Friday, January 08, 2010

It’s the first New Year’s Ramble [updated]

Happy New Year everyone.  I trust you’ve been having an enjoyable summer, and a great start to the year.  Here’s your first ramble for the year, some of the best liberty links around during this silly season.

 

  • The “stationary” Ady Gil was "rammed," say the Sea Shepherds. But it’s hard to be “stationary” when your boat has a wake. . .
     http://bit.ly/8yPJcy

  • The ACT Coup has been FaceBooked. Hilarious
    http://bit.ly/92KFIn

  • Joke of the Day, 67 Years Ago, Explains Why We're Losing the War Against Islamist Totalitarianism Today
    http://bit.ly/6qCaKo

  • Ben Bernanke: Man of the Year, or 'A Deer in the Headlights'?
    'A Deer in the Headlights'

  • The central problem, say George Reisman & Robert Klein in Barron’s, is the central bank. “The Federal Reserve's easy-money madness must end.”
    Central Problem: the Central Bank

  • Harry Binswanger damns the two new AynRand biographies in a comment at the Volokh Conspiracy: I knew AynRand, he says, and she was nothing like the Ayn Rand in those two books. [hat tip Lindsay Perigo]
    http://bit.ly/4GAv2F

  • Binswanger also said as much in a letter to the New York Times back in November:
    ”Adam Kirsch’s review [of Ann Heller’s Rand bio] repeats a story from Bennett Cerf’s 1977 autobiography At Random about Rand’s response when Cerf asked her to cut Galt’s speech: ‘Would you cut the Bible?’ she supposedly said. When Cerf’s book came out, I asked Rand about the story. With obvious indignation, she replied, ‘I never said that — the Bible needs cutting.’
        “In general, the portrait of Rand contained in the review [and the bio] clashes dramatically with the Rand whom I first met in 1964 and with whom I was good friends in her final years. The Rand I knew was a unique combination of disciplined rationality and emotional intensity. Well, not completely unique: there are also the fictional heroes she created.”

  • "The Source and Nature of Rights (Part I)"
    http://bit.ly/6snybA

  • Bosch Fawstin reviews Avatar: "A good looking piece of shit." http://www.solopassion.com/node/7265

  • Finally someone has a solution for that expensive eyesore Te Papa: "Blow it up and start again." It can’t happen too soon.
    http://bit.ly/6uTkbp

  • How come "It’s Always the End of the World as We Know It"? wonders Denis Dutton in the New York Times.
    http://bit.ly/8KANlg

  • Can you beat the market? Can an Austrian would-be investor resist becoming a permabear? Calandro says "Yes you can!"
    http://bit.ly/8uBj0c

  • No better off since 2000? Neither was the US economy. Take a look at the US economy's lost decade:
    http://blog.mises.org/archives/011378.asp

  • If the monetary base has exploded (and it has) then how can the Fed possibly avoid explosive price inflation?
    http://bit.ly/6QRMUb

  • Meanwhile, in the Northern Hemisphere . . .
    ttm191901cc_rgb_onl_661678a [hat tip Inquiring Mind]

  • “Karl Rove is a damned hypocrite.” [hat tip Ari Armstrong]
    cato-at-liberty.o...

  • Here’s some New Year’s Predictions you haven’t seen, but should have: the gathering economic storm clouds of 2010.
    New Year Predictions You Haven’t Seen

  • The Home Office sends an Open Letter to John Minto.
    An Open Letter to John Minto

  • “Reading Homer’s Odyssey … I came across a passage which I think is very indicative of the difference between the ancient Greeks’ attitudes and those of the (Plato-inspired) Christian ones which followed. The Classical Greeks thought of life as meaning life on this earth and were the first, and perhaps still the best, practitioners of a true mind-body integration. These fundamental attitudes are instrumental in explaining why the classical world was so culturally and materially successful, and why, when the Christians substituted the opposite approach, they ended up with a thousand years of stagnation and decline. . . ”
    Odysseus and Achilles

  • Our Australian Objectivist friend Prodos has a whole slate of great films organised for 2010 for the PRODOS Film Society (Melbourne, Australia). Great idea. Here's the full list (2 MB PDF file).
    PRODOS Film Society 2010 program

  • Here’s John Stossell on Ayn Rand’s relevance:

    Keep an eye out for Stossell’s Ayn Rand special, which should be appearing on the interweb soon.

              And finally, this poetic thought for you from the editors of the New Zealand Week:

              T'was the first week of new year
              and all through the house
              not a politician was stirring
              not even a louse.

              Enjoy your weekend!

              Labels:

              SUMMER SIX-PACK: Architecture, creative destruction & some rules on objective journalism

              Another six-pack of gold from the archives to add to your summer reading. Enjoy!

              * * * *

              Friday, September 07, 2007

              "There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion"

                  Would-be pundits such as Brian Gaynor et al who offer their opinions on the collapses and troubles in finance houses might want to add to their researches the two subjects "malinvestment" (a misallocation of resources often following a period of artificially excessive credit) and "creative destruction" (that “process of industrial mutation … that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”—two concepts every would-be economic pundit needs to have in their kitbag, or else be considered misinformed.
                  Without that understanding the various pundits are unable to see the malinvested writing on the wall, and unqualified to realise how important it is to everyone to let the creative destruction rip—not to prop it up. Writing in 1949, Ludwig von Mises might have been talking to today's pundits-of-ignorance:

                  “There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as the final and total catastrophe of the currency involved.”

                  If only the pundits were listening. There are no shortcuts to the inevitable. Tell failing finance houses "Screw up and we will bail you out," and what do you think that will do to the number of screw ups, and to the amount of extra risk the screw-ups take with your money?

              * * * *

              Tuesday, November 13, 2007

              Objective journalism? Non-neutrality is objective, stupid

                  What a fantastic cartoon in The Herald on the Clark Government's democracy rationing, following up yesterday's front page effort!

                  Now as you might have heard, The Herald has drawn criticism from the commentariat for not being "neutral" in taking against Clark's democracy rationing. But objective journalism does not mean neutrality. That’s just flat wrong. The premise here is that if you have a point of view, then you can't possibly be objective. But as Paul Blair explains, "that's just plain false."

                  “An objective report gives the audience all the information needed to draw a valid conclusion... But facts lead to conclusions. Just because one doesn't want to accept those conclusions doesn't make the facts wrong or the presentation non-objective: rather, the person who resists the logical conclusion is the one who lacks objectivity... Being objective means recognizing that not everybody's point of view is equally valid or deserves equal respect.”
                   Over to you, critics.

              * * * *

              Thursday, February 16, 2006

              Those dirty Americans

                  News just in from BATTLE CREEK, Michigan, USA—the former stamping ground of dirty old Dr Kellogg, doctor at the Battle Creek Sanitarium and inventer of the eponymous corn flakes—that “a man who pleaded no contest to a sodomy charge involving a sheep says he should not have to register as a sex offender...”
                  Hah! Time, I think to turn the tables.  Time for some sheep jokes about Americans for a change.

              • A Canadian bloke was walking down the street in Michigan when he saw a farmer going hammers and tongs on a sheep. The Canack yelled out, "Hey mate, in Canada we shear our sheep." The American turned around and said, "Piss off mate, I'm sharing none of this."
              • Q: What do you call safe sex in Michigan?
                A:Marking an 'X' on the sheep that kick.
              • 'A Michigan Nursery Rhyme'
                Mary had a little sheep
                With the sheep she went to sleep
                The sheep turned out to be a ram...
                Mary Had A Little Lamb.
              • A Canadian farmer and a Man From Michigan were walking out in the field one day and they spotted a sheep tangled in the wire fence.. "Wow!" said the Canack. "I wish that was a woman all tangled up in that there fence." Said the Man From Michigan, "I just wish it was dark!"
              • An American walks into his bedroom with a sheep under his arm and says: "Darling, this is the pig I have sex with when you have a headache." His girlfriend is lying in bed and replies, "I think you'll find that's a sheep, you idiot." The man says, "I think you'll find that I wasn't talking to you."
                   That man from Michigan would be right at home in Brigend, Co. Donegal, Ireland, where a some years ago a publican installed some sheep in a house behind his pub for the pleasure of his patrons. He was convicted of running a brothel. (Yes, that’s a true story). So in honour of that publican:
              • Q: What do you call four sheep tied to a lampost in Donegal
                A: An Irish leisure centre
              • Q: What do you call an Irishman with a sheep under his arm?
                A: A pimp.
              • Q: What do you call an Irishman with sheep under one arm, and a goat under the other? A: A bisexual.

