Sunday, July 31, 2011

Right Hand to Left Hand: What are you up to? (… silence)


The New York Review of Books recently published a quite thought-provoking (and disturbing) series of articles by Marcia Angell, concerning psychoactive drugs, linked-to here:


I’m not competent to weigh in on the medical facts of the case.   But as your Local Logician (Fallacy-Busters-R-Us ® ), I might comment on a disparity in public practice.

(1)  On the one hand, the consensus in the broad public, as in the FDA, is that psychoactive drugs such as Prozac are safe and effective.  This is attested by the fact that we gobble them by the mouthful.
(2) At the same time, judge and jury agree that Prozac is axiomatically so dangerous that a woman who killed her kids and blamed it on Prozac (though quite unable to demonstrate a causal connection -- cf. the notorious “Twinkie defense”) had a valid argument -- Not Guilty by reason of temporary insanity.  (She is out on the streets, and even has custody of another woman’s kids.) 

One detects a contradiction.
(In the nature of the case, any evidence of causal nexus in (2) would have to be probabilistic/epidemiological, rather than individual/anecdotal.  This only heightens the clash with (1).)

Still *more* neuroscience porn



Yet more drivel from neuroscientists, this time explicitly pornographic, and so degraded that it manages to offend even a reviewer from the New York Times,  which takes some doing:

CENSORED


An interesting wrinkle in the DSK affair has arisen.   Bypassing secondary retellings, we went straight to an interview with the siren in question (no, not Diallo, another one):


Yet apparently we are behind a Chinese-style firewall:  An attempt to view this produces the message “Content not Available:  We are sorry, this content is not available for your country.”  The country in question being, apparently, Yanquistan, or Outer Columbia.

You can, however, watch it uncensored here:

http://nicole.blogs.nouvelobs.com/archive/2011/07/31/dsk-le-mystere-marie-victorine-pour-qui-travaille-le-cabinet.html

[Update 30 Aug 2011[
Tiens, tiens;  now that link as well has been suppressed:

   Page Inconnue

      Il est possible que la page recherchée ait été supprimée

Mr. President … You tried.

[a revised re-post, for timeliness]


You offered a sweetheart deal to the other side … and they turned it down.  Further attempts at appeasement  are pointless.

So -- short & sweet.  You say:  You want cuts?  Here are some cuts.  Starting with corporate welfare.   Say:  

(1) I will veto any budget bill that does not end the ethanol subsidies, now.  Four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline tax effective immediately.  End to the oil-depletion allowance. 

But what happens to the debt ceiling if the Teabaggers continue to stall?  You say:

(2)  As President, I am responsible for guaranteeing the full faith and credit of this country.  I do so guarantee it.  Promises will be met, debts will be paid -- regardless.

For:  The Republicans recently offered the President what they hoped was a poisoned chalice, letting him unilaterally raise the ceiling and take the heat.   Well, by now he’s fed up and not afraid of heat.   Say:  Yes, excellent suggestion.  Our legal counsel has looked into the matter (Fourteenth Amendment yadda yadda), and have ruled that is constitutionally permitted or even required.  As a professor of constitutional law, I agree.  Let it be done.
Then the Tea Party types can squabble all they like.

*
This should be done because it’s the right thing to do.  But it might prove more popular than would appear at first glance.

Re (1):  This morning, the Boston Globe featured some stupid hoopla about NASCAR and ethanol.   But check out the readers’ comments -- no-one is fooled. 

Re (2):  There’s frustration (building to fear) because Congress is flailing.   Decisive action by a President who is deliberative (to a fault) and obviously not given to rash actions, could give everyone a boost in confidence.


[Update, Sunday afternoon, 31 July -- D-Day minus 48 hours]
As I write, Senate Republicans are filibustering.  Filibustering !
This is criminal.
[Update, Monday (tick tick tick): Krugman.]

[Update 2 Aug 2011]
Well, one good thing came out of this mess:  a grammatical epigram.
"It isn't the best possible bill, but it was the best bill possible."
(BTW... difficult to say this in French.)

