The Botereid

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Productivity

Ah, I wish I had it. I'm struggling with that Olde Beast, viz. Indolence, through every means at my disposal. We'll see how it goes. One of their links led to someone (The fact that I read the article and don't remember who, when, where and so forth doesn't bode well for the productivity gains earned by frequenting the site...) who said, "Think of being productive like a game. Be as efficient as you can, then see if you can be more efficient the next day." Jeez...I feel like Bart stuck at the school while everybody else went to the Chocolate Factory, licking stamps at the behest of Skinner: "Make a game of it! See how many you can lick in one hour, then try to beat that mark!"

Saturday, April 23, 2005

the need for new taboos

I don't want to propose this in a reactionary sort of way. I start with that because at times this proposal feels nothing but presented in that kind of way.

The more I study ethics, the more apparent it becomes that in all probability there is no solid foundation for it. I will write more on this later. What I'd like to focus on is the fact that I believe society intuitively knows this, or at least that it acts on the fact that it's true, and that what we hold most sacred is entirely and justifiably vulnerable.

Morals change. There's nothing to be done about it. The extreme moral positions of one generation become palatable to youth who say, after comparing them to more deeply-held moral principles, "how can it hurt?" I point to mores concerning civil rights, sexual freedoms, and gender equality as evidence. I think all of these moral changes are completely justified.

What is hard to swallow is that this system of moral change seems unavoidably recurrent. What was wrong yesterday, is right today. What is wrong today, may be right tomorrow. For examples of these latter mores, pedophilia and incest.

I have three points I would like to make about this intuition before signing off.

(1) This is a disgusting slippery slope argument. I expect that this would be the common objection to my feeling, with some people going so low as to suggesting that I am equating, say, homosexuality with pedophilia. Well, I am in a sense: I am equating them in the way that homosexuality used to be generally regarded as wrong and is now considered permissible. Pedophilia could follow the same pattern. It doesn't mean that I think, "Well, then, pedophilia must be OK" or, as more people will assume, "Well, then, homosexuality must be wrong." This just isn't the case. I also equated civil rights with pedophilia in the same sense -- this doesn't mean that I think interracial marriages are the exact same thing as child molestation.

The problem with this is that I don't think it follows that you okay homosexuality and we slide into pedophila. They're not the same thing. Where they are similar is that the former went from wrong to permissible and that the latter may follow the same pattern. But if it does, they still won't be identical -- they will have merely changed moral status through the same social mechanism.

(2) This is the first slip in a long slide into conservatism. This is a product, in a way, of (1). I'm still pretty liberal, but I feel that this could be the kind of realization that drives one into the arms of conservatism. I don't expect that I'll ever be a retroactivist -- trying to turn back the clock -- because I accept far too many new mores. But I can see myself digging my feet in when another set of new mores comes attacking my own, being held aloft by my grandchildren's generation.

(3) I'm not sure it's unavoidable. This is the ultimate fruition of (2). Civil rights and sexual freedoms were won in courts and legislatures, so I find those to be pretty flawed methods of protecting current mores. But does that mean we do nothing at all? When a generation begins to fight en masse for the next set of mores, if I disagree with them, I'll surely want to battle back. How? After all, as I said, laws seem ineffective.

This is where the title of this post comes in. It seems that the most effective means of moral persuasion over future generations is to institute some set of taboos. Clearly, traditional taboos are not enough. I believe it's because the traditional motivations have rotted. Society has had enough of religion, for example. Perhaps what we need then is a new sort of motivation for taboos, a new way of persuading others that a certain set of actions is impermissible. What could it be? I just don't know. The rise of widespread ethical discussion? The conquering of what we today consider wrong via reasoning? This seems like the most appealing solution. I'll post in a few days on why this may be depressingly incapable of solving the problem.

the blog

Obviously I haven't blogged much in the last few months, and perhaps this (the middle of reading week) is the worst moment to take it up again, but I am doing just that. I'm doing it for two reasons.

(1) Counterintuitively, I'm doing it to spend less time on the web. I'm taking the advice of a friend (and experienced blogger) and seeing a daily post as a way to complete a web session, rather than as the reason for one. That way I can have a sense of accomplishment, and more easily move on to more important things.