                  And finally, just to finish off (so to speak), there's a message to sheep-shaggers at this link.

              * * * * *

              Friday, May 05, 2006

              Robie House - Frank Lloyd Wright


              PosterRobieHouse

                  From the Chicago of 1906 comes Frank Lloyd Wright's house for the Robie family. (As it is today, here). Forward-thinking living room section showing environmental appurtenances here. And the floor plans here adumbrating Wright’s revolution in space planning. 
                  In many ways the culmination of Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Prairie House' phase in both drama and spatial sophistication, the Robie House of 1908-10 is currently undergoing restoration to restore it to its former glory, before reopening as a fully restored architectural house museum on May 1, 2010. 
                  Story here at Prairie Mod, and more details including pictures here at the FL Wright Preservation Trust.
                  And even more pictures here, including the original presentation sketch

              * * * *

              Wednesday, May 27, 2009

              Von Sternberg House – Richard Neutra

              ftsl01_neutra

                  I was sure I’d blogged this house before, but for the life of me I can’t find a decent post on it. (Well, apart from this one.)
                  This is by far my favourite house by Neutra (pronounced NOI-tra). Designed in 1934 for film director Joseph von Sternberg, director of Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel.  (Von Sternberg famously insisted that there be no door locks on the bathrooms, in case a temperamental actor or actress or two decided to end it all in the stalls.)

              ftsl06_neutra   “’I selected a distant meadow,’ von Sternberg recounted later, ‘in the midst of an empty landscape, barren and forlorn, to make a retreat for myself, my books, and my collection of modern art.’ 
                  “The building’s major space was a double-height living area surrounded by a balcony that was used as an art gallery. Displayed there were works by Gauguin, Kandinsky, Matisse, Léger, de Chirico, Kokoschka, Brancusi and Archipenko. Von Sternberg’s mirrored bath and bedroom, with a view of the rooftop reflecting pool, were the only rooms on the second floor.
                  “On the first level, east of the living area, lay a studio and kitchen, followed by staff quarters and the garages, one for regular cars and a larger one for the Rolls-Royce. A specially designed space for the owner’s huge dogs was behind the garage. To enliven the otherwise simple, aluminium-clad façade, Neutra designed—in the best Hollywood manner—a series of remarkable “special effects,” which extended into the landscape. Most prominent was the high curvilinear wall around the front patio, which emphasized the streamlined personality of the house. A shallow moat-like lily pool surrounded the wall and, in broken stretches, the entire house. A long thin wall extended from the west façade, exaggerating the house’s size and dividing the front and rear gardens.”

                  Head to the house’s website here to see a stunning slideshow of the Julius Shulman photographs of the house and, if you don’t already know, to discover which influential novelist lived here after Von Sternberg, where she began the novel that has come to define our times – the novelist who described the house as “unbelievably wonderful.”

                  “Later, in answering a query from a fan, she [the novelist] described it as being ‘extremely modern—made of steel, glass and concrete, mostly glass. So you see, I’m the kind of ballplayer who endorses only what she really smokes—and smokes only what she really endorses.’”

              * * * *

              Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

              What Architecture is All About

                  Now we're at the halfway point of our architectural debate over at my main blog 'Not PC,' here's a very brief meditation on what, at bottom, architecture is really all about: In five words or less, it’s this: giving meaning to our lives. Or to use the words of the late Claude Megson, "If it doesn't have meaning, then you're just wanking." 
                  Simple, huh? Read on now for the thousand-word meditation...

                  WHEN HILLARY AND TENZING reached the top of Everest for the first time, the story goes that Tenzing fell to his knees and gave thanks to the spirits that had helped their journey; he prayed to each of the four winds, and he carefully placed in the ground a small stake on which prayer ribbons were attached. While he was doing this, Hillary stuck a flag in the ground, unzipped his fly and took a piss.
                  We each mark our territory in very different ways. But we do each mark our territory.
                  We make buildings to keep the rain off, and in doing so we raise a crown over our head and mark out from the world our own space below; we mark out for ourselves a place in the world by building a campfire that we keep burning and around which we make comfortable for ourselves, or by raising high our own totem that seems to say “here I am!”; we recognise the important rituals we’ve built into our own lives by making these rituals concrete, literally making them concrete, and by doing so we are saying, “This is important.” We erect buildings to perform some useful function, and in the act of erecting them they unavoidably perform another crucial useful or symbolic function for us: they embody our values. They tell us we exist.
                  Buildings are a concrete expression of values – the values of the people who designed, erected and occupy them.
                  Like every art, architecture is a shortcut to our philosophy. In building architecture we erect an armature that will support ourselves and our important values, and offer us as well a place from which to look out on the world around us. Amongst the myriad of ways this can be done , we choose the one that does it for us. It is a shortcut to our philosophy – which is why our choices are often so personal to us. The way it does that is as an extension of ourselves.
                  “Architecture,” as Aldo van Eyck once said, “is about making a ‘home for man’.” The space we build is space for human life, for us to inhabit, and from which we can emerge to 'do battle.' It is a place that expresses what a home for man looks like, smells like and sprawls like; it is here that we begin to find the meaning in architecture: the meaning resides in how it makes its home for man.
                  In the act of making and placing our buildings in the world, we make decisions about what’s important in the world. What values need to be 'built in' and made concrete. What should we include from around us? What should we keep out? Early morning sun is good; later afternoon sun isn’t. Gentle breezes are good inside the house; heavy rain is not; views of the lake and the trees and the beautiful hills about us are wonderful – views of the local slaughterhouse are not.
                  Some of these things are highly contextual. Early morning sun is good in Reykjavik, but not always in Dubai in mid-summer. Later afternoon sun is bad in most parts of the world, but in Murmansk, inside the Arctic Circle, “late afternoon” extends for several months, and is always a welcome guest. Gentle breezes in Hawaii are welcome; in Siberia they’re called a draught. A view of the local slaughterhouse from your lounge window might be highly prized if you’re … okay, I’m stretching on this last one.
                  The fact remains nonetheless that the choices we make about how we build our shelter, mark our place and decide what functions our building serves for us define something both about us, and about the place we make -- and about the context in which we make it.

                  WE NEED TO BUILD. Animals adapt themselves to nature, and they’re already adapted to do that. Humans can’t. We adapt nature to ourselves. We must. Unlike animals with their multiple defences against the world, our means of survival is our reasoning brain: on its own this offers no physical defence against predation, and no guarantee of survival: we learn to use our brain to plan, to invent, to create; to understand the nature of the world around us and to make sense of it and to adapt it to ourselves, to make of it a place in which we are protected, and in which we can feel ourselves at home.
                  We need buildings to shelter us, and not just in the physical sense of shelter. We need a place that is a home: our place, wherein we see ourselves and our own values reflected back, including the value of the home itself.
                  Good architecture then is not just functional on the bare physical plane. We've been out of the caves long enough to do much better than that. “A house is a machine for living,” declared Le Corbusier on behalf of today's cave dwellers. “But only if the heart is a suction pump,’ responded Frank Lloyd Wright. Architecture is not just shelter; it is not just ‘marking a spot’: its function is also to delight.
                  Bread and water nourish our stomachs; we need also to nourish our souls. Thirteenth-century Persian poet Muslih-uddin Saadi Shirazi offered this wisdom:

              If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft
              And from thy slender store
              Two loaves alone to thee are left
              Sell one, and with the dole
              Buy hyacinths to feed the soul.

