart, and people will excel according to their capacity for singling out the various facts like a printer signaling out the letters, but completely ignorant of the meaning of anything."

Kierkegaard, "The Present Age" 88-89

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

How Far We've Come

There is nothing more reassuring than to see people grovel and fight over material things like animals.

Revenge and the Christian Mind

I would like to know the reason why modern American Christians tend to read one chapter in the Bible – you know, the one with all of the special effects, and most importantly – REVENGE – Yes, in their preference for that last chapter in the bible these Christians betray their true reason for being Christians in the first place, it gives them a sense of revenge that cannot be outdone. Beneath many Christians there is actually a wannabe tyrant, but it is a tyrant without the necessary fangs to fulfill this will.

Section 15 (Essay 1) of Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals shows the hate that is in many Christian hearts. "Thomas Aquinas, the great teacher and saint. "Beati in regno coelesti," he says, meek as a lamb, "videbunt poenas damnatorum, ut beatitudo illis magis complaceat." ("The blessed in the kingdom of heaven will see the punishments of the damned, in order that their bliss be more delightful for them.")"

These people who watch for the end of the world refuse to recognize that things, for instance in the middle ages, were much more violent, more gruesome and unjust, and that it is doubtful that a year of history has ever passed without someone or some group of people proclaiming the imminent end of the world.

“Imagine trying to build a theory of the constitution by obsessively reading and rereading the Twenty-fifth amendment, and you’ll get an idea of what an odd approach this is.

I wish we could go back to the good old days of fighting for the poor and preaching peace, but it looks like they are long gone. This article in the august Harper's is the best treatment of the subject I have read:

“But their theology is appealing for another reason too: it coincides with what we want to believe. How nice it would be if Jesus had declared that our income was ours to keep, instead of insisting that we had to share. How satisfying it would be if we were supposed to hate our enemies. Religious conservatism will always have a comparatively easy sell.”

"It's hard to imagine a con much more audacious than making Christ the front man for a program of tax cuts for the rich or war in Iraq."

The Christian Paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong
By Bill McKibben

Harpers aug 2005

Sunday, August 14, 2005

More on Moral Decay

Like I said before, moral decay is a myth. This guy seems to think so, but he sees it as a refutation of "pesky feminists" where I see it as a refutation of "pesky right wing (and left I suppose) moralizers."

"The Historical True Crime Blog, meanwhile, has recovered a horrifying story (perhaps not for those who are already having a depressing day) about a "family annihilator" called George Hassell, who in 1920s America murdered two sets of his "nearest and dearest": a total of two women and 11 children. It's a lesson for those who like to say blame aspects of contemporary culture - like those pesky feminists - for similar crimes today."

Serious Stuff

You think these guys are messing around? Well I'm not either.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


I ran into a Swedish guy in Ukraine who went to this place out of curiosity. It’s a small sliver of land next to Moldova that has apparently not recognized the collapse of the Soviet Union in many ways. There are still statues to Lenin, and their money has his portrait as well.

Ten Who Are Guilty

“People are better than I, for they wished not to ruin but to save me!” Oh it is so easy for you to do it, this act of mercy, for in the absence of any evidence even slightly resembling the truth, it will be too difficult for you to say: “Yes guilty.” It is better to let ten who are guilty go, than to punish one who is innocent – do you hear, do you hear this majestic voice from the last century of our glorious history? Is it for me, insignificant as I am, to remind you that the Russian courts exist not only for punishment but also the salvation of the ruined man!”

Brothers Karamazov p748

I wonder if people generally agree with the statement “ten who are guilty…” It’s probably the case that the more right leaning you are the less you agree with it. I have never heard this explicitly, but from a lot of the right wing arguments I have heard it seems the idea is reversed, it better for one innocent person to go to prison rather than

I also think a lot of liberal arguments about putting less people in prison are based off of this and not just wanting to make it easier for criminals. Am I the only person that is afraid of false incarceration?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Being Engaged

Engagement is an attempt to gain social recognition for the seriousness of one’s relationship without actually having to make any commitments – therefore it is superfluous.

Engagement is essentially a promise to make a promise. If I promise you that on Wednesday I will promise to give you $5 on Friday it would be considered ridiculous. Why don’t I just promise to give you $5 on Friday in the first place? The analogy holds for marriage. If two people are going to be married in three weeks, and they use the idea of engagement to tell people of this, I can see some sense in it, but when two people have no idea when they are going to get married, and they go around saying they are engaged, what are they actually saying to each other and everyone else?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

More on Moral Decay

“Our budding, still timid press has all the same rendered some service to society, for without it we should never have learned, in any measure of fullness, of those horrors of unbridled will and moral degradation that it ceaselessly reports in its pahes, to everyone[…] hourly we read of things before which the present case pales and seems almost something ordinary.”