(2) Hand-in-hand with this, the blog is moving in a different direction. I haven't spent much time reading political news recently (mostly for time, partially because of the post-election deflation of interest), and I'd like to focus this blog on the things I find more rewarding in life: philosophy and poetry. The latter I've talked about a bit on the blog, but there will be more now. The former will be my central focus, however. I want to use this as a forum for hashing out interesting philosophical ideas. This will most likely make for incoherent philosophy and a boring blog, but so be it.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

a fantastic insult

The NYT, while exploring the exorbitancy of 'The Gates,' happens upon quite an excellent insult...

A New York filmmaker who dared to dissect the $21 million figure on his Web site was savaged in an anonymous e-mail message, which included a suspiciously European-sounding putdown: "You ridiculous apprentice of nothing!"

I will have to save that one for a particularly scurrilous cur.

death after life

How interesting is this?

David Prueitt, who had lung cancer, took what was believed to be a fatal dose of a barbiturate prescribed by his doctor in January. He fell into a coma within minutes, but woke up three days later, said his wife Lynda Romig Prueitt.

Prueitt's wife told The Oregonian newspaper that he asked, "Why am I not dead?"

After softly descending into the last sleep, what must one feel on waking? Too bad Mr. Preuitt wasn't a writer, since it would seem to be an excellent experience to meditate upon and recount.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Fair and Balanced

How do I honor the Confederacy without doing one better (or much better) for the Union?

Word

When I start typing "dictionary.com" into my address bar, a box of URLs beginning with "dic..." that I've searched recently drops down. I'm sure, somewhat, that my browser's not the only one to do this. So I decided to flip through today, and I found the list pretty interesting. A few years ago, I would've researched a word only if I hadn't the slightest idea what it could mean. But beginning with my English composition class a few years ago, I've looked up words with increasing frequency and for a swelling list of reasons. Examples follow of recent words I've researched and why. This is obviously not a full list. Maybe I'll work through more of these days on another day.

age. Beats me.

beck. Someone was trying to say the other day that "beck and call" was actually "beckon call." Clearly not the case. I was halfway through an email correcting the wayward individual, but no matter how I composed the dern thing it came out supercilious. He wrote two days later to everyone who had been involved in the conversation to admit that he had been mistaken. A gentleman's gesture. I'm glad I didn't send that email.

bounder. A lovely insult. A tap. Just wanted to make sure the British do use it that way.

craw. I wasn't absolutely sure of the phrase "stick in one's craw." The actual meaning of the word is interesting too. When I reflected upon it, I realized that I'd had no idea what it meant -- perhaps that's why I was confused about the phrase. I've begun to dissect words and idioms more and more often of late, and completely without meaning to. For instance, I just can't say "diSintegrate" anymore without forcing myself; it keeps coming out as "disIntegrate." Strange.

hirsute. I saw someone use it, maybe Mencken, and I just wanted to make sure that it had the oddball meaning I thought it did. Damn -- this reminds me: there's a Greek-rooted word that means "hairy-backed"...What could it possibly be?

pyrrhic. Just wanted to know how to say it.

Update: dasypygal - to have hairy buttocks.

the not-so-daily poem

A little something different. More on Timrod.


Ode to the Confederate Dead at Magnolia Cemetery
by Henry Timrod

I.

Sleep sweetly in your humble graves,
Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause;
Though yet no marble column craves
The pilgrim here to pause.

II.

In seeds of laurel in the earth
The blossom of your fame is blown,
And somewhere, waiting for its birth,
The shaft is in the stone!

III.

Meanwhile, behalf the tardy years
Which keep in trust your storied tombs,
Behold! your sisters bring their tears,
And these memorial blooms.

IV.

Small tributes! but your shades will smile
More proudly on these wreaths to-day,
Than when some cannon-moulded pile
Shall overlook this bay.

V.

Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!
There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Self-Portrait

Well, we got a digital camera. Now I can finally post a picture of myself so you all can see what I look like.  Posted by Hello

"He who knows a Why of living surmounts every How."