Frontiers of Marketing


I hold in my hand a bar of “endangered species” brand (I kid U not; right down to the self-promotingly self-effacing abstention from capital letters) “extreme dark chocolate” (88% cocoa); something my wife picked up at the health store (where the bulk of our income goes these days).   For those of you who have something better to do than to follow the food-fads -- well, if you really want something better to do, read this; but if you’d like to hear more about chocolate and don’t know what that “88% cocoa” is about … It’s not about distinguishing real from fake chocolate;  for this target audience, cela va sans dire.  It’s about surpassing a certain threshold of cocoa content, beyond which, instead of being bad for you, chocolate bars become actually good for you.   (This is in harmony with Murphy’s theory that original unfiltered Camels ® are good for you;  but that is for another evening around the fire.)
The packaging is, to my eye, extraordinarily attractive.  The dominant color is an intense russet-umber, broken by horizontal bands of silvery-bluish-black:  one of which depicts the glowing ochre eyes and blueblack fur of an animal which, by the look of him, is rather more dangerous than endangered.   Then, in bright white against the brooding background, this alert:

10% OF NET PROFITS DONATED TO HELP SUPPORT SPECIES, HABITAT AND HUMANITY

This pledge, one feels constrained to note, is conveniently vague.   The species in question are not listed, and presumably do not include cockroaches or Clostridium.  Nor is it possible to support a “species” as such, in its entirety;  might the beneficiaries perhaps be the bondholders of Endangered Species LLC, dues-paying members of Homo sapiens sapiens?  And might the habitat in question involve payments toward the unsecured second megamortgage of the E.S. CEO ?  (For similar semantic analysis of corporate goodthink-puffery prose, see here.)
Still and all, their hearts are in the right place (as are, no doubt, their pocketbooks):  you won’t find such tithing featured on the proletarian products of the Mars Corportation or General Foods.  -- To verify this claim, I just checked a package of Imitation-Fudge-covered Cheezewhip-Dudels®.  And sure enough:  “10% of the proceeds go directly to Donald Trump®.”

Now, if you’re like most folks, you don’t much care about the politics or rhetoric of the thing, nor its possible connection to Tritinitarian Minimalism.  What you want to know is -- How’s the chocolate ?
Well heck -- you don’t eat these turbo-cocoa things for the taste, you eat them for your health, or rather for some ideal abstract image of your health.  You eat them to pile up brownie-points in heaven (in vain;  solâ gratiâ), and to feel superior to the slobs on their Barcaloungers stuffing their maws with chocolated corn-syrup bars while ogling “Bowling for Dollars”.  You eat them because it’s the Slim Thing to Do.
Still, since you asked, I sampled the merchandise, cleansing the palate with fresh-brewed French-roast and noting synergies with roasted organic unsalted almonds.   And to my surprise, can report that, in a head-to-head comparison with Lindt’s “Supreme Dark” (90% cocoa),  E.S.  scored 93.7737 on the Metapenuin Yummy Scale, while Lindt’s clocked in at only 89.836.   (That means simply that  E.S. tastes better;  the decimals are just for purposes of Science.)

[Note:  This site, being above the fray, does not accept ads;  though we are not above accepting contributions.  Perhaps  the “endangered species” megacorporation would like to contribute to my Defense Fund; otherwise I might change my mind.]

Update 13 August:
Still haven't heard from a certain corporate someone.  So, on second thought -- their chocolate sux.

Remarks on Nominalism


Donald Trump and a Nominalist  walk into a bar.  The Nominalist (who, to his relative credit, is also a Minimalist) orders a glass of water.  Trump downs a fifth of Baccardi and stumbles off to the loo to vomit; trips, falls head-first into the turd-filled toilet and drowns.  The Nominalist, too dazzled by the phenomenalistic surface of things to perceive the underlying Reality, fails to notice that, instead of genuine water, he has been served a cheap substitute.

Q:  How many Nominalists does it take to screw in a light-bulb ?
A:  Nominalists doubt the existence of light.  Consequently, they live in the dark.

Q:  Why did the Nominalist cross the road ?
A:  He didn’t.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Great news from the Left Coast !!


 
Was der Mensch Quasten hat, und die Frau hat Hoden !
--Georg Büchner, Woyzeck (1837);  slightly revised for these modern times

The California legislature, taking some much-needed time off from worrying about the actual real-world economic problems that are bedeviling their state, have just passed a bill to remedy the shameful and little-known suppression of mention of the massive contributions of eunuchs and the like to American history, science, and culture, requiring schools to revise their curricula accordingly (competence in math and language meanwhile returning to the back burner).  Governor Moonbeam has signed it into law.


(That title-slug does not say it all:  the law specifically requires promotion of the "transgendered".)

This is wonderful.  Now at last the schoolchildren of this great land can learn about the magnificent achievements of such transgender physicists as Alberta Einstein(**), Dick(less) Feynman, and Stephanie Hawking !