Brothers Karamazov p. 695

Written in 1880. Moral decay is a myth.



Vladimir Mayakovsky

Hoofs sang,

Stamping the ground:






the street

skidded underfoot.


a horse slumped on its croup

At once,

all those drifters flare-trousered

gathered in force.


spilled and spouted:

‘A horse tumbled!

Look at the horse!’

The Kuznetsky rumbled

Only I

didn't join my voice in the sneering

I came nearer

and saw

the eye of the horse…

The street, tipped over,

continued on its course…

I came nearer

and saw

a large tear

roll down the muzzle


and disappear

And some sort of fellow animal pain

Splashed out of me

And flowed in whispering

“Horse, please…

Horse, listen,

why should you think you are any worse?


we are all

essentially horses,

each and every one of us is something of a horse.’


the old one

didn’t need my comfort,


my thought

was too effete,

only the horse tried hard,

neighed loud,

rose to its feet ,

and made a start.

Its tail playing

in glittering coat,

it trotted indomitably toward its stall.

It suddenly felt

it was still a coalt

and life was definitely worth living again.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

If we scare and threaten kids enough, maybe they will stop drinking...

There are actually people in this country who think they can stop underage drinking, drug use, prostitution, crime through laws and religion – things that have always been with us. Has there ever been a more quixotic endeavor in the history of the human race? Has there ever been something that has been as foolish and destructive?

Of course we need to fight crime, but when faced with a rational and more importantly realistic way of dealing with it, we should embrace it.

Industrial Sabotage

Foamex, part of the glorious and powerful industrial base of Eddystone, is in financial trouble. This is no doubt the work of saboteurs. Nonetheless, it would suck if something happened to that factory. They say they are “evaluate strategic alternatives for strengthening the company's balance sheet and enhancing long-term value,” which means (I must admit my business translation skills are not the best) they are looking for people to lay off.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Description of Customer Service Jobs

"The idea occurred to me once that if it were desired to crush and destroy a man completely and punish him with the most frightful possible penalty, which would make even the most terrible criminal quail and fill him with dread, it would suffice to give the penal work the most completely and utterly useless and nonsensical character. Even though work is now dull and uninteresting for the convict, it is itself, as work, reasonable enough[…] But if he were compelled, for example, to pour water from one bucket into another and back into the first again, grind sand, or laboriously transfer a heap of soil from one place to another and back again, the prisoner, I think, would hang himself after a few days, or commit a thousand new crimes[…]part of that torture, senselessness, degradation, and shame is inevitably present in every kind of compulsory work."

Dostoevsky “House of the Dead” p24

...hence my decision to go to law school. Every job I have ever had has felt as senseless and degrading as pouring one bucket of water into another, except in my case I had to smile at the same time.

House of the Dead is turning out to be one of my favorite Dostoevsky books so far. Its another example of how very little has actually changed other than the way things look. If Dostoevsky was alive now though he would use his time in prison to get "street cred" in order to become an immensely popular rapper.

Does St. Michael rap about casting satan into hell, and mention his scars frequently in his rhymes?

Every tough guy and girl in history up until now missed the oppurtunity to be able to rap about every facet of their toughness and life history.

Update: A few days after writing this I found this relevant link on instapundit.

Recent Readings: Ukrainian Famine

“when it became clear in the course of 1932 that the quota for state grain procurement could not physically be met, Stalin in his fury ordered all the available stocks to be seized, no matter what the consequences for the local population[…] ‘many experienced great difficulties with provisions. There were mass cases of people swelling up from hunger and dying.”
p. xi

Sometime around noon, a group of the village officials arrived at his house. The official in charge, facing Uncle Timish’s wife, announced that inasmuch as her husband had been arrested as an ‘enemy of the people,’ all his possessions were to be immediately confiscated and declared state property. The woman, confused and upset, tried to argue with the officials. She asked them what treason her husband had committed against the people that he should be proclaimed their enemy. But the officials were in no such mood to discuss such a matter. The order to leave the house was repeated. She was also told that she might remove from the house only her own and her children’s personal possessions, such as clothing. Everything else had to be left behind.
By now, she realized that the officials meant business. With tears in her eyes, she begged them to let her stay in the house at least overnight so that she could collect her things. But she pleaded in vain. The order was again repeated; then she fainted and fell to the floor. Her children started to cry. The man in charged ordered her to be picked up and taken out to the sleigh which was standing ready in front of the house. She came to herself at that moment, and sobbingly told the officials that she did not have any place to go. This had been her home for many years. She, with her husband and children built their home.
Neither teas nor pleas helped. The officials only urged her to hurry. The man in charge took her by the shoulders. Screaming, she tore herself away from him. The one in charge ordered her to be evicted bodily from her house. When they grabbed her, she struggled and pulled their hair. She was finally dragged out of the house and thrown onto the sleigh. While two men held her, the children were brought out. A few of their possessions were thrown onto the sleigh and it moved off. Still restrained by the two officials, Uncle Timish’ wife and his children, wailing an shouting, disappeared into the winter haze[…]We never heard of them again.