I'm going through a 200-sheet (the word used on the cover -- what happened to "leaf"?) notebook I've had for three years and tearing out the five leaves that I've written on so that I can actually use the notebook. I meant it as a notebook for high-minded, "philosophical" jottings (opening page: "I only know one thing, my mystical soul is burning to give itself with enthusiasm, faith, and fervor." -Albert Camus, age 20). In the back I found this doozy of an essay from when I first decided to go to college:

The degeneration of man concerns me. As I dwell -- as perhaps one never should for sanity's sake -- on it, imbued with its opposites; that is what I desire more and more.

What the hell does that mean?
We are a society of small and little things. Through innovations of mind and technology, we are turning our rotting society into a world society of small and little things. What ill will we must hold for the rest of the world! Our thoughts are so small, our wills, so small. Greatness...it may be a thing of the past. What has happened to the philosophers? Have they truly returned into solitude, extinguishing the race one by one, leaving the masses to our bickering and worship of falsities?

Well now. Besides being gramatically unfortunate, it's quite bathetic, ain't it?
I believe I see the window closing. Whatever great leaps and thoughts were made by men in the past have disintegrated before the onslaught of popular culture. Oedipus who? Is that the new videogame? The Odyssey what? Is that the new boy band? How can you mention Homer, without mentioning Bart?

Ok, buddy. Lay off the Simpsons. And the cliches. Also, if you're going to use a list for emphasis, don't break up the list...
It is important here not to become confused. Greek tragedies do not concern me, but their being left behind is a sign of greater disease within us. It seems that except for a select few, we have abandoned the search for truth. We are so content piddling about our lives, reaching for stupidity, yearning for unimportance. We seek contentment in shallow masks with no depth. Let us fish for our prizes! We must learn to love knowledge for its emancipatory virtues, that is, emancipation from our man-made world.

Something "shallow" with "no depth"? You don't say!
I'm not advocating a "return to nature". We have a chance to eclipse nature's greatest creation: ourselves! Let's overcome id AND ego. Destroy both I say. Develop a new construct of mind, one which has never existed. Let's rip down the PC-laissez fairse institutions of life, and build new ones of truth!

What is the truth? No one knows. How can we build from it then? By building with it in mind. With enlightenment as our goal. Let's teach children to think for themselves, then they will yearn for truth. Let us truly embrace autonomy in action. We need great men to perpetuate these great ideas.

Where can we find them? In every one of us. Will we accept these ideas and the tasks they present? I don't know. That is what more than concerns me, it frightens as well.

Enough of the self-fisk. It was excess, attempted verbosity. (Attempted -- yikes!) But I do agree with some of it still, where I can think of specifics to fill the abstraction. The beginning is bosh at best. "Where have the philosophers gone"? What are they, some druid race? Silly, silly. The "so content piddling about our lives, reaching for stupidity" etc still strikes me as right, even if harsh. I still think that we need to teach children to think for themselves rather than to think they're always winners. I was trying so hard to be Thoreau, though I'm not sure I had read him at the time. What's sad is that I remember the passion that could drive this writing and I wonder where it went.

Now I remember what it was for. It was my first essay for applying to school, before I settled on community college. They were asking what about the world "concerned" me. Wow. I really was trying to incite something there. Now that I think even more about it, I remember my uncle responding to my call for criticism. He, who's always charitable about interpretations, said, "Do you really believe all that?"

I can only hope I think the same of this blog ten years from now. That was the passion.

Speaking of "leaf" as the word for "sheet of paper," how many people know "grass" as printer's slang for the scraps left over from trimming sheets? Now, if you recall that Walt Whitman worked in a print shop, perhaps Leaves of Grass takes on another life.

(Spiriting. That it's the fifth result for such a frequent word.)

it's over

My first semester at Yale. I'm in convalescence.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

high ate is

The first step is admitting that you've got a problem. The second is blogging it.

I'm going on a leave of absence to better attend to my schoolwork. In fact, I'm giving up altogether on playing Internet. It will no doubt improve my studies. Until then, my friends. I shall return.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

the not-so-daily quotation

Montaigne, "Of Experience"

And so I doubt that my hearing is on the verge of growing dull, and you will see that when I have half lost it I shall still be blaming the voices of those who are speaking to me. We must really strain our soul to make it feel how it is ebbing away.