(**.  I could have written Keinstein; but that would have been in bad taste, and good taste is so-o important to us.  Plus only three people would get the joke.)

*

In the Comments section of the L.A. Times, I challenged readers (who were mostly foamingly in favor of this latest special-interest ingérence into public education) to offer a single example of a great American achievement, mention of which had been actually suppressed (for such is the contention of the law’s supporters) owing to the sexual deviancy of the achiever.   The sole example given was that of Alan Turing.  That limps on both legs, since
            (a) As an Englishman, not an American, Turing is not covered by the law.
            (b) Turing is already one of the very best-known scientists of the past century, his achievements (or, if these be too technical, his glowing Being) celebrated throughout the land.

Now, not knocking Turing here at all;  a major figure; a mathematician, and, incidentally, a patriot, having rendered great services to the cryptography and the Intelligence Community against the Nazis.  The subject, moreover, of an excellent biography, by a gay author, Andrew Hodges.   All I wish to point out, in the present context, is that his public fame has if anything be aided by something that, near as I can tell, was pointlessly irrelevant to his actual -- very abstract -- mentation, namely his sexual orientation. 
After all, Church’s Thesis and the Turing conjecture (concerning effectively calculable functions in Recursive Function Theory) turned out to be logically equivalent;  yet who has heard of Alonso Church?   Turing made contributions to mathematics and the development of computers;  but these pale by comparison to those of his contemporary John von Neumann -- who likewise contributed keenly to the war effort (and to theoretical physics), and who is much less well known.   That is to say:  He is reasonably well-known among the educated;  but among the half-educated, I’d wager that ten people have heard of Turing for every one that has heard of von Neumann.  And this, I would venture, not because of any inordinate public fascination with the Halting Problem, but because of the frisson over deviant sex.

Bottom line:  It’s a stupid law, the product of a notably narcissistic population and a notoriously dysfunctional state legislature.

*     *    

Tired of marinating in a rehash of such squalid shenanigans?
Then bail out and read something timeless instead:
(For those not opting to do so --
We now return you to the folly of life here below.)

*     *     *
 
[Update]
Now that's diverse !
(A gang of transgenders  rampages at Dunkin Donuts...   Can't make this stuff up.)

Remarks on Minimalism (expanded)

Minimalism is like a germ, a seed:  compact, yet containing the whole fruit in posse.

Compare the art of the miniature:  molto   in petto.

It was in the art of the miniature … that the Elizabethans achieved perfection in the plastic arts.  When there was so much over-elaboration, and furniture and dress  were alike  stiff with richness, and extravagantly swollen in line -- one sees the same inflation in the bulbous legs of tables  as in the farthingales of the women --it is well to note tht the Elizabethans could achieve elegance and simplicity of proportion  as in so much of their silver.  In particular their favourite design of the steeple cup  is a model of precision and grace.
-- A. L. Rowse, The England of Elizabeth (1950)

Minimalism is spare, but not impoverished.

Gordon Gerould, The Ballad of Tradition (1932), observes that the ballad is characterized by “telling a story in terms of its crucial or concluding incident, to the neglect of the chain of events that precedes it, and permitting the action to interpret itself  with the minimum of comment and descriptive setting.”   E.K. Chambers similarly speaks of “a stern economy in the reduction of the unessential to a formula”.

And with this formal spareness goes an emotional restraint:

Even ballads with a grim background of deadly feud… which must have een made and sung by folk who were intensely partisan, are singularly restrained.
            -- Gordon Gerould, The Ballad of Tradition

It all hangs together.  (Tout se tient.)