“Execution by Hunger: The Hidden Holocaust” by Miron Dolot

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Devil From Ivan's Head

"People take this whole comedy for something serious, despite all of their undeniable intelligence. That is their tragedy. Well they suffer, of course, but...they still live, they live really, not in fantasy; because suffering is life. "

Brother Karamazov 642

Chain of Thoughts

So this guy talked trash about a bunch of conservative blogs, one of which was Michelle Malkin, an immensely popular conservative blogger. She was defended by this conservative legal blog.

This is going somewhere. It led me to look around on Malkin’s blog, and I came accross these T-Shirts for sale. Some of them are funny. I particularly like this one (which is as ironic as Che or Lenin on a mass produced t-shirt). But this one illustrates a particular historical attitude that I loathe. If we consult the pie chart of casualties of WWII, a four year old would immediately notice something. Hmm…maybe, just maybe, and I know this sounds crazy, we didn’t play the biggest role in World War II (the crowd gasps). I mean, I’m no professor of history, but that pie chart is kind of convincing…

Even if we don’t state the obvious, and we leave the evil empire out of it, and look at Britain’s losses the ignorance of that shirt is apparent. Britain lost 495,700 people, 90,000 of which were civilians. One must also take into account the material destruction suffered from bombings. Now, Britain, I think, is a lot smaller than the US, so that means a much higher proportion of the population lost their lives.

So when you go over there and say “we saved your ass,” it is an embarrassing display of historical ignorance.

If for some reason you do have the urge to think that we personally won WWII, just remember that 80% of German losses in WWII were at the hands of the Soviets, and the ratio of German soliders on the eastern front compared to the western front was 12:1. For every American soldier who died, 19 Soviet soldiers and 49 Soviet Civilians died. This isn’t to say that 400,000 isn’t a huge number of casualties for a country to sustain, its to say that we must put that into perspective before making a “We saved your ass” style comment, or even worse, actually wear a shirt like that.

And don’t forget that the French “saved our ass” at one time.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


I went ahead and got a flikr thing. So that is where my pictures will be from now on.

Citing a Cause

I may have found some evidence for the high number of LEP bound kids in Eddystone Elementary over years, and correspondingly, the reason for that orange stuff we saw in the water when we were kids:

Exelon's Eddystone Generating Station Pollution Statistics

Exelon's Rank Among PA's Largest Polluters (46/100 in PA, 2/21 Delaware County)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Emotional Inflation

This probably makes no sense to a lot of people:

“There are occurrences of such a delicate nature that one does well to cover them up with some rudeness to conceal them; there are actions of love and extravagant generosity after which nothing is more advisable than to take a stick and give any eyewitness a sound thrashing that would muddle his memory. Some know how to muddle and abuse their own memory in order to have their revenge at least against this only witness: shame is inventive.”

Beyond Good and Evil 40

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Leisurely Independence"

"He seems to have thought for a time of the law. From that too he recoiled, and leaving the legal profession for his brother Christopher, he had decided that the only life possible for himself was one of leisurely independence, dedicated wholly to scholarship and literature[…]For the six years from 1632 this accordingly, was Milton’s position. In perfect leisure, and in a pleasant rural retirement with Windsor at the distance of an easy walk, and London only about 17 miles off, he went through, he tells us, a systematic course of reading in the Greek and Latin classics, varied by mathematics, music, and the kind of physical science we would now call cosmography”

David Mason “A Brief Life of Milton” from “Paradise Lost” p. 318-319

Ukraine, with its austerity and complete lack of phony American behaivor, was horrible preparation for law school, where one can probably find the paradigm of this kind of person. I even ran into an American girl in Ukraine and it just reminded me of how much I don’t like the typical American. In two weeks I will be in the midst of the very people in this world that I do not want to be around. However, this will is unalterable. Amor Fati. This time around though I have the benefit of a lot of hard lessons learned...