                  Buy hyacinths to feed the soul . . . but only if your heart is not a suction pump.
                  What good architecture does then is to deal with the totality of a human existence, to provide at one level the support structure to make human life possible, and at another much richer level to express back to us what it means to be human by giving a sense of place to all our occasions, by building in all our important rituals, by connecting us to what is meaningful in our lives: To sunrises and sunsets; to the sharing of food together; to relaxing with friends; to having time and space for contemplation and for conversation, and for rest, and for sex -- and for rest and contemplation (and conversation) after (and during) sex.
                  That’s about as important as a job gets, right?
                  Writing about Ferraris, PJ O’Rourke expressed it this way: “Only God can make a tree, but only man can drive by one at 250mph.” THAT is the feeling good architecture should communicate! We take the material that nature provides, and the needs that we have, and those moments where we say to ourselves, “Ah, this is what being alive is all about!” and we give those needs wings and we build in and celebrate those moments, and by doing so we express our lives, and we help bring meaning to them.
                  What could be more important?

              *** PS:  if you want to think about architecture a bit more deeply, may I humbly offer a piece written a few years back as a book review: 'What Architecture Is.'

              It begins by boldly declaring what architecture is not ...

              *** And if you're already emboldened to read much more about architecture than this humble blogger can provide, here's a suggested reading list on architecture to help you begin your own architecture library. Enjoy the adventure.

              * * * *

              Labels:

              Thursday, January 07, 2010

              SUMMER SIX-PACK: Whales, Christians, babies, beer & credit!

              Six more of the best from the NOT PC archives. Enjoy!

              * * * *

              Wednesday, January 11, 2006

              Opening a whole new can of whales

                  We eat cows. The Japanese eat whales. The only difference is that cows are privately owned, and whales are much larger. Despite the hand-wringing over the killing and eating of whales , it's no more nor less barbaric than the killing and eating of cows.
                  Fact is, if you don’t like where food comes from, then don’t eat it yourself.
                  But here's what really is barbaric: trying to stop whaling by sinking whalers with a 'can opener' -- as the self-appointed Sea Shepherds have done nine times before. Meeting these efforts with defensive force -- as the Japanese whalers have now asked their military to do -- is simple prudence. Good for them. When you're being rammed by a ship with a 'can-opener' attached, being piloted by people intent on sinking you, why wouldn't you defend yourself?
                  In that context, Jeanette Fitzsimon's call to have a New Zealand frigate sent to protect "the safety of our citizens on the protest ships" is worse than stupid. Much like she is really. Best she stick to marketing her Green Organic Defoliant.
                  PS: Robert Winefield's comment below on Green inconsistency is worth highlighting:

                  “The fact that Fitzsimons wants the RNZN to fight the Japs over a bunch of sodding whales just shows you how idiotic she and her minions are. Do the Greenz not provide the Minister for Disarmament from within their own ranks?
                  “Sure, let Osama and Saddam rape, kill and torture MEN, WOMEN and CHILDREN in Iraq and Afghanistan and it's ‘How dare anyone raise arms against them.’ 
                  “But harm one hair on some blubbery sea-beast... and it's ‘let's send in the navy!!!’"

              PPS: Samizdata contributor James Waterton makes socially responsible whale-meat of the arguments made against minke-whaling by anti-whaling zealots. "Soft-headed, shallow and emotionally driven," he calls the points raised by Greenpeace's eco-pirates. And you thought I was harsh.

               

              * * * *

              Monday, December 15, 2008

              Police investigating greens?

              The Sunday Star Times published claims yesterday that a police intelligence unit was spying on Greenpeace protestors.

              Since this was the same Sunday Star Slime (and the same so-called reporters) that not so long ago published claims that Tariana Turia was being bugged by the SIS – a claim investigated and subsequently demolished by Justice Paul Neazor, who called it "a work of fiction"  – you’ll forgive me if I don’t lend any credence to the report without better evidence than that provided by Nicky Hager and Anthony Hubbard.

              But let’s assume for argument’s sake that the claim is true.  Then so what? I’d be far more surprised if green groups weren’t being investigated. After all, the groups said to be under investigation are said to include the likes of Safe Animals from Exploitation (SAFE), Peace Action Wellington, GE-free groups, and Save Happy Valley, all of which are law-breakers – as is their ‘mother ship’  Greenpeace, who if you’ll remember were supporters of the likes of the Sea Shepherd, which spends time in freezing Antarctic waters trying to sink Japanese whaling ships with all the lives on board. 

              These people are not part of a knitting circle.

              • SAFE have a history of breaking and entering, and destroying people’s property. 
              • It was GE-free groups who broke into Lincoln University a few years back and destroyed experiments worth millions (and, incidentally, risked spreading the GE virus against which they were protesting). 
              • And Save Happy Valley and Peace Action Wellington are nothing like as benevolent as they sound: members of both these groups have been arrested and investigated in the past for wilful damage, and both were included in those arrested last year as part of the Te Qaeda/Urewera 17 operations. 

              So even if the Sunday Star Slime’s claim were proven, if these groups are being investigated then it simply means the police are doing their job.

              PS:  If you harbour peaceful feelings about any of these groups, do yourself a favour and search Trevor Loudon’s blog for information on what they get up to, and what they’re involved with.  You’ll raise more than just your eyebrows.  Here’s a few links just to get you started:  Greenpeace, Peace Action Wellington, Save Happy Valley Coalition and animal rights groups.   Says Trevor, “Can't think why the police would be interested in these people. Any ideas?”

              * * * *

              Wednesday, August 02, 2006

              What's wrong with designer babies?

                  Otago University Researchers have been very quick to affirm that the start to government funding* for genetic screening of human embryos for birth defects will not mean designer babies.
              But why shouldn't it? What's wrong with choosing characteristics of your offspring if that's scientifically possible? Why limit parents to selecting for sex only on compassionate grounds? It's very good news that a complete handbrake on this life-affirming work hasn't been applied, but why has any been applied at all?
                  "We shouldn't play God," say religionists motivated by religious dogma -- who say it's wrong to end the suffering "chosen by God," and wrong even to stop suffering beginning -- who say that screening for genetic defects "cheapens human life," when in fact it does exactly the opposite.
                  This isn't playing God -- it's being precisely and heroically human.
                  "We shouldn't meddle with nature," say commentators, without perhaps realising that meddling with nature is exactly how we human beings stay alive: from morning to night, from birth to a hopefully far-off death, our lives and longevity are made possible precisely because we do meddle with nature.
              Staying alive because of advanced medical technology is not 'natural' -- if Nature had her way we'd all be dead at thirty or less once our teeth decay and our bodies start failing -- in fact staying alive at all is unnatural. If we didn't meddle with nature to produce food, we wouldn't even be alive. 'Meddling' with nature keeps us alive.
                  Constructing and living in buildings 'meddles with nature' -- if Nature had her way we'd still be in caves instead of planting crops, breeding animals, building dams and abattoirs and factories and oil rigs and hospitals and cyclotrons and skyscapers ... all examples of how we 'meddle with nature' to make our lives better. Indeed, these are the very means by which we human beings stay alive.
                  You see, unlike other animals, man, the rational animal, cannot live as nature delivered us into the world -- naked, unarmed, without the claws, the fur, the sharp teeth of other animals. Without our brains and the science and the industry and the food and the shelter and the clothing we produce by applying our brains to nature, we'd die. The first man who hunted down and killed and ate another animal was meddling with nature, as he was when he began making the weapon to do it with. Man as a species has to discover and produce for himself all the values needed for survival and flourishing.  Everything we do 'meddles with nature' -- we investigate, we rearrange, we tinker, we plan, and by so doing we work to make human life much better, much longer, and more abundant.
                  That, by the way, is a good thing.
                  Trish Grant from the IHC, on the other hand, who says that this research "devalues the lives of those children who are living with a disability" is just talking errant nonsense. What hatred of human beings she must have to demand that other human beings live with crippling dieases just so her charges (she says) can feel better about themselves. She would condemn other human beings to live by her choice with Downes Syndrome, with achondroplasia, with Marfan syndrome, with Tay-Sachs disease, with cystic fibrosis, with haemophilia, with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, with all the other possible genetic birth defects when it's completely and utterly unnecessary. Meddling with nature to avoid this is good. Not meddling with so as to ensure such suffering is criminal.
                  Technology such as this truly values human life.
                  The real enemies of human life are those who stand in its way.