Minimalist Hotel:  the Presidential Suite


*

Minimalism is an established term of arts criticism, which I am accordingly not obliged to define, being responsible only for (following Chomsky in) attempting to apply the term (perhaps without good warrant) to new areas, principally scientific thought.   But the term is problematic even in its original sphere.
Thus, considered Warhol’s 1963 milestone Sleep.   The film lasts over five hours, and simply observes, with a motionless camera, a man sleeping, naked, in an empty room.  (At least it purports to;  the actual film was artsied up in various ways.  My remarks apply to an ideal doppelgänger film, shot strictly in real time.)   No purer tribute to the Aristotelian unities can be imagined.  Surely this is a pinnacle of minimalism -- not necessarily an interesting pinnacle, but formally speaking, a pinnacle nonetheless.
And yet -- au contraire, Pierre !   Art consists largely in leaving things out, and minimalism in leaving a whole lot out.  Only, this film leaves nothing out, of the admittedly modest turf it covers.  Here, the map is exactly the territory.
I was reminded of Warhol’s classic jest, by the success of the current film (in minimal-limited distro) Clock.  It’s sort of like the TV show 24, in that it purports to show things happening at the hour they are ‘actually’ happening, for a full twenty-four hours.   Neither is actually an analogue of (the ideal) movie Sleep, since neither actually follows anything, real or fictional, over such a time period.  24 collapses what could only happen over several busy days or weeks (with an elaborate tangle of semi-independent story-lines -- Aristotle would puki) into a compressed imaginary schedule, and Clock stitches together snippets of various films showing various things and, oh look, a clock showing “5:10”.  24 is standard thriller fare; Clock is utterly meta.
After all, it’s not surprising that it’s hard to apply a modern term like minimalist clearly and consistently, to a body of work  much of which is devoted to baffling our expectations and abolishing the boundaries between categories.


*
[update 30 July 2011]
From the world of political minimalism -- this just in !


Friday, July 29, 2011

On Gematria


 
Philo, the Jewish theologian [1st-c. CE]  explains that God took six days to create the world because the number three stands for the male and two for the female and that  through the creative act of multiplying them  you get six.
-- Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture (1942)

God indeed made the integers – all the integers:  even 13, and 666.
For:
Pace superstition, 13 is simply prime, albeit rather a pricky prime.  Get to know this genus as a whole, and “13” will recede into the chorus line.
As for “666” – it is only in a purely contingent garment, the doubly-ham-handed accident of base-10 arithmetic, that this appears in such a symmetric form.  In any other base, it is an obvious hodgepodge.  To imagine that such a number possesses the least interest, is mere idolatry.  ‘Tis not the Number of the Beast – ‘tis the Number of the Moron.

[Nevertheless, for a bit of number-fun, consider this:
http://murphybros.blogspot.com/2011/10/8-8-8.html ]

And as for numerology—O ye of frigging little faith!  -- God wanna talk, he talk; no wanna talk, no talk;  but He’s not going to play some puerile hide-the-chestnut parlor-game, where He speaks in riddles, tossing out little number-puzzles  when He might have said, plainly: This;  yea, that. ….

An advantage of the Cantorian comfort with infinities  is that particular integers do not loom so large.

*

An observant Muslim of my acquaintance asked how I’d spent the weekend.  “With mathematics and religion,” I replied.
To my surprise, she brightened, and indicated her interest in numerology.
“But,” I stammered in reply, “surely such things are harâm in Islam?”  -- Not at all, she countered:  The number seven, for instance, is sacred, “because there are seven heavens, and God made the world in seven days.”
It is difficult to argue with that sort of thing.  Impossible, in fact.

She is not alone among Muslims  in indulging in that unfortunate propensity:


*

Well.  I won’t get into the theology of the thing; but a word on the mathematics.

Only the primes are -- primal, so to speak; whereas the composite numbers are ontologically/taxonomically one rung down, being -- literally -- the product of primes.
In this manner we built up the integers in an entirely different way, from an independent perspective.  (For one thing, here multiplication is basic;  in the successor-function approach, it’s addition.)   The result, considered as an unstructured heap, still has the same roster of individuals, but the construction is different.

Further, once you get past Kroneckerian partial-nominalism (realism about the natural numbers, nominalism about everything else), the role of integers becomes less central.  For instance, they are not at the center of point-set topology.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monostich (XXVII)



~
~             ~

a voice echoing   in   (the chamber of)  the echo of    (memory)

~             ~
~

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Abstraction



Recently, our dentist (and his sister fellow-practitioner) relocated to nice new offices.   (Preternaturally faithful followers of this blog will have read about the interior of these premises here.)   Outside, there is a monstrosity, posing as a sculpture;  it resembles a shopping-cart that had a run-in with a semitrailer on the Beltway.   Such is corporate taste.

Contrast this:
I like this for the same reason I like mathematics:  It is an abstraction, not of some post-Modernist masturbator, but one which God has made.   
Note to Google/UN/IMF:   Pls. contact the photographer and buy this for your atrium -- it is vastly better than the thumb-sucking abstractionist crap you have hitherto battened on.  Bidding begins at one million.

Freshwater whale-sightings

http://home.earthlink.net/~north_coast/id40.html

Scientists broadly concur that such phenomena signify the End Times.