Here, however, Zarathustra interrupted the foaming fool and put his hand over the fool’s mouth. “Stop at last!” cried Zarathustra; “your speech and your manner have long nauseated me. Why did you live near the swamps so long that you yourself have become a frog and a toad? Does not putrid swamp-blood flow through your veins now that you have learned to croak and revile thus? Why have you not gone into the woods or to plow the soil? Does not the sea abound in green islands? I despise your despising; and if you warned me, why did you not warn yourself?[…] What was it that first made you grunt? That nobody flattered you sufficiently; you sat down to this filth so as to have reason to grunt much – to have reason for much revenge. For all your foaming is revenge, you vain fool; I guessed it well[…] This doctrine, however, I give you fool, as a parting present: where one can no longer love, there one should pass by.”

Thus spoke Zarathustra, and he passed by the fool and the great city.

Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra Book III “On Passing By”


Monday, August 01, 2005

Kyiv Swelter

The temperaturein Kiev is exceeding 40 C. I hear that it is even worse in Italy. Its been like this all week, and just before we came here the electricity and the water were shut off in Kemlinsty. When the water finally came back on after two days, it cam out rusty all night. So we ran the water for a while, which somehow made water comeoff of the ceiling of our neighbor.

Svitlana's uncle agreed to drive us to Kiev. On the way we had to go over one of many really bad roads here and somehow his breakline broke. When we stopped the car there was a pool of brake fluid under the wheel. So I figure we'll call Svitlana's dad, have him pick us up and we'll leave later. That was not the case though, he tied a plastic bag around it and we drove all the way to Kiev via mountainous terrain and bad roads. I did not think this was possible.

I met Svitlana's cousin, who is engaged to some guy from Kentucky. She speaks english well so it was nice to have other people to talk to without an interpreter. I drank wine, cognac and beer at the same time all day and was pretty drunk, but I'm pretty sure I didn't break anything. Now we are staying in Svitlana's aunt's apartment, where there is running hot water. Only a few days left.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Finally Leaving Lviv

My train leaves at 9.20. It is 7.47 right now. This is it. Once I leave it is all about the village for a while (i.e. no internet but fresh self grown organic food)

The Russian Nanny

TV in Ukraine is interesting. Whenever Ukrainians are portrayed on TV they look and act like typical American suburbanites. It is really strange to go around here and see one one kind of culture only to see no evidence of it on TV. I don’t understand why they do this. You would think that they would write stories that take present Ukrainian culture into account but they don’t.

A good example of this is the Russian Nanny. There is a new, Russian language based show based exactly off of the nanny that is very popular here. They even have an actress who resembles her American counterpart. It is really strange stuff because if you were to watch it you would think Russia was an America with a different language. Sometimes I think that most Americans base their behavior from movies and Television, and I wonder if the same could happen here.

Another disturbing trend of Ukrainian TV and marketing in general is the exploitation of the “Orange” Revolution (Orangesploitation). There are commercials that refer to it in not so subtle terms and you can even see references to it on Vodka bottles and taxi cabs. When the Exile writes about the Orange Revolution they always put a “®” symbol. While I do not agree with all of their cynicism, I think their interpretation of things needs to be taken into account because there is some truth to it. I like the Exile because it is only of the only resources I have ever found that does not give you the American party line on every aspect of Russia (a great example). Ultimately though, even if you agree that Yuschenko and Tymoshenko are criminals, I think the Orange revolution was by far a positive event for Ukraine.

Oh, and another weird thing: all Russian TV shows and movies have to have Ukrainian subtitles. I'm sure there are a lot of people here that despise that. A glance at the history of Ukraine shows that the borders of this country have changed frequently in very artificial ways (the history of the region I am staying in is Is particularly tumultuous. Maybe this is an attempt once and for all to unite the peoples of this region under one language and one culture, which might not be bad as long as it is done in a way in which people will choose “Ukrainian” culture and not be forced into it, which would be disturbingly Soviet.

More Taxi's From Hell

On the way here we had another fun taxi driver. This one had no idea where he was taking us but he neglected to tell us until halfway through the trip. He kept pulling over to look at a map, and he had to stop to ask people for directions. When we finally arrived we did not have change, and we had to short him two hryivnas (.40 cents). He asked us to go around to look for change. I would have just given him extra, but I could not on principle.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Still in Lviv

If any care to look at a map, I am mostly in Kelminsty most of the time. It is a small town close to the border of Moldova. The village is a short drive away, it is called Ivanivsty, but I don’t know if that is on any map. It is in the Chernivsti Oblast (state)

If you look on this map, you can see Kelminsty just to the right of Chernivsti city, which is in red. Above that, Kamianets – Podilsky is where Svitlana’s father went to college. We went there to see these two huge medieval fortresses that were even more amazing because there aren’t many people at them (foreign tourism has yet to start in this region).

