Friday, January 28, 2011

Caramela Smella Moo Bear

I have the pleasure of seeing this little bundle of joy 3-5 days a week.
The only living thing I can think of that is as cute as she is stinky.
I think she smells herself in this photo. Welcome to the internetz.
As you'll see, there are a lot of copy-cats on the internet.

(Thanks to Lauren for the photo)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

If you haven't seen this movie yet, watch it. Daniel Johnston is incredible.

Kids, kids. Settle down...
Just kidding, keep going batshit insane because you won't
be this excited about anything ever again in a few years

Friday, January 21, 2011

Can Jared Loughner help us get beyond good and evil?

Very intriguing article from Boing Boing by Andrea James:

Sarah Palin was on Sean Hannity's Fox show this week, and between breaths joined the many commenters who've labeled the Tucson shootings suspect with the "E" word: she mused on ", um, evil a person would have to be to kill an innocent." Since prime suspect Jared Loughner cited Nietzsche's Will To Power as a favorite, this seems like a good moment to bring up the problems with "good vs. evil" ideology. It has a peculiar geek resonance because of the ideology's heavy use in comic books and roleplaying: superheroes, arch-villains, chaotic good, lawful evil, and what-not. It's also infused in our political discourse, with someone like Palin or Obama being good or evil depending on your point of view.

Nietzsche is frequently a fave of angry young men who might qualify as what Pesco called confident dumb people. Nietzsche works well for the modern kook with web-induced attention deficits: The fourth chapter of Beyond Good and Evil is a series of 122 Twitter-length aphorisms, and his work is snarky and occasionally humorous. Nietzsche wrote Beyond Good and Evil to criticize earlier philosophers who made assumptions about morality based on pre-Christian and Christian beliefs about "evil." Below I discuss why we need to steal Nietzsche back from these people, and I look at a couple of other writers who have examined what gets called "evil" and have attempted to explain it in more nuanced and rational terms.

For a little background, Matt Feeney posted a terrific piece in Slate last week about the Angry Nerds who embrace a version of Nietzsche:
If your social world fails to appreciate your singularity and tells you that you're a loser, reading Nietzsche can steel you in your secret conviction that, no, I'm a genius, or at least very special, and everyone else is the loser. Like you, Nietzsche was misunderstood in his day, ignored or derided by other scholars. Like you, Nietzsche seems to find everything around him lame, either stodgy and moralistic or sick with democratic vulgarity.
Feeney's piece is worth reading in its entirety, as is Beyond Good and Evil. It's a lot to sum up in a blog post, but Nietzsche basically says there are two types of moral systems: master-morality and slave-morality. His best summary is section 260. In master-morality, the ruling class makes the rules and thus considers itself noble, while in slave morality, there is a suspicion of those in power and in what they consider "good." So in slave morality:
Here is the seat of the origin of the famous antithesis "good" and "evil":--power and dangerousness are assumed to reside in the evil, a certain dreadfulness, subtlety, and strength, which do not admit of being despised. According to slave-morality, therefore, the "evil" man arouses fear; according to master-morality, it is precisely the "good" man who arouses fear and seeks to arouse it, while the bad man is regarded as the despicable being.
In other words, it's all a big misunderstanding based on your point of view, kind of like how you might see Palin as evil when your neighbor sees her as good. As Feeney points out, Nietzsche has been distilled into a nihilist in popular culture, which isn't accurate or fair. His aphoristic style means that quips like "God is dead" get stripped of meaning and turned into soundbites. We need to reclaim Neitzsche from angry nerds and deists who distort his writings.

In the case of someone charged with serious crimes like Loughner, there is often a meeting of the minds on the E word. People want to create a simple label to separate someone like him from the rest of us. We say he is sick, or crazy, or evil. Two books on criminals made me rethink my use of those terms: Eichmann in Jerusalem and Speaking with the Devil.

Pretty much everybody is in agreement that Adolf Eichmann or Jeffrey Dahmer were not great guys, so Hannah Arendt and Carl Goldberg use them as jumping-off points for larger discussions. Arendt of course summed up Eichmann's action with the phrase "the banality of evil" (also a meaning-stripped soundbite now). After sitting through his trial and execution, she observed that he seemed to do everything by rote, even his last words. He was able to do the unthinkable because he was "unthinking." He didn't seem to have a fanatical hatred of Jews, he was just following orders. What's interesting in relation to mass murders like the Tucson incident is that people can rationalize their way into an internally consistent logic that normalizes their thoughts and actions. I recommend reading Arendt, because she also has a great deal to say about how incidents and events get seized upon by people interested primarily in facts, and therefore try to distort the facts, and intellectuals, who have little interest in the facts and use them as a springboard for ideas. We've seen a lot of both since Tucson.