              -----

              * Yes, the taxpayer is being forced to pay for this. No, you shouldn't have to. Yes, when governments pay for such things, some of those required to pay for it actively object to what their money is paying for, yet their views are just overridden. And yes, that is wrong.
              As
              Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute said recently when commenting on Bush's disgraceful stem-cell veto,

                  “It is only because science today is so dominantly funded by the government that restrictions on [state] funding can wreak the devastation they have--severely hindering a promising area of potentially life-saving medical research.
              "If science were left free, as it should be, funded solely by private sources, a scientist would not have to plead the merits of his work before a majority of politicians, however ignorant or prejudiced by religious or other dogmas they might be."
              LINK: Embryo report calls for changes - TVNZ
              Government versus science - Yaron Brook, Ayn Rand Institute

              * * * *

              Thursday, April 12, 2007

              A Christian nation?

                  WHAT’S THE BASIS OF western civilization? A commenter here at Not PC suggested that religion, specifically Christian religion is the foundation for western civilisation.
                 Now that's a widespread view to be sure, but being widespread doesn’t mean it’s not totally wrong. Which it is.
                  As I said in response to that commenter, "I suspect the Classical Greeks might raise some objections to the proposition, as might several historians of both the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment." If the basis of western civilisation can be described as a focus on reason, individualism and happiness on this earth -- ideas that were a product not of theologians but of Classical Greeks; ideas which were fortunately rediscovered for the west in the Renaissance, and developed further in the Enlightenment -- then far from being any sort of foundation for these ideas, Christian religion is at odds with all of them. (More on that below.)
                  Now, my commenter suggested that as leading proof of his thesis the observation that the US,

                 “a heavily Christian country ... produced 173,771 patents in 2006. Check all Islamic countries since 1700 and you might get 1000.”
                   Now observe that being “heavily Christian” is not a leading cause of scientific inquiry--the Enlightenment focus on reason and this earth is. Fact is, theocracy -- any theocracy -- is bad for free-wheeling scientific research, and it's equally true that religion -- any religion -- is a hindrance rather than a help to scientific research. (Faith and mysticism are not handmaidens to truth, but they are the twin handmaidens of religion, so-called shortcuts to knowledge that are nothing but short-circuits destroying the mind, and destroying science if we would let them.)
                  Observe that the number of patents issued during the Dark Ages, over which the Christian church presided, can be counted on the fingers of one foot. Given that Islam is now enduring its own Dark Ages, it’s no surprise to find that their religious darkness is just as stultifying as our own was.
                  Fact is, the reason for the disparity in those quoted figures is not because there are different religions in the US and in Islamic countries, it is because the influence of religion is far less and far less all-pervasive in the US than it is in the Islamic theocracies. The separation of religion and state was well done by America's Founders.
                  NOW IT MIGHT BE argued here that in fact the US was founded as a Christian country. Well, it wasn't. The Founding Fathers never intended that. John Adams himself declared,
                  “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

                  Read that again just so you take it in:

                  “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

                  That was John Adams totally dismissing the claim. You can't get too much more of a blunt declaration than that. 
                  Fact is, America's revolution was not founded on God or religion, but upon a view of human freedom and a declaration of rights that were both a product of the Enlightenment. As Thomas Jefferson explained (and he would know):

                  “Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, no more than on our opinions in physics and geometry...”

                  So declared Thomas Jefferson. 
                  Fact is, the US was not a nation founded on religion, it was fully a Nation of the Enlightenment, that proud era in human affairs that represented an overthrow of religion and a renaissance of reason. [More quotes in this vein here, courtesy of the Ayn Rand Institute] In fact if religion is anything to America it’s a handbrake, not a bulwark. It’s a threat, not a foundation—which is a  what philosopher Leonard Peikoff maintains.
                  Think about it: Just what did religion bring to history? Founding Father James Madison has the summary:

                  “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise....During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.”

                  Ignorance, superstition, bigotry and persecution. They do not describe western civilisation, but they do describe the Dark Ages to a 'T'; that ordure-strewn wasteland of crosses and graves and misery; those dark centuries over which the Christian church so dolefully presided.
                  As philosopher Leonard Peikoff explains,

                  "The Dark Ages were dark on principle. Augustine fought against secular philosophy, science, art; he regarded all of it as an abomination to be swept aside; he cursed science in particular as "the lust of the eyes". . .
                  “As the barbarians were sacking the body of Rome, the Church was struggling to annul the last vestiges of its spirit, wrenching the West away from nature, astronomy, philosophy, nudity, pleasure, instilling in men's souls the adoration of Eternity, with all its temporal consequences.""

                 The church made Augustine a saint for his views. No wonder. Augustine distinguished between what he called the City of God (based upon faith) and the City of Man (based upon reason) – he praised the former and damned the latter. Concern solely with life on Earth was a sin, he said. For Augustine, man was "crooked and sordid, bespotted and ulcerous."   

                  "Intellectually speaking [concludes Peikoff], the period of the Middle Ages was the exact opposite of classical Greece. Its leading philosophic spokesman, Augustine,
              held that faith was the basis of man's entire mental life. ‘I do not know in
              order to believe,’ he said, ‘I believe in order to know.’ In other words,
              reason is nothing but a handmaiden of revelation; it is a mere adjunct of
              faith, whose task is to clarify, as far as possible, the dogmas of religion.
                  What if a dogma cannot be clarified? So much the better, answered an earlier
              Church father, Tertullian. The truly religious man, he said, delights in
              thwarting his reason; that shows his commitment to faith. Thus, Tertullian's
              famous answer, when asked about the dogma of God's self-sacrifice on the
              cross: ‘Creo quia absurdum. (‘I believe because it is absurd.’)
                  "As to the realm of physical nature, the medievals characteristically
              it as a semi-real haze, a transitory stage in the divine plan, and a
              troublesome one at that, a delusion and a snare - a delusion because men
              mistake it for reality, a snare because they are tempted by its lures to
              jeopardize their immortal souls. What tempts them is the prospect of earthly
              pleasure.
                  "What kind of life, then, does the immortal soul require on earth? Self-
              denial, asceticism, the resolute shunning of this temptation. But isn't unfair
              to ask men to throw away their whole enjoyment of life? Augustine's answer is:
              what else befits creatures befouled by original sin, creatures who are, as he
              put it, "crooked and sordid, bespotted and ulcerous"." [Religion vs America, Leonard Peikoff]

              In his book A History of Knowledge ,Historian Charles Van Doren points out that

              "God was the last of the three great medieval challenges [note: others being the “struggle for subsistence” and a “world of enemies”], and the most important. Human beings had always been interested in God and had attempted to understand his ways. But the Greeks, and especially the Romans, had kept this interest under control…In the early Middle Ages it overcame the best and the brightest among Europeans. It can almost be said that they became obsessed with God." [‘A History of Knowledge’, Charles van Doren, p. 100]

                  What were the practical results of this approach to life?
                  Dutch economic historian Angus Maddison points out that from 500 to 1500 AD Europe suffered from zero percent economic growth, this in a period in which a slice of bread per day could be considered a good meal, and in which the average infant had a life expectancy of just 24 years -- if that is they weren't of that third who failed to live beyond their first year. [See Angus Maddison, 'Phases of Capitalist Development, pp 4-7, and Angus Maddison, 'The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective']
                  Says French historian Fernand Braudel of the pre-eighteenth century era,