The city of Chernivsti is cool even though a lot of folks around here don’t like it because of its harsh, Russian speaking population, but it has been one of my favorite places so far. It doesn’t have the huge swarms of people that Lviv and Kiev have, but it still offers some amenities that I like. The Internet café in Kelminsty is a small building, which looks like it is being entirely run by 13 and 14 year olds who hang there (the owners kids maybe?). The speed is less that 14.4. I will not be returning.

I can’t believe that I am only halfway done. I am probably leaving Lviv tomorrow, which means a whole lot more village to go. which also implies a lot more crazy cab drivers. One of them randomly pulled over into a diner in the middle of nowhere and asked us to get out (I did not take him up on the offer of tea). Another drove away with Svitlana in the car to put oil in without telling me. He was a nice guy, but it was frightening stuff.

The drastic change in diet has been difficult, so hopefully I will start getting used to the food around here. They definitely didn’t watch those videos in health class about not leaving meat out for an entire day at room temperature and other such useful information. Sometimes I am afraid that my pampered American immune system will not be able to handle it, but so far it has been ok other than the crippling indigestion I experience on a daily basis. I bought pizza in the village the other day, but they used Ketchup instead of tomato sauce.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

First Report From Ukraine -- Draft

I do not even know where to begin with my trip so far. At times it has been incredibly stressful but at others it has been nice. Svitlana and I did not expect there to be this much family obligation (the central cause of the stressful parts), but we have managed to escape the grasp of their hospitality at times. Our trip can be understood through the difference between the Ukrainian country and the city. Svitlana’s parents live in a typical Ukrainian village, which means they grow all of their own food and make it from scratch. It also means there is no running water or plumbing. I don’t care so much about these amenities, but when we are in the range of the family all freedom of action is lost. I hate the feeling that I have to bother somebody just to make myself a cup of coffee or eat breakfast. Svitlana is the same way.

Svitlana’s mother is a human factory. She wakes up at 6 AM and starts gathering food to make. She is working all day long. Svitlana does not approve of this lifestyle. When we do come to the city things are entirely different. We have the freedom to do whatever we want. There is absolutely no English spoken in the region of Ukraine where we are. Things have not changed much in a long time.

At this moment though we are in Lviv, probably the most modern city I have been in since coming to Ukraine. There is defiantly something of Ukraine lost in this modernization. Lviv is also the cultural center of Ukraine. Only Ukrainian is spoken here, whereas in Chernivsti it is only Russian. There are a lot of cultural things to keep in mind here.

I cannot really type a meaningful, well thought out and presented message under the time constraints of the internet café, so I will edit this post as time goes on.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


The Scholars
William Butler Yeats

Bald heads, forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love's despair
To flatter beauty's ignorant ear.

All shuffle there, all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk their way?

Pedicabo ego uos et irrumabo
Aureli pathice et cinaede Furi...

Andrew: A Challenge

I. Hendecsyllables
This is Cattullus’ name for the line of eleven syllables that he uses in no less than forty of the epigrams I-LX. The first line of his libellus represents its most usual form, opening with a spondee, i.e. two long syllables; the last syllable of the line in this and the other metres he uses can be indifferently long or short.

Cui do|no lepidum|nouum|libellum?


“Return my napkin then or expect
Three hundred hendecasyllables”

The Plan

Philadelphia, PA (PHL) to Kiev Borispol, Ukraine (KBP)

Total Travel Time: 13hrs 55min

Wed, Jul 06 08:25 PM to
08:30 AM
Arrive next day
Philadelphia, PA (PHL) to
London Gatwick, UK (LGW)
7hrs 5min - nonstop
US AirwaysAirlines US Airways Flight 98
Airbus 330 Jet- Economy

Stop - Change planes in London Gatwick, UK (LGW)
Connection Time: 3 hrs 30 min

Thu, Jul 07 12:00 PM to
05:20 PM
London Gatwick, UK (LGW) to
Kiev Borispol, Ukraine (KBP)
3hrs 20min - nonstop
Ukraine Intl ArlnsAirlines Ukraine Intl Arlns Flight 502
Boeing 737 Jet- Economy

Kiev Borispol, Ukraine (KBP) to Philadelphia, PA (PHL)

Total Travel Time: 13hrs 35min

Wed, Aug 03 09:00 AM to
10:30 AM
Kiev Borispol, Ukraine (KBP) to
London Gatwick, UK (LGW)
3hrs 30min - nonstop
Ukraine Intl ArlnsAirlines Ukraine Intl Arlns Flight 501
Boeing 737 Jet- Economy

Stop - Change planes in London Gatwick, UK (LGW)
Connection Time: 2 hrs 0 min

Wed, Aug 03 12:30 PM to
03:35 PM
London Gatwick, UK (LGW) to
Philadelphia, PA (PHL)
8hrs 5min - nonstop
US AirwaysAirlines US Airways Flight 99
Airbus 330 Jet- Economy

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Putting Our Importance in Perspective - The Great Eddystone Humanism Debate Revisted

The debate over the extent to which Kyle is a humanist should be settled once and for all. I propose an Eddystone Borough Council decision on the matter once all sides are able to present their respective cases. This is a call to arms. The outcome could determine the tone of Eddystone politics for years to come. The first task is to define what humanism is.

