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i was a sullen, withdrawn young man (ok ok i was pushing 40), and in a quasi-courageous attempt at life-affirmation i married a real-life manic pixie dream girl (ok she was pushing 40 too), indeed a person who for awhile was going to be played by zoe deschanel in the film of her memoir. i came out of the whole thing with a new appreciation for sullen and withdrawn, so it did have a life-affirming effect after all.

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periodic outbreaks of slaughter

the american foreign policy establishment (represented by madeleine albright this morning on cnn, e.g.) is still saying 'there must be a two-state solution', that's the only hope etc. if that's the only hope, there is no hope. the idea that israel ever was going to or ever will permit a palestinian state to emerge is false, whatever they may say. anyway, why isn't that just a formula for more and worse war? so if you can't come up with any new ideas, we're going to recapitulate this thing ad infinitum.

really, defining states ethnically/religiously cannot not lead to violence. it's just a wee bit as though we defined the united states as a white nation, for example. i think the only possible solution would be a fully multi-ethnic full democracy. but israel will never permit that either, because then it would have destroyed its own purpose and definition. so i would see this situation persisting for the next, say, century, with periodic outbreaks of slaughter. 

physics or metaphysics?

i am going to speculate that high-end physics/cosmology has gone very far off the deep end. so, for example, stephen hawking has concluded on the basis - i guess? - of mathematics that "the universe has every possible history", and we're way into multiverses, infinitely many different spaces, and stuff. 

Dr. Tegmark, in his new book, “Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality,” turns the idea on its head: The reason mathematics serves as such a forceful tool is that the universe is a mathematical structure. Going beyond Pythagoras and Plato, he sets out to show how matter, energy, space and time might emerge from numbers.

now, i'm afraid i do not understand the claim that the universe is a mathematical structure. does that mean that physical objects are abstract objects? well, you'll need to grapple with the fact that that cannot possibly be the case, given that abstract and concrete objects have extremely different sorts of properties, and hence cannot be identical. where is the number 5, bro? inside that star?

now it may sound crass to say it, but isn't whether there are other universes - whatever that means - an empirical question? (if not, i wouldn't think it's a scientific question at all.) you can stipulate universes, or invent them - but you can't discover them except in the usual human way: by actual experience. i should have said it's quite like insisting that you know the number of planets before looking at all, maybe from a biblical passage, or just by thinking about it real hard. a few decadesago  we called that "the dark ages".

the piece says that they're going beyond plato and pythagoras, but maybe they're just going back to the little stage where people were worshipping abstract objects and trying to view the physical universe either as an illusionistic scrim over the numbers and concepts, or as actually being made out of them. like i say, that's not just a puzzling formulation. if you tell me a wall is made of bricks, i understand what you're saying. if you tell me it's made out of 16 and 137, or emerges from them (causally?) it's going to take a lot to convince me that you mean anything at all. 

maybe, just perhaps, this stuff isn't science whatsoever. it certainly isn't science that involves things like experiments and systematic observation. perhaps we're back to the wildest metaphysical speculation. there's a lot to be said for that, i think, but that is also not the way it's being presented. indeed, hawking, for example is (a) doing philosophy all the time, (b) doing it very very badly, (c) denying that he's doing it at all. but if you want to believe whatever he says, go right ahead, because even if everyone believed that the universe has every possible history or whatever it may be, that will have no effects at all on this one.

more hawking

whore mocking

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please, tell me what to do and take all my stuff

when juxtaposed, two stories from today beautifully illustrate the concept of squishy totalitarianism, as well as providing an example of a system of government extremely typical of the 20th century: the marxist kleptocracy. or they give you a perfect crystallization of the essence of the state: the collectivist, unifying rhetoric - the government is all of us together! - and the swiss bank accounts into which the people producing that rhetoric are depositing more or less the entire nation. people want more more more of this or see no alternative whatsoever, so i predict that they'll be getting heaping helpings of what they're begging for: to be told what to do by the people who are robbing them. it's the social contract.

alibaba's ipo a bonanza for scions of chinese leaders

ruling communist party says firm belief in marxism will help halt moral decline

emotional crisis

i would rather be eaten by dick cheney than listen to elaine stritch sing sondheim, so the last few days have been difficult ones for me.


more terrifying words have never been uttered than these: "produced by stephen spielberg and oprah winfrey". one thing such a collaboration is likely to achieve: a higher density of gaseous pseudo-wisdom and hyper-emotional cliches than was considered possible in such a small space. there's likely to be an explosion of banal proportions. i have no idea what the thing is about, but one thing i do know: it will teach each of us important moral lessons, touch us to the very depths of our superficial souls, and uplift us all for the umpteenth time into the very ether of Yacketysmackety.

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break every bone in his body

the discourse around israel's invasion of gaza, for example by marco rubio, is remarkably childish. here's how it goes: they started it! (another pursuing this sophisticated line of argument is the krauthammer.) the slavishness of american politicians to the israeli propaganda line is pitiful. it's as if every single one of them is a ventriloquist's dummy, which come to think of it is quite possible. now maybe even rubio can understand this: ok, i am an assistant principal, strolling down the halls of my high school when is see the football team rodneykinging some sad little nerd. why? because that nerd poked the linebacker in the chest. he started it! so as assistant prinipal, it is your job to help kick in the nerd's ribs, and also to defend the football team against any criticism for their action.

it cannot be irrelevant to a moral assessment of this situation that you've got these people walled into, that they have no real power or resources while you have annihilating military force, or that you are killing hundreds of them while they are killing none of you.

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the best art

who were the most important artists of the 20th century, and what were the most important art forms? oh you can advocate for, maybe, james joyce, or picasso, or pollock, or henry moore, or mies van der rohe, or something. here are my candidates: louis armstrong, muddy waters, hank williams, grandmaster flash, bill monroe, bob marley, fela kuti, thomas dorsey, eminem, aretha. popular music was the dominant art form of the century: the one with the biggest audiences and the actual effects. also, it was the source of century's greatest beauties and most pointed challenges to various conceptions of beauty. you can pretend that novels re-articulate lives, but i bet you and your friends could almost tell the story of your lives in songs. maybe it's hard to compare hank williams to schoenberg, much less picasso, but hank's music was so very much better, so very much more important to so many more people, so comparatively human, so democratic, so vastly more beautiful, moving, and challenging. so more true.

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the idea, currently bruited by palin and hinted at by many others, that obama should be impeached for things like granting waivers to the aca, is just ridiculous. but i say again that nothing in the history of the republic has been as impeachable as nsa. the extreme abuse of power, the global violation of the constitution, the performance of billions of acts that would be criminal if not done by officials: those are the sort of abuses of citizens that impeachment was designed to redress. if not, as jefferson said, insurrection is the only possibility. that's going to be hard when they have all our communications, however. 

and the internet of nothing isn’t changing anything.

often i think to myself, as i watch television ads: did y'all pay someone to write that? cisco systems' current slogan: "the internet of everything is changing everything", to be uttered in a highly emotive groan, on account of its profoundly profound profundity.

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