Deep Doings over at our Sister Site


=>  The dark Dickensian backstory of our two-fisted pre-Conciliar detective  has drawn to its chilling conclusion:

=>  These exciting and instructive Trinitarian detective stories  are now available in several formats:  print, Kindle, and Nook.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monostich (XXVI)

[upon returning from a hike of several days, in temperatures of triple digits]


~
~           ~

A pause, hot,  uphillside;  as the heart asks: 
Shall I keep on at it,  or just stop right here?


~           ~
~

On Monostichs (expanded)


 Literally:  ‘a poem consisting of a single verse’.

Like the haiku, the monostich is Minimalist in inspiration;  but whereas a haiku practically has to be about water-lilies or something, given the restrictions of form, a monostich is more wide-ranging.  (Also, haikus are essentially syllable-timed, and don’t make sense in a stress-timed language like English.)

Monostichs are superficially similar to epigrams.    But where the epigram tries to make a point, a monostich simply is a point.

An obvious substrate for monostichs  are titles, which in our day must be short.  Successful example:

            “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me”.

Unsuccessful example:

            “It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry.”  Umm, right Bob.

*
It is tricky to sort out, just what separates a genuine monostich  from just any brevity well-expressed.   I tried here  to carve a monostich from a mass of Chesterton’s poetic prose;  yet now, hung bare upon the page, the results strike me as less than satisfactory.   Indeed, consider another well-crafted sentence from that endlessly eloquent novel, Manalive:

the sea itself looked like absinthe,  green and bitter and poisonous

This is very good stuff;  but it is not a monostich.  I cannot tell you precisely  why it is not;  certainly, that excrescent “itself”, and the preterite agnosticism of “looked like”, have a lot to do with it.  Yet that is not the whole of it.  I tried tinkering with the thing, this way and that, and by the time I had wrestled it into monostich-form, it read thus:


~
~           ~

green (upon green (upon green)) :    the sea

~            ~
~

So you see, it’s not as easy as it looks.

*

Another crux:  Distinguishing the monostich (which after all, can be shorter than a full sentence) from (in general) the telling phrase.

Malcolm Cowley has something interesting to say on that latter species.  Looking back (in 1968) on the work of Robert McAlmon (a writer and ex-pat of the ‘twenties, best known for his memoir Being Geniuses Together), he sums up:

From what I have read of McAlmon’s work, I should hazard what might be the true cause of his failure:  that he never in his life wrote so much as a memorable sentence.  Phrases, yes, like “being geniuses together”, but there were not many of these, and they marked the limit of his skill with words.

The description might apply equally to Gertrude Stein.


*


“The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even “ (the original French title, “La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même”, doesn’t scan)  is the English title of an artwork by Marcel Duchamp.   The rhythm of that line  reappears in the first of my “monostichs”, and may have been their original, unconscious inspiration.

*

The blogspot stats inform me that people have been searching for the site with the misspelling “monostitch”. Actually the term is spelled monostich, and pronounced as though it were “monostick”.   The “stich” part means ‘verse’ (cf. stichomythia), and has nothing to do with the word stitch.  Thus, it would be very, very wrong to search, say, on

“Sarah Palin without a monostich”

Wrong on so many levels.  Very, very wrong.

*

Ideally, a monostich is an atom:   you cannot add to it  without changing its character as a (fundamental) element, nor take anything away  without destroying it.

Thus, consider the item with which we began this series:

~
~            ~

the moon in the cusp of a peach-tree,  perfect

~            ~
~

It is verbless;  and as an image, it is what it is to eternity, and needs no verb.  But does it really need that adjective -- might we tighten the thing up by prying that away?
At first blush, it seems likely.  Formally, the thing is hanging out as a syntactic adjunct, separated by a comma:  no structure would be disrupted  were it pruned away.   Adjectives in general and not in the spirit of minimalism.  And semantically, it looks quite vulnerable.   Words like perfect or beautiful or tragic  should amost never be used in poetry :  you’re supposed to show perfection or beauty, not to declare it to be so  like some Sotheby’s auctioneer.   And yet -- remove it, like Hawthorne’s birthmark, and the thing falls dead.  “The moon in the cusp of a peach-tree.”  O-kay-y… is that it ?   Can I have fries with that?
            Now we are perplexed.  How is this virtually idle-looking adjective able to turn dross into gold?
            Formally, with the alliteration,  it adds a bit of ‘poeticness’, a sense that we really were trying here and not just reading items off a grocery list.  Rhythmically, it creates a rhythm:  where before there essentially was none, now we have a great bounding stress-timed fragment, that might have leapt from the lips of a scald.   But most of all, the word brings the reader up short.  Only superficially does it refer back to the earlier phrase, as though we had instead added “how nice” or “yellow”.   Rather it addresses the reader directly, bidding him halt, and behold, and set aside his fretful unfocussed cravings for the stars in a thornbush or the sun atop a hill.  Behold !  -- Ecce ! --  Behold!