Since we don’t have any of the necessary initial statements from the parties involved, I would like to post an excerpt from Nietzsche that I feel correctly places the importance of our consciousness in perspective:

"In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of "world history"—yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.

One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no further mission that would lead beyond human life. It is human, rather, and only its owner and producer gives it such importance, as if the world pivoted around it. But if we could communicate with the mosquito, then we would learn that he floats through the air with the same self-importance, feeling within itself the flying center of the world. There is nothing in nature so despicable or insignificant that it cannot immediately be blown up like a bag by a slight breath of this power of knowledge; and just as every porter wants an admirer, the proudest human being, the philosopher, thinks that he sees on the eyes of the universe telescopically focused from all sides on his actions and thoughts.

It is strange that this should be the effect of the intellect, for after all it was given only as an aid to the most unfortunate, most delicate, most evanescent beings in order to hold them for a minute in existence, from which otherwise, without this gift, they would have every reason to flee as quickly as Lessing's son. [In a famous letter to Johann Joachim Eschenburg (December 31, 1778), Lessing relates the death of his infant son, who "understood the world so well that he left it at the first opportunity."] That haughtiness which goes with knowledge and feeling, which shrouds the eyes and senses of man in a blinding fog, therefore deceives him about the value of existence by carrying in itself the most flattering evaluation of knowledge itself. Its most universal effect is deception; but even its most particular effects have something of the same character."

Friedrich Nietzsche "On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense”

See also "The Nietzsche Channel"

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The End of the World

Dear Guy in the subway handing out pamphlets about the end of the world,

When things get this bad, I will take your pamphlets more seriously:

“The papacy was powerless and almost comically corrupt. One pope’s mistress, Marozia, made her bastard son and grandson popes in their turn, and is said to have arranged the murder of another pontiff. John XII, her grandson, was deposed by Emperor Otto I in 963 on the grounds that he had ordained a deacon in a stable at an improper season, turned the papal palace into a brother, castrated a cardinal, drunk the devil’s health, and invoked the aid of Jupiter and Venus while playing at dice. Pontificates were quickly fatal; three in succession lasted, respectively, four months, one month, seventeen days. Within a century six popes were assassinated and two were starved to death in prison. The French bishops declared at a council in 991: ‘We seem to be witnessing the coming of Antichrist, for this is the falling away of which the apostle speaks.’”

“The Middle Ages” by Morris Bishop. P.36

8/13/05 -- Found this in the Economist.

Eminent Domain

I doubt you could find a socialist who agrees with the recent court decision Kelo v. New London, in which the conservative majority decided that the government can take your land and sell it to commercial and real estate developers. Last time I checked conservatives saw private property as something almost holy, but I guess not anymore. If your land is taken by the state so that the local citizens have better access to a Dollar Store and a Blockbuster, that is not bad. Its only bad if a socialist government does it. If a government that praises free market economies does it, its not bad for some reason.

It is true that you receive just compensation, but some things cannot be compensated. Imagine if a house has been in your family for generations, or if you put a lot of your own energy into building it up over time.

This just proves that the free market junkies will drop all of their convictions for $$$$$$$$$.

Court Ruling Leaves Poor at Greatest Risk

The Actual Ruling (PDF)

Congress assails domain ruling

Even Congress's "lone self-described socialist, Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont" doesn't like Kelo

Relevant Cartoons

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Only John Ashberry Poem I Understand

John Ashberry

What name do I have for you?
Certainly there is no name for you
In the sense that the stars have names
That somehow fit them. Just walking around,

An object of curiosity to some,
But you are too preoccupied
By the secret smudge in the back of your soul
To say much, and wander around,

Smiling to yourself and others
It gets to be kind of lonely
But at the same time off-putting
Counterproductive, as you realize once again

That the longest way is the most efficient way,
That one that looped among islands, and
You always seemed to be traveling in a circle.
And now that end is near

The segments of the trip swing open like an orange .
There is light in there, and mystery and food.
Come see it. Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other.