              "Famine recurred so insistently for centuries on end that it became incorporated into ma's biological regime and built into his daily life..." [Fernand Braudel, 'The Structures of Everyday Life: Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Centuries,' pp 73-78]

              Everything human took a dive, only re-emerging centuries later with the Renaissance (and the rediscovery by the west of Aristotle and the Classical Greeks) and the Enlightenment (which represented the application of Aristotelian reason to human life).
                  Life during the Dark Ages was shit. Sanitation collapsed, and disease rocketed; agriculture barely fed those who worked the fields, and that in good years; literacy and education plummeted; learning almost vanished; scientific research was non-existent, replaced instead by arcane theological explorations into the nature of the supernatural ; life expectancy as we've said was just barely above the teens ... and the ethic of faith, sacrifice and suffering oversaw it all. The only thing that flourished in this time was the church, and its churchmen.
                  The result was not a flourishing of reason and a devotion to life on earth. Quite the opposite. For that we had to wait for the rediscovery of Aristotle (for the west) in the Renaissance – and for that we have to thank the world of Islam (whose scholars had preserved Aristotle’s works, and during the period those works and their secular focus were valued Islam enjoyed its own Golden Age.)
                  W.T. Jones, the 20th century's leading philosophical historian summarises the state of the west at this time:

                  "Because of the indifference and downright hostility of the Christians ... almost the whole body of ancient literature and learning was lost... This destruction was so great and the rate of recovery was so slow that even by the ninth century Europe was still immeasurably behind the classical world in every department of life... This, then, was truly a 'dark' age." [W.T. Jones, 'A History of Western Philosophy, vol. 2, The Medieval Mind,' pp141-142]

                  And so it was. An age in which ignorance, superstition, bigotry and persecution flourished. In no way do those qualities describe western civilisation, but they do describe the Dark Ages to a 'T'—those centuries over which the christian church so dolefully presided, and whose shackles the west had to break to emerge, like a butterfly, from its pagan chrysalis.
                  And those qualities also describe to a ‘T’ the present-day Islamic theocracies—who like the west of that Dark era rejected the sunlit secularism of the Greeks only to embrace its polar opposite. 
                  So in summary, the basis of western civilization is not Christian religion. The leitmotifs of western civilisation are not ignorance, superstition, bigotry and persecution, but their polar opposites: reason, freedom and individualism.
                  We got these beneficient ideas from the Greeks. And we had to shake off centuries of religion to rediscover them.

              LINKS: Murdering tall poppies - that's what Easter is all about - Not PC
              The Founding Fathers on religion - Ayn Rand Institute
              Religion vs. America - Leonard Peikoff

              * * * *

              Monday, November 03, 2008

              The global financial/economic crisis: causes & solutions

              Sovereign Life's David McGregor has penned a great summary of the global financial and economic crisis: it's real causes and the only long-term solution.

              If you're looking for some clarity as to why the current financial crisis has happened - and what needs to be done to not only fix it, but to ensure such events need never happen again -- then I urge you to read and reflect -- and to download the quoted publication at the conclusion.

              The Global Financial/Economic Crisis:
              The True Causes And Only Long Term Solution
                  As financial and market instability persist, as governments flail and fumble, one thing is for sure - we're on the brink of a most serious economic event - a "depression" which is the BUST component of the typical "boom/bust" cycle.
                  Popular criticism is centred on blaming the bankers, the financiers, and to some extent the politicians, and the overall lack of "regulation." And above all there is a consensus emerging that it is ultimately the fault of the free market, of capitalism - and that what is needed to "fix" this problem is more regulation, more easy credit (debt), and ultimately more government.
                  Nothing could be further from the truth.
                  The cause of the "bust" is the same as the cause of the previous "boom" - the willy-nilly creation of credit out of thin air, for the purposes of creating political and economic advantage in the short term.
                  To understand the root cause of this crisis you need to understand the root cause of "boom and bust". Contrary to popular opinion, this is not the result of capitalism or the free market, rather it's caused by the nature of the banking and monetary system itself - the way it operates.
                  The boom cycle is achieved by the three pillars of the global financial system - the "Trinity" of the banking "religion" - which are fiat money, fractional reserve banking, and central banks. When the pyramid of debt generated by this unholy Trinity gets out of control, it must be liquidated, creating what we call the "bust."
                  Consider these facts:

              1. Banks lend out more than they take in. The reason banks
                can and do fail, is because if all depositors ask for their
                money back at the same time, the bank is unable to meet such
                a demand. The money is simply not there.
              2. Banks employ what is termed a  "fractional reserve" policy,
                which means they can literally take in $1 on deposit and
                lend out $10. Thus the basis of the banking system we all
                take for granted is fundamentally fraudulent. The money you
                think the bank has on your behalf is in fact not there. The
                business of fractional reserve banking is based on faith and
                confidence. In other words, it's a CONfidence trick.
              3. It's fraudulent because banks are lending out money held
                on deposit which is supposed to be "on demand" and are
                effectively making money on money they do not have, and
                have no right to use.
              4. Because of this fractional reserve system, and the essentially
                fraudulent nature of it, it's always possible that banks can
                fail - if enough depositors suddenly show up to withdraw all
                their money. And to avoid this "ugly" scenario, central banks
                were created to be "lender of last resort"  - in other words to
                provide the money (out of thin air) the banks don't have, in
                order to make good on their bogus promises. This is designed
                to maintain the "faith" in banks.
              5. Central banks manipulate the money supply at will, by
                controlling all elements of the fractional reserve process,
                by altering the reserve requirements and the total money
                supply as and when deemed necessary. Operating under a state-
                granted monopoly, central banks wield enormous "hidden"
                power.
              6. Governments love fiat money, fractional reserve banking
                and central banks, because it allows them access to "free"
                money with which to bribe the electorate and carry out their
                objectives. It allows governments to appear "generous" by
                over-promising on social welfare - and to take aggressive
                actions by financing wars and mayhem out of the same
                store of "funny money".
              7. Money can be manipulated in this way because it is money
                by edict/command - or what is called fiat money. Fiat money
                is paper money without any true or inherent value - and is given
                "value" simply by government command, via the legal tender
                laws in each country. Unlike the money which naturally evolved
                during history - gold and silver - fiat money has no natural
                constraints and no historical precedent for long term success.
                When the state inflates the fiat money supply ad infinitum, then
                such money simply loses its purchasing power, becoming a
                stealth tax on the people. And when the end-game arrives it
                becomes as valuable as toilet paper (but not as absorbent!).
              8. Governments and bankers love fiat money and fractional
                reserve banking because they are "partners in crime" and
                co-conspirators in the business of engaging in fraudulent
                financial transactions - at the expense of the rest of us.
              9. The current financial/economic crisis has its roots in
                the expansion of easy credit (debt) - which creates the boom
                and bust cycles. This is made possible by loose monetary
                policy as initiated by central banks and endorsed by their
                political masters - using the mechanisms of fiat money,
                fractional reserve banking and central banks.

                  The only solution to all these shenanigans is to unwind the CONfidence trick, and de-nationalise the world's money:

                1. Abolish fiat money and reinstitute sound money, backed by
                  real commodities.  Ideally, make all currency backed once
                  again 100% by gold - the only money that has evolved over time via
                  the true free market in money. [George Reisman explains very simply how to go
                  about it
                  .]  Note that gold (and to a lesser extent silver)
                  is "market" money, whereas as fiat money is government
                  money - backed by force.
                2. Change the laws so that banks must hold 100% of all
                  demand deposits in reserve - and put an end to all fractional
                  reserve banking. Make banks behave like any other business
                  - and to ensure no fraud takes place.
                3. Close down/abolish all central banks.
                4. Remove the issuance of money from the government's
                  hands - because as long as they control its issuance, either
                  directly or via their central bank proxies, they can and will
                  manipulate it to their own political advantage.
                5. Allow private banks to issue money -- 100% backed by
                  gold -- and keep them in line via anti-fraud legislation,
                  i.e. legal provisions to ensure they do not lend any more
                  than what they have on deposit. In other words, end fractional
                  reserve banking.
                6. Do away with national fiat currencies and floating exchange
                  rates. Instead, allow gold to become the naturally evolved
                  global currency - a money fully backed by something which
                  cannot be manipulated by banks OR politicians.
                7. Establish a free banking, non-fractional reserve, 100%
                  gold-backed global monetary system - the only monetary
                  reform that attacks the problem at the root, and the only
                  reform that will not only abolish boom/bust, but will bring
                  about a rational international system of exchange.
                8. Abolish the "boom and bust" mentality and reality, and
                  allow purchasing power to increase over time, as production
                  grows in relation to the gold held as currency backing.