*

He said: “I’ve thought of a good line.”
Pasley grunted and said good lines were a damned nuisance  as one was always trying to write poems around them.
 -- C.S. Lewis, diary entry for 29 May 1922


A monostich may itself be enchased in a poem, which in turn has been carved out of prose.
Thus, from the autobiography of C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (1956):


~
~ ~

the mast unmoving   against the stars

~ ~
~

It stands alone, needing nothing more:  a monostich, a monolith:  like a mast.

Here is the poetic setting, from which I pried loose that jewel:

I have only to close my eyes   to see
if I choose, and sometimes  whether I choose or no,
the phosphorescence of a ship’s wash,
the mast unmoving  against the stars
though the water is rushing past us, long salmon-colored rifts of dawn …

That in turn was quarried  from a longer patch of prose, and shaped by judicious additions of extra spaces and line-breaks.

And yes, you can  try this at home !

*

An epigram is a rapier, and strives to make some trenchant point.
A monostich is an urn, bearing just an image, timeless.
This state of mind is described by C.S. Lewis (diary entry for 9 April 1924) in a line that is itself something of a monostich:

for the whole afternoon  I was soaked in mere seeing,
and free from all thought and wish.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Going offline for a few days


I am running off to the greenwood   with the woman I love.
Fortunately, she is my wife.

("Let's elope," I said.
 "Yes let's," said she.)

Monostich (XXV)



~
~           ~


A ladybug, coasting low      –  excuse me! :   
way! high! up!! above! the ground!!!
   
~           ~
~

Remarks on Minimalism

Updated here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

“a gloop of scuttlebutt”


 Hey -- now here’s a dame  can wield a pen !
She writes like I like !

(For our own tongue-tied mealy-mouthed flounderings towards a commentary on the DSK affair, click here.)

Omigosh I was wrong !!


Turns out there isn’t any God after all !  It’s all in the genes!
Is my face red !   And I am so-o-o sorry  for having made fun of wonderful atheists.  ( … *sniffle*  * sob * … )

-- Well, still, a relief; enough with the morality already.  Think I’ll go out now and pillage some villages.

This genetic approach is immensely powerful:  you can pretty much prove anything you like.   You find some vague and metaphorical feature which, in your own mind, you casually associate with X; you extend  -- s-t-r-e-e-e-e-t-ch -- the metaphor to apply to some gene or other;  and voilà !  X is meaningless, merely genetic!  Blahblah hoc, ergo propter hoc ! (That last is a scientific principle -- and Latin to boot; above your pay-grade; don’t bother your pretty little heads.)

Thus:  We are hard-wired, to recognize shapes, and solid objects.  This is the genetic source of the absurd folk-belief in the existence of penguins, definitively refuted here.  The toddler is programmed to be bemused by his fæces;  hence our fascination with Donald Trump.

Free will?  A sense of purpose?  The existence of other minds?  -- Heck, all that nonsense is handled by junk DNA.

And as for your pitiable belief in the abstract fol-de-rol of the Urysohn Metrization Theorem   (ha !  ha !! ha !!!  laugh the Nominalists:  the “Urysohn”  “”Metrization”” “””Theeeeorem””” !!!!!!),  it has been decisively mulched by modern genetic theory, here.

Seek and ye shall find: a progress report


Given how few hits there are on the blog, it's surprising how high it comes up in some searches.  E.g., back to first page for the (mathematically important) search " Urysohn metrization theorem".     Additionally, a number of (fairly silly) multiword search seem to bring WDJ up on the first page of results (at least, last I tried) :

Palin monostich
penguin monostich
woodchuck monostich
Cantorian penguin
sciuridean minimalism
Chestertonian woodchucks
(along with “penguins united for urysohn”, “woodchucks love metrization”)

That observation might seem idle, but was prompted by a blogspot-reported keyword search that someone did, “funny monostitch”, which somehow found the blog  despite the misspelling.  And the quite vague-looking “justice flash”, later "insidious phrase", was actually searched on and found the blog -- appearing, incredibly, on the first page of Google returns.