A Common Misperception

One of the most damaging misperceptions I have ever held to be true is that people have more respect for those that go from a low position in life to higher one than they do for those who are born into an advantageous position in life and remain there. This isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of people who will respect you for overcoming obstacles in life, because there are many that will. It is to say that it is not advantageous to any person to advertise or let it be known that they did not come from an advantageous position in life because people are pre-disposed to respect those who were born into their positions.

When I first arrived at College this idea was like a cracked pipe waiting to rupture and cause devastation. For me it did not break all at once, instead it slowly leaked over time and led me from one embarrassing humiliation to another. It is not difficult to find the sources of this misperception. On one hand the lower classes tell each other these things ("you have something they can never buy" type statements) to convince themselves that they do in fact have something that people in economically superior positions not only do not have, but cannot attain. On the other, the middle and upper middle classes learned long ago to internalize all racist and class based sentiment to the point where the only evidence one can find of it is in their decision making – who they choose to be friends with and so on. A third way that this misperception is disseminated is through popular culture, for instance movies wherein two suitors are vying for a girls attention, and one of them, the bad one, seems to have had everything – good looks and money – handed to him (Meet the Parents is one that comes to mind).

The reality of the matter is that the poor kid has absolutely nothing to offer the rich kid. Rich kids are better at the things poor kids are supposedly better suited for such as handling adversity. One could argue that because one person has seen much more adversity than another, he is better at handling adversity, but the opposite is true. The rich (forgive my crude terms) or the pampered are better at handling adversity because they have a strong foundation. It is helpful to think about it in terms of flinching. A person who is hit frequently as a child is fully aware of what the pain of physical violence feels like. When they encounter what they think is physical violence, they will recoil. This is not always the case but I believe it is usual. For the kid who has never experienced great adversity, he does not all of these fear inducing concepts to hold him down. It translates into confidence, and as everyone knows, confidence is a self fulfilling prophecy. A friend of mine who visited Gettysburg made the revealing observation that the students at Gettysburg looked more robust than their working class counterparts. They are more robust, and the difference is not limited to physical appearance. They are like plants that have been raised in the most ideal conditions, perfectly suited, now that they are grown, for adversity of all types.

“And that is how our children – I mean, not yours but ours, sir, the children of the despised but noble poor learn the truth on earth when they are just nine years old. The rich ones – what do they know. In their whole lives they never sound such depths, and my Ilyushanka at that very moment went through the whole truth. This truth sir, entered into him and crushed him forever.”
“Brothers Karamazov” P.206

I cannot say that Ilyusha’s learning so much about life is worthless. There is an entire facet of this that I am ignoring, but what I am saying is that Ilyusha in most ways has no advantage over “the rich” ones. This truth, the truth of the harshness of life that the poor learn so young, almost always crushes them in one way or another. It is not something one can leave behind once they learn it. It is always there to harass. People who are unencumbered by this burden of truth have an advantage in almost every respect except one – producing meaningful art.

I understand that I have presented an unreal division between rich and poor, and that it is entirely possible for a poor kid to be more pampered than one who is rich. Officer, I did it to get my ideas across. I also understand that there is a lot of value in the “truths” poor kids learn, but as I have stated, my point is not to encourage people from “humble” backgrounds to turn their backs on their past, but to encourage them to not advertise their personal history, because there is no advantage to it. It is only advantageous in our closest relationships with friends and in the production of art. Aside from that, we are left only with vanity.

“Let me, if not by birth, have lands by wit
All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.”
Edmund from “King Lear” (the villain)


“Now the rest had sat down, and were orderly in their places,
but one man, Thersites of the endless speech, still scolded,
who knew within his head many words, but disorderly;
vain, and without decency, to quarrel with the princes
with any word he thought might be amusing to the Argives.
... brilliant Odysseus swiftly
came beside him scowling and laid a harsh word upon him:
"Fluent orator though you be, Thersites, your words are
ill-considered. Stop, nor stand up alone against princes.
Of all of those who came beneath Ilion with Atreides
I assert there is no worse than you are. Therefore
you shall not lift up your mouth to argue with princes,
cast reproaches into their teeth, nor sustain the homegoing

So he spoke and dashed the sceptre against his back and
shoulders, and he doubled over, and a round tear dropped from him,
and a bloody welt stood up between his shoulders and under
the golden sceptres stroke, and he sat down again,
in pain, and looking helplessly about wiped off the tear drops
Sorry though the men were they laughed over him happily”

Iliad, Book II 211-270


This is what I have been saying for some time, that Jonathan Newman, who I suspect is a free trade junky, is one of the greatest socialists the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has ever known (an observation I am tempted to tell him in writing). His performance proves that state run enterprise can work, but like anything else, it takes hard work and innovation. Now instead of the money going to some shareholders bank account it is being used for the common good. Just imagine if we could do the same with other vices that are never going to go away.