                  Any monetary "reform" that does NOT attack the cause of the
              problem - fractional reserve banking and monopolised banking
              using fiat money - is doomed to failure.
                  Don't let those who have caused the problem in the first
              place be the only ones writing the "rules" of reform - because
              you can bet your bottom dollar, it will not be the reform we
              need or want.

                  If you think the proposal is crazy, or that commodity-backed or gold-back money doesn't work, or leads inevitably to instability,  then just see how things worked out in New Zealand and Britain in the nineteenth-century, back before our money was nationalised.  What you see below (which shows The Course of Prices in NZ, 1960-1910) is a stable currency in both countries, gently easing prices and increased purchasing power for every pound in your pocket-- which effectively means increasing real wage levels and more prosperity for all -- with no great schocks or monetary booms and busts -- and this is despite the over-borrowing by the likes of Julius Vogel:

              Gold-Century-web

              And compare that to all the ups and downs in the price levels over the twentieth century once the gold standard was abandoned in 1914, and money was finally completely nationalised in 1936, two years after the Reserve Bank's founding in 1934 [graph courtesy Bryce Wilkinson from Wellington's Capital Economics Ltd, referenced in Frederic Sautet's article: 'The Disastrous Effects of Central Banking: Let’s Get the Story about Inflation in New Zealand Straight.']

              6a00d83451eb0069e200e55074d96c8833-800wi

              Anyway, David McGregor concludes (and I thoroughly approve his recommendation):

                  “For a complete theoretical and practical exposition on all of
              the above - and a rigorous assertion of the viability of a 100%
              gold backed currency and non-fractional reserve banking, I
              recommend you download the following e-book. At 876 pages
              it's not your average bedtime read, but if you have any interest
              at all in where all this is headed, then you owe it to yourself
              to discover why it has happened and the only sure way to prevent
              it happening over and over again in the future.

                  "Money, Bank Credit And Economic Cycles"
                  By Jesus Huerta de Soto

                  “Published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute and available for
              free download here:  http://mises.org/books/desoto.pdf
                  “Like I said, it's a BIG book - but even if you only read
              certain chapters, the ones that immediately interest you,
              you will already be better informed on this crucial subject
              than all your ‘leaders’ put together!”

              To get a heads up on the brilliance of De Soto's analysis, listen to this richly explanatory recent interview while you sort out your download, and check out his article: Financial Crisis & Recession.

              * * * *

              Thursday, June 19, 2008

              Hot songs about cold beer

                  NOT PC beer writer Neil Miller talked to Radio NZ's Jim Mora recently about beer tours, beer songs and other things beer.  He did well (audio here) but disgracefully, the best he could come up with in the way of great beer songs was Th' Dudes' 'Bliss.'  Uuugh.
                  I figure between us you and I can do a lot better than that so the poor chap is better equipped next time he's put on the spot.  Here's a list to start with:

              Great songs about beer, and drinking.
              'One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer' - George Thorogood
              'Warm Beer & Cold Women' - Tom Waits
              'Pub With No Beer' - Dubliners
              'Beercan' - Beck
              'Six Pack' - Black Flag
              'Special Brew' - Bad Manners
              'Milk and Alcohol' - Dr Feelgood
              'Beer' - Reel Big Fish
              'I Spent My Last $10 (On Birth Control and Beer)' - Two Nice Girls
              'Drink, Drink, Drink' - from Sigmund Romberg's 'Student Prince'
              'Look What I Found in My Beer' - Beautiful South
              'Long Neck Bottles' - Captain Beefheart
              'Beer Goggles'- Brilleaux
              'Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers' - ZZ Top
              'Boys From County Hell' - Pogues
              Two Pints of Lager' - Splodgenessabounds
              'Drinking Song' - from 'The Vagabond King'
              'Let Us Drink' - from Verdi's 'La Traviata'
              'Beer is a heaven's gift indeed...' - From Smetana's 'Bartered Bride'
              'A Long Hard Thirst Needs a Big Cold Beer' - TISM
              'Last Lager Waltz' - Kevin Bloody Wilson
              'Titties and Beer' - Frank Zappa
              'Philosophers' Drinking Song' - Monty Python's Flying Circus

              What's yours?  (Remember, "a lot better than that " excludes anything sung by anybody wearing a stetson hat, meaning this is out -- and probably excludes songs you sing after a bucket load of beer. Probably.)

              * * * *

              Thanks for reading.  As your reward, here’s Tom:

              Labels: , ,

              Wednesday, January 06, 2010

              ‘My Alcoholic Friends’

              Right. Here’s a song for everyone drying out after a rambunctious holiday season.

              And for everyone else who’s still going, there’s Bloggers Drinks as usual tomorrow evening (first Thursday of the month, you see) at Galbraith’s, 6:30pm. All welcome.

              Come along and buy Cameron Slater a drink.  After paying for his lawyers, he’ll need one.

              Labels:

              SUMMER SIX-PACK: From altruism to break-up, with Irish demo and post-modern waffle in between

               Another summer six-pack for you from the archives here at NOT PC TOWERS—six posts from some of them just slightly brushed up for 2010.

              * * * *

              Wednesday, May 18, 2005

              Altruism: It's about us, not them

                  Since we've had a few chats here recently about altruism, tsunamis and being uncharitable, it seems appropriate to examine what's been happening with all that tsunami aid that Western countries gave on behalf of their taxpayers.
                  Turns out that it hasn't all gone where it was supposed to. In fact, much of it hasn't gone anywhere at all, and much that has is still trying to penetrate red tape. Mark Steyn examines what and where here. [Cached copy here.]The problem, notes Steyn, is that Westerners are "eager to help but too naive to understand that, no matter the scale of devastation visited upon a hapless developing nation, its obstructionist bureaucracy will emerge from the rubble unscathed."
                  The problem is that altruism has encouraged people to think the act of virtue inheres in the giving itself, rather than in the actual result of the giving. "It's the thought that counts," we say smugly. Time to rethink our virtues, I'd suggest.
                  Take the whole Live Aid palaver for instance. Organised to feed Ethiopia's starving millions after a famine of Biblical proportions decimated the population, the famine was no more Biblical in origin than was Stalin's starving of millions of Ukranian peasants half-a century before -- no surpise, since Colonel Haile Mariam Mengistu was following to the letter Stalin's own programme to exterminate the Kulaks in his own fiefdom. How he must have laughed at Bob Geldof. Daniel Wolf wrote (in a Spectator article originally published in the Spectator and titled in homage to Sir Bob "What Happened to the Fucking Money?"):

                  “In 1984-85, up to a billion dollars’ worth of aid flowed into Ethiopia. Thousands of Western aid workers and journalists flew in with it. The regime ensured that the visitors converted their Western dollars to the local currency at a rate favourable to the government: in 1985 the Dergue tripled its foreign currency reserves. It used this influx of cash to build up its war machine, it commandeered aid vehicles for its own purposes and, by diverting aid supplies, helped to feed its armies.
                  “The United Nations in Addis Ababa, which was co-ordinating the aid operation, denied that the level of diversion was significant. Later on, it became clear that a significant proportion of the relief food in Tigray - the epicentre of the famine - was consigned to the militia. The militias were known locally as ‘wheat militias’.”