Goldberg takes a much more behavioral approach to the question. He recommends avoiding terms like "evil" and using the term "malevolence" instead. Using Dahmer and other extreme cases as examples, he lays out a case that most criminals engage in what he calls experimental malevolence, where their bad behavior escalates over time. It's clear that in the case of Dahmer that he had begun exhibiting signs of trouble in early life, including aspects of the Macdonald triad and a later pattern of murders that increased in frequency and brazenness. Looking at Jared Loughner's actions prior to his arrest, he had been ramping up his troubling behavior with a number of incidents that raised red flags with observers. Various opportunities to intervene and get Loughner some help did not materialize.

What I find most interesting about people who justify violent actions is the production of a script. They have a story they tell themselves about how the world works, a story that explains why they need to do what they plan to do, and often a fantasy about how their actions will play out. One of the things they teach you in assault prevention classes is to try to get someone off their script if you are being attacked. Many instructors suggest saying or doing something unexpected, to snap them out of what's running through their heads as they commit the attack. All people produce a script about who they are and why they do what they do. That process only becomes a problem when that script lacks empathy, the ability to comprehend and embrace the thoughts and feelings of others.
When Giffords gave an apparently unacceptable response to Loughner's obtuse question about language not being real, she seems to have caused him some cognitive dissonance. He apparently expected her to recognize his intellectual superiority, and when she didn't, he became fixated on what he saw as a slight that threw his self-assessment into question.

It's entirely possible to explain these behaviors without resorting to some facile descriptor like "sick" or "evil." Loughner's videos and writings suggest he held a set of beliefs that were delusional, about himself and the world and how it works. Everyone, myself included, probably has a delusion or two in their belief system. Once in a while they combine with other factors in a person to create a lethal combination: anger, incompetence, rejection, isolation, lack of empathy, drug-induced hallucinations, participation in economies of violence, unthinking behavior, production of a flawed script. That's not evil. It's simply a tragic nexus of human flaws that can culminate in what is too easily dismissed as evil.

- Andrea James

Further reading:
Beyond Good and Evil (Project Gutenberg translation)
Beyond Good and Evil
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics)
Speaking with the Devil: Exploring Senseless Acts of Evil

(Boing Boing)

Jan Švankmajer

Gaining a reputation over several decades for his distinctive use of stop-motion animation, Jan ┼ávankmajer’s surrealist approach has greatly influenced other artists such as Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, the Brothers Quay, and many others. Some of his most famous work includes his adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, Faust, Conspirators of Pleasure, Little Otik, and Lunacy. He’s also completed over 25 short films as well, of which Food (clip below) is one of my favorites. 
The "future" is finally coming!! Let's get some flying cars and teleporters going too.
What in god's name is happening on this TV show in Argentina?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

The dramatic music makes this video.
My gut would be 4 times bigger than it already is
if I would've had one of these in college.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Really Sarah? Really?

In Sarah Pahlin's online speech about the mass shooting in Arizona:
"Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel."
crosshairs and see how you feel. How can you claim that you never
intended the crosshairs to be gun sights while using rhetoric like:
"Don't Retreat. Instead - Reload."
Sounds like somebody doesn't like being in the crosshairs.
At least admit that you were wrong. Just sayin.

Re-Covered Books Contest

The Fox Is Black is holding contest to redesign the cover of The Great Gatsby. 
Pretty good opportunity to get creative. 
Entries are due January 28th. Get all the details here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hot and Dangerous

E-mail from my friend with subject "I found you on youtube":
"Brad you gained a little wait there eh? maybe that half marathon is a good idea afterall"
Unfortunately I am guilty of doing the first 5 seconds of this video.
And I'd do it again.

(Thanks to Nick for the video)

Monday, January 10, 2011

1000 Awesome Things

I love hearing the stories of people starting blogs.
1000 Awesome Things was a pretty cool idea.
And hearing Neil Pasricha tell that story might give you a better outlook on life.


Well this movie looks interesting. It's called "Symbol". This is the Netflix description:

"A man wakes up in an empty, doorless room in this absurdist comedy directed by and starring Japanese
superstar comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto. Pressing a phallic protrusion on the wall, he sets off a series of 
strange events as he tries to escape. Meanwhile, a masked Mexican wrestler's family worries about his 
passive preparations for an important match. He steps into the ring as the trapped man deals with the odd 
objects appearing in his room."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Get Down Little Man

Vacation gets my little brother pumped.
No, like REALLY pumped.
Either that, or he's pooping.
Or he wants to fight you.

Fearless Freaks

Having gone to what I would consider to be a decent amount of concerts in my day
I can tell you that, hands down, the best show I've ever seen was the Flaming Lips.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

For one week in 1986, Dan Rather experimented with a one-word sign off for each
broadcast of the CBS Evening News: “Courage.” Reaction was mixed.
Well that's pretty awesome.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Black Swan is a Must See

Speaking of soiling yourself, if you haven't seen this movie yet get out from under that rock and go.
My obsession with Natalie Portman aside, this is one of the best movies I've ever seen.
She is pretty incredible though (didn't you know it's impossible to put my Natalie Portman obsession aside?)

Poor little guy is gonna soil himself

Monday, January 3, 2011