"Indeed, it's not out of the question that Newman could do what Mikhail Gorbachev couldn't: Make a socialist enterprise sufficiently entrepreneurial and consumer-friendly to survive."
-Andrew Cassel (resident free trade junkie at the Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Museum

“Throughout the 1990s biennials and other art events were founded across the globe, while cities built new museums of contemporary art, or expanded old ones. The activities of these museums became steadily more commercial as they internalized corporate models of activity, establishing alliances with business, bringing their products closer to commercial culture, and modeling themselves less on libraries than shops and theme parks.”

“Art Incorporated” by Julian Stallabrass p14 2004.

The museum is the best job I have ever had, (though still not good enough to tolerate for an extended period of time). The people, at least on my level of the workforce, were goodhearted and intelligent, and I don’t use these adjectives in some clichéd sense because they sound nice. They really exemplified these particular qualities. It felt good to be in a place where my usual social paranoia was assuaged and I could just be myself, and the people were intelligent enough to have conversations that were fruitful in themselves, as opposed to noise to avoid awkwardness.

Now we are done with the good parts; on to the inevitable bad. It felt like the artists, the cultural equivalents of the people who actually made the artwork hanging up in the museum, were always at the bottom with the worst jobs in the museum. To be in a management position one had to be a white girl from a middle class background with no passion for art with training in a corporate field. That is why I like the excerpt above so much, and particularly the sentence “internalized corporate models of activity.” The management of the museum has a love affair with these perfect (though useless) white girls with huge engagement rings, and particularly with corporate models of activity (though the department I worked in had notable exceptions and was free of these people up to a certain level) .

For example, I was working in the coatroom during a special event. A special event occurs when the museum is essentially set up to be a cheesey night club ( the first Batman) after hours wherein a specific corporation would have the Dali exhibit all to itself. I would hang up their coats and listen to their Dali chatter. For the most part the people were nice though there were some exceptions (I would list them, but every group had nice people). On this particular night I was by myself, which wasn’t a big deal, but “special events,” one of the more corporate departments in the museum who had no problem trashing a room for you to clean up the next day, felt that only having one person in the coat room was giving a bad image to the corporation which in attendance. They instructed some of their younger ones to go into the coat room to give off the image of having two people, but this did not imply, as one might think, that they would actually have to hang any coats up. That would be demeaning. So there I was hanging up coats with a useless white girl next to me just standing there because they were too good to hang up coats.

The point to this example is that I think the museum should stop hiring these people and drop its love affair with corporate models of activity. A place like the museum should be filled with people who are passionate about art, not people who are just trying to get an easy semi-prestigious job so they can tell people they work at the museum, and definitely not people who feel they are too good to hang up a coat. There are plenty of intelligent, hard working art graduates out there willing to devote themselves to something like the museum, and one does not have to have a degree in communications to sit in on meetings all day. Keep corporate America and all of its dogmas out of the museum. Fine art is already too isolated from certain portions of society to be hiring perfect little rich girls to control its destiny.

It must be noted that I was completely cut off from the artistic part of the museum (i.e. conservationists and curators) though I assume they are people are dedicated to art, and had to endure a great deal and competition to get where they are. I think the museum is, on some level, concerned with ensuring everyone is able to see the art it collects, and it sees its close ties to corporate America as a necessary evil in that quest. Unfortunately, by having these “gala” events the museum is playing right into its stereotype as a place that is foremost a social tool for the rich with a secondary role as a museum during the day.

Another issue is that there is always an air of bankruptcy at the museum. Many answers to visitor questions went something along the lines of "well we need to do this because otherwise we would go under." The reason why I don’t buy this excuse is because I think the museum is financially well off, it just makes it seem as though it is not. I think it is unfortunate that the arts everywhere are starving, but these huge city wide art museums are rolling in cash yet they still demand more. It seems as though the museum has taken in the dogma of economic growth; a kind of manifest destiny for the museum that that sees more wealth as always preferable to making the museum a better place to see artwork. I can say with confidence that if any institution cannot survive with the money that museum is making, changes should be made.

What I believe is happening (and I could be wrong) is that when the museum gets more money it expands its operations or collection to the point where it needs more money. Not that this is a bad thing in itself, but the money could probably be better spent, for instance in art programs in public schools that really do reach out to the entire population. When a corporation gives money to the Philadelphia museum of art it isn’t really moving the money that far away from itself. It is shoring up its own interests.

I originally wrote this about two weeks after after I stopped working (mid May). Not long after, the answer to all of the money grubbing showed up on the front page of the newspaper. This is a colossal waste of resources for. How many masterpieces can one imbibe in a day?

PMA Expansion

And some snazzy graphics to go along…