                  As Mugged By Reality says, "People were not starving they were being starved." And giving was not saving them from being starved, instead it was feeding and succoring their oppressors. It was helping to starve them
                  But of that irrevocable truth, Live Aid donors care little if at all since, as Daniel Wolf points out, "The story of Band Aid is the story of us, not them"; and so it is with all altruism -- with altruism it's always the giving itself that matters, not the result of the giving.
                  Sacrifice matters. That’s the only results that does.
                 Giving the money made people feel better about themselves -- their new-found virtue in being 'good altruists' helped them feel they'd earned the right to be smug. That the giving did less than nothing to help the problem it was supposed to fix seems to have caused barely a ripple since.
                  Mustn’t challenge that self-serving smugness now, must we?

              * * * *

              Wednesday, May 18, 2005

              Comments Policy

                  I have a new policy on comments here. I continue to welcome comments from honest participants, but I'm drawing the line at hosting anonymous stalkers with a manufactured grudge. The Humphreys are having spam problems; I'm having stalker problems. We're both acting to deal with the problem. People participate in blogs instead of newsgroups because they're sick of the crap associated with newsgroups; I'm making sure that crap doesn't ooze in here.
                  Just so you know then, from now on and for the meantime anonymous comments, comments from trolls, or from those without legitimate pseudonyms (such as from “sock puppets” or those without a Blogger.com profile) will be deleted. Hopefully normal transmission can be resumed shortly.
                  Let me repeat, I welcome honest argument and discussion. I welcome free speech. But the principle of free speech doesn't require that I provide my sundry unhinged attackers with a microphone.

              * * * *

              Thursday, June 15, 2006

              Becky wants to knock her school down

                  A young Irish girl has the solution for all those horrible factory schools: knock the buggers down. She's making a start on her own school in Dublin: "Can you make sure all me teachers are inside when you knock it down . . . nobody likes them . . . But tell me, when the school falls down, will it make a crash or a wallop?" "As we say in Belfast, it'll make a big beng!" Priceless. 
                  If only young Becky went to a decent school: maybe one like the Hershey Montessori Farm School in Ohio; or one of these fine local Montessori schools. Ah well. At least the pur wee t'ing has a swift solution.

               

              * * * *

              Thursday, October 27, 2005

              PC, & 'The Great Postmodern Essay Generator'

                  Picture this. You’re an embattled student who urgently needs to generate post-modern gibberish convincing enough to pass muster with the clown at the front of your lecture room. Here for you is the ideal too: It’s The postmodern essay generator, which at the touch of a button produces impenetrable nonsense—complete with footnotes. 
                  Brilliant!
                  Here, for example, is a randomly generated piece on “Lacanist Obscurity and the Precapitalist Paradigm of Expression”:

              “1. Fellini and Lacanist obscurity

                  “’Class is fundamentally responsible for class divisions,’ says Foucault; however, according to Werther[1] , it is not so much class that is fundamentally responsible for class divisions, but rather the futility, and some would say the economy, of class. The main theme of McElwaine’s[2] model of the precapitalist paradigm of expression is the genre, and hence the economy, of subcultural society. Thus, in Stardust, Gaiman reiterates Sartreist absurdity; in Neverwhere, however, he deconstructs Lacanist obscurity. 

                  “The primary theme of the works of Gaiman is a textual paradox. But if Sartreist absurdity holds, we have to choose between the precapitalist paradigm of expression and precapitalist nationalism. 
                  “The subject is interpolated into a Sartreist absurdity that includes sexuality as a whole. In a sense, the main theme of Dietrich’s[3] essay on Lacanist obscurity is the role of the writer as artist.”

                  You see?  Perfectly impenetrable—and wholly indistinguishable from the real thing!
                  A well-deserved hat tip here to historian Keith Windschuttle, the author of The Killing of History and proprietor of TheSydneyLine website, both highly recommended. Hat tip also to philosopher Stephen Hicks, who recommended Windschuttle's lectures and essays on postmodernism. Both Hicks's book and Windschuttle's work provide invaluable real help for embattled students caught in the ibid thickets of postmodernism. 
                  And given the talk about "eradicating political incorrectness" around the traps today, Windschuttle's links to Jim Ball's list: antidotes for political correctness and reading lists for every young woman might come in very useful (you might compare the suggested lists with my own suggested reading list for a young man).
                  Hicks's own book Explaining Postmodernism might also prove useful to the honest student, particularly as it points out so well the connection between postmodernism and PC. As I argued at 'Blog Central' when this subject came up before once before:

                  “Political correctness is not just harmless stupidity; it is the imposition of pre-digested opinions, usually by those in some position of power. It is the replacing of thought with rote.
                  “Author Stephen Hicks argues that political-correctness comes from post-modernism, and is simply post-modern relativism applied to speech and personal beahavious.
              In his book Explaining Post Modernism, which I highly recommend - especially to students - Hicks contrasts the Enlightenment view of the world with its nemesis, the post-modern politically-correct position that seeks to overturn Enlightenment values:
                  "The contemporary Enlightenment world prides itself on its commitment to equality and justice, its open-mindedness, its making opportunity available to all, and its achievements in science and technology. The Enlightenment world is proud, confident, and knows it is the wave of the future.
                  "This is unbearable to someone who is totally invested in an opposed and failed outlook. That pride is what such a person wants to destroy. The best target to attack is the Enlightenment’s sense of its own moral worth. Attack it as sexist and racist, intolerably dogmatic, and cruelly exploitative. Undermine its confidence in its reason, its science and technology. The words do not even have to be true or consistent to do the necessary damage.     "And like Iago, postmodernism does not have to get the girl in the end. Destroying Othello is enough."
              Does any of that sound familiar?

              Well. Does it?

              * * * *

              Wednesday, September 06, 2006

              Architect v Architect: 'Bavinger House,' by Bruce Goff

              This was the second posting in the ‘Architecture v Architecture' debate, in which Den MT and I traded our architectural favourites in a battle of top spot. the introduction to which is in. This was the first of the contributions from yours truly, one of my own top five.

               


                  Architect Bruce Goff never designed to be published in magazines or to attract the bright lights, he never designed to be fashionable (he worked in Oklahoma, for Galt's sake!), and he never designed to fit the 'malatropisms' of the so-called intellectual elite, whom he shunned as if they carried plague -- which of course in a sense they did (and do). Bruce Goff spent his life designing and working simply to delight himself and his clients. And so he did. No two Goff buildings were ever even remotely the same.
                  I was introduced to him inadvertently by means of a wise-cracking insult by locally fashionable architect Ian Athfield, who had come up the hill to critique student work at Wellington's Victoria University. Seeing my own project he gave a snort of derision, muttered something about me and Bruce Goff which brought the house down, and moved on to look at something more post-modern from the student next door -- whereupon I left to find out about this chap I was supposed to be channeling, even if only in jest. What I discovered was that anyone channelling this guy was my kind of architect.

                  Goff was apprenticed to an architect at twelve, and had designed his first church by eighteen. Not bad going, even back in those laissez-faire days, especially for an atheist. He worked through the war years as an army engineer, delighting in using found materials and 'borrowed' structures to do things with them for which they were never intended, such as this simple chapel built on the cheap using Quonset Huts. In later years he was to use all manner of 'found objects' -- his favourite story of this was to tell of an ophthalmologist client who insisted that after looking at eyes all day he didn't want any circles in his house: Goff designed him an angular house, with a wall interspersed with small, thick diamond-shaped clear glass panels. These were square one-dollar Woolworth's glass ashtrays Goff had bought and set on-point in the house's entrance wall.
                  Goff's best work is this house pictured here, the Bavinger House. Built in 1955 for a young family in Norman Oklahoma, it brings together locally quarried 'ironrock,' mine tailings, coal rejects, glass cullets, airplane wire and a used oil-rig drilling pipe for the mast.


               

                The result is astonishing. The outer wall -- and in fact there is only one wall performing many functions -- seems to grow out of the ground before moving out and around to surround and enclose a garden and an adjoining living area before spiralling in an up to form and fix the climactic vertical pylon from which the roof and floor 'pods' are hung. The 'pods' are hung off the wall as it ascends, providing withdrawing, bedroom and study space that can be closed off with curtaining (don't ask, some writers suggest something about goose feathers) but mostly remain open to the whole glorious space in which they hover.

              A small jewel-like masterpiece. As this web description of the Bavinger house concludes:

              “Goff once wrote, ‘Beauty bursts forth when it must, because the Artist feels the drive within . . . and no amount of discouragement can stop him.’ From America’s heartland, Goff transcended traditional ideals and proved to the world that architecture is an extension of nature, and the elements of sky, earth and water, its realm.”

              Bruce Goff's Bavinger House: Definitely one of my own personal top five favourites.

              LINKS: Architecture v Architecture: Introduction - Not PC
              Goff's Historic Houses - Oklahoma University Foundation

              * * * *

              Saturday, July 29, 2006

              Break-up songs [now with links to YouTube!]

                  For once, Rick Giles has an idea worth borrowing (who would have thunk it?). He's posted a short-list of breakup songs, but I think you and I, readers, can do much better.
                  After all popular music has a breakup song for every mood,. .

              WISTFUL: The Best of Everything - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
              "Wherever you are tonight, I wish you the best of everything, In the World, And I hope you found, Whatever you were looking for."

              JUVENILE: Song for the Dumped - Ben Folds Five
              "So you wanted to take a break? Slow it down some, and have some space? Well fuck you too! Give me my money back, Give me my money back, you bitch."

              SONG FOR THE DUMP-ER: I Useta Love Her - Saw Doctors
              "So now you know the truth of it she’s no longer my obsession, Though the thoughts and dreams I had of her would take six months in confession. See I met this young one Thursday night and she’s inta free expression. And her mission is to rid the world of sinful repression. Then we had a session..."

              HONEST: Toy Love Song - Toy Love
              "'Cos when I see you by my side, I wonder if you're suicide, Affects me like I feel it ought to do. Or was our loving just a toy, A crazy girl a stupid boy, Ignoring things that could have made it true..."

              SELF-FLAGELLATING: Blue Valentines - Tom Waits
              "And it takes a lot of whiskey, To make these nightmares go away, And I cut my bleedin' heart out every night. And I die a little more on each St. Valentines day. Remember that I promised I would Write, you... These blue valentines..."

              INDECISIVE: Should I Stay or Should I Go - The Clash
              "This indecisions bugging me, If you dont want me, set me free..."

              VENGEFUL: Sometimes - The Stranglers
              "Somebody's gonna call your bluff, Somebody's gonna treat you rough, Sometimes there's only one way out, I gotta fight!"

              DISBELIEF: No You! - Paul Kelly
              "I go up and down, And every single sound says, No you! No you! No you! No you! No you, no you, no you!"

              FANTASY: I'll Come Running (To Tie Your Shoes) - Brian Eno
              "I sit playing solitaire by the window. Just waiting, seasons change, ah hah, you'll see, Some day these dreams will pull you through my door..."

              IT'S COMPLICATED: Pale Blue Eyes - Velvet Underground
              "Thought of you as my mountain top. Thought of you as my peak. I thought of you as everything I've had, but couldn't keep. I've had, but couldn't keep... Skip a life completely. Stuff it in a cup. They said, money is like us in time, It lies, but can't stand up. Down for you is up."

              IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME: It Ain't Me, Babe - Bob Dylan
              "You say you're lookin' for someone, Never weak but always strong, To protect you an' defend you, Whether you are right or wrong, Someone to open each and every door, But it ain't me, babe, No, no, no, it ain't me, babe, It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe."

              LINGERING RESENTMENT: Pretty as a Picture - Hammond Gamble
              "And I'll send you a card for Christmas, one at Easter time, Call and see the children in the summer time..."

              "I JUST HAD TO": Ruby's Arms - Tom Waits
              "So jesus christ this goddamn rain, Will someone put me on a train, I'll never kiss your lips again, Or break your heart..."

              FINALITY: It's Over - Graham Brazier
              "See the change, See the way... See that gleam in her eye, Telling you it's all over."
              OH SHIT: Stephanie Says - Velvet Underground
              "Stephanie says that she wants to know, Why she's given half her life, to people she hates now..."

              OH FUCK: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue - Bob Dylan
              "The lover who just walked out your door, Has taken all his blankets from the floor.
              The carpet, too, is moving under you, And its all over now, baby blue."

              NO HOPE: Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
              "When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low, And resentment rides high, but emotions won't grow. And we're changing our ways, taking different roads, Then love, love will tear us apart, again."

              BETRAYAL: You Cheated MeHammond Gamble
              ”You know I leave this town to work, So the kids and you can dress up decently. The truth is that it hurts, there’s been no welcome home to speak of recently. Oh and the lonely nights that you used to spend, aren’t lonely anymore . . . “

                   And that’s just scratching the surface. There are folks who've carved whole careers out of break-up songs. Hank Williams for instance:
              "Your cheating heart will pine some day, And crave the love you threw away. The time will come when you'll be blue, Your cheating heart will tell on you."
              "Did you ever see a robin weep, When leaves begin to die. That means he's lost the will to live, I'm so lonesome, I could cry."
                   Crikey! And then there's whole albums of 'break-up madness.' Like Nick Cave's Let Love In -- "Love is always having to say you're sorry, And I am, from my head down to my shoes. I'm sorry that I'm always pissed, I'm sorry that I exist, And when I look into your eyes I can see you're sorry too" -- and Lou Reed's bleakly self-pitying Berlin, the recording of which was said to have driven everyone mad, and from which come these gems:
              UNCERTAIN: How do you think it feels
              "How do you think it feels, To feel like a wolf and foxy? How do you think it feels, To always make love by proxy?"
              QUESTIONING: Oh Jim
              "Now you said that you love us, But you only make love to one of us, Oh Jim, how could you treat me this way, You know you broke my heart, Ever since you went away, When you're looking through the eyes of hate, Oh, oh, oh, oh."
              IMMATURE: Caroline Says, I
              "Caroline says that I'm just a toy, She wants a man, not just a boy, Oh, Caroline says, ooh Caroline says. Caroline says she can't help but be mean, Or cruel, or oh so it seems, Oh, Caroline says. Caroline says. She say she doesn't want a man who leans, Still she is my Germanic Queen."
              BRUTAL: Caroline Says, II
              "Caroline says - as she gets up from the floor, You can hit me all you want to, but I don't love you anymore."
              HURTFUL: The Kids
              "I am the Water Boy, the real game's not over here, But my heart is overflowin' anyway. I'm just a tired man, no words to say, But since she lost her daughter It's her eyes that fill with water, And I am much happier this way."
              SUICIDAL: The Bed
              "This is the place where she lay her head, When she went to bed at night. And this is the place our children were conceived, Candles lit the room brightly at night. And this is the place where she cut her wrists, That odd and fateful night..."
              And finally, back again to
              WISTFUL: Sad Song
              "My castle, kids and home, I thought she was Mary, Queen of Scots. I tried so very hard. Shows just how wrong you can be."

                  Phew!
                  And then of course there are other favourites.
                  The female divorcee's karaoke favourite: I Will Survive, by Gloria Gaynor.
                  And for the bloke with new-found freedom: Bring on the Nubiles, by The Stranglers.
                  And we haven't even touched opera! Where would we be without Pagliacci's Vesti la Giubba -- " Laugh, you clown, at your broken love. Laugh at the pain which poisons your heart" -- or the optimistic denial of Madame Butterfly's Un Bel Di, Vedremo. And where would opera itself be without break-ups and reconciliations, and break-ups again!
                  But in the end, when all you can do is laugh or you'll cry, there's the truly, madly, deeply cheesy:
              Breaking Up is Hard to Do, by The Partridge Family—if you can stomach it. 'Cos sometimes you really do have to laugh about it all, don't you.
                  Don't you?

              * * * *

              Check back tomorrow for more classics from the archives. In the meantime, here's Graham Brazier:

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