The following don’t work:

Trinitarian prairie dogs
frisky marmots frolic in Cantorian realist bliss
chesterton lewis locke chomsky "william james"

Actually, in the last case, Ggl’s results are bogus.  E.g. they offer as a match

but there is no mention there of the other names.  Some bug in the search engine.

“Humble hedgehog” brings us up only on the second page, but that for the heart-warming reason that many fine people spend attention on our spiky friend.

Of course, much as a measurement in quantum mechanics causes the collapse of the thitherto free-floating wave-function, so publishing this very post  may perturb the results for those last unfindable phrases.

[Update, an hour later]
Ha !   Gotta love it !
Search on "Trinitarian prairie dogs" ... this site comes up  at the top.
God bless ya, you furry little Trinitarians ...

[Update 30 July 2011]
Someone just found this site  via a search on
   Quine quiditas
Some curiosities of this:
(1)  Google, high-handedly, assumes you don't know how to spell, and throws your request away, presenting instead results for
  Quine Quiddities
-- somewhat understandably, since "Quiddities" is indeed the title of one of the master's (lesser) books.
(2) If you insist on the original search-terms, the first match is to someone who really doesn't know how to spell, a reference to Quine's book mis-cited as "Quiditas" (again, understandably, since Quine's title is a pun on that traditional philosophical term).  However, the next two hits  take you here.
(3) The take-home for me as a blogger is -- keep on a-usin' them fifty-dollar terms, 'cause folks search on 'em and find the post they want !
So -- if you should catch me using some sesquipedalian hapax legomenon ---  don't chide, it has its uses.

[update 1 Aug 2011]  Someone just found this site via a search on
         cow accelerator
Gotta love it.

[update 3 Aug 2011]
Someone just somehow found the site via a search on
    dr david justice
Don't know how -- almost all the Google hits refer to a certain homonymous psychiatrist (doubtless a most distinguished man of medicine).  But to aid such searches, we add these phrases here:

   "Dr David Justice"
   "Dr. David Justice"
   "Doctor David Justice"
   "David Justice, Ph.D."
   "le docteur David Justice"
   "Herr Doktor David Justice"
   "Herr Geheimrat Dr David Justiz von und zu Stein"

That should do it.

[Update 17 Aug 2011]
To my intense alarm, someone just found the site via a search on the single word
   sexxx
There, I thought, goes the neighborhood.
But when I searched on that word myself, this blog did not come up anywhere in the first six pages of Google returns, at which point, with a sigh of relief, I gave up.

My interest piqued, however, I proceeded to a phrasal search on

   "wholesome family values"

(which occurs on this blog as a Label, though not generally in text).   Once again, pages of hits but not this one.  But!  Just add one magic little word,
   "wholesome family values" woodchuck
and voilà ! first hit on the first page !

Now really intrigued, I tried several other AND searches,
   causality woodchuck
   cosmology woodchuck
   minimalism woodchuck
etc., and in each case, this blog came up on the first page, often as the first hit.

[Update 26 April 2012]  Yipes, most of these no longer work!
Moriarty you fiend!  This means war!

So, executive summary:
FOR BEST RESULTS, WHEN SURFING THE NET, ADD "WOODCHUCK" TO YOUR EVERY QUERY.  YULE B GLAD U DID.
 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Monostich (XXIV)



~
~           ~

A jetplane streaking -- invisibly high,
but for the bucket of sunlight  it bears on its flank
    
~            ~
~

Mr. President … You tried


You offered a sweetheart deal to the other side … and they turned it down.  Further attempts at appeasement  are pointless.

So -- short & sweet.  You say:  You want cuts?  Here are some cuts.  Starting with corporate welfare.   Say:  

(1) I will veto any budget bill that does not end the ethanol subsidies, now.

But what happens to the debt ceiling if the Republicans continue to stall?  You say:

(2)  As President, I am responsible for guaranteeing the full faith and credit of this country.  I do so guarantee it.  Promises will be met, debts will be paid -- regardless.

For:  The Republicans recently offered the President what they hoped was a poisoned chalice, letting him unilaterally raise the ceiling and take the heat.   Well, by now he’s fed up and not afraid of heat.   Say:  Yes, excellent suggestion.  Our legal counsel has looked into the matter, and have ruled that is constitutionally permitted or even required.  As a professor of constitutional law, I agree.  Let it be done.
Then the Tea Party types can squabble all they like.

*

This should be done because it’s the right thing to do.  But it might prove more popular than would appear at first glance.

Re (1):  This morning, the Boston Globe featured some stupid hoopla about NASCAR and ethanol.   But check out the readers’ comments -- no-one is fooled. 

Re (2):  There’s frustration (building to fear) because Congress is flailing.   Decisive action by a President who is obviously not given to rash actions, could give everyone a boost in confidence.

“A Committed Atheist”



In an earlier essay, we mentioned, in passing, the description of Hugh Everett (perpetrator of the “Many-Worlds” extension of quantum theory)  as “a committed atheist”.   It suddenly struck me what an odd phrase that is.

We can certainly understand someone being an atheist, just as we can understand how someone might be a divorce lawyer, cosmetic surgeon, bank robber or what have you.   But --- “a committed atheist”?  What does that even mean?  Presumably not “committed” as in “he has been committed” (i.e., to an asylum) -- mere atheism doesn’t get you that, though prolonged exposure to the madness of “Many-Worlds” just might.

Generally a “commitment” to something refers to something tough, that you stick with against the odds.  Like, a commitment to marriage, or parenthood -- for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, through thick and through thin.   But even there, you don’t idiomatically use the adjective -- you don’t usually say “a committed husband” (though you might say “a devoted husband”).  Nor, come to think of it, do you say “a committed astronaut” (though that profession certainly requires major commitments of several sorts), “a committed Senator”, “a committed novelist”, or… much of anything, really.  

Still, nihil humani etc.; and so, in solidarity with my atheist brothers and sisters, I shall now attempt to empathize with what it must be like to be “a committed atheist”, bearing the cross -- well, the Gucci bag -- they must have to bear.

*

The stroke of noon.  An alarm clock rings shrilly, and Everett slaps it down with his hairy palm, pries open his smut-sticky eyelids, and groans.   He staggers to the window, and draws the blinds.
OH NOES !!  The splendor of the Creation stares him in the face.  He staggers back, shielding his eyes with a beefy forearm.  He hastily shuts the blinds, and flips on the bigscreen TV to “Bowling for Dollars”.  A flood of atheistic sentiments rushes into his arteries, and he sinks back into the Lay-Z-Boy with a sigh.
He gives a grim little smile of satisfaction at how he had just managed to foil the wiles of the Big Guy with his own Free Will, his own … uh-oh.  Free… -- Feverishly he hits the channel-changer and is rewarded by the splendid silver head of the Great One, none other than The Donald al-Trump himself.   The thick liquor of atheism purls through his veins, like enriched goat-sperm.   A deeper sigh -- his body feels as good as if he’d just jerked off.

But alas -- it’s a workday, and so he hastens out the front door and (squinting his eyes against the radiant appeal of the sun and the sky and the birds in their nests all warbling in praise of Him), sets his SUV in motion and is soon at the casino, where he works as a pimp.   Yet no sooner does he step outside the tinted windows of his heavily armored vehicle than -- Behold, -- in the East -- like, like a kind of shining, like
=> like shining from shook foil  <=   …

Truly, it’s a tough row to hoe.

(Those who feel their atheist faith wavering  can restore their unbelief here.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wisconsin … and the Vatican





Ordine procedens contemplatio eiusdem huius quaestionis nos oportet confirmet ad certam amplectendam sententiam, ex qua labor humanus priores obtinet partes respectu opum « capitalium »Quidquid prodest labori, totum eius instrumentum — ut hodiernus fert status artis technicae — est fructus laboris.
-- Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Laborem exercens.
The street demonstrations have ebbed, but the struggle is not over.
Some historical perspective:
So far has the state of labor fallen, before the onslaught of the plutocrats in their pride, that we must now, dispensing with Marx, have resort to old Pope Leo (the thirteenth of that name) in his 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum.  As summarized in Wiki:
Rerum Novarum is remarkable for its vivid depiction of the plight of the nineteenth-century urban poor and for its condemnation of unrestricted capitalism. Among the remedies it prescribed were the formation of trade unions and the introduction of collective bargaining
Such, once again,  is the necessary project now. [Compare further:  Laborem exercens. Latin version.] [Update 25 April 2012]  A much-needed Jesuit intervention: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/24/georgetown-faculty-latest-to-chide-